The greater Washington, D.C. area is, as you might expect, chock full of history. You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting the spot where Thomas Jefferson first swung a dead cat, or whatever. It’s unavoidable. Our bike ride, planned by C, had a historical element as well. We’d be starting from the Old Town Alexandria district and riding ten or so miles to Mount Vernon, the hilltop estate of George Washington, taking the trail specifically designed for that purpose. Then we would ride back.
On Sunday we rented our bikes from a bike store in Alexandria, got helmeted up, received vague directions on how to get from the bike store to the trail, and we were off.
T2 is all about bike riding these days. At some point, and I don’t know exactly when, the preferred transportation method of the neighborhood kids went from scooters to bikes. The same thing happened with the nerf guns. All of a sudden nobody cared about nerf guns- it was all water guns, all the time. There wasn’t an indicator as to the coming change in either attitude, at least not one that any adult could pick up on. The children of the neighborhood are like a flock of birds. They all fly along together and then, based on cues only they detect, they swerve this way and that en masse.
Anyway, scooters were out, bikes were in. We had to go buy him a bike, which he claimed to not know how to ride.
“He can ride a bike,” said C.
“I don’t know how to ride a bike,” said T2.
“Have you ridden a bike before?” I asked.
“Yes,” said T2, “but I don’t remember how.”
“You never forget how to ride a bike,” I tried to explain. “It’s like…well…it’s like riding a bike. There’s a whole saying based around the fact it is impossible to forget how to ride a bike. A saying which sorta lets you down when you actually are talking about bike riding but…still…”
“I don’t remember how,” he insisted.
Cut to him racing down the street on his bike yelling, “I know how to ride a bike!” and all of his little friends biking along beside him convinced that he is some sort of two-wheeled savant because he told them he didn’t know how to ride a bike, then hopped on one and just went. There were literally six year olds yelling, “IT’S AMAZING!” in the street. I am 80% sure that this outburst of amazement and adoration from his peers was exactly his plan.
So he’s good at riding a bike.
Twenty miles though…that’s a long way. He’s seven. His legs are little. He’s naturally lazy, preferring to just put on multiple pairs of socks to walking all the way upstairs so he can deposit the extra pair in his dresser. I figured we would get halfway there and he would be done, leaving us stuck miles from our car with a seven year old in meltdown.
My assessment was incorrect.
On the way there, T1 and C were up front, T2 was after C and I took up the rear. The path was busy and we initially had to keep on both boys to keep to the right so they didn’t crash into runners, walkers and other bike riders. The ride itself is beautiful, basically following the Potomac up to the house. I kept waiting for T2 to get tired. He didn’t.
We got there, figured how much time we had before we had to return the bikes, and decided to actually tour Mount Vernon at a later date. Instead, we grabbed something to eat in the historic Mount Vernon food court (the same one where Washington and Lafayette ate Klondike Bars while discussing how to beat the British) and headed back.
T2 announced he was going to lead. So he led. The whole way.
He was chugging along. He was passing people, yelling out “on the left” as he did. He was staying to the right. He suddenly was a two-wheeled savant.
T1 was having problems with the staying to the right part. He was all over the goddamned place. There was one family that we kept passing and who would later, in turn, pass us. T1 almost killed them three times. This is not an exaggeration; he literally almost caused them to crash on three separate occasions. He couldn’t stay to the right, instead he weaved back and forth across the trail. At one point he just stopped crossways, blocking the entire trail, for no reason anyone could fathom. The trail, as I said, was busy. It was like parking a semi-truck sideways on an expressway. T1 is an excellent athlete but a bit of a disaster on a bike.
T2 never faltered. At one point my desire to be done with our ride was in direct conflict with my curiosity if he was ever going to slow the fuck down. We got back to Alexandria and C asked if we wanted to go a little bit down the trail in the opposite direction. At that point, I had pretty much reached my threshold for bike riding. T1 was ready to pack it in as well. T2 just yelled, “Let’s keep going!” and he and C took off ahead of T1 and I.
“Where are they going?” he asked.
“I have no idea,” I responded. We had no choice but to follow. C had the car keys.
Our only salvation was that, in another couple of miles, T2 suddenly realized he was hungry. He stopped, announced we were heading back, turned around and took off.
Thank god he needed to eat or we might still be on that trail.