Cycle path

Maybe it was the German couple (him from the East, her from the West) Rowan and I met in the park a couple of weeks ago, cycling across Canada with their two-year-old daughter. They had two fully loaded bikes — front and back panniers, more gear neatly bungeed on top of racks, handlebar bags — and they were towing their toddler in a single Chariot carrier. With a child’s bike strapped to the top of it. They had started in from Vancouver, and, over the course of four months, made it through the Prairies and into Thunder Bay. Now, they were trying to decide whether to take the (very) non-scenic logging road up to Armstrong and catch the Via Rail train to Toronto, or risk the heavy traffic and narrow shoulders of the TransCanada on their bikes to catch the gorgeous views of Lake Superior.

I wish I had known to tell them to cycle Superior, cross the border at Sault Ste. Marie, and take the Amtrak to the Big Smoke. Whatever they decided, I hope they made it to Toronto in time to catch their flight home. They plan to return to Canada next summer and pick up where they left off, cycling to the easternmost point of Newfoundland.

I can barely tow Isaac and a diaper bag up a hill in our double Chariot without getting lightheaded.

But I digress.

Maybe it was the German couple (did I mention they spoke perfect English?) that sparked Rowan’s interest in his bike, the one my father bought for him in June and that has remained in the garage, mostly untouched, since then. But two weeks ago, he asked to get it out and cycle to our weekly brunch at Judy and Jill’s.

(Another digression: Did you know that, for the past year, Rowan and Isaac’s godmothers, Judy and Jill, have had us and our children over for brunch every Sunday morning? As in, just when we realize that the weekend is — depending on your perspective — already half over or only half over and Sunday stretches before us like this great yawning chasm of time in which to keep children happy and occupied, we are treated to coffee and muffins and eggs and back bacon and blueberries and two adults who dote on — and entertain — our children. It’s heavenly. Just in case you didn’t know that.)

So, the bike. If Rowan were cycling across Canada, he would take a lot longer than four months, because:

a) he can’t steer and would probably end up in either Montana or the Yukon
b) he tends to get off his bike every 10 feet or so to examine more closely a pothole or a rock or a tree
c) midway through each trip, he decides he’d rather walk, leaving me to push his bike along, the equivalent of leaving it somewhere in Saskatoon.

Still, we persist, because my theory is that, for Rowan (for anyone, really), any and all bike time is good. The more he pedals, the further he goes, the better he’ll get and the more he’ll enjoy cycling. So I walk along beside him, holding the handlebars gently and lifting my hands when he’ll let me (“Hold on, Mama! You need to hold on!”), urging him to LOOK WHERE YOU’RE GOING, adding to his forward momentum, and waiting as he pops off to explore again and again. “Ready to hop back on?” I’ll ask after a few moments. And sometimes he does, and we set off again.

For Rowan, cycling is so completely about the journey and not the destination that there’s no point in being anything but patient and accommodating. And besides, I’m loving it. I love watching my kid ride a bike, love walking or jogging beside him holding the handlebars, love letting go, love the idea that one day, we might ride our bikes together. I love how riding his bike seems to make Rowan more attentive to the outside world.

And I love being around to hear him say things like, “Mama, if you get me a basket for my bike, I can put flowers in it.”