Archive for Sunday, June 15, 2003

Hey, dad, thanks for ride

June 15, 2003


Today is Father's Day, and since this is the sports section, I wanted this column to be about both fathers and sports.

I think it ended up a little about both ... and neither.

About the time this paper hit your front step, I was heading east to Olathe, site of the charity bike ride in which I've participated for nearly a decade with, you guessed it, my dad.

Technically, the ride is the Tour de Cure, a fund-raiser for the American Diabetes Assn., and though I'm not really sure how we ended up going on our first, I know we haven't missed one since.

We've ridden in shine and rain. Every year's race but one fell on Father's Day; last year's ride was the week after.

And every year except this year the Tour de Cure was subtitled the "Wheel to Weston," as in the quaint little antique-and-tobacco hotbed in Missouri that was the ending point for the ride that began at the Kansas City (Mo.) farmer's market.

For whatever reason, the ADA powers that be decided the scenic, rolling route to Weston was too beautiful, so they moved the ride to not-as-lovely Olathe this year. Oh boy.

After more than a little debate, dad and I decided to ride again this year, even though we'll miss the Wheel to Weston part of it.

It's not like it's a major investment in time or effort. The Weston route was 35 or 50 miles -- we always rode the 35-miler -- and today we'll cut back to just 20 miles.

This year is special, though, because, weather permitting, I'll be pulling 80 or so pounds of delightful dead weight behind me -- my 5-year-old daughter, 2-year-old son, a bike trailer and all the diapers, wipes, snacks, drinks and toys needed to keep all but the trailer happy for the 100 or so minutes I expect it will take three generations of Hartsocks to complete the Wheel To (and From, and Not Necessarily Around) Olathe.

Truth be told, I'm a little worried about how things will go today.

Sometimes the kids don't get along when they have the whole great outdoors to play in. Today, they'll be cooped up in a tiny rolling chuck wagon with no room to get away from the sure-to-be-annoying sibling.

But they'll just have to cope, because it should be fun. I hope.

I know I have fond memories of the annual bike trek.

I've been making the journey with dad for close to a third of my life, and somewhere, some year, someplace between Kansas City and Weston, it seemed it went from a father-son ride to a ride shared by two friends.

I remember riding just weeks after my dad's dad -- my grandfather -- passed away. I remember riding when my daughter, Carlyn, was just five months old, and I remember riding when my son, Brooks, was three months old.

You can talk a lot in 35 miles on a bike, and we have.

We have talked about sadness, loneliness and happiness. We talked about dreams, finances, family and friends. We talked and we talked, and more than once I felt a little sad as we rolled into Weston because I knew another year's ride was nearing an end.

What does all this have to do with sports? Not much, I guess, except dad taught me how to ride a bike.

Heck, he taught me how to play tennis, hit a softball, field a grounder, play racquetball, fix a bike, dribble a basketball, play racquetball. He volunteered to coach the teams on which I played, and when it became obvious I wasn't particularly athletic, he threw his support behind my nonathletic endeavors.

He encouraged me to play football, but when I worked on the school newspaper instead, he drove me -- and the rest of the staff -- to Indiana for a journalism camp.

I don't know how many times we played catch -- me with my Paul Blair Signature Series mitt, he with his Cesar Cedeno glove, which I played with as an adult on the company softball team -- but he was more than willing to serve as coach/sponsor when I competed on the debate team.

I can't remember dad embarrassing me by tearing into a coach for not playing me more, or berating me for failing to drive in the winning run -- not for want of opportunity, I'm sure.

Now I'm a dad -- a dad of a kindergartner to be, for goodness sake, and a 2-year-old who puts the terrible in "Terrible Twos" -- and I'm sure at some point today, I'll glance back at the kids, no doubt squabbling about some overwhelming injustice, and I'll smile.

Maybe I'll hope, some day a couple of decades from now, at least one of my kids will think about me.

And maybe Carlyn or Brooks -- or both? -- will think I'm half the dad I think my dad is.

And if they should want to spend a couple of hours biking together again, they'll know where to find me.

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