this is what was next.
i got the question frequently once i dropped the kickstand on my bike on the top of Union Pass in June 2016 (it doesn’t really have a kick-stand, but it does have reflectors in the spokes). typically shied away from it. who knows? not a planner. something will come up I’m sure…
except, sometimes, i’d say it. homeschooling is next. road-schooling. adventure schooling. that’s what’s next. not now. gotta wait till the homies build some solid educational and academic foundation. wait till Debul has the basics of reading and writing. Fall of 2019. After 1st and 2nd grades. That’s when. that’s next.
i knew i had two years to prep and prepare. i also knew i had been training for this my whole life – much like embarking on the bike ride. i remained intentional in those two years. i knew going back to 24/7/365 (with very little exaggeration) would be challenging. for the first time in my life, i attempted to learn how to cultivate energy rather than just be spend thrift and willy nilly with it. it may have benefited me more to have begun the practice when the peeps were newbornsinfantstoddlers, but i was not wise enough back then to be moderate. everything was extreme, and i found much joy being swept up in it. the joy must have come from the growth. i was in over my head all the time, and i kept swimming to surface, usually smiling when i broke through the surface to gulp the fresh air.
we began August 1. first month was solely dedicated to establishing some routine and structure. even typing that makes me cringe. i reframed it though – inside my brain. the peeps are used to school being structured and routine, i can put whatever pleases me and teaches them into that model. so i did.
wake when you wake. light breakfast at 8 after the dogs are fed. following experiences (i use experiences instead of tasks or any other militant type sounding language that makes the peeps skitter scatter just at the sound of it) to be completed by noon: *xtra math *2 workbook pages *meditation *yoga *reading *writing . they have been responsible for making their own snacks and washing all their own dishes. in the afternoons, we adventured. or they simply “played”. it’s what they do best and according the the research on Finnish children, it matters the most. once a day, we continued to dip in the creek.
in our first month of adventure schooling, we paddle boarded with our buddies at String Lake, auditioned for Sesame Street, swam at Jackson Lake Lodge, went glamping in Cza’s yard, went to two different outdoor concerts, hiked with Shank, picked several pounds of wild raspberries, harvested the potatoes from our garden, trained for a bike-packing trip, met our new Toyota Dolphin camper, and took our first major expedition: riding bikes from Wyoming to Colorado.
we said all along that it would be the kick-off adventure for our school year. it did not disappoint. the plan began over the winter with a 400+ mile stretch that the peeps requested to join me on when i expressed some interest in completing. i could not come up with any legitimate reasons to say no, so i didn’t. at first, i thought i would be the engine for the entire tribe. we planned on hooking the tag-along bike to mine, and the Chariot to it. thought we would take one hour shifts of who rode the pedals and stoked the engine, and who rode caboose and chilled. i am so incredibly grateful that is not what we attempted. as we moved through spring and the peeps got a better look at the route, everyone agreed that the original plan was destined to fail. we did not need to eat the entire elephant in one bite. so it morphed. when it all sussed out, the plan was to ride from the Medicine Bow National Forest of Wyoming, just above iconic Aspen Alley, to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Down from 400+ miles to 100-. Do-able. Totes do-able and we had an entire week to do it.
Aunt Jen and Uncle Dean were gung-ho from the initial invite. It was the same time of year that we rode bikes and camped together in Sun Valley, Idaho a few years prior. They were incredibly patient and understanding as the expedition changed form over the spring and early summer months.
Our plan was loose-goosey – just the way i like it. and complicated, which i don’t mind either. Jeremy flew to Kansas City and caught a ride with his nephew to Topeka. He spent some time with his folks while he acquainted himself with the Toyota Dolphin camper that had been parked in their driveway since June. He hit the road westward on a Friday night, and Auntma and Dean caught up to him on the I-70 the next morning. They convoyed together in case of trouble. thank our lucky stars they did, cause there was trouble, after all. A plastic fan blew apart under the hood. the plastic they sold in 1992 is due to break i suppose. they got a tow into Laramie and left it on a side street, somewhere near an apartment of a fella we know but who wasn’t in town. he hopped in the Kansas Tacoma and headed out in the dark to meet us at an undisclosed campsite somewhere north of Aspen Alley. That was all the information they had, and they found us on first try.
