The thick cloud cover this morning was a good ease-in to what’s on tap for later this week: the return of The Rains. I’m having a lot of conversations that make Seattleites sound like parents whose kids’ come-from-behind team is about to get eliminated from the playoffs. “We’ve had a good run of it,” we’re all saying about the long strand of sunny days. “We never thought we’d get this far into October.” It has been great to pedal from neighborhood to neighborhood with the sun in my face or at my back.
The weather, too, made it easy to have a car-free weekend (days 5 & 6). On Saturday, we biked up the street to the park for Caleb’s soccer game. Even though the park where all his games are held is only 5 blocks from our house, this is the first time we haven’t driven, I’m embarrassed to admit. I was proud for two reasons: Caleb scored his first goal (a great sliding shot right at the whistle), and I was organized enough to pack a picnic lunch so that we could hang out at the park after the game. The afternoon went by quickly, and then we traveled by foot/scooter/tricycle to our friends’ house for dinner. They live six blocks from our house in the opposite direction from the park, and we would have driven for fear that the kids would be too tired to get home on foot. But it worked out fine: Helen on Wiley’s shoulders, Caleb on the scooter, and I carried the tricycle home.
On Sunday, we went for our first-ever family bike ride, something we can attempt now that we have a trailer. Caleb rode on the tagalong on the back of Wiley’s bike. Helen sang a half-real, half-made-up song while we bumped along the bike trail. We chose a nearby destination: the park where Wiley and I got married. Strolling down the path with the kids toward water, I was struck by how nice it is that they are old enough now that we can have these kinds of outings without worrying about feeding schedules, nap schedules, or needing to tote over-full diaper bags everywhere. I felt content, having one of those rare moments where family life feels the way I thought it would feel before I became a parent.
That feeling lasted about 45 seconds. “I’m hungry!” Caleb said, even though we’d just gotten up from the picnic table where we had a snack. “I’m tired of walking!” said Helen, turning towards me and reaching her arms up for me to carry her. We’d walked about 500 feet. Thank goodness for Annie’s cheddar bunny crackers. “One more handful,” we said. “Have some water. There’s turtles up ahead. Maybe beavers!” We walked on to the water, then looped back to the site of our wedding ceremony. Caleb registered his opinion of the institution of marriage:
Then we made our way over to the outdoor shopping mall across the street to have lunch and re-stock Caleb’s supply of track pants, the only pants he’ll wear. The tagalong’s screws had loosened, so Wiley went to the bike shop to borrow an Allen wrench. I took both kids in the trailer. They are heavy, especially when full of cheddar bunnies. We went to the mall playground, arriving at the same time as a family we’d seen loading into their car at the wedding park. I thought of all we’d done since they got into their car: used the bathroom, discovered the bike problem, tried to fix it, loaded the kids into the trailer, walked around the mall to find a bike rack. Had this other family done some shopping before coming to the playground, or did it take them that long to drive over here and find parking? Uh-oh. There’s Smug Bike Commuting Janet rearing her head. Better pour some rain water on her.
The clouds today remind me of another issue I’m hoping bike commuting will help with. The past few winters, I have struggled with what some might term “Seasonal Affective Disorder,” others might call “a series of Bad Hair Days,” and a few might refer to as DIDARIS (Damn, It’s Dark And Rainy In Seattle). Last winter I found that training for a triathlon through the wintertime helped with the blues, both because of the endorphin churning and because, on bike training days I had to be out in the weather. I don’t know if there’s science to back my theory, but my experience tells me that being outside makes me happier, even when the weather is bad. I think I’m about to get a big dose of that. I have my neon jacket and can use Wiley’s waterproof messenger bag. The trailer has a rain cover. I’m ready. The sun was nice while it lasted. We had a good run of it.