Biking with kids in Venice Beach

After biking with kids in Santa Barbara for an hour one day at the beginning of spring break, we had a second bike adventure: two biking hours in Venice Beach.

The apartment at which we were staying came with two adult-sized beach cruisers so I was set for wheels and the closest of the many bike rental places–just four blocks along our street at the beach–had a couple kid bikes that should be available if we showed up near 10am opening. My seven-year old got a cool-looking 20″ cruiser bike and my nine-year old got a 24″ mountain bike–his first bike with a front derailleur, but I don’t think he did any shifting.

As I mentioned in my last post, there are lots of options for kids these days. Santa Monica Bike Center is particularly awesome with cargo bikes, kid-friendly tandems, trailers, trailer bikes, bike seats, and kid bikes. It might have been worth looking for an apartment within walking distance of SMBC, but I didn’t think of that when planning our visit. As wonderful as the place looks, it wasn’t worth driving there from two miles away. So we walked to the close place, got the two bikes and were rolling right away. We started by riding one mile south to Muscle Beach. It was a little early in the day for weight lifters so the kids didn’t get to see it in all its glory. But I thought Muscle Beach Surf Shop was pretty cool: they have orange–and only orange–rental bikes! Kid bikes of all sizes, regular bikes, fat bikes, an orange trailer, and an orange Burley Piccolo trailer bike. It looked like all the rental places’ trailer bikes were Burley Piccolos and Kazoos. We use a Burley Piccolo at home and love it. The Piccolo (has gears) and Kazoo (no gears) mount to a rear rack for an incredibly stable ride. We had one of the seat-post-attaching trailer bikes before and I simply wasn’t strong enough to bike with it comfortably. I notice lots of kids on those tilted to the side, though I also know people who love theirs.

After Muscle Beach we biked nearly three miles in the other direction to the Santa Monica Pier. It was a long haul for the kids on unfamiliar bikes, but we made it. And after eating and resting, my younger and unhappier camper was back to normal!

So we rode back to the rental place, ditched the bikes and headed for the beach. That’s what I mostly used my own bike for all week: as a hand truck to ferry stuff to water’s edge.

I did a tiny bit of biking for the sake of 30 Days of Biking and the day after our rental adventure we brought boogie boards to the beach and I discovered how convenient it is to have a single speed and coaster (foot) brake: my hands had no tasks other than pinning stuff to the handlebars so I could steer. I could have carried way more stuff.

All week in Venice we saw so many families on so many bikes! I assume most of them were visiting town and only riding back and forth along the bike trail, just like us. I wished I could tell them all that they could have this fun experience back home, too. I hope some of them will. After all, that’s how many full-time family bikers I know got started: visits to bikey places (for instance: Copenhagen by Hum of the City and visiting my family in the Netherlands in mine) and wanting to replicate the joy and freedom of getting around by bike once back at home. Thank goodness one doesn’t have to cross an ocean to catch the family biking bug anymore!

Despite our two days of using bikes over spring break and my teensy bit of biking the other days, we did a lot of driving. Back in 2010 I read Los Angeles on $100 a Day by New York Times Frugal Traveler Seth Kugel and discovered one can avoid driving while visiting LA! Now I know people who live without cars there, but this was my first exposure to anything like that. I would love to do that someday. I went down once without the kids with a rental Brompton folding bike and didn’t need to rent a car, but I was chauffeured around by my family so that was hardly a car-free visit. At least our staying within walking distance of the beach and restaurants of Venice Beach meant we were able to do half our stuff without the car, which is better than some visits where we’ve had to drive for each and every thing. Last time we stayed in a hotel walking distance to the La Brea Tar Pits and The Grove so again we were able to do some walking, but still had to drive a lot. I think if I ever want to make this work, I’d need to find a bus stop near my brother’s house and examine where I could get easily from there to choose where we’d stay. Then I’d need to choose all the various places we could get from our hotel or apartment and set up an itinerary for the week and hope our family and friends were game to meet up with us in convenient places. But this would be just biking and bus- or rail riding, no bikes. But I’m eager to look into it next time we visit.

Biking with kids in Santa Barbara

We’ve entered new territory: the kids are big enough for their own rental bikes! Also, kid bikes are more readily available at rental places these days. So are bike seats, trailers, and trailer bikes for kids who don’t have the stamina or skills to ride on their own. And to a lesser degree, cargo bikes. We were on spring break last week and flew to LA to visit family with a day trip up to Santa Barbara for passover with family friends.

Last time we biked in Santa Barbara (six years ago) we rented one of several cargo bikes at WheelHouse (RIP) and I probably would have done that again to keep things simple (carrying kids is simpler than leading kids for me…especially if it’s flatter than home).

