Will Pedal for Sardines, Slides, and State Parks

July 17, 2010

Dear Family,

I don't think that Jem's and my bike adventure will make it into “Bicycling” magazine. I (this has at least something to do with having with my breastfeeding toddler in tow) got passed by every single other cyclist we met on road, without exception, and we didn't go very far. Also, our journey contained very little Risk (and additionally, “Bicycling” doesn't usually go for boobs on the cover).

On the other hand, a pitch to “Cosmopolitan” probably wouldn't get anywhere because there was way too much sweat, far too little glamor, and zero in the celebrity drama department (and plus, Boobs in Actual Use don't generally appear to interest their readership).

“Parenting” magazine really prefers the angle of airbrushed baby-models playing on hypoallergenic beaches, so Jem's mosquito bites would really get in our way for that one (and plus, the Finger Lakes have gravelly beaches).

But luckily, Jem and I weren't worried about publication. We had a super-fun week during which we visited more playgrounds than I can remember, ate as many canned sardines as possible (Jem), ate 100% more sardines than ever before (me, especially considering I'd never eaten them prior to 7/11/2010), got to see fantastic scenery and meet new people and (at least in my case) improve cardiovascular fitness.


So what was this, exactly? Some misplaced parental vision quest? A convenient excuse to visit local playgrounds? A Quality Mama-Son Bonding Experience? A Waste, of time better spent doing something Worthwhile?

Or... maybe it was simply my nod to the reality of our finite lifespans, and an acknowledgement that while those Reasons Not to Go are legitimate and growing more numerous with each passing year, I sometimes have a preference for Adventure.

Also: there is one thing at which I think I'm getting better with age, at least sometimes: appreciating what I get. And I appreciated this trip, very much: a week off from care taking my high-needs older son, and a chance to pedal off on an adventure that was largely free from housework, Autism treatment research, special diet food prep, and Sitting Around.


I really missed Jeff, as I pedaled. And I couldn't help feeling a bit sad, at how hard it's been with Ben's issues that we needed to each take one child in order to make Vacations do-able this summer.

But what's that? Oh yes--”This too shall pass.”


Life is mostly filled with Figuring Things Out. Paying bills, making food, making money, logisticafying, organizing the daily schedule. The only reason it gets dull, really, is that you often have to do the same stuff over and over again. This can be comforting, too. Bike trips are full of the same little things too, only you're MOVING. The tasks that would be boring at home--getting groceries, making the bed, taking a shower, getting from one place to another--is constantly new because you ARE someplace new. Suddenly, you're reminded of the comforting level of excitement to be found in the details.

In a funny way, this makes coming home from an adventure feel good. Like, Wait! The mundane at-home stuff can be as fun and fulfilling as the “adventures”, simply if I can notice it. The emotions I experienced last week were not so different in substance from those I feel most days at home: the ups and down, the kick-ass “hills” that make you (me) think: “I can't make it,” the euphoria when, against all odds, you (I) do.


In case you're interested, here were the stats:

7/11/2010 Home-Sampson State Park (Romulus, NY)
39.75 miles
5 hours 18 minutes of seat time
for a grand total average of 7.5 miles per hour

7/12/2010 Sampson State Park (Romulus, NY) to Cayuga Lake State Park (Seneca Falls, NY)
23.66 miles
2 hours 46 minutes of pedaling
(our best day!) 8.5 mph, average

7/13/2010 Cayuga Lake State Park (Seneca Falls, NY) to Arbor House Inn (Skaneateles)
25.5 miles
3 hours 28 minutes
7.3 average (There is no way around it: DAMN those hills are steep!)

7/14/2010 Arbor House Inn (Skaneateles) to Friends in Moravia
16.17 miles
2 hours 40 minutes of pedaling
6 mph, average (Not only was it steep, but did I mention how _hot_ it was?? At least, we made it.)

7/15/2010 Moravia to Warmshowers.org hosts in Lansing, NY
15.69 miles
2 hours and eight minutes of riding
7.3 average mph

7/16/2010 Lansing, NY to HOME
13.5 miles (including the final two, which was the worst hill of the whole trip)
1 hour 50 minutes riding time
7 mph average


Highlights of our trip:

--Jem sang in his Burley (my favorite was the medley comprised of “The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round” and Kate Bush's “Running up that Hill.”

