When we lived in Colorado I almost always thought of how I could ride to a place before I considered if I (or we) needed to drive. I wanted to climb in Boulder. I knew how far it was to Eldorado Canyon or to the Flatirons trailheads from my house. I also knew how far it was to the more remote South Platte climbing areas in south Jeffco and which routes were the best to travel there by bike. There were times I needed to meet my family at school and I did the 18 mile ride from work past home and on up to school. The bike was the go-to vehicle for me.
Recreation or utility we tried to choose the bike as often as possible and it was more often than most people would have thought. When we left Kentucky in 2008 I don’t think I had ever gone to the grocery store on my bike. I know I had never ridden east to the Red River Gorge to hike or climb. However, when I lived in Slade as a bachelor I often rode back west to Stanton, and I rode around the Gorge then to trailheads and climbing areas a handful of times.
Now that we’re back I find it easy to think of applying my Colorado experiences to my old Kentucky stomping grounds. We want to get back into rock climbing and I can’t help but consider the cycling approach to any crag we might visit. I look at it differently than I did before. Now I have the cargo bike. It’s possible to load up my climbing gear and ride to a crag. Time is the only consideration.
Last night there was a local writers’ group meeting scheduled at the library. Mandy and Lily headed off to town beforehand for a school function. I was tasked with bringing the boy and dropping him off at the event before going to my meeting at the library. He indicated that he didn’t want to go to the thing at school so I allowed the change of plan and set about Xmasing up the Xtracycle for a solo ride to town.
I strung up the lights, put on the Laser and two rear twinkly lights, loaded up my writing, a warmer jacket for the return trip home and was ready to push off when a ten year old blonde head poked out the kitchen door.
“I changed my mind; I think I want to go.”
He wanted to ride his bike, but I nixed that. In the five o’clock dark world I’m not comfortable with him riding separate on the road. I told him so, and he said he could just ride on my bike then.
I sized him up. As he nears 11 (he goes to 11 after all) my little frontiersman has reached the full adult size of many diminutive people. He’s almost as tall as his momma, and he’s been growing out in preparation for his next upward spurt.
“It’s been a while since I hauled ya, but I think I can do it. Go get your stuff.”
He bolted back in the house for jacket and helmet as I adjusted my meager load. Our creek (everyone here lives on a creek or in a holler) is guarded by three hills coming in and two going out. I calculated the energy I’d need to expend to get Boone over Steamshovel Hill (Granny Moppet was just OUT) versus the non-climbing option of Hwy 15 into town. Up and over a ridge or surf the rush hour traffic? I couldn’t decide.
|Xmascycle cleared for takeoff from Red River Regional Bikeport|
Before I put foot to pedal I was skeptical I’d even be able to ride with the lug on the back. It’s been so long since I have portaged him on the bike I had no concept of how much he weighs. Before we reached the end of the driveway old synapses were firing smoothly and it was like we'd been doing this all along. It felt good to be piloting my longtail cargo bike with another living soul aboard. It felt right.
When we reached the deciding point I opted for the hill. If I’d been alone and able to ride faster I might have taken the easy way in, but with my progeny on the back I opted for the road with the trickle of traffic versus the one at nearly floodstage.
It’s okay, spoiler alert: the Cannonball X is geared like a ‘90s era mountain bike and climbs hills like a mule under load. While I did work up a sweat—and I know we didn’t break any Strava records last night—the ride over Steamshovel wasn’t too bad. I zig-zagged more than I remember in the past, but we made it up and over and on into town.
Zipping along the flat streets across town brought back memories of cruising to Olde Town Arvada. The nippy (nip, nipply, nippy) air evoked a past filled with lots of dark commutes. It felt good to be riding at an unconventional time. It felt like I was stealing time back from the world for myself.
I rang my bike bell for the sheer unadulterated heck of it.
I dropped the Boonester off at school, had to backtrack because I’d forgotten some items to be delivered, and then cruised in to the library parking lot. The CTL (Crash Test Librarian) and his minion admired my lighting setup. We chatted until it was obvious the writers’ group had cancelled despite me, and then headed to our respective homes after the library closed.
I once again opted for Steamshovel in lieu of the busier road and had to regain the crest of the ridge known as Steamshovel Hill. From the town side it’s different—shorter and steeper—but not a bad haul empty. The long descent on my side was cold, but it was hard to care under the full moon that had climbed high into the eastern sky as I dawdled in town. Rolling back up my road in the moonlight with my festive to-be-seen lights and the sense of satisfaction of having traveled under my own power made for a pleasant return to the Red River Regional Bikeport.