A key part of our nightly routine around here is to take walks together at night — me, the kids and Fernando, all of us.
Fernando’s a big boy who loves his walks, so his need for exercise is reason enough to hit the pavement after the sun goes down. But it didn’t start out that way.
A couple years ago, Mia and Ezra were having a tough time getting to sleep on school nights. No one quite knows why — I’ve had trouble getting to sleep at night for 20 years and I still don’t know why — but after all the traditional counting sheep/count to 100/clear your mind business failed miserably, I decided to try walking before bed.
We’d walk, and walk, and walk some more. At least one mile, but sometimes up to three. Drawing on my own sleep struggles as a younger man, I knew there was one thing that could consistently topple insomnia, and that was exhaustion.
It worked. Walking a couple miles directly before bed now puts everybody to sleep very quickly. Sometimes even me!
Along the way, our night walks have yielded a good bit of life learning, sprinkled across various topics, for the kids. Among them:
a) Directly across the street from the windows of the county jail, family members of incarcerated folks will write large messages on the sidewalks below in colored chalk to communicate with their loved ones. These messages range in tone from “We love and miss you Daddy!” all the way down to “GET YOUR FUCKING SHIT TOGETHER, JAYDEN!”
b) Those same windows are open at night when it’s warm, and a lot of inmates assemble there for a glimpse of life on the outside and to yell at people like us walking by. When you wave and smile at them, they stop yelling for a second. Then they pretty much resume yelling right away.
c) Drunk people looooooooove Fernando. Sober people do, too, but as a general rule, the drunker you are, the more likely you are to want to repeatedly and loudly tell him that he’s the world’s most beautiful animal.
d) Speaking of Fernando: You know all those statues of former U.S. presidents in downtown Rapid City? As far as he’s concerned, each is a big, fat, juicy, red fire hydrant. Every single one.
e) We live about a two-minute walk from the federal courthouse and a 10-minute walk from the county courthouse. The kids wondered, why is the county courthouse so much bigger than the federal courthouse? Shouldn’t it be the opposite? I explained that while the federal courthouse is small and quiet and unassuming, it’s the one you really want to avoid. Every defendant in there is facing the full prosecutorial resources of the United States government, which is way scarier than anything that goes on in county. I was an expert witness there once, and accidentally forgot to remove the credit card knife from my wallet. That cost me a 15-minute detour into the US Marshals office, which, while cordial, almost certainly got my name onto a list from which it will never be removed.
f) At least two downtown restaurants (Botticelli and Wine Cellar) put out a bowl of water for dogs passing by. Fernando approves.
g) If you’re trying to drop a touch of weight off your frame, night walking is a steady and stealth way to do it. When Mia and Ezra are dropping weight for a jiu-jitsu tournament, our walks get longer, and each one burns a fraction of a pound. String those together for a few weeks, and you’ve dropped a few without breaking a sweat.
h) Occasionally you’ll pass by a very loud anti-fascism punk benefit concert at the vinyl store, and they’ll let your kids in for free.
These are just the ones that come off the top of my head. As we get into the summer walking season with later bedtimes and no need to rise at the crack of dawn, I’ll add new discoveries.