A Tale of Two Trips to Duthie Hill Park

29 07 2015

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Saturday, Patrick had a playdate with a friend he made at summer camp. I decided to use that time and bring Alex to Duthie Hill mountain bike park. It was my first time there. Neither of us have mountain bikes, but we both have cyclocross bikes, and I heard that was enough for some of the trails through the park. Taking that on faith, we made the 40 minute drive from our house. 

It didn’t look good at first. You start from the parking lot on a short trail, maybe an eighth of a mile, that’s mostly gravel and big rocks. Compared to mountain bikes, our cyclocross tires are skinny and we don’t have any suspension. This part was pretty uncomfortable, and as we rode it I wondered if the idea was a huge mistake. Luckily, the big rocks gave way to a smooth gravel road, which in turn lead us to the forested trail I’d been looking for: “Bootcamp.” This is one of the beginner trails through the park, and it was perfect for our bikes and our skill level. Every time Alex navigated a particularly twisty turn through the trees, he’d exclaim, “Woo hoo!” After watching Inside Out, Alex is also a child psychoanalyst, and he said at one point during the ride, “I think I’m making a core memory!”

“That was fun,” Alex said in the car on the way home. “It would be better if Patrick was here.” (Aww, I thought when I heard this. He really does like his brother.)

So, we returned on Sunday, this time with Patrick on his small-but-heavy Trek mountain bike. This didn’t work as well. Patrick’s not as skilled a rider, and the twists that made Alex say “Woo hoo!” got labeled “Crazy turns!” by Patrick. As in, “I’m not going to try that crazy turn!” He wound up walking his bike most of the way through Bootcamp.

The trails at Duthie Hill meet at a central clearing. Patrick and I toodled around there while Alex rode on his own through the woods. Yes, I kept imagining Alex falling and breaking his arm, but that didn’t happen. What did happen? A thunderstorm. If you don’t live in Seattle you don’t appreciate how rare this, which is why I was so unprepared. The storm came with very little warning. The skies had been the stereotypical Seattle heavy gray all day, so there was no buildup of cloud cover to give hint of what was coming. Nope, just a few rumbles of distant thunder while Alex was biking on his own. Then, more or less exactly when Alex returned to the clearing, the storm began in earnest. Heavy rain, flashes of lightning followed closely by loud thunderclaps. We were soaked through in minutes.

We headed back to the car right away, of course. However, we had about a half mile of gravel-then-rock trails to cover, with one biker who wasn’t particularly strong or confident. Flash, boom. I envisioned lightning hitting a nearby tree and taking out the male line of the Dewey family. Flash, boom. The gravel road started going uphill, and Patrick got off to walk his bike. He was crying uncontrollably, scared. Flash, boom. I give Alex the keys and tell him to ride back to the parking lot and get in the car. At least one of us will live!

Patrick cried and walked his bike the rest of the way back to the parking lot. Even when the gravel road leveled off, I couldn’t convince him to get back on and pedal. He was too scared. When we made it to the edge of the parking lot, and the car was in sight, I told him to just leave his bike, run to the car, and get in; I’d come back for the bike. Gratefully, he did that.

Patrick calmed down quickly in the car, and a warm bath at home seemed to make everything all right. We talked a bit more about the trip at bedtime. “I thought it was the end of our lives,” Patrick said.

I think we made more than one core memory this weekend.

STP 2015

22 07 2015

The bike ride to Portland could have been a disaster. It started well enough; in spite of being awoken at 4:30 A.M., Alex was in good spirits. He was full of nervous energy. On the short ride from our house to the start line, he kept chanting, “We’re doing the STP!”

Start Line

Full of energy at the STP start line.

About 15 minutes after we start riding, he quiets down. About 10 minutes after that, he tells me, “Dad, I’m cold.”

This is a problem. “Cold” is never something I worry about while biking. I have the opposite concern: Can I avoid overheating? Consequently, I have nothing with me on the bike to provide warmth. The weather forecast is for cloudy skies and temperatures in the 70s, but I know it will be many hours before it really warms up. If Alex stays cold, it’s going to be a long, miserable day.

I tell him the only thing I can think of: Pedal harder. He doesn’t like that.

Appalachian Trail hikers talk of “trail magic,” an unexpected act of kindness on the trip. There must be a similar thing for STP. The kindness of a stranger saved our trip. As we made it to the south end of Lake Washington, another rider in a Blue Rooster Cycle Team jersey caught up to us. His name was Dave, and when he found out that Alex was cold, he said, “I have arm warmers!”

