Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Moments that make an uncle proud

As much as I enjoy riding my bike, it usually feels pretty good to get done after a long day of cycling.

My ride this past Monday was no exception. With the day off from work, favorable weather conditions and my stomach in full-scale recovery mode from the onslaught of Easter (in retrospect, cherry cheesecake AND pumpkin pie probably wasn't the best choice for dessert), I decided to visit the old stomping grounds.

Starting from my parent's house in Sartell, I did a 35-mile bike loop of the St. Cloud area, making four stops along the way: the YMCA for weightlifting, a local sandwich shop for lunch, club rowing practice for nostalgia and the downtown bars for drinks in the non-water variety (here is the route I took, though the map probably means little to my Mankato-centric readership).

The day of biking was most certainly enjoyable. The weather was beautiful, my bike cooperated (no flat tires or any other malfunctions that have befallen my $85 Kuwahara) and it was cool getting to visit old friends. It also helped reaffirm my beliefs that Mankato is a far superior community for biking (more bike paths and motorists that actually watch for cyclists).

However, the best part of the ride came at the very end of it when I got back to my parent's house. This wasn't due to exhaustion from biking, though I was pretty psyched to have my mom's homemade rigatoni for dinner.

No, the real enjoyment came from what I saw as I approached my parent's driveway: My 4-year-old niece Alaina was riding up and down the driveway on her single-gear training wheel bike complete with handlebar basket, princess colors, tassels and glitter. The tires on her bike were flat, but she was still grinning ear-to-ear at the site of her uncle getting home, anxious to show off her styling ride to a fellow biking enthusiast.

She pointed out the features of her bike with the excitement of a seasoned cyclist who just bought a $10,000 ride. After commenting on my bike's lack of a handlebar basket, she led the way on a down-and-back trip up the driveway while I told her stories of her uncle's clumsy beginnings in cycling and reassured her that I would never be able to beat her in a race.

Really, it was a moment to cherish. I'm still kicking myself for not having my camera handy. Just about every uncle worth his weight in piggy-back rides will claim their 4-year-old niece to be the most adorable thing on the face of the earth. But at that point in time, I felt I could have made a valid argument.

It might have been the sheer elation of getting to hang out with my niece (I don't make it up to St. Cloud to visit as often as I'd like), or the joy of seeing her take after her uncle hobby-wise. But I could not have been prouder.

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