Sunday, July 17, 2011

Bonding in the Electronic Age

Monday was a good day, right up until I had to go to work. Now, as many of you know I love to ride my bike. It’s a great bike, a Gary Fisher Tarpon that I bought three years ago and on its saddle I’ve had some of the best rides in my life. These rides, while some have been solo the best ones are with my daughter. And Monday was no exception.

It was a rare day off from one of my jobs, not both, just one. The rarity of me having a whole day off free from responsibility to the task masters of my daily life are few and far in between. And the opportunity to spend those brief hours with my daughter was an even more rare circumstance. A serendipitous chance for a great ride and time to reconnect with my daughter of eleven years, that just could not be passed up.

Now, for those of you who don’t know, I live in Southeastern Virginia, in an area surrounded by water and there are times where you will literally sit in traffic for thirty minutes just to move one city block. Traversing from one city to the next can take you anywhere from ten minutes to three hours. But, and here is a genius idea, from my city to the next city there is a ferry boat that you can take every half hour. It’s brilliant and I often use this as a mode of traversing the Elizabeth River. Not only does this ferry take passengers but they allow you to bring bicycles onboard. Mensa Level Genius I tell ya!

My daughter and I ventured off into the great unknown wilds of our city with an idea of making a trek to places we had not seen before on our two wheeled adventures. I can’t speak for my daughter as to what she expected to get out of what we did, but I can speak for me. I wanted; no I needed to spend time with her sharing my passion for riding and seeing the sites of my adopted community at the leisurely pace our legs afforded.

We rode about a mile, past the oldest Naval Hospital in America, past sail boats berthed in modern marinas and homes that had housed troops during the Revolutionary War and Civil War. We rode past a Starbucks and a 7/11 and other modern shops and antique stores only to stop at a genteel bank to pay a bill. When we came out of the bank we saw the Ferry sitting in her berth and decided to ride to its next stop. Six dollars and twenty minutes later we were the proud owners of two round trip ferry passes and in the city where everything is available to anyone who knows where to look for what they want.

What did we want? Simple, we wanted to ride! Enjoy the beautiful day, the sunshine, the breezes, the cool shade of tree lined streets and the freedom of being in a country where anything is possible. We rode past schools closed for the summer, colleges with students attending summer classes, and teachers escorting summer camp students around various parts of the city. Sandwich boards that littered the sidewalk created an obstacle course for pedestrians and bikers alike and as we navigated the mine field of the city streets we talked to each other, and more importantly we listened to what each other had to say.

I won’t go into the details of our discussion because they are gems for my soul and sharing them with anyone seems to be a violation of Father-Daughter priviledge.

It seems we both look forward to these rides. Me, for the opportunity to relive my childhood in Green Bay and the freedom that having a bike gave me as a kid and my daughter for the chance to spend time with her father in a nontraditional paternal manner where I am barking orders all the time. (Yes, I bark orders like a drill sergeant in boot camp. I blame my Navy training for that manner of communication.)

We made the occasional stop and took a photographic record of some of the cool and secret places we came across. Like a hidden garden with a pond that had the coolest and bluest water we had ever seen. We made plans to go back there one day for a picnic and to soak our feet in the water. We found an old bicycle that had been painted pink and made into a planter. The night club with a graffiti painted entrance and a school that was built in the 1950’s with 100 foot columns. By the time we reached our destination, a really sweet comic book shop, we were hot, tired, sweaty and in desperate need of some cool, canned air and a refreshing beverage.

We didn’t stay long, just enough time cool down and buy some comics, quench out thirst and then it was time to hit the road. We had four miles to cover and several more sites to see. We stopped at a pawn shop so my daughter could see the glamorous world of used goods bought and sold as portrayed on television. When we left the owner of the shop walked us out to our bikes and asked us to come back soon.

We road to our lunch rendezvous and enjoyed pleasant conversation, good food and a relaxing 45 minutes of self indulgence in a friendly atmosphere with good people. But the afternoon was fading and I needed to get home to get ready for another shift of part time indentured servitude. We raced to the ferry and got there just before the river boat departed. As for who won the race… let’s say it was a tie.

Once back in our home city we rode straight home talking about all the wondrous things we had experienced in our four hour journey of local and personal discovery. It seems to me we created a deeper bond between our rolls in each others life, me as a father, her as my daughter and our relationship as a family grew richer for this experience. If you, my dear reader have an opportunity to share or even pass on a personal passion to your child, I highly recommend you take the time to teach them your particular past time. You will be thankful for spending the time now and be rewarded later.

Have a great week.

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