The internet has connected me with another new Xtracycle friend, Biking with Brad. I belatedly realized that I had already read about his Xtracycle back in April when Eric Shalit pointed me to a picture he took and posted on Tubulocity. Don’t let this coincidence give you the wrong impression that there are only a handful of Xtracycles in Seattle. There are tons of ’em. In fact, everyone has one but me.
Today we met Brad along the Burke Gilman Trail and followed him to the Arboretum. I’ve never biked there before, assuming it’s hilly, but it’s nice and flat. There might be a little bit of hill I’m forgetting, because I tend to go a bit faster and pay less attention when following another bike. I’m not sure this is the exact route we took, but it’s pretty close:
After tagging along to Nature School, my little guy rode on the back of the X while my big guy borrowed his new two-year-old friend’s balance bike. For the record, Brad had offered to carry our two balance bikes, since his Xtracycle can easily hold four kid bikes. Both kids sat on the parked Xtracycle together, but it was too big for me to take for a spin to really try it out. I’m not sure things will stay as easy as they are now if the kids were suddenly within touching distance of one another. It’s nice to have them so close to me yet still far from each other in my current setup. Of course I could put a front seat on my pretend Xtracycle, but that would negate my ability to stand in the pedals up steep hills.
After a little playground romp, I loaded my littles back onto my dainty (compared to the X) bike and the six of us rode to U-Village for birthday cupcakes. Happy birthday to me! I didn’t arrive home to an Xtracycle with a big bow on it, but maybe next year…
To demonstrate how much bikier I’ve become over the last year, we biked to Soundview Playfield for a birthday party we drove to last year. One word: phew! The route looks simple and boring, but it seemed uphill the whole way.
The two-hour party wasn’t long enough for me to want to hop back on the bike for the ride home so thank goodness it was wading pool day (the smaller wading pools aren’t open every day of the week to save money and water). I came very close to falling asleep on the grass while the kids played and eventually rode them home and then took a real nap.
I’m sad that the birthday boy and his family are moving away, but I won’t miss the ride to Soundview.
I would not have wanted to put this in the car:
But no problem tossing his painted little self (and this is only halfway through our bubble and paint area adventure) on the bike.
This afternoon we biked up to Phinney Ridge for SDOT’s Summer Streets (“Walk.Bike.Shop.Breathe.Play”). I considered hauling the balance bikes up there, but I’m glad I didn’t because there weren’t a lot of kids riding bikes around on the closed streets. Instead I bungeed an umbrella stroller and Ergo to the bike and we walked the length of the event. We also transported a bunch of cans for Seattle’s Largest Canned Food Pyramid.
The event was fun and we ran into lots of friends (all of whom bike with kids, I’m just realizing after the fact!), but the coolest thing that happened was while riding home up 45th, just moments after admiring a parked mamafiets with a black Yepp front seat, I heard “Are you Madi?” It turns out the owner of the bike is a friend of a friend who had just heard a description of my bike.
I have a terrific knack for getting lost. I blame Santa Barbara–the coastline runs west-east instead of north-south and is surely responsible for ruining my sense of direction back in babyhood. Missing a turn in the car is a huge pain and often takes me a long time to correct (even with my GPS patiently telling me what to do), but missing a turn on the bike is usually just a bonus adventure (or not even worth mentioning). This morning we ran an errand in the U-District and got a bit turned around trying to get down to the Burke-Gilman. I got stuck crossing the University Bridge, but bridges are always fun and we had no bridge-crossing plans for today.
While waiting for the light to change to cross to the northbound side of Eastlake Ave, I chatted with a pedestrian who told me she wished she’d had a front baby seat when her kids were little because her only option was to sit her big kid in a rear seat and wear the baby in a backpack. I’ve seen babies strapped to biking parents in backpacks a couple times and once on the front in an Ergo. I don’t think it looks particularly safe, but I know my perfectly safe setup looks crazy to lots of people and have decided to be more accepting of all bike arrangements I initially deem kooky.
So our light turned green and we waved goodbye to the woman whose kids survived being transported on her bike and back and had our first ride on the northbound side of the University Bridge. Northbound is just as nice as southbound, but I prefer riding on the west side of Lake Union so this may have been our one and only NB UB trip. I found my way to the bike path (second time’s the charm!) and along to Golden Gardens Beach. It truly is summer finally–we saw a woman on a beach cruiser with two tiny dogs in her front basket.
In keeping with the summertime theme, we stopped at Molly Moon’s for ice cream on the way home. I honestly just stop here because it’s an excuse to ride up Stone Way instead of the shorter and steeper routes. Lately we also stop halfway up Stone to check out the big construction site at 40th so it’s a doubly rewarding: excusable rest break and ice cream!
