Happy third birthday, Big Dummy!

The best bike in the world has turned three! Happy birthday, big girl! Three cheers for the Surly Big Dummy!

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A couple big changes with bike-related life over the last year, but just little changes with the actual birthday bike. The kid seat isn’t in the photo above, but we’re still rolling Yepp seat for the five-year old at the back of the FlightDeck and stoker bars for the seven-year old at the front. I’m still thinking about switching to an Xtracycle Hooptie soonish. Maybe after winter. Which is what I said last winter. Minor additions are: an Xtracycle Mini MagicCarpet seat pad for the front kid and mudflaps from T Leatherworks with cool silver cogs on them. The front mudflap is completely new, the rear one a replacement.

And some choice highlights since her last birthday:

You probably noticed the recap list is a lot shorter than last year’s. We’ve been doing just as much family biking, most of it on the Big Dummy, but I haven’t been blogging as much of it–and it all started exactly a year ago, on her second birthday. The appointment to which she and I biked was a meeting with Mountaineers Books about writing a guide to urban bicycling. So blogging has taken a back seat to working on that. Look for it next fall!

And the other big news is: I’M CAR FREE. So exciting. And about time, right? The car’s title is still in my name so I haven’t really felt official yet and will make a more proper announcement with details at some point soonish, but it’s so nice to be rid of my car. Yippee! And with the departure of the car, came the arrival of a new bike, a Surly Straggler that the poor Big Dummy had to spend her birthday babysitting. I can totally relate–so hard to become a big sibling and suddenly share time with one’s baby sister (or in my case, colicky baby brother)–but I know they’ll be best buds in time.

Which relates to more change in the form of growing children: both kids are in school five days a week. Last year, my younger son was in preschool three half days a week, with me volunteering there once every couple weeks, but now both kids are at the same school 9:30-3:30 Monday through Friday, a mere two blocks from home. So we walk (Walk! It’s quicker than biking!) to school and before the Straggler I’d been heading out with my road bike and laptop in my backpack (granted, an awesome All-City Low Profile backpack I won at Menstrual Monday Girls of Summer two years back). This worked OK, but I’d been dreaming about a true commuter bike with eyelets for a rack so I could get Swift Industries panniers to carry my laptop more comfortably and sturdy fenders instead of my road bike’s clip-on fenders, which are certainly better than nothing, but often rub against my tires.

So my poor birthday girl had to deal with towing her pesky baby sister around on her birthday because I’d dumped the Little Struggler at Back Alley Bike Repair for a front-rack install the day before. Oh yeah, the baby bike gets a name, yet the Big Dummy is still nameless outside of the very generic “the Mamabike”. And to add insult to injury, the Dummy had a broken front gear cable fixed; no one likes seeing the doctor on her birthday. But look, fun stuff, too! The bikes went to the movies:

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And had a GIANT POPSICLE:

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And checked out the ducks at the Lake Union Park model boat test pond:

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The small bike (just 32.4 pounds to the Big Dummy’s 74.6 pounds!) is really a joy. The kids are riding more and more on their own, though at 7 and 5, they’re certainly not safe riding on all Seattle streets, but we’re doing more and more riding separately, which is another thing to appreciate in the “new” column. I still primarily take the Big Dummy if we’re on separate bikes because odds are I’ll carry one of them at some point on a trip. But some day we’ll do more riding all on one-person bikes.

As a good example of the kids getting bigger, the night before the Big Dummy’s birthday, I dragged the kids to a school meeting at a house a half mile away, all uphill. All our biking means we don’t walk as much as many families, but they can handle this kind of walk now! So we left the bike at home and walked, and it was great. And to be completely honest, walking uphill is easier for me than biking us all uphill. I’ve slightly changed my route up to our house from the Burke-Gilman Trail to make the climb a little more gradual and compensate for the heavier kids, but it’s still working just fine to carry the both of them.

And of course the Little Struggler will be a kid-carrying bike of some sort, too. I’ve put the rack for the Burley Piccolo trailer bike on it, but it might need some adjustments before it can handle the weight.

