The Washington Times - February 21, 2009, 07:37PM

By Nancy Sathre-Vogel

When I look back upon the past months on the road, I’m not sure what comes to mind first – all the bumps in our road or the days of smooth sailing. 

I guess I could say they both vie for my attention.

The journey has had its share of challenges known and unknown.  The Dalton Highway was the first.   Getting through North America, dropping into South America, before January 1, was another.


The beginning - The Arctic Caribou Inn, Prudhoe Bay, AK

We had to get through the United States before winter hit.

Way back when we were planning our journey, we knew certain portions of the trek would tougher than others.  We knew that, after a few months of pushing hard to get through Alaska and Canada, we would be tired by the time we made it to the USA.

We also knew that regardless of how tired we were, we would not be able to stop – Old Man Winter would be arriving any day. 

And if, by chance, we didn’t make it south?

The desolation of the long Dalton Highway (photo /Nancy Sathre-Vogel)

We would be riding through cold, blustery, wintery conditions.  What we didn’t count on was defective wheels thrown into the mix.

Mother Nature was a good friend as we passed through Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. 

Days were warm and sunny… Nights were mild…  Fall colors were at their peak…  It was a magical time and all four of us collapsed into our tent each night with smiles on our faces.  Yes, indeed, life was good.

But then the first threads began to show as our good fortune started unraveling.  Nothing major – just a bunch of small odds and ends that needed tending to. 

Fortunately, the owner of the Parkway Inn in Jackson, Wyoming was at the right place at the right time. An incredibly quaint and luxurious property that is enhanced by some of the warmest people we have met.

Manager Jacquie at the Parkway Inn, Jackson Hole, WY(photo/Nancy Sathre-Vogel

We enjoyed a few nights in luxury while we sorted things out – and decided a quick trip to our home in Boise would be the easiest way to deal with it all. 

Leaving our iron maidens at the Parkway, we rented a car and drove home.

A few days later we hit the road again – for a few miles anyway.  Old Man Winter was about to show his ugly face, and we weren’t keen on getting caught out in it. 

Yet another hotel came to our rescue – High Country Inn & Suites graciously allowed us to wait out the storm in the safety, security, and warmth of their locale.

As soon as the sky had finished dumping all the snow it could muster up, we were back on the road – braving sub-freezing temps as we made our way south through Wyoming.

 The kids, totally bundled up against the cold winter air, resembled little Michelin men with every layer of clothing they owned piled on.  We pushed on knowing that every mile we pedaled was one mile closer to warmth.

As if dealing with the cold wasn’t bad enough, John’s rims started cracking. 

Each day, the cracks got wider and wider and we knew it was only a matter of time before the wide spots had grown to the point where they could no longer hold a tire in place. 

Do we stop in Rock Springs and wait for replacements to be flown in and wheels rebuilt?  Or do we push on in our quest for southern latitude and warmth?

In the end, we pushed on, hoping beyond hope that John’s wheels held together long enough to get us to Moab – where the manufacturer would have replacements awaiting our arrival.

Mother Nature changed her mind at that point, decided maybe we weren’t so bad after all, and befriended us.  As we dropped down into northern Utah, the temperatures rose to a comfortable level and the skies (mostly) stayed clear. 

We enjoyed watching the terrain change into the classic red sandstone formations the southern desert is so famous for.
Canyonlands National Park (photo/Nancy Sathre-Vogel )
Canyonlands National Park, even though it lay a full 35 miles off our route, called our name – so we turned back to see it. 

And were we ever so glad we did!  The canyon stretched for miles and miles – an enormous gash in the earth’s surface looking like some aliens from distant lands had scraped the earth with their gigantic spaceship. 

The colors – bright red glistening in the sunlight…  Chocolate brown like something out of Willy Wonka’s factory…  Ivory white…  Each layer piled on top of the others splashed across the edge of the canyon. 

All too soon, the time came to leave the magic of Canyonlands behind, and we headed into Moab where John would finally get new rims and not have to deal with a thumping wheel any more.

Arches National Park called to us next and we heeded that call too.  Under the clear blue sky, we headed out to see the mystical, magical sandstone formations carved into the rock layers through the millennia. 

The boys – delighted by the idea of natural rock arches – spent hours climbing through the holes in the rock.  All four of us were enchanted with the idea of balancing rocks and massive red cliffs.

With each mile we pedaled south, our confidence level was growing - we may have escaped winter after all.  And then we pulled into Canyon de Chelly in Arizona and those hopes came crashing down around our feet. 

We had pitched our tent under clear blue skies and planned to visit the canyon the following day. 

But at some point in the middle of the night, Mother Nature sent out her Wind Warriors and we awakened the next morning to howling winds and dust everywhere.

We look forward to dealing with each day as it comes, and know that we have the skills and tools necessary to do so. 

We are learning and growing and being challenged in ways we never could have imagined. 

But that’s what our journey is all about anyway, isn’t  it?


The Parkway Inn
125 North Jackson Street
P.O. Box 494
Jackson Hole, WY 83001

(800) 247-8390

(307) 733-3143

Fax: (307) 733-0955


The Vogel Family, a group consisting of Mom and Dad, Nancy and John, and twin-eleven year old boys, Davy and Darryl, are riding from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to Tierre del Fuego, Argentina.  To date, they haver reached many milestones and have set world records for Daryl and Davy as the youngest cyclists to complete the Dalton and Alaskan Highway.  Watch their journey here or at Family on Bikes.