Sleeping bags? Check.
Spare tube? Check.
Sippy cup? Check.
Stuffed bunny? Check.
Extra diapers? Check.
Christy, my wife, read down the list of packing items while I pointed at dry bags and panniers. It was second nature to bring these first items on a bike tour. Of course, I’d remember them! I’ve done this hundreds of times. It was like she was asking me if I’d remembered to put my pants on in the morning.
But gradually the list moved into less familiar territory.
What was I getting myself into here? Would my little 2.5-year-old sweetheart have fun? Would she cry and call for mommy the moment we got on the trail? I can’t comfort her quite like her mom. Will she get along with the other girls? Is she too young for a bike tour? Will she pee all over everything? Am I as competent as the other dads? Am I biting off more than I can chew here?
I just want her to have fun. That is my only goal.
I want her to fall in love with biking and camping just as I did as a kid. I want to bond with her. I want to give her the experience my dad gave me when I went camping as a kid. This was the motivation of the daddy-daughter bike trip.
Did we plan an epic adventure? Hell no. This journey wouldn’t be a noteworthy feat in miles, elevation gain, or backcountry wilderness exploration. Yet, considering the challenge of three dads being totally responsible for their three girls (all four years old or younger), it could be pretty epic after all.
The plan was simple: ride to the campground Saturday, camp overnight, and then bike back out on Sunday. Simple, easy, fun.
My foot pushed off the ground and, before I could clip into my pedals, we heard from the trailer, “My helmet hurts.” Aaaand stop. Prop up bike, unzip trailer, readjust helmet. Start again.
This was the first of many stops whenever we heard a kid whining, “I’m hungry!” or the dreaded, “I have to pee!” I have to admit it was pretty funny to see how excited the girls got about popping a squat. To a passerby, seeing three dads helping their daughters pee in the woods with their butts sticking out must have been a pretty comical sight. We laughed while perfecting the technique of angling just right to ensure that they didn’t hit the backs of their shoes. Every suburban or rural father of a daughter knows exactly what I’m talking about here.
The complaints and requests eventually shifted to laughs, and the ride was beautiful. We traveled at the kids’ pace and stopped whenever we needed to, which was pretty often. We were on their time and let the miles come slowly.
It wasn’t until the last few miles of the day that we started to hear, “Are we there yet?” After hearing this a million times, someone exclaimed, “I’m so hungry I could eat a cow!” It set off a snowball of giggles. And then, “I’m so hungry I could eat a hippopotamus.” The giggles grew and quickly morphed into comments like, “I’m so hungry I could eat a nose full of boogies.” The more ridiculous, the bigger the laughs.
When we arrived at our campsite, it felt as if we had achieved something amazing! We exchanged high-fives and did some silly dancing. The excitement over the tents and the possibility of S’mores filled the campground with laughter. The dads cracked celebratory beers while the girls explored their new world.
I have to say that the greatest part of the trip was waking up in the tent at 4:45 am and seeing my daughter’s face just two inches from mine with the biggest smile you could imagine. No words could possibly describe the happiness, innocence, and excitement that I saw on her face in that moment. Just the simple realization that she had awakened in a tent next to her daddy brought her so much joy. The entire trip, all the preparations, all the worry — everything was worth it for that one moment, for that one smile.
This story originally appeared in the May 2017 issue of Adventure Cyclist magazine.