U: The Unknown: Biking with the Family
I’ve never been an avid biker. Don’t get me wrong, I like biking just fine. I rode bike all around my small town when I was young. I even used my bike a bit in college. When I moved to the Uptown area, my bike resided at my parent’s home. Finally, my trusty Trek of fifteen years found its way back to me when I became a home owner.
Still it lay dormant. Two children on the scene demanded way too much attention to get in a two-hour bike ride. I could have attached the Burley and pedaled away, but as a runner the most appealing and efficient plan for me was to push the Burley. When it became laughable and nearly impossible, I let my 4 and 6 year olds off the hook. No more Burley. I eyed my bike again when they were 5 and 7. I bought myself a new bike and Craigslisted to find a tandem for my old bike so my husband could ride with the five-year old. Ironically, my old black bike (purchased new in ’87) and our newly acquired tandem bore the same sticker from Okoboji Bikes, a bike shop in Okoboji, IA.
We rode very few times that summer. The next summer, when they were 6 and 8, we turned the page. The kids could ride bike while I ran. The pacing was good, but three miles was about all my youngest could take. To avoid vehicle traffic, I would load up the bikes on the carrier and head to the uninterrupted paths around the lakes. I cursed this carrier, because bikes could be difficult to strap in – truthfully, it hindered my enthusiasm for family bike outings.
Now, in the summer of 7 and 9, some of us in the family have renewed energy. I look back to May when my nine-year-old, Ava, decided she detested her bike, or rather the color: pink. I could barely get her to ride it during Walk and Bike to School Week (May 2011 post). When she did, it was apparent that it was way too small. When her birthday came around, we upgraded at Freewheel Bike to a 24″ black Trek with a shiny black seat, seven gears and adjustable pedals to increase her range when she’s ready. We threw in a sleek silver helmet.
The bike balance is now set again. Calvin moved from the bike he had outgrown and now prefers his hand-me down from the neighbor boy. As a result of the upgrades, we have two bikes to sell on Craigslist that are perfect for a 3-5 year-old boy and 5-7 year-old girl. The new balance allowed us to turn another page – I can now run while they bike. We can go from our house around the lake and back, which is about five miles.
This is great, although I’m still not biking. I allowed myself to consider that Ava and I would go biking and not ask the boys to join us. Last weekend we tested this out (it helps that the boys have started golfing together). Ava loves to explore so I began with that premise. Could we get the bikes on the carrier rack and head to relatively carless path? After looking at trail maps, we settled on the Big Rivers Regional Trail with a midpoint on our route that would connect across the river to Fort Snelling, one of her favorite places to wander.
At age nine, our speed is more paired and I can get in a workout. We set out at 10:30a.m. and headed north. We crossed over a few roads and get a glimpse of the lengthy bridge we’d have to cross to head west to Fort Snelling. Ava was intimidated. I was a bit unsure too. We continued on for a while, then turned around to head back when the path abruptly ended. On the way back, Ava votes to bypass the bridge and head back to our car. In hindsight, a very wise decision. Had we crossed the bridge, our total route would have been 11 miles.
About a mile out from the car, she needed a coach. There was whining before she pushed forward a few more times to finish our route. We had a picnic at the site overlooking the river, which improved our moods dramatically. I calculated our route as eight miles long (not the five I had anticipated). We got back to the car around 12:15. She would not let Fort Snelling go. We stopped off and wandered around the grounds to see how the bike trails connected for future reference.
No doubt there is much to explore on bike in the Twin Cities area. We’re planning to seek out new bike routes at least once every weekend during the summer. I’m hopeful that trail accessibility, historic sites, restaurants, entertainment and parks along the way will keep us on Trek to reach our goal.