I wouldn’t have thought about biking at all for this visit had we not been in the midst of 30 Days of Biking and I’m so glad I did because it was great! I found Wheel Fun Rentals online ahead of time and hoped the kid bikes mentioned on the website were small enough for my kids, but as a backup I knew we could rent a surrey (those four-wheeled four- or six-seaters with canopy). The surrey wouldn’t have been as fun because it can only go on the Cabrillo bike path along the beach and I was really excited about the self-guided bike tour.

Wheel Fun Rentals Santa Barbara bike tour–PDF version here.

I grew up in Santa Barbara and know the terrain so I knew the kids wouldn’t want to ride all the way to the Mission (nor would I!) but biking to Alameda Park (to which we had plans to drive after our bike adventure because Kids World Castle Playground is the best!) and then over to the fig tree sounded perfect.

Note: the self-guided-tour map wasn’t available in print at Wheel Fun Rentals, but it’s totally worth doing so print one out before you go. There were more bike options than shown on the website–like trailer bikes! I bet I could have rented a tandem bike with trailer bike and even if my stoker couldn’t reach the pedals, we would have all been on a communal heavy bike like we’re used to.

As a kid in Santa Barbara I just biked on sidewalks near my house and as a college student I biked all over the place, though I avoided State Street because it wasn’t good for biking back then. I often wonder if my experience biking with kids in Seattle would be different had I lived here before becoming a parent. I can imagine as a [relatively] speedy bike commuter I might be scared to add kids to that mix, but only having started slowly doing small rides with a baby wasn’t intimidating. Not that this experience in Santa Barbara answers that question for me, but it was cool to lead my babies on streets familiar yet better than remembered.

I would have preferred staying in a bunch the entire time, but I knew my seven-year old would want to ride ahead for the downhill/uphill under the 101 while my nine-year old lagged behind. I stayed right in the middle, slightly nervous. Fun fact: in the old days there were stop lights to cross the 101. And I see the latest State Street improvements happened just a few years ago.

State Street is still busy, but traffic (one lane in each direction, scattered parking, left- and right- turn lanes at intersections) moves slowly and there are tons of tourists on beach cruisers in the bike lanes. The bike lanes are ridiculously narrow when sandwiched between straight-going and right-turning car lanes, but for kids (and adults) who are decent at riding in a straight line, it’s OK.

Before returning the bikes within an hour ($25.85 total for our three bikes), we headed a few blocks out of the way to the fig tree. I love how being on bikes makes it incredibly easy to add in little trips! When I was a kid one could climb on the trunks, but it’s protected by a fence now.

I made one interesting observation when we skirted around a car idling slightly in the bike lane/mostly in the right-turn lane near Paseo Nuevo. There’s no Uber (private taxi service) here! [Actually a quick Google search shows that there is Uber in Santa Barbara, but the Yelp reviews reveal it’s so poorly regarded that no on uses it.] It was so pleasant biking in such a bustling area and not facing the obstacle course of idling and mid-block-U-turning Ubers prevalent in Seattle.

Biking and busing strategies (help plz!)

We visit Issaquah about once a month for our orthodontist. I often skip blogging about it unless there’s something exciting and new involved (like adding the Bobike Junior kid seat in place of Bobike Maxi kid seat), but I try to document things more in April for 30 Days of Biking so here we are! Plus we mixed it up bus-wise a bit so this is also a good time to ask for HELP WITH STRATEGIES FOR BIKE/BUS ROUTING!

Here’s what I do:
I start with home-to-destination Google maps transit directions to see which bus(es) go closest to our destination. Often it’s a two- or three-bus trip so I try to find out if we can bike to the last–or at least the second–bus. Often this is the point of that bus’ route closest to home as the crow flies, but sometimes it’s less uphill or less busy-road-stricken for us to hit it somewhere else along the line. Or now that the light rail comes near us, it might be where light rail gets closest to that bus…though we haven’t been incorporating light rail with our multimodal travels much yet. THIS IS ONE SPOT I CAN USE HELP: I want to look at all the stops on a King County Metro or Sound Transit bus and I don’t think the websites show everything, just some of the stops (the timed ones?). When trying to hook up two buses and kids on bikes, I really want to know every single stop. So I pull out my iPhone and check on the OneBusAway (“The Open Source platform for Real Time Transit Info”) app. It seems silly to use both computer and smart phone to figure out my route.

