Why I Don’t Have an E-Assist (or Why I Don’t Want a Car-Replacement Bike)

Note: I think e-bikes are amazing. I truly believe bikes can save the world, and for a ton of people that means e-bikes. This post–like everything on this blog–is simply my own experience. If you want an e-bike, you should totally get an e-bike!

For years I’ve joked my way out of answering why I don’t have an e-assist:

“I’m too rough on my bikes, it’s just one more thing for me to break.”
“I’m too stubborn to add one now and they weren’t really a thing when I got my cargo bike six years ago…and the kids were 100 pounds lighter back then!”

But the thing is, I never really thought it through. Yes, I am stubborn, and it wasn’t at all on my radar six years ago (knowledge-wise, budget-wise, necessity-wise), but that’s not it.

I Don’t Have a Car-Replacement Bike Because
I Don’t Have a Car-Based Life; I Have a Bike-Based Life.

I don’t want a life with things car distances away or with things timed such that the distances must be traversed at car speed.
I don’t want my backup plan to have to be a car.
Were my bike to break, or were myself or one of the kids unable to bike, I don’t want that to mean our only alternative is a car.
I always want my options to be walking and busing, and our bikes simply make things quicker, easier, and a lot more fun.

Right now “bike distance away” is the distance I can bike on a slow and heavy bike or that the kids can bike on their own little bikes. And if it’s farther, I want to take the bus, train, or ferry, ideally paired with bikes. If there’s ever a time we can’t bike or don’t want to bike, I want my life to support taking a little extra time to walk to the close things and bus to the far things.

Caveat: this works for me because we live in a big city (a.k.a. an Urban Cycling-friendly city) and I want to take advantage of that. Things are tightly-packed here. That means school is three blocks from home, and everything else is almost as close: a few parks, a few libraries, a few bike shops, a few grocery stores, farmers markets, art supply store, veterinarian, umm…what else does one need?…cat cafe, funky gift shop, conveyor-belt sushi a ten-minute pedal in either direction along the multi-use trail two blocks from our home.

One very important thing that makes this work as a family biker is that I’ve been biking with my kids since they were tiny and totable. I was able to build muscle, confidence, and stubbornness; they were able to grow up learning getting everywhere on bikes is an ordinary thing. Babies and toddlers are so little, light, and portable, and many conveniently grow into kids who will ride their own bikes right around the time they become too hefty to carry easily. When kids are young, they fit well on regular bikes, like my old mamabike, so it’s not necessarily a big investment to adopt a biking lifestyle.

July 2010

Nowadays my main bike is a Surly Big Dummy, one of several longtail cargo bikes available these days. It makes it easy to carry both kids and stuff. One things exceptionally terrific about longtails is that they make it easy to carry kids and their bikes, so I can carry the whole show through sections I don’t want the kids riding on their own or give them lifts when they get tired. The bike weighs about 75 pounds and is geared for hauling weight. The kids weigh about 70 and 55 pounds, but fortunately I rarely have to carry them these days. Toting one kid and his bike is fine, but they have hit a combined weight that I prefer not to carry.

Cars and me
And yes, we use cars occasionally. A year and a half ago I rented a Zipcar to take the kids snowboarding: Snowboarding for the car-free family. I’m not sure I could get us up early enough for the ski bus so we may do this again next winter, but when the kids are bigger and I’ve hopefully outgrown my phobia of waking sleeping babies too early, the bus it is!

This year we rented a car during Spring Break to stay near family in Venice Beach and easily drive up to my hometown of Santa Barbara. I dream of finding a way to visit Los Angeles without a car while still seeing my family as much as when we have wheels.

So cars for big things, but not for everyday things. Oh, and we’ve carpooled with friends three times over the last year, but that’s it for our car stuff.

I feel that I can’t write about being car-free and using cars without bringing up one specific beast: Uber.
I hate Uber.
I hate Uber because every Prius driver parked in the bike lane, running a red light, turning right on red without checking for bikes in the bike lane, staring at a phone while speeding down the street is probably an Uber driver.
I hate Uber because Uber Is Quietly Terrible For Women And Black People: Study.
I hate Uber because Why Uber’s Expansion Plans Would Make City Life Unbearable.

I started writing this blog post months and months ago so those Uber stories are dated and I’m sure there is even more horrible data available now. I’ve never used Uber and never will and it seems like there are plenty of better options out there (and please feel free to correct me/argue with me/disagree with me in the comments because I don’t understand why Uber is so popular).

One good (?) thing about my taking so long to finish this blog post is that I can put my money where my mouth is: I broke my foot four weeks ago and my bike-based life holds up to the test as I’m successfully biking with a broken foot.

