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Ride. Of. The. Year.
We were sitting around the breakfast table earlier this week, discussing the unseasonably cool forecast for the day, when my son chimed in.
“Dad,” he asked. “Do you think we could ride bikes to school today?”
I don’t believe I’ve ever heard a better question around my breakfast table, barely supplanting, “Would you like more sausage?” As summer waned and school neared, we had mulled our options for getting two kids to two schools. We talked carpools and charter buses, and I recall mentioning to my elementary-aged son, Brooks, that maybe we could ride bikes occasionally.
He expressed a little interest, but didn’t mention it again until it came out of nowhere over breakfast.
We had discussed it last year, too, but his school says students must be in at least fourth grade to ride to school. Though my daughter and I could have pedaled there, Brooks was too young, technically, so we never did ride to school.
That all changed after breakfast Monday, and Brooks was all shades of fired up about it.
“What do I do with my backpack, dad?” he asked as he headed out the door.
Uh, put it on your back?
The weather was perfect, the traffic light and well mannered.
The only dicey moment came when we were about a mile out and I noticed the straps on his backpack that tighten the shoulder straps — and that he had connected with a pair of mini-handcuffs — were dangling under his seat and rubbing on the rotating tire.
Unfortunately, we were on a relatively busy street with traffic and couldn’t pull over immediately to remedy the situation.
I still get a bad feeling in my stomach when I think what might have happened if the straps had become caught on his tire’s knobbies, then been sucked into seatstays, no doubt taking the pack and the kid with them. Shudder.
But the crisis was averted, and my enduring memories will be of my son sprinting along side, asking, “What’s up, fellow biker-man?” and carrying on a running conversation with himself.
“Hmm,” he said nonchalantly as we locked his bike to the rack at his school. “Not a bad ride.”
I agreed and rode off, aware that the real test would come after the ride home. The return is mostly uphill, and it was sure to be warmer.
Before riding home with him, however, I first had to collect my daughter — in the car — from her junior high that afternoon.
Curiously and coincidentally, since she didn’t know her brother had ridden to school, she randomly said on the ride home, “It’s too bad my school is so far away. Or we could ride bikes.”
I agreed (the ride would cross three busy, bike-unfriendly streets, traffic around the school is awful, and the trip is complicated by a carpool arrangement), but silently celebrated having raised two awesome kids.
Then it was off to collect Brooks for the ride home, which was as gleeful as the ride there.
He swooped and swerved (safely) and hooted and hollered and thanked me — THANKED ME! — for riding with him.
Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, he surprised me again.
We went for a walk as a family before dinner, and, again out of the blue, he sidled up and said, “Dad, you know how we rode bikes to school today?”
A bit worried where this was headed, I said, yes, I did seem to recall it.
“Do you think we could do it again?”
You bet, buddy. You bet.