It was the biking equivalent of a mid-air refueling. I kept pedaling our tandem bike. Dave rode alongside no-handed and pulled a set of arm warmers out from his pocket and handed them to Alex, who put them on while I kept pedaling. The arm warmers were way too big, of course, but the magic of elastic kept them on.

Dave rode with us the entire first day, and he saved the trip a couple more times. In the afternoon, Alex mentioned being cold again, and Dave gave him his jacket. When my legs started fading, Dave got in front and let me ride in his draft. And perhaps most importantly, he talked to Alex and kept him entertained. With Dave’s help, we made it to the tiny town of Winlock, WA — our day 1 stopping point, over 120 miles from Seattle — in time for dinner. We returned his jacket and wished him luck as he continued on to the town of Castle Rock.


Alex wears Dave’s jacket.

We camped overnight at Winlock Elementary School. (The STP organizers use a fleet of Ryder moving vans to support the ride, and they drive the overnight bags for thousands of riders to different overnight stopping points. We didn’t have to bike with our tent and sleeping bag strapped to the tandem.) Camping was blissfully uneventful. We ate our spaghetti dinner, Alex played for a bit, and we went to bed early.

Day 2 felt better. Saturday’s clouds had burned away and we rode under clear blue skies. Alex had a sweatshirt from our overnight bag to keep him warm in the morning. Temperatures climbed to the mid-80s by the afternoon, which is when Alex was finally able to ditch long sleeves. 

Alex was the center of attention wherever he went. There were a handful of other kids on the ride, but not many. We met no other 9-year-olds, so Alex stood out even more. People cheered Alex on as we rode and loved talking to him at rest stops. Alex was even a little famous among the other riders. Once, early in the second day, a paceline of three young men zoomed by us. As they did, the first called out, “Way to go Alex!” and gave a thumbs up. The second asked his friends as they passed, “Is that Alex?” The third answered, “Yes, that’s Alex! Way to go!” I don’t know how these riders knew his name, but I know it made Alex feel special.

Molly and Patrick met us at the finish line in Portland on Sunday afternoon. The ride was fun, but being done with the ride was even better. I ate everything in sight and fell asleep at 8:00. While Alex enjoyed the ride, I don’t know if he’ll do anything like it again. Although only 9, he seems to treat this as something on his bucket list. He wanted to do it, now he’s done it, time to move on. But whether or not he does a big ride like this again, I’m sure this will be a weekend he remembers the rest of his life.

The Tandem

Patrick’s First Grade Trip to Camp Colman

1 06 2015

 Another year, another Camp Colman trip under my belt. We had excellent weather for this trip — really couldn’t ask for anything better.

This year the kids discovered street hockey. The camp has a set of plastic sticks and foldable net goals set up at the basketball court. Over the course of the weekend we played about five different kids-versus-dads hockey games, and the kids won all but one. (It’s not because we were letting them win, either.) While I think of myself as in decent shape for a middle-aged dad, the sprint-stop-sprint-stop of the hockey games took its toll. I was wiped out when we got home on Sunday. My only consolation is Patrick was wiped out too. On our last morning at camp, I had to wake him up at 8:30, which is the latest he’s ever slept in his life.

More photos at Google Photos.


Tooth Fairy

27 05 2015

For both of our kids, the future is filled with dental work. Patrick’s got a bad crossbite, and Alex’s teeth have always been strange. (He had an extra baby tooth, which we nicknamed “the fang”, for example.) Last Friday we took a relatively simple step that will hopefully make the future work less difficult: both kids had some teeth pulled. For Patrick, it was one molar that was in the way of his adult teeth. For Alex, he needed to get both of his canines pulled. His adult teeth weren’t coming in directly behind them, so the roots weren’t dissolving.

Because the roots are intact, Alex’s extracted teeth look particularly cool:

Alex's teeth

I had no idea that roots were so big.

We’re at an awkward stage with the tooth fairy. A few weeks ago, Patrick asked me, “Are you the tooth fairy? Tell the truth.” I have a hard time flat-out lying when asked a direct question, and evasion and silence didn’t work with Patrick. He kept asking me, so I finally told him, “Yes, we’re the tooth fairy.” 

So when Alex brought up the tooth fairy on Friday night, Patrick kept giving me weird looks. He was clearly thinking, “Dad! Why are you letting him go on like this?” After a while, Patrick couldn’t take it any longer and he blurted out, “There is no tooth fairy! It’s the parents!” Molly and I stayed quiet as the younger brother tried to explain to the older brother the ways of the world. Patrick was only half-persuasive. As near as I can tell, Alex now believes that the parents team up with the tooth fairy — the tooth fairy doesn’t have money, so the parents provide that, but the fairy takes the teeth.

