Sometimes when I meet people and they ask about our trip, they are surprised that the kids have ridden so far, and that they enjoy it. They simply can’t imagine kids doing what ours do. But then when Kurt Snover wrote about us on his blog, he described the kids as always smiling and happy–so i thought i’d write a blog about the childrens’ view about the trip.
First of all, we planned the trip only after a totally successful 9 day bike trip from Cornwall to Toronto that we completed in the summer of 2014. We have never been interested in forcing the kids to do anything they really didn’t want to, nor did we want to trick or coerce them into doing the trip in the way Kathleen and I wanted to do it. But during that trip in 2014, the kids had a wonderful time. They were the ones pushing to do a 100 kilometre day, and they demonstrated clearly that they loved riding. The camping part (we camp about 80 % of the time) was a non-issue because the kids spend at least 5 weeks a year camping in all seasons (yes we winter camp, and they love it!). So after much contemplation, we decided around December 2015 that we would do a bike trip. Then we picked destinations that were bike friendly and that we thought would be safe for Anna to ride, mostly… (more on that later). So in the planning we tried to think of the kids. We knew that big cities don’t work for them so we tried to focus on areas with natural appeal and smaller towns.
As we are riding we also try to accommodate them as much as possible as well. For example we stop at playgrounds, we visit nature centres, and we often go to libraries so they can chill out and read. They help us adults to keep it fun. It was Jasper’s idea to go to the Charles Schulz Museum and the Jelly Belly factory,for example. I loved both of those trips by the way, but I would not have done them without Jasper’s insistence. We also try to stop riding when the kids get tired, and we try to get them to bed at a reasonable hour. All of this tends to keep the kids motivated and happy.
But a few weeks ago, Jasper showed signs of travel weariness. He was grumpy and slow to wake up in the morning, and showed a real reluctance to ride. So I pulled him aside for a talk to find out what was going on in his 9-year-old brain. I had noticed it to a few days and it was not getting better. This was in Cashmere, Washington, a few days after we had climbed over White Pass, a 4100 FOOT???? Pass.
So I had a sad boy and I started questioning him about why he was reluctant to ride. Was he tired of cycling? No. Was he worried about his poor father working so hard on the tandem. Yeah no. Did he want more time reading or playing on the tablet? No. Then I asked him Was it too many hills? and his eyes welled up with tears. Through further questioning he explained that he just didn’t want to do any more hills. He would happily bike on but no hills. The problem is that Kathleen and I had recently decided to do the Sierra Cascades route through Washington which is ALL HILLS! So if we were going to stick with the plan of listening to our kids and not forcing them to do the trip against their will (which would really be torturous for us parents anyway!) I had to think of something. Jasper already felt somewhat better because I had listened to him and heard him, but that wasn’t really enough. K and I had CHOSEN this situation, it wasn’t something beyond our control.I should also mention that I love the mountains, and they are the reason why we came to the west (and the reason why the kids are called Sierra and Jasper –Anna was almost called Annapurna after a mountain I hiked in Nepal). So I was loving the mountains, and just giddy and happy that we were able to ride through them.
But not Jasper. So, I decided to sweeten the pot. Jasper loves fantasy stories, and is reading a fantasy book every spare second of the day. So I promised him that I would tell him a fantasy story whenever the road aimed skyward. He noticeably brightened up with that suggestion. No more talk of cars and geography and
History. So that very day we put the new rule into practice, and started a story about Isorn and Annakaeui, 2 orphan children with magical powers adopted by a wizard and going to a wizard’s school. Soon Anna Sierra got involved and started telling chapters on the uphill too, giving me a break. Jasper too will tell stories, especially when I mess up or forget a detail. Now Jasper is pushing for the uphill routes, the hillier the better, especially passes! We tested this by going over Washington Pass and he was cheerful and happy the whole time! So the strategy is working, which is good because we are moving into B.C. now.
It is not without some difficulties. It forces me to come up with a fairly complex and detailed storyline and to tell it while I’m huffing and puffing up hill. But Jasper and Anna help. And Jasper is understanding if I am tired. Now the whole family is hooked and it is Kathleen who is pushing to hear the story continue on, even on flats! I can’t just pedal and look at the scenery,I’ve got to talk. But it is a small price for me to be able to pedal the mountains with my family, everyone happy.So the story continues! And the storytelling lets me use a different part of my brain that I don’t use very often.
Hopefully this strategy will last us through the mountains. But if it doesn’t we will come up with a new one, because that is what parenting is all about. Just when you think you have everything dialed in, it falls apart and you need to rewrite your game plan.
All the best,