Amy asked if Hubby and I would keep the grandkids this weekend. We almost said no because there was a homeowners’ association meeting scheduled for the WV place that we needed to go to. We both knew there was NO WAY Gaige (6) and Joey (2.5) could sit through that.
After some thought, we decided I could come to WV and attend the HOA meeting with Brianna while Hubby stayed home in MD with Gaige and Joey. Oh yeah, and Klondike (who is quite a bit larger than our dogs).
Before the meeting, we went to McDonald’s for breakfast. One thing you forget when you don’t have kids around daily is how SLOWLY they eat. (About 1/4 of Brianna’s bacon, egg and cheese bagel went to the meeting with us.)
Asking a nine-year-old to sit quietly through an HOA meeting is asking a lot. Despite her having her iPOD (music and games), two chapter books and a word search puzzle book, I was really wondering if Brianna, a talking machine, would be able to make it through the meeting. She complained a little bit, but actually behaved amazingly well considering that most adults have a hard time staying awake, sitting still and keeping quiet during HOA meetings.
She was the only kid in attendance, of course, and the adults seemed tickled to have her there and chat with her. She told a couple of them we’d be going on a “Bike Hike” after the meeting. I corrected her several times explaining that we were going for a bike ride. I reminded her we would not be walking.
“Hiking is walking,” I said. “We’ll be riding our bikes. So quit calling it a bike hike.” (As an aside, she also told at least three people that her Aunt Shannon had had her ear bitten by a monkey.)
Not that long ago, Hubby and I biked a small segment of the C&O Canal between Oldtown, Maryland and Town Creek. I figured that after a 3-hour HOA meeting, Brianna would be ready to burn off some energy, so we brought her bike along. It really is a great place to ride.
Before we left for the canal, I showed her the piece of coal I’d found last time I was there. She was quite impressed. She asked if we could go find some coal for her. I told her it was a pretty far ride (just under 5 miles), but she was determined. She really liked my coal.
It had rained for a couple of hours in the morning and was supposed to rain again in the afternoon, but we decided to give it a go anyway. So after taking the dogs for a long walk, we headed for Oldtown.
It wasn’t as sunny as the last time I was there. It was cooler, too. But we still saw lots of different critters.
“I’m not driving you crazy stopping to point out all of the animals, am I?” I asked her. “No!” she assured me. “I love critters, too.”
That frog was just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
Brianna likes critters just about as much as I do (which I honestly never thought possible). So she was thrilled to see the various little critters we saw. And we really did see quite a variety. I took my zoom lens this time, so I was able to get some better turtle pics. She, too, was amazed at how many turtles are there.
About two miles into the ride, I realized we’d probably both have the energy to do the entire five miles. So I told her I thought we’d make it. She was thrilled. She really, really wanted some coal of her own. She kept saying stuff like, “I know that’s far, and we might be pretty tired. But if we say that’s our goal, and we just keep going no matter how tired we get, we’ll be able to make it.” I tell you, the girl is a talking machine. I found her little motivational speech to herself quite entertaining.
On the way to the canal, we’d discussed all of Brianna’s favorite colors. Teal is #1. Followed by light blue and dark blue. So she liked seeing the Virginia Bluebells that are still in bloom at various spots along the towpath.
The more we rode, the more critters we saw. We were having a great time. We’d gone about 4 miles when Brianna said, “This road is starting to feel funny.” She kept pushing, though, and talking about the wonderful coal we were going to find.
A couple of minutes later, however, we realized her bike had gotten a flat tire.
We only had a couple of options at that point. Keep walking to Town Creek, stash her bike in the bushes then ride two-up the 5 miles back to Oldtown. Or turn around and walk back to where we’d left the truck.
“But, my coal,” she said. “We can’t abandon my goal.”
That’s when I told her we’d walk back to the truck and then drive to Town Creek to find her coal. “And,” I said, “if we don’t find any coal, you can have my piece, because by then you will certainly have earned it.” The whole time, I’m thinking we’re screwed. I mean, 4 miles is a long way for anyone to walk, much less a nine-year-old who had already biked that far. But we really didn’t have any choice, so we set off.
She did complain some, mainly about not achieving her goal. But we kept pushing. We were walking at a decent clip, too, spurred on by the sky that was growing increasingly dark with every passing second.
The good thing about walking was that we could look more closely for critters without having to worry about driving into the canal, which is how I noticed this big-ass snake sunning itself in a tree.
And this neat tree full of woodpecker holes. (We even saw a Pileated Woodpecker not far from our cabin on the way home later.)
This picture made me giggle every time I looked at it last night after we arrived back at the cabin. “You TOLD me to look sad!” she said every time I laughed. Which is true. I had. At the time, she’d asked me why. I told her we’d just trekked at least three miles, that it would be funny to make people think she was exhausted. That was MUCH easier than explaining that I wanted it for effect on my blog, which would only have spurred a gazillion questions like: what’s a blog? You have a blog? Why haven’t I ever seen your blog? Why do you need a blog? Are there other pictures of me there? Etc., etc., etc.
I took this picture of Brianna sitting on her bike just before we put the bikes into the truck. Does she look even slightly miserable/exhausted/hungry? She looks even happier in the next shot. Can you guess why? Just one, four-letter word is your answer…
Just as I’d promised, we drove to the Town Creek Aqueduct to find Brianna some coal. And because I remember weird stuff like exactly where I’d found some coal weeks prior, we hit the mother lode. She walked away with EIGHT pieces of coal. She was beyond thrilled. Until she realized, after settling into the truck with her coal lined-up on her lap, that there was a smallish-but-menacing black spider walking across the largest chunk. She didn’t shriek hysterically like most little girls would have, but she wasn’t thrilled either.
I calmly grabbed that particular piece (I was wearing my grandmother hat, remember) and tossed it out the window.
“No!” she said. “My coal!” (Who would’ve thought coal, COAL, would have inspired her so?)
“I just wanted to knock the spider off,” I told her after I’d retrieved her prize coal hunk. (Luckily we hadn’t started moving yet.)
It was at that point, by the way, that the rain started. At least our timing had worked out.
Since we hadn’t eaten lunch, we drove to Fort Ashby and had a pig-out dinner. Brianna had a cup of broccoli cheese soup, a salad, and chicken parmigiana with spaghetti. I had a cup of vegetable soup, meatloaf with french fries and cole slaw. She was quite tickled that the waitress was treating her like an adult. And an older couple at the next table were chit-chatting with us throughout the meal. They were amazed not only by what she was eating, but by how much. She finished it all (we both saved a few bites for the dogs), so we topped the meal off with some yummy strawberry shortcake.
While eating, she informed me that she wanted to move to West Virginia with me, “Because people here really seem to like kids.”
Care to guess what her first order of business was upon arriving back at the cabin? Washing her coal.
After I fed the dogs, we took them for a short walk. Then we made a critter list, which Brianna was also quite proud of.
If you click on the picture, you should be able to read the list. After this picture was taken, we realized we’d forgotten to add the woodpecker.
Notice the coal reference?
Brianna insisted that she should take a picture of me, too. So here I am, looking lovely as usual.
At the end of our day, I told Brianna that “bike hike” was a pretty accurate way to describe our day after all.
And when I tucked her into bed (at 11:00 after two LONG games of Skip-Bo), I told her how proud I was of her for being such a good sport all day.
I’m already looking forward to our next ride, after I buy a tire repair kit, that is.