Anyhow, today was a bit different because we ran an errand in Fremont on the way to the orthodontist. We usually catch a bus near home to get downtown where we can transfer to the 554 that takes us 16 miles to Issaquah. I didn’t want to bike back uphill to catch any of our usual buses (mostly for the sake of my nine-year old who was on his own bike, honest!) so I used Google maps transit directions to find an alternate first bus. I settled on the 62 at the corner of 34th and Fremont in front of Starbucks. Bonus: it’s right by PCC Natural Market (where kids get a free piece of fruit) so we grabbed some groceries on the way. Removing a kid from a seat and having to lock up two bikes is a bit more involved than grocery shopping on my own, but even so, bikes still make squeezing in extra errands so easy!

The kids have apparently been paying more attention than I realized and have become savvy bus riders because they suggested I check OneBusAway to make sure the bus was on time. So I checked and discovered it was running six minutes late. We had seven minutes to go a block and a half between buses so when we saw a bus 40 with DOWNTOWN on the display, I decided we’d hop on and figure out our stop once on board. This is way out of my comfort zone! I like plotting our trip the night before and hem and haw for way too long over various options. Thank goodness for smart phones–I spent most of the trip studying the 554 and 40 routes and chose the two stops that lined up best–close to each other, but not in the part of downtown where that close togetherness was down a very steep hill. But! Then I figured since we’d have quite a few extra minutes for our transfer we should do something more interesting than just riding one block of sidewalk. So we got off near the top of the 2nd Avenue protected bike lane and rode most of the way down it…a whopping half mile! It doesn’t connect to anything so I rarely take the kids on it which means it’s always a treat to have a kid or two on his own bike when we’re down here.

Turns out I was wrong about our timing (have I mentioned I’m not a pro at riding the bus?) because as soon as we got off the bikes, the 554 arrived. Usually I fold in my rear baskets and fold down the seat (like in my photo below of our trip back) but there wasn’t time! I even forgot to remove my water bottle, but that side-entry drink cage (the only one I could find that fits in the tiny triangle) held tight.

And then we were in Issaquah where the riding is great! It’s a flat mile from the bus stop to the orthodontist and Issaquah has a lot of double-wide sidewalks that are officially part of the Issaquah Trail System so we bike on those.

We usually eat lunch while we’re out this way, either sushi right next door to the orthodontist or Issaquah Brewhouse a block from the bus stop. Today we opted for the brewhouse. It’s a super kid-friendly place, with coloring sheet kid menus, a Duplo table (in the back section that’s usually closed during lunch, but they’ll let kids go play in it anyway) and several games (my guys always choose Battleship, and there are two sets of it). The kid meals used to come on Frisbees, but today they had regular plates. There’s also a dog menu (and that food comes on a Frisbee, too) so we’ll bring Pixie along come warmer weather when the outdoor seating is set up.

We left the bikes locked up and walked next door to the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery, one of our favorite places to visit. Despite being one of our favorite places to visit, we’ve never strayed from the front part before and I had no idea there was a back section with a fish ladder and many educational displays! Plus there’s a little playground just across the street. Wow!

But even better than all that, we were invited into the mysterious white trailer we sometimes see parked by the salmon ponds. They were piping in coho fry (babies), clipping their adipose fins, and counting them as they put flushed them out into a different pond. We didn’t get to do any fin clipping, but the kids got to pet them, name them, and put them down the drain. Extremely fun! And we’ll be on the lookout for Banana and Slimy the coho when they swim back up here in four years.

Then we biked a couple blocks (on the sidewalk) to the playground by the train museum, close to the bus stop. The water fountains were shut off (for the season, back on soon?) so we popped in the police station for the restrooms and to fill water bottles before we headed home. There’s a great display of police patches from all around the area inside if you’re into that kind of thing.

And there’s a great statue of an eagle trying to catch a salmon right outside that my kids love climbing on (always) and cutting themselves on (occasionally) while waiting for the bus to arrive.

Coming home we usually get off the 554 at Westlake Park and on nice days like today, stop at the playground for a bit. New this time was a little basketball toss.

Then just one block of street (and a BUS ONLY lane which is also OK for bikes) and half a block of sidewalk and we caught the bus that drops us off a couple flat blocks from home.

This last stop, as well as PCC to the first bus stop and the Issaquah Depot Park playground to the third bus stop are close enough that my passenger could run ahead so I didn’t have to deal with all the various steps of loading–I wore the backpack rather than pry open a rear basket and in this last case, popped the seat open to accommodate the bag of stuffed animals.

So we made it there and back just fine and had one of our best Issaquah visits ever, but seriously: give me all your bike+bus route finding tips and tricks!

Ride Recap: Kidical Mass April Fools’ Day Ride

We had the best Kidical Mass April Fools’ Day Ride today, no foolin’! I haven’t started a ride at noon for quite a while, but it seemed to work well for a lot of families and we had a great turnout–39 at the start and 10 more joining us later. See my 40 photos here.

