“Do we have helmets?” I asked my little brother. Without skipping the slightest beat, Nick answered “Check!” Continuing with my questions, I asked “How about a lunch for our picnic?” “Check!” he replied. “And …have you looked on both sides of the street before crossing?” I asked in a final attempt to be a responsible mentor, to which he answered “Check!” in slightly annoyed tone.
Who could blame him? I was asking Nick the very same questions, practically every sunny Saturday afternoon in the summer of 2008. That’s when my little brother and I started our very own biking adventures. We had a nice routine going. I would pick him up at home in the late morning hours; borrow his mother’s rusty but functioning bike and together, he and I would plan our trailside mission. Geared with our safety kits, a well-packed lunch and some loose change for ice cream, we were ready to pedal.
With the wind at our backs, eyes on the road and our hearts set on biking as long as we both possibly could, Nicholas and I were quite the biking pair. He, leading the way to the neighborhood trails with his newly purchased icon-of-the-day backpack and I, always about ten feet behind, pedaling much faster than I would have liked to. Like any other of our biking expeditions, my little brother and I were trying to beat our previously set cycling record, which at that time, would have been an outing of about two hours at most. With the warm summer weather on our side, we were determined to break all records on that day. We set off to ride just as we normally did. Nick and I would start on his street, take a few turns to the right, followed by a couple of crossings to the left until we were content with our trail traveling adventure.
This day was different and for many reasons. First, we were set on beating our record. Second, we had packed a nice lunch and had no excuse to return to Nick’s house by noon. And lastly, we were feeling particularly adventurous. Always leading the way, Nick decided to explore a new trail, one that will forever remain in our memories. Nestled between suburban life and pristine wilderness, this trail was unlike any other we had ever set our tires on. Somewhere and sometime while pedaling around pedestrians, pine trees and the occasional blueberry patch, Nicholas and I were lost.
The afternoon sun was hotter than ever and our leg muscles were no longer cooperating. It was time for a break. We bit into our ham sandwiches, which tasted better than ever and chatted for a bit while sharing a few M&M’s®. With the bugs wanting a piece of our lunch and my desire to get back on the map, Nick and I slowly returned to our dirt-covered bikes, both of us ignoring the loud growls coming from our stomachs.
At this point, I think we were both equally worried that we may not find our way back home. Despite feeling disoriented, Nicholas and I made the best of the two hours or so that followed. Although we were pedaling in circles around the same old abandoned cabin, we were spending time together and that is what mattered. Most importantly, we were enjoying the simple pleasure of each other’s company while waiting patiently for an exit.
Moments later, Nicholas and I were stunned to hear the sounds of happy skateboarders in what seemed to be minutes away from where we were biking. Speeding through the dusty trail, we quickly passed by five teenaged boys who were obviously surprised that the trail was being used at all. I don’t recall ever being so happy to see a paved road before, or skateboarders for that matter. I suspect that Nicholas felt the same. Alas, we were on our way to Nick’s home, eager to share our story and our excitement with others.
In what seems to have been record-timing, we were standing in front of his door step. Within minutes of arriving, Nicholas and I were sharing our trailside story with his family, oblivious to the fact that our socks were spreading sand all over their newly installed hardwood floor.
Months have passed since our last trail traveling expedition, yet Nicholas and I continue to reminisce about our biking trips and all the other adventures we have come to share in the years past. I can only imagine the stories, experiences and memories that are waiting for us, either on that particular trail, on an upcoming camping tip, during a sleepover or at the mall. Now, when I tell Nicholas that every adventure is a story to remember, he is quick to agree with me, often responding by teasing “Check!”
Short story by Kristeen McKee with shared memories with Nicholas Warrenda.