This was the final day of our family cycling adventure from New York City to Niagara Falls and back. As I calculated our final route, I realized that the total distance came out to almost exactly 1,000 miles from start to finish. Is it too much to ask of a 13-year-old and 7-year-old to pedal that far? I don't think so, and Sho and Saya didn't either. The trick is to keep the pace manageable, take breaks when needed, find fun things to do along the way, and of course, keep the kids fed.
In the morning, we said goodbye to my good buddy Paul Descloux, who let us sleep in his home in Ossining.
Then we made our way toward the urban megalopolis we call home. Many people we spoke with were intimidated by the idea of cycling out of and back into NYC. Here's how we did it: from Ossining, we rode a few miles on side streets, then got onto the North County Trailway, a paved rail trail that covers dozens of miles from Westchester County to the northern tip of Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. It turns into a dirt path that we followed for a few miles through the park:
We then cycled on busy urban streets, going slowly and sometimes riding on the sidewalk in order to stay safe. We crossed over the Harlem River Ship Canal on the Broadway Bridge, which marked our return to Manhattan:
We followed Broadway to 181st Street, staying close to the side of the road to allow cars to pass, and made our way over to the Hudson Greenway, a bike path along the Hudson River. Here is Saya with the spires of Midtown Manhattan in the background:
We arrived at our apartment on 25th Street at 6:45 p.m., where my wife Eiko treated us to a congratulatory meal of sushi, miso soup and salad. Eiko cycled with us for the first 2 weeks of this ride and would have preferred to ride the entire trip with us, but she needed to return to her job in NYC.
This is the fifth "family adventure" I've taken with my kids, in which we spend their summer vacation cycling long distances, linking each ride to a charitable cause. We've pedaled over 7,000 miles across Japan, Iceland, Europe and the U.S., carrying our gear, figuring out the route, and deciding where to sleep as we go. The trips have been physically challenging and stressful at times. I tell my kids, "Sometimes, an adventurer just suffers for a while." We've been pounded by heavy rains, struggled to pedal through gale-force winds, cycled over many mountain passes, learned to keep pushing when we thought we didn't have any more energy left, and experienced the remarkable kindness of strangers around the world.
We've become closer as a result, like team members who learn to trust and rely on one another to achieve a difficult goal. My kids bicker and sulk from time to time. So do I. That's called being human. But they also have learned the remarkable feats their bodies are capable of, the power of self-confidence, and the joy of uncovering nature's secrets.
We live in a world full of stunning beauty, and the time we have to appreciate that beauty is all too short. I hope that these trips will linger in my children's memories, reminders to look for ways to treat each day as a gift, to protect nature like you would a family member, to seek adventure and to have the confidence to craft a life full of love and meaning.