By Karen Lowe, 5/3/2002 (Originally aired 11/24/2000)
Erika is talking on the phone in her bedroom, which is a kind of collapsed-time capsule. Her shelves are lined with horse shows ribbons and dolls and music boxes.
Clothes are strewn everywhere as if she had fled in the night. And mixed in this mess are three long-stemmed velvet red roses from a secret admirer. At least it's a secret to me.
She is 14 and on the border. She is about a mile from sitting barefoot on the front stoop asking me about what it feels like to fall in love -- and six degrees from a first date. So when my friend Beverly suggested a mother-daughter trip, a weeklong, 100-mile ride through the Ring of Kerry in Ireland with castles and bogs and forests and runs along the beach, I knew I had to act fast.
Beverly and her 16-year-old daughter Ali joined Erika and me for some pub-hopping in Kilarney. It's a friendly town in southwest Ireland. As luck would have it, the first place we settle into, the band is playing a bawdy song called the "Association of Virgins", of which there are four members -- including sheep.
While I'm at the bar waiting for drinks, I watch my tall, slim, dark-haired girl tapping her foot to the music. This is good. Then I see some young guys glancing at her. I walk back over and hand her a Coke and turn around to look at them to establish my maternal turf. Erika takes the Coke and then moves two steps away -- from me.
We are galloping on Irish draft horses, massive animals with hairy legs and oversized, convex faces. Positively prehistoric looking. We are hauling through farmland dotted with cottages, some with only the ribs of roofs remaining, long-ago abandoned. In the distance, we can see the small, picturesque seaside town of Waterville. We cover about 22 miles a day.
By the end of the day, we settle into a sense of fatigued ease. And here Ali's confession begins. What she's done doesn't seem that bad, at least by my high school standards. Just some thrill seeking. I know Beverly can't really react too much unless she wants her daughter to clam up. Ali is grinning and looking directly into her mother's eyes. Beverly has this pleasant look frozen on her face.
The next day, beside a river, Beverly and I talk about "the confession." Why now?
Today is billed as the highlight of the trip, galloping along the beach and in the surf. For 3 months, I fantasized about this moment of freedom. Instead, we canter one behind the other, which means you eat whatever the horses in front of you kick up. Naturally, you don't want to be last. As we jockey for position, my daughter orders me to the back.
It's our last day. After 8 days in the saddle, here is the truth: Erika and I made this trip for different reasons.
When she realized I had other expectations, she dug a little deeper.
After taking this trip together, I've noticed that she is no longer falling in step with my timeline and my plans. She's got her own. And I'm learning to go with her flow.
In Kilarney, Ireland, I'm Karen Lowe for The Savvy Traveler.
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