After we had Billy and Katie, we did a lot of riding with them, starting when Katie was old enough to wear a helmet. Katie even flirted with bike racing for a brief moment.
Of course there were a few painful experiences, like when Billy fell off his bike on the Minuteman rail trail and had his first experience with road rash.
But all in all, biking was a very positive experience for the entire family, as long as there as ice cream involved.
Things had been going so well biking with the kids that we decided to try touring with them. Our second Pennsylvania tour was in 2002, almost a decade after we had done it without the kids. We took Billy and Katie for a week long adventure.
We decided to get a room at a hotel for the entire week – thus eliminating the need to carry panniers and worry about where to stay each day. We thought that searching for rooms and food with two little kids would be way too big an adventure. And the kids loved having a pool to relax in after each day of riding.
Having to ride to the various tourist destinations helped the kids appreciate them. Billy and Katie both enjoyed the model train museum and the pretzel factory. We spoke with another family, with the same aged kids, who went to the same places that same summer, but by car. They reported that their kids thought making pretzels and looking at old trains was lame. Our kids loved all of that – not because they are fundamentally better kids (they’re not) but because ANYTHING was better than sitting on those stupid bikes.
Katie was always just a bit frustrated that we were all faster than her and she was thrilled to discover that she was faster than a horse and buggy.
Of course, it wasn’t all good. Katie was happy to dine in the all-you-can-eat Amish restaurants, but after 3 nights Billy loudly exclaimed that he refused to eat ham, fried chicken, or mashed potatoes ever again, and WANTED TACOS! The chocolate we bought at the Wilbur Chocolate Factory melted and made a huge mess.
But the big downer was when I forgot my wallet on the way to the Strasburg Train Museum, which left Carolyn alone with both kids for most of the journey. She rode behind Katie, and Bill rode behind her, and it all went fine until the very end, riding along a lot of traffic going to the museum, when Carolyn told Katie to turn right into the museum entrance. Katie promptly turned left, directly in front of a moving car! When I got there Katie was unhurt but hysterical, mostly because Carolyn was screaming something about killing her since the car hadn’t. Mommy had to sit in a miniature train station until they both cooled off. But the train ride was nice, and we had ice cream afterwards, which made them both happy again.
By the fifth day, the kids were happy to relax after our last day of riding. Katie really liked the bonnet we bought for her in the gift shop.
And it later that bonnet made a great accessory for her turn-of-the-century schoolgirl outfit she needed for her third grade trip to the turn-of-the-century schoolhouse.
Biking provided us with a popular family activity that we could all do. It was especially nice when we had my older kids over and all seven of us would pile into our minivan with all of the bikes on top and head out to the bike trail for a day together.