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This family's epic Olympic odyssey includes bikes, a satellite dish -- and reindeer pelts

Jim Seida / NBC News

Svein Bergheim leads his family through the streets of North London on Monday. They were on their way to Box Hill, about 19 miles south-west of the U.K. capital, to watch the Olympic men's road race event.

Updated at 10:33 a.m. ET: LONDON -- Even in the chaos that is typical London traffic, it’s easy to spot the Bergheim family. They’re the ones pedaling bicycles adorned with Norwegian flags. Behind each bike is a trailer laden down with everything from a satellite dish, television and portable generator to stacks of reindeer pelts.   

“My average uphill speed is two to four kilometers (1.2 miles to 2.5 miles) per hour,” says 50-year-old Svein, who’s leading his family on what could only be called an odyssey so they can cheer their countrymen on in the men’s road race on July 28. Svein says his bike and trailer weigh 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds). (See author's note on discussion board below.)


“We went by boat from Norway to Denmark,” Svein’s wife Elisabeth, 43, told NBCNews.com. “Then we drove to Esbjerg and took the ferry for 18 hours to Harwich (England).” That’s where Svein and Elisabeth, along with their 13-year-old daughter, Ida, and their 8-year-old son, Magnus, started pedaling toward London. That was four days and more than 90 miles ago.

Jim Seida / NBC News

An impatient taxi driver forces Elisabeth Bergheim and daughter Ina into the street while laying on the horn.

The Bergheims found themselves in a swell of taxis, motorcycles and double-decker buses as they navigated their way through North London to their hotel. “It’s very scary,” says Ida, pronounced ‘Eeda’. “Big trucks pass and I get the wind in my face.” Soon after, as Ida spins to keep up with her family as they pass through a yellow then red light, a driver piloting a taxi covered in Great Britain’s colors steps on the gas while standing on the horn in a mock “I’m going to run you over!” move. Welcome to London.

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While this might seem like the adventure of a lifetime to most, it’s pretty standard fare for the Bergheims. They’ve been to several Tour de France races, and Svein and Ida were in Vancouver for the last Winter Olympics. “He gave me this trip for our 20th anniversary,” says Elisabeth. "But maybe we’ll get divorced when we’re finished.” 

Jim Seida / NBC News

Svein Bergheim stops to check directions to a hotel on his phone. His family's odyssey has taken them more than 500 miles by boat, car, ferry and now bicycle to be part of the Olympic Games.

Their plan is to set up camp near Box Hill, the site of the cycling road race events. They will be hard to miss, what with half-a-dozen Norwegian flags blowing in the wind while they watch live coverage of the event that they’ll be pulling down with their satellite dish and sending to their television. They won’t get to see the event live as it’s sold out and they don’t have tickets. 

Jim Seida / NBC News

In addition to a generator, satellite dish and television, the Bergheims are traveling with reindeer skins to help keep them warm while camping. Here they're pedaling along a special Olympic lane in North London. The lanes, designed to speed Olympic athletes and officials through London's thick traffic, will be closed even to bicyclists beginning Wednesday.

“It’s a game, it’s for fun!” says Elisabeth, “It’s (the Olympics) an event for the children and we want them to experience it in a fun way, not with all the security and everything.”

Lit by the sun's rays in Greece, the Olympic torch takes a 70-day, 8,000 mile trip to London for the 2012 summer Games.

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