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In one summer of cycling, exploring and hosteling across the continent, the Yarbrough family made memories that few families could match.
Courtesy Angela Yarbrough
Sunflowers glow under a cloud-filled sky along a highway in Denmark.
JOEL HAWKSLEY | The Roanoke Times
Angela (from left), Bradley, Tessa and Caleb Yarbrough stand with their bicycles at their home in Blue Ridge on Wednesday. The family visited nine countries, explored castles and hiked in the Alps.
Courtesy Angela Yarbrough
The Yarbroughs pedal along a canal in Belgium.
Courtesy Angela Yarbrough
Hiking in the Swiss Alps put the family into a "fairy tale" landscape.
Monday, September 16, 2013
One summer, one family, 1,500 miles.
That’s the story of the Yarbroughs, who spent 60 days traveling through Europe — by bike.
On two wheels, the family of four made their way from country to country starting in Hungary and passing through Slovakia, Austria, Turkey, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark.
They hiked the Swiss Alps, did a climbing course and stayed on a dairy farm in Denmark, explored a castle in Austria and bicycled, among other places, along the Danube.
They logged 1,500 miles by bike and less than 1,000 by train and stayed in people’s houses, hostels and sometimes hotels.
“It’s hard-core travel,” said Bradley Yarbrough, who is a media specialist at Herman L. Horn Elementary School, but added that it’s not hard-core cycling .
At least not for his family.
Yarbrough, a lifelong cyclist after spending time as a youngster in Brazil, got his wife, Angela, hooked on the sport when the two met in college. Their children Tessa, 12, and Caleb, 15, also bike.
The family cycled an average of 30 miles a day.
The trip, which took months to map out, was the culmination of a longtime dream of Bradley and Angela, who took a similar European trip shortly after they married years ago. They knew they wanted to bike through Europe with their children, and this summer was the time.
“We just really wanted to do this. We really wanted to do this for the kids. We love that they were exposed to other cultures and ways of doing things and places. I think that’s really important,” Angela said. “It is important for people to see other ways of doing things and thinking and living.”
The family said the experiences from their trip will be with them forever.
For Bradley one of the most memorable moments was a climbing park in Denmark.
“We were in it together the whole time,” he said. “My son encouraged my daughter when other times they were just fighting.”
Note: Some bickering comes with the territory when biking as a family on another continent and living in the homes of strangers. Angela and Bradley said sometimes there had to be negotiations on what to do or what to eat.
For Angela, some of the best experiences were those the family didn’t plan . She recalled that while biking from Vienna along the Danube they came upon castles that Caleb begged the family to explore, so they did.
“They were running around like they were five years younger,” she said of her two children. “I will remember that when they get a little older and they are off in college and I’m not seeing them as much.”
Caleb liked the big cities and Tessa, and the rest of the family, loved the Alps.
“The alps are a lot taller than the mountains here,” she said.
Angela said it was like a fairy tale.
“You look up farther and there were mists and clouds everywhere,” she said. “It was just beautiful.”
Angela, the trip’s chief planner, said it was important for the family to be travelers and not tourists, so they tried to stay with other families. She said some people who hear about their trip are surprised by that.
“We enjoyed the part where we were staying with people. … We would see the place through their eyes,” she said. “People might not think that’s for them. The benefits really outweigh the downsides of that.”
So for months the family traveled from place to place, experiencing new people and communities. While they said it was fun, it did require flexibility. Bradley confessed that at times he felt a bit homeless.
“It simplifies your life,” he said.
After about two months of the nomadic lifestyle the family headed back home in time for school. Bradley was in the Roanoke Valley for just 24 hours before reporting for duty for the new school year. Reflecting on the trip, he said he was grateful for the time with his family.
“It was good at times, stressful and overall a wonderful time to spend together as a family,” he said.
The whole family has fielded plenty of questions about their trip.
“Most people are just impressed how far we biked,” Tessa said.
Caleb said people are amazed and ask: “Was it fun or crazy?”
He said it was both.
“It was a little crazy, but fun,” he said. “The whole travel experience when you are biking — you have to go so many miles and find what you’re going to eat. It’s exciting.”
They both said the trip was like nothing they’ve ever done before, and that they wouldn’t exactly call it a vacation.
“The trip was a whole different … lifestyle,” Tessa said. “It was so different. You forget what your life is like before.”
Said Caleb: “You can’t imagine doing anything else.”
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