Over the past year, I’ve been following an incredible story of human accomplishment—the kind of story makes you think outside of the boundaries of what you previously thought was possible.

The people in that story are John, Nancy, and their twins boys, Daryl and Davy, who spent three years traveling from Alaska to the southern-most point of Argentina. The twins were just 10 when the family set out … on bicycles!


Given that I struggle to pedal my bike to the supermarket for bread due to fears of cars, rain, wind, aggressive neighborhood dogs, and physical exertion, the sheer miles covered by Family on Bikes is nothing short of mind boggling. After reading about their journey, not only did I feel wildly upstaged by 10 year olds, I decided that I could afford to take a few more risks in my life. So I began plotting my next big adventure.

In short, their story changed my life.

Over three years, the family camped in a range of wild places, got chased by a bear, suffered horrible ingrown-toenails, and passed through dangerous South American countries that have been scratched permanently off tourists’ itineraries.

Of course, Nancy and John have received their fair share of criticism. While The Police for Responsible Parenting are pointing fingers, I have my own opinion. As someone who lived a nomadic life adrift on the ocean for two years, I’ve spent plenty of time with children who are living epic adventures. Every sailing child I encountered—every single one!—was mature, joyful, confident, and full of wanderlust. Home-schooled by their parents, they were intelligent beyond their years and many of them spoke two languages. It’s clear that Davy and Daryl are no different.

The family set out on their quest in 2008, and if all went to plan, Davy and Daryl would set a Guinness World Record for being the youngest to pedal the length of the Americas.

But all did not go to plan …

While the family successfully completed the epic 17,300 miles over three years,  Davy and Daryl, now 13, were recently informed that they’re not being awarded the record:

“Thank you for sending us the details of your recent record attempt for ‘Youngest Person to pedal the length of the Americas’. We are afraid to say that we are unable to accept this as a Guinness World Record.

Unfortunately, we at Guinness World Records, have decided to rest this record, meaning we have decided to no longer recognise the category as a record, due to the fact that the record would reach an age where a person would no longer be able to break it or attempt (i.e. a two-year old attempting to do it) and as it would become limited under these terms, we choose to no longer recognise it as a category.

The achievement, however, is an amazing one and we hope you and your family enjoyed it.”

[INSERT A RANGE OF COLORFUL EXPLETIVES.]

So Guinness World Records is suddenly concerned with ethics? The last I checked, they were actively cheering-on people who can eat the world’s largest hamburger, jump off the highest building, grow the largest tumor, or balance the heaviest load of bricks on their head.

To me, the record means nothing. It’s just a meaningless credit offered by a deplorable institution that has somehow became a respected standard for human accomplishment. It’s a large-scale pissing contest with movable boundaries. But why expect anything more from a book designed to settle drunken arguments in British pubs? Are you surprised that it was conceived by an Englishman who ran a brewery?

I, for one, would like to know what the record is for the highest number of deaths and injuries caused by a single book, because I’m pretty sure the Guinness Book of World Records would be way up there. Denying the boys their record due to a sudden moral conscious is a little ripe, don’t you think?

To Davy and Daryl, I want to tell you this:

Many great heroes never awarded records. Here are two:

Tania Aebi, my number one hero, was the youngest American woman to sail solo around the world at 18. In a tiny, ill-equipped boat without GPS, satellite phones, or modern technology, she circled the globe despite storms, knock-downs, breakages and a collision with a ship. She was denied the record because she’d given a short ride to a friend in the South Pacific—the equivalent of driving someone a block down the road—and her ‘solo’ attempt was therefore void.

Then there’s Bernard Moitessier, a master sailor who would’ve been the first person to ever solo circumnavigate the world if not for the fact that he abandoned the race, the fame, the prize money and the Guinness Record, simply because he didn’t give a shit. He sailed for the love of sailing, and he worried that returning to the crowds of media would thwart the purity of his experience. So he turned around and sailed half the world again to Tahiti, where he hooked up with island babes, chilled out, and pondered the meaning of life.

Yet these two ‘nobodies’ have been more influential to my life than anyone else. Family on Bikes, record or no record, have also changed my life.

A world record is a bullet point on a résumé. It’s a listing in a cheesy book. It’s 15 minutes of fame. Big deal.

A great achievement is not determined by your name being published in a morally questionable book. What Davy and Daryl accomplished is far above and beyond a simple listing alongside The World Record For Most Hot Dogs Stuffed Into A Human Orifice.

A hero inspirers dreamers forever. A hero encourages society to rethink the boundaries of what is possible. What Family on Bikes have achieved is so incredible that I have no doubt it has rippled inspiration worldwide, changing the lives of others in ways big and small. And remember this: while heroes are changing the world, record holders are just getting indigestion.

Tell me, dear readers, if you really think these people are heroes:

China’s Li Jianhua – record for pulling a car the longest distance with an ear.

Maxi Mounds – World’s largest augmented breasts.

Jackie Bibby – Guinness title for sitting in a bathtub with 87 rattlesnakes.

 

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26 Response Comments

  • Kim  July 26, 2011 at 4:54 am

    WTF? Where did you find those pictures??? Anyway, Torre, you are absolutely right and this was a great homage to the wonderful accomplishment of Family On Bikes. It sucks those kids were denied their record but nobody can take away that fabulous experience. What interesting young men those kids must be.

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche  July 26, 2011 at 9:29 am

      Google! If you do an image search for “Guinness World Records” the result is quite alarming.

      Reply
  • Carrie  July 26, 2011 at 4:56 am

    I am sad to say that I hadn’t heard of this issue on my end until it came to light on many different feeds around Twitter. However, that being said, the twins’ accomplishment is nothing if not absolutely incredible. Even reading about it here on your blog has given me an inspiration that I didn’t have five minutes ago.

