He had one of those balance-type bikes, purchased by my mother a few years ago, where he could just scoot along and lift his feet and put them down as needed, and that was sufficient for a few years.
But he didn’t have pedals.
Or have a need to learn any skills to help him stay upright for any length of time.
You see we have a long, steep gravel driveway, with a scary hairpin turn in it. And we don’t have neighbors or neighboring kids for him to feel the need to keep up with and make him want to learn. Instead we have a river and trees behind us. We do cool things in our yard most other kids don’t do, right?
We catch bugs and frogs.
We walk and stomp around in the river.
We skip rocks…. who needs a bike?
So my husband and I, as parents, slacked off and let it slide.
When we were in Montana last month, Brett met a new friend at the ranch named Asa and even though there were only gravel roads, Asa had this new bike he was extremely proud of, with big tires that worked just great on the dirt and gravel road. And it would have been nice if Brett could have joined him instead of having to just walk alongside him.
Asa is 9, and had great skill on his bike. Brett, at 8 1/2?
Note to self: when we get home, buy this kid a bike!
He needs to learn. Every kid needs to at some point, don’t they?
I finally did cross that chore off the list last week, on a trip to Rochester to visit my mother in law, where we found ourselves walking in front of a Dick’s Sporting Goods, with no excuse like: “I’m too tired” or “We don’t have time”.
I haven’t really thought much about riding on a personal level over the years.
I guess I liked riding my bike when I was a kid. I did grow up in suburbia, and had friends who rode around with us in the neighborhood. I have memories of riding with my brothers, chasing the ice cream truck. I have one memory of falling and losing a tooth, and running home alongside my bike, blood gushing from my leg, but excited my fall would mean I would get a visit from the tooth fairy that night.
As an adult, not by design; maybe just by default, I have pursued outside activities involving my own feet, not wheels.
But when I do think about the sport, I think about my Dad.
When I was a kid, my father was always gone on Sunday. This was his day to take an epic bike ride with his friends.
I have always admired him for taking this time to do something he loved. Instead of being like one of the millions of Dads out there who had no hobbies, and just work work worked, and did what their wives told them to do, my Dad took that time for himself. He would stretch for a long time, maybe an hour, and then head out. I’m sure he got a lot of flak from my mom because of this, since she had to stay home with 3 obnoxious kids by herself all day.
But he knew he needed this time for himself.
And he was able to stay in great shape this way and clear his head.
My parents moved to the bay area, south of San Francisco, in the mid-90s and on one of my first visits to see their new home and new town, my father drove me around to see some of his favorite bicycle routes. He would often go along these super windy roads, and along the bay. On many visits, we went up Kings Mountain Road, in Woodside CA, to go to the restaurant at the top. The first time he took me up there, as I complained I needed a Dramamine and felt sick from the curvy drive, my father told me this was one of the roads he would frequently ride on his bike.
What? You really ride your bike on this road?!
I remember saying “Dad, this road is going to be the end of you if you keep riding it…”
He just laughed. And continued riding along these roads he loved for years. And still, on Sundays.
But then 2 years ago, while at home in Vermont on Memorial Day weekend, I was just sitting down to a glass of wine after a long day in the garden when my mother called, hysterical.
My father was in the hospital.
He had an accident on his Sunday bike ride. She didn’t know much else.
It wasn’t on scary Kings Mountain road. It was another one.
We never learned what happened exactly, as there were no witnesses, but my brothers and I were told to get out to California immediately. The next day, I walked into Stanford Medical Center and found my father in a coma with traumatic brain injury. He died about a week later.
He was only 67.
I have been told, well, he died doing something he loved. And that’s true.
I try not to blame bicycling.
Just as I have tried not to blame Memorial Day weekend over these past 2 years. Because honestly, I have always loved Memorial Day weekend and do not want to demonize it for the rest of my life. I was told early on when I first met my husband that his mother lost someone she loved dearly on Thanksgiving, and has always hated Thanksgiving.
I adore my mother in law, but to hate a holiday for that long? I didn’t want to live the rest of my life that way.
Last summer, one year after losing my father, I was on vacation on Cape Cod and my family went off to do something else while I took the car to visit a few shops by myself. I had a few messages on my cell phone from my mother. Doesn’t she know I’m on vacation? I’ll call her later.
But then a text “Call me”.
So I pulled over to the side of the road to do just that. I learned that it happened again. This time to my parents dear friend. Accident on his bike, he had been hit by a car and was was in the hospital.
And most certainly would not make it.
As you can imagine, it hasn’t been so easy for me to let bicycling off the hook, like I have been able to do with Memorial Day weekend.
When my son starts to ride a bike, will I get back on a bike too?
My motto these days has been to be open and willing to try new things. Especially activities that take us outside and keep us moving. When Brett learned to ice skate a few years ago, I put a pair of skates after 20-some-odd years. And I did fine. And he has been learning to ski. So last season I put skis on after a 10 year lapse. I had been so nervous I wouldn’t remember how, but once out there, I loved it. I was proud of myself for taking that initial step to try again because now this will be an activity we both can enjoy. Because that’s all it takes sometimes. Just take that one step, and you aren’t nervous anymore. You can move on from any emotional barriers.
But what about bicycling?
I can’t remember the last time I was on one, maybe in college? I should say yes, of course I will retry that, and Brett and I can ride together.
But still I hesitate.
At this time of year in Vermont, I see bicycles and cyclists everywhere.
Tour groups. Tourists. I see people of all ages riding along on our narrow windy back roads, with no room for cars and bikes to work together side-by-side. This brings tears to my eyes more often than any other trigger. When I look at the faces of these cyclists, I see my Dad. When my father visited us in Vermont, the first thing he did was go to the bicycle shop in Manchester and rent a bike for the week. He loved riding along and around Route 30 and visiting the little towns. Stopping at the country stores and chatting with whomever was inside. And snapping photo after photo of the farms, the flowers, the houses, the mountains…
And all I can think when I see these people is :
Why are they out there?
Do something else!
Don’t you know the roads are dangerous!
But as some friends reminded me yesterday, as they were headed out on a bicycle tour in the Finger Lakes:
“There is risk in anything and everything”
This morning I opened up the manual on Brett’s new bike, as I’m thinking we can start practicing this week. I see “Warning”. “Caution” every few lines.
Is this supposed to reassure me I’m doing the right thing?
I suppose not.
But I have ideas on where we can practice with no chance of seeing other cars or hazards.
And we’ll see how he does.
I think this year I’ll ask for new skis for the holidays, so Brett and I will be able to go more often and experience this sport together.
But we’ll wait and see whether I’ll hop back up on a bike.
I won’t say never, but maybe next year my head will be in the right place to take that initial step over the emotional barrier I still have with bicycling today.
Do you have any tough memories associated with activities, or times or places that you have a hard time getting over? How were you able to get over them? Are you glad you did?
Are there activities you have retried because of your kids or other family members?
I would love to hear your stories and comments.