Photo courtesy VisitKitsap.org

E-Bikes and me
Also thanks to the delay, I finally go around to posting about last summer’s week in Portland with an e-bike. It was awesome! That week was eye opening and I TOTALLY GET IT ABOUT ELECTRIC ASSIST NOW! We spent the week living the equivalent of a car-based life, but with a bike. Yeah, it was fun, but it also wasn’t our normal pace of life. I guess renting an e-cargo-bike in Portland is the equivalent of renting a car in Southern California. Except so much better.

Photo by Cory Poole

Perhaps there will come a day I need an e-assist to keep up my current non-e-assist-bike-paced life. That’s OK by me, but for now and the foreseeable future, this is it.

Biking with a broken foot

I broke my foot two and a half weeks ago. I was rescuing a kitten from a burning tree and was attacked by a wolf who clamped onto my right foot and wouldn’t let go until the kids threw every rock and stick (about 100) they’d stashed in my cargo bike bags at him. The kitten is fine, so it was well worth the fractured foot.* (*I tripped while mowing the lawn.)

It’s the good kind (and the most common kind) of 5th metatarsal fracture. It hurts and my energy level has plummeted (turns out it takes a lot of energy to mend a broken bone, even a tiny fracture), but with giving myself lots of extra time to do anything and resting a ton, life goes on well enough.

I didn’t realize it was broken at first so I still took the kids and their playdate pal to our local farmers market via bike. Especially that day, and even still now, pedaling is much easier than walking. I sat on my picnic blanket while the kids played (which is what I normally do at farmers market because it’s one of the few things where I can just sit and chill) and was even fine carrying my seven-year old and his bike home.

I visited the urgent care three blocks from home (by bike) the following morning. MultiCare Indigo Urgent Care is terrific, though I hope I never have reason to visit them again. They did x-rays on site (I hear the second-closest urgent care doesn’t), wrapped my ankle in an elastic bandage, gave me some crutches, and referred me to an orthopedist a block away with whom I made an appointment for the following week. They thought my insurance wouldn’t cover a medical walking boot so I decided I didn’t need one.

Let me just say, crutches are tough! I crutched my way three blocks to school pickup once and it was horrible so I quickly switched to biking. Six days after the break I had to take one kid to a doctor’s appointment in Bellevue and we opted to ride our bikes one mile to a bus stop by campus and leave them locked up there, and then take two buses that would deposit us right across the street from the medical building. The transfer between buses was at a transit center so we didn’t have far to walk (but it was still horrible). However, once in Bellevue we had to walk half a block to a street crossing and then through one building and a parking garage to reach the proper building. That was pretty awful. I was completely worn out by the time we got home. The stress of not being able to make it across any street during the course of a green light with a kid at my side probably added to my end-of-day exhaustion.

Fortunately I had my orthopedist appointment the following day and got my boot. It remains to be seen if my insurance will pay for it, but it has made life so much better! The swelling and pain had already decreased quite a bit over the course of a week so I’m trying to convince myself I didn’t inconvenience myself too much by waiting on the boot. And I got “credit for time served” before the boot and only need to wear it for three weeks. Then I’m in a stiff-soled shoe for two weeks and then I’m good as new! True to frugal form, I opted not to get an Evenup, but mostly because I thought it would be a bad match for my klutziness. It seems like a very cool product, though, and if you’re going to be doing more walking than pedaling, you’ll probably want one when you break your 5th metatarsal.

I kept the crutches with me for a couple days just to be safe, but I got the hang of the boot pretty quickly. I have fairly big pedals on my Big Dummy–MKS Grip Kings–and while it took a couple days to get used to pedaling with the boot, my foot only slipped off twice while getting used to it–and it wasn’t a painful slip. I’ve accidentally taken a few painful steps while walking, but the pedaling is really A-OK.

It’s much easier to walk with the boot and no crutches and I’ve been walking to school pickup more than biking–that way Pixie gets a little walk and I don’t have to deal with the many cars also trying to pick up kids. The kids have been walking themselves every morning which has been great! While it takes a lot less energy to walk with the boot than it does with crutches, it’s still quite tiring. My friend Jen told me about a saying hikers have: “a pound on your feet equals five pounds on your back.” Heaving the boot around is a bit of a task, plus there’s still that whole energy-to-heal-a-tiny-broken-bone thing going on.