However, I didn’t plan well food-wise starting later than normal. I assumed first breakfast and second breakfast would be sufficient and didn’t pack any snacks since we’d have brownies at the start, doughnuts in the middle, and lunch at the end, but my younger threatened to die of hunger a few blocks after we left home. So we stopped at Solsticio, 1.4 miles from home, just in the nick of time! From there it was just another .7 miles to get to our start point.

We met up at Fremont Canal Park, by the dinosaur topiaries. I passed out homemade brown Es (get, brownies? We had real brownies, too, lest anyone be disappointed) and packets of doughnut seeds for the kids to plant around the dinosaurs. The idea was that we were planting next year’s doughnut harvest and we’d be rewarded with some of last year’s harvest upon arrival at Mighty-O Donuts in Ballard.

Multi-use trail, proposed greenway, greenways!
Our ride was really great! We started out on the Burke-Gilman Trail and turned off at Hale’s Ales to get to NW 6th Avenue. The U-turny right turn onto 43rd from the Burke-Gilman Trail is a little tricky, so I think next time we’ll leave the trail one opportunity earlier, at 7th Ave NW and turn right on 43rd with a regular 90-degree angle.

I love the newish beg button for bikes to cross Leary Way here–it makes such a difference for biking into Ballard (photo below from using it in the other direction on our way back home).

We rode 15 blocks north on 6th Avenue NW, which is a proposed Seattle Neighborhood Greenway. It doesn’t have all the traffic calming of a built-out neighborhood greenway, but it’s a great street to use to avoid the Missing Link, which features very busy streets and lots of rail road tracks and isn’t a good place for a group of kids (or anyone!). It’s flat so most people ride through it anyway, but our pack all fared just fine on the slight uphill of 6th Avenue NW. It’s also covered with blossoms this time of year.

And from there we turned west on the NW 58th Street greenway. I love riding along Ballard’s first greenway with kids. It’s flat and calm. And it intersects Ballard’s second greenway! Here in Seattle we don’t have any other nice bikeways that connect (except for the 39th Avenue NE greenway and the Burke-Gilman Trail, I guess) so intersecting greenways is huge!

Stopping at Mighty-O worked very well. Everyone started in the Friends of Mighty-O Parklet boat while I ran inside to pick up the three dozen mini doughnuts I’d ordered online ahead of time. Then some families migrated inside for coffee and full-sized doughnuts and some stayed in the boat.

We backtracked a bit, going out of the way for the sake of controlled street crossing: 17th Avenue NW greenway to NW 58th Street greenway. We mixed things up by heading south on 14th Avenue NW which is a pretty big street, but with an island in the middle and it’s worth taking in the downhill direction since we can go at a reasonable speed. And it has a light for crossing Market. We biked five blocks of 14th before turning off at 53rd which crosses through Gilman Playground. Parallel streets are just as quiet, but cutting through a playground is always worth it. Then four blocks down quiet 9th and we were at Populuxe Brewing!

There was tons of room to bring our bikes into the patio, lots of outdoor seating and a huge annex (which I hear begins a remodel next week) with pinball and video games as well as a big-screen TV and lots of seating. On such a nice day (the sun was out for some of the time!) it was wonderful to be outside, though.

The food at Peasant Food Manifesto looked amazing (and others confirmed it was indeed so), but my littles weren’t adventurous enough for it so I headed down a few blocks to Giddy Up Burgers & Greens for kid burgers and fries. I hadn’t been there before and it looks great for kids: huge coloring sheets, lots of crayons, and little toy trucks!

Balleywood Creamery was at the brewery, too, and it was SO GOOD. There was a sorbet (peach this time) for my dairy-sensitive kid and I chose the not-too-hoppy caramel hop one. YUM!

We look forward to more sunny rides as the seasons change (finally!)

A Week in Minneapolis During 30 Days of Biking 2016

Last spring break we went to Minneapolis, Minnesota. We have quite a few friends in Minneapolis, some of whom we hadn’t seen in quite some time and have been missing terribly, plus I was extremely excited to be in the birthplace of #30daysofbiking during #30daysofbiking! Win-win.

Flickr album: Minneapolis, Spring Break 2016 – 374 photos · 1 video

I’ve only been to Minneapolis twice–once during a four-hour layer returning to San Diego from a visit to my relatives in the Netherlands. On New Year’s Day no less! But it counts because Kristin picked us up at the airport and drove us into town to hang out. And once for John’s fall wedding during which I discovered as a [then] Southern Californian why looking at the fall foliage made me so anxious–I’d been trained from childhood to think “Poison oak! Get away!” when I see red leaves. I’m over that now, by the way.

