It was 8:08 when I pushed my daughter out the door. "We've got 20 minutes to get there," I told her.
The ride to school isn't, as a general rule, a 20-minute trek. But a single-speed with fat, 16" tires designed to be ridden by a 5-year old isn't exactly designed to turn out fast 1-mile rides.
She dropped her helmet on her head and we were off: me, my oldest daughter, and our good friend who was taking advantage of an otherwise free day to pull around my youngest in a trailer. After a brief pause at the bus stop to say hi to the gathering crowd, we pressed on up the hill to the top of the street, my daughter pedaling madly.
The light turned green in front of us. I moved into the intersection (much to the consternation of one driver), and she hammered across, possibly topping 10 mph. I was leading the pack and having trouble keeping speeds down to match her pace on the kid-sized bike, but thankfully my friend was slowed enough by the trailer to stay behind her comfortably.
We dropped down the hill, strung out along maybe half a block while oncoming cars weaved in and out of street-parked cars, making a regroup practically impossible. After the curve at the middle of the hill, I decided to make a left into the depths of the neighborhood, thinking this might give us a little more road to work with, but traffic was just as bad there. We were immediately faced with an oncoming van, and our turn onto the smallest street of the bunch just put us in front of someone else.
At the stop sign, we turned onto the last residential road, and the car as well as a bus plowed by. For the first time, I could ride side-by-side with my daughter, and she was doing a great job on the pedals. We were halfway there, and I was excited that we were actually getting this chance to ride together.
She took that moment to ask a very important question: "Dad, where's my backpack?"
I knew exactly where it was: sitting inside the house, along with her bike lock, right where I'd left them to be stuffed in the panniers. Except, of course, that I had done no such thing.
"Stay with Papi. I'll meet you at school," I told her. I whipped my bike around, sprinted home (no more than 3 minutes away), grabbed the forgotten kit, and threw it in my panniers. By now, I thought, they would be nearing the end of the residential road and making the final turn.
I opted for the more direct route back: straight down the highway to start, then off on the service road, where traffic was also surprisingly persistent. I hammered up the other side and through the parking lot of the apartment buildings on the former site of a set of bubble houses, and made the final turn in front of the school, where buses were still discharging their passengers.
I was just in time to see my kids clambering out of their conveyances. We walked our bikes to the rack, my daughter went into the school, and I felt a strange pride that she had ridden all the way there.
I'm not sure why it's so satisfying to do this kind of ride. At first I thought it was nostalgia, but it isn't -- I almost never rode my bike to school, and when I did it was as a 17-year old trying to ride everywhere. There's something about taking a bike to school, though, that feels more like the way a day should start.
Whatever it is, I plan to jump-start her day and my day with these rides as often as possible.
Mash out. Spin on.