And it’s a cargo bike, too! The night before the Cascade Bicycle Club bike move I was at Peddler Brewing Company filling a growler and mentioned the bike move. The next thing I knew, I had borrowed their Haulin’ Colin heavy duty trailer. It felt very weird attending a bike move without my cargo bike, but look at how much I could carry! Naturally, I had to put a Bike Rodeo Kit on top since that’s what I usually carry away from CBC.

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Don’t feel too bad for the Big Dummy, she got to celebrate her birthday properly come evening. After school, the kids and I biked to the grocery store. Kids and groceries: what she does best! And then we headed to Peddler Brewing Company (yes, kid friendly!) for the graduation ceremony of the latest Cascade Bicycle Club Advocacy Leadership Institute class. I was in the first round of graduates two years ago and went to cheer the new bike advocates.

Demonstrating the sturdiness of the Big Dummy and the Rolling Jackass centerstand in the ALI grad party photobooth:

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Here’s to yet another wonderul year with the Big Dummy! Thanks so much for reading along.

Ride recap: Third Annual Thanksgiving Family Group Ride

Our Third Annual Thanksgiving Family Group Ride was a huge success! We started with 27 participants and grew to 33 by the end after picking up two families along the way. One family went the other way around the lake, which worked well for finding us, but I’ll be clear to announce CLOCKWISE LOOP next year.
See all 122 photos here.

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I kept with last year’s rough timeline:

10:00 – Start gathering at Gas Works (near the play barn)
10:30 – Depart
11:00-12:00 – Playground at Waterway 5 by Daniel’s Broiler
12:30 – Starbucks warm-up stop
1:30 – Back to Gas Works

…except the playground stop was more like 11:30 to 12 and we got back to Gas Works Park close to 2pm.

Everyone was able to stay with the ride the whole time this year! I think it helped to have the timeline so those with cooking and nap obligations stayed away, though on all Kidical Mass rides–and especially this one–families are welcome to drop off early if need be.

As with all rides in which my five-year old rides his own bike, I had to stop the ride several times. First for a water sip and a bit farther along, as you can see in the picture below, to load him onto my bike because he was too tired to go on. At least it makes for a nice group picture and I feel like it sets an accurate example of how one must sometimes be flexible when biking with kids.

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I thought we had fun dealing with steep Hamlin and Yale Terrace and mused about naming the hill something fun for next year. Hellacious Hamlin? Tantrum Terrace? But it turned out not to be so popular with everyone so I’ll take a vote about changing the route for next year. I dislike riding the sidewalk of Eastlake, especially with a big group, but I think we’d need to stay up on Eastlake for three sidewalk blocks were we to avoid the hills.

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We added a new element to the ride this year–a stop at a Pronto Cycle Share station for the kids to climb on the docked bike share bikes.

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And shortly after we were at the real playground at Waterway 5. The sun shone on us for a brief minute there–I snapped a picture with shadows!

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Then three circles around the model boat test pond in Lake Union Park (photo taken while standing on my FlightDeck):

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And snacks, restroom break at Starbucks.

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As we approached Gas Works Park at the end of our loop I decided I shouldn’t make everyone cross Northlake Way to enter the park since most of us would be heading one way or the other along the Burke-Gilman Trail. So we pulled into the little area at the Wallingford Steps. It was a bit awkward given the last-minute change of stopping point, but I think I like this for future rides…with advance notice so we can all pull off the trail to take one last group shot and say our goodbyes.

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Here’s the map:

And recaps from 2013 and 2012.

Hope to see you out there next year!

Seattle Cranksgiving 2014

Happy Cranksgiving, everyone! Cranksgiving defined by Seattle Bike Blog:

Cranksgiving is a food drive scavenger hunt by bike exploring some of Seattle’s most unique food vendors and grocery stores to gather food for Rainier Valley Food Bank.

I took a bunch of pictures over seven hours and 20 miles: Flickr set of all 90 pictures. 105 riders participated and Seattle Bike Blog is sure to post a recap with more data soon.

