A Dad and a Boy Creating Memories on the Road

Blue ribbon with wording: Story Winner, Cycling Together Warmshowers & EuroVeloContributor: James Simpson

Two years ago, I left on a 3000km adventure with my 2 year-old son through six countries, from Finland to Denmark through the Baltic states and Sweden. We did this journey alone. (Each summer we cycle for a few weeks on regional or Eurovelo routes. Eurovelo shows the diversity of Europe whilst facilitating the sharing of experiences and the commonalities that unite us.)

Father and son on loaded touring bicycle ready to ride.We travelled slowly, as a journey like this cannot be measured in distance, but in the experiences and fun had along the way. A two year-old does not have the patience for long rides, so daily distances were planned around play parks, sandy beaches, or forest ponds. Our average was 50km per day which meant 3-4 hours of active cycling. We were heavy, with a fully laden touring bike and child’s trailer stuffed with tents, cooking gear, and clothing for both warm and cold weather. Teddy bear, bucket and spade, and surprise goodies for emergency moments found their place too. He mostly sat behind me on a child seat, only going into the trailer in bad weather.

The experience was framed by small villages and suburbs that you would never have visited otherwise. Glimpses of normal daily life, the shared moments in a play park with local families, the time a lady stopped the car to give my son an apple. In Latvia the bike and trailer broke on a couple of occasions due to the rutted gravel roads, both times saved by the kindness of passing strangers.

It can be tough. There is no time to yourself. The days start early as my son wakes early and goes from sleep to 100% energy in five seconds. Normally, I fall asleep with him in the evening, only to wake later to do the dishes and repairs, plan the next day, and write my journal. Planning while he played did not work, but I read local books voraciously, which gave a context to the countries we passed through.

One Warmshowers host was particularly memorable. I had asked for route advice, and he invited us to stay, although otherwise temporarily closed for cyclists. We had a lovely evening, and when I turned to the question of route choices by spreading my map on the table, he burst into laughter. Of all the cyclists he had hosted through the years, I was the first not to use an app. My phone was old, and the location on it was unreliable. Sometimes, the simple ways are the best.

When I look through our photos, I see a collection of happy smiles, joy, and laughter. It was a wonderful month of being together, sharing experiences, and creating memories.