Outside the Comfort Zone

Jim and Charlie at the start of their first bike ride on the D & R Canal It's turning into a Have Bike Rack Will Tour kind of summer for us.

When we had a bike rack put on the back of the white car That Has An Unbelievable Amount of Miles On It For a Car That Is Not Yet One Year Old, Jim and I didn't fully realize that we were making our Jersey-burb Staycation not only viable (i.e., with us not constantly looking at each other and miming 'now what do we do?' while Charlie fretted), but a great way to extend Charlie's horizons a little.

I mean that in a very literal sense, but also something a little more metaphorical.Beyond our home bike route, we've taken Charlie biking in only three other venues: the country bike path, Liberty State Park, the beach. The last one being a bit further away, we've really just have ventured out onto two other bike-options.

Jim's always one to look for new twists in the road and to try different directions on a path, so just because they ride in the same places, he and Charlie don't always have the same ride. Mixing things up a bit certainly helps Charlie from getting too stuck on things being 'just this one way.' Charlie varies as to how readily he'll go with doing things differently. Sometimes it's hard for Jim and me to attempt a change because he seems so joyous that things are in the same old way. Too, we get caught up in our comfort zone of knowing that, with Charlie knowing what's in store, the likelihood of him staying peaceful-easy is (you would think) higher.

And then I remember the whole incident of the red brownie box, and how I tried to change things up for Charlie when it was past the point when he could do that without a serious fuss.

So while it's both pleasant and easy (in a sort of 'path of least resistance' way) to just keep doing those two bike routes, Jim and I really have really wanted to try something else. And yesterday, after Charlie got up at 6.30am, said 'no' to walk, and plunked himself in the white car, and after I set his iPod touch timer for an hour,  I was really excited when Jim—sitting at his laptop and Googling something—said that we were going to the canal.

This would be the Delaware and Raritan Canal in central Jersey. We had talked about biking there—it's 70 miles in all—but then it would seem too hot, or Charlie would be calling out so insistently to get going, or we just felt too sluggish to try something new.  These niggling circumstances had resulted in us constantly putting off a canal trip.

But Wednesday was The Day.

Charlie was smiling when we got on the road. He dozed off just as we pulled up in front of a convenience store and, after he groggily woke up, made it clear he wasn't budging out of the car.

Jim went for a brief ride down to the canal. I put Charlie's bike helmet on his seat and tried my latest strategy for getting Charlie to do something that he's told us 'no' too: I walked away, didn't say anything, avoided eye contact. Just as Jim returned, Charlie got out of the car, donned his helmet, pulled himself onto his bike.

They went at least 10 miles down the canal, for some 70 minutes. They saw rowers and other bike-riders and walkers. A couple of times, they had to de-bike and walk due to spillways; at one point, they had to wade some in the water and walk over rather slippery stones.

While Jim and Charlie biked a straight path beside the river, yours truly, in the capacity of driver of the support vehicle, made my way on a more circuitous path. I'm rather directionally challenged (though once I get where I'm going, it's etched in my memory permanently) and, even after a careful study of the Googled map Jim had shown me, managed to drive past our pre-arranged pick-up point. It wasn't really a big deal to drive back and I got a little taste of US history when I drove by Rockingham, George Washington's final headquarters in the Revolutionary Way, in 1783. Nut I had a momentary flurry of 'oh no what will Charlie think if he doesn't see the white car as planned?'

Charlie was definitely ready to de-bike and get in the car. As Jim and I were putting away the bikes we heard thump thump thump and hurried to the front of the car. As on Tuesday, the incident came on quick and passed away and was contained. We quietly, and quickly, tied up the bikes and even though we did a bit of driving here and there and turning back, Charlie got over whatever was bothering him and was composed and back to smiling. We got him a burrito—comfort food or, just what was called for. Jim recalled how, years ago when Charlie was 6 years old or so and still on training wheels (and my friend Christine recently posted on how she's taught kids on the spectrum to learn to ride without these), he'd gotten Charlie to bike 'oh about 20 yards' on the canal (and here's Jim on how he taught Charlie to go training wheel-less and to use the hand brakes).

As Jim noted, on Wednesday, he and Charlie could have biked a bit further than the 10 miles they did.

They will, next time. Maybe not all 70 miles—-well, not yet.

Really, it's feeling like we're making some real good history up and down the roadways of very own Garden State.

River view

6 Responses to “Outside the Comfort Zone”
  1. Eileen says:

    It’s so nice to read about all the adventures you three are having on your Jersey Staycation this summer! And yes, a lot of history in our little state.

  2. Jill says:

    You were practically in my back yard! The canal is a good place to bike although flooding is a constant problem.
    My husband and our sons rode the “Quadzilla” in NY state’s Finger Lakes region last weekend. Four hundred plus miles in two days! While we waited for them to finish daughter and I hung out around the lakes and checked out Cornell (on her short list of college possibilities).
    Bicycling is a wonderful activity for young (and not-so-young) people. As I mentioned before, Charlie can enjoy it for the rest of his life and it’s a good way to get around if driving isn’t an option.

  3. Louise says:

    All that greenery and water makes such a rustic change from all that sand and water… it’s so beautiful along the canal.
    What a beautiful day for you!
    When you hear “thump-thump-thump,” do you always have to guess what’s bothering Charlie? Can he ever tell you? It seems that you have both gotten to a point of just shrugging and saying, “As long as he doesn’t hurt himself… he’ll work it out.” What a tough yet essential lesson for the parents of teens! Bravo!

  4. autismvox says:

    I would say, Louise, that right now it’s always a guess, although we do have some strong hunches.
    We will have to return to the canal!
    And maybe I’ll have to start riding a bike. (But then who will drive the support vehicle?)
    Eileen, who knows but we might show up in your environs! Have bike rack, will ride bikes all across the Garden State!

  5. Eileen says:

    Have you tried the Henry Hudson yet?
    Might be better in the Fall though when the area is less crowded.

  6. autismvox says:

    that one is on our list! Thanks for mentioning that it might be crowded—good to know in advance.

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