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Little Spouse On The Prairie: Muddin'

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One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to spend more active time outdoors. It’s hard to get a good start on a resolution like this because: January. High plains. Wind chill. Need I say more?...

One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to spend more active time outdoors. It’s hard to get a good start on a resolution like this because: January. High plains. Wind chill. Need I say more?

However, a couple of weeks ago, I read the regional forecast of a calm 50 degrees, and said, “Load up the bikes! We are driving over to the pond to ride around the trails this afternoon.”

Knee deep in new electronic devices, my family was less than enthused. But Joel gamely loaded the bikes in the back of the truck, and we set out for a small county lake about 20 miles from our home. I knew this particular lake had a nice five-mile trail around the perimeter.

As we pulled into the wildlife area, I noticed that there was quite a bit more mud on the paths than I had expected. Though my town hadn’t received much rain, neighboring counties had received over an inch a couple of nights ago. This was a minor detail I had forgotten.

Joel knows better than to argue with me when I get an idea, regardless of how stupid that idea might be. Though I detected a doubtful look in his eyes, he gamely unloaded our bicycles and we strapped on our helmets.

I enthusiastically shouted that the middle part of the road looked dry, and that we’d just have to ride single file if it got dicey. Clementine, age seven, wanted to know what “dicey” meant. Joel may or may not have mumbled something about it being a roll of the dice as to whether we would get the bikes stuck.

Despite a few reservations, though, we rode for about a half mile without much trouble. “See?” I gloated. “This isn’t bad! It feels so good to get exercise and enjoy nature! Doesn’t it? Doesn’t it? Doesn’t it?”

I guess my family members were too winded by the exercise to respond. Our legs pumped as we ascended a steep hill. As we crested, I cautioned for Clem to take it slow, as the descent was super steep.

“Not sure, guys, but it looks a bit muddy at the bottom.”

We sped down the hill, gaining maximum speed just as the road turned into sludge. There were no high spots, no firm areas, no detours. Clementine, as a novice rider, was completely out of control as she careened into the mud. Her momentum from the hill carried her far enough into the mess to clog her wheels. I tried to get stopped, but it was too late. I watched as my fenders filled up.

Chunks of mud were flying up on both sides, and I was reminded of the last time Clementine had used the hand mixer to stir up chocolate cake batter. Thwack. A blob hit my cheek. Floock. I felt a cold weight hit the back of my neck. Blurk. My teeth turned to brown grit.

Clementine’s bike gradually came to a painful stop and, as if in a slow-motion cartoon, fell over. She must have felt it would be safer to bail, so, just before the bike hit the sludge, she dove off. I had the fleeting thought that I was glad she was wearing a helmet, but I’m not sure the helmet made much difference, other than it did make a satisfying squelching sound as it embedded in the slop. Oh, and it kept the top of her head as the only clean spot on her entire body.

By this time, everyone was in similar circumstances, so we picked up our bikes and carried them. We argued over whether to go back or forward. I thought maybe once we were through this one big patch of mud, we’d be home free. We had carried our bikes for several hundred yards, though, and there was no sign of dry land ahead. And the bikes were much heavier than usual due to the 50 extra pounds of mud compacted between the tires and the fenders. We headed back.

Joel loaded the bikes, mud and all.

“What an adventure, everyone!” I shouted. “One for the scrapbook!” I crowed.

Apparently, the others were already documenting the day’s exploits on their electronic devices, because they didn’t look up to answer.

Here’s to more outdoor escapades in the new year!