Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Record-Breaking Heat and Epic Urban Biking

Today, June 7, the high was 103 degrees here in Minneapolis-St. Paul, breaking a previous record of 95 degrees and giving us the unusual-for-us honor of hottest city in the US. Monday, June 6, we hit a high of 97, making it the hottest June 6 since 1987. After a winter of record snowfalls and a spring of devastating tornadoes and floods, it's clear that the weather problems many scientists predicted would be brought by climate change aren't some hypothetical crisis out in the future--they're here. Thomas J. Friedman wasn't whistling "Dixie" when he wrote that the Weather Channel would be the CNN of tomorrow.

So what did the kids and I do on that hot and muggy, recordbreakingly hot Monday? We rode our beloved Xtracycle Big Dummy 17.6 miles to go visit a friend in Minneapolis who's just had a new baby. See, as part of Bike Minnesota 350's Summer of Biking/Winter of Biking, I've vowed, along with a good many friends and acquaintances, to ride my bike for 350 miles I'd normally drive. I've also joined the Blue Team for 350 at the Clif Bar 2 Mile Challenge.

The kids and I have been trying to ride the Big Dummy for trips that we normally would have made by car or city bus. We've ridden to our weekly play group meet-up at Minnehaha Falls, about 5.5 miles away. We've ridden to the co-op twice. We've ridden to downtown St. Paul for a children's festival I'd always avoided for years because I didn't want the hassle of finding a parking space during a festival weekend. On the bike, it was a breeze. I really don't even need the 350 Challenge or the 2 Mile Challenge to make me ride my bike all over the place this summer, since the kids and I genuinely love riding the bike, but the challenges do give me an extra incentive to keep the minivan parked.

When I made the plan to visit my friend with the new baby, I figured, well, this bike ride would certainly replace a car trip, since usually I'd consider this friend's house too far away to bike with the kids, at 8.8 miles away. But after our other biking successes, I felt certain we could manage this trip, too, especially since most of the miles would be on paved off-road bike trails through some of the most scenic parts of the Twin Cities--along West Mississippi River Boulevard and Minnehaha Creek. So we packed up some spring minestrone and salad for my friend in an insulated bag and lots of water for us and headed for adventure and whatever came our way.

I hadn't checked the weather forecast. It was comfortable and pleasant out when we left the house around 9:30 in the morning. By the time we got to my friend's house, I was drenched in sweat but still smiling, and the kids were in good spirits. On the way home, it took everything I had to stay in good spirits while my son merrily spoke his invented language, a language he loves to spout on the bike: W Language. It sounds something like this, "Wet's weak Wouble-Woo Wanguage. Wit's weally wun wand weasy." He is wildly fluent, and listening to him hold forth in W Language is funny at first, but gets fairly maddening when you're pedaling up a steep incline in 95 degree heat and hauling 100 pounds of kid weight.

I probably should have checked the forecast. I'll know better next time.

Do I regret our epic bike ride? Not a bit. My son did say he thought it was a bit far a ride for such a hot day, so now we know what our limits are. I agreed that for now, we'd stick to trips of six miles or less for the most part and not do longer trips on days that the temperature was going to be over 90 degrees. But neither kid seems discouraged from riding the bike with me, in spite of the insane conditions I exposed them to the other day. They still say they like the bike better than the minivan. We talk to each other more when we're on the bike--and not just in W Language. We laugh more. Notice more.

And heck, we got through our epic ride with no weeping--not even me, the biggest crybaby of the lot. We stopped to dabble our feet in Minnehaha Creek and eat Sebastian Joe's ice cream by Minnehaha Falls. My daughter sighed, "I love this place!" as I pedaled us along the creek past weeping willows and arched bridges that Monet would have loved to paint. No, I regret nothing. And let's face it--we're all probably going to be doing a whole lot more traveling through unbearable heat from here on out. Might as well do it in a way that doesn't add to the problem.

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