One of the joys of family travel is rediscovering the world through the eyes of your child. With Kiddo in 6th grade beginning to understand and show interest in politics and government, a spring break trip to Washington, DC seemed a perfect idea. Planned a trip that included all the typical touristy highlights, along with side trips to reconnect with family (Kiddos sister & hubby’s brother live outside Baltimore).Of course, many of the sites were visited by bike. Others by foot. Or via the use of public transit. Or a combination of all three. We’re a get up and go kinda family with a firm belief that exploring by foot or bike allows a much deeper experience no matter where you are. WARNING: FAILED AT LIMITING PICTURES AND WORDS BELOW. Hang with me. In a complete aside for biking people: All three days I was rented a mixie (being a *girl* and all). And I don’t think I ever stepped through it. Always threw leg over saddle. Old habits.
Our first rental was from the Union Station location of Bike and Roll
. We’d taken the subway from our hotel, choosing this vendor both due to location, and we’ve rented from these folks before in San Francisco (read about it
). This location only had “comfort” bikes – whose wide, padded saddles are the opposite of comfort when riding all day, just saying. Once we got suited up with the proper sized bike and helmet, off we went.
First stop was the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum. Spent a couple hours wandering around looking at the exhibits. In our case it was just enough time. We were ready to move on.
Started heading up the Mall, with a couple of photo opportunity stops. First by FEMA then by the Washington Monument.
In fact most of the rest of the day was stops for quick exploring of monuments, reading plaques and taking pictures. The World War Two Memorial, Vietnam War Memorial, Lincoln Memorial.
A spin around the reflecting pool brought us to the Martin Luther King, FDR, and Thomas Jefferson Memorials. Sadly we were a couple of weeks too late to enjoy the cherry blossoms.
The day was getting long, so it was time to head back to return the bikes. But first a swing past the White House.
A great day of sightseeing. Much, much more seen, much more enjoyable, cheaper, healthier and fun than a bus tour.
On another day, we rented bikes from Bike and Roll’s Alexandria location, opting for their Combo bike rental, Mount Vernon tour and ferry package. In this you bike 11-12 miles on a bikeway along the Potomac to Mount Vernon, receive tickets to the site, lock your bikes up on the grounds and take a ferry back to Alexandria.
It was a nice easy ride, great for families. Mount Vernon is such an interesting place to visit. The gardens, the plantation house, the glimpse of how for Washington and others of his day their lifestyle only existed due to slaves.
The ferry ride home was also quite enjoyable (even if I would have liked to bike a bit more).
Equally enjoyable were the oysters and beers when we got back to Old Town Alexandria.
Other trip highlights were visits to the International Spy Museum, and using their GPS enabled “Spy in the City” handheld to go on a walking spy adventure around the city.
Plus visits to the Ford Theater (make reservations!), the US Capitol, The Library of Congress, Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, Fort McHenry (oh say can you see….), seeing friends and family, catching Uncle Mike’s band perform, meeting cousin Wrenn’s fiance and hanging out with big sis, a Food Network inspired trip to DC-3, a visit to Dogfish Head Brewery, and another bit of biking this time along Ocean City, MD boardwalk.
I’ve written on this blog how a couple of women’s only clinics are what got me started mountain biking. The first one at the Fall Colors Festival in the Kettle Moraine. This was a casual affair, almost better described as demo, which introduced me to some great trails, and got me over my fear of leaving the pavement and trying out some dirt. The next at the Ray’s Mountain Bike Park was a more formal clinic following the International Mountain Bike Instruction Certification guidelines for teaching. Beginning to learn proper body position made immediate improvements in my riding.
Wanting the same for my family, was thrilled when I saw the 2011 Midwest Women’s Mountain Bike Clinic was also offering a Kid’s clinic (ages 8-12) and a Men’s Novice to Advanced clinic. Started several years ago as a clinic for a small group of women, The Midwest Women’s Mountain Bike Clinic is a weekend long event attracting over 150 people annually in June to Brown County State Park in Indiana. Sub-9 Productions does a great job of organizing the clinics using only IMBI Certified instructors and guidelines. Naturally, I jumped at the chance to sign up my kiddo and my hubby (after all I was attending no matter what!).
After checking in and receiving their name tags for their bikes, the kid’s clinic begin with introductions and questions from the coaches about what they wanted to learn. Coaches spent some time checking over bikes, adjusting seats, and getting the kids at ease, before they rode off to do skills drills on the pavement.
