Jackson Ski Touring Ski Swap last Saturday was crowded. By 9 a.m., the building was full of enthusiastic Nordic skiers looking for bargain skis, poles, boots and more. Though it was warm and sunny outside, they were already thinking ahead to cold, snowy ski days.

I love to Nordic ski, too, but I’m not ready yet to trade in my wheels for planks. This week’s warmth and sunshine have me longing for more riding time. The fall colors and light are pulling me down dirt roads and onto trails. The time change has messed up afternoon riding time, but midday is good for riding. It’s warmed up from the frosty morning and it’s still light enough to see and be seen. That’s one of the perks of being retired-you can pick optimal riding time.

Riding three straight days in a row was a pleasure. Friday, I pedaled with the Old Spokes on the Eastside mountain bike trails. Saturday, Peter (Minnich, my husband) and I revisited Potter Road. We wanted to check out the new bridge progress. Will it be ready before winter? Who knows?

Sunday was the best day of all — we were able to ride bikes with our grandchildren, Iver, age 8, and Juliet, 5! They’re at the age where they know how to balance, pedal and steer. Now, we can go places together on our bicycles.

When our children were their ages, we took them out on family rides. One adult rode in front and the other brought up the rear as we cycled in a group. Along the way, we worked on shifting, braking and paying attention! We had great cycling adventures with them.

Riding last Sunday with Iver and Juliet brought all those memories back to me. I forgot how much fun it is riding with kids. If conditions are right — good weather, interesting scenery, rideable routes and motivated riders — there’s nothing more pleasurable than cycling with children. They bring a new and fresh perspective to any ride.

Sunday, we wondered where to go in the limited time we had. Juliet prefers pavement for easier pedaling, but there was no suitable pavement nearby. Iver likes to take his unsuspended mountain bike on trails as long as they’re not too rooty. Where could we go in Conway that would work for both of them?

Albany Town Forest was our choice. The roads around the fields in the interval are fairly smooth. The trails in the woods are not too tough — some roots and rocks, some dips and climbs — but overall, rideable for old and young riders.

To avoid riding on Route 16, we loaded up the bikes and kids and drove to the White Mountain National Forest Saco Ranger Station at the start of the Kancamagus Highway. Driving down the dirt road to the left, we parked near two gates, being careful not to block either. Grandkids and bikes unloaded, we started our trek by riding around the right gate and heading toward the fields. I cautioned everyone to watch out for dog waste. This area is very popular with dog walkers and sometimes they miss a spot where Rover went. The funny thing is I was the one who came home with dog wax on her tires!

Sunday was a great time to be at the Ray Burton Field. Mount Washington Valley Radio Control Club often meets there on Sundays at their Hubble Airfield to fly their radio-control aircraft. We were lucky this Sunday to find them there. Both Iver and Juliet were fascinated by a big jet doing loops, soaring up high and touching down and taking off. Later, they spied a smaller motorized glider showing off its acrobatics. Their favorite was a flying witch on a broomstick, perfect for Halloween.

Past the airfield, we pedaled on the Trestle Trail, a dirt road that circumnavigates the farm fields. We passed a farmer preparing them for winter. With Grampa leading the way and Grandma bringing up the rear, our family group headed toward the railroad trestle. We stopped to rest on Swift River’s rocky shore, hoping we might see a Conway Scenic Railroad train cross over the bridge. No so luck!

When you stop to look at things with children, they often ask interesting questions adults would never consider. Iver asked about the writing high up on the bridge. Who did that and how? Did they stand on a boat in the river? No, more likely they hung from the bridge and spray painted it. Why? It was probably just one of those silly adolescent stunts.

Juliet was getting antsy to ride. We left Peter and Iver to their discussions while we pedaled around the field. When we reached the airfield, we stopped again.

Seeing the big jet’s operator working on the plane, we stopped to talk to him and ask him questions.

Juliet and I completed our loop back to the Swift only to find Peter and Iver were gone. A quick phone call from Grampa told us they were now by the airfield, looking for us. We met where the Swift River Trail goes into the woods and follows the river upstream. Juliet said, “I remember this!” She and Iver walked there with their dad last year, searching for tadpoles.

The Swift River Trail has some tricky dips at the beginning. Iver tried them, but Juliet wasn’t so sure. Without gears, climbing is harder for her and rooty downhills were scary. She wisely opted to walk her bike when she wasn’t comfortable.

I knew it was time for a rest and snack when my granddaughter asked, “Are we there yet?” Our rest and refreshment stop was the bench overlooking the Swift, near the junction with the Crossover Trail. I assured her we were almost there.

After snacks, water and picture taking, we mounted our steeds. Riding Crossover Trail until we came to Davis Farm Trail junction, we turned left to head back toward the fields. It was fun to be pedaling with the grandkids where we’d skied with them last winter. Everything is better when you share experiences and memories with children.

Like those days long ago when I told my daughter to pedal hard to get up hills and over roots, I found myself saying the same thing to my granddaughter. I get as much pleasure watching her and her brother become capable bike riders as I did their father and his sister. When we arrived back at the car, those young riders had ridden almost 3 miles. With more time and daylight, they could have gone farther. Peter and I look forward to riding with them again and experiencing the fun of cycling together.

While the weather is warm and sunny, grab your kids or grandkids and everyone’s bicycles. Plan a fall family ride and make your own cycling memories!

Upcoming events

Eastern Slope Ski Club (ESSC) 51st annual ski sale, Saturday, Nov.13: 9 a.m. to noon at the North Conway Community Center.

Mount Washington Valley Ski Touring Trail Days: Saturday, Nov. 13, and Sunday, Nov. 14. Volunteer for the day and get a free annual ski pass. Contact Cort Hanson at (603) 356-3042 or by email at cort@raggedmountain.com.

Sally McMurdo is a bike safety instructor and cyclist who lives in Conway.

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