For two weeks I only used my Big Dummy. All the other bikes live up a few stairs in the house or down a bunch of stairs in the basement and I knew I wasn’t up to doing any bike carrying. The Big Dummy was convenient for carrying the crutches back when they were part of my outfit and proved incredibly comfortable to bike while broken. Yeah, it’s an 80-pound bike, but it’s geared for carrying a lot so moving even slower than my usual slow pace works beautifully. Heh, fun side note: my urgent care visit was during May/Bike Month during which I had the Ride Report app on my phone for automatically logging any bike trips. I biked there so slowly the app must have thought I was walking and didn’t acknowledge the trip.

I was even able to lead our Kidical Mass Bike Travel Weekend camping trip. I was very worried about the multiple stops to rest on hills and having trouble getting started, but it wasn’t a problem at all. It all went better than I thought it would and I had plenty of energy Saturday evening…I thought I’d need to go to sleep at 7pm, even before the kids! Granted, once we were home I was a tired wreck Sunday night and all day and night Monday.

Photo courtesy VisitKitsap.org

Two weeks post-fracture we needed to go to Issaquah (20 miles away) for an orthodontist appointment. We normally bus and bike to get there and I usually carry one kid on the old mamabike while one rides his own bike, but I didn’t feel up for carrying a kid unless it was on the Big Dummy. The Big Dummy doesn’t fit on the bus, though. So I decided we’d do what we’ll need to eventually do when the kids outgrow the Bobike Junior seat on the old mamabike: two kids on their own bikes and me on a folding bike. Most Seattle buses have three bike slots on their racks, but I worry about encountering a bus that already has a bike on it…as well as worry at taking up all three slots making a regular commuter have to wait for the next bus. And this appointment was for 5pm so there would definitely be a lot of people on the bus.

Toting the folding bike around wasn’t too bad. It would have been hard a week earlier when my foot was less healed. Appreciating the daily healing progress makes it a lot easier to cope with what I can do and not focus too much on how hard and painful everything is. The bus was packed and I stood with the bike for a bit while the kids shared a seat. This was probably the first time they’ve shared anything well in years ;) So many silver linings to this fracture!

We took two buses there and then biked a mile. The folding bike’s pedals are smaller than the Grip Kings (MKS makes a removable version of the Grip Kings that a lot of people put on their Bromptons, but I have the regular pedals) so it wasn’t quite as comfortable and I couldn’t get the saddle just right so it felt the same as the Big Dummy. I’m pretty sure the two bikes have the same length cranks, but it felt like my foot was moving around more so I figure it had to do with my saddle height. While it felt like I was getting some motion in my foot, it wasn’t more than that caused by walking with the boot so it was just a bit uncomfortable and required extra rest afterwards, no harm done.

We didn’t see any other bikes on the way out, nor on our first bus home, but I was still a bit worried about not fitting on the rack so we skipped the second bus and biked home five miles from downtown Seattle. OK, OK, I also wanted to tire out the kids so they’d go to bed easily since this had been a pretty big day for me with a bike ride to Greenwood earlier in the day while the kids were at school.

So the Big Dummy is by far my favorite bike to ride with a broken foot and the Brompton is OK in a pinch, with its nice low top tube even if the pedals are smallish. But I had plans to visit Portland with Pixie this past weekend and I’m not practiced enough carrying a lot of stuff with the Brompton (it’s new!) so I took my usual travel bike, the Surly Straggler. I wish I had thought to swap for the Big Dummy’s pedals because the Shimano PD-A530 pedals that are clipless on one side and flat on the other are small–and not easy to turn over with a boot on one’s foot. My booted foot slipped off once, but it wasn’t too bad. I was more worried about having to lift my heavy foot over the high top tube, but having gotten pretty used to taking my time for everything lately, this was also an unhurried affair and I didn’t get hung up on the top tube or panniers even once!

This trip was more exhausting than the camping trip, though, and I wasn’t while it was super exciting to be in Portland during Pedalpalooza for the first time ever, I couldn’t manage doing much. But I hit Saturday’s Clever Cycles’ 10th anniversary party (but skipped the preceding ride) and attended Sunday’s Cargo Bike Roll Call ride. It was totally OK that I attended without a cargo bike, by the way. There were a lot of cool bikes, but the sauna trailer was my favorite.

Life with a broken foot is certainly not as fun as life with a fully-working foot, but it’s really not that bad. It certainly helps that most things we do are nearby and that the kids are at an age where they’re usually riding their own bikes. Needing to manipulate a big bike with 120 pounds of kids on board would be extremely hard right now. The kids are being great about becoming more independent and helpful. Before the boot, I needed to take them along grocery shopping so they could push the cart while I struggled along behind them on my crutches. Normally that would have been a huge pain, because normally there’s nothing more enticing than fighting over pushing a grocery cart with one’s brother, but they held it together for our two whole-family shopping trips.

