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Facing the Strange Days of Getting Older

family bike ride

Evolution sucks. Not the scientific theory that helps explain life as we know it, but personal evolution. Growing up. Maturing. It sucks. For the most part, I’ve managed to avoid it. Sure, I look like a mature adult from the outside (note the very serious, very gray beard), but I basically still like to do the same things I did when I was a kid. Play in the woods, ride my bike…Ask me what my favorite band is and I’ll give you the same answer I would’ve given you 30 years ago: the Beastie Boys. Favorite TV show? “Seinfeld.” It’s as if I’m stuck emotionally in the 90s. It’s probably why I’m so fond of flannel. 

I don’t think I’m alone in my resistance to change. I’m just generalizing here, but men seem to be particularly averse to change, particularly middle-aged men, who are known mostly for complaining about our kids’ taste in music and reminiscing about the good old days when you didn’t have to wear seatbelts. 

I’ve been thinking about change recently, because I’m going through a very painful, life-altering transformation: Whiskey Wednesday is dying. Whiskey Wednesday is the midweek respite from adulthood and responsibility that I’ve been involved with for more than a decade. Once a week, a bunch of dads gather to ski or ride bikes, depending on the season, and then we drink whiskey and beer. It sounds like your typical weekly ride, but Whiskey Wednesday had a special sauce that took an ordinary outing into extraordinary territory. There were foot races against hipsters from Kentucky. There was the time we got the entire ski mountain to take their shirts off and do a lap topless. We were thrown out of some bars and begged to come back to others. Whiskey Wednesday sent people to the hospital. A good Whiskey Wednesday would put me out of commission for the following 48 hours. Thursday and most of Friday were recovery days. 

For the better part of a decade, Whiskey Wednesday held a group of disparate fathers from different backgrounds together. Yes, it drove our wives crazy, but I’d argue that mid-week revelry made us better husbands and fathers.  

And now it’s over. The beauty of Whiskey Wednesday was its consistency. We participated every week, regardless of how much work we had to do on Thursday, or whether there was a Little League baseball practice on Wednesday that we had to coach. We shaped our schedules around that weekly respite. At least, we used to. We haven’t had a proper Whiskey Wednesday in months, and if I’m being honest, we haven’t had a really great turnout in a few years now. Attendance is better during the winter, but even then, we’ll only manage to get a few skiers and boarders out on the hill midweek. It’s fun, but it doesn’t have the energy that it used to have when we would end the night singing karaoke at the only bar on the edge of the county line. 

I could blame the pandemic for our lack of Whiskey Wednesday attendance, but honestly, we’ve just outgrown it. A few of my friends don’t even ride bikes anymore. They’ve bought motorcycles and leather jackets. I guess that’s what you do when you get older. You trade in your pedal bike for a motor bike.  

Naturally, I’ve been resisting this evolution. What’s life without Whiskey Wednesday? How will I break up the monotony of adulthood if I don’t ride bikes/ski mountains and drink with my peers once a week? It’s depressing, like losing a loved one. I guess I could try to find some new friends who are younger that want to ride bikes and drink beer with me, but that’s even sadder. I’d be like Wooderson, Mathew McConaughey’s character in “Dazed and Confused,” some sort of creepy Peter Pan who needs to surround himself with youth to feel vital. Alright, alright, alright.  

No, the best thing to do is accept that I’ve aged out of my Whiskey Wednesday shenanigans and move on. Start the next chapter of my life. Maybe I’ll start a lawn bowling league. 

But then something cool happened last week. My nephew turned six and got a mountain bike for his birthday, and he asked me and my kids to ride bikes with him at our local bike park. So, on a Thursday evening, I found myself riding mountain bikes with my kids and nephew and brother-in-law, who happens to be a founding father of Whiskey Wednesday. We rode for a couple of hours, hitting jumps and trails and pump tracks. We pushed each other to ride more technical terrain and get more air on table tops. I brought a grill and some watermelon and whipped up some hot dogs. My brother-in-law brought some beers and Gatorades. We rode until we were tired and then we hung out behind my truck on the edge of the pump track and told stories about our ride. Nobody took their shirt off in the snow and we didn’t hit karaoke afterwards (my nephew has an 8pm bedtime), but it felt good.

It hit me as I watched my son and my nephew build a small kicker near the truck while waiting for the grill to heat up, that this could be the next chapter in my life. I might be too old to participate in Whiskey Wednesday, but someone needs to teach the next generation about the importance of the midweek ritual. It’s like how a professional athlete becomes a coach after his competitive career is over. The sun might be setting on my own WW career, but I have the opportunity to mold the next generation of Whiskey Wednesdayers. Coach Graham. I like the sound of that. I’m gonna need a whistle and some tight gym shorts. Maybe evolution isn’t so bad after all. 

Cover photo: Mellow family rides can be a nice substitute for whiskey-fueled adventures. Photo courtesy of the author

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