Soon the kid’s were split into two groups based on abilities. Kiddo was placed in the more advanced group where Angie Weston and Todd Boucher began working on things like high speed cornering, front and rear wheel lifting. After some practice time, the group took off on a ride on the LimeKiln trail, where they were introduced to the concept of sessioning areas of the trail.
That afternoon when I picked Kiddo up from the clinic, he suggested a quick ride on LimeKiln to show me what he’d learned. I was surprised when he tore down the trail. In order to put that in perspective, I’d written an essay prior to the clinic that talked about how I’d hoped the clinic would help him overcome a fear of riding downhills. Dramatic improvement is an understatement. And done with good form to boot. In May, he barely rode his bike, after the clinic he was hooked.
As an added benefit, because he learned to ride correctly at the time I was also just learning mountain biking, as a family we have been able to push each other. Kiddo doesn’t let me take the bail line around obstacles. Instead there’s a lot of “Mom, you can do that, you’ve been over bigger logs (or drop offs, or jumps or whatever)”. We now feel confident on all the local trails from intro to more advanced. Our weekends typically include getting in weekend rides at our in city trails (Hoyt, Oak Hill or Crystal Ridge), or at the more extensive Muir/Carlin trails in Kettle Moraine of southeastern WI.
Mountain biking has become part of our family travels. I was able to work in a couple of days of Brown County riding around a business trip in September, and over Thanksgiving, we tackled trails in the Nashville area. To keep active over the Wisconsin winter, the entire family are season members at Rays Indoor Mountain Bike Park (where kiddo is also taking up BMX and jumping). Next summer we’ll try our hand at riding Keystone in Summit County, Colorado, our first trip to a downhill/lift shuttled bike park.
I credit the Midwest Women’s clinic with not only helping our family find a great family activity, but also with helping our skills and abilities progress at levels we would have never been able to attain on our own. This will be an annual family activity for us….and one we look forward to immensely.
“Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus.”
New York Sun, 1897
Late Christmas Eve, noticed Kiddo, who is at the age of tottering on the fence of belief, in a flurry of activity. Grabbing cup and plate, rooting around in the fridge, searching for paper and pen, amassing a variety of Christmas hats – our matching Mickey & Minnie Mouse Santa hats, the Green Bay Packers version, the Christmas tree hat we’d picked up at Lynn’s Paradise Cafe over Thanksgiving. Final preparations before heading to bed.
Close inspection of the note brought a smile to my face. Not just cookies and milk, but also apples for the reindeer (and an apology that Mom wasn’t currently stocking carrots in the fridge). The hats to give Santa a bit of creative ideas.
Santa did seem to enjoy the feast…and left a snowboard for Kiddo, a shovel for Grandma, and treats for all.
Of course the family gifts were beckoning, too. Kiddo did the usual duty of sorting them out. A pile at one end of the couch for Grandma, at the other end for Mom, by a chair for Dad, and of course, another pile for himself. I was charmed by the sight of him wearing the new RoadID Santa had stuffed in his stocking, the Packers hat from his big Sis, the snow goggles from Mom & Dad while playing with the hockey goal light and horn from Uncle Jeff.
I was thrilled with my stash…a perfect set of presents. Books (the best kind: a gardening one, a biking one, and a cooking one) plus a Nook from Hubby, gift cards from Mom, along with the LeCrueset prep bowls I’d fallen in love with over Thanksgiving and an orchid for my new windowed office from kiddo.
Soon the wrapping carnage covered the floor.
But where was kiddo……..outside, of course, trying out the snowboard under the watchful eye of Kutya the Wonder Dog. Two days ago the yard was an MTB trail, today a snowboard hill.
Where’d he go now? Oh I see Kutya found him in a heap at the bottom of the hill. Can’t wait to do some shredding on a real hill.
Decided to get a little fresh air and outdoor fun into my day by riding the mountain bike around in the snow. Kutya loves to play in the snow, and gave chase as I went round and round the yard, up and down little hills, over any bump I could find.
I was surprised by how much more effort it takes to ride through snow. How after several times around I was breathing pretty hard. Took me three times to make it up the side “trail” without stopping, or at least dabbing my foot down. Needed to trust my momentum, keep pedalling, shift slightly forward. Good practice for riding real trails.
Spent about thirty minutes making tracks all through the yard. Wiped out once crossing the driveway, my back tire sliding out from under me. Made me laugh more than anything. All the while Kutya by my side.
As I suspected when Kiddo got home, saw the tracks and realized what his Mom had been up to, he also had to give snow biking a try. And discovered exactly what I had, it’s hard work.
