Riding with kids

I learned to ride a dirt bike when my husband Mark and I started dating. Through the years it progressed to include our daughter Leeah, who sometimes rode her own dirt bike, other times seated behind her dad.  I like to say that our daughter is one of the first motorcycle adventure kids. A lot of times when people have kids they feel that their passion for riding and adventure has to be shelved. Not with us. We decided to kick it up a notch.

Women Who Ride: Leah Van Holten after riding through the mud. 10 years old and ready for more.

Leeah Van Holten after riding through the mud. 10 years old and ready for more.

Women Who Ride: Leah Van Holten riding her dirt bike at the age of 12.

Leeah Van Holten riding her dirt bike at the age of 12.

We rode our dirt bikes a lot in Baja California, Mexico, when she was eight. Soon after, we wanted to do longer trips, so we got street licenses and  a BMW F650 GS for me and an R1200 GS for Mark.  We found some BMW kid’s gear for Leeah that fit her well and was functional in all kinds of  weather.

Our first big adventure was rode up to Point Roberts at the top of Washington state, when Leeah was eleven. Leeah was in charge of setting up the tent and helping with the maps. She had managed to figure out how to read her books while riding with her Dad (placed square in the middle of his back). We got some pretty strange looks from cars passing by for that one! We also made a point of planning some fun things for the ride home, and we frequently stopped for ice cream so that she wouldn’t get too hot or tired.

Leah Van Holten on the ferry from Vancouver to Victoria Island, Canada

Leeah Van Holten on the ferry from Vancouver to Victoria Island, Canada

After the success of that trip, we planned a ride to Panama to visit a cousin. We took Leeah out of middle school for two months. We were a little concerned that she might get bored being on the road for that long without any friends but it seemed to work. She was in charge of being our Spanish translator. She handled all of the smaller coin money, helped pick stops along the way where she wanted to see or do something, and she kept a journal. We also had some radios so she was able to talk to us and listen to music.

Our biggest challenge was trying to fit all the books she was reading for fun in our panniers. We only had two zip-lock bags each for clothes, and space in the panniers was at a premium, since we also needed to take tools, spares, first-aid kit, laptop, maps and other things. Leeah gladly sacrificed her clothes space to make room for her books.

Some of the highlights of that trip were – us being the only people running around at a large Mayan ruin site in southern Mexico, zip lining in the Monte Verde Cloud Forest in Costa Rica, watching lava spew high in the air from a volcano at night from the roof of our hotel in Guatemala, and having the uncanny ability to stumble upon fantastic restaurants in the strangest places. That was such an awesome trip. At times it still feels like we just got back.

Women Who Ride: Luanna and Leah Van Holten outside a roadside café on the pacific coast of Mexico

Luanna and Leeah Van Holten outside a roadside café on the pacific coast of Mexico

I can’t wait to jump on our bikes and go somewhere new with my family. Sadly, Leeah is now away at college and cannot go with us. Traveling on motorcycles as a family is something I would recommend to anyone in a heartbeat.

The Van Holtens make it to Panama!

The Van Holtens make it to Panama!



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