Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Silver Comet Trail

This past Saturday I was supposed to work up at Bull and Jake Mountains but on Friday morning I could tell that nothing short of a miracle would make that possible. I was still fighting that cold and though I was finally winning, I know all too well how strenuous exertion can put you right back at square one. What really bothered me though was that trail work counted as "strenuous exertion". I can "take it easy" on the bike for 4 hours but there doesn't seem to be any way to swing a pulaski that counts as "easy". Is that how it is for everyone or am I just weak? Maybe one day.

I slept in 'till at least noon. The rain that had threatened to cancel the work party had never materialized. I'd kind of hoped that it had so my absence would have been moot, but no luck there. I wanted to go for an easy ride but in my mind, the little hills of Cumming seemed interminably tall. Maybe the girls would like to go for a ride? There's still about a third of the Silver Comet that we haven't seen yet.

As luck would have it, they did want to go for a ride and we were on the road in short order.

I'd like to say we had a great time, that we spent a wonderful day building strong father-daughter relationships. Nothing could be further from the truth. Maybe I'd just hoped too hard that it would be that way. The girls attacked each other non-stop in the car and when they weren't arguing, they were complaining. I tried talking to them about it for the first 20 or 30 instances, but it was hopeless. Every 7 days I get to spend a day with them and for the past month or so, every time, they've just buried the whole day in negativity.


When we got to the trailhead I just wanted to get moving.

For a while, it was OK. We rolled out to Rockmart.


That section trail is decidedly different from the previous section. Through Paulding Forest, it's dead straight and rolly but out past the forest, it's a lot flatter but it twists and turns and the scenery is a lot more variable.

I learned the origin of the name "Silver Comet" too. The trail was once a railbed and apparently there was a passenger train named the Silver Comet that frequented that particular rail. Makes sense. How that knowledge could have eluded me for the past 10 years though, I do not understand.

Out past Rockmart we had to adjust Isabel's seat. She's growing. A coal train passed us while we were stopped. It had two engines up front and two more pushing at the rear. The girls love trains and we watched the whole train go by before we got going again. Things were looking up.

Iz wanted to do rotations and they're pretty good at it, so we did that for a couple of miles. Of course, if you want to create conflict, just try to ride a paceline. Iz kept jumping off the front and complaining that Sophie wasn't keeping up. No amount of coaching or encouragement helped. They were trying to piss each other off. It was a game.

Sophie's gears weren't working either. Or I guess I should say, she wasn't able to make them work. She's always been able to before, but for some reason, that day, she wasn't strong enough to twist the grip-shift. It was looser than Iz's and I could make it shift, but her hand just slipped when she tried. Of course, she'd neglected to even keep track of where her gloves are, let alone bring them.

We came closer than I'm comfortable with to getting hit by a car too because Sophie just flat refuses to use her freewheel to reset her pedals when she stops. She wants to get all the way off the bike and walk it awkwardly forward while turning the pedals with her hand until they're set right. Inevitably they're not, so she has to walk it forward for another rotation. If she stops, it can literally take minutes to get going again. She did this right as we got to an intersection and the approaching car just expected her to get going, any second now. I've literally told her dozens, maybe even a hundred times how to do it right and we've worked on it and she absolutely knows what to do, she just refuses to do it. Only when she felt like she was in real danger did she finally come around, and the change was instantaneous. She does it perfectly now, every time, no problem.

We had a couple of issues like that. The kids would always respond with: "I'm trying!" It dawned on me though that their definition of "trying" is something like: "I don't intend for it not to work." But it doesn't include changing what they are doing in any way. "I'm just going to keep doing this thing that I know is wrong, hoping somehow it will turn out differently or that you will stop caring." Maybe that's a more precise definition. Jesus.

Endless frustration. Endless complaining. Endless negativity. Couple that with the legitimate challenges of terrain and traffic and it was an absolute nightmare.

We rode out about 12 miles, stopped at the Grady Road Lot, sat down and had a snack.

 Iz Snacking

We also had a long talk and tried to "hit the reset button" on the ride.

Stunningly, we were successful.

On the way back, everybody rode well. We had good conversations. We enjoyed the scenery, which was quite variable.

There were train cars...

 Train Cars

...a pasture full of bulls...


...an odd collection of at least 4 different species of geese...


...a cemetery...

 Cemetery in Rockmart

...a beautiful run along the river in Rockmart...


...an old derelict gravel plant or something...

 Gravel Plant or Something

...and miles and miles of woods and trees. It seemed like everything would turn out ok, but toward the end, when the miles were starting to add up, they got right back into it again. Come on.

Not 100 yards from the end, we had to go through a tunnel under a 4-lane highway and the light had just turned off for some reason. "Aim for the light at the end." Iz aimed for the light at the end and made it through just fine. After talking to her about it later, I found out that Sophie had made no attempt whatsoever to aim for the light at the end. She just screamed about how she didn't know what to do, hoped somehow that would be sufficient, but eventually crashed and ran out screaming.

On the way home we talked at great length about everything. I know that they're kids - 9 and 11. Some amount of all of this is to be expected, but this much is beyond excessive. I definitely ask more of them than some parents but they've consistently been up to it and I rarely ask much more than they had fun doing the last time. In the past we'd have hours of fun and then about 10-15% would be work. Sometimes we'd have a bad day. Sometimes we'd have a great day. It just isn't like that any more, with anything, outdoor or not. We leave the house hoping to have a good time, but then everybody just ends up tolerating each other until they crack. I brings out the worst in everybody. At the end of the day everybody's angry and I hate myself for all of it.

I have no idea if our discussion had any impact. Time will tell. It was enlightening to them that my idea of "trying" required an actual change of behavior. That had allegedly at least, not occurred to either of them. Maybe that's good. Somehow, though I am 100% certain that I've told them over and over, they also didn't have a good feel for the idea that I actually look forward to spending time with them. Maybe they still don't. I've always told myself that some day they won't want to spend time with me. Maybe that's just what's happening. Who knows. We'll see. I hope not.

Woohoo! Fatherhood.

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