bike rack story

So I should say something about our new bike rack! Which first means I need to write about what happened to the old one. It died. In retrospect it was close to 20 years old and a veteran of heavy use, so it could be that I should have been inspecting and monitoring it more carefully. But I wasn’t, so I was surprised as anyone when it suffered a catastrophic failure and dumped our bikes on the road a month or so ago. Happily we were very close to home and on a little, lightly trafficked street; if it had happened on the highway I don't want to imagine the carnage. As it was there was no damage to the bikes and I was able to jury-rig a way to get them home (and if I hadn’t the boys could have ridden them easily enough!). I think one of the straps broke to initiate the collapse, but when it went two of the others let go as well under the strain, and then one of the arms that holds the bike bent so badly it broke off when I tried to straighten it. So that thing’s done.

With Leah’s encouragement we got a big fancy new one to replace it. Unlike the old one, it can hold all four bikes–with a bit of a struggle, sure, but little enough struggle that I’m willing to do it every time rather than try to make room in the car. And it has built-in restraining straps so we don’t have to worry about losing the bikes, as long as the rack stays attached to the trunk. Which I trust it will do for another 20 years or so. Here’s to lots more biking adventures!

vacation number 1

One stressor of summer is finding time to get away. When can we possibly have room in our schedule for vacation trips?! Well, now’s the time. We’re gearing up to head north for our annual camping excursion on Wednesday morning, and the second half of last week saw us enjoying the ocean on the Outer Cape.

the boys walking along the edge of the ocean in the evening

it's so big there's lots to enjoy

Oh, did we enjoy it! It was hundreds of degrees hot when we left, and still very warm by the seaside, so being in the water felt like a good plan. Our trip down was built around a visit to the National Seashore, so the boys and I worked hard to pack up the car while Leah delivered the dogs to their vacation accommodation, all so we’d be able to get on the road in time to get to Eastham by lunchtime. We just made it and enjoyed a relaxed meal in the shade before getting the bikes–all four bikes!—off the amazing new bike rack and hitting the bike path to the beach. The older boys zipped off right away while me and Elijah went at our own pace; he noticed that, for the first time, he was able to do the whole hilly ride without walking even once! And for his part, Harvey commented that the ride gets shorter and shorter every year. Funny that!

Elijah riding over a bridge over a salt marsh

the best ride

The air at the beach was still warm and the sand was blazing hot, but the water was comfortable: mid-fifties Farenheit, way warmer than usual! The waves were disappointingly small when we arrived but built nicely, so there was plenty of wave action for all (but no blood or other serious injuries). Elijah was excited to figure out body-surfing for the first time in the shallower part of the waves, and sad that he didn’t learn until the last third of our beach time. Leah had a work meeting to take and walked rather than biked, so she didn’t have as much time in the water as we did, but what she had was plenty for her. Us boys could have stayed until it got dark, but we had a dinner date so with some reluctance we dragged ourselves away.

the boys playing in the waves

wave action

Of course, dinner with the grandparents was delightful and we were happy to settle in to their lovely (air-conditioned) house. After dinner and some quiet time we went for a walk to enjoy one of the most interesting attractions of the Outer Cape, so unusual for the East Coast: getting to watch the sunset over the ocean!

Zion and the sunset at the beach

Zion silhouette

The next day dawned cloudy and hazy, and we hung around the house for a good while before we got bored enough to organize an expedition into Welfleet. First there was some shopping: we browsed the toy store idly for a good half hour before I decided I’d help finance the purchase of souvenirs, then seriously for another 15 minutes until the boys picked out what they wanted (a puppet, a stuffed dog, and some sticky putty). Then Leah and her mom went to check out some of the more sophisticated shops while the boys and I got the bikes off the car and headed out to explore the town and harbor.

the boys eating fried food at a beach picnic table

exploring the food options

We did a little off-road riding, played on a playground, and had a light lunch at the seafood place (you can’t visit the ocean and not get some fried seafood! Even if one of us is a vegetarian and another said he preferred chicken). There was some frustration and grumpiness, but we resolved it in time to enjoy a happy hour of beach time. Mostly digging.