Participants were allowed to form teams of three. We were nine (but five of them were kids). Alyssa on her Xtracycle EdgeRunner with CycleFab/Haulin’-Colin-attached Burley Piccolo trailer bike and one kid, Dave on his regular bike with trailer bike, me on my Surly Big Dummy with two kids, and Barbara on regular bike with kid bike coupled behind with FollowMe Tandem coupler and one kid.

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Here’s the manifest:

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In an effort to finally get to the finish line on time, I created a route map ahead of time and warned friends we’d only hit two grocery stores on the way. I didn’t bring my route instructions with me so we didn’t quite stick to this, but just for future reference and the sake of sharing, here’s my flat-as-possible route from Gas Works to Rainier Valley via Capitol Hill and Beacon Hill because we really didn’t want to ride Lake Washington Boulevard again after last year’s many brushes with people driving too close for comfort.

And were were ten minutes late anyway! But we had tons of fun and I did all the photo challenges, which was a blast.

Even without my carefully curated directions, we avoided busy streets until Beacon Avenue South after playing on the zip line in Jefferson Park–and this part of Beacon was on my route anyway. However, everyone passed cautiously. So refreshing and not at all like Lake Washington Boulevard last year.

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Something new for me this year is I rode in Rainier Avenue for the first time. No sidewalk, all street. Just 3/4 of a mile from turning in our manifest at the Royal Room to the Rainier Valley Food Bank and then back again. But only because I happened to be heading over at the same time as a bunch of Point 83 bike club members so I felt safe in the pack.

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The food bank was hopping. I went for a few heavy items (turkey, big spaghetti squash, two big bags of rice) rather than a lot of little things, but next year we’ll go for bulk and variety to better utilize having a cargo bike.

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The after party in the Royal Room was great. The kids thawed out and ate while prizes were distributed. My seven-year old wore his Halloween Blue Angels costume and got the loudest applause in the costume contest which was incredibly exciting for him. Everyone else in costume chose prizes, too, because there were a lot of prizes to go around!

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Alyssa and Dave rode the whole way home, but Barbara and I opted to take the light rail. We managed to fit all three bikes and five people in the upper Westlake Station elevator. I don’t think much more could be crammed in there, but it’s tempting to try.

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In addition to the missing map, I didn’t get our clothing quite right. This is our fourth Cranksgiving (and Seattle’s fifth) so I should know this by now, but I let the kids wear regular shoes instead of snow boots. So I draped my old rain jacket like an apron over my seven-year old’s legs and feet and my new rain jacket over the five-year old’s. It almost did the trick.

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It didnt’ occur to me until we got to South Lake Union that I should put my rain spat shoe covers over my five-year old’s feet because even having borrowed a pair of wool socks from Barbara, his toes were still cold. Anything that works well for rain will work well for warmth, but I often forget that. So we stopped by MOHAI for that one extra layer.

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And took a moment to appreciate the view. This is at about 5:15 p.m.–already dark!

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Third Annual Thanksgiving Family Group Ride

It’s that time again! Seattle’s Third Annual Thanksgiving Family Group Ride is coming up next week.
[But first: Cranksgiving is tomorrow!]

Same rough timeline as years past:
Thursday, November 27, 2014
10:00 – Start gathering at Gas Works (near the play barn)
10:30 – Depart
11:00-12:00 – Playground by Daniel’s Broiler
12:30 – Starbucks warm-up stop
1:30 – Back to Gas Works

On Facebook? You can RSVP here.

As always, families are welcome to drop off early for naps and Thanksgiving- and cooking plans. We’re usually a much smaller group by the end.

Here’s the route, same fun loop around Lake Union as always:

Recaps from last year and the year before.

And a few pictures from last year:

Note: I’m putting this on the Cascade Bicycle Club calendar this year for the first time so there will be the waiver to sign and exciting safety spiel at the beginning.

Last of the multimodal trips?

