Such an announcement would bring excited chatter and many questions from the youngsters in my preschool classroom. Going outside school walls, into the wider world was met with a sense of delight and curiosity, mixed with a bit of anxiety, even for the teachers. In order to make this adventure a success, we all had to do our homework. The easy part was deciding where to go. Things got complicated when trying to figure out how to get there. Here in California, driving is the expected mode of transportation. When I was teaching in Seattle, we used public transportation almost exclusively.
After intensive (but playful and fun) training with the children within the safety of the school grounds, we all finally felt ready to venture out. (Exactly how we trained and prepared the children will be a subject for an upcoming blog.) We must have been a sight to behold. Karen, my fellow teacher, was the “Mama Duck” in the front. I was the “Daddy Duck” in the back (even though, as the children pointed out, I “wasn’t a boy-duck”--interesting that they were more concerned about gender than species! Quack!?!). And in between us, we had twenty very wiggly and excited ducklings. Although things didn’t always go as planned, we never had a misadventure, never lost a duckling and ALWAYS had a story to take home. This is because we designed the experience so the children knew what to expect, knew what to do and knew what was expected of them.
Why don’t we take this kind of care, sensitivity and planning when we, as adults, are trying something new? Somehow, for some reason, we think we are “supposed to know”--even when we’re doing something for the first time. We also hate to feel “stupid” (or at least I do…I really hate to feel stupid!) Which means, often times, that we’re not very patient or kind with ourselves or others. What’s the worst that can happen? Missed the train: get on the next one. Got on going the wrong direction: get off at the next stop, go to the other side of the tracks and get on the train going the right way. Sure, mishaps can be unnerving, but hardly catastrophic. It’s all a learning adventure!
Since we’ve started bicycling, my husband and I regularly take car-free trips from our home in Orange, in Southern California. Yes, that's right car free trips from Orange County. We’ve taken our bikes on the train to San Diego and Santa Barbara and have only used “wheels, feet, tracks and street” to get where we wanted to go. We have a fabulous time and we make more discoveries about our vacation destinations than we ever would from the bubble of a car.
Most recently, over the winter holiday, we used Metrolink, twice, to go to Los Angeles to visit the California Science Center (which encourages you to arrive by transit and avoid parking challenges!). The first time, it was just the two of us on our bikes. The second time, just recently, we took his sister (early 50s) and Mom (mid 70s) along for the adventure. While they weren’t interested or equipped for bicycling, we found a shuttle that dropped us off very near the center. This was my mother-in-law and sister-in-law’s first time on Metrolink. They were up for the adventure and put their trust in our recent experience.
While we never called it a “field-trip”, in essence, that’s exactly what it was. Our “kids” were of the grown-up variety. Because we were traveling on a weekend, we were able to take advantage of the $10 weekend pass, which was good on all of the modes of transportation we would need. We let our charges know what to expect: when to meet, how we were getting to the Metrolink station, how long it would take, etc. Once at the station, we showed them how to buy the passes at the kiosk. While it would have been easier and quicker to buy all the passes at once, we realized the value in having them negotiate their own way through the process, with us nearby if help was needed. We watched the lighted board for updates on our train’s arrival.
Once onboard, we enjoyed the ride, we chatted, read, enjoyed the scenery and relaxed. As we were getting off at the end of the line, we didn’t have to worry about watching for our stop. When our train arrived at Union Station, we got off with the masses.
Although an Uber ride was suggested, we all decided to make use of our trusty Metrolink passes. We thought we had figured out how to catch the shuttle to the Science Center, but asked at the information kiosk to be sure. The personnel, as well as the patrons at the station were more than helpful. Two transfers later, we took a 10-minute leisurely walk to the Science Center and spent a great day exploring. While there was much more to do and see, we knew we had to catch the last train out at 4:40. We took the shuttle back to Union Station, where we found we had time to explore Olvera Street (with a requisite taquito stop at Cielito Lindo-yum!) before making our way back home. After a minor glitch with a lost ticket, we were back on Metrolink headed home. We watched the sun set through the train windows.
Before we parted ways. I heard a familiar refrain, first heard from my students, and now from my family, “That was so much fun! Let’s do it AGAIN!” And I’m sure we will!
FYI: Google “Things to do near Union Station Los Angeles” and you’ll find a slew of things to do in the nearby area, including the zoo, shuttle to Dodger Stadium, the Museum of Natural History, Grand Market, Chinatown, Olvera Street, California Science Center and much, much more.
For our next trip, we’re going to entice our neighbors with young children to a trip to the LA Zoo and show them how to make good use of the train that breezes through our neighborhood. I’ll let you know how that goes!
Terri Ryder is our Pedal Love Youth Developmentand Experiential Learning specialist. She has over 25 years experience in teaching, school administration, social services. She has a Master’s in Social Work (MSW) from Boston University focusing in community organizing, management and planning, as well as a Master’s in Education (EdM) from Harvard University, specializing in risk and prevention for children and youth. She has worked as a teacher, counselor and administrator serving children preschool through high school and their families. Reach her here. Image by Shereef Moustafa.