There’s Sophie helping her dad clean off a muddy bike after a long day of cyclocross, in a giant gorgeous meadow in Santa Barbara County. Sophie wasn’t as interested as I was in the fire-pit, or the fresh roasted tri-tip, or the keg of local beer, or the possibilities of simply walking in any direction for an absolutely gorgeous hike — but she was interested in a friend’s Hello-Kitty umbrella, and jumping in puddles with her own new frog-boots, and then visiting another friend’s sweet little trailer-home, where the furniture all matched her size, for once. The girls all sat in the trailer, coloring pictures, while their parents raced. I suppose that’s as anti-consumeristic and as outdoor open-ended fun as I’m going to get, right now.
We stayed in a hotel in sweet and odd Carpinteria, then did it all again the next day, this time racing around a shimmering lake in Ojai, where Sophie collected giant red maple leaves, then danced to the blaring techno-music with her adult boyfriend, DB.
Before that second race, in the morning, on the beachside bluffs of Carpinteria, we had watched a hawk, two owls, four seals, and a lot of other birds whose names I don’t know, for some pure family time before the next cyclocross race. Ironically, this ideal morning just made me a bit resentful, by making me think about what a weekend would be like if I were making my own choices and not simply following Ben around wherever he chooses to go — but then we got to the next cyclocross race, where the sun glinted off gorgeous trees and Sophie invented new games with new friends. “Let’s eat our pies with our eyes closed!” she said, and I really couldn’t be anything other than delighted.
I had not been looking forward to an entire weekend of muddy fields and constant catering to the needs of Sophie & Ben but never myself — but I have to admit that I actually love watching Sophie play with the other cyclocross kids (except the mean ones: how do you teach a 3-year-old to identify and avoid the mean kids?) and I love spending hours in gorgeous spaces. It felt like fall, to this New England girl. There were real trees really changing color. And it didn’t even rain directly on us, much. And Ben won both his races.
Oh, what is cyclocross, you ask? It is a type of bicycle-racing held in parks or meadows. Racers go in laps for 45 minutes around a course that includes barrier-hurdles and (afterwards) beer. Also mud, or at least grass & sand & stairs & other surprises. It is Belgian. It is this: