Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Trail riding (or jogging)

In a way, what happened yesterday afternoon complemented what happened on Saturday.

Or, really, what didn’t happen on Saturday. I was sincerely hoping to go on a hike with my kids, but hiking was not meant to be. At least not as the kids saw it. They just didn’t want to. So we didn’t. But although I went along with the alternative they proposed – a walk through Portland and a visit to their favorite playground there – I still kvetched, in my own mind and on my blog if not audibly to them.

Yesterday afternoon, the opposite happened. The kids had a professional day, and so I didn’t get out for a run at the time I usually go, right after Holly boards the school bus. By late afternoon, I was anxious to get going, so I tried to come up with a plan that might interest Holly since Tim was already occupied. “Want to ride your bike alongside me and we can go up to the soccer field?” I asked her. “Then once we’re there, you can ride around the track with me or play on the fitness course.” Running laps is about my least favorite kind of run. But I’d had a good aerobic workout on the stationery bike earlier in the day; my primary goal was just to get my daily mile in, and to see Holly get some exercise as well. Getting her to agree to join me at all would be a struggle, I thought; but she said she’d ride along.

But then we took a detour. The ice cream stand next door to us closed for the season on Monday, so as we headed out to the road, I gave her the option of doing laps around its large parking lot rather than around the soccer field. She liked that idea. And on the first lap, she noticed something: a trail leading off the edge of the parking lot. I told her that it went past Bates Pond and through the woods, ending up at the end of my parents’ driveway next door to our house. “But you don’t want to ride on a trail,” I assured her.

Actually, she informed me, she wanted to try it.

So we started down the trail. Since this same kid will never agree to a hike with me these days, I assumed she’d turn back as soon as she saw that biking on a trail through the woods is a far cry from biking on our town’s paved footpaths or even the gravel driveway. But she stuck with it. We went farther and farther back, and once I realized she really planned to forge ahead on this route, I started noticing how gorgeous the path was on this particular day: the foliage nearing its peak, the waters of Bates Pond still and reflective, the sun dappling through the tree canopy.

Holly rode on, and when she reached parts of the trail that were too narrow or winding for her undersized Barbie-accessorized two-wheeler to manage, she walked her bike. I jogged behind her with the dog on the leash. “This is fun!” she exclaimed.

“But why…” I wanted to ask. “Why is it that if I’d suggested a walk in the woods you would never have agreed to it, but here we are bushwhacking our way along on a combination run/bike ride?”

Eventually we were all the way at the far end of the loop. “If we cut through right by that stone wall, it’s just a short walk down Grandma and Buppa’s driveway and home,” I told her.

“But if we turn around, we can do the whole thing again,” she responded.

According to my Nike Plus odometer, we’d already completed nearly two miles. “Do you really want to retrace the whole trail?” asked her. We could almost see our house through the woods.

“I definitely do,” she said.

So that’s what we did. In the end, we logged more than three miles. It was Holly’s first time trail riding, and she loved it. And what surprised me most was that I hadn’t planned it; it just developed spontaneously.

But sometimes I overplan, like with Saturday’s non-hike. Sometimes the best things happen when I don’t plan anything at all. Holly and I had a great time out on the trail, even though I was expecting a few laps around the soccer field. If I ask her if she wants to do it again today, she’ll probably say no. When I plan things, they end up not happening. So I’ll just wait until the next time that the pieces spontaneously fall into place, and then I’ll enjoy it all over again.

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