harsh reality slaps me in the face riding the trails at Bike Bear Lake in West Virginia

one of my life's greatest joys is riding my bike with my boys
yes... I love riding and racing mountain bikes
but I find great joy in dropping my pace and pedaling with my kids
although I do not let them drop their pace
which has me pushing them all the time

yes... sometimes I may inadvertently push them too hard
by the nature of riding with both of my boys there is the risk for failure
Dean is 13 and Grant is 10
although Grant is strong on the bike for a ten year old... it would not be fair to expect him to keep pace with a 13 year old boy
especially his 13 year old brother Dean... a young boy who is able to ride his single speed mountain bike at an adult pace

the discrepancy in the ages and the varying skill level is something that I have tried to balance from their humble bicycling beginnings
always knowing that there is the potential issue where the three of us are riding together has my older son uncomfortably forced to slow down or wait
while my younger son is forced to push his pace and not permitted to stop as much as he may feel he must

they have managed...
it has not been without issue
but they have managed

during the period where I was working part time I ran a system where I would drop the kids off at school with their bikes
then instead of picking them up from school
I would ride my bike to their school and we would ride our bikes home together
usually making the route longer than the most straight\direct route

oh man...
there would be fights
each boy wanting to lead
me trying to be fair
but more than likely favoring the whine of my younger boy

it is troublesome... something that I scripted
in an effort to be fair
in an effort not to leave anyone out
I have ended up making an awkward situation for all parties involved

even with the best intentions 
often I get frustrated\grumpy\angry
while each of the boys gets frustrated\grumpy\angry
and this did not start with our mountain biking together
even our urban rides have had their moments of youth rebellion

I can remember riding down to the museums
it was always a party heading downtown
but heading back at the end of the day
not only is it the end of the day
but it is also all uphill headed home
man... the number of times that Grant threw his bike down and took a stance that he would pedal no more
well... I think I could count how many rides we did like that
and well... that would be the number of times that he revolted or at least complained

youth events tend to go pretty well
the kid bicycle events usually separate the kids by different age groups
which is good
so rather than having the boys compared to each other
they get to line up and get compared to other kids their own ages

the boys are strong... they always make me proud
there is a good chance that they are not as strong on the bike as they once were
not to get too deep into it
but all the bitching and moaning that the boys go through when I try to rally them for a ride
well... it wore me down
they won... well... actually... they lost
I no longer have the strength to fight them
their resistance go their way

sadly... kids do not know what is best for them
they only know what they want
it would be best for them to listen to their father
but alas no... that is not the nature of the relationship

so... we ride far less frequently together than I would like
but this is not the point
this is not the direction I intended this post to go


oh yes... the MORE Fall Camping Trip
that was supposed to be the center of this rant
the MORE camping trip and my effort to take a 10 year old on a the Big Bear Race Loop aka the Yellow Trail

this weekend past I went on the MORE Fall Camping Trip
this has become a seasonal highlight for me and the boys each fall
so much fun that I have accepted that the boys will miss soccer and I will not be able to coach my younger son's team
I feel the experience of camping and riding their bikes in the mountains is as valuable as any "rec" soccer game


jump to Saturday post breakfast
we are at the campground at Bike Bear Lake in West Virginia
everyone is suited up and all jittery
everyone is all hopped up on coffee and ready to rock and roll
I gather with some of the SMORES ride coordinators to see what they were thinking

there had been talk of three rides of varying skills
but when I meet up with Jason Miller and Eric Crawford it is sounding more like one large SMORES ride and me and my boys doing our own thing... which is fine

we start off with the kids...
out of the campground, into the woods, and onto the trail
not even a half mile into the ride I stop in the shade before the "pumptrack\jump lines"
we wait... kids are collecting... we wait some more
more waiting

kids are getting anxious
some kids in the front ask if they can ride the jumps and come back
I sent them forward... they leave off
then every kid who arrives just rolls right by me

