Family of four:17k mile bike ride on the longest highway In the world

Read how the Vogel family cycled down the longest road in the world (Pan American highway) from Alaska to the tip of S. America with their 10-year-old twins.

By Annie André ⦿ updated January 10, 2024  

When was the last time you did something that scared you?

Something that was entirely out of your comfort zone?

I’m not talking about painting the walls in your bedroom hot pink or eating at that dicey Mexican joint down the street with questionable meat. I’m talking about doing something of epic proportions- life-changing!

Meet The Vogels

The Vogel Family: They cycled 17,300 miles along the Pan America Highway with 2 ten year old boys

In June of 2008, Nancy and John Vogel, two school teachers from Idaho, set out on a journey with their ten-year-old twin boys, Daryl and Davy, to be the first family to cycle the Pan American highway. (The longest road in the world, which goes from Alaska to the very tip of South America)

For three years, the Vogel’s pedalled 12 to 15 days a month, 4 to 6 hours a day using nothing but their bikes and pure leg and feet power the entire 27,300-mile journey that would take them through a total of 15 different countries.

This is the Pan American Hwy from tip to tip
This is the Pan American Hwy from tip to tip.

Along the way, they did and saw some fantastic things.

The tandem bike for two

  • -They cycled through torrential rains.
  • -They got chased by a big ass bears.
  • -They endured food poisoning and soiled pants en route.
  • -They broke language and culture barriers.
  • -They had near misses with traffic, countless scrapes and bike repairs.
  • -They slept anywhere and everywhere along the way: in hostels, camped in tents by the side of roads, behind restaurants, in people’s yards, on the beach and even stayed with people they met along the way.

They had a true-life family adventure that tested them both physically and emotionally.

They Must Be Crazy!

The Vogel Family is a down to earth normal family

When I first heard of the Vogel’s back in 2011, I thought they were crazy to drag two ten years old kids on such a long and physically challenging bike trip.

The more I read about the Vogels, the more I realized they weren’t crazy at all. Although I did not know them personally, their life resonated with me very deeply. 

They Led A Pretty Normal Life

They worked hard as school teachers for years, saving money for retirement like everyone else.

Every day before heading off to teach other people’s children, they dropped their own two sons off at daycare.

They chauffeured their kids to and from after-school sports and activities. They cooked dinner, pinched their pennies and pretty much lived like the average family would.

The one defining difference that separates the Vogel family from most is that they decided to take the road less travelled and acted on their seemingly impossible dream despite their fears, despite the naysayers,  despite going against the grain of what society considered “NORMAL.”

If going against the grain makes them crazy, then I want to be insane, too. 

How Did They Pay For The Trip? They Must Be Rich.

I know what you are thinking. They quit their jobs to cycle for three years. They must be loaded and rolling in dough.

NOPE!  Nancy and her husband, John, are long-time school teachers. I don’t know a lot of rich school teachers, do you?  They aren’t t trust fund babies either.

They Did It The Old Fashioned Way.

Their trip was possible using a combination of years of savings and rental income. You can read in more detail about how they made it financially happen by reading this article Nancy wrote called “How To Afford Long Term Family Travel.

They also kept their monthly spending relatively low during their three-year journey. Their average monthly spending was about 1,500 USD per month.

How Much Gear Did They Carry?

family on bikes

The Vogels had a total of 3 bikes between the four of them. Nancy and Davy rode single bikes, while John rode a tandem bike with their other son, Daryl.

They filled each bag with clothing and other items that they needed for all four seasons, including sleeping bags and winter jackets for when the temperatures dropped below zero.

They also carried a small stove and pot for cooking and occasionally had to carry a few days’ worth of food for the longer hauls when they would be out in areas where there were no other humans.

School For The Boys

To keep the kids on par with their peers, Nancy and John road-schooled their kids. Road schooling is a term used to describe children who are home-schooled while travelling long term.

The boys each did mathematics, wrote journal entries and essays and researched the areas they passed through. If they had the time, they also did earth sciences.

Where Are They Now?

Vogel Family: Family on bikes reach the end-of-the-world

The Vogel’s completed their 17,300-mile journey on March 21st, 2011, when they arrived in Ushuaia in Argentina, often regarded as the southernmost city in the world (pictured above).

They are now back in Idaho, where they are enjoying a different type of adventure, that is until they decide to go on another adventure.

What Would You Do If You Were Not Afraid?

Changing-Gears-a-family-family cycling trip

If you are interested in learning more about this family’s incredible journey from Alaska to Argentina, you can read their book called “Changing Gears: A Family Odyssey to the End of the World” written by Nancy. The book chronicles her family’s adventure from start to finish. 

I guarantee by the end of the book, you’ll be inspired, humbled and in awe of what they did. So much so that you might go out and do something that scares you.

All photos used are the property of the Vogel family.

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get a 'petite commission' at no extra cost to you if you make a purchase through my links. It helps me buy more wine and cheese. Please read my disclosure for more info.

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Annie André

Annie André

About the author

I'm Annie André, a bilingual North American with Thai and French Canadian roots. I've lived in France since 2011. When I'm not eating cheese, drinking wine or hanging out with my husband and children, I write articles on my personal blog for intellectually curious people interested in all things France: Life in France, travel to France, French culture, French language, travel and more.


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