On Thursday, I got in my first winter ride. Roads were wet and slick with many more icy patches on the bike path than I expected. Will take a bit more riding to get comfortable riding in winter. Did a mere 3.5 miles around the neighborhood. It felt great to ride.
This year I didn’t do my usual Christmas tree in every room thing. Skipped my obsession with every tree has a theme, a color scheme. Instead, just went with one real tree. Real tree, real sentiment. Using the ornaments that have some meaning to us. Kiddo and I enjoyed unwrapping each one from their tissue, lots of “oh, I remember this one”, “oh, this is my favorite”, followed shortly by “No, this is my favorite”
These really are some of my favorites.
These are new this year. Purchased from SpokenSitch’s Etsy store. Stars (Kiddo calls them snowflakes) made from bike chain. These and their matching key ring make me smile.
This Noah’s Ark ornament(s) has been a sentimental favorite of mine for years. They’ve been through several moves, several life changes with me, probably 15 years old. Little pairs to hang together – Noah and wife, Mr and Mrs Penguin, Lion, Deer and Sheep.
The Dr. Suess collection was built over the years after Kiddo was born, and we were reading our way through the books. Started with One Fish, Two fish (which is still my favorite), now includes Cat in the Hat, Hop on Pop, Green Eggs and Ham, Horton Hears a Who, The Grinch. Like with the Noah’s Ark group, I enjoy finding a spot of the tree to hang them en mass.
Humuhumunukunukuapua’a, one of my favorite words to say. Represents Maui, one of my favorite places on earth.
Kutya the Wonder Dog gets mentioned or pictured in this blog often. But Princess Bijou does not. A rare chance to catch a photo of her. Like Kutya, she’s a rescued pet. Pretty and petite. She’s a great hunter, helping to keep the house mouse free. Or at least that’s what we hope.
Merry Christmas! Wishing you all the blessings of the season.
Just back from a Thanksgiving trip to my brother’s in Nashville. Great city, great company. Love visiting them. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, my brother hit the jackpot when he met his wife, Gina. In fact I said exactly that last year, when I wrote about the Thanksgiving 2009 trip here
. The confirmed bachelor is now married, and a father. Last year my nephew was a newborn, this year a new walker.
Adding to the enjoyment, Gina’s aunt is a great hostess – and from day one has welcomed us as extended family into her gatherings. For most of these gatherings, we are in charge of bringing the drinks – beer, wine, a bit of spirits. For the Thanksgiving feast, Jeff and Gina do prepare quite a bit of the food. Last year I did my part entertaining 2 week old Jack while his parents cooked, this year, kiddo had that duty….providing me an opportunity to help with the cooking.
Preparations began Wednesday evening and continued through Thursday morning with an eye on our 1 pm deadline. Thursday morning found four of us in the kitchen, and we quickly developed almost a dance…weaving between each other, passing ingredients, stirring while another measured, one manning the sink – washing the dishes. Lots of mumbling under our breaths, reading the recipe’s next steps, thinking about what we needed next.
I’d suggested to Gina that we do the Roasted Brussel Sprouts with pomegranate
I’d seen on the Thanksgiving edition of Throwdown when Bobby Flay took on one of my favorite bloggers, Pioneer Woman. Gina put me in charge of making this dish. Highly recommend. Very highly recommend this dish. Even folks who think they don’t like brussel sprouts will love it. As delicious as it is beautiful.
Also on the menu was a homemade version of the classic green bean casserole. Created without a single can or bit of processed food. the best green bean casserole I’ve ever tasted, and tons of fun to make. From sauteeing the fresh mushrooms to creating my own onion straws. So good, so worth the effort.
Gina and Jeff (with the help of her young cousin) made a fabulous pumpkin cheesecake- which had all of us licking the bowl. The bourbon laced sauce really, uh, topped the cake.
When the cooking was done, it took two cars to load up all the goodies and head to Gina’s aunt’s house for our feast. (Yep, plenty of my fav, Blue Moon)
We started with appetizers of artisan cheeses, homemade pumpkin hummus and babaganoush, spinach artichoke dip and lots of crackers and veggies to dip them with.
Then quickly moved onto the main course which even my little nephew loved!
After dinner, in a slight food coma, we all retired to the family room. Some watched the football game. Though electronics also came into play – folks in the same room texting each other, “Angry birds” being played simultaneously on the iPad, an iPod and an iPhone. Even the little ones got in on the fun.
Through it all, I was very impressed with kiddo and how good he did with his cousin. Makes me proud to be his mom.