Spending a whole week was AWESOME. We went everywhere and did everything. I wanted to make a big overlay map of my Strava recordings, but that proved too much work, so here’s (there -> to the right) a thrown together picture of my maps (click to see it bigger) that hopefully quickly show just how much we were able to get around.

Perennial Cycle
Super super huge thanks to Luke of Perennial Cycle for letting me borrow the shop Xtracycle EdgeRunner. And for inviting me to do an Urban Cycling book talk before the pastry ride. And for having such a cool bike shop! So many people admired the Xtracycle as we explored town. I hope some of those families find their way to Perennial Cycle and join the revolution. Perennial Cycle has lots of different bikes, like anything one could want to commute on, Brompton folding bikes, and the fat recumbent trike my kids can’t wait to grow long enough to fit on.

30 Days of Biking
I adore 30 Days of Biking! We attended several events and I got to meet 30DoB co-founder Patrick Stephenson. It’s a wonderful event and I highly recommend you sign up right now.

Bike trails
I knew ahead of time that Minneapolis is fairly flat so biking the two kids around was easier than at home, but what I didn’t know to expect was all the terrific bike trails! 83 miles of off-street trails according to this Hennepin County Metro Bike Trails Guide. In Seattle we have some multi-use trails which are great, but in Minneapolis we rode on bike trails with an area of separation and then a separate walking trail. No dodging around dogs on long leashes or worrying about surprising walkers in headphones. And the many trails go lots of places! I kept asking for confirmation that they were used as commute ways and not only for recreation. We utilized the to get many places, like friends’ houses, Minnehaha Falls, and Fort Snelling.

Nice Ride MN bike share
I didn’t ride a Nice Ride MN bike share bike, but it was fun to see them everywhere. They had just come back out from winter hibernation and everyone–even locals who rode their own bikes everywhere–were so excited about it and declared it the most reliable sign of spring. It was awesome to see a successful bustling bike share system in action (I write this on the day Seattle’s Pronto Cycle Share shuts down). We, uh, often used docked bikes for the kids to climb up for boarding the Xtracycle deck because like I said, they’re everywhere.

Recap of our week
I’m going to do a quick recap of our week of activities below, with miles per day and links to my Strava maps. Nowadays I have a Garmin Edge 520 that’s easy to record trips with stops, but last year I had a Garmin Edge 25 that was cute and little, but couldn’t be turned off at a stop in the middle of a trip to preserve its short battery life. It stopped working three minutes after the warranty expired, but I’m happy with this new, bigger one. I’m not one for riding fast, but it’s neat to tally how much I ride and it’s very helpful for exploring routes for leading future group rides.

Sunday, April 10, 2016
13.1 miles | map
We stayed with our friends Martin and Stacy (and two kids and one dog). Martin picked us up at the airport Saturday and drove us to Perennial Cycle to fetch the bike. I could have biked it home, but since I’d already biked through the kitchen early in the morning to up the bike with Martin’s truck (*gasp*) on Saturday so this was our first Minneapolis riding. Stacy asked my kids if they’d like to tag along to a birthday party at an amusement park type place so they ditched me for our first day of riding! But Martin and his eldest came along for the Sunday Social Cookie Ride and I even got to tow the kid and his bike a little bit :)

And we stopped at Behind Bars Bike Shop on the way home. Cool shop!

Monday, April 11, 2016
16 miles | map 1, map 2
Obvs we had to visit the Mall of America during our week. I deemed it a bit far for biking to. Plus it was freezing! I flattened my hair over my ears to keep them warm on the ride to the light rail station where we left the bike locked up for the day. The MOA was awesome even though the kids didn’t want to go to the aquarium or in the amusement park. The Lego Store, Brickmania Lego Store, and videos at the flight simulator store were excitement enough for them.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016
18 miles | map 1, map 2
First up The Bakken Museum: The Electricity of Life. Small, but so cool! The kids loved every single exhibit. Then we followed our friend James out to his house for a sleepover with his family (four fun kids!) through the snow! To quite Patrick in the Surly Brewing interview I linked above when asked why 30 Days of Biking is in April: “Because April is the confluence of all seasons. You could get a shock snowstorm. It could rain. It could be a perfect beautiful spring day with the birds chirping and the green leaves and the flowers blooming.” And indeed we got the full spectrum!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016
12.8 miles | map
The weather Wednesday was terrific so we spent the day at the park walking distance from our friends’ house after some sharing of kid bikes in the street out front. And we swung by the Spoonbridge and Cherry on our way back home. This was the only time things were a little tricky for biking due to some construction and busy roads. I probably didn’t take the best and more direct route from the bike trail to the spoon, but we made it just fine. I certainly see why Minneapolis is one of the best places for biking in the US.

