The sun was out so I figured that we should be, too. I suggested a bike ride and quickly did a mental scan of the area to determine which route we should take. Then I remembered a nearby trail which wound its way through the park and back up into our community. Seemed like a good idea, so I printed up the map and figured that we could easily handle a few miles.
The kids were game and quickly donned helmets. When they saw that I was putting together a backpack with snacks and water, they too put together backpacks with snacks and water. Which meant that I no longer needed an entire backpack for snacks and water. I wasn't going to complain one bit about that arrangement and reduced my load to a small bag which would nestle quite nicely in my bike basket. Just like Toto heading to Oz.
We hit the road. The trail head was about a mile from our house so of course we biked that part, too. So far, so good. We found the trail rather easily and with shouts of glee the kids veered off the main road and careened into the wooded path. I thought it would be a rather paved sort of trail, but it turned out to be a rather not paved sort of trail. They careened and I wobbled and prayed. They screamed and I wobbled and prayed.
Toto remained strapped in place and we safely made our way through the forest, the boys taking the lead and shouting, "Watch out for that switchback!" when appropriate.
We found a trail marker which tempted us with a park only 1.8 miles away. No sweat. We'd come this far, why not add on a couple more miles? I raised my eyebrows and grinned at the panting children. "There's a park up ahead! Let's go!" They pedaled wildly.
After a number of steep switchbacks and several moments where the trail seemed to disappear altogether, we finally found the park. It was another one of those "coming home" moments, for this was the park that always hosted our church events when I was growing up.
I became all nostalgic and pointed to the field where my dad had played softball, the covered area where we ate jello salads and various mystery casseroles, and the slide which was especially slidey when wax paper was involved.
The children were happy to romp where I once romped, and I was happy to watch them do it.
We ate our snacks and played for a bit, and I turned my attention to the trail map. I used the very exact method of measuring the trail with my finger and realized that it would probably be more efficient to continue our loop and head home rather than turn around and back track.
For some reason the children looked dubious, but I convinced them that loops are more rewarding than going back. They finally agreed and we pedaled on.
The trail took an interesting turn when I saw that there was construction up ahead on the main road. Not quite sure what to do about it, we decided to charge on ahead and see what would come of it. By this time the sun was getting hotter and our legs were definitely lacking in enthusiasm. There was a large hill up ahead, so we dismounted and walked our bikes until we could pedal again.
It was about this time that Miss Kate began the glaring. Glaring of the "Why on earth are you doing this to me?" variety. I assured her that we really only had one more hill to go and the rest was easy-peasy.
Unfortunately, that last hill was rather long. We dismounted yet again and began the ascent. At this point we were on the main road, so the climbing was accompanied by my frequent hysteric shouts to, "Stay right! The cars are coming!" They were probably only coming at 25 miles per hour, but when they're coming near your babies, much shouting is in order.
The glaring continued along with frequent moans. "I can't do this, Mommy." Glare. Groan.
"Yes you can, honey! You're doing an amazing job! Look at how far you've come already!" It really was remarkable. Her little legs on that little bike, pedaling all afternoon.
More glaring. More moaning. And then she thought to level me with the insult, "This is the kind of thing that happens to other people. Not us." I'm not sure who "other people" are, but apparently they're the people who abuse their children by making them bike up horrific hills.
At this blessed moment I was inspired. "You know what's at the top of this hill, Avery?"
"What?" She moaned.
"The Donut Nook." I waited.
All four children whipped their heads around at the magic words and chorused, "Can we go?" I said yes. Their rubber legs miraculously gained momentum.
We finally arrived at The Donut Nook where the children collapsed at a booth after ordering their treats. They didn't have much to say. When they weren't eating they were still panting from the torture which only "other people" should be forced to endure.
When I asked them if they were ready to go home they mutely nodded and I encouraged them with the helpful fact that it was only about mile away.
Like cows sensing the barn they trudged onward. The boys suddenly raced ahead, invigorated by the maple bars, and we girls faithfully brought up the rear with a substantial amount of moaning and panting.
The barn finally achieved, my livestock collapsed. They were absolutely silent. They barely mustered enough energy to find a spot on the couch, grab a book and disappear into various other worlds. Worlds where "other people" do things, but certainly not us.
I took another look at the map. The trail looked so tiny on that page. I had forgotten to factor in the miles that it took us to actually bike to and from the trail. I was just looking at the trail itself. Turns out we did about seven miles that afternoon. Not bad. I looked at my sprawled children and felt something akin to pride.
I'm still not sure what "other people" do, but if we did it that day, then hey -- I'll take it.