A Tale of Two Trips to Duthie Hill Park

July 29, 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.