In being careful about not overdoing it, I had to skip the Emerald Bike Ride over Memorial Day Weekend. We managed an abridged version (just as much for the kids’ sake than mine!) of the Mighty-O Tour de Donut on Saturday, though! I even carried a kid and a bike for an uphill portion…but a kid lighter than my own.

At least I don’t have to miss out on the popular activity of posting Emerald Bike Ride bib numbers and can belatedly do that here:

Note my awesome low number! That’s because I can trade Cascade Bicycle Club ride leader credits (I lead my most of my Seattle Critical Lass rides as a Cascade ride leader) for rides. Note: there’s a ride leader certification class on June 19th if you want to join the ranks.

So step carefully, friends, but if you falter it’s not the end of the world.

Kidical Mass Bike Travel Weekend 2017 Recap

We had a great Kidical Mass camping trip for Adventure Cycling Association’s Bike Travel Weekend!

* All the photos here: Kidical Mass Bike Overnight to Illahee State Park – June 3-4, 2017 – 201 photos
* Details on timing and routing here: Kidical Mass Bike Overnight June 3-4, 2017
* Our group numbered 35: 16 kids and 19 adults (and one dog). Four kids were on their own bikes!

Good eye if you noticed the kids’ bikes all look similar. All four are on Islabikes. They’re light, geared (for 20-inch-wheel sizes and up), and have strong brakes–all great for big hills! It helps that the US factory is close by in Portland, but they ship all over.

This was our first time bringing a group to Illahee State Park and it worked very well. All previous (six year’s worth!) Kidical Mass camping trips, like last year’s Bike Travel Weekend trip, have been to Fay Bainbridge Park.

The bike ride to camp from the ferry is shorter–3.7 miles to Fay’s 6.9 miles or 7.1 miles–but it feels hillier to me. I’m not good at comparing elevation profiles so feel free to tell me how hillier (or not) it is down in the comments.

Most of our riding was in the street, though with a blocked lane (by a parked car) for the uphill block away from the ferry, I took the wide sidewalk so my kids would follow me there. All in all, it was very calm riding. The Manette Bridge arches up over the Port Washington Narrows and has a bike lane, but I chose to have us ride over on the wide sidewalk.

Just off the Manette Bridge we ran into Patty of VisitKitsap.com, camera in hand. She snapped some pictures of us as we pedaled off the bridge and then caught up with us a block away while we rested and regrouped in the R K Mart parking lot. It was fun to happen upon a local VIP while just starting our adventure! Here’s her post to the Visit Kitsap Peninsula Facebook page:

Seattle Kids love Kitsap! A big group from Kidical Mass is on a weekend cycling adventure to Illahee State Park. We spotted them crossing the Manette Bridge and snapped a few photos. Thanks to Madi Carlson of Wallingford for arranging the party!

I reserved three sites (11, 12, and 13) ahead of time–spacious sites I chose during a test run. Upon arrival a few families added adjacent site 16 to our batch and we all fit quite well. It’s not the same as being all in the big clearing of Fay Bainbridge Park, but it was amazing being amid the trees.

Most of our campers made the trek down to the beach. It’s a great half-mile hike starting just across the street from the group picnic shelter parking lot. The trail ends with a street crossing to the beach parking lot–something to keep in mind for little hikers who run ahead.

The swings and teeter totter have been removed from the playground, but the slide is still there and the kids seemed satisfied. A new playground is coming at some point. During our stay we saw volunteers clearing the fallen tree that crushed the group picnic shelter this winter. The picnic shelter would normally have been a terrific place for charging of e-bike batteries and will be an option again next summer. As it was, e-people had to make do with the outlets in the bathrooms–there’s one at the campground and one down at the beach.

Everyone was pretty quick about packing up and heading home Sunday morning. Since my kids were on their own bikes it was pretty important we didn’t stay and play too long lest they become too tired to make it home cheerfully. The very organized campers rolled out around 9am and caught the 9:45am ferry. the rest of us set out for the 11:10am ferry. Even with a stop at Saboteur Bakery in Manette (recommended to us by Patty of Visit Kitsap) the families not stopping for lunch grabbed the 11:10am boat while 11 of us stopped just above the ferry terminal for lunch and caught the 12:20pm. A sandwich shop, European fry house, and quick Mexican food place are all in a row and have outdoor seating for keeping an eye on the bikes and are conducive to wiggly kids. A couple parents crossed the street to get good coffee.

