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Emptying the nest

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Posted: Wednesday, August 27, 2008 12:00 am

I love riding bikes in Lodi. To a point.

Grapes are great for the first couple of hundred miles and then even the fall folliage breeds contempt for the familiar.

Besdies, it's flatter than Kansas here.If you have more than three gears on your bike, they're boobs on a boar in Lodi.

So Saturday I talked Christi and Mike into taking a ride in the foothills north of Lake Camanche.

Even in late summer, the scenery around Camanche is a great relief. The oaks, the ancient barbed wire fences and the creeks remind you that California has its roots in a rural past. The mine on Coal Mine Road, the 19th Century church on Camanche Parkway North and the Buena Vista Saloon are reminders of the Gold Rush just out our back door.

Mike is our youngest. He goes off to San Diego State this week.

Christi has known for years she will really miss him. I'm just waking up to the fact.

The ride I took them on — from the Camanche Blues store on Camanche Parkway North, out to Buena Vista and back — is one I've done dozens of times.

Saturday was the one I'll remember most.

As we came to the steep, winding stretch of Coal Mine Road, Christi deftly settled into first gear and began the slog. Mike, a soccer player whose gear set isn't as low as it might be, stood on the pedals and ascended with the determination of a Lance Armstrong.

"I'm going to catch him," I said and stood up too.

I didn't catch him, of course. I've logged hundreds of bike miles, but I never was and certainly never will be in the physical condition of either of my sons.

But for a few minutes I closed the distance on Mike. Then he heard my huffing and took off again. All I could do was watch and admire his strength.

I guess that's your job as a parent.

That may be why Christi forgave me for taking her up that nasty road.

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