I thought about the Donderdag! Families a lot this morning during my run. Well, not so much a run as a quick hike. Through trails of roots, and rock gardens, covered in fall leaves, crossing a few creeks and through webs left by hardy spiders in the last few days. The cold 23-degree air reminded me that movement was going to keep me warm. I thought about the Donderdag! families because several parents have recently asked, "now that the season is coming to an end, how do we keep our kids on bikes?"
Get way outside. Don't just shuffle out on the deck in the snow and throw corn to the squirrels. Get way outside. Some kids will do this independently, and it can even be hard to get kids like this back home! But get outside past the limits you usually reach. Cold weather is only a couple of layers from being perfectly comfortable. Take your bike or begin hiking. Start with extra layers and learn how to shed them. Ride and walk with small backpacks that have a water bladder, first aid, your tire change kit, and snacks inside. Make a habit of it. Get way outside so often when you skip a few days, you miss it. Parents may have to take the lead on this. That's ok; you just practiced two and a half months, loading bikes, gear, and kids to come to the park. Load these kids in whatever weather and get way outside. Visit local parks, observe posted trail conditions, and get far enough out that if you turn an ankle or break a bone, you'll have to do some thinking. You're not in the culdesac anymore, Toto. Part of what inspires kids and parents in Cyclocross is the challenge and risk. It's harder to ride a bike in grass, mud, sand, and rain than the sidewalks at home. It's not unusual to fall, scratch a shin bloody, or tumble over the handlebars. But you've done it, and you know how strong you felt after getting up and going on.
Getting way outside gives one time to consider themselves in the grand scheme of things. Get out, sit down, feel the coolness of the earth, and allow your heart and mind time to balance with your gut. Put earbuds in your pocket and let the wind tune your hearing. The sound of birds, animals, and waves will follow. You'll soon realize being way outside lets you grow and breathe on the inside.
Join a bike program that is coaching gravel, mountain biking, or road. Remind yourself that your bike is your best friend, with you everywhere you go and cared for like a loved one. Keep your bike in great shape and ready for the next posted ride.
Follow the Donderdag! page. There will be occasional posts by other programs announcing races, rides, and events in the area. The Donderdag! Park is a public park and always open, rain or shine. Remember, you don't have to spend big money to have a lot of fun outside.
And finally, always know you have community. Questions? Post to the Donderdag! Page. There are lots of bike riders and outdoor enthusiasts in this community. You'll get ideas for gear, food, and success. For my off-season, I'll be, hiking the farm hills of Edgerton, Missouri, and touring a new mountain bike system being installed in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, in December. I'll run and ride in my mom's hometown, where there are so many loose dogs I carry bear spray, and after that, I'll do some urban hiking in Alabama, then on to the shore of Galveston, Texas, where I'm hoping to dip my Felt 29r, single speed in the gulf. All way outside.
While I'm at it, I'll still be thinking about my friends at the Donderdag! Park. The time we spend outside together and the things we learn. And even though I'm pretty much the oldest guy on the field on Thursday nights, someday, when I grow up, I hope to be a kid just like you. Way outside, happy and having fun.