I’m so happy with how well the brand new camp spot worked out! We’ll definitely do this again as a group.

In the meantime, if you’re a family biker and want to come camping, we’re going again soon: Swift Campout Kidical Mass June 24-25, 2017! This trip will be to Fay Bainbridge.

Riding the Deschutes River Trail

A couple weeks ago, on Bike Everywhere Day, I took a kid-free/Pixie-free train trip to Portland to carpool with friends to The Dalles for camping and bike riding.

All my photos here: Flickr: Portland/Deschutes River Trail – May, 2017 – 161 photos, 1 video

The impetus for the trip was Life on Two Wheels Marley’s plan to ride the Dalles Mountain 60 with a huge group of women over two days with camping in the middle. It sounded amazing! …except having just done the Dalles Mountain 60 with Pixie in March while carrying more weight than necessary on my bike (in addition to Pixie, that is) and considering I’m still quite a bit out of regular shape from riding a lot less than normal this winter/spring I knew I wasn’t up for it. So instead a few friends (Coffee Kelley, Neighbor Kelly, and Chele) and I made plans for a gear-free (other than snacks) bike ride in the area with plans to visit Marley’s #galsatthedalles group Sunday morning. We would car camp at the Deschutes River State Recreation Area Saturday night after riding one of many scenic loops in The Dalles area. the original plan was to ride either Japanese Hollow or Hastings, but in the end we decided we’d simplify things and just ride out the Deschutes River Trail a bit, turn around, and come back.

It was terrific! And since I tackle everything thinking about how it would be for kids: this would be a nice trail for kids, too! This Oregon Bikepacking post, Deschutes River Trail: An introduction to bikepacking, has terrific descriptions and photos of the trail. It’s nice to know we stopped before the goat heads (very pokey burrs that cause flat tires) got bad and that the rattlesnakes we saw are summertime-only denizens.

We weren’t in a rush and thus got started fairly late in the day after driving over and setting up camp. It was close to 3pm and fairly warm by the time we hit the trailhead.

The trail is mostly flat, save for one big dip where an old bridge was removed. On our way out we saw a mom and three kids coming up the hill–the oldest kid had biked up it and was resting/waiting at the top, the mom was pulling a trailer containing one little kid (!!! trailers are very hard to lug uphill!), and the middle kid was walking his bike up from near the bottom. Taking kids three miles down the trail and turning back before the hill would even be a fun ride, but tackling the hill yields some great scenery on the other side…but, of course, having to descend and climb the hill again on the way back. I found descending the hill more difficult than climbing the hill, but I’m not much of a descender.

Lots of the gravel is the good kind of small hard-packed gravel, but there is also quite a bit of rocky stuff to maneuver around. I rode my Surly Straggler with smooth Compass tires with 38mm of width and they were OK. Neighbor Kelly’s Rivendale Atlantis was the other “narrow” tired bike with 42mm wide Compass tires and Coffee Kelley and Chele rolled on 3-inch fat tires on rigid (no suspension) fat bikes–a Surly ECR and a Bantam adventure bike. We all thought it was pretty bumpy.

Along the trail are several pit toilets (bring toilet paper if you’re visiting outside the high season) down near the river surrounded by open areas for dispersed camping for hikers, bikers, and rafters. This is where the 18 #galsatthedalles camped, but we opted for the luxury of the regular, less-rustic camping at the Deschutes River State Recreation Area campground.

While we didn’t go quite far enough (and I’m not sure how eager I would have been to hike up a steep side trail if we had!) to see the petroglyphs mentioned in the Oregon Bikepacking post, we saw lots of cool stuff.

Abandoned train car! The abandoned train car around mile six provides shade! And it’s fun to explore. It’s very close to a spot with cell phone reception, too.

Puddle! At the bottom of the hill (3.5 miles in) there’s a puddle or two to ride through. Deep enough to splash one’s feet. Related: there are also a couple cow catchers along miles 0-11 in case you’re touring with a Chiweenie (Pixie was running free for portions of the Dalles Mountain 60 and got tripped up by one).

Lava tubes! I think these were a bit past the hill. Remnants of little lava tubes according to Coffee Kelley who knew the most about the region–though the least about rattlesnakes–of all of us.

Old homestead! The old homestead 11 miles in was our turning-around point and a good shady rest spot. Coffee Kelley said last year when she was here the house was upright and she was able to walk up the stairs inside. I hope it doesn’t dilapidate more because it’s beautiful in its current state!

