Rites of passage happen all the time, but some are best enjoyed during shoulder seasons
Story and photography by Lauren Green
just returned home from a string of back-to-back travels. Hands down, one of the best things about empty nesthood is the increased freedom to skip town more often. It is especially sweet to travel during the shoulder seasons — spring and fall. The timing is perfect for those of us who love sparse crowds, mild weather and deep discounts.
When my kids were younger, April, May, September and October marked seasons of calendar chaos around our house. First and last days of school, class parties, piano recitals, band competitions, sports tournaments and STAAR testing all jockeyed for position on our family’s schedule. Taking a trip during these months never crossed my mind. But now that my nest and calendar are less crowded, shoulder season travel is a delight.
This past spring, I took a trip to Germany with my mom. Fifty-four years ago, she and my dad lived there during his Army assignment in Bindlach, Germany, a town about 60 miles northeast of Nuremberg. Because my dad was deployed to Germany instead of Vietnam, my mom was given the opportunity to join him. It was 1969, and they were newly married. So, off they went, leaving the small Kentucky town that held everything and everyone they had known up to that point in their lives. They lived in Germany for almost two years and spent many three-day leaves traveling throughout Europe. When they returned to Kentucky, they brought home a special souvenir — a baby girl. Me.
Half a century after leaving Germany, my mom wanted to take me back to see my birthplace and retrace their old stamping grounds. My mom and I had traveled together before, but this trip was unique in that it began with her announcing that she would be enjoying the figurative back seat, leaving me to coordinate the logistical details that go hand in hand with international travel. Train schedules, currency exchanges, check-ins and checkouts all fell under my responsibility. It was a shifting of parent-child roles — a rite of passage, of sorts.
Like a modern-day pilgrimage, that 1.5-mile journey was fraught with thrills and chills.
Personally, I appreciate a good rite of passage. Some are nearly universal, like first days of school, graduations, weddings, births and retirements. We’ve experienced others specific to our time here in Southlake; walking into Dragon Stadium for our first Friday night football game, witnessing the holiday transformation on Grapevine’s Main Street and surviving our first relentlessly long, oppressively hot summer. For our kids, there was one particularly meaningful rite of passage that marked their transition from early childhood into adolescence: the solo bike ride from our house to Town Square.
Like a modern-day pilgrimage, that 1.5-mile journey was fraught with thrills and chills. Freedom, in the form of wind in your face, speed at your feet and friends on your heels, rode together with potential threats like wrong turns and distracted drivers. It was a formidable journey, but the reward at the end was free rein in Town Square. First, though, Southlake Boulevard had to be crossed.
Traversing the boulevard on foot or by bike was serious business 10 years ago, making it a well-earned rite of passage for sure. But today, maneuvering our main thoroughfare seems harder, demanding nerves of steel.
Which makes me wonder. On our trip to Germany, my mom and I were in awe of the way bikers, walkers, riders and drivers all coexisted in every city, town and village we visited. Why don’t we see more modes of transportation here in Southlake? One obvious answer, of course, is the multilane behemoth mentioned above. But if Munich, the largest city in Bavaria, can support a transportation culture that feels safe for everyone, maybe we can, too.
Designated bike lanes, pedestrian bridges and plenty of well-placed bike racks are a few ideas that might encourage more of us to keep our cars parked in the garage once in a while. But for now, perhaps the easiest thing I can do is walk my talk and hop on my own bike more often when striking out toward Town Square.
I’m years removed from my first mom-and-dad-free bike journey, and given our Texas weather, I’ll probably save my rides for the milder shoulder seasons. Nevertheless, there’s freedom to be rediscovered in exploring new passageways, regardless of age or season. I’ll be on the lookout for others walking and biking, then, as I cross into Town Square. We’ll have to be careful, but it’s a lot easier if we are out there together.
Lauren Green lives in Southlake with her husband and is currently spending her time looking for her bike pump and helmet. She enjoys traveling whenever she can, especially during those shoulder seasons. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.