Family Biking: You can’t go home again, but bicycling helps

Posted by on July 31st, 2019 at 9:11 am

First glimpse of the ocean! Three Arch Rocks in the background at Netarts Bay.
(Photos: Madi Carlson)

This week’s column will be a bit more introspective than usual, so please bear with me…

I think a lot about my kids and my own lost youth in the summers.

Our Family Biking column is sponsored by Clever Cycles.

➀ Read past entries here.

I’m a single mom and spend 80% of the time with my two sons and have yet to get used to the 20% we’re apart, a big chunk of which is in the summer. My go-to methods for dealing with the distance are moping, excessively fretting, and pedaling my bike long distances. What’s more, I feel like a family biking phony when I’m not actively family biking.

Summer has always been my favorite season. As a kid I loved playing outdoors in my neighborhood, free to go wherever I could walk until the sun finally set. As a parent I love biking all over town — Poet’s Beach, Salmon Street Fountain, Wunderland Arcade in Milwaukie — knowing we have long days to fill but that it’s a short window of time before my kids will want to explore on their own.

Bike, forest, bliss.

This summer, like last summer, because everything is easier the second time around, I biked to the coast. The Trask Trail hasn’t gotten any less steep, but it was nice to know what to expect and do things on a different schedule (starting with a 4:00 a.m. wake up, ouch!) to spread the trip out. Sticking my feet in the Trask River brought me back to my childhood when we spent many a summer driving from Santa Barbara to British Columbia, camping along the way. This is probably the same river I swam in as a kid filled with descendants of the same crayfish I frolicked with back then.

And it turns out you can (sort of) go home again: My father just informed me we used to camp at Cape Lookout State Park so now I know why it felt oddly familiar.


Me and my childhood bike.

But it’s bigger than the nostalgia that hits me in the gut when I smell the salty air, hear seagulls caw, and feel sand beneath my feet when I’m anywhere on the Pacific Ocean, it’s bigger than spending time at this beach I newly know was one of my childhood faves. Having reached this beach via pedal power (and the MAX blue line) and having done so by chugging through the same beautiful forested terrain of my childhood road trips gives it an extra oomph.

People who get back on their bike after having been off them a while say it makes them feel like kids again, and when I’m not too busy moping, I work to channel that feeling every day. I’m pretty sure feeling like a kid again while visiting a place special to me when I was a kid is what caused me to have such an emotional experience.

So that’s my summertime bicycling-returned-me-to-my-youth story. Do you have one, too? I have a few more kidless days so I’d sure appreciate some sweet stories. Thanks for reading!

β€” Madi Carlson, @familyride on Instagram and Twitter

Remember, we’re always looking for people to profile. Get in touch if it sounds like fun to you. And as always, feel free ask questions in the comments below or email me your story ideas and insights at madidotcom [at] gmail [dot] com.

Browse past Family Biking posts here.

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Mark smithAndrew KrepsTodd Boulangerbikeninjamh Recent comment authors
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You really captured it – that feeling of nostalgia for the summers spent being a kid combined with missing your own kids mashed up with the challenge and beauty of biking the Trask. I’d go with you again in a heartbeat. Thanks for being you and sharing this.



That WAS a sweet story. And weren’t you glad to ditch the training wheels?


When I was a kid I lived near the Tualatin River between Tigard and Sherwood. One summer the Schamburg bridge burned down ( where Roy Rogers Road Crosses the Tualatin now) and it took the county a couple of years to replace it. My friends and I built a raft which we kept stashed under the burned out bridge and would load our bikes on it and paddle across the river. Then we would ride to downtown Sherwood to get candy and soda, seemed like quite an adventure on roads that were very quiet because the bridge was out.

Todd Boulanger
Todd Boulanger

Thanks for sharing the smell of the Oregon Coast and making me remember my own summer bike touring trips. (Boy, I do so miss the Cycle Wild bike campers!) And remembering my own shared fam-damily adventure one PedalPalooza …cycling touring out to Stub Stuart with my oldest son to the hiker biker camp site…and waking up with him pressed up against me in our bivys …I found myself up near that cliff edge since I kept retreating from his bivy to stay cool. πŸ˜‰

Andrew Kreps
Andrew Kreps

Summer breeze. Pathway. Two wheels. Freedom. These are the memories that are invoked by a ride like the one you described. Diagonal rides up friend’s driveways. The rush of trying to beat the last light of the sun home, ready for a debate, since mom said be home before dark. The mold from which we are cast, though we are not set in stone, still sets a tone.

Mark smith
Mark smith

Bikes make me feel like a “kid” again because bikes are pure freedom. No tags, no license….just pure freedom of movement of travel. No government permission needed.