it is madness... it is like herding cats

but... I still think that all the kids are going to the other side of this open section and then turning back
then Jason Miller rolls up and tells me that my dog Didg did not see me go ahead and has gone back to the campground looking for me
so... I turn it around
I head back to locate the dog

at the campground I give a whistle and a hoot and I hear the jingle of my dog's collar
then back into the woods and I am in chase mode
trying to catch the kids
at the dam I see kids and adults
I ask where my kids have gone
people think that they are in a breakaway group on the black trail
but there is no definitive answer
I continue to chase

in the woods I run into Eric Crawford and Todd Bauer's son Johnny... but still no sight of my boys
so I continue on... then 100 yards or so forward I run into my boys and another kid from the SMORES group Calvin
Calvin wants to go with the other group... so I send him backtracking

here is where the story starts...

I am on the Black trail in the woods not far from the actual Big Bear Lake
it is Dean, Grant, Didg, and myself
things are already moderately technical and we have not even gotten to the Yellow Loop yet
the boys are each picking solid lines
Didg is as excited as everyone else to be covering some ground in the woods
and I am stoked to be in Wild and Wonderful West Virginia

the trail is tough
not only is the trail tough... Grant's shock is frozen in the compressed position
so... young Grant is riding rigid

it is not long into our ride and Grant is starting to wain
we slow... we wait... Grant catches up
Dean and I roll forward... Grant falls back
we stop... we collect
Grant is not having fun

things are discussed... I am chastised for not giving Grant a choice on what to do
Grant would have preferred to ride with the other group

so... I have Dean hold the dog and Grant and I start to see if we can back track and catch the other group
100 yards down the trail and Grant stops his bike then turns back to me... "lets do this... I can muscle through this"

ah... that is my little trooper
that is the never say whatever attitude that I was looking for
so... we turn it around and roll back up on Dean
we approach things a little differently

I put Grant in the lead position... Dean and I stay back... we give Grant a head start
this seems like a better plan
it is so defeating mentally to be the caboose
it feels so much better to be up front as the engine

we continue this cat and mouse game
slowing and stopping for the dog to get some water and the boys to catch their breath
then I send Grant ahead and Dean and I wait back
this continues for a bit
then we run into Bike Lane's Lynne Grasso and her daughter
by this time the we are on the Yellow Trail and it has gone from kinda rocky to all rocks all the time
ride-able... but no flow... noting free... nothing easy

Lynne and her teenage daughter are turning back... 
actually... she has the map out and is trying to establish which way would be the most immediate route home
I was confident that our approach was the quickest way back
then I turn to Grant offering him an escape route
it is the rational thing to do
it is what is best for Grant
it is also what is best for Dean

this trail did a good job in showing the discrepancy in their ages and the difference in their strength and skill
this is not viewed as quitting
this is viewed as playing it smart

I thank Lynne... Grant tears back to camp in record time

Dean and I muscle our single speeds up a gradual technical climb
it gets hard and then gets harder
then there is some hike-a-bike
and then it keeps going up
not a sustained climb
but a difficult slog
Dean and I dismount and push our single speeds up the hill

I am pleased that Grant went back when he did
it was the right decision
it was a mismatch to bring these boys onto this trail together
Rosaryville... Schaeffer Farms... Wakefield... the flowing trails there is less to show the difference between a strong 10 year old and a strong 13 year old

the trails of West Virginia will separate the men from the boys

but what are my best options...
I guess separation is the best option
well... some days together... other days apart 
in these group ride scenarios I will have to make that painful Sofie's Choice
I will ride with one and send the other off with an alternate group

growing pains
growing pains for a father who wants the best for his kids
a father who wants to push his kids
and also wants to be there to support his kids and to have fun with his kids

I love riding with my boys
but... I think we need to sort out this varying intensity thing
Dean gets less out of the rides with we have Grant in the mix
but if Grant is left out... then Grant gets nothing out of the ride

what to do? what do do?

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