Thursday, September 8, 2016

Riverside Park Adventures with an Almost Two Year Old

 Exercising with a child can be challenging, but it can be done with the right equipment. I watch my granddaughter, who is almost two, a few times a week. My kids and her older brother have all been introduced to the parks, but this is the first season she's been able to enjoy the outdoors with me. We have a bike seat and a bike cart. I just had to get them out and put air in the tires so we were good to go. I'll tell you that the first time I took my bike out last week, I pedaled half a block and thought, "Wow, I'm really out of shape!  I can't even pedal this bike!" Turns out the tires needed about 40 more pounds of air.  Amazing what a fully inflated bike can do, even when you're out of shape.

We live near the Oak Leaf Trail. With all the extensions built in the past few years, there are few people who don't have a piece of the trail nearby. There are still extensions being built, so we're pretty lucky they continue to find funding. Milwaukee is a very bikeable county, and you don't even need to buy a bike. Bublr bikes are all over the city for rent and will be out until the weather gets nasty.
Oak Leaf Trail is more than 115 miles of biking heaven

The best way to find the trail is with the county parks map.  It's available at the Oak Leaf Trail link or with the Park People website. For $5, this will get you around to every county park and every trail. It also shows beer gardens, birding hot spots, the urban water trail, and mountain biking trails,  restrooms, and a list of county parks. I keep one in my car and one in my bike bag.

With Marlee in tow, I biked to Riverside Urban Ecology Center. I haven't been here in a few years and was surprised by how much everything has matured now.  Plants are taking over the place. When it was first built, you could easily see the bike parking and picnic area.  Now it's easy to miss it. The garden plots are rented out and all of them had beautiful food and flowers growing. Inside, we looked at the turtles, snakes, fish, and frog. What kid doesn't enjoy that? We also climbed the tower, checked out the lilypad pond, and of course Marlee tried the super secret slide.  Everyone loves it, and even a big person like myself can fit. Really fun for all ages.
Meeting the turtle

What's behind this door?'s the slide!

This is the slide hidden inside

Plants started in pots on the upper terrace

Pretty lilies in bloom
Not only is this a cool destination for kids. It's a great place for adults who enjoy the outdoors. I met a brand new college student at Riverside Park afterwards and couldn't help but to gush about the fabulous programs right in her own backyard. For only $30, a student can become a member. Singles are $35 and families $45. Membership includes discounts on events, classes, and of course full access to the lending closet at all the centers.  This means you don't have to buy or store kayaks, camping equipment, snowshoes, gardening stuff, fishing poles, skates, sleds, etc.  You can just use theirs.  And even if you're a novice, they usually have a local expert who can help you out. Read about the benefits to membership. There's always something going on at one of the centers.

We played at nearby Riverside Park playground for a short while before we biked home again. Use toilets at the Urban Ecology Center before going there as the toilet building has never been unlocked in the seven years I've been going to this park. Overall, our bike trip took three hours and we were back home again. Marlee fell asleep within a block of the house. Mission accomplished.  I got my exercise and she got worn out.
All worn out after our trip

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