We did a lot of things up north this past weekend.
We visited some old friends. We went to a pig roast. We walked onto a tennis court and proceeded to hit the ball a few times, and no that is not at all the same thing as actually playing tennis. Playing tennis would require us to keep the ball within the high fenced in area and away from the surrounding countryside, which manifestly did not happen. We continued to watch the Women's World Cup, and we still have no idea how the French managed to lose to the Germans (and if you think it's easy to skip the WWII jokes here, well, you try it). We searched for the northern lights but were apparently half a week late. We even slipped over the border into Minnesota for half an hour – the first time either of the girls had done so. Add another state to the list!
But the one thing that will likely stay with us most from this trip was the 4x4.
We were staying at Joe’s house, which has a great deal of land attached to it – and why not, since there’s not much else around besides land. It’s wide open country out there. Joe was actually not home most of the weekend, as he was gallivanting around the state on other missions (we did get to see him at the very end), so we pretty much had the place to ourselves. The girls made fires in the firepit, learned not to attempt the hammock that was strung over the big pile of rocks (“it was an error in judgment,” was all Joe would say about it when asked), and generally had a marvelous time. It's good to have friends who will let you take over their home like that.
Joe also has a 4x4 – one of those little ATVs that you can ride around the trails. It seats two comfortably, one behind the other, and once you get it going it can move at a fairly good clip. The girls had been on it before, on previous visits, and Lauren had been looking forward to riding it again since the moment she found out we were going north.
Except that nobody was there but us, this time.
This, of course, is one of those parenting moments that you know is coming but are nevertheless not quite prepared for. How much freedom do you want to give them when it involves internal combustion engines and knobbly tires? Then again, how restrictive can you be? It’s a balancing act.
So I took the first ride solo. I figured out how to get it to start (a simple but non-obvious process) and then scouted out a route around the property that seemed to involve minimal hazards.
When I got back I took Lauren around that route, and eventually Tabitha as well.
Then it was their turn.
They rode together for the first few times, switching off from driver to passenger. It’s always good to have a buddy to run for help if anything happens, and Tabitha is now legally old enough to drive in Wisconsin anyway, even if she doesn't yet have the paperwork to make it official. They went down the driveway, made the right turn around the clump of trees and came back up around the lawn, past the big bushes and back to the driveway – a loop of maybe a hundred yards length and twenty yards width.
Eventually they got bored with that and went past the clump of trees and followed the driveway down the hill to the main road, where they turned around and came back. You can really open it up when you come up the hill.
This lasted two days.
By the third day they were cruising solo. Lauren especially enjoyed the ride – she would go out and start the thing up on her own and take off down the driveway, Joe’s big dog flying beside her like a furry flag, back and forth, around and around.
Let’s just say that one of our missions this past weekend involved refilling a couple of gas cans.
It all went well right up to about half an hour before we left, when Lauren backed it into Joe’s car. She put a palm-sized dent just above the rear blinker, which fortunately Joe was not bothered about, and nobody got hurt. So, win.
If there were offroad trails from there back to Our Little Town, my guess is that Lauren would have just met us at home.