Family Biking: You can’t go home again, but bicycling helps

First glimpse of the ocean! Three Arch Rocks in the background at Netarts Bay.
(Photos: Madi Carlson)

This week’s column will be a bit more introspective than usual, so please bear with me…

I think a lot about my kids and my own lost youth in the summers.

Our Family Biking column is sponsored by Clever Cycles.

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I’m a single mom and spend 80% of the time with my two sons and have yet to get used to the 20% we’re apart, a big chunk of which is in the summer. My go-to methods for dealing with the distance are moping, excessively fretting, and pedaling my bike long distances. What’s more, I feel like a family biking phony when I’m not actively family biking.

Summer has always been my favorite season. As a kid I loved playing outdoors in my neighborhood, free to go wherever I could walk until the sun finally set. As a parent I love biking all over town — Poet’s Beach, Salmon Street Fountain, Wunderland Arcade in Milwaukie — knowing we have long days to fill but that it’s a short window of time before my kids will want to explore on their own.

Bike, forest, bliss.

This summer, like last summer, because everything is easier the second time around, I biked to the coast. The Trask Trail hasn’t gotten any less steep, but it was nice to know what to expect and do things on a different schedule (starting with a 4:00 a.m. wake up, ouch!) to spread the trip out. Sticking my feet in the Trask River brought me back to my childhood when we spent many a summer driving from Santa Barbara to British Columbia, camping along the way. This is probably the same river I swam in as a kid filled with descendants of the same crayfish I frolicked with back then.

And it turns out you can (sort of) go home again: My father just informed me we used to camp at Cape Lookout State Park so now I know why it felt oddly familiar.


Me and my childhood bike.

But it’s bigger than the nostalgia that hits me in the gut when I smell the salty air, hear seagulls caw, and feel sand beneath my feet when I’m anywhere on the Pacific Ocean, it’s bigger than spending time at this beach I newly know was one of my childhood faves. Having reached this beach via pedal power (and the MAX blue line) and having done so by chugging through the same beautiful forested terrain of my childhood road trips gives it an extra oomph.

People who get back on their bike after having been off them a while say it makes them feel like kids again, and when I’m not too busy moping, I work to channel that feeling every day. I’m pretty sure feeling like a kid again while visiting a place special to me when I was a kid is what caused me to have such an emotional experience.

So that’s my summertime bicycling-returned-me-to-my-youth story. Do you have one, too? I have a few more kidless days so I’d sure appreciate some sweet stories. Thanks for reading!

— Madi Carlson, @familyride on Instagram and Twitter

Remember, we’re always looking for people to profile. Get in touch if it sounds like fun to you. And as always, feel free ask questions in the comments below or email me your story ideas and insights at madidotcom [at] gmail [dot] com.

Browse past Family Biking posts here.

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