Tuesday, July 15, 2014

We rode bikes! Maybe you want to, too?

Okay, I'm writing this post because the experience of renting bikes at the Morton Arboretum felt like a big family milestone for us, but also because I'm thinking some of you local Chicagoans might want to try it, too?   (Hear me out, because there are all sorts of different types of bikes available for varying degrees of ability.) 

Georgia's pretty adept on her bicycle, but she'd never ridden it off of our street before. (Though I often lament the lack of neighborhood feel here, when it comes to letting our kids play outside, we feel fortunate to live on a dead end block with almost no traffic. I think it has allowed Georgia more freedom to practice biking on her own than the average American six year old gets.) Even so, when we rented bikes in Florida on vacation this spring, Georgia still opted for the tag-along option attached to my bike (that turns it into something looking like a tandem), and June and Waylon were put into a trailer attached to Joe's.  It was "fun". No, really, it mostly was great fun, except that at their ages, putting June and Waylon in one trailer together is like transporting two cats in a box. There may have been some hissing and batting of limbs involved. 

So, this Sunday's ride at the Arboretum was Georgia's first chance to really bike on her own for more than half a block, and I was so excited for her to experience the feeling of not immediately stopping and turning around. She was pumped, too, but I never thought we'd make it as far as we did. We completed the entire 4.5 mile east loop! (This time, with June and Waylon each getting their own trailer, since June's still a little leery of the tag-along option.) It's a bit hilly, and my own legs were burning at points, so I'm kind of amazed that Georgia managed to power her 1970's era Schwinn through it all without massive whining. There were points when we had to get off and walk our bikes up the hill for her sake, but that's okay. This was not the Tour de France, after all. Although, I'm sure our snacks were much better than those Tour athletes get, anyway. With the trailer, I ought to have had a food truck license I'm sure, but by now I've learned that if you want to get through something even remotely physically taxing with these kids, (or for that matter, just "long" - not even taxing), you'd better take frequent breaks and keep them fed.

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(The view from our bench.)


So, here's what we learned so you can take advantage of it: 

--All of the pricing is stated clearly on the Arboretum's website, but I didn't pay enough attention to the details.  This outing was more expensive than I counted on, so we'll be doing it again but not exactly weekly.  (To be fair, the pricing is reasonable in my opinion, it just adds up when you need multiple bicycles plus trailers.) 

--Prices are lower for members than non-members.  If you know me (or my sis) well enough to text, though, then you're welcome to swing by and borrow my family membership card.  And if you've got your own bicycles to bring along for free, well then bully for you!  

--Speaking of membership benefits:  the Morton Arboretum and the Chicago Botanic Garden have reciprocity, but a lot of people don't know that.  

--Rentals are for 3 hours.  There's no ability to save money by using the bikes for less time.  However, you can take a break and leave your bikes with the bike rental people while you go off to eat a picnic lunch or explore the children's garden or whatever floats your boat.  Now that I know this, next time we will get our money's worth by going earlier, biking, breaking, and maybe biking a bit more if our crew can handle it.  Or maybe we'll stop and hike one of the trails along the way next time, now that we know for sure that Georgia has the stamina for it.  June and Waylon really wanted to, but we were nervous about pushing our luck and then ending up with a non-cycling cyclist and a heavy unused bike on our hands. 

--Bikes are restricted to the paved roadway; this is not off-road mountain biking.  Keep in mind that cars are also allowed on the roadway, so you'll have to keep an eye out for vehicles needing to pass.  Perhaps taking children biking on a road with cars sounds scary, but remember, this is not a public thoroughfare; everyone there has paid to enter the Arboretum and is ostensibly trying to take in the scenery.  It's all one-way, and I've never seen a vehicle traveling more than 5-10 mph.  The drivers should be looking out for cyclists and runners, so you should be fine.

--If you go this time of year, bring your bug spray.  Sure, the mosquitoes can't get you when you're zooming along, but when you stop for breaks, you'll be easy prey.  It is a forest, after all. 

--(This is Illinois, so take all descriptions of "hills" with a grain of salt, but): One of the longest gradual inclines if you take the east loop is near the beginning of the route.  Therefore, our first break occurred about 5 minutes into the ride, and I didn't think we'd make it much farther.  Forge ahead if you can!  Soon we began to hit some fun downhill stretches and caught our stride.  

--Oh, speaking of downhills.  This happy trip came inches away from ending in the ER.  Georgia is still mastering control of her bike and nearly flew into the woods on the sharpest downhill turn.  The water bottle in her basket bounced out, her front wheel left the pavement, and by some miracle, she stayed upright and steered back onto the road.  I could only hear the commotion (and cringe), but Joe, who was pulling up the rear and saw it, swears that if Georgia did this 100 times she'd land in a bleeding heap the next 99.  I have no idea how this information helps you.  I guess just be careful?    

I guess that's it, but before I go, do you have any blogs that you like but almost can't read because they're too beautiful?  No?  Well, Dig This Chick by Nici Holt Cline does that to me.  I check it only occasionally lest I let her gorgeous Montana views, exquisite photography, cherubic children, home-based small business, and farm-like life mixed with the camaraderie of a more urban setting get me down, if you know what I mean.  (To wit, she is to blame for my desire to have backyard chickens.  One day.  One day, I tell you.)  Anyway, to top it off, I like her writing.  In five sentences about a recent strawberry-picking outing with her two young girls, she perfectly captured how I feel about our little bicycling outing, and most other things in my life lately, for that matter.
"I remembered last year in this field.  I held Ruby much of the time.  Margot tired of the experience after about an hour.  This year we walked the field for more than two hours and never once was I asked to leave.  I took note, appreciating this increasingly autonomous season of parenting.  And just a little bit missing the last."  

I am:  Living in the moment.  Enjoying it.  And feeling wistful, too. 

I remembered last year in this field. I held Ruby much of the time. Margot tired of the experience after about an hour. This year we walked the field for more than two hours and never once was I asked to leave. I took note, appreciating this increasingly autonomous season of parenting. And just a little bit missing the last. - See more at: http://www.digthischick.net/#sthash.6WKE0kQq.dpuf
I remembered last year in this field. I held Ruby much of the time. Margot tired of the experience after about an hour. This year we walked the field for more than two hours and never once was I asked to leave. I took note, appreciating this increasingly autonomous season of parenting. And just a little bit missing the last. - See more at: http://www.digthischick.net/#sthash.6WKE0kQq.dpu


Mindy said...

This is brilliant information! We went to the Arboretum a month or more ago and had a great time walking around, but wished we could have hit the trails. We lamented that our car bike carrier is not large enough for three bikes. But we could haul one or two and rent another! I definitely see a Fall excursion to see the leaves in our future.

Emily said...

It's a date - next August when we come to visit you. Also love the last picture of you, Georgia and June flexing. Fierce!

Maggie said...

I'm totally doing this with my crew!

jessica said...