The long family bike rides we take seem to almost obliterate a day; take today’s route out on East Hoquiam Road, up and back (for a total of 25 miles). We’re wondering if the Rainforest Ride, a 30-mile sojourn at Lake Quinault later this month, is going to be too much for our 7 year old. Today’s ride was a go toward that kind of end, an exploration of her talents.
The highway is not perfect for bike-riding; there is no shoulder. This means a bike and a car cannot co-exist in one lane. However most of the highway visibility is high (especially if you make sure to ride in the lane a bit) and traffic light. I have to confess, the first nine miles of the route feel relatively uninteresting for me, coupled with the irritation and prickly-neck feeling of minding traffic. The kids, however, are charmed. Wild irises, foxgloves, thimbleberries, salmonberries, skunk cabbage, wooly bears – things you do not notice while speeding along in a car. Shanties almost completely engulfed by blackberry bushes (we called them “stickerbushes” growing up), horses right up alongside the fence gazing at us. Many gardens all in different formations; a lone tomato plant in a forlorn field. A house with a huge, elaborate garden, bunnies, and peacocks – one male performing his gaudy display (on our return trip Sophie and I stop and talk for some time to the owner). The route also yields many loose and barking dogs – a near comical procession of Rottweiler, German Shepherd, Malamute, Doberman, Vicious Nutsack-Chomping Hellhound – though none give chase. We pass the Grays Harbor Gun Club – the harsh sounds of firearms, prompting questions on my children’s part regarding shooting bad guys. There are a surprising amount of hills, some rather steep. Sophie in true form pops on and off her bike, although she already has significantly more legpower on her one-gear bike than she did at first. Sometimes I wonder if I let her bike too much or too long; however, her smiles and energy level (as well as the significantly high degree of playing she did the rest of the day) indicate she is fine.
Immediately after returning from our trip we drive back out this same route to attend a birthday party of our little friend E. The party is full of people I don’t know well, and Ralph has left for Olympia to play music. I miss him. The property is idyllic; we explore anthills and pick strawberries and the kids play with flannel boards and go down slides and dig in sand and frolic in an inflated bouncy-castle. My family is the last to leave; not because I am lonely for company – in fact, I am missing my house and my husband – but because my kids are having such a good time I am loathe to tear them away. The evening ends with the birthday girl and my children removing shoes and using their feet to paint the porch. There are falls by the younger children and Nels ends up with paint all over his clothes. Loading him up in the car and I’ve washed him up as best I could; he’s wearing only Mardi Gras beads and red-paint stains on his bare bum.
We give a partygoer a ride back into town where evening is settling; it’s beautiful out. Turning back east to go home, Nels tells me, “I want to spend some time with Grandma” so we head directly to her house. He runs up on the porch, red cheeks and all. Grandma’s reaction after answering the knock gives me a laugh. Within minutes after arriving I have cleaned the car, asked my mother to draw the kids a bath, and thrown the painted and dirty clothes in the washing machine. I am nothing if not compulsive. The kids drink fresh smoothies and I pick up my husband and a pizza; tired, home well after 10 PM.
A busy day.