I remember my first bike, a flashy blue number with training wheels and a horn. When I first climbed aboard I felt the mantle of adult responsibility draped on my shoulders. This was a real machine, with chrome and gears and complicated bits, and I was being trusted to not kill myself on it. Fast forward thirty years and I’m still amazed I can balance on two spinning wheels made of spindly metal and aluminum. My daughter, I’ve decided, will also know the joy of the wind in her hair, the world passing by in a Technicolor blur, wheels skittering over the ground and threatening to take off in ET-esque flight.
This Saturday, lethargic from mountains of food and a warm fireplace lulling me to sleep, I decided to get the family outside. Oh man, I can hear my father’s voice in those words. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and just as I was taken on family biking adventures, so I do now. And I know why they’re so great—fresh air and exercise is just the thing to burn off energy, refresh the spirit, and get a grumpy cabin-feverish child to take a very long nap.
The destination: Goodan Ranch, in the hills East of San Diego. I would tell you the story of trying to get there but how about I just give a few key words and you’ll understand: u-turns, iPhone map consultation, missed turns, confusion, angry words, low blood sugar, Starbucks detour, second iPhone map consultation. Despite my best efforts to be crowned Idiot King, we found our way there and got Toddler Harbat suited up. Which means I managed to get her to wear her jacket for five seconds. Riddle me this: why do kids want to shed all clothing despite the ambient air temperature? Is wearing a jacket or sweater REALLY as bad as being covered in peckish earwigs? I got on my own bike and waved a brisk goodbye to my wife and daughter before heading into what I can only describe as mountain biking Nirvana. A matrix of fast singletrack flows through landscapes of stunning beauty, from shivering stands of cottonwood to valleys spotted with chaparral and wind-softened boulders.
My daughter did the bike outing in her own way, reminding me that even the best plans are subject to interpretation. God, I love this little adventurer.