Epic New Year’s ride for my girls

Rain and wind. It didn’t sound like a promising forecast for the annual Tidewater Bicycle Association‘s New Year’s Day ride through Norfolk. Before I knew what the weather would be I’d told my eldest, Ellie, that I’d take her to the ride. I spent much of New Year’s Eve preparing her for a letdown.

But the day dawned merely overcast. The radar showed a band of nasty storms west over the I-95 corridor, but it was moving to the northeast. Still, a stiff wind blew out of the southwest. Taking a gamble, I decided to go and even invited 4-year-old Millie, who would ride with me on the trailer-bike behind my old Gary Fisher beater.

When we arrived at the Ward’s Corner staging area, maybe 20 other riders had gathered, a far cry from the hundred or so the last time I did this ride, which heads west through the neighborhoods along Little Creek Road, south through those around Hampton Boulevard to West Ghent, where we live. I’d figured I’d drop them with Michele at home and continue the 22-mile ride to downtown and back out to Little Creek.

We started at the back of the group and turned west onto Little Creek, 9-year-old Ellie’s first time riding on a busy road. She stayed in front of me where I could keep an eye on her. We soon turned into the neighborhoods, winding through old homes and apartment complexes, as the group pulled further away. While Millie worried that we weren’t riding with the others, Ellie and I just pedaled along. After another stretch on Little Creek and more neighborhood riding, the day’s big challenge lay ahead.

Turning south onto Hampton Boulevard, the Lafayette River bridge rose before us, exposed to the stiff southwesterly supposedly gusting to 24 knots. I worried that the combination of the climb and the wind might just be too much for Ellie and we’d end up walking it. What was I worried about? She listened and dropped down into her Trek’s granny gear and spun up the rise like a champ. As Bobke says, she dug deep into her saddlebags of courage. She even held her line admirably on the sidewalk as the gusts buffetted us.

We understandably took the next mile, weaving into Larchmont, slowly as she recovered from the effort, noticeably proud of her accomplishment. Little Millie kept pedaling along behind. Whenever I stopped, I’d feel the gentle push of her trailer bike behind me. Together we ran the last gauntlet of wind along the athletic fields behind Old Dominion University. And soon we returned to home turf, rolling along the Elizabeth River (bike) Trail through Blue Bird Park into West Ghent. After about 8 miles, we rolled up to our little bungalow and the girls bailed off their bikes.

Michele took this as we rolled up to the house.

The rain held off and Ellie got to use her new Camelbak MiniMule, thanks Granddad and Grandma. She liked being able to suck a little water down with ease.

I switched to my road bike to finish the ride. I struggled into the headwinds along the bike trail to downtown, meeting some of the other riders at Waterside. Then, as it was getting on toward lunch, I decided to roll out for Ward’s Corner.

Ahhh, the tailwind. After averaging maybe 7 or 8 mph with the girls riding home, I throttled it up and rolled along without much effort up Granby, Llewellyn and Newport avenues at speeds in the mid-20s. Wheee!

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