That night, both kids put their teeth in special “tooth pillows” that Nana made them. I’m sure Patrick did it because he was thinking, “This is the ritual I have to do to get some money!” But Alex clearly believes: That night, after I left them in their room, he went to the bathroom, took a Kleenex, and on it wrote this note in pencil:

Dear Tooth Fairy,

Can you leave my tooths? I just want them for my collection because I think they are cool and I know we took a picture but, with a picture you can’t feel them. So please let me keep them.

Keep my teeth,

Alex Dewey

Yes, we let him keep his teeth. Molly wrote a return note explaining he can hold on to his teeth for a while, and when he’s done he should give them to his parents for safekeeping. And Patrick? He happily took his money, but then wanted to see where we were keeping all of the old teeth. He wouldn’t stop asking until we showed him the stash we have in our bedroom.

It’s strange having two kids sleeping in the same room but living in different worlds.

Fringe Sport Weekend

18 05 2015

Some weekends, everything happens at once. There was so much happening this past weekend that I couldn’t even do half of what I wanted. On the calendar: the Mutual of Enumclaw stage race, the LA Aviators visiting Seattle for Ultimate, a backyard BBQ at our house, Beat the Bridge (had to skip it), the University District street fair (too busy to go), the CF walk (sad, but couldn’t make it).

This wound up being the Fringe Sport weekend; my time revolved around bicycle road racing and Ultimate frisbee. I know very little about road racing. However, my cyclocross team hosts the Mutual of Enumclaw Stage Race each year, and all team members pitch in and volunteer. This year I helped as a corner marshall on Saturday and doing road race setup on Sunday. 

Men's Pro/1/2

Sunday, we watched the visiting LA Aviators play the Seattle Cascade in Ultimate frisbee. My college roommate Frankie coaches the Aviators and we had a fun-but-short visit before the game. 

At the Ultimate game

The kids had a blast at the game. While spectating was fun, the highlight was getting to play capture the flag on the field at halftime. 

An awesome weekend overall. I just wish the calendar spread the awesomeness around a little more!

The Weekend in Pictures

6 05 2015

Everything came together for an awesome weekend. We had clear skies and warm (for Seattle) weather both days. Work didn’t intrude (too badly) on weekend time, so we got to go out and enjoy our city. So what did we do?

Saturday morning, the boys and I started the weekend on our bikes, of course. We first rode to QFC for bagels, then headed to the Montlake cut to watch the Windermere cup.

Women's Winderemere Cup

Women’s Windermere Cup: University of Washington (far boat) versus University of Virginia (near boat). UW won the close race by 3 seconds.


Alex at his perch by the Montlake cut for the race. The racing didn’t hold Patrick’s attention and he wandered off onto the grass.

When the racing was over, the boys headed over to the “Husky Rock”, a concrete rock-climbing sculpture south of the stadium. The boys confined themselves to the “steeply slanted” concrete instead of the “vertical with tiny, far apart handholds” walls. Climbing the slanted walls was still a challenge, though. It took Alex dozens of attempts to learn how to get to the top, and Patrick never made it (though also never got bored). This was the highlight of Alex’s weekend, and he and I made a return trip on Sunday so he could climb some more.


Alex climbing the Husky Rock.

Saturday night, the boys & I camped in the back yard. (Molly decided to skip this craziness.) This was mostly a trial run to see if my small, 20-year-old tent still works (it does, although one of the poles shows its age) and if we all fit in it (we do). I’ve been dreaming of doing at least one bike camping overnight trip with the boys this summer, which motivated the gear check.

Backyard camping

We spent several hours Sunday working outside at the boys’ school, helping restore/reclaim the unused trails and land that lead from Villa’s hilltop perch down to the lake. I was nervous heading into this. I don’t garden at home, so the idea of gardening at a large scale intimidates me. Luckily, my assigned job was just brute manual labor; it required only strength and not skill. I had to help load and move wheelbarrows full of mulch down the trail to the “sanctuary,” which will be an outdoor classroom space.

All in all about as nice a weekend as you could hope for!

Happy Belated Spring Break!

27 04 2015

So yes, spring break was 3 weeks ago. Happy Belated Spring Break! 

End of Trail

We spent 5 days in Phoenix, Arizona. It was everything we wanted in a spring break trip: Sunshine, swimming pools, and lots of unstructured time. We spent at least two hours a day in the water. I got a lot of pleasure reading done. We shared a hotel room with the kids and wound up going to sleep at the same time they did, so I was really well rested at the end of the vacation, too. Perfect.

Because Arizona is a short flight, in the same time zone, and has reliably good spring weather, I bet we’ll be back. 




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