Since she was 11 years old, Caroline Hutton has spent one week of the summer with her father and two brothers on Bike Ride Across Georgia.
"The tradition started when my older brother turned 10," said Hutton. "Carlton and my dad went and had a great time. Then, when I turned 11, it was my turn to ride on the tandem with dad. BRAG is 400 miles so you have to train to be ready for 50 miles a day."
This has turned into an annual father/child event in the Hutton household. Now 17, Hutton just completed her seventh BRAG and has an endless flow of memories of time with her father and brothers.
"We all look forward to preparing for the ride each year," said Hutton. "Dad always has a plan and a destination for us. During the week, the rides are shorter. On the weekend, we try to get a couple of 40- to 50-mile rides under our belt. We ride to get ice cream, to the state park for a swim or to my aunt's house."
About 1,200 people participate in the event. Many people have been doing the ride for years, so the annual gathering is like a big family reunion.
"One year my dad, Carlton and I were on the ride," said Hutton. "When we arrived at our destination, the ground was super hard, so we didn't put the tent stakes all the way in. While we were at dinner, a huge storm passed through. When we got back to our campsite, our tents were standing up on end, and water was pouring in, soaking everything. We laugh about it now, but that was one soggy night."
Another year, as they were on a training ride, Hutton was on a single, and her younger brother and father were riding tandem when she wrecked.
"That was the first time I had wiped out," said Hutton. "It really scared me. My dad made sure nothing was broken and then proceeded to bandage up my scrapes using his trusty toilet paper and duct tape.
"We got back on our bikes and headed to the house about 6 miles away. I still have a scar that reminds me of that ride, but even more it reminds me of my father's love and the way he took care of me that day."
When asked how the time with her father has impacted her, Hutton said it allowed her to grow closer to him.
"My dad is super positive," said Hutton. "When we ride, he encourages me, but he doesn't pressure me. If I can't make it to the top of the hill, it's OK to get off and walk my bike. Spending this time together has been special for me. I know my dad believes in me, and I have learned that I am capable of doing things I had no idea I could do."
Father/daughter time plus great memories are a priceless combination.
Happy Father's Day.
Julie Baumgardner is the president and executive director of First Things First. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.