Rattlesnakes! We saw a rattlesnake in the barn by the homestead!!!!!! It was my first rattlesnake; Coffee Kelley’s, too. Neighbor Kelly and Chele both grew up with snakes (not to be confused by “were raised by snakes”). It wasn’t feeling social and slowly slithered away as we took photos. This one never coiled up and rattled. While heading back we passed close to a snake on the side of the trail that did rattle! I pedaled past before I realized what was going on while my three friends stopped behind it to let it move away from the trail. Coffee Kelley took pictures. I took pictures of Coffee Kelley taking pictures from a much safer distance and decided I’d Google “rattlesnake bite treatment” once back to camp with a cell signal.

I was relieved to read that the rattlesnakes are summer attractions. Between that and the heat we experienced, this trail is probably most fun in the spring.

Dispersed campers! We saw a group of teens with a couple counselors bike camping at the farthest (mile 10?) pit toilet. I was so impressed! Especially when I rode out the following morning and saw them returning to civilization, just after they scaled the hill. Go kids!

We encountered the #galsatthedalles group in small batches as we headed back to camp Saturday night and directed them to the camping area by the pit toilet around mile 8. Conveniently the group of teens had left markings in the gravel at the turn off (indicating “No, don’t stop here, continue along” for their own group). We may have been a little excited about our snake sightings and mentioned the possibility of rattlesnakes to each group, but I don’t think we caused any undue fear.

I rode back out the following morning to visit with the #galsatthedalles and found them breakfasting and breaking camp. It turns out they had a car at the trailhead for carrying their gear so I volunteered to carry stuff out on my empty bike since they still had a 30-mile day, including Old Moody Road. I scored two panniers and a shoulder bag. I also scored a pinch flat, boo. But that was the only flat for our small group all weekend.

And that’s that! It was awesome, but as I’m not a big fan of driving places to ride my bike and am perfectly happy with all the places we can reach by pedaling or pedaling plus bike/train/ferry, I’m not sure how soon I’ll be back. Neighbor Kelly pointed out the trail alongside the highway, but it doesn’t go all the way through yet. One can still ride all the way there, but parts of it are along fast-moving highways and parts of it experience stop-and-go traffic with no shoulder for passing near Multnomah Falls.

Portland Stuff
Just wanted to acknowledge a couple cool new Portland things:

Better Naito is a temporary bike lane I took upon leaving the train station and it’s amazing!

While accompanying Kath of Portlandize on her test ride for her weekend Kidical Mass PDX Treats Ride, we biked next to a contraflow bike lane on SE 34th Ave at Division. Kath said it was residents of that block who had spearheaded the project to fix the problem of people parking in front of their driveways. What an interesting and unexpected reason!

Train Stuff
I took the Amtrak Coast Starlight on the way down and the Amtrak Cascades on the way back. I’ve written a comparison of the two trains before: Portland with bike and dog! And Amtrak Coast Starlight vs. Amtrak Cascades and that all remains the same, but there is a new procedure at King Street Station in Seattle: someone walks your bike the looooooooong way down to the baggage car now! I’m not sure if this is only for the Coast Starlight or both trains. The Coast Starlight is much longer so I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s not for all trains. Also, it’s a very new procedure so despite several different employees warning me that someone would come for my bike at some point–including “in five minutes”–once I got out the door, there was no promised bike pusher so I walked the bike myself. One of the employees (the guy with my first and third warnings) saw me and jumped out of the baggage car to walk the bike the last little bit to facilitate this photo op:

Have you been along the Deschutes River Trail? What was the old homestead like during your visit? Any additional tips?

Photo by Coffee Kelley

Happy Bike Everywhere Day!

As someone without a regular job and regular commute, I love that Seattle’s Bike Month has become Bike Everywhere Month and Bike to Work Day is now Bike Everywhere Day. Our first or second Bike to Work Day in Seattle, I biked over to Gregg’s Green Lake with a baby and toddler and a volunteer from Cascade Bicycle Club said I obviously wasn’t on my way to a real job and didn’t want to give me a half banana. I think she gave me one anyway, but made sure it was clear she was doing me a favor. But now! Now there are tons of stations and everyone is made to feel welcome.

I was able to hit 10 stations after dropping the kids at school at 7:40am before they closed up at 9:00am. The timing was perfect for catching a 9:35am train at King Street Station.

I was tempted to do a repeat of last year’s Bike Everywhere Day trip and take the light rail to Capitol Hill to hit the Swift Industries station, but I thought saving the light rail fare and hitting more stations would be nice this time.

I was also tempted to skip all the stations and rush straight for City Hall and they 8:15am rally for the Basic Bike Network downtown. But I didn’t do that because I had blinders on for BREAKFAST PIZZA at the Washington Bike Law station.

