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Derek Heffernan and Jasper Heffernan-WilkerDerek Heffernan and Jasper Heffernan-Wilker are off to Re-Cycles Bicycle Co-op with a load of tires and a frame or two.
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Jasper Heffernan-Wilker with father Derek"See you later," says Jasper Heffernan-Wilker. "Daddy and I have places to go and people to see."
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A Bicycle ride in the ParkTaking the scenic route adds pleasure to the task of running errands with the kids.
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Jasper Heffernan-WilkerFirst stop school, next stop the grocery store.
Derek Heffernan and Jasper Heffernan-Wilker
Jasper Heffernan-Wilker with father Derek
A Bicycle ride in the Park
"Did you shrink your bike in the dryer?” teases my neighbor as I walk down the street, pushing my son’s 16-inch bike home. At five, Jasper loves to ride to his afternoon kindergarten class. But I pick him up at an off-site aftercare program, so it doesn’t make sense to leave his bike locked up at school. At first, the walk home involved me leaning awkwardly to one side to reach his little handlebars, but over time I’ve developed a system. As long as I’m on a quiet, traffic-free side street, I push Jasper’s little bike on the sidewalk and walk beside it on the road, so the handlebars are at a more comfortable height for me to reach. It’s not the easiest way for him to get to school, but it gives him a chance to ride his own bike, which turns his commute into an adventure.
Over the years, depending on where we’re going, what the weather is like, what we need to transport and how old our two children are, my husband, Derek, and I have had lots of different biking and walking systems for running errands and traveling around the neighborhood.
When Anna Sierra was a baby, she’d often fall asleep in the stroller and I’d quietly and efficiently mail packages at the post office, pick up a few things at the hardware store and load bags of fresh veggies under her feet after stopping at the farmers market. If we were using the bike trailer and she fell asleep, I’d unhook the trailer from the bike and wheel it around the grocery store or park it inside the coffee shop while I caught up with friends. Naps were golden, and I loved not having to wake her up to run errands.
I asked Derek what he thinks about running errands with the kids on bikes and his eyes lit up. “Errands are part of life, so why not make the most of them by riding my bike and bringing the coolest, most fun people in the world?” Exactly!
Growing into New Rides
As the kids have gotten older and bigger, we’ve had to retire some systems and find new ways of getting around together. For two glorious years – from Anna Sierra’s sixth birthday to just after her eighth – I was able to take both kids easily on my Kona Ute longtail bike. Library books, groceries, school bags, picnics, fabric finds and all kinds of other things fit in my enormous panniers. After loading up the panniers, I’d scoop Jasper onto the back and Anna Sierra would hop on behind him. She’d either hold on to his waist or wrap her arms around him and share the handlebar Derek had attached to my seat post. I loved listening to the kids tell each other stories while I navigated our neighborhood. We were so fast and compact together. With such big panniers, we could combine multiple stops and still carry everything. Because both kids were on my bike, we didn’t have to restrict ourselves to quieter streets or bike paths.
But then, one day, we were heading across town for a potluck dinner. Derek was joining us there, so I packed our salad and the kids on our Kona and we pedaled off to meet him. Our route took us up a steep hill that has a stoplight halfway up the slope. While trying to get started again mid-hill, I had to really focus to keep the bike stabilized against the back-heavy load, and even in the lowest gear it was challenging for me to climb the hill without wobbling. The kids cheered “Go, Mama, go” all the way to the top, but my heart sank because I realized the kids had grown too heavy for our favorite bike system.
While locking up the bike, I broke the news to Anna Sierra. “I’m going to have to ask Carl and Katarina to drive you home, sweetie. Mama can’t carry you both on the bike anymore.” Anna Sierra and I hugged and I had to wipe away a few tears from both our eyes. Carrying the kids on the bike is fun, intimate, tender and a great way to combine hanging out with the kids with getting stuff done.
This ending reminded me of the day I woke up with a sore back after a long hike and realized I couldn’t carry Jasper around in his Ergo baby carrier anymore. He was four at the time, so we’d had many years of cuddles, but I still wished we didn’t have to let go. The mourning is both for the lost intimacy and for the end of an efficient system that enables everyone to share great everyday adventures, often at an adult pace.