I miss the good old days of three on a bike. I’ve pretty much given up on my quest to carry two bigger kids on a regular bike so our monthly (or more often) trips to our orthodontist 20 miles away have meant using two bikes: five-year old in the Bobike Maxi rear seat on my Bianchi Milano city bike and the seven-year old on his own bike.

I like the bus OK, but we don’t use it often enough that I’m adept at it. I have yet to embrace the idea of transferring between buses as a good way to get around, so when we were all on the one bike I’d take us downtown and just ride the 554 to Issaquah. I don’t consider Seattle’s downtown streets friendly enough for my seven-year old to ride on his own so we catch a bus somewhat near home and transfer to the 554. Our varying appointment times and my inability to memorize a good bus combination means it’s a little different each time. Today we started with a 0.4-mile ride to catch the 73 Express which was a first so I didn’t realize we’d be getting off in the transit tunnel.

But we fit fine in both of the elevators to get up to street level. I knew we would, having shared an elevator with Julian of Totcycle, his Xtracycle, and his two kids two years ago. Look at all that room! I could fit 20 camera-shy five-year olds in there!

But while we rode the elevator and walked our bikes one block down the steep hill for the second bus, I wondered if things would have been easier without the bikes. Back when legs were littler, walking 0.4 miles to the bus stop would have been a hassle, but we can totally do that now! Of course I have absolutely no idea how long that would take. Please tell me if you have any idea how long walking specific distances with a five-year old takes. Factoring in sibling tussles on a once-per-block basis.

A bike-free trip might require one more bus: the free 200 to bring us 1.5 miles from the Issaquah Transit Center to our dentist. Or maybe we could walk 0.8 miles from the downtown Issaquah stop.

As I locked our bikes together on the walkway outside the dentist (there’s no bike rack in the whole strip mall), I thought this was also something I wouldn’t miss if we left the bikes behind.

Normally our bike route doesn’t take us along Front Street since the streets are a bit too busy for a kid on a bike and the sidewalks are narrow so I don’t like taking up space on the bikes…so popping into Bicycle Center of Issaquah would be better served by visiting on foot. But our friend Kent Peterson wasn’t in and Dillon the little dog was off camping (poor Dillon! He must be freezing!) so we just banged on a couple floor-model bikes and posed by the penny farthing outside.

As we finished lunch at the Issaquah Brewery, which is conveniently close to the downtown bus stop, I realized my five-year old had left his elephant stuffed animal at the dentist, 0.9 miles away. Thank goodness for the bikes!

The Issaquah Trail system features wider-than-normal sidewalks that allowed us to ride most of the way on trails…just 115 feet of Gilman Avenue on the sidewalk rather than bike lane on super-busy street. Rainier Boulevard just reopened from a long repaving (or something) project so it wasn’t this pleasant our last handful of visits.

Here’s a better picture of the wide “trail” sidewalk. With a bit of bike dancing, note the foot in the air.

Great sunlight and shadows today, by the way!

The bikes also made it easier to watch the salmon in the Issaquah Creek. I didn’t see any, but the kids claim they did. We stopped by the fish hatchery next to the brewery (walking our bikes) to check in on the baby salmon so luckily my day wasn’t salmon-free.

Coming home we only had a block and a half between buses so we walked our bikes again. I should have chosen a better connection in the transit tunnel, but it just seemed too complicated with the bikes (I choose bus connections the night before an appointment and don’t like changing things on the fly unless forced to), so we had a nice long wait for the 26 that takes us just two blocks from home. The five-year old and I walked, the seven-year old rode his bike those two blocks.

So I’m not sure what we’ll do next time, but I’ve got six weeks to figure it out. However, I do know that for my next cleaning in a couple months, I’ll go alone while the kids are in school and ride my bike the whole way. I can’t wait! And I can guarantee neither visit will include stuffed animal tag-alongs.

Pumpkins by bike 2014

Are you lucky enough to have a pumpkin patch within biking distance? I’m not aware of one in Seattle this year.

