“Do you want to ride? It’s a long way, close to 100 miles of cycling two days in a row. Are you really up for it?” Mia nodded her head confidently. “Dad,” I want to ride. “I can make it.” Give your children a taste of adventure and they will rise to the challenge.
Our family was traveling out to a small cottage on Sanshan Dao, a small island on Tai Lake, for Golden Week to celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival and the Chinese National Day. The holiday would consist of a simple family dinner of local fare, a little exploring on the island, followed by a night mahjong for those game. The next morning, we’d all return to Shanghai for a final family dinner in the city.
Always angling to get a little cycling in, Mia and I would spend the day cycling to Tai Lake, take a small ferry to the island, and meet up for dinner. The next day we’d bike back into Shanghai. Mild weather and smooth roads meandering through sprawling farmland, miles of manufacturing centers, and old villages promised a good adventure. Mia was ready to roll.
Quality Time in the Saddle
Early the next morning, we gradually worked our way out of the city and into the countryside. The cool morning air kept the riding brisk. People who’d traveled home for Golden Week made the traffic light. Spinning the miles away side-by-side provided ample time to chat about things. Rolling along in near empty bike lanes, Mia and I jabbered on about school, life, and occasionally boys she knew at school.
Conversations came easy. Sometimes we discussed weighty things. Other times we prattled on about nothing at all. Like standing on the edge of a pond skipping rocks or playing catch, we were cruising in “the zone.” Passing open fields, quiet old villages in a rising morning mist gave way to broader perspectives. Mild fall weather kept us riding in comfort. Effortlessly, we’d picked where we’d left off from last summer’s Hokkaido cycling adventure. It was though we’d never stopped riding.
Normally, I cruise along working my way through playlists or audio books on my Nano. Before I knew it, we had 100 kilometers behind us and I hadn’t listened to a single song.
A Genuine Challenge
Mia’s a strong-headed stand-up girl. If she puts her mind to something, there’s not much she can’t accomplish. Getting up and riding two Centuries back to back “cold turkey” would involve some struggle though. But as I told her when she decided to go, “Nothing great was ever accomplished in the comfort zone.”
After reaching the ferry at around 4:30 in the afternoon, we bought our tickets and rolled the bikes aboard for a thirty-minute ride to Sanshan Dao. Keeping herself hydrated and fed throughout the day, Mia was still riding strong finishing up the 20 or 30 kilometers to the water’s edge of Tai Lake. The first leg of our journey was in the books.
After dinner and fully refueled, Mia headed upstairs early. Tomorrow would come soon enough and she wanted to be fully rested for the return ride to Shanghai. I wasn’t long to follow. As the last bottles of Tsing Tao emptied and the conversation died down, I politely excused myself and headed my room. I too wanted to be rested as well. Annie and the rest of the family divided up for what would be a typical late night of mahjong.
Morning came early. An over-eager rooster began crowing at 4 am making further sleep impossible. My first thought was chicken soup for breakfast. I settled for fried eggs, noodles, and fresh squeezed orange juice. I made sure the cocky rooster spotted me chomping on the eggs just so he would know what I was capable of.
The first ferry left the island at 9:00 am. A late start, shorter days, and a leisurely ride would have us riding at night. No worries. We had the right equipment. Both bikes were kitted out with head and tail lights. The batteries were fresh or fully charged. Mia and I assessed and mitigated the risks. The use of common sense was in full effect. It would just be an added challenge.
Authentic Life Experience
Eventually, an orange sun fell below the horizon behind us. Darkness found us turning circles under a full moon rising big and yellow in the inky eastern sky. We switched on our lights and pedaled on into the night. Silent blacked out mopeds continually darted past us an elbow’s length away with little to no warning. Predictability was the “watchword” for the evening. No sudden moves or risk a collision with a zooming moped.
I love the little encounters along the way. Bicycle travel is the best for meeting people. “Aren’t foreigners so nice?” a police officer said to the gas station attendants as Mia and I dismounted our bikes for a break. Seems like, at every other stop, a local on a moped or standing on the corner queried Mia about where she’d been on her bike.
Mia’s an excellent navigator. Expanding on navigation skills developed in Hokkaido, she confidently guided us through the patchworks of fields and factories of the Jiangsu countryside. GPS is a wonderful thing, but with China’s rapid growth, well-cultivated terrain association skills are a must. Modern highways and even cities have replaced two-lane country roads and open fields. Landscape in the Middle Kingdom is changing at an unprecedented rate, adding urgency to see these historic lands before they vanish forever.
Our little foray into Jiangsu province turned out to be legitimate Type II Fun. We had to work for the miles to Sanshan Dao and back, but have really enjoyed talking about it now the journey’s over.
Get Out There
Bicycle travel isn’t about getting from point A to point B, but the experiences you have along the way. Pass a sense of adventure on to your kids, if you have them. Not only will it be a great time, your kids will surprise you with their eagerness to which they meet and fulfill the challenge. Plus, you’ll give them memories that will last a lifetime.
Rolling up to our highrise in Shanghai at around 10 pm, Mia and I quietly congratulated each other on completing our journey together. For the two of us, it was a challenge accepted, an adventure met.