Big Boy Adventure with Daddy
My youngest two boys Ben (4) and Brandon (3) seemed to be in no hurry to make the transition from diapers to underwear; that is, until the promise of a special adventure just with Dad became the perfect motivation!
Last year's maiden voyage with Ben was a huge success, so I could hardly wait for the moment when Brandon was ready. Finally, last weekend I completed my second Bike Overnight, a 7-mile climb from our house to the nearest regional park campground, with Brandon in tow, his 12-inch-wheeled bike strapped on top of the trailer packed with most of our gear.
Springtime in Southern California is beautifully green. Clear clean air and usually mild temperatures make it the perfect time to enjoy the outdoors. I left work for the day, and we got on the road around 6 pm. The 7-mile, 1,000-foot climb from my house to Yucaipa Regional Park is a workout, but well worth it, taking a little more than an hour. We had bike lanes and trails for more than half the ride. It helped to have my son in the trailer cheering me onward and upward with, "You can do it! ... You did it, Daddy!"
Upon arriving at camp, priority number one (according to Brandon) was getting the fire started for s'mores.
After I instructed him in the art of setting up our tent we roasted hotdogs on sticks while the faithful camp stove heated water for our mac & cheese. After dinner we put our headlamps on and enjoyed a couple of s'mores and a cup of hot chocolate before he got cold and tired and begged to jump in his sleeping bag. I called it a night and watched him fall asleep, both of us smiling from ear to ear as we faced each other in our tent; he, proud to be a big boy and me, happy to be his proud Daddy.
Probably my most memorable moment with Ben the previous year, having arrived much earlier in the afternoon, was telling him he could choose what we would do after dinner. Thinking a bike ride or hike was in order, he surprised me with, "I want to meet those people," pointing to our nearest neighbors. I realized for the first time that my son was an extrovert. We proceeded to go around the entire campground and meet each group of neighbors.
For both boys, the second day was time to explore the regional park on our bikes. This included a 4-mile round trip, the boys riding their own bikes, observing fishermen, identifying birds, playing in the playground, chatting with folks, saying hi to the rangers, circling the RV campground a few times, and counting dogs.
After packing up around 11 am, the ride home was exhilarating, nearly all downhill, with a very special stop at Brandon Street for a photo op.
This is just the beginning of many more special adventures with my boys. I don't see a long bike tour likely for the next few years, but bike overnights one-on-one with my kids is a great way to make memories, discover and celebrate their unique personalities, and let them know how much I love them. The next closest regional park is about 25 miles away and mildly downhill. I think a bike overnight with my older two kids is in order!
Tip for this adventure: Yucaipa Regional Park has great hikes. While it might be hot to camp there in the summer, it has water slides, swimming lakes, and other activities that make it a blast with children.
Favorite local bike shop: Don's Bikes just moved to our neighborhood.