For several weeks up to the start of the summer break, I had been going for 2 to 3 bike rides, pedalling a total of 15 to 20 miles each week. I have tried to maintain at least part of this regime over the holidays and have managed around 2 rides a week, although one of these has occasionally been a much shorter excursion, in the company of 1 or both of the Mudlets.
“Who wants to come on a bike ride with me?” I asked one afternoon, a week or so ago.
Middle Mudlet huffed, puffed and grumbled with a less than enthusiastic look on her face….. that would be a no then. In stark contrast, Little Mudlet had trainers and helmet on, bike in hand and was by the door almost before I’d finished speaking. Mud was working from home and so Little Mudlet and I set off, leaving Middle Mudlet building Lego models.
Little Mudlet has become a much more confident cyclist since we bought her the B’Twin Misty Girl bike and can power away, often leaving the rest of us standing. We decided to go on one of our favourite little rides which took us down a local lane, over a weak bridge, to a level crossing. We have been told by other local cyclists that if you cross over the railway, it was possible to continue down to the river and even cycle to town but it’s quite a hike for little legs. Up until this particular day we hadn’t, as yet, ventured over the crossing but I had already decided to add the extra stretch to the river in, when I planned the bike ride and so Little Mudlet was in for an unexpected treat, an adventure and I just knew she was going to be thrilled to be one step ahead of her sister and daddy.
Pulling up at the crossing Little Mudlet climbed off her bike and started to look for trains.
“What you doing?” she asked, as I walked over to the crossing phone and picked up the hand set. Bemused she listened to me ask the signalman if we were safe to cross the tracks and was almost bouncing with excitement when it dawned on her that I planned to take her across the tracks and down to the river.
I explained that we would need to cross the tracks quickly yet sensibly and she led the way through the pedestrian gate across to the other gate. Once through the far gate, I called the signalman back, as instructed, to let him know we were clear of the tracks. Of course Little Mudlet then needed to know why I had phoned the man twice and so I explained unmanned crossings to her and how it is important to check that there isn’t a train coming and also that the signalman needed to know that we had crossed safely and weren’t blocking the tracks if a train came through.
She was seriously impressed, I can tell you and was loving every second of this adventure.
The track down to the river proved to be quite a tough one for our bikes, as it is quite stony and unlike Mud and Middle Mudlet, we both have Hybrid bikes. Initially she was a little nervous, especially when her back tyre slid out slightly as it went over a smoothed cobble like stone or three but with a little bit of gentle encouragement, she soon got the hang of counterbalancing and was able to enjoy the rest of the short section between the railway and the river.
We stopped for a few moments for a drink and to admire the view and we even watched a train pass over the spot where just a few minutes earlier we had been walking our bikes across the tracks.
I believe it is important for children to feel confident in unusual situations and in this case I felt it would be an invaluable experience for my little girl to deal with the signalman on the way back home. So on the return journey, I let Little Mudlet speak to the him both before and after crossing the tracks. She was proud as punch and was very serious in her manner, as she asked for permission to cross and then notified him that we were safely back on the other side.
She was buzzing as we headed for home and even raced me back up an incline not far from where we live, beating me by a few inches. Of course, her adventure meant that she now had supremely impressive bragging rights which she was more than happy to utilise in full, when she got back home, much to the disgruntlement of her sister who may well have been wishing she had chosen a bike ride over her Lego afterall.