Eating fast food in the back of the car provides a brief release for pandemic-induced depression. (Jennifer Bardsley)

Eating fast food in the back of the car provides a brief release for pandemic-induced depression. (Jennifer Bardsley)

Two kids, two tailgates and two spirit-lifting adventures

A couple of outings make us feel better, kind of. But during the pandemic, “kind of” is as good as it gets.

My children’s schools have been closed for almost a year at this point. Academically, my kids are doing fine. Socially, the pandemic has been rough on them. Hanging out with friends is an integral part of adolescence, and it’s just not the same over Zoom. My kids miss seeing their friends. Their sadness is real, and unquantifiable.

My own mental health probably isn’t where it should be either, which explains my sudden obsession with binge-watching shows on Netflix while riding my Peloton bike. I decided it would be good for all of us to leave the house and have fun adventures. Well, everyone except for my husband. He has to work.

I have to work, too, but since I’m an author, my schedule is flexible. I can write in the middle of the night if I have to, and sometimes I do.

At first I thought I’d take both kids out together, but part of our problem is nonstop togetherness. Separate activities seemed like a better idea. But where could we go that would be responsible from a germ point of view, but still be more exciting than walking around the neighborhood or hiking in the same places we’ve hiked all year?

The answer came organically. A tendon in my hip began snapping out of place every step I took. Snap. Click. Snap. I’d walk across the kitchen floor and sound like human Rice Krispies. I went to the doctor, who referred me to the physical therapist, and before I shelled out money for that, I decided I should make an appointment at the Peloton store in Seattle to have a proper fitting for my exercise bike. Maybe I had the seat adjusted incorrectly and that was hurting my hip.

With my appointment scheduled for 11 a.m. on a rainy Monday, my daughter and I drove down to the University Village. We were in and out of the Peloton shop in 10 minutes, and yes, my saddle settings had been incorrect. Next we went to Athleta, where we were the only customers in the store, and my daughter picked out a new sweater. Afterward, we ordered food from Veggie Grill, and ate it on the tailgate of my Subaru. The nachos were glorious.

A few days later, my hip no longer clicking, my son and I visited the Woodland Park Zoo. It was 39 degrees and raining. I could have ordered better weather, that’s for sure, but we still managed to have fun. The zoo was so empty it felt like we had the whole place to ourselves. On the way home, we stopped at Five Guys and ordered cheeseburgers, fries and chocolate milkshakes, which we ate on our tailgate.

Am I still obsessively biking? Yes. Do my kids still miss their friends? Absolutely. But do we feel a little bit better? Kind of. At this point, “kind of” is as good as it gets.

Jennifer Bardsley publishes books under her own name and the pseudonym Louise Cypress. Find her online on Instagram @the_ya_gal, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as The YA Gal. Email her at

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