Can You Bring Your Kid Bike Packing....?
Before going on Summer holiday, I got the idea to bring my 5-year-old daughter bike packing. Without really knowing if she was up for it, or if we would actually go on a trip, I still made sure that I brought the relevant gear when we headed off to our holiday home in Vejers at the west coast of Jutland
I had some talks with the 5-year-old - She was more than ready for some camping, bikes, bonfire, exploring the nature and the stories to tell afterwards - but surely not knowing what it really was about, this bike packing thing.
Nevertheless, we chose a day, and I spent some time packing our gear, and of course, kids being kids, she also wanted some "bike packing gear" on her bike. We mounted my regular saddlebag onto her handlebar and a Velcro strap to secure her rain jacket to her seat post, and finally carrying the pink backpack herself. Now the playing field was equal, we were both doing our part.
My setup consisted of my mountain bike, which was the only one I brought for the vacation. It is not ideal for bike packing because of all the cables on the handlebar and no room for a frame bag. I still managed to get at handlebar bag on without bending any of the cables too much, saddlebag was no problem, and of course also had to carry my own backpack - carrying most of the gear for both of us.
In highlights, our packing list consisted of a tent, sleeping pad, sleeping bags, extra rain gear (that was needed), food, a book, some tools, fire starters and other random stuff to make the trip successful.
We had chosen a spot 25 km away, and I had no idea if that was a big time overreaching for a 5-year-old on a 14" wheeled bike with single speed. The plan was to take it easy, no stress, take all the breaks we needed and spend time exploring the landscape. Keeping enthusiasm high was key.
We headed out at 2pm and drove out of the small city Vejers Strand and after a few kilometers we made a right into the most dreaded gravel section in the area. Kallesmærsk Hede. 7 km of loose gravel and the road going direct south, you can see several kilometers down the road. And by looking ahead, you don't seem to go anywhere. For me the road seemed much easier than normal, well, properly because we were riding the gravel road at around 11-12kmp.
“Dad I think my legs hurt a little” - she started saying 1/3 of the way into Kallesmærks Hede and only being 6 km from home. "Should we take a break" I asked her. "If you think, '' she replied. Yes, of course, let's take a break and explore the surroundings.
We stopped and stretched our legs, looked at some military houses right next to the road. The gravel Road in Kallesmærks Hede is part of the largest military training facility in Denmark, close to Oksbøl.
You can on a regular basis hear the cannons and see tanks and other armored material cruise around in the landscape. That is also one of the reasons why it is not allowed to go into the area and into the houses. This one was only 10 meters from the road, and with no one in sight, we checked it out anyway. Not much to see there in the empty wooden house, but still interesting for a small kid, and that transformed into questions about "who lives there?" "What are the military training for?"
After some back and forth about the military in a context that made sense for a 5-year-old, I asked if we should get going. "Can we have a piece of candy before we go?" she asked - followed up by some clever words that I also eat a lot when I am out riding to keep the energy up. Ok, we shared some candy, and then back on the bikes. Shortly after the rain started pouring down and we stopped to put on rain jackets. The rain was no problem with waterproof bags and it being a hot day we weren't freezing.
The rest of the way on that gravel section we spotted some burned down heavy material vehicles, met other bike packers and saw some deer in the outskirts of a forest.
Going out of Kallesmærk Hede you arrive at Blåvand, which is a highly popular summer destination for many Danes and at least as many Germans. We had already at home agreed that we would take a small break in Blåvand and with the number saying 13 km from home, this was a good opportunity to get some refreshments, and actually the only place it turned out.
We headed for the "Bolche butik" where we made our order. Soft ice with licorice topping and hot Cocoa for the small one, and black coffee from the pot and two scoops of ice cream for me. Too many tourists in Blåvand for my taste, so I made sure we didn't stay too long.
We moved on, and from now on it was tarmac the next 10 kilometers from Blåvand to Ho. A long stretch on the tarmac, where Edith again started saying something about her legs were tired. I tried to test her a little and asked her if she wanted to go home? She looked odd at me, and asked back at me, "why should we go home?" - and we just pedaled on and after a few minutes of radio silence she said; "Dad, there is a longer way home than to the camping spot"
Shortly after, we saw a frog, dropped the bikes and chased it into the ditch. No concern about sore legs anymore.
I had the idea that we could shop some extras for the dinner when we arrived at Ho, but no shopping possibilities in miles made us take a few funny detours to a cyclist camping, football golf field and lastly Blåvandshuk Golfclub where we bought the drinks for tonight's dinner. Beers and soda.
A few kilometers outside Ho we arrived at skallingen which is a half island in Vadehavet. It stretches for 7k's and is a stunning flatland where you in the distance can see a silhouette of the industrial harbor of Esbjerg. It is really worth a visit and is easily accessible on bike and the road out there reminds more of a bike path than an actual road
We sat up camp at Ho Elipsen where there is a shelter, fireplace and a large area for setting up tents. It was around 6pm, so I hurried to set up the tent and wanted to start the fire asap - knowing how smaller kids react to being hungry ;-)
We still had to pick up some wood, so we went into the forest, and ended up exploring the place, which was quite magical. Wood was eventually found, and it was not an easy task due to all the rain we had had the day before and earlier in the day.
I had quite a hassle getting the fire started and only with help from the very last grill briquettes we succeeded. I was starting to think of plan B's and C's about food, but we made it.
The menu was sausages and small pancakes that we could wrap it up in. Edith overlooked the fire and I sat up the table. Pancakes with sausages and ketchup rolled up was a well deserved dinner, and we enjoyed it big time, sitting there in the sunset. Me having an Odense Pilsner bought at the golf club and Edith her soda. That was a real quality daddy-daughter moment sitting there talking about all the experiences we had and the challenges we faced. She was happy and proud, and so was I.
Two pancakes left, a banana and a small plastic bag with Nutella brought from home. What a dessert we made ourselves, simple but could not have been better in these surroundings.
The clock was 8.30pm and Edith started to talk about going to the tent. She went in and I cleaned up a little, and afterwards we were both lying in our sleeping bags. We ended the day reading the great story of Pippi Longstocking and a few pages in she was out. We slept like babies and didn't wake up until the next morning when my better half arrived with our one-year-old, bringing coffee, buns and cheese. The storytelling started immediately. Everybody had to hear about the adventure from the day before.
To sum it up, we had a fantastic micro adventure with a fairly easy setup. We could have done without the tent and just slept in the shelter. Bags that I used was a 14L saddlebag, 9L handlebar bag and a backpack.
As a preparation to going on tour with a young kiddo, I think it was important to talk about the trip in advance. Especially the length, and challenge, of a trip like this. We ended up with 27 kilometers, took all the breaks we needed and made sure to explore the surroundings when there was something interesting.
Back to the head line of this blog post - Yes you can :-)