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Family Vacations, Summer 1998
When the rubber meets the road, two wheels are better than four — and you don’t even need a learner’s permit
The first time we tried it, we were all skeptics. The kids couldn’t see what the big deal was since they rode bikes all the time. Rode them to school. Rode them to their friends’ houses. Rode them around the woods where we live in Vermont just for something to do. My wife and I were skeptical because we had learned, the hard way, that a lot of
But, the thing is, you never know what is going to work. I would have bet against downhill skiing before we tried it, thinking that the cold would put kids off. But they would stay out on the frigid New England slopes until their faces were white with cold, never complaining. Cross-country skiing, however, was a loser. Too much like work. Camping was cool. Hiking was seen as
With biking, I figured it was a toss-up when we started up the blacktop from our house, following the road until it turned to dirt, and we began to climb the inevitable Vermont hills. The kids took the lead. They knew the road and, more importantly, had the gear sequence down cold. My older daughter, who was ten at the time, thought she owned this hill since she’d gotten a
We had left the world of highways and traffic behind, and it felt right to be moving atop something that used your own power. We coasted down past the stereotypical Vermont farm with the two-story clapboard house, the sagging red barn, and the Holsteins grazing idly on the hillside pasture, moving at what felt like just the right speed. It wouldn’t have been as intimate in a
When the dirt road ran out, we went up an old logging road, single file, into the shade of the second-growth hardwoods. Stopped to pick some fiddleheads, which were in season. We climbed up a series of switchbacks until we came to an open place with a view and a spring where we stopped for lunch.
As we rested and looked down on the little valley and the town where we lived, it occurred to me that…we were having fun. The kids were not complaining, and we were not just going through the motions. It had been a fine morning. The bike was an equalizer, and we were all just busy enough. We were not bored. Nor were we getting on each other’s nerves. Nobody had to carry
We graduated to longer rides, sometimes going 20 or 30 miles to a neighboring town, where we would picnic on the village green. Or we would work our way up to one of the old quarries. Or make our way back in to a place where we knew we might find mushrooms in the right season. Or to a pool in one of the creeks where we could catch brook trout and cook them, along with some
There were a lot of good rides and a lot we never got to before those 16th birthdays, when motion suddenly meant only four wheels and a motor, and the bikes went back into the garage. One hopes not forever.
Illustration by Debbie Smith