6.20.2012

bikes... there are bikes on the road...


yesterday in the late afternoon I got out on the bikes with the boys...
the morning had been spent working on the boys bikes
Dean's bike was not shifting as it should... even if the shifter work... it was hard to shift since the rapid fire shifter had lost its plastic button... this happened some time ago
and
Grant's bike did not seem to be braking as it should

so...
I dug through my bin of old parts and grabbed an old 8 Speed XT Shifter and a spiffy white Sram brake lever for for Dean
while Grant got some XT V-Brakes
it was not an easy task...  the parts were missing parts... the parts were worn... well worn... the repair would have been faster had I had new replacement parts

it was nearly a case of stone soup... I thought about making a call to get some parts from friends
luckily I had what I needed
 I had to gather a handful of shifters before I found one that worked
the same went for the brakes... bastardizing multiple brakes to get one good working set

with the bikes fixed I felt we needed to take things for a test drive

it was a short urban loop with no more intention than getting on the bikes
the boys were lured to ride with the promise of some frisbee in the park
but for me... it was a classic case of the "journey is the destination"




we traversed the neighborhood as a group
with the wind in the boys ears my instructions most certainly went unheard
yet I bark them just the same
there are far too many variables for the boys to manage things on their own

the boys are instructed to ride to the right... to be aware of oncoming traffic... to stay close to the parked cars... but not so close that they get "doored"
it is a difficult balance
if only the oncoming car traffic modified their driving with the presence of the cyclist... especially the presence of a child on a bicycle

so often oncoming cars play chicken with the bicycle as they come down the center of these narrow residential city streets
it irks me when the cars play chicken with me
it angers me when the oncoming cars play chicken with my children

at Lamont Street and Mount Pleasant we drift off the street into the park
it has been a while since we rode our bikes in the park
there is a nice little handicap ramp that brings the boys onto a concrete platform with a series of short stairs the boys can ride down
the stairs are such that the boys can roll down sets of two, three, four, or five steps

I coach the boys to build up to things
to take it slow and work their way up
I ride my bike down the stairs as well
the crusty old Karate Monkey with its flat pedals handles this well enough
even with the shock bottoming out

we leave before the stairs lose their appeal
the boys interest in stairs has me thinking we will ride from park to park where we can ride various urban obstacles
not bad prep for the city boys before they go mountainbiking

out of the park and off the quiet side streets onto the main drag
the sidewalks are crowded so I instruct the kids to stay on the street
on Mount Pleasant Street I have the boys ride to the ride side of things... again instructing them to watch for cars pulling out, car doors opening, pedestrians stepping out into the street, and whatever
basically to expect the unexpected

behind us is a car... the car honks
I look back... the car driver gestures for us to move over
I am blocking for my kids
the car drivers have shown that they can not be trusted

to have this car pass my son closely as a car door opens or a pedestrian step out causing one of my boys to swerve further into the road into the path of the car is not a notion I want to consider
so... I block for my boys... forcing the following cars to pass widely
the car finally passes... then we get the same treatment from the next following car

my blood is boiling
the bird is flying
the honking of the horn and the gesturing of the hand from the second driver nearly identical to the first was more than I cared to take
my younger son Grant coached me to keep my gestures to myself... Grant feared retaliation

the cars passed... had I been at my pace I would have been dramatically in front of these car drivers
had we moved at my older son's pace we would have passed them and proved the bicycle being more efficient than the car in the urban situation
but moving at an 8 year old's pace we were a tad slower... both the cars were caught in the queue at the light ahead
but made the light as we approached... once car turning left the other car going straight
each trying to escape the madman with his children on the bike

just as the first car escaped with a left hand turn where they got stuck behind traffic
the second car escaped going straight but also got stuck at a red light behind traffic
had we gone left or straight we would have passed the cars that worked so hard to pass us
but no... we are going right... right into Pigeon Park so the boys can ride more stairs

we loop this next park...
the boys are enjoying things
I am trying to get them to be aware of how they position their bodies on the bike
"weight over the back wheel"
"not to heavy with the front brake"
"approach with a little more speed"

it is hot... we share some water
trying to stay hydrated and refreshed

the boys are grooving pretty good
the mood is positive and the energy is high
again... we vacate before it gets boring
back onto the street... but at this point in our journey there is a Bike Lane

the Bike Lane is not the sanctuary that we wish it to be
in so many cases the Bike Lane is The Door Zone
the Bike Lane is also the The Right Turn Lane
the Bike Lane is also where cars double park... pull out of parking slots and pull into parking slots
the Bike Lane is as complicated as any other part of the street

as soon as we get a change I guide the kids to get off the main street and back onto a residential side street
we backtrack on a road that is part of our post school bike ride

at Walter Pierce Park we a longer set of stairs offer up a different challenge
Dean and I take things at speed... Grant hesitates and hits things slowly
it is hard for anyone to understand the balance of speed being your friend
somehow somewhere Grant takes a spill... he is being dramatic... he is 8... he wants to go home...

Grant is not hurt... he is just 8... I try to help him to deal with his pain... letting him know that turning back would be the wrong thing to do... that stopping is the wrong thing to do... that we need to man up and push forward
Grant complains that his legs hurt...  I again tell him that we need to continue forward... his legs hurt because we are out of shape... rather than cave in we need to push forward

across Calvert Street Bridge and then another bridge on Connecticut Avenue over Rock Creek
once across the bridge we dip back into the neighborhood
we find ourselves in another park with another set of stairs
this obstacle is perfect.... there are stairs that have a shallow ramp that runs along side them
Grant rides the shallow stairs while Dean and I ride the ramp along side the stairs
it takes raising the front wheel on the approach.... then a quick correction to stay on track... then a tiny drop off at the end
not that technically demanding... well... not that technically demanding yet still offering up plenty of opportunity for error

again I try to keep it fun...
we run a few loops... just as with the last parks we approach slowly then pick up the pace and the intensity
but really... my kids are just kids... they are just riding around
they are not rippers looking to pull some Tony Hawk move... they are just riding the stairs

I can feel that young Grant is getting anxious so I point our crew towards our final destination
Malcolm X Park is not far from where we are
Grant is relieved that we do not need to climb a hill to get to the park... we stayed at the same level of the park
Grant dreads that climb

at a red light I can see the counter on the crosswalk sign
there is plenty of time to pull a water bottle from my bag
we drink a little more... our fluids are running low... I consider a stop at the 7-11 down the block
then figure water fountains could suit our needs well enough

we roll into Malcolm X Park and Grant is ready to throw his bike down
in a whinny 8 year old voice Grant asks to play frisbee... NOW.

I tell him we will take a few laps around the park and then we will "huck the disc"

we loop the park... first one set of stairs... then the other
the boys are coached to be respectful of others and to give people their right to space
the park has a flurry of late afternoon activity
there is room for everyone

the boys are rocking it!
they are getting competitive with each other
their intensity raises and so do their risks
but there are no crashes and only a little brotherly conflict

so... the boys are ready
Grant asks one more time in his whinny 8 year old sort of way
and I oblige
we roll onto the grass and park the bikes in the shade

I pull the last of our water from the bag
then we start a game of catch
there are only three of us yet they want to play a game of 500
we go from catch to 500

the kids are good little frisbee players for the age
the game is more about laughter than competition
we are having a good time
fun little game of frisbee

it is hot... it is getting late
the thought of dinner enters my mind
Grant is petitioning to go to Grandpa's for a dip in the pool
I am thinking about what I need to do for dinner

grilling sounded like a good option... but my gas grill is out of gas
although I had initial object to loading up the car and trekking across town
I call my wife Lisa to see what she is thinking
she is not game on the pool idea... but she is okay with our going to the pool and eating without her

we ride home and we get ready for a swim
I grab some food from the fridge for grilling
we drive to Bethesda with the dog
the day is hot and the pool is cold... shockingly cold... we adjust

I instruct the boys to take some laps
in an effort to lead by example I start some laps as well
there are some complaints about hunger
I get out of the pool and fire up the grill

my intention is to get back in the pool... but I prep dinner instead

hot dogs and sausage are grilled
Grant is out of the pool and eating a hot dog
while Dean is refusing getting out of the pool
I am not sure of his swimming goal... but he seems intent on achieving it

it is a simple dinner... pickles, hot peppers, and a variety of mustard options make the simple mean a little more interesting

after dinner it is late... I suggest leaving the pool alone and heading for home

not a bad day
the repairs to the bike were well over due
the boys have a hard time articulating that things are not working as they should
I neglected their bikes in the same fashion that I neglect my bike

the ride...
the ride showed us that even a short ride is worth experiencing
and that we do not need to load our mountain bikes on the car and drive to the trails to get some mountain bike style fun!


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