There were so many bikes out! I was number 985 on the Fremont Bridge at 7:52am and number 422 on the downtown bike counter.

I had a bag with me to collect stuff at stations so I wouldn’t spoil my appetite before breakfast pizza. I ended up with an apple, a pear, 2 small Clif bars, a muffin, 1/4 doughnut, 1/2 doughnut, a whole doughnut, a brownie, a patch kit, a beer koozie, cold brew, hot coffee, and a container chocolate milk.

(Note: I’ll add links and photo captions later, just wanted to say “yay Bike Everywhere Month!” even if it means doing so from my iPhone on the Wi-Fi-less train :P )

Swift Campout Kidical Mass June 24-25, 2017

Let’s go camping! As part of the global phenomenon Swift Campout: Solstice Bike Overnight we’re doing a family bike camping trip Saturday, June 24th through Sunday, June 25th at Fay Bainbridge Park.
New this year, I’ve reserved the three sites next to the kayak-in camp area so we can stay in our favorite section without worry of displacing anyone.

Important:
Register (free) on the Eventbrite event so I can keep track of our numbers and know if we should reserve more sites.
Facebookers can RSVP and connect in the comments on the Facebook event page, too.

Here’s a recap of a June 2016 family bike camping trip at Fay or go straight to the Flickr gallery of 194 photos.

Price:
Hiker/biker sites are $7 per person so we’ll plan for $7 per family or tent to cover the cost of the three sites. This will be paid while camping.

Timeline:

9:15 a.m. Saturday, June 24, 2017 – meet outside Fremont PCC Natural Market or earlier if you need last-minute groceries (kids get a free piece of fruit!) or want to go in for potty visits.
9:30 a.m. we ride! Promptly at 9:30 a.m.! (Which means 9:40, but for real we are leaving by 9:40!)
– or –
11:00 a.m. meet us at the ferry (pay in the kiosk, get in line).
11:25 a.m. Seattle-Bainbridge ferry sets sail (ARRIVE AT LEAST 20 MINUTES EARLY).

Routes:

Ferry information:
From the Bicycles on Washington State Ferries webpage:
“Bicyclists should arrive 20 minutes prior to departure time to be loaded at the beginning of loading process. If a bicyclist arrives after vehicle loading has begun, they will be loaded at the end of the load.”

So arrive by 11:05am. BUT if you’re late, they’ll still put you on–just after the cars load. I love how versatile they are with bikes! But it’s so super fun to roll onto the empty ferry so be early if you’re meeting us there. Plus we can socialize in the bike lane before loading.

If you have an Orca card, there is an automated tollbooth at the far right–no waiting behind the cars! But otherwise you need to wait in the rightmost car lane to pay. Current fares are $8.20 for adults, $4.10 for kids six and up, and $1 for bikes (sometimes big bikes cost extra, though I’ve never been charged extra for the cargo bike or tandem + trailer bike). The Bainbridge-to-Seattle direction is free.

Once on Bainbridge Island, we’ll ride about a block uphill within the ferry terminal area to Bike Barn Rentals and hang out while the car traffic clears. Generally, we push directly onward to the campground, but there’s a grocery store in Winslow for any forgotten items. During our June group trip, we used this stop to divide into three groups:
– Group hitting grocery store and then taking scenic route
– Group taking scenic route
– Group taking direct, highway route (this is the group I, Madi, will lead)

Fay Bainbridge Park
Fay Bainbridge Park features a great playground (!!) and BEACH. There are outlets in the bathrooms and picnic shelter (which might be reserved) for those who need to charge e-bike batteries or other things.

Showers: Bring quarters if you might want showers. Each quarter buys 1.5 minutes of hot water. (I’ll bring a ton of quarters to share because I know how it is to have miserably sandy kids and no quarters.)

Cars/”Supported” camping
Since we’re paying for three sites with parking spots, that means three cars can come. Past trips have see a couple families with various levels of supported bike camping, with half the family on bike and some or all of the gear meeting them via car. Or a van carrying everything. So indicate if you want to nab one of those car parking spots.

Note: We’ve been doing group summer camping trips to Fay for several years now and we’ve gradually been seeing more kids riding their own bikes–we had four last June! Bainbridge Island is very bikey with drivers used to seeing bikes on the roads, but it’s definitely busier (even the quiet, scenic route) and hillier (even the flat highway route) than my own Seattle kids are used to…however, they’re going to ride their own bikes for the first time this trip! I’ll take my cargo bike just in case I need to carry one or both of them and their bikes for part of the way.

