Saturday, 4 March
Destination: Oak Park Public Library, Main Branch

It’s a chilly spring afternoon in early March, but we need to get away. Friend Garrett from five doors down is with us this afternoon. He and my son, Eli, have run the gamut of indoor and outdoor activities and are clamoring for videos. Unwilling to go down that road, I tell them we’re going for a bike ride. The stack of library books on the coffee table are nearly due so we’ll do a drop-off at the main branch. Eli is an old pro with the bike trailer, but Garrett is a first-timer; I wonder how Garrett will do.

Getting both boys into the trailer is a struggle. The straps are just right for one boy; accommodating a second requires adjustments. Both boys are excited, operating at full volume, and eager to help, the straps uncooperative. I take deep, calming breaths and get the job done. With both boys strapped in, I wrap them in two blankets, Velcro down the windscreen, and take off. As always, once on the bike, the ride is absolutely worth the effort.

Garrett loves it. All smiles, he chatters happily all the way. Door-to-door travel time is 25 minutes (including strap adjustment time).

Once inside the library, both boys immediately head for the videos. Resolute, I steer them toward the books. We choose a stack, and amid a frenzy of button-pushing, make our peace with the automated checkout machine. Normally a great piece of technology, it becomes a horse of a different color when two small boys are involved.

Loading up for the return trip is easier. Straps are still good and both boys still happy. It’s 40 degrees when we return, but both boys are toasty under their blankets in the trailer. I lack but a headband to be as comfortable as they. It’s a great day for a ride.

Slow down. Be safe. Enjoy the ride.

The route: West on Erie to Grove (just west of Oak Park Avenue). South one block on Grove to the library. As always, a safe crossing of Ridgeland takes some time and patience.

Friday, 10 March
Destination: A Matter of Style, Marion Street mall

A day off work for me and a day off pre-school for Eli, along with early spring weather in the 60s, make it a great day for a ride. The boy’s long locks suggest the perfect destination. A quick phone call lands us an 11 a.m. haircut appointment at A Matter of Style. Perfect. We have one hour to brush teeth, locate shoes and socks, gather some snackies, walk the dog, and ride to Marion Street mall.

We’ve ridden to the library many times. Marion Street mall is a bit further, but just as easy. We lock the bike and trailer to a bike rack in the middle of the mall right in front of A Matter of Style. Door-to-door travel time: 18 minutes.

Toy Story is the movie of choice during the haircut; fruit snacks and hard candy the treat for afterward. Wanting to extend this outing on a beautiful Friday, we wander up and down the mall and eventually stroll past the Fresh Mex Caf on Westgate. Eli always loves rice and beans at Chipotle, but today we decide to take a chance on something new. We are not disappointed. Eli is happy with the rice and beans; I am thrilled with the soft shell chicken tacos. Stuffed with fresh ingredients and packed with flavor, the tacos are perfect.

Before we head back to the bike, Eli wants to check out the antique shop across the street to “get something for mom.” Of course, he wants to buy and handle everything. The nervous owner watches us; in due time I escape, everything in the store undamaged and my wallet intact. The lovely oval oak end table, too large to fit in our bike trailer, remains behind.

Our ride home is uneventful. The weather, unseasonably warm for early March, is grand. It’s a great day for a ride.

Slow down. Be safe. Enjoy the ride.

The route: From Austin and Lake we head north and take Erie across town until just past Oak Park Avenue. We jog south to Ontario, then west to Forest and south to Lake. To cross Lake Street at Forest, we act like a car: stop at the light, turn right on green, and immediately head for the left turn lane. After waiting for the left-turn arrow, we head south one block on Forest to the parking lot on the right. Marion Street mall is at the end of the parking lot.

Sunday, 12 March
Destination: Lalo’s Restaurant, 804 S. Oak Park Ave.

We have a situation. Our family is going in different directions at different times. My wife and the car are down at 38th and Central watching Camille play in a volleyball tournament. Celeste, Eli, and I want to join our friends for a confirmation celebration at Lalo’s on South Oak Park Avenue.

It is cold?#34;maybe 40 degrees, maybe not. We call our friends to see if they might give us a ride. No luck. Voice mail. I take the dog for a walk and check the wind. Now we’re in luck. The wind is from the northeast; we need to ride southwest. I think this will work.

The three of us don jackets, hats, and gloves. Nestled in the trailer with two blankets, Eli is toasty. A headband under the helmet is all Celeste needs to weather the cold. Lalo’s is just under two miles from our back door. We arrive in plenty of time; our friends are not yet there. My wife and Camille join us partway through the meal, and we all have a fine dinner.

The ride home is colder and damp. Turns out it had rained while we ate. Celeste and her bike opt for the van; Eli and I brave the cold. The trailer is dry as a bone, but my seat is soaked. I buckle Eli in and settle onto my soggy saddle. It’s a short ride home; I can manage. Halfway home I remember the plastic bag in my coat pocket. I always carry one there for walks with the dog. Had I remembered it sooner, it would have provided for a dry ride home. Too late now so I endure.

Minutes after we arrive home the skies open up again. I have narrowly missed a drenching. Eli would have been fine in the enclosed trailer, but I would have been soaked. Grateful for this fortuitous timing, I reflect on the ride: a bit cold perhaps, but exhilarating nonetheless. It was a great day for a ride.

Slow down. Be safe. Enjoy the ride.

The route: South on Humphrey to Pleasant. West two blocks to Lombard. South to Van Buren. West all the way to Oak Park Avenue. Lalo’s is right around the corner to the left.

Saturday, 1 April
Destination: Longfellow School, 715 Highland

My son is always eager to read books before going to bed at night, but for some reason, always refuses during the day. So, typically, as the day wears on and I inevitably sense things heading in the wrong direction, I often insist. And once we have settled in with a good book, he loves it.

Today, rather than debate an in-house reading, we opt for story hour at Longfellow School at Jackson and Highland. With temperatures in the mid-50s and slightly overcast skies bearing no hint of rain, the day is perfect for a bike ride. Of course Eli thinks it perfect enough to doff his sweatshirt. This always irritates, me but I’ve come to expect it. I don’t fight it. The trailer is fully enclosed, and he has a blanket; he’ll let me know if he’s cold.

Like most destinations in Oak Park, Longfellow is less than two miles from our house. The ride is a breeze. Door-to-door time is 17 minutes, including a few minutes to unload and lock bike and trailer to a parking sign in front of the school.

Story hour is a big success. Fifty-plus kids howl at the antics of a woman who adroitly weaves into her stories lessons about manners and fair play. The kids love it. After the show, we each choose a book from a large selection of freebies. Eli picks a book about a little girl visiting the doctor. Standing on the sidewalk in front of the school, still sans sweatshirt, of course, he wants to read the book right away. I demur, but promise to read it when we get home.

Appeased, he climbs back in the trailer, and I buckle him in. During the ride home he munches on goldfish and peruses his new book. It’s a great day for a ride.

Slow down. Be safe. Enjoy the ride.

The route from just north of Austin and Lake: We take Humphrey south across Lake Street, under the el tracks and across South Boulevard. A block further south, we jog over to Lombard and take it all the way south to Adams. At Adams we head west two blocks to Highland and then south to the school.

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