Every year at the end of the school year, we make our “Summer Fun” list – a list of things we absolutely want to do during the summer months. Things on past lists included going to our favorite metropark for a picnic, flying a kite, going get ice cream, and swimming. This year was no different and we’d done a good job checking off our list throughout the summer.
Since the girls didn’t start school until this week, we were able to spend last week enjoying the last days of summer together and finishing off any items still on our list. One item that’s been on the list for several years that looked like it might not get crossed off again was going on a family bike ride. In years past, Madeline (who can scooter further than any kid I know) just didn’t have the confidence to ride her bike. I tried every trick I could think of to help her learn to do it – including enlisting Curtis to be her instructor – to no avail.
Last week, when I brought it up, she said she was ready to do it. (That’s great!) Only one problem – Zoe’s bike, a hand-me-down from an old neighbor, kept losing its chain. (That’s not so good) It was getting to the point where she’d go 10 feet and it’d pop off.
Now, if the bike was properly sized for her for the next summer, I’d spend the money to have a bike shop fix it. But, given the fact that it was probably already too small for her it was time to shop for a new kids bike.
That process took longer than expected (she had strict requirements on what sort of stuff she wanted on her bike – she was not a fan of the “girlie-girl” stuff that most manufacturers put on girl bikes), so our planned bike trip was wiped out again. We tried to just “practice” bike riding, but Madeline was still not feeling confident and, trust me, that’s not pretty for anyone involved. We put the bikes away for a few days to regroup.
One of our favorite places to travel to is the Pittsburgh area, so that’s where we headed for a few days at the end of the week. The Children’s Museum, National Aviary, Carnegie Science Center, Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium – all of them are high on our favorites list and we enjoyed them again on this trip. The girls especially loved feeding the Lories and taking in the views at the top of the incline. We liked walking through the Strip District and finding a chocolate shop that carried Sponge Candy. The girls even got a chance to show off their swimming skills in the hotel pool. Amazing the difference a year and some lessons can make – they were like fish!
After Pittsburgh, we got the mules and headed up to camp. Curtis is getting lots of…um…let’s just call it “saddle time” as he preps for his trip. Since he was going to be preoccupied with the mules, I planned ahead and had Curtis pack our bikes in the trailer. Saturday morning, while Curtis was saddling the mules, Madeline practiced on her bike by herself around the camp and was starting to “get it.”
So, the girls and I headed down to the rails-to-trails path along the Allegheny River to see if we finally could do a family ride. Thankfully, the bike path where we were heading was:
4) not heavily occupied with other people
5) close enough to the river to have pretty scenery but far enough away that there wasn’t danger of her riding into it if she went off the path
Madeline started off a little nervous…a little wobbly…but then she did fantastic. In fact, she did so well that the three of us did a nice and easy four mile bike ride together. It was wonderful! I have always loved bike riding and have dreamed of doing with the girls since they were little. To actually be able to ride together was a prayer answered.
Add to that moment mule rides, s’mores by a campfire, walks through the Hemlock Forest, and lots of giggling and you have a perfect way to say good-bye to a summer full of memories.
[OK, I have to admit that there still is one item left on our Summer Fun list for 2011: Sleeping Outside. I had through that would’ve been an easy one to check off when I wrote it because we were scheduled to do a Girl Scout campout. The Tornado Warning ruined those plans and I never could muster the energy to get the tent out again. Maybe over one of the coming weekends I can get them outside around the farm for a night. Otherwise, we’ll add it to the Summer Fun 2012 list…]