Tuesday 7 June 2011

The Bike-a-thon

Last June, my little girl did not yet know how to ride a two-wheeler bicycle without the training wheels. My son still had his kiddy bike and we hadn't yet bought him a new one. We decided to make it our mission to start going on family bike rides. So, I purchased two bikes for my husband and me with our airmiles. I then bought a bigger bike for my son. And my son removed the training wheels from my daughter's bike. She took off! It turned out to be easier than we thought. Now we were all ready to ride and we biked along Gretzky Parkway to a local park. My daughter loved the experience, even though she had to work ten times as hard as the rest of us, her little legs peddling as fast as she could to keep up. It became a weekly tradition for the summer.

The following Spring arrived and our kids' school announced their annual bike-a-thon. My daughter had grown so much that she was ready for a bigger bike. We found a sidewalk bike on sale at Zellers and she tested it out. It was perfect. I signed us up for the bike-a-thon, knowing that this was the first year we could all participate. I was ready to check off the 5 km route but my daughter wanted to ride all the way (25 km). I said, "See how you feel when we reach 5 km."

Saturday dawned dark and dreary. We arranged to meet my daughter's friend and her family at the starting line since my little girl had slept over at her house the night before. Unfortunately, I had the wrong meeting place. We sat in our vehicle and waited and waited. In the meantime, a thunderstorm was brewing. Shortly after unloading all four bikes from our van, we proceeded to put them back in the van. I certainly didn't want anyone getting hit by lightning on the bike path!

Finally I decided to circle the block and see if I could find the family we planned to meet. After some searching, we hooked up at the school. Some people had already started to bike and were drenched; others were trapped under bridges trying to ride out the storm; others still were disappointed because they didn't get to bike at all. My daughter and her friend were in the last category. Thankfully, they were able to stay for the barbecue and play laser tag. I then drove my daughter home in the car (my husband and son had gone home early in the van with the bikes). We promised the kids that we would bike the next day since the weather forecast looked promising.

Sunday arrived sunny and warm -- the perfect day for a bike ride. We went to church in the morning, stopped at home for lunch and then headed to the rail trail with our bikes. When we reached the trail,I realized that I had forgotten to bring anything to drink, but I thought we would be okay, assuming the trial would be shaded. However, I was wrong. Setting out, the first section of the trip was comfortable thanks to the trees and the cool breeze coming off of the river. However, once we reached open ground away from the water, the air started to heat up. My daughter, full of energy at the beginning of the journey, started to wane before we reached the halfway point. My husband and son were game to push on and against my better judgement, my daughter and I followed. The sun was beating down mercilessly and under her helmet my daughter was getting more and more uncomfortable. At first she said her legs were getting tired. Finally I insisted that we turn around and as we started to head back, my daughter said that she felt like she was going to pass out. I asked her if we needed to find shelter under beside a bush or if she could make it a few yards to a highway overpass. She said she would try to make it, but that her tummy felt funny. By this point, she was off her bike and was pushing it at a snail's pace. I coaxed her bit by bit until we reached the overpass.

In the meantime, I had sent my husband and son on ahead to the van where they could drive to the closest variety store and get water. Thankfully, under the bridge, my daughter took off her helmet and sat down in the shade where she got a chance to rest. Her face lost its red beet colour and she stopped sweating. Now it was just a waiting game. A couple of people from our church walked past. A trio of boys paused at the overpass to shoot the breeze. A man in black jogged by. And still we waited.

It must have been close to half an hour before I was relieved to see my son pedal up to the bridge. He climbed off his bike, and took two cold bottle of water out of his oversized pockets. Hallelujah! My daughter guzzled the contents of her bottle down and was once again ready for the journey. I asked where my husband was and my son said that when they had reached the end of the bike path, his tire had blown. So he bought the water and then sent my son on without him. On the last stage of the trip, my daughter was able to keep up and only stopped for breath once. How relieved we were when we reached the end of the rail trail.

Battling the rain on Saturday and the sun on Sunday, it took us all weekend to complete the bike-a-thon, but we finally finished. Here's to perseverance! And the next time we bike, we'll come prepared.

Picture courtesy www.massbike.org

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