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TWO
The weather on the Twenty-sixth was as unseasonably warm as it had been the day before so I dressed for an active as opposed to a passive outing knowing how easily I would heat up with a little exercise. I again bundled Jack up snuggly, assured that he would be well protected from the wind inside the plastic bubble of the Burley Bee’s rain fly.

Jack had grown quite a bit in the two years since I’d given him his helmet and I made a mental note to buy him two of the next larger size, one for his house and one for what he insisted on calling “Lola’s house” despite the dual residency of my wife and I. As I adjusted the helmet to accommodate his growing noggin I also made a note to buy new helmets for Otta and Libby as I shamefacedly realized the helmet I had borrowed, an old one of mine that I’d gifted Otta when I gave Jack his Burley, was well past its “Best Used By” date.

Silent night, holy night had turned into sunny morn, tires worn, but I figured the bike and trailer were sufficiently well maintained to allow Jack and me to go for a ride in the warm for Iowa sunshine. I was game, he was gamer even if he is fresh while I’m just lame, so off we went, as my father had loved to say, “Like a herd of turtles.”

Jack and I set off down the road, me singing a Michael Jackson tune from “The Wiz,” the gears on the bicycle working reluctantly, the front brake screeching like a banshee, the bracket designed to hold the portable mini-pump conspicuously empty and me unsure of which of the local trails were open and which closed from fall flooding. High times, high spirits and high adventure awaited as Jack set off with his Paki and nieto y abuelo cycled down the hill from Otta and Libby’s house to the nearby Des Moines River via the Trestle Trail.

The Schwinn’s three front gears were working admirably but the nine cogs in back were far less cooperative. Only the mid-range would respond to input from the shift-lever and I shrugged off the inconvenience as I wondered why Otta, who is the same height as I, had his bike seat set so low. I shouted to Jack, “Hey, Jack, why does your dada have his seat set so low? What is this, some sort of ‘Star Wars’ themed bicycle?” laughing at my bad pun. Jack laughed along with me though I’m pretty sure he was completely nonplussed by my lightsaber like brilliance.

Change in terrain had me working the rear gear shifter, pushing with my thumb to make climbing easier and pulling with my glove-clad index finger to maintain a comfortable cadence on the downhill stretches, and the available gears reluctantly began to multiply as we cycled along. By the time we accessed the Trestle Trail via MLK Junior Drive the bike was shifting slowly but surely and I was joyously if obnoxiously hitting the front brake in time to “Jingle Bells” as we made screeching, unmelodic progress to the DMV.

“Well, Jack-of-all-trades,” I hollered over my shoulder, “do you think the trail’s US 6 underpass is open or will we have to backtrack and cross on Euclid?”

Jack’s answer was an animated, “I don’t know!” as the Burley’s plastic rainfly muted his response and my lightning fast pace of eleven m-p-h red shifted his words to a deeper tenor. We arced around the trail’s curve and before us the asphalt, though coated in slick mud, was open. Rather than backtrack I decided to follow the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s advice and shouted, “Onward, ever onward!” as we slipped and slid through the river muck, adding, “To infinity!” as an over my shoulder rejoinder.

“And beyond!” Jack cried, delivering my desired reply as we cycled under the four lane of US 6/Euclid Avenue.