Family Biking Column: My modest resolution for a weekly bike adventure

Posted by on August 25th, 2021 at 9:24 am

That look.
(Photos: Shannon Johnson)

I consider the phone to be an important necessity, like taking a satellite locator on a hike into the deep forest, in case our mission goes badly off course.

It’s a pretty modest resolution, I’ll admit: go on one family bike adventure each week. It sounds like a small goal, not exactly reaching for the stars. I’m not giving up my car, building a bike from scratch, or attempting to circumnavigate the globe on a unicycle. I’m just committing to go for a bike ride with my kids each week.

To the extent possible, I want to try out new destinations, explore more of our community, extend our range and, hopefully, increase our biking confidence. Those might be small goals, but one thing I have learned in becoming a mother is humility. And that baby steps are for grown-ups too, especially when they have babies in tow.

Because doing anything with children feels impossible. Or frustratingly slow, cumbersome, and maddeningly unpredictable. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t absolutely worth it. Let’s take our “adventure” this week for example:

I had previously found a new park we are able to visit by bicycle: Turner Creek Park. The culmination of this week’s outing was to be a game of family tennis on the park’s tennis courts. As for logistics, there are 5.5 of us. I’m Mom. Then there’s Elijah (age 7), Amata (age 6), Theodore (3.5), and Damian (2). There is also Baby, who is currently riding along in my belly. We have to pack for this whole crew: Lunches, waters, snacks, diapers, wallet, keys, phone. I consider the phone to be an important necessity, like taking a satellite locator on a hike into the deep forest, in case our mission goes badly off course. At least, I feel better, knowing I could call my husband, rather than cry alone alongside the road somewhere (and by “alone”, I mean as the only person over the age of eight).

Time to rally the troops! Is everyone up? Did all eat breakfast? Why isn’t that one dressed yet? No, you don’t need to wear winter clothes, just because it finally dropped below 90 degrees. Oh, I smell a stinky diaper. Did anyone brush their teeth? Where are the socks? You need to find your other shoe. Shoot. I’m still wearing what I had on yesterday. Maybe if I just change my shirt, no one will notice. Okay. What else am I forgetting? The tennis rackets! Now, let’s GO. At last, I roll the cargo bike out of the garage.

And then: “Mommy, my bike is broken.”

What!?

I stare at my oldest son, my seven year old.

Your bike is broken? How can we go on a bike ride if you don’t have a working bike?

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My son looks guiltily at the ground. “Sorry Mommy. But, hey, I can ride this one instead!” He pulls out a toddler bike and begins to enthusiastically ride it around. “See!” His knees are nearly hitting the handlebars. How can I take him for a ride on that? I look helplessly at my fully loaded cargo bike, my other three children, clambering around the driveway with their helmets on, and my oldest son who is trying to fix everything by offering to ride a toddler bike.

I know other people have stressful jobs, deadlines, evaluations. They have difficult decisions to make. Heavy loads on their shoulders. This is my “job” and this is my moment. Expectant little faces look up at me, waiting.

“Well, we’re just going to have to get you a real bike.” I decide. Or else, how can we possibly stick to my new resolution of One Weekly Family Bike Adventure, if one of my kids doesn’t have a working bike (and I can’t carry any more myself)?

Fortunately, the local bike shop is open. The seven-year-old is zooming around well enough to make it downtown to the shop. They take donations of bikes, so we can ride there, drop off the toddler bike, and hopefully leave with an appropriately sized bike for a seven-year-old boy. (It’s an adventure, see?)

The mission is what you make it.

With that, the original mission, in all its careful detail, is thrown out and replaced.

But you know what? It was the best day of our week. Seriously. We had our bumps in the road. We figured out how to get past them. We embraced the new plan, and we enjoyed every wheel roll of the journey. We loved the ride into town and visit to the bike shop. My youngest begged for a pink frilly bike and my oldest was thrilled to pick one that matched his favorite red helmet.

Properly outfitted at last, we enjoyed our ride to a closer park, played on the playground, had our picnic, cancelled our tennis plans, and rode happily home with bellies full, bodies tired, minds contented, and ready for naps.

Week One: Victory!

— Shannon Johnson, shannon4bikeportland@gmail.com
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Madi Carlson
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Madi Carlson (Family Biking Columnist)

What an awesome adventure!! That all sounds so familiar, too 😛

Rebecca
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Rebecca

I can’t help but feel a little envious of these children. Often are the occasions when I wish I had someone making sure that I had both my shoes and a snack packed before embarking upon the day of adventures thoughtfully planned for me!

Bryan
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Bryan

I work in finance.
Your job is harder than mine and more important.
I admire your priorities, methods and skills.

Jason
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Jason

I don’t think it’s that modest. I think it’s realistic. Over time the inclination to do it more often will come naturally. 😀

I really appreciate parent that take the time to teach their children the road etiquette. I started riding when I was 11 or 12. I’m the only person in my family that ever showed major interest in cycling. So, I had to go it alone. Fortunately, I grew up in a town where the community was very strong. I recall Critical Mass rides from the mid ’80s. So, I really had a lot of role models in the community. I tried to get my older sis to join me periodically, but she never took me up on it.

Korrin
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Korrin

I love your weekly bike adventure! Ours is to ride to the library to get books, then ride to the park to read them and play. The first time we tried this I thought I could skip the cargo bike and just make it with panniers and a road bike. My complete inability to say no to a library book + the 4 year old deciding she was done riding her bike for the day made for a long, badly balanced walk home. But, we learned and now it’s a smooth weekly trip.

joan
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joan

My kids lost interest in riding bikes with me in middle school, and I didn’t push it, but I kept an adult-sized hand-me-down old bike around anyway, just in case. My older teen has now been using that bike for a few weeks to commute to his first job. You are creating a solid foundation with your weekly rides!