JoCo siblings complete goal set during pandemic — Bike together across Missouri

White children bike across Missouri

Four Shawnee Mission siblings, the White children, completed their pandemic goal of biking across Missouri last month. From left to right, Nachman White, Orli White, Noam White, Ben-Tzion White and adult chaperone Andy Ernstein. Photo courtesy Katie White.

Four Shawnee Mission siblings have completed a goal they set for themselves during the peak of COVID-19, when much of the world was shut down and people were stuck inside their homes for long stretches of time: to bike across the state of Missouri together.

Who are they? The siblings are the Whites — Nachman, a soon-to-be junior at Shawnee Mission South High School, Noam, a soon-to-be sophomore at the same school, along with Orli and Ben-Tzion, who are both rising eighth graders at Indian Woods Middle School

  • They say they were already a close bunch, but a 240-mile trek on two wheels seemed to bring them even closer together.

Why? The Whites’ parents began goal setting for their children at the beginning of the pandemic in early 2020, as a way to keep the kids active and outdoors, Katie, their mother, said.

  • Spurred by their parents, the White children came up with the idea of a major biking journey.
  • Orli said the family took a trip to the Katy Trail in Missouri about a year-and-a-half ago to see what the trail looked like and to determine its bikability.

The journey: Accompanied by an adult chaperone, the White children biked the Katy Trail, which runs the width of Missouri between Kansas City and St. Louis, along the former corridor of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad.

  • Katie said she and the kids drove to eastern Missouri on a Sunday afternoon in June and made it back home by that following Thursday evening.
  • A family friend, Andy Ernstein, accompanied the four children on the trek.
  • Katie followed with the car, to help cook dinner and set up a campsite each night during the four-and-a-half day journey.
  • Orli said the Katy Trail was a good major trail to start out with because its mostly flat, with only one day of biking uphill.

Key quote: “We’ve biked our entire lives, but not actually like hardcore biking,” Nachman said. “We had to train more for this because it was longer than anything we’d ever done.”

Lessons learned: The White children said the biggest lesson they learned along the way is how important it is to maintain camaraderie and a team spirit.

  • Orli said when a bike malfunctioned or broke along the 240-mile journey, she and her brothers put their heads together to figure out a solution.
  • The ride did not come without its challenges, though: Ben-Tzion dealt with six flat tires, a new bike that wouldn’t hold air and chain issues on a third bike he borrowed from one of his brothers.
  • As a result, Ben-Tzion biked a chunk of the trail on low-gear — meaning he had to pedal more for each rotation of the wheel.

What’s next: The White children aren’t planning another state-long bike ride any time soon.

  • Still, Ben-Tzion said if he were to do it again, he’d want to travel across a different trail in a different state.
  • Others like Noam agree — the next time the White children embark on a trek such as this, it’ll be with different scenery.

Key quote: “Our grandpa was an avid biker when he was younger, so it was really exciting for him that we did it and it was really nice when we came home — he was really happy,” Noam said. “He taught us everything we know about bikes. When we have a bike problem, we go to him and he teaches us how to fix it, and that really helped along our bike ride.”