OK, that’s not entirely true–I just discovered Swanson’s Nursery has a Fall Festival Saturday and Sunday 10-2 with:

Tractor Rides • Veggie Car Races • Autumn Mobile Art Project • Leaf Rubbings • Pumpkin Putt-Putt Miniature Golf • Straw Maze Madness. Tickets will be on sale for races, games, and art projects to raise money for Child Haven.

The Ballard Kiwanis club will sell hotdogs, beverages, and desserts from 10am–2pm • Cupcake Royale will sell special fall cupcakes & traditional baby cakes from noon–4pm • Sweet Wheels Ice Cream Truck from noon–4pm.

Last year Northwest Seaport had pumpkins on one of the ships at Lake Union Park which is a little easier to get to for us, but looks like it’s not on this year.

So yesterday we visited the underground parking lot pumpkin patch at the Roosevelt Whole Foods:

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I was a bit disappointed these were the biggest pumpkins to be had. I could have fit slightly larger ones on board.

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Earlier in the day, while the kids were at school, I swung by the Ballard Fred Meyer and saw some truly enormous pumpkins. They had their weights and diameters displayed…diameter I guess to make sure it could fit through the car door to drive home? Lots of them over 100 pounds. I don’t think I could manage the two-block uphill climb home from the Burke-Gilman Trail were I to get a pumpkin at the Ballard Fred Meyer, but I bet the Greenwood Fred Meyer has a selection of obscenely large pumpkins, too. Because the terrain on the ride home definitely dictates the weight of the pumpkin(s) I’ll haul!

Happy fall and I hope you’ve had some pumpkin-on-bike fun, too!

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Oh, and learn from my mistake: I meant to stick two pumpkins on the street side and one on the sidewalk side. You know, to better impress the people driving alongside us.

Kidical Mass through Mad Campus recap

I’ve been doing most of my Kidical Mass posting over at Familybike Seattle, but today was sunny and beautiful so I have to do some picture posting here, too. (And full Flickr set is here.)

20 people came out to explore Mad Campus at University of Washington and I discovered there’s nothing better than a long bike rack for a group shot–kids climbed the rack and parents stood behind them. Photo taken with the TimerCam app by my iPhone wedged in my helmet vent, by the way. This is one of my least crooked results.

We gathered at installation number one, Sentinel, which worked fairly well, but in hindsight, hanging out at a non-climbable piece for a good half hour while waiting for everyone to arrive wasn’t ideal. If we’re in a similar situation for a future ride, I’ll choose a spot around the corner with climbable rocks and running-around space.

I wasn’t sure all the kids would want to hit all 12 installations, but they did! Sadly, number three, Lone Stranger was missing (popped? blown away?).

Also a bummer was the DO NOT CLIMB sign at Wave Sine that was new since the Seattle’s Child article that gave me the idea to ride through the event and mentioned climbing the waves.

The Legend of Jerry Roundtree in Red Square was my favorite because the kids could truly interact with it. They all clustered in the pyramid and explored the cool (as in cool to the touch, but also cool as in kewl, of course!) marble pieces.

An interesting thing happened while heading home. We took the two-way protected bike lane that leaves campus on NE 40th Street. Side note: I think this lane is permanent, but it’s also part of a big Burke-Gilman Trail detour for the time being. While we rode down the bike lane, four faster people took the main lane to the right. I really like having options. Of course I’m biased and think bicycle facilities should be built for all ages and abilities so I can comfortably ride them with my slow, heavy bike or let my kids ride on their own bikes, but having a parallel route for people who don’t want to ride on a bikeway attractive to people of my caliber is important, too. I’d also like if all these new protected bike lanes were twice as wide to allow passing, but just having them is such a great start!

For the record, I suspect many faster riders would still avoid double-wide protected bike lanes in favor of taking the lane on a regular street, but having space for parents to ride alongside children or medium-speed people passing slow-speed people would be terrific.

There are lots of people who avoid the Burke-Gilman multiuse trail–some because it’s too slow and full of inexperienced bike riders (those might be the people in the right lane in the photo above) and some because it’s too fast and full of impatient experienced bike riders (hopefully these people would use this protected two-way bike lane, but they might be holding out for protected one-way double-wide bike lanes).