Today we decided to go bicycle riding with the kids. Our city has a very extensive network of bicycle paths that criss-cross the valley, and we've never really explored them before. With my daughter recently learning how to ride a bicycle, and my oldest son itching to go on a long ride, we decided to take today and do it. The kids are out of school for spring break, and I took a vacation day. On top of that, we have a bicycle trailer that my youngest son has been wanting to ride in for a long time, so everything just made good sense.
My wife, however, has an aversion to riding bicycles. When she was a child, she had a bad accident (a downhill spill that broke a tooth) that she never really got over. Having no desire to join us, we figured this actually gave us two good benefits: 1) she could do a little shopping while we were out, and 2) the rest of us could ride wherever we were inspired and she could pick us up wherever we ended up. This actually worked out very, very well.
We started our little excursion at the bike path near our local Lowe's store. About 1-1/2 hours and five miles later, we found ourselves over by a shopping center with a McDonalds. I decided to call my wife and tell her we planned to stop to get an ice cream cone, when she announced she was actually right by there doing some shopping. She also told me that she had coupons for free scoops of ice cream at Cold Stone's, so we quickly diverted and joined her there.
I thought that the ice cream and the long ride would have satiated them, but we were surprised that they wanted to keep going. I was up for it, so back on the bikes we went to head towards where we started. We took the shorter route this time, and made it in about half an hour, but when we got there, the kids still weren't ready to be done! They wanted to keep going to visit the church we attend and then to go home, so I called my wife to tell her what we were doing (she, too, was surprised by their endurance) and then we kept going.
When we got to the church, I was afraid they were pretty well done again, as the rest of the trip home was nearly all uphill. To my surprise, they were still wanting to go! So, off we went. It was a long and exhausting ride, but they did phenomenally well, even my daughter, who is still pretty new to the bicycle riding thing.
The funny thing is that when we were about a quarter mile from home (just prior to the steepest part), my wife came up behind us in the van. Her timing was great, as my daughter really was out of steam by then, and my youngest son, who had so happily ridden in the bicycle trailer all those miles, announced that he had to go to the bathroom. Those two were loaded into the minivan to make the rest of the trip home, and I rode (and walked some) with my oldest son the rest of the way. When we arrived home, we were tired, happy, and satisfied with the day's experience.
My daughter, just learning to ride her bike, did take two spills where she got a little scraped up, but she's a tough little one and wasn't going to let a few scratches keep her from riding her bike some more. She did give me a few scares, though, when she fell over a few times towards the busy street. She was pretty wobbly and kept running into things, which would have been amusing if it wasn't so wince-inducing. By the end of the day, though, she really had learned some very good lessons, and her skills as a bicyclist are greatly improved.
My oldest son, however, a fine bicyclist, did take off a few times and left us behind. On two occasions, he actually was far enough away that I couldn't see him, and I had to get grumpy with him about that. After the second time, I reminded him about the buddy system (a big deal in the cub scouts) and he was much better after that.
At the beginning of the excursion, I wasn't sure how long they would last. I feared that my daughter would fall down (which she did, a lot) and decide to give up, or that my youngest son's patience would wear thin. Neither of these last two things happened for the many hours we were out. I think we went over ten miles, no small feat for kids that size in hilly terrain. The weather was beautiful (slightly overcast with a cool breeze) and the bike paths were great to explore. There are still more paths I'd like to try out, but next time I want to find a map so I can know better how to avoid the major roads.
I, however, am worn out. I think I'll sleep really well tonight. Maybe I'll go take a bath and soak for a while ...
It was a great day.