Courtesy Photo

We’d left the house in a state of disarray. Against my better judgment, we’d pedaled down the driveway with bikes packed full, my mind echoing, “You’re supposed to clean up before you leave!” We did not do so ​— ​just one of the rules we were breaking on our last-minute bike camping trip.

The logistics of daily life with young children can be overwhelming. To cope, we fall into a routine. We move through the house as passing ships, checking itineraries and taking inventory. But one Friday night found us up late, packing bags together, reminiscing about past trips, and loading up for a mini adventure.

We got an early start. Our toddler rode on the back of my bike. My husband, Dan, pulled our preschooler on a trailer-bike, as well as a trailer with all of our camping gear. Coasting down State Street and along the waterfront, we were feeling strong and on schedule to cover the 15 miles to Carpinteria before midday. Then the toddler fell asleep an hour early.

As we rolled into Summerland’s Lookout Park, I tried to let go of the nagging thought that we were ruining nap time. I parked the bike under a tree and laid down on a bench. The sun felt warm on my back, waves crashed in the distance, and my eyes, when I opened them, took in the view of the playground and my family. Rolling out, our little crew felt mighty. There’s a simplicity and a freedom to realizing that your entire world fits onto a 21-foot, self-propelled bike train.

We pulled into a packed Carpinteria State Beach. The kids hopped off of the bikes and were immediately filthy. They rolled plastic construction vehicles and their bodies through the dirt, making engine noises and reveling in the captive audience of their parents. No dishes to do, no Play-Doh to scrape off the floor, no calls to make. We chased each other through the Tomol playground, waved at the trains rolling by, and pedaled up the street for burgers and celebratory sundaes.

The evening found us sitting in the sand, watching the orange sun dissolve into the sea for the first time in a long time, sharing a conversation punctuated by somersaults, sand throwing, and an impromptu ocean swim. In the morning, tent packed and joints achy from the night of contorted rest, we assembled for a family photo, evidence of our shared journey. As we pedaled out, the toddler nodded off, and we all fell into a steady rhythm.

We returned to the same messy house, the same messy lives ​— ​but a little stronger for the experience. Sometimes in our busy, scattered days, we lose track of each other. We forget to reach past the familiarity of our routine; we forget to reach out to each other. Sometimes a long bike ride is the best way to bring us back home.


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