Then I did not understand how much it would change, or how fast. Soon, the park road was closed due to constant frost and landslide melting, which locked the bike ride to Polychrome Pass in the archives of the past. I could not see the current chaos of family life, every hour chaotic and loud, in the picture of my eldest son walking one day to the kindergarten. And nowhere in my imagination did I have a place at home during the long months of the pandemic, when riding a bicycle often made me feel like the only normal thing we were doing. I realized that was it: the bike took us to places, now and always. Between seeing the bears on their backs and breastfeeding in the tundra, watching beyond the trail through the end of the park seemed closest to the freedom I had known since I became a mother of two.
After a trip to Denali, our bike style has become obsolete with our boys who are no longer infants but boys at 5 and 7 years old. In the summer, we carried baby carriers and backpacks, put our bikes on the bikes, and covered a surprisingly few miles without crying. In winter, we tunnel through snow streams and swim on ice, often not the way we wanted. With each passing season, our fleet changes with our lives. From infant balance bikes to trailer bikes, from ropes to skates, from tow ropes to stubbornness, the only lesson we need to remember is that nothing stays the same for long.
Often, we found that cycling was just as essential for entertainment as it was for transportation, as it was for a weekend spent with my sister’s family in the Talcitna Mountains north of Anchorage. On a one-balance bike, a three-pedal bike, four children, and three sweaty, backpack-filled adults, we set off on a muddy trail in the rain. When the trail became too steep, we put our bikes behind a tree and climbed an alpine lake where we set up a tent and separated our wet clothes, chose from the M & Ms trail mix and made sure that yes. Ever been home again. In their imagination, they might ride a marathon on a mountain and then climb the highest peak in the world. For seniors who were tired of fraud and bribery and wondered whose bad idea it was, they felt almost so long. But the next morning at breakfast everyone complained about the rain disappearing. When we got back to our bikes, the kids were screaming and rejoicing, excited by the prospect of sliding downhill.
As our range has expanded, so has our speed, which can be both a gift and a horror. One afternoon, on a local mountain bike trail, I found myself alternately sweating as I climbed and shivering as I waited, one of the boys sniffing at sweets, the other promising that we were almost there, or at least me. Thought we were. As we approached the end of the loop, the trail narrowed and the boys sat down to take a position, while the junior made a bold, poorly timed pass. Fluctuating with a swaying handle and mud, they leaned into a corner and followed the bull bull, which had just been seen below us. I angrily rushed behind them, fearing worse. When I got to the bottom of the hill and saw that both boys were whirling, but swimming safely and from a distance, I hugged them tightly and approached them. We sat on the couch and parted the last gum bear on their damp, dirty palms and slowly counted each one as a blessing.
It will be very difficult to say that cycling always makes us feel fit and energetic, our family member cohesive and cheerful. Even bicycles do not work wonders. Instead, they help us to return to ourselves, offering us a mirror in which we recognize time as a walk-in, child-rearing as humility, and family adventures as mostly a pursuit of dignity. First of all, they change our horizons and will never leave us the way we started.