Taking the Kids — when you can’t let it rain on your parade

Our Backroads biking group waiting to ferry across the Danube at Durnstein Austria
Our Backroads biking group waiting to ferry across the Danube at Durnstein Austria

By Eileen Ogintz

Tribune Content Agency

We’re soaked through, despite good rain gear. But no one is heading indoors.

Did I mention we are on bikes? “This is the first time I’ve seen people actually choose to bike in the rain,” my daughter Reggie Foldes said.

At least it wasn’t cold — or too hot. I’m impressed that our entire Backroads group of 30 opted to bike this afternoon, despite the downpour, despite the option to have spent the afternoon indoors on the AMA Waterways river cruise ship that is our floating hotel.

The photo ops were supposed to be amazing — we were, after all, in the beautiful Wachau Valley of Austria, famous for its vineyards and apricots. In fact, we biked through orchards with just-ripening apricots, apples and pears. “Gorgeous,” said Ariana Fabian, 26, traveling with her mom from Atlanta. “The rain didn’t bug me unless we stopped, and then I got cold.”

The cool, soaking rain was a marked contrast to the nearly 100-degree temperatures and scorching sun we encountered on the first two days of the trip.

“It seemed kind of mystical,” added Jacqueline Clemons, celebrating her 18th birthday on this rainy day. “It was really pretty and added to the adventure.”

The thing about any adventure trip — any vacation that involves being outdoors in fact — is that you can’t let less-than-perfect weather stop you. Once, before I realized that, we were scheduled to hike to the Appalachian Mountain Club in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. I called ahead to see if we should still go in the rain, and the person on the other end of the phone just laughed at me. We went.

On another trip we hiked more than 14 miles from Crested Butte to Aspen in Colorado — an iconic hike many take every summer to see the wildflowers and the mountain views. It poured the last five miles, leaving us sloshing through mud and over slick rocks.

I’ve been in Orlando when a tropical storm forced the theme parks to close (a perfect opportunity for a long lunch and shopping at Disney Springs, home to among other stores, the largest Disney store in the world) and in Hawaii when a day-long downpour kept us off the beach (and sent us to the spa.)

The thing about bed weather on vacation: You can’t let it keep you from having fun. It can also be a good opportunity to show the kids how to navigate when plans go awry and how to work as a team.

Mel and Reggie Yemma hiking in Patagonia, Chile, December 2009
Mel and Reggie Yemma hiking in Patagonia, Chile, December 2009

Maybe you will do something else or maybe, as we did in Austria, you just keep smiling and shoulder through. (For ideas on what to do inside and outside this summer, check out our new Taking the Kids 51 Great Summer Vacation Ideas.

We had started that morning’s rainy ride in Durnstein — a picture-perfect town with narrow cobbled streets and a famous history — where our AmaWaterways riverboat AmaStella had docked on the Danube River. It is here Richard the Lionhearted was held captive in 1192 during the third Crusade. The ruins of the castle can still be seen at the top of the hill; the town is also famous for its blue steeple.

Last year, we came here to hike on the famous Wachau World Heritage Trail through 13 towns. We got rained out and didn’t hike — the experts advised that the trails were too muddy — so we visited wineries instead. This region is famous for its wine.

This time the rain didn’t stop us from our plan — riding nearly 40 miles, with a stop in Melk for a look at the famous Melk Abbey situated above the town and overlooking the Wachau Valley. Founded in 1089, the abbey quickly became famous for its extensive library and was a major site for the production of manuscripts.

“It’s refreshing to bike in the rain,” said Jenna Froland, 21, here with her parents and twin brother Henry. “I love seeing the clouds over the hills. It’s magical.”

That’s one way to look at it! It’s always good to have a Plan B — and C — in case you are forced inside by lightning or your kids are really young. Is it time to teach the kids a new card game? Watch a movie in the condo or hotel? Or perhaps head to a movie theater or let the teens sleep in as long as they like? Skip the planned picnic for a restaurant lunch and allow the kids to order special desserts.

We did. The region’s famous dessert is the Marillenknoedl, an apricot dumplings made with whole fruit wrapped in dough and poached before being breaded, browned and then sprinkled with powdered sugar.

Truthfully, we could have opted out of the rainy afternoon ride, but no one did. No one wanted to give up the potential bragging rights. Besides, we’re already muddy and wet. What does it matter if we stay wet a little longer?

And it was so pretty as we biked along the trails back to our boat. (There was no traffic to worry about, though we did have to dodge frogs and slugs crossing the path in the rain — even a snake!)

We saluted our fortitude at the end of the ride with region-appropriate treats provided by our Backroads leaders — apricot brandy and juice, chocolate-covered apricots, apricot gummies and salted apricot kernels.

Sure we got some funny looks from the other passengers, all cozy and dry. But we got plenty stories to tell when we got home.

© 2018 EILEEN OGINTZ
DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

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