The Dog Walker was almost 13 the summer he learned to ride a two-wheeler. It was the same summer we tried for the umpteenth time to teach the Drama Queen to ride a bike. She tried her best, but after two or three falls and some nasty scrapes and bruises, she gave up and went in the house. Even the threat of losing her beloved Mustang wasn’t enough to get her to come back outside.
That left just my sweetie, me, and the Dog Walker. Princess was riding up and down the street behind us, making it all look too easy. The Dog Walker was frightened and frustrated. After a dozen trips running beside him, holding onto the seat, and watching him pedal a few feet on his own and then crash, we were all ready to quit. My sweetie used words then that we have repeated many times over the last 7 years… “You’ll never earn all the Merit Badges if you don’t…learn to ride a bike.” Only a year into his goal, the Dog Walker could not stand the thought of failure. He threw himself onto the ground next to his bike and burst into tears. He sobbed for about 5 minutes while my sweetie and I retreated to the porch. We watched him silently for a moment, then offered a fervent prayer. After the tears were gone, he hauled himself up and with a determined look that I have also seen many times over the years, he climbed back on that bike. After two or three more tries and fails, he finally sailed passed us. He had the biggest grin on his face…he was actually riding a bike!
I saw that same determination today. He and my sweetie left the house about 6:30 this morning to head out to the Miller Sportspark. It was the day of the big Charity Run. The Dog Walker was able to raise $177.00 in donations (thanks to all of you who helped with that!) and he was determined to ride the 50 miles required to complete his Cycling Merit Badge. We planned to stagger our arrivals times, thinking that would give him a fresh burst of energy so that he could keep his wheels turning. He hit the track at 8:00, wearing his scout uniform and riding his trusty mountain bike. There were 108 riders, and most of them could easily put in 100 miles. He started out slowly with the first lap taking almost 15 minutes. Apparently the ride wasn’t as flat as we were hoping. My sweetie started to panic, worrying that at that rate he wouldn’t be able to complete 50 miles in the allotted 8 hours.
The next two or three laps were better and by the time I arrived with all the little brothers and sisters at 10:30, he had nearly completed 9 laps. It was a three-mile course, so he was more than halfway done, but it was obvious that he was getting tired. After lap 10, he came in to the pits. He was tired and sweaty, but still determined to make the 50 miles. He had never ridden more than 32 miles in a single day before and the temperature was climbing. We found out later that it got up to 106 degrees!
After a 20-minute break, I sent him back to complete three more rounds. Our plan was for him to break then, ride two more, then break and then finish the last two. After he hit 13, he joined us under the canopy and ate a pb&j and drank a Powerade. “Somebody wants to ride with me…” he said. My sweetie confirmed that he was babbling to himself when he finished the 13th lap and the guys downstairs were worried. The Dog Walker often talks to himself, so we didn’t get too stressed. He headed back to the track.
We quickly cleaned up the rest of our stuff. Prima Donna had made little signs that we held up as he passed by for the last time. Then we stowed the remains of lunch and the stroller in the van and headed for the finish line. By the time we got there he had about a half of a lap left. Our friendly young woman said, “The Miller Racing Team has gone out to escort him the rest of the way in.” The kids were SOO excited. We waited for a few minutes and then moved onto the track. The racing team came in first (veeery slooowly) and the Dog Walker came around the last turn. Everybody on the track was cheering and shouting for him. Even from a distance I could see that look in his eye, that determination…and finally, as he sprinted on his bike that last 50 yards, the big grin! Only three more badges to go…