Gregg Treinish and his team at Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation bring us stories from around the world about adventuring with purpose. Here, Charles Scott, aka Family Adventure Guy, writes about cycling round trip from New York City to Niagara Falls with his two young children. Along the way, they collected data for our roadkill project.
By Charles R. Scott
Most people turn their eyes away from roadkill, but my children and I spent five weeks this summer actively looking for the remains of animals along the road and documenting what we found. Working with Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation, we incorporated a roadkill project into our summer trip, cycling 1,000 miles from New York City to Niagara Falls and back.
I had two primary goals: To share a challenging adventure with my 13-year-old son Sho and 7-year-old daughter Saya, and to encourage people to think about how to minimize the affects of roads on wildlife.
We spent 33 days on the road, typically covering about 40 miles a day. Starting from our apartment in New York City, we pedaled across town and rode north up the Hudson River to Albany. From there, we followed the Erie Canal west to Niagara Falls, then returned the way we came.
Riding on busy urban streets, quiet suburban byways and on dirt trails, we were almost always near a body of water. We saw great blue herons, Canadian geese, red tailed hawks, snapping turtles, muskrats and many other forms of wildlife.
We carried our gear in bike bags and a trailer. My son lugged about 30 pounds on his bike, while I pulled 175, including my 60-pound daughter on a trailer cycle. It was challenging, especially on hills, but we got stronger as the trip progressed. We slept in the homes of friends, in motels and in our tent. When we camped, the kids set up the tent and gathered firewood. Once those tasks were completed, we roasted marshmallows and fished.
Sometimes the weather was ideal for cycling. Other times, not so much. We rode through oppressive heat and heavy downpours at times.
“This is just like life,” I told my kids. “If you only ride when the weather is perfect, you’ll never get anywhere.”
Saya took that to heart and cheered whenever it started to rain.
Throughout the trip, we documented dozens of dead animals and talked about ways to reduce animal deaths and car accidents. The simplest approach is to build a small tunnel or natural overpass where there is a lot of roadkill. To do so, the Department of Transportation needs data from clean-up crews and citizens. I hope more people will contribute to the database, which can be found on ASC’s website.
It’s also valuable for my kids to pay attention to and care about the animals that die as we humans rush around. For me, this project has been a reminder to slow down and appreciate the beauty around us.
This is the fifth “family adventure” I’ve taken with my kids, in which we spend summer cycling long distances, linking each ride to a charitable cause. We’ve pedaled more than 7,000 miles across Japan, Iceland, Europe and the United States, carrying our gear, figuring out the route, and deciding where to sleep as we go. The trips have been physically challenging and stressful at times.
“Sometimes, an adventurer just suffers for a while,” I tell the kids.
We’ve been pounded by heavy rains, struggled to pedal through gale-force winds, cycled over many mountain passes, learned to keep pushing when we thought we didn’t have any more energy left, and experienced the remarkable kindness of strangers around the world.
We’ve become closer as a result, like team members who learn to trust and rely on one another to achieve a difficult goal. My kids bicker and sulk from time to time. So do I. That’s called being human. But they also have learned the remarkable feats their bodies are capable of, the power of self-confidence, and the joy of uncovering nature’s secrets.
We live in a world full of stunning beauty, and the time we have to appreciate that beauty is all too short. I hope that these trips will linger in my children’s memories, reminders to look for ways to treat each day as a gift, to protect nature like you would a family member, to seek adventure and to have the confidence to craft a life full of love and meaning.