When we all woke in the morning, the energy was viscous enough to feel humid at 9, 000 feet in the Rocky Mountains. Not a single one of us knew what we were in for. I hoped we were all as expectationless as i was. i learned that expectation is the leading cause of high blood pressure – so i dropped it from my diet over a decade ago. as we scurried about at the pace of leisure and a 6-year old, the plan began to come together. breakfast was being eaten while bags were being packed, and tires were being inflated, and chains were being lubed. the maps hung on the back of a camp chair – the last thing to consider. When we opened them up to go over the route, Uncle Dean pointed to an alternate road that bypassed many miles of skinny-shouldered highway. i, of course, was all in. highway-shmighway. i know exactly how much anxiety can take away from a good day on a bike simply from the sound and the wind of carsandtrucksandtrailers whizzing by me on a shoulder less highway…i’d never even given it a go with my homies!
#807 it is! We pushed off. In Debul’s case, literally. he is an inch or two too short for his bike. He needs a boost once he is up on his saddle. just about every time. i get it. he is 4 ft. tall riding on 24′ fat tires. i happily steadied him and boosted him time after time after time over the entire trip. if he was in, i was willing to help. over and over again. once he got himself going, his riding was extraordinary. now he knows what he can do, and how to do it.
#807 proved to be terrain above the level we practiced for – and we practiced on many different surfaces. the incline was steep, the road loose-rocky, and the drop-off, jaw-dropping. Crit had made up her mind before the first pedal stroke that she wasn’t going to be riding her bike that first day. the universe conspired to meet her with the challenge of the turf. She walked her bike down the first mile of the road. I knew she was hopping in the truck first chance she got. and she did. Debul, on the other hand, rose to the surface and crested the filament with an ear to ear grin. when the going got tough, so did he. after completing a steep and rocky descent, he turned to Auntma Jen and said : “That was Creepy…and Fun!”
The rocky descent turned into a lush green ranch land with cattle galore. Debul giggled when he slushed through a puddle of fresh, wet mature and it splattered all over him and stunk to high heaven. Each time he stood up on his pedals, i swear i saw him stretch out, ground down to the earth beneath his feet, and rise tall to the heavens holding him above. i choked on that teary-throat thing several times that first day watching him dunk himself deep into the mire, and rise cheerfully to the top to gulp fresh air with his own smile. he wore his pride proudly, and humbly. and i felt so lucky to be his mom.
when we got to the the sign that read “Private Property ahead 1/4 mile” we were several hours committed. since i saw no indication on the map we were using that it was private, and a National Forest Sign was sawed down right next to it, i ignorantly assumed it must be a private ranch ahead with a forest service easement. i’m familiar with those in Wyoming. Leave the gate as you find it properties…one of the shining star qualities of the state of Wyoming.
It was some of the most striking and magnificent views of the entire day. Debul hopped off his bike as the ranch road narrowed to a driveway that was steep and sketchy. as we descended, a women with two dogs pushed her bike up the driveway. i knew immediately that we were not on a forest service easement. we were in her yard.
she was as pleasant as she could be while informing us that we were trespassing. i get it. we have to inform people quite often that they are trespassing on private property. i felt awful for getting it so wrong. and i could feel it emanating from Debul’s vibe, that he felt worse. He had a hard time shaking the experience. He had ridden 15+ miles on day one. he was as proud as he should have been.
we all converged on camp quite early. the fellas had it all set up. tents, kitchen, hammocks. it was dreamy. the view in all directions was a perfect blend of Wyoming and Colorado. Healthy aspen patches wove their way through the pine, and spruce, and doug fir forests that have not yet been ravaged by the beetles. we rode through scrub oak chaparral that was brand new to both Crit and Debul. they explored and played and discovered from the time we arrived to the time we departed. they roasted marshmallows too.
because tomorrow is always a new day, and today is as fresh as it gets…Crit gave it a whirl on day two. when the girl is on she’s on. she is strong and determined. if a hill has a crest you can see, she will be the first to the top. she is strong. and she can have the eye of the tiger…but conditions have to be right for her. she’s a bluebird kind of star.