--Jem also talked to me from the Burley: “Hey Mama! Dere are race cars that go ROOLY FAST! And some race cars go on roads. And some race cars go on paths in woods. And some race cars go ON TREES! And some race cars go on top of race cars on top of trees....LOTS of race cars. Hey Mama! I want to go on a race car, go ROOLY FAST.”

--Jem really got the concept of, “On a bike trip, home is wherever you are.” “Have to tell Papa, to come home to here!” he would joke.

--Not a single car came even remotely too close to us on the road--having a kid trailer on the back appears to truly make for considerate drivers.

--I got that crazy sweaty spreading endorphin feeling, the afternoon when I made it up some unnamed and Godawful Steep Hill somewhere outside of Auburn. Jem was asleep in the back, so I challenged myself not to get off and push (and potentially wake him). So...I pedaled and pushed and swore silently and dripped with exertion....and made it! And did not burst a lung. And discovered that the rest of the way into Skaneateles was mostly level and then downhill, so that I coasted in like I owned the town. That feeling is something that probably drives people in all their most insane endeavors--it's almost worth becoming a junkie.

--The first day, feeling somewhat negligent due to the super-long route I inadvertently set for us, we finally arrived at the campground after five hours of pedaling (interspersed, of course, with many hours of breaks). An older gentleman pulled up next to us in his mini-van, and said, “Well, all I can say is, you're _tough_!” I couldn't think of anything besides my sweating child in his small rolling oven, so I replied, “Well, it's either that, or I'm _stupid_--I can't tell which! ...But thanks!” After he pulled off, I said, “Hey Jem, you're a trooper... You've been really patient in there, I'm sorry it's been so long and hot!” And then Jem's little voice piped up and said, “I do _like_ it!”

--Jem charmed the pants off a state park ranger by giving high-fives, and--in response to “What's your favorite food?”--answered, “chicken.”

--Jem and I had to have many long heart-to-hearts regarding Listening to your Body. (This was the only bad part of the trip as far as Jem was concerned: we could not bring our own personal toilet on the road, and he absolutely positively did NOT approve of any of the other available pooping options.) What came out of this, is how Important it is to listen to What Your Body's Saying. He only grudgingly admitted, every other day, that his body was “greaming” (screaming) to tell him that it had to poop. “My body greams, 'Have to poop!' And I say, 'I don't want to poop!'” he explained. I got to hear about all the other things that his body tells him, too. For instance, “The watermelon inside my body is calling to the watermelon out here! Saying, 'eat this watermelon! Right now!'”

--We experienced some seriously awesome playgrounds. In case you have a chance to visit, the new lake-side park at Sampson is absolutely incredible.

--In Cayuga Lake State Park, Jem just so happened to make friends with a little boy who was camping with his mom...who just so happened to be the brother and mother (respectively) of a Not Back to School Camper...

--Making dinner with Jem at campgrounds was exciting and sometimes involved a lot of running, because it turns out that our tupperware bowl/container lid can double as a Frisbee.

--Watching Jem play with pine cones, little crab apples, dried leaves, and pine needles was really sweet. These were all treasures, and all were things that he really wanted to “show to Papa” and that “Ben would rooly like.”

--So yes, GAPS on a bike trip: we sprouted lentils (they cook super-quickly that way, incidentally), and brought our own chickens' eggs (unwashed, so they stayed fresh all week), had homemade GAPS “granola” (soaked and dehydrated nuts and seeds, coconut, and dried fruit), and fermented a quart of sauerkraut for easy fresh veggies on the run. And as I mentioned, I made myself eat canned fish, because it was just so easy and portable. And I cooked for about ten minutes a day, which was a welcome respite.

--I did not miss either the phone or e-mail hardly at _all_, except for how challenging it was to contact Jeff and Ben.

--If you're ever riding around on a really hot day, try stopping a plant and garden store, where they sometimes have fantastically chilly sprinklers to play in.

--We stayed with a wonderful family whom we met through Warmshowers.org , as well as some other friends who happened to live along our route. This was so much fun--like a “real” bike trip.


And now, I hear Ben and Jeff coming up the stairs! Will have to report on their Cape Cod adventures next time. :)

Much love,