In Search of Families In Search of Adventure
A Family on a Bike Tour: New Zealand, Samoa, USA and Canada 2004/2005

Hare raising moments

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From:       Stuart
Subject:   Hare raising moments
  Date:         20th March 2005
     Waihi Beach, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand


Matthew runs down the street ahead of me, dodging in and out of Saturday morning shoppers. I follow as fast as I can while pushing a bike and trailer, "Plod, plod, plod. Plod, plod, plod."

A little way ahead Matthew drops to the pavement outside a jeweller's shop. He lies on his side, curled up in a foetal position, his little body motionless, his eyes tightly shut. Alarmed bystanders stop and stare. "Are you alright?" they ask him. "Is he alright?" they ask each other. "Is anyone with him?" they ask urgently, looking around for a concerned parent, guardian or carer.

"It's OK, he's with me," I call out reassuringly as I catch up, "He's the hare." The people look at me bemused. Matthew opens one eye when he spies me coming and jumps to his feet, "You'll never win you know. You can't catch me," he calls as he bounds further down the street, dodging the gathered shoppers. "It's OK, he really is fine," I say trying to explain his strange behaviour, "He just loves to play the tortoise and the hare… you know the story where the hare runs ahead, gets really tired, lies down and has a sleep while the tortoise plods along behind…" My explanation doesn't seem to be making much sense and another crowd is gathering ten metres further down the road. Suddenly this game doesn't seem such a good idea.

Matthew and Cameron love to play tortoise and the hare.... anytime, anywhere

One thing kids love is games. It seems if you make a game out of it, you can get them to do almost anything. The tortoise and the hare game has been a real Godsend for us. It's helped us get to the top of big hills, to the end of long walks and through boring shopping expeditions. Once the boys become the hares and we become the tortoises, they forget that they don't want to walk any further or they've had enough of this or that. They enter a fantasy world where as long as we keep playing, they'll keep going, stopping for a snooze just long enough for us to catch up before racing ahead again.

But they know it's more than just a story too. When Kirstie first told the boys the story one bedtime, Matthew was quick to grasp its' significance, "So are you and Cameron the tortoise Mum and me and Dad are the hare?" Like many young children, Matthew often sees the world for what it is and has no fear about telling you how it is too.

But while it's all just a game for the kids, the reality of our roles can be a little harder for us adults to handle. On the bikes Kirstie and I do not have perfectly matched paces. We both cover the same distances and pull similar loads but in different ways and at naturally different speeds. My pace is naturally fast, my cadence high, my legs strong and powerful. I like to ride fast, climb fast, breathe hard, work up a sweat and rest occasionally. I'd like to ride with Kirstie but she often can't or won't keep up. Her style is more laid back, handling the ride at a measured pace, her breathing in check, face glowing but not sweating. Speeding downhill, pacing the flats, hating the climbs and stopping when it hurts. We'd probably be fine on a tandem but neither of us would relinquish control. We've tried to match our paces by redistributing loads or taking turns to pace and lead but somehow, whatever we do, we soon find ourselves playing the tortoise and the hare again. And some days that's fine and other days it drives us both crazy.

Watch out, here comes the tortoise

The hare's life is not all bounding and happy snoozes. It's tiring always being at the front, leading the way, taking the wind. It's irritating waiting for the tortoise, watching time slipping away as darkness approaches, sitting waiting in the rain. Don't get me wrong, I love the tortoise, but our difference in style is fuel for petty conflicts sometimes. But the tortoise's lot is not all roses either. It's demoralising for her to watch the hare pull effortlessly away in front, to sit downwind of his bum and pedal all day to try and catch up. It's annoying how by the time she catches up it's already time to move on. It's irritating how drivers passing on the other side wind down their window to say, "you're doing well, he's just up around the next corner." But despite the frustrations, as years have passed, Kirstie and I have come to accept these roles as a feature of our life on bikes together. We're happy in our roles. I know it's much more fun to be a hare and Kirstie knows the tortoise really wins in the end.

"Plod, plod, plod. Plod, plod, plod." I make my way along the street to where Matthew is in conversation with a man wearing a St John's Ambulance uniform. I overhear the man as I approach, "Hello there. Can you tell me your name?" Matthew looks up from the floor, "I'm Matthew George Wickes." "Are you feeling alright?" asks the man. "Oh yes, I'm fine. I'm just waiting for the tortoise," explains Matthew. Like father like son.




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