yesterday we rode the bikes home from school...

Photos by Joe Mallis from DCCX last year

it happened yesterday
it does not happen enough
I need to make it happen more often
it used to happen more
I need to make it happen more often

yesterday Grant and I rode our bikes home from school

last year I would work a drop off with the bikes in the morning and then ride my bike to the boys' school so that we could ride our bikes home together
this happened pretty frequently
definitely more often than now

but that routine is not happening that often
as the dynamics of my day to day have changed

there are multiple reasons for our less frequent post school bike rides
one reason is that my boys are each at a different schools
but the primary reason... my work schedule has changed
instead of working in the gap between drop off and pick up
my current schedule is in the early am

with my being at work in the early am
my wife Lisa is dropping the boys off
after my shift at work I hustle home and get the dog and the car and then pick up my younger son
while my older son is on his own middle school schedule
which includes some after school activities then getting himself home on the bus

a few weeks ago it occurred to me
as I was getting ready to get my younger son Grant from school I left out the door at the same time as my neighbor who was headed to the same place at the same time
at this moment I realized that she has a rear rack on her car
so... I asked if she could drive me and the bikes to school

she obliged... and said it was not an issue and we could trade the occasional ride for the occasional her dumping her kids off with me after school

this ride from the neighbor has been a nice "once a week" routine since that day

previous obligations....
and of course motivation...
all these factors come into play
toss in availability of my neighbor...
and well
once a week is better than not at all

it is curious
the riding of the bike is not an effort to save money
the riding of the bike is not a way to save gas
the riding of the bike is not an effort to decrease car dependency
the riding of the bike is an effort to ride the bike

we ride the bikes to ride the bikes

there are a slew of positive side effects
those are byproducts not goals
that said... 
imprinting positive car free options into my child's mind and world is an underlying

yesterday after work I went for an around town spin on the Karate Monkey Single Speed with its Ergon flat pedals and its absurdly slow gear
then when I got home I called my neighbor
she did not answer which gave me the notion that my plan had been derailed
then before I was in the car with the dog she called back
she was ready, willing, and able to offer up the ride with the bike rack

I hustled to get the bikes on the car
then grabbed Grant's helmet, gloves, and also a handful of clementines and some Capri Suns
then we were rolling across town to get the kids

at school I was excited to see Grant
Grant was excited to see me
the bikes brought more smiles than frowns
but there was the usual hesitancy about the route
so... I made a quick decision to alter our route to try and make it more fun

last week we did the classic "urban route"
the path I call the "city way"
we also have "the woods way"
and then the "short way"
there are other ways each with its own name
there is even the "Jason Berry Way"

Grant usually wants the most direct way
while I usually want the longest way

down 34th Street on the sidewalk in the shadow of the National Cathedral then onto the downhill sidewalk along Massachusetts Avenue
the vice president's house on one side and trees of the Soapstone Valley on the other

as we rolled past the various embassies I considered our trajectory
there had been some consideration of taking a left and heading on up through Kalorama on towards Adams Morgan
then I reconsidered with a short fast "short cut" through the woods by Dumbarton Oaks on to Rock Creek Park

there was hesitancy on my mind
I think part of the natural surface trail is "Kosher"
while...  that last 100 or so yards is marked with a red line through a bicycle
oh well... this is a tough one

what to do? what to do?

we waited at the crosswalk...
cars sped by aggressive and over the speed limit
then when the light was in our favor we crossed one cross walk then waited at another
just before our Walk Signal granted us safe passage to cross a car ran the red light to make the left turn
I understood he wanted to beat the onslaught of downhill traffic
it was a tiny modification of the law
just like the cars moving faster than the speed limit

off the sidewalk and onto the dirt 
into the woods ahead of us was a couple
along side of the couple were two dogs
one dog on leash... the other dog off leash
there is a leash law
but I understand.... the dog needs some exercise and the dog enjoys the off leash freedom
sure there is a sign right there with an icon indicating that the dog needs to be on leash
but just like the speed limit signs... this is a rule offered up as a suggestion

on the leaf covered path we rolled fast and fun down the hill
arching a left hand turn towards the creek with Dumbarton Oaks to our right
then I saw it
the sign... the sign for us and our bikes
it gave me a tad bit of anxiety
yet, we rolled forward just the same

a few more people with dogs off leash

there was the internal dilemma
the whole legality of it all
the notion that I am guiding my child to willingly break the law
then I took a breath

why must the bicycle follow the letter of the law?
it is not fair
we just want to ride our bikes
throw in the notion of the dangers of the cars around us... and well... I will take my chances and dip into the woods for this abbreviated trip through the woods

I exchanged pleasant greeting as we passed hikers and dog walkers
trying to alert the other trail users
trying to give them a chance to clear the path
offering up warning so no one is shocked by the man and his son riding their bikes in the woods

along side the creek... under the bridge... then out of the woods

out of the woods and Grant immediately knew where we were
"we are ONLY here!"
"I thought you said this was a SHORTCUT"

oh man... complaints
so many complaints

to this I objected
"complaints? whining? this is not the appropriate set of responses! I should be getting high-fives! you should be telling me what a cool dad I am! you should be thanking me for bringing the bike and getting you out on the bike"

there was silence
we muscled up the hill that splits to two paths
one path goes up the hill towards the Marilyn Monroe mural
the other dips back down into the park and heads towards the National Zoo

we were going to take the path towards the Zoo
then onto home
where Grant can do as he pleases with his Friday homeworkless-scheduleless afternoon

but first...
I knew I had to throw the dog a bone
at the crest of the hill right before the path splits there are a bunch of exercise work stations
I knew Grant would want to stop... sure enough he did...
I allowed young Grant to play on the various work stations and eat a snack before we finished our short ride home

on an old stump I sat and ate a clementine and drank a Capri Sun
while Grant did things that would make any parent anxious
climbing on top of the pull up bar instead of hanging from it
fast paced running on the balance beam
and whatever else he wanted to do

I may have barked the instructions "be careful... no getting hurt... no getting killed"
but did not try to micromanage every moment

a few minutes into Grant's work out a familiar form rolled up the hill
it was Caleb Merriam... the oldest of the Merriam boys
the son of Libbey Sheldon and Chris Merriam
a kid I have watched grow up over the years
a solid kid and a solid bike racer

Video of Longboarding of us by Caleb from last winter

we talked
we talked more like equals than adult to child
we talked about his school... soccer... and cycling...
I shared my Capri Suns and Clementines with him

having Caleb there made it easier to grant Grant the time he needed to play on each and every one of the exercise structures
but then it was time to head for home
the three of us rode the final miles of our post school ride home together
with Grant setting the pace

although I can not read his mind
it seemed that Grant felt good about riding with another kid
a big kid... a cool kid....
someone other than his lame old dad

we went through the zoo rather than through the tunnel
I tried to refrain from too much instruction
but I have a tendency to fear the "worst case scenario"
so... I can not help but alert young Grant to the blind curves and the risk of a head on collision

at the overpass that is Porter Street Caleb continued on the bike path and we turned off to the sidewalk along side of Porter Street
made that climb out of the valley and rolled up to the alley behind our house

it was a good day
it was a good ride

enjoyed it

Mention of Merriam on the Gwadzilla Page

then Libbey
and then Chris

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