Tag Archives: Montana

Mountain Biking Stories


Prepping for a year out of the country, Sarah and I considered what is most dear to us, recreationally. Sarah readily embraces her stand-up paddleboard (SUP), an inflatable model that can support two adults and a mid-sized dog. Dear to me is a bicycle, of any sort, but most especially one suited for off-road terrain. A bicycle also serves as redundant transportation, in a way, if we were unwilling (or unable) to move our vehicles. Top of the list, then, were added one paddleboard and three mountain bikes.

But which bike? The knee-jerk reaction is “My favorite one!” Then, however comes the realization that your favorite steed will be subjected to the elements for close to a year, draw the eye of those looking to remove you of your bicycle, and quite possibly be damaged while it is on the vehicle (either due to a collision or bikes clacking against each other on or off-road) not to mention being subjected to the dirt and grime from driving nearly 12,000 miles. My faithful Ibis mojo 3, my absolute favorite bike to ride, was quickly dismissed, as the bike is just too nice to abuse and too attractive for theives.

After further weighing these considerations, the obvious next choice was my old Ibis tranny. The frame had been damaged in a crash (what better bike to take than one that had been previously damaged?) and I had a slew of mid-level parts for it, plus a wonderfully wide wheelset that gleefully soaks up washboard. As the immense pressure of preparing two vehicles for a year out of the country came bearing down upon us, however, the feasibility of completing another relatively complex repair and rebuild side project quickly fell to the bottom of the list. Not to mention that the lively orange paint would attract a lot of attention.

Amongst the turbulence of our imminent departure, my eye settled on my covid-era mountain bike: made by Giant, this bike was conceived to go fast, world-cup fast, by riders a lot younger than me. And as mentioned, it was my covid-era mountain bike. A bike purchased when frame repair was backlogged for months and such a crushing demand existed for new bicycles that you had to take what you could find. It was in those times that I found this Giant.

And while stupid expensive and not made for idly touring another country, this mostly black frame and components (with splashes of dark blue) and  super-subtle labels does not draw any attention. The proof of this being that, after two months driving around Argentina, I have yet to receive a single question about it. Perfect.

Online school on the road: camperlife in South America

Niles with a Monkey Puzzle tree in camp at Parque National Lanin, Argentina Patagonia

We are a Montana family on the road for a year, traveling South America in our two pickups with pop-up campers. We are staying in a combination of situations of camps, Airbnbs and Workaway stays.

Our son is 14 and attempting to complete highschool courses along the way because he has the goal of returning to his school in Butte, Montana with enough credits to be a Sophomore. He is currently a Freshman enrolled in BYU online courses.

Many miles in this position.
Niles with Argentinan friends his age practicing Spanish and coaching English, such a refreshing sight for me.
Products of Niles and Vivian’s work on the Uruti farm, Colonia Valdense, Uruguay

I would have chosen a free, non-religiously affiliated school like k12 if it was an option. If he hadn’t been interested in returning to Butte High, there would have been more options including more interactive schooling. We chose BYU which is, ironically, religiously affiliated  because it had some support the other option didn’t have. Plus the price was a little less.

On  Workaway stay in Uruguay, koifarm’s source of eggs and meat. We all can manage chickens now. Vivian raised an orphaned chick in their shared room which means Niles really got to know chick stages of development from day one to 30 days.

As we have more time traveling in the countries of South America I believe more strongly that his experiences in camps with Argentinan friends, buying snacks in stores in Spanish, pick up basketball with kids in Colombia, and problem solving travel issues, understanding other cultures politics and economies is his true education this year. Just as the majority of time in a traditional school is social, his time dedicated to curriculum is short compared to time he spends becoming himself in this place.  The anxiety for me of course is wondering if this is “enough” when entering back into the Montana education system.

The day he decided to get his hair cut 5 months since leaving Montana. We went next door to Javier’s place in Guernica where this young man did a favorite Argentinan soccer cut for Niles (Argentina just won the World Cup BTW, so proud!).
“Oldfish” of the Rio de la Plata region which we found on the shore of Rio Uruguay.
Eating out is a rare treat in our past 4 months. We are cooking most meals to stick to budget. Our kids are learning how to travel on $30/day operating budget for food, fuel, and camps for the whole family.
Harvesting Tilo leaves and flowers for Tilo te, a natural sedative for bedtime.
Online school position at the Uruti farm without device in hand. Are you doing school?
Moras we harvested together with the Uruti family
Harvesting fence posts
Birthday pie for Victoria made by Niles
Are you doing school?
The whole family learned what water dependence on a windmill is like over the months of November and December in Uruguay. The groundwater is abundant but you need windy days as well to have water here.
Niles cutting a thick plant the Uruti farm is not using. It can be used as a fiber but only when the plant is much bigger. The farm area here is being envisioned as a vineyard.
Are you doing school?
Exploring the Rambla in Montevideo, Uruguay with sister Vivian.
Are you doing school?
Favorite desert is Flan and Alfajores
Navigating Buenos Aires by train
With a dog

We enrolled Niles in 4 courses through BYU which align with requirements to re-enter Butte High, he is slowly picking through the coursework. The experience as a parent is that we can check his progress from our account but he is very protective against us being with him as he does school. He is in general not an enthusiastic student and missing his friends. When he applies himself, grades go up, when he doesn’t grades go down.

Making Arepas over the Solo fire beneath a Monkey Puzzle tree in camp with views of Lanin volcano and glacier.

In our family, education has been highly valued. We are engineers, attorneys, nurses, plumbers, electricians, gardeners, and adventure seekers. I don’t know of any relatives in our last 3 generations that didn’t finish a traditional highschool. However, I also see that our family situation is in a unique opportunity to give a global education which the Montana school curriculum cannot provide. So, pros and cons.

Today, Niles has a sunburn from sitting near the camp store doing school next to the camp’s internet connection. He is doing a weeks worth of school to catch up after we had days of travel from the Atlantic Coast of Argentina to the Andes of Argentinan Patagonia. Traveling days and internet strong enough to complete school assignments is an issue now that wasn’t an issue in the first 3 months of travel, Google Fi cut us off of our service at month three of international travel.

We continue to pay for Google Fi and may have a way for another phone on our service that is in use by Vivian’s friend to come down here and provide a hotspot for another three months.

Montanan kid in South America learning stuff.

We welcome comments and ideas that may help us make this Freshmen year even better for this guy. Thanks in advance for your suggestions.