Monday, July 30, 2012

"That was awesome!"

We headed up to ride Rocky Knob in Boone yesterday to do some mountain biking and escape the heat and humidity a bit. Jeff, Cecilio, Peter, and Jeremiah joined Golden, Owen, and I. I took off with the guys to show them the trail since it was their first time there, while G and O rode to the Beginner Skills Area about midway through the lower loop.

After riding all of the open sections of trail, we joined up with G and O. G took off with everyone to do another loop of the trails, while I took Owen up to the Intermediate Skills Area at the midway point of the Middle Earth Trail. A combination of walking and riding got us up the climb and to the skills area.

The Intermediate Skills Area at Rocky Knob is all about riding balance beams or "skinnies". The area is a short loop that flows downhill and turns to a slight uphill to bring you back to the start. The slight downhill section is where the skinnies are located to give you easy momentum into them. The first skinny ramps up from ground level to about a foot off the ground. The second skinny is about 40 feet long, is about a foot off the ground the whole way, has a distinctive turn or kink to it, and ends with three six inch drops from one skinny to another lower one until you hit the ground. All of the skinnies are about 8-10 inches wide and are made from small diameter trees with squared off topsides with traction grooves chainsawed into them.

After a couple of tries, Owen rode the first skinny completely, flowed into a large hip bridge (a kind of curving packing pallet looking bridge around a tree), smoothly rode the little pump jumps and attempted to ride onto the last skinny which is embedded in the ground. With his confidence built up, he started eyeballing the 40 ft. long skinny. He got off his bike and walked the length of the long skinny, explaining how he needed to ride each part and allowed me to give him a couple of pieces of advice (not that that is worth much - I had never ridden anything like these skills stunts until the last time we were at Rocky Knob!). He asked me to ride the skinny to let him see what it looked like to ride it. Thankfully, I rode the thing without coming off anywhere and it seemed much easier than the last time I rode it.

After a couple of failed attempts with a few ride offs of the skinny onto the ground a foot below and one big step off when he jumped free of the bike as it fell sideways, he figured out his speed and approach. Owen hit the skinny with a little more speed than his previous attempts and zipped right across it, made the kink turn smoothly, and then took the three drop offs no problem. A huge "That was AWESOME!" was expelled as he went around the bend and out of sight. (ed. note - yes, my kid talks with a lot of '80's surfer/skater slang with his favorite adjectives being "awesome" and "rad") My phone had died, so I didn't get the chance to take pictures of this, which is kind of a good thing because I got to be 100% present for it without a screen interrupting the reality of the event.

I see cycling as a metaphor for a lot of things in life and it is becoming a prominent part of my parenting style, too. What I saw yesterday was a kid confronting a challenge; a pretty daunting challenge. I saw him plan out how to tackle the problem. I saw him try several times, falling and crashing each time. And then I got to see the pure, smiling joy that came with his successfully riding the beam. As a teacher and as an employer, the thing that I find most lacking in students and people is resiliency. Resilience allows you to try and fail and try again. It is a fundamental key to success in life, I feel and I hope that days like yesterday with Owen show that we are being successful with teaching him this fundamental skill.
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