Thursday, April 14, 2016
18.6 miles | map 1, map 2, map 3, map 4
We made it into St. Paul to visit the Como Park Zoo–via the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. I biked us through just to check out the deserted fairgrounds, but it also served the purpose of keeping us off busy Como Avenue, an unpleasant experience on our way back home.

We had lunch with Anthony Desnick, then director of Nice Ride MN where I got the inside scoop on Mississippi River Paddle Share. We’ll have to come back when the kids are tall enough to fit on Nice Ride MN bike share bikes so we can bike/paddle/bike!

Martin, Stacy, and kids met us by bike for dinner at Surly Brewing Co which has a wonderful waiting nook for kids, kid-friendly (i.e. spacious) seating both inside and out, and little bins of toys/puzzles for each table of kids. It was also the gathering spot for a #30daysofbiking ride so even though it was too late for us to go riding more, I got to meet Patrick!

I think this was also the first time my six-year old thought standing on the deck would be fun so that was a recurring motif for the rest of the week.

Friday, April 15, 2016
26.3 miles | map 1, map 2, map 3
I love that my older kid’s birthday always falls during Spring Break! Last year we were in Victoria and spent the big day camping, hiking, and dining on sushi and cake in town (with special police station tour two days later!) but this year he’s more into military stuff than police stuff so we biked to Historic Fort Snelling. It was a long, but awesome ride over. Martin advised us to stay on the east side of the Mississippi River until Minnehaha Falls, where we stopped for lunch waterfall oohing and aahing, and a playground where the Xtracycle got a ton of admiring glances.

The trail between the falls and the fort was pretty and woodsy and then a section alongside the highway. I kind of like highway-side bike trails–it feels like something built especially for bike access to a spot most people would only think to drive to. The last little bit was up a hill. A hill so steep I had to kick the birthday boy off the bike so I could make it up. I guess it’s good for a fort to be on top of a hill–better view of approaching enemies and all that. One hill in one week isn’t bad.

Note: it wasn’t yet Fort season. I figured we’d just ride over and explore around the closed grounds, but we got incredibly lucky and it had just opened that day for its first school group of the season and they let us in! The blacksmith made my birthday boy a nail and someone too official to be in period costume unlocked the gift shop/bar and gave the kids pins after he’d overheard we were special birthday visitors.

We met our hosts back in town for sushi birthday dinner and then cake at home.

Saturday, April 16, 2016
29.1 miles | map 1, map 2, map 3
Not that Fort Snelling wasn’t super fun on Friday, but Saturday was my day! We followed Martin to Perennial Cycle for a morning of 30 Days of Biking stuff. Music from Ben Weaver, giveaways and doughnuts from Banjo Brothers, and an Urban Cycling talk by me! I got to meet some friends in person for the first time and our friend, Tom, who recently moved to Minneapolis from Seattle was there on his Big Dummy.

Photo courtesy @hangsaroundthefort

And then we joined the Pastry Ride to a street fair (with bounce house!) and that was AWESOME.

We left the bounce house with Martin and Tom (and the kids opted to ride on Tom’s Big Dummy and there was no deck surfing) for more fun “me-type” stuff. First up we rode to Peacock Groove to meet Eric Noren and a bunch of amazing “deep custom” bikes.

And then we went to One on One Bicycle Studio where Surly Bikes was leading a big gravel ride that we didn’t take part in, but I enjoyed the bike shop (and adjoining cafe) and the kids got little grenade-shaped bike locks that they [obviously] love.

Then the bestest part of all the best parts and there were so many best parts to the week! All the old crew got together for a bike biking-with-kids brewery tour! For most of it we were six adults and six kids on bikes, but all told there were nine adults and six kids, some of whom I hadn’t seen since one of the weddings, five collective kids ago! I think Martin had mapped out five or six breweries, but we only made it to three before it was way too late to be out still. Community Keg House, Able Seedhouse + Brewery, and Bauhaus Brew Labs were also kid-friendly and adult-friendly. We all had the best time!

Sunday, April 17, 2016
9.8 miles | map 1, map 2
Our last day allowed some time to play before our flight so we met Tom and kids and James and kids at a park to get some wiggles out before our long sit–so that made for eight kids!

And then back to Perennial Cycle to return the Xtracycle because it was too big to hide in my suitcase.

In case I didn’t mention it already, WE HAD THE BEST TIME EVER.

It certainly helps having friends to show one around, but we did fine for our many trips where I just let Google maps tell me how to get from point A to point B. If you’ve been thinking about visiting Minneapolis, do it! And if you haven’t been thinking about it, add it to your list now. And tell me if I missed something I should have done so we’ll know for next time. I don’t know when we’ll be back, but we’ll be back for sure! And Minneapolis friends: please come visit us in the meantime!

