2011 New Year’s Resolution

[Note: This one is supposed to be in the Chronicle, but it’s not on its web site yet. Once it’s up over there, I’ll replace this with a link.]

My six-year old son has always wanted to run super fast. How fast? Well, his favorite superhero is The Flash, so that kind of sets the bar.

There is, however, one major obstacle between my son and his dream of super speed: his brother. It’s tough to imagine you’re the fastest boy on the planet when your big brother is sprinting past you.

I sympathize with the little guy. Being the youngest of four, I remember how hard it was to outpace my siblings. Every chance I get, I work on helping him get faster.

This past Christmas was no different. He’s been getting too big for his old bicycle, so we bought him a new one as his big present. It’s what us old fogies call a hybrid bike, good for either riding on the street or on the grass. More importantly, it’s fast, with hand brakes and twenty one speeds.

On Christmas afternoon, we went out front to ride. I showed him how hand brakes work and how to shift while he’s pedaling. At first he loved the low gears, and spinning his feet around, but then he discovered the speed that came with the higher gears.

Soon he was zooming around the cul-de-sac and laughing like a mad man. “This is fast, Daddy! Look at how fast I am!”

That’s when I had an idea. Instead of racing around in circles, this was a chance for him to build up his speed, to inch a little closer to the golden ring of outpacing his brother.

“Hey kiddo,” I said. “Let’s race.” I stood on the end of the driveway and held up my hands like I was about to run. “You on the bike, me on foot.”

Laughing nervously, he glided next to me and put his foot on the pedal.

“To the mailboxes down the street,” I said. “Ready?”

He nodded.

“Go!” I shouted and sprinted to the mailboxes.

“Hey,” he said, pedaling to catch up. “No fair! You have to give me a head start. It takes too long to get going.”

We talked the problem out and tried a few more races, and then hit on the solution. I would stand at the mailboxes down the street and wait. He would start cycling about twenty feet behind me. When he passed me, presumably at close to full speed, I’d start running. The first one to the driveway would win.

I double-checked to make sure no cars were out and we set ourselves up on the street, He cycled into position and gave me the nod, a strangely serious expression on his face.

I held my thumbs up, and he started pedaling. As he zoomed by, I launched myself past him. He leaned forward on his pedals and surged forward. I heard the click of the gears, and put my head down for more speed.

It was a tight race, with the lead changing back and forth, and then the driveway was before us. I jumped over the gutter just as his bike bounced over it, a tie.

“Brake!” I yelled.

“I am!” he shouted back.

But the driveway wasn’t long enough. Tires locked, he skidded straight into the garage, coming to a hard stop when the bike hit the minivan. His back wheel lifted into the air, and he bonked his helmet on the minivan, then landed back on his seat, laughing. “Da-addy!”

“Whoops,” I said. “You okay?”

“Yeah.” He climbed off his bike, still laughing. “Did I win?”

“I’m not sure. I think we tied.”

“That was fast!”

“And a little embarrassing,” I said.

He laughed. “Yeah.”

At least, however, it gave me a new year’s resolution for 2011: stopping distances. I have to remember stopping distances.

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