10/14/2014 11:37 am ET Updated Dec 14, 2014

A Good Day With Grant

Some days aren't always about politics or smartphones.

It's 7:10 a.m. Sunday morning comes around like it always does, but today feels different. Better. Fun. I creep out of bed, my muscles aching they way they always do when you get older. Not gray hair kind of old. Just older. I pop some Naproxen Sodium to get my body going, and suit up. A bike ride that I usually do every Sunday morning will be a bit different today. My nephew Grant is coming along, and it feels exciting.

Grant is a spiky-haired 13-year-old. Tall and lanky, with thick prescription glasses and spindly legs, he's curious yet clumsy the way a 13-year-old is clumsy. He's eager to go, having received a "new" used mountain bike from his dad a few weeks back. He's been tinkering with his bike riding skills, learning how to stand on the pedals and how to shift the myriad of gears, and why you even need them. Today we would need them.

I fill my water bottle, grab my house keys, and clip into my pedals for the short jaunt to my brother's place. My graphite cyclocross bike thuds with every pothole, and I'm adoring the feel of carbon fiber between my legs. The morning air is crisp, the way it feels when you stick your hand into ice water, just not so shocking. I can see steam coming from my mouth as I breath, and it reminds me of days when I would walk to school, throwing rocks and watching for cars.

I finally make it to brother's place, and Grant is there out front waiting eagerly. I go over a few details with him, and adjust his seat, which is way too low for a kid with legs as long as his. While I'm decked out in Nalini spandex, Grant's bike attire consists of a pair of black 501s, sneakers, and a hoodie.

Well played Grant.

We set off for Alviso boat dock, a short jaunt maybe 4-5 miles away, with a mix of asphalt and dirt fire roads along a levee. It's Grant's first time ever to ride on dirt, and it makes him anxious. On our way there he is shifting gears back and forth, grabbing brakes, and wobbling. It concerns the shit out of me, but leaves me with a list of things to show him. Meanwhile he is smiling ear to ear. Gotta love that.

We get to the boat dock, and Grant is grinning with a grin that only a goofy kid can have. We decide to add mileage by riding to Baylands Park, about 6 miles away. It's more dirt road, and the instability of gravel is improving Grant's balance. By now he's stopped wobbling, and he's learning what gears do for a bike as we crest some small hills, one by one.

We reach Baylands Park just in time to watch a club flying RC airplanes, and the impromptu air show highlights our ride as we watch from a nascent park bench that proves to yield both great views and needed rest. Grant zips open his hoodie, and begins scarfing down an oatmeal power bar and some water, as a red biplane buzzes us from above. With oatmeal and water in his mouth, he mumbles a response: "Cool."

We get back on the bikes for our journey back home. The round trip, all tolled, is around 12.5 miles. As I drop him off at his place, his dad is outside, asking how it went. Grant starts listing out all the cool sights, the RC planes, the triumph of riding on dirt, the success of going almost 13 miles without being tired. It's cool to see a 13-year-old kid when he's excited. Meanwhile my Naproxen is starting to wane, and my joints begin sounding off one by one. We rode for all of two hours, but the experience was one of those memory kind of things that you don't soon forget, because you just don't want to.

Some days aren't always about politics or smartphones...