Sunday
At this point no concrete plans for when to head back Sunday. We’ll most likely have an early crowd and a later crowd. I’ll probably be part of the later crowd. We can try to have energy to head to Peddler Brewing Company or Fremont Brewing for a Seattle-side hangout before going our separate ways. Our route from Fay to the ferry is a backtracking of our Saturday route over and here’s the route from the Seattle Ferry Terminal to Peddler Brewing Company and the route from the Seattle Ferry Terminal to Fremont Brewing.

Extra night?
Fay Bainbridge Park has a two-night minimum for reservations so I’ve paid for Sunday night, too. Stay an extra night if you can! We’re bummed about the Seattle Public Schools snow make-up day on Monday or we’d stay, too.

Questions?
New to bike camping or bike camping as a family? Feel free to ask questions in the comments or contact me. The Seattle Family Biking Facebook group is also an excellent resource–many families have borrowed gear via that group! Do you want to come, but don’t have the right bike? Check out the Familybike Seattle Rental Fleet.

Social-media-inclined campers should use #swiftcampout

30 Days of Biking 2017 Wrap Up

And so ends another April and another 30 Days of Biking, my favorite bike event in the world! This one has been a little harder than others, with more just-for-the-sake-of-it rides up and down the street in front of our house. It’s been a rough winter and I’ve been blaming the weather a lot (which has been exceptionally bad), but it’s more than that. My friend, SisterX says it much more eloquently than I ever could in her Frugal in Seattle blog post, Quiet. Anyhow, I dragged myself out of bed every morning and biked every day, and I’m calling that a success. 30 Days of Biking can be about so much more than simply hopping on a bike each day for a month. After all, I learned more about myself the time I failed six years ago, than during the years it goes according to plan.

I didn’t have a theme (other than “just get out of bed today”) this time, as I often have in the past, and I didn’t do anything super special, which is also something I’ve had fun with for 30 Days of Biking in the past. Strava says I biked 258.6 miles which is probably a lot less than previous Aprils.

The kids’ Spring Break falls in the middle of 30 Days of Biking which can make things tricky. Last year we went to Minneapolis, birthplace of 30 Days of Biking, for Spring Break and biked all over the place so the only challenge was a quick spin before leaving for the airport. This year we visited family in Los Angeles which is not nearly as bikey and resulted in lots of just-for-the-sake-of-it rides of a block or less.

However, 30 Days of Biking inspired me to do two very fun things while in Southern California: while visiting my hometown, we rented THREE SEPARATE BIKES for the first time and had a fun adventure in Santa Barbara. And then we rented kid bikes where we were staying in Venice Beach (our apartment came with an adult bike) and biked the Venice/Santa Monica boardwalk.

Otherwise April featured the normal amount of grocery trips and the normal amount of fun stuff…we kicked off the month with April Fools Kidical Mass that was a blast! And it finally got warm enough that Pixie the dog and I took a camping trip to Illahee State Park to plan for an upcoming Kidical Mass Bike Overnight.

Our last day of April was pretty unspectacularly special, like all bike rides are. It was our third visit to Lynnwood Bowl and Skate (14 miles from home) to go roller skating. The first time we carpooled with friends there and back, the second time we took two buses there and were offered a ride in a car home, and this third time we bus/biked. Not because it was 30 Days of Biking, but because I dislike timing bus transfers. First of all, biking 10 blocks to the bus stop is nicer than walking, and while the one-mile trip on the other end isn’t so long that it really feels worth it to have the bikes along, it’s a lot farther than we regularly walk and would have been pretty difficult after roller skating for three hours. Plus that mile of biking makes the trip so much fun!

The mile ride in new territory was pretty typical. Had we been on the cargo bike or tandem (i.e. all connected) I would have biked with the sharrow in the street to the roller rink and the bike lane in the street on the way back, but with one loose kid we stuck to the sidewalk. The signs said 30mph, but in the Seattle area people tend to drive the speed the streets allow and a wide, straight street tends to invite speeding above 30.

These crossing flags and sign make it clear this is not a very safe street:

But it was just a mile and not scary on the sidewalk so we’d do it again! We even saw a cute park, Lynnwood Mini Park, embedded in a bunch of wetlands so we’d build in time to explore that. In addition to that we saw the other host of neat things so easy to see while biking or walking, but just a blur from the bus: cool art attached to houses, rocks arranged in a heart around a palm tree, a hand-made “Old Man Crossing” sign, that kind of stuff :)

I’m sure I’ll be back on my game next year and go big for #30daysofbiking 2018. And of course now that it’s May: happy Bike Month!