    Doing something that you desire with all of your heart and/or believe in, even if others criticize you for it; even if people tell you that it’s not possible; even if you’re doing it simply to prove your inner doubts wrong, makes you a hero. Period. These kids are heroes. To hell with the Guinness Book of World Records.

    Reply
  • autisticglobetrotting  July 26, 2011 at 5:26 am

    I never had much respect for the records to begin with but after hearing this story I can say I have even less. Bottom line – these boys got a unique education that is to be appreciated and is bound to serve them well in their adulthood.

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche  July 26, 2011 at 9:34 am

      Yep, that is the bottom line. I hope this doesn’t become too much of a negative conclusion for the family, but they seem to have their bearings so I don’t think they’ll let it overshadow the positives.

      Reply
  • kimberly  July 26, 2011 at 5:57 am

    This is NOTHING short of BRILLIANT!!!! Thank you for such an eloquent and poetic post! I, too, enjoyed following the Vogels and found myself pushing my own personal boundaries because in the back of my head, this courageous family was peddling their butts off – if they could do that… I could do ______________(fill in the blank – anything!)
    Guinness can “sit and spin” for all I care. Daryl and Davy do not need their bogus seal of approval to validate their accomplishment!

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche  July 26, 2011 at 9:30 am

      Love it! They CAN sit and spin! Thanks for your comment 🙂

      Reply
  • Gayle Rodgers  July 26, 2011 at 6:32 am

    Thanks! I have followed the Vogels since their first trip with the boys in 2006 and have also followed all of the comments and fall-out today since Nancy posted news of Guiness’ decision to dis-allow this record endeavor. Yours is truly the most thoughtful, insightful and, IMHO, significant response to the situation in the perhaps 150+ responses I’ve read in the last 8 hours.

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche  July 26, 2011 at 9:32 am

      Thank you, Gayle. I feel passionately ticked off and my fingers went into a frenzy of typing. I’m not usually a fan of ranting on my blog, but this time I had to say something!

      Reply
  • Sarah  July 26, 2011 at 9:25 am

    Well written, lady!

    I think the people at Guinness are setting themselves up for some major scrutiny over this one. If they’re not going to involve themselves with recognizing ACTUAL achievements of inspiring humans then their credibility all of sudden becomes nothing more than challenging bored people to compete against one another for those momentous 15 minutes.

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche  July 26, 2011 at 9:33 am

      I hope they’ll be scrutinized. This story deserves newspaper coverage—it’s outrageous.

      Reply
  • Janet  July 26, 2011 at 9:58 am

    great write up!! I have heard of this family before and had to read it a second time when I first read they were only 10. Sounds impossible, but they did it!! That is ridiculous that guiness book is not going to recognize it.. what the hell?? Not that their rewards mean much of anything.. I am not the greatest fan but their reasoning really makes little sense considering the type of weird outrageous things they have… this shouldn’t be such a blip!

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche  July 26, 2011 at 10:53 am

      It does make very little sense. They just change the rules whenever they like, which kind of makes the whole competition a big sham.

      Reply
  • Thomas Arbs  July 26, 2011 at 10:33 am

    That really is a shame for the Vogels – though I am convinced that strong family will deal with it, knowing that what they did achieve matters, not what some framed document on a wall claims. I even think Guinness are basically right to introduce rules that at least protect minors (while no-one can protect the “grown-ups” in the a. m. examples from themselves). But changing the rules while a competition is up is deeply unfair.

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche  July 26, 2011 at 10:52 am

      Exactly—if they want to change the rules: fine, but they need to respect those who began their record attempt BEFORE the change of rules.

      Reply
  • Thomas C.  July 26, 2011 at 11:16 am

    AYFKMWTS?

    Totally unfair. That kid should be in the book. Frankly, I think Maxi Mounds should be denied her record, for the same reason…there’s a point at which her bewbs could become so big that they would displace everything else in the universe and since matter can be neither created nor destroyed, eventually, the universe would collapse upon itself, and would turn into a giant black hole with a pancake-sized nipple.

    Reply
  • Mark Cooper  July 26, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    I followed the guys on their journey, they are legends without the say so of a shameful organisation

    Reply
  • Meg  July 26, 2011 at 4:29 pm

    “A hero inspires dreamers forever.” I love it! That is exactly what a hero is. It doesn’t matter what award or trophy you get for your efforts, its the legacy you leave behind you. Davy and Daryl you are ROCKSTARS! What an amazing feat!! People will remember your strength and perseverance for a lifetime. Awesome post Torre!

    Reply
  • Sheryll  July 28, 2011 at 8:47 am

    What a brilliant and beautifully written post.

    Davy and Daryl will always be heroes to me. Thank you for shedding light on such an amazing family.

    Reply
  • Charley @Secret_Water  July 30, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    I’ve been following these guys for a while and they have been a great source of parental inspiration. I love this post, especially the references to Moitessier (what a legend).

    Reply
  • BlackChickOnTour  July 30, 2011 at 2:38 pm

    I love Family on Bikes!! They’re absolutely pushing boundaries and showing their sons by example how to be world citizens. Good for them!! I hadn’t heard that they weren’t going to receive the record. That just sucks!!

    Reply
  • Stephanie  August 2, 2011 at 11:28 pm

    Amen! And yet again you delight me with such great writing! 🙂 Those certainly would never be heros of mine, and the GBofWR is lame for their letter, but you expressed just how lame in your beautiful prose. Well done!

    Reply
  • Rease  August 4, 2011 at 7:32 pm

    This family sounds AMAZING! I totally agree with you, heroes are defined by so much more than public glory.

    Reply

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