About a month ago JJ and I took Ella and one of her good friends camping at L.L. Stub Stewart Park. Located in Banks/Vernonia, the park is virtually brand new and is within easy driving distance of Portland. L.L. Stub Stewart features camping sites for both RV and tent sites along with camping cabins and an extensive series of trails. After visiting several times, the park has very quickly become a family favorite.
One of the highlights of the park is the Banks/Vernonia trail itself. During our last stay, we started from the top of the trail and made our way down to the trestle bridge – approximately four miles. The ride was at times breathtaking, like when we heard an eagle cry out high above the tree canopy. Or when we reached the bridge and experienced panoramic views to the valley floor below us. Or when we could smell the trees and see trillium everywhere. Admittedly there was the occasional cry of “gross” from one of the two seven-year olds but it was understandable – there were snails everywhere and it was impossible to avoid running over all of them. “Crunch, ewwww, gross.” You get the picture.
As we started on our way back up the hill it became apparent that we had just gone downhill for four miles and that going back up the hill was going to be a real challenge. In Ella’s case, her bike had no gears. Anyone that can remember their childhood days of riding a one gear bike across town can picture what it’s like to go uphill for four straight miles. It wasn’t easy but after a lot of struggling and more than a few tears we did make it back to the top.
Ella’s bike was clearly not suited for what we had just experienced. We made a promise to Ella that when we took our next long bike ride she would be riding on a bike that was equiped with gears.
On Saturday, while Ella was at a sleepover, my wife and I visited the local Bike Gallery down the street from us. It’s always a great experience working with the people at the shop. They care passionately about biking and have an incredible depth of knowledge of all things bicycle related.
When Ella came home on Sunday and saw the bike waiting for her she couldn’t wait to start the process of familiarizing herself with the pedals, the seat, the brakes and most importantly, the gears. As a kid, a bike is a first taste of freedom, a wonderful concoction of gears and springs and chains. It was fun to see that expression on her face and to remember exactly what that felt like.
We plan on going back to L.L. Stub Stewart Park soon. Maybe we’ll see you there. And that pink blur that just whizzed by you? Yup, that was my daughter. You can thank the gears.