Let me warn you: if you want to find a heat wave in summer, follow us. Two summers ago, our arrival in Barcelona ushered in one of that fair city’s hottest summers ever. Now in the birthplace of our own country, we are at it again, but this time with the blessing of central air conditioning awaiting us at home.
Even sitting inside with a fan blowing on me, simply reading The Weather Channel’s weekend forecast from two days ago is enough to make my skin shimmer with heat goosebumps:
Trenton, NJ: Daily record high of 106 degrees.
Philadelphia, PA: Daily record high of 103 degrees.
It’s not as bad as it sounds, really. (See aforementioned air conditioning.) There is plenty of great local ice cream (hello Zebra Striped Whale!), our great-aunt and -uncle’s swimming pool is right around the corner, and tomorrow — barring the arrival of predicted thunderstorms — there will be tubing in the Delaware River.
This morning, we got an early start for a bike ride along the D&R Canal. The clouds that carried the idle threat of thunderstorms kept the bright sun at bay.
With bikes rented from Greenway Bikes at The Nelson House, just inside the entrance to the Washington Crossing State Park (on the New Jersey side), we rode along a tow path that for most of the 19th century was the “freeway” for commerce from Philadelphia to New York. (I mention this fact to our kids in the hope that some history will seep in, anticipating the 5th grade American history curriculum, but mostly I think they’ll remember the chocolate croissants they later got at the Lambertville Trading Company in Lambertville, New Jersey.)
(An ironic history sidenote: When we arrive in Lambertville, what do we see but the “James Marshall” house? Lo and behold, it is the house where a young James Marshall lived before setting off for California and igniting the California gold rush with his discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill.
So it seems we are still meant to be reviewing 4th grade history.)
As we continue our bike ride, we pass a pair of joggers or bicyclists only every five minutes or so. It is peaceful enough for me to hear the loud whoosh of cicadas in the trees. Emmett offers me the exoskeleton of one.
As we ride I catch glimpses of the calm Delaware River through the thick green foliage on my right. I can’t help but think of the very different bike ride I took just last Sunday, along the Pacific ocean from Pacific Palisades through bustling Santa Monica, crowded Venice, along the oft-graffitti’d Ballona creek all the way to Culver City, trying to keep up with my father’s quixotic goal of riding to his “ancestral home,” where he lived until he was nine years old.
As we rode along that beach bike path, the spray of the Pacific at our side, my father kept saying, “feel that natural air conditioning” and beaming his widest smile. He knew that those ocean breezes would not be accompanying his daughter, son-in-law and grandsons on our trip, and he wanted to be sure that the refreshing air would be a vivid, sweet reminder of what we have to welcome us when we come back.
Until then, I’m on this path with my family, and we may be sticky, but we’re still smiling.