My Cargo Bike is a Glorified Bike Rack

My kids are nine (almost 10!) and seven and prefer to ride their own bikes most of the time these days. They weight about 65 and 55 pounds so they’re still totable, but I’ll admit I’m happy not to be toting them. However, I still always bring my Big Dummy just in case. It’s great having a bike that can carry both kids and their bikes. A year ago they were often tired and requested rides and I was quick to oblige because I’d hate to have them get grumpy about biking for transportation. And it seems to have paid off! They’re still happy to bike everywhere and only turn into passengers in case of injury. My nine-year old usually walks up the last uphill block home from the trail and is happy to push his bike…but I’d feel obligated to carry him up if he ever thought to ask. The last hill is always the worst hill, right?

Yesterday we rode 11 miles after school to go to chiropractor…and to happy hour sushi afterwards because it always helps to add a tasty incentive to an all-uphill trip. As we we were biking there I thought about how my poor bike is just a glorified bike rack these days. Here it is at the chiropractor:

But! Bike parking is very important. Three bikes is a lot to park even with a bike rack, but there’s no rack near the chiropractor so my 80-pound cargo bike with super sturdy Rolling Jackass centerstand isn’t going to tip over or get carried away so it’s a great bike rack.

And today I was lucky (?) and my bike got a job after all! As I was thinking about the whole bike-as-bike-rack thing, my seven-year old crashed. It was a pretty exciting crash–he was riding ahead of me up the 39th Ave NE greenway because speed humps are for bunny hopping at high speed. We caught up to the recycling truck and as I hollered, “Slow down! The truck is going to stop suddenly!” the truck stopped suddenly and my little guy slammed on his brakes and skidded out on the damp road. He didn’t come close to hitting the back of the truck, but he was flat on the ground and done riding for the moment. I knew this because he marched over to my bike and climbed onto the deck as I assured the recycling truck driver that he was fine and no, there was no need to call 911. So I got to carry him the last mile and a half uphill to the chiropractor.

We still ride our tandem + trailer bike sometimes, but at the moment it seems to be more of a bike camping rig than an around town rig. The last time we took it out was for a less-than-one-mile trip to the grocery store, but on that day the nine-year old wanted to ride his own bike while the seven-year old wanted to ride the tandem with me so of course that all went horribly wrong and we’ll never take mismatched bikes again. I think we’d probably ride it a lot more if I didn’t need to carry it (it’s 57 pounds) up the flight of basement stairs to get it outside.

But back to today’s trip, I want to mention that it worked so well on separate bikes thanks to some great bike infrastruture. We live two blocks from the Burke-Gilman Trail–though we can’t head directly to the trail due to two busy street crossings and a too-steep (downhill) block. So we ride one block in a bike lane, jog a block on the sidewalk to the left to get to a crossing with stop signs (though one of two lanes in one direction doesn’t have a stop sign so I’d never let the kids cross there alone :/ ), and then one last block to the trail–but also on the sidewalk again because it’s too steep (downhill again) for the kids to be in the street lest they lose control. And then we wait (10 cars this time) for someone to stop and let us cross to the trail.

After three miles of trail we turn onto the 39th Avenue NE neighborhood greenway. That’s a lovely two-mile ride with a couple busy streets to cross, but totally safe for the kids to ride ahead of me between intersections. My seven-year old is starting to ride ahead through smaller intersections with my encouragement, but he tends to prefer to wait for me…or in some cases ride over the bike counter sensors seven times while he waits for me to catch up.

We have to ride six blocks of sidewalk at the end which is a bit of a bummer after having so much great street and multi-use trail riding beforehand, but it’s pretty amazing that we can get all the way to Wedgwood on separate bikes! This particular sidewalk has lot of narrow spots and driveways obstructed by fences and hedges so we are very slow and cautious. We’re all well aware that the sidewalk can be more dangerous to bike on that the street.

Heading home we stopped for happy hour at Blue C Sushi in U-Village. Parking lots are awfully dangerous to bike in, too, but we come here periodically so the kids are good at sticking near me and listening to me chatter about cars backing out of parking spots. My time-lapse video makes it look much scarier than it is.

U-Village got rid of my favorite bike rack near the tiny play ground, but it has lots of staples all around. And we even ran into friends!

Heading out of the shopping center on the west side has us on the sidewalk for one busy-street block and then for one quiet block because it’s too steep for us to be in the street. But then we’re back on the Burke-Gilman Trail! Perhaps someday they’ll add better bike routes into and out of the shopping center on both sides. It’s great having a place like this a tad less than two miles from home. We usually only visit for sushi, but today we also popped into the Amazon Books physical store to look at my book–woo hoo! And buy a copy of Lost Seattle (in English) since the kids are enjoying the Spanish translation at school.

