Friday, March 12, 2010

When the Bike Makes it Harder

One of my academic conferences, the American Society for Environmental History, has been in town this week. As it's just across the river, I'm attending with Jasper in tow, stepping out of talks when he fusses and otherwise just standing in the back, bouncing the baby and enjoying the feeling of being an academic, rather than just a mommy, for a little while. And learning some cool stuff, too.

Yesterday, we rode the Yuba over. We left about Jasper's naptime and he was asleep after just a few minutes of fuss. There was no good place to park, so I left the bike on the sidewalk locked to a parking meter. It poured all day, and the rain cover on the kid seat was wholly unworthy of the task. Although I had pulled out the snuzzler insert to make sure Jaz had something dry to sit on for the way home, the cold seat, soaked harness straps, and drippy roof really set him off. To make it worse, my friend and colleague Daegan and I tried to join some folks at a bar at the end of the day, rather than going home. Jasper cried the whole mile to the bar, and when we got there, didn't settle. It was getting dark. My light had shorted out, and the bike we had loaned Daegan had had its lights 'borrowed' for a different bike the week before and not returned. We had to suck it up and go home.

The trip to the bar had been in the opposite direction from home, so we now had nearly three miles to go. It was rush hour. It was pouring. Jasper cried his most miserable, shrieking cry the whole way home, but there was nothing to do but go, as it was only getting darker.

We arrived home soaked to the skin. Frightened. Cold. And most of all, emotionally battered by Jasper's unadulterated misery.

After a change of clothes and a few minutes of nursing, Jasper was grinning at me again. But I'm still not recovered from the experience. And today, we took the bus.

It's supposed to stop raining Sunday. I think we'll take a nice long ride (it will be nearly 60F!) to remind ourselves why this is fun. Because yesterday, in the cold, wet, dark, lungs searing as I climbed the hills as fast as I could, eyes searching into the darkness for unseen hazards, imagination creating doom around each bend, I found myself wanting to never, ever do that again.

Sometimes, getting around by bike makes life harder.


Clever said...

i don't think this is as much a bike moment as a parenting moment. sure, your rig needs some tweaks, but don't think for an instant that car-dependent parents don't experience nearly identical epiphanies. it's just that with the windows rolled up, nobody else can hear the screaming.

Jim said...

I remember having a flat tyre on a multilane highway at night in the snow / freezing rain, with kiddies screaming in the background terrified by the speeding trucks inches away. Jack it up, freezing hands against metal, take the wheel off, ice water running down my back, new wheel on, soaked through, run the jack down, freezing.
Drive home miserable and wet kids screaming.... wondering if the nasty old tyre that had spent years under the car will hold out.
Not fun too.
Bikes still rock.

Bikejuju said...

Clever took the words out of my mouth. We went through a phase (around 2?) where we had to wrestle Claire into her car seat every time, and she screamed for the first 15 minutes of every ride.

That's supposed to be a comfort I guess.

In fact "cold, wet, dark, lungs searing as I climbed the hills as fast as I could, eyes searching into the darkness for unseen hazards, imagination creating doom around each bend" is a pretty good metaphor for the whole experience of parenting!

Dottie said...

True. I know the frightened and cold feelings you speak of - I always feel that way after riding rush hour in the rain. I can imagine it would be much worse with a baby. I'm a big fan of public transportation for times like that.

centrallyisolated said...

Aw, I'm sorry you had a sucky biking day. My first day grocery shopping in Portland was like this (but minus kid): Absolutely pouring, busy route because we didn't know where we were going, equipment problems not fully worked out yet... I remember getting home with my soggy groceries and wet shoes and being really annoyed that I was going to have to get around for the next four months by bike. Obviously, there were much happier days!

Anonymous said...

Yeah sounds a very familiar parenting moment. Mine were generally on a backed up freeway with nothing I could do anyway. Kids get cranky where ever they are. My 2 boys are as just as happy to fight and act up on the back of the Mundo as they are in the back of the car.

She Rides a Bike said...

Sometimes I wonder why I can't just be like everyone else and just take the car. I've been caught in few heavy showers but on the occasions I have I kick myself and ask myself whether or not I really am "ol' weird Karen" as my mother used to refer to me. Then I have days like today when it is sunny and breezy and I get to enjoy the signs of spring. Someday your son will have a lot of great stories to tell about his early childhood adventures with you.