Whenever we stop at a grocery store – which we do every day at least once and which we often do twice a day – one of us stays outside with the bikes while the other three get their shop on.
The kids are fantastic grocery shoppers. They choose healthy food, they stay on budget and they keep their eyes open for milk-free, peanut-free chocolate. They really only need me and Derek for our credit cards.
Three bikes (including one family tandem) fully loaded with panniers is a bit of a traveling circus. So the person on bike watching duty often becomes a spokesperson for bike travel.
We have met so many interesting people outside grocery stores. Sometimes they’ve travelled by bike before and have stories to share or route suggestions.
My favourites are the people, like that guy outside REI, who tell us where to find the best cinnamon buns (in Davenport, in case you’re riding the coast) or the folks, like that guy finishing up his trail run, who told us which campsite had a prettier view (Moreau Bay) and much fewer hills. That kind of advice is so helpful and it always leads to great connections.
I have a soft spot for the parents and grandparents who’d like to try riding with their kids or grandkids and want to hear more about the logistics. That always makes for a fun conversation. Especially when they have a chance to talk with Anna or Jasper who are, of course, cycling rock stars, but who look like normal kids.
When we’re busy packing our food up or are tired and not in the mood for a chat, we ask our family ambassador, Jasper, to fill in curious onlookers with details they are wondering about like our route (currently San Diego to Redding), the kids’ ages (9 and 12), and whether we are homeschooling (sort of since Anna is diligently working through her math textbook, but mostly we’re all just learning about whatever comes up as we ride along – Google’s Self-Driving Cars, Harry Potter Trivia, California’s abundant birds and wildflowers).
Always thinking of solutions to everyday situations, Jasper realized his PR job would be easier if he had business cards to hand out because people love hearing we have a blog. Luckily we’ve also ridden through a lot of the pages of the California Road Atlas so we have some scrap paper.
I really do think the PR role is an important one, so even if we’re tired or have had a similar conversation many times already and Jasper’s not there, I always try to greet each curious person with a big smile.
It’s brave of them to start a conversation with new friends. And I think that kind of bravery should be celebrated.
Who knows, maybe they’ll take their kids biking…maybe they’ll give folks cycling a little more room on the road after getting to know us a little…or maybe, like those young women outside the Jelly Belly factory in Fairfield, they’ll try going for their very own bike trip when they hear how affordable and fun it can be.
When I was a kid I had never heard of travelling between cities by bike until my dad suggested the whole family ride from our home in Scarborough to visit my brand new cousin in Burlington. It was a two day bike trip for all five of us, completed in jean shorts with backpacks. It was just far enough and fabulous enough to give me a taste for touring.
Hope you’re having a great day!