U-Village also has ice cream, cupcakes, several Starbuckses, groceries, clothing stores, events, etc etc.

Westbound on the Burke-Gilman Trail is better than eastbound because the kids can ride the “velodrome” through UW–the little banked curb between the bike and ped sections. The Burke-Gilman Trail is mostly multi-use with just one big section, but these divided areas are nice.

Heading home from the Burke-Gilman Trail is a bit of an adventure. It’s a shame we live two blocks (as the crow flies, not as the bike bikes) from such a gem, yet we have to deal with uncontrolled intersections and/or sidewalk riding to get to and from it. It’s too steep to return home the way we came so we leave the trail at “the crazy intersection of NE 40th/NE 40th/NE 40th/NE 40th/7th Ave NE/Burke-Gilman Trail (oh, Seattle, your street grid can be so silly)” in the crosswalks and it’s a bit scary. Then we ride a few blocks of the sidewalk of 40th because it’s too busy for the kids to be in the street and stay on the sidewalk of 4th as we bike by school. That’s both because there’s no curb cut to get to the street, but also because we get spread out on such a steep street. My seven-year old either waits on the sidewalk at the top of the hill or carefully rides the rest of the way home on the sidewalk. I wouldn’t mind him in the street, but he prefers the sidewalk when he’s ahead of me here. Then I wait for my nine-year old to walk up behind me and the two of us ride home in the street.

Kidical Mass April Fools’ Day Ride

Saturday, April 1, 2017
Noon
Fremont Dinosaur Topiary
(N Northlake Way & Burke-Gilman Trail & N Canal St, Seattle, WA 98103)
Facebook event
3.8-mile route
(route on Ride with GPS)

Remember the Google self-driving bike last year? That was cool!

Unfortunately, it wasn’t real (yet), but what I’m going to tell you next totally is:

We’ve partnered with Mighty-o donuts to sow their next crop of doughnuts. This season they’ll be planting along the ship canal where conditions are perfect for spring-time doughnut farming.

We’ll meet at the Fremont Dinosaur Topiary for seed sowing and hanging out for a bit before we head to the Ballard Mighty-o donuts for ripe doughnuts (from last season’s crop that grew in Discovery Park). One mini doughnut provided for each participant courtesy of the SKMAA (Seattle Kidical Mass Agritourism Association), but feel free to buy your own full-sized goodies…and if you have a Bicycle Benefits sticker on your helmet (available at Mighty-o if you don’t have one yet and want one) it’s buy one doughnut get one free!

Don’t be disappointed that nothing silly will have happened yet considering it’s April Fools’ Day–Mighty-o Ballard recently launched the Friends of Mighty-O Parklet boat. What’s sillier than a boat parked on the street? We’ll all crowd into the little boat for a group photo before feasting on doughnuts. Time to brush up on your pirate jokes (here’s our recent fave: “What has four eyes, four hands, and four legs?” “Four pirates.”)

After Mighty-o we’ll head over to spacious and kid-friendly Populuxe Brewing. The food truck is Peasant Food Manifesto and starts at 3pm. That’s a little too exciting for my own kids, so I might pop down a few blocks to Giddy Up Burgers & Greens.

30 Days of Biking
No joke here, 30 Days of Biking kicks off April 1st and it’s a wonderful event!

30 Days of Biking is a pledge to ride your bike every day in April and share your adventures online: #30daysofbiking.

There’s no minimum distance–down the block and around your basement count just like a 20-mile commute or a 350-mile charity ride. If you miss a day, no worries–just keep riding and don’t give up! It’s all for giggles, or as serious as you want it to be. What matters is that we’re all in this together.

Pledge to ride here and kick off the month in style!

About Kidical Mass
Seattle Kidical Mass rides are presented by Familybike Seattle. Familybike Seattle is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit that decreases barriers to bicycling for families of all income levels. We believe that biking as a family increases our individual, family, and societal quality of life, while at the same time moving toward sustainable lifestyles and communities.

Kidical Mass is a fun, safe, easy-going, and law-abiding family bike ride for kids of all ages. It started circa 2008 in Eugene, Oregon, and has since spread to other bikey burgs, like Seattle! Our group rides include a nice mix of experienced cyclists, and folks just getting started. We hope to educate bike-curious parents about ways to bicycle with children, help kids learn to ride safely in the city, and increase the visibility of family biking on Seattle streets. Kids are traffic too! All manner of bikes and high-occupancy velos are welcome.