“You should be able to go at least fifty miles on these. This charge should easily get you all over the island with the time span in which you’re going to have these bikes.”
Those were the words spoken to me by one of the store managers who had just dropped off the set of electric bikes to where my family and I were staying in Oak Island, NC. We were renting the bikes for an afternoon of fun and adventure. We were there on vacation for my oldest son Jadon’s graduation trip from High School. My wife had not joined us yet. My youngest son Baylon was not old enough to drive a bike by himself, so much to his dismay, he would have to ride on the back of one of the bikes with me. So off we went, myself and my youngest son Baylon on one bike, and my other two sons Jadon and Ryder, each on a bike by themselves.
We peddled and throttled all the way up to one end of the island, reaching speeds of 20 mph as we rode. Wind in our face, gleefully laughing and smiling, we rode in the hot beach sun as far as we could go. We were having the time of our lives. Once we had secured that target, we decided to turn around and go all the way to the other end of the island, which was at a former Civil War Fort called Fort Caswell.
Once again, with the warm sun on our shoulders and the wind whisking across our faces, we were off. Smiles and laughter abounded as we rode the long miles down along the coastline to the destination that once served as a military garrison for the entire island. Though I had done it many times before, I had planned to take my boys and explore the old tunnels of the broken down fortress. It would have been a first for them. Then, out of nowhere, it happened…mission aborted.
Just as we approached the gates of the Fort, the batteries on two of the bikes sputtered and died. We were miles from the house where we were staying with friends. To be clear, you can peddle electric bikes, but they are not really made for peddling. The electric bikes we were riding weighed about eighty pounds. A typical, decent road bicycle weighs about 18 pounds. I ride a road bike often for exercise. These electric bikes were not exactly material for peddling down the road with ease in the hot summer sun. Nonetheless, here we were.
Fittingly, my oldest son Jadon’s bike still had its charge. It was his graduation trip, so I suppose it’s only fair. Office hours of the rental place had ended. All we had was a pick-up time back at the house, which was approximately 45 minutes from the time the batteries went out, and three hours past the time we had received the bikes. “Not too bad”, I thought, “But still not what the guy promised us.” It is what it is, this is the situation, we have miles ahead to peddle, and a lot of work.
We made the decision to stick my youngest son Baylon on the bike with Jadon, being that his bike still had its charge. My middle son Ryder and I would peddle back and just meet them at the house. Jokingly, I told Jadon, “If we’re not back in an hour, send the rescue crew out for us, or just send a truck to pick up the remains.” Not wanting to leave us, Jadon put Baylon on the back of his bike and just rode alongside us most of the way back.
We began to peddle 80 pounds of metal and aluminum, plus our own body weight, without battery assist, in the hot summer sun, the miles and miles it would take to get back to the house. You could not adjust the seats on these bikes for leverage. They sat low, so you got very little leverage unless you stood up. There were minimal gear changes on the bike. Onward, trudging, laboring, we went. No more wind in our faces. Just the hot sun on our backs. The laughter turned to measured breathing for the long road ahead.
About midway back, my middle son Ryder, sweat dripping down his brow, turned to me and asked, “Dad, since the bikes lost charge and we’re having to peddle back, do you think it was worth it?” I paused, I thought, I then wiped the sweat from my bald forehead. Continuing to pedal with force, I turned to him and said with utmost certainty, “Absolutely!” I made sure to say it loud enough so that my other two sons could hear it as well.
I continued, “Look around son, the coastline is on your left, your brothers are on your right, and I’m here beside you. It doesn’t matter what the situation is that we’re facing, we are all together, and I wouldn’t trade anything for that. As a matter of fact, I’d do it all over again, just to get this moment right here.” There was no response from any of my boys…only silence. It was a weighty, impactful moment in a set of less than ideal circumstances.
The rest of the ride, we all talked about things we haven’t talked about since they were little kids. Their faces weren’t in their phones. All we had was each other, the moment, and the task at hand. We were creating a memory we would talk about for years, and I was immediately aware of it, and glad for it, even as hard as it was. I sat back on the bike, continued to peddle, and just rode along, taking every moment with me.
It was then that I thought about all the “less than ideal” circumstances in life that I try to hurry through or find an exit for which to escape. I wondered what I had missed in trying to get out of all those “less than ideal” moments of my life. How much better would I be if I had just noticed my surroundings, kept peddling, and rode along with it, rather than resist it.
In all that labor of peddling and “less than ideal”, I discovered I had more than I could ever ask for. I discovered that no matter how “less than ideal” becomes, the weight of the good around me has always outweighed the weight of the bad. The labor of peddling 80 pounds of metal down the road was vastly outweighed by the value of the experience I was getting with those who labored with me.
God’s faithfulness is always like that if I can simply take the time to look beyond my circumstances. There’s value in the suffering, value in the labor, value in the work, value in the grieving, and value in every “less than ideal” circumstance. We may not feel it as we’re riding through it, but we can always look back and say, “Yeah, it was absolutely worth it.” This is why we “…fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Cor. 4:18)
We crested the hill and began to coast down the last half-mile to the house. As we did, the guy from the rental company met us in his truck to pick up the bikes. We had just made it in time. He parked the truck, and as he exited the vehicle, he looked up at me and asked excitedly, “Well, how’d it go, did you all have a good time? Aren’t those bikes fast and easy?”
I paused, I thought about the batteries going dead, I looked around at my boys, I thought about the last hour of hard peddling, the moments we shared, the value, and then responded simply, “Yeah, we had the best time ever…and it was all worth it.”