We were all riding together at one point. Aunt Jen, Debul, Crit, and i. and i was happy as a lark. it was one of those freeze-frame moments that was not exactly what i expected, but rather exactly as i hoped. i hoped for a few flashes of pure joy. of tackling difficult and challenging things and standing on the top triumphant. whatever that meant. neither of my children could name a professional athlete if you paid them $1,000,000. i’m rather confident in typing that. but they know Tour Divide riders. and when the going got tough, they called upon them. Debul vacillated between Sofianne and Josh Kato. Crit was a perfect meld of Lael and Alexandra up each hill and into the wind…and more than once, she sat upright and looked around and declared herself Nat Rainbow. They told me i was Steve Halligan.
it was an all-hands-on-deck experience. Everybody played their part. When Crit rode in the truck she was happy. She upped her SAG game quickly. By the end, she was rolling down the window and cheering loudly for those of us grinding it out on an uphill.
We made it to Columbine, Colorado late morning of the second day. We bumped into a local biker who shared some beta. We learned that the final 15 miles to Steamboat from the town of Clark, were curvy and shoulder less with a good deal of traffic. no way. we also learned about camping spots outside of Clark along the Elk River on the way to the Zirkel Wilderness. We found a terrific site along the river and stayed put for three nights. It was 8 or so slightly downhill miles of mixed gravel and pavement to the intersection with the road that led to Steamboat. We called that our finish line and the four of us that started together just north of Aspen Alley, finished together with proud and joyful smiles. Our fellas were there at the finish line with a rope lied out across the road. Debul was first to finish. It was perfect.
We ran some errands in Steamboat and caught up with an old friend who was patrolling the mountain on downhill bike – all day long, all summer long. Then we hopped in our trucks and drove the long, dusty, hot, steep road to Strawberry Hot Springs – our second finish line. It is one of my favorite places i know about. I have been visiting Strawberry Hot Springs for 20 years, and it never disappoints. I was thrilled to be there with Auntma and my peeps celebrating a finish line that was months and months in the making. We wrapped it up with dinner at a grill-it-yourself steakhouse, and Debul looked two inches taller as he stood next to the fellas and grilled his own hamburger and texas toast. no going back for him now. he knows what he can do.
We parted ways for the day with Uncle Dean and Auntma as they headed back up into the Medicine Bow. We drove to the end of the road and took a hike. Three miles straight up the mountain to Golden Creek Lake. We got an early enough start, that we were the only ones there for the first 30 minutes. Enough time to take a mountain lake dip, and eat lunch while drying on rocks in the sunshine. The entire 6-mile hike was void of a single whine or whimper or negative moment. Magic.
That was school for the week.
The next week was the wild raspberry picking and Debul’s birthday, complete with a Scavenger Hunt.
Over the weekend, the four of us tested out the sea-worthiness of the Dolphin. We drove it up to the top of Union Pass. I was a the stern. giddy even when i had it floored and it was chugging away at 10mph. no problem for me. i rarely prefer speedy. no need to propel myself too quickly through time and space.
we set up camp along Fish Creek. as we scooped cow patties from our site, and gathered firewood, and rebuilt a fire pit, and rode bikes, and explored the creek, and chilled in the shade of the awning, and learned to build fires, our newest alter egos began to surface. They are not set in stone, just working titles:
Miss Fershizzle, Tinker.com, Peacock Quill, and Mr.Trunchbull
this year is my next and my now. and i’m gonna keep track of it’s adventures. We have no-school Fridays. Friday morning is for cleaning bedrooms while listening to audio books (if you call it no-school Friday it is easy to trick them into thinking that’s not school hehehe). While they do that, i will write. every friday. Today is the first day. so far so good.