Elijah behind a sand castle

it was a group project

Zion and Elijah wading way out in shallow water in Welfeet Harbor

no swimming at low tide

Back at the house a visit from older relatives kept us indoors for the afternoon, but after dinner we took another walk on the local beach. The resident connoisseurs were disappointed in the lack of sunset display, but we didn’t mind: waves on the bay more than made up for it!

the boys watching waves

this is supposed to be the calm side!

The next morning the picture couldn’t have been more different: sunny and flat calm. I got in a quick dip early early, and then we were all down at the beach by 8:30 for a couple hours of swimming and hanging out.

the boys on rafts in the calm blue water, Leah on a towel on the beach

the life

And that was it! After lunch we needed to head home in order to pick up the doggies and water the plants, which just barely didn’t die in the extreme heat. It was a great trip but did feel super short… so it’s a good thing we have another one to look forward to soon!

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the garden in mid July

July 17

As predicted, we got our first tomatoes before the middle of July. Just barely: maybe three or four cherry tomatoes. But the big ones are ripening up nicely! We're also picking lots of beans, cucumbers, and blueberries. And watering a lot... I sure wish it would rain! The peas can't stand the heat and are totally done, along with all the greens but kale. Good thing we love kale!

moments from the week

shirtless Zion taking a drink in our friends' garden

Backyard Farm Club is hot work

Moments from the past week.

Harvey and Elijah playing Root in our darkened kitchen

keeping cool with board games

Harvey picking blueberries from our netted bushes

blueberry season

Elijah on his bike in our street

I like his outfit

a birthday party on the beach at Freeman Lake

birthday on the beach

Harvey and Zion dancing in the rain in front of our house

dancing in the rain

Elijah with purple-streaked hair and a choker by some lily pads

style for the pond

Harvey, Zion, and a friend checking out the big spray from a leak in an irrigation line

big leak

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ready for adventure

This morning our friends invited us to Berry Pond, which is in Harold Parker State Forest in North Andover. It's about half an hour away, so not someplace we usually go by ourselves, but definitely worth a trip with friends. I wanted to make a real outing of it, so I packed up a big picnic in the cooler, told the boys to bring clothes for hiking along with their swimming things, and loaded up the bikes on the new bike rack. I knew our friends were just thinking about a relaxing couple hours on the beach, but it never hurts to be ready for anything that might come up. Like maybe the pond might be closed? It was! Our friends were dismayed and apologetic, but we didn't mind a bit. With all our prep and packing, we were all set to lead a short hike and then set a beautiful, full table for a lunch picnic.

our picnic feast on a picnic table

feast

And then after we ate the kids went down to the beach anyway. They figured there was a lot of fun to be had even without swimming, and they weren't wrong. Especially when they decided that even wading quite deeply would be fine. They spent a happy hour or so hunting for pond creatures to stock the aquarium they built by digging a hole in the sand and lining it with plastic sheeting. Delightful!

the kids wading in the pond with nets

they aren't swimming

After that our friends were done—with a one-year-old you sometimes have to limit your outings—so they headed home. But we hadn't used the bikes yet! So we made contact with some different friends and arranged an off-road cycling outing at Great Brook Farm. We went an extremely round-about route in order to get in some errands on the way, but that was fine because it gave the boys' clothes some time to dry (we helped by hanging them out the windows). So they had something to wear when we hit the trails.

the boys and friends riding on a dusty trail by a cornfield

high summer riding

It was hot, and the second adventure of the day is always harder than the first. So once again Great Brook proved a good choice for a ride, because it let me buy everyone ice cream at the end. Now that's how you end a full day of outdoor excitement!

Zion eating a giant blue-and-pink ice cream cone

cotton candy flavor

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