“Sometimes you’re the windscreen. Sometimes you are the bug.”
I contemplated the truth in that old Dire Straits refrain as we drove back to Christchurch Sunday night after a weekend trip in the back country.
I knew which one I felt like.
In the back of my mind I knew I was being melodramatic, but why, oh WHY, did trips with the family always seem like such hard yakka? And how could I change that for next time?
There’s a three day weekend in October to celebrate Labour Day. [That’s right, this story is a month old already.] Since it had been a while since we took the family on a hike, we decided it’d be good to go on a family adventure together. We weren’t very proactive with plans, for various reasons, and the very week of the holiday found us still looking through maps and bouncing ideas around.
Part of the problem with weekend plans is that we all have very different ideas of what constitutes a good weekend. The kids want to watch cartoons in the morning, see their friends all day, possibly at a playground or a skate park, and eat lots of candy. Mom and Dad want to adventure in the back country, climb some hills, work up a sweat. Mom wants a break from cooking, Dad wants to eat meat; Mom wants to make impromptu plans, Dad wants careful planning and execution.
West coast weather wasn’t looking too promising, and we wanted to limit our driving time, so we chose a trip out the back of Hanmer, at one end of the St James cycleway.
“What do you want to do this afternoon?” I queried Jeremiah.
So we left their bikes by the side of the road, caught up with Dad, and told him we needed a change of plans.
Jeremiah’s not much of a hot spring fan, so he cooked sausages, which we ate while reclining in the water. Not a bad way to end a day.
“Sometimes you’re the Louisville Slugger, baby; sometimes you are the ball.”
Yep, that evening we were the slugger.
During the night the Norwest picked up, rattling the tents and putting boundaries on the plans for the next day. Until you’ve experienced a New Zealand wind you might not appreciate how much of a show stopper it can be. We hunkered in the shelter between the two tents for breakfast and thought about strategy. No exposed hill walks for us.
Back at camp for lunch, we took stock. The wind was, if anything, increasing, and the clouds were starting to look suspicious. We decided to break camp, hit the hot pools one more time, and head home that evening.
On our drive out we were passing the best 7 km stretch of the whole St James cycleway. Cognisant that we were ending the “biking weekend” without doing much biking, I suggested that we drive to the hilltop, park, and bike down the easy grade decent to the homestead. My memory of that stretch was a sweet hardly-push-a-pedal glide with a smooth surface and effortless speed, just the kind of ride kids would like. I’d have to bike back up to get the car, but that seemed a small task.
Near the trail start the track turned sideways down a hill, so the wind was at our elbow, and at the same time there was a slight up-hill grade. Naomi slowed to a stop and the whinge started. Milo and I plowed along, laughing at the gusts, but Naomi wasn’t restarting. I left my bike and jogged back. “I don’t think it’s a good idea to bike with the kids in this weather,” Jeremiah posited.
“The wind’s at our back, it’s all downhill, and we have rain gear—how freaking easy can it get?! Let’s go!” I commanded. So we went. Whenever we got to the slightest incline, I heard Milo behind me moaning about the hill. Naomi basically checked out and coasted the whole way, underneath her waterproof hood I couldn’t tell if she was enjoying it or not, but I thought it wise not to stop her and find out. We reached the bottom, I parked my bike with the food basket, and turned around to run back into the wind. After 10 minutes I glanced over my shoulder to see if I was making any headway, and there was a full arched rainbow stretching over the valley, through the flinging raindrops.
“Sometimes it all comes together, baby; Sometimes you’re gonna lose it all!”