A jogger asked me if my bike was motorized today. When I said no, she moved on to, “Well is it electric?” I felt bad bursting her bubble so I admitted I had to walk two blocks uphill on account of the trailer of balance bikes I’d hauled to the lake.
Last week I scored a couple 99-cent baskets at the thrift store (as well as a big yellow toy truck). I also bought a pack of full-price zip ties to attach them in style and six new bungee cords of various lengths. I haven’t gone overboard with the bungeeing yet, but I have grand plans to strap in some bulky stuff.
We don’t make it to Green Lake with the balance bikes often. I prefer our new neighborhood of Wallingford, but it certainly was nice being a block away from the lake with its walking and biking path. We played on the south end near some exciting dirt trails with lots of tree roots to bump over. This was the little guy’s first time with his balance bike at the lake and of course they both insisted on riding on the little pier. Fortunately only rocks and pinecones took dips in the lake. A friend who is in the process of becoming a professional photographer took some pictures of the boys which will undoubtedly come out much better than mine. Can’t wait to see them!
But the most exciting part of today was being reunited with my beach cruiser when I rode to Ballard for a haircut. This isn’t just any beach cruiser, it’s the Cutest Bike in the World–the GT Dyno Bikes Kustom Kruiser Kozmopolitan. I’ll have to clean it up and take some close ups, but in the meantime this photobucket has some good shots of one, though she swapped out the stock bowling pin valve caps for little dice. Dyno Bikes/GT doesn’t make them anymore, but here’s what the catalog looked like. Yeah, it came in calendar form. My cruiser feels a little stripped down. Last time I rode it regularly (five years ago), it had a beer holder and six-pack holder–a.k.a. cup holder and basket. Not sure what happened to them, but they’re probably floating around in the garage somewhere. I ran into Totcycle on the ride home and asked him to take a picture of this momentous event. I think he wouldn’t have recognized me sans mamafiets and helmet had I not shouted his name.
I made one startling discovery: I was able to ride home just fine on my single-speed cruiser. I took the short and steep route and while it wasn’t a breeze, it was totally doable. So now I’m confused. Is Seattle not as hilly as I’d thought? Or am I just super strong from lugging sixty pounds of children and additional junk around on my non-motorized bike.
Why ride 7 miles when you can ride 18? I wanted to watch the Seafair Parade of Ships come in from Alki and invited Andy and his Xtracycle along…and discovered how much tougher he is than I. I mentioned I always cut 5 miles off the trip by catching the water taxi, but Andy was eager to check out the West Seattle Bridge Trail. I have to admit I was curious to see how doable the route is, having only taken part of it once in the other direction. Plus, I wanted to see the new Alaskan Way Bike Trail.
We met at the Ballard Locks and made our way south with a couple snack- and blackberry picking breaks along the way. The Alaskan Way Bike Trail was very nice, but kind of short considering all the excitement over it. I’m sure I’d be much more appreciative had I been using the alternate route day in and day out. The bridge was a bit of a climb, but I’m not going to complain because the five-year old on her teeny single speed did just fine.
I suggested we change things up and take the water taxi home–for the kids’ sake, of course, because kids love water taxis. They did love it, and we saw a swarm of jellyfish along the boarding dock which was very exciting.
We also avoided the lengthy trip through the locks and took the short and steep trip up Broad Street. I had to walk a block, but it was worth the time savings. We swung through South Lake Union Park, but my rear kid had fallen asleep by this point so we just rode by (or through in Andy’s case) the spray park and around the model boat pond and headed up Westlake. I had bungeed the green truck that accompanies us everywhere too far to the side of the bike and banged it the wooden post at the top of Westlake, knocking a wheel off. Doh! The truck sustained some undercarriage damage in the collision so I didn’t stop to retrieve the lost wheel, but we’ll go back soon and clean up our mess…and likely have a replacement truck by then.
We bid our friends goodbye in Fremont and took 34th to Densmore. Densmore isn’t the steepest route, but I was pretty worn out and the big kid had woken up, so rather than slog the last few blocks home we stopped at the Wallingford wading pool. But we eventually made it home: 8.5 miles home, but 18 miles there. Phew!
I got the greatest bike bag today: the $6.99 Trader Joe’s insulated zippered bag. It fits perfectly in my rear basket when sideways:
And look at how much stuff it holds:
Note: these are extra-tall 500ml cans (also $6.99, by the way).
I’d like to also point out that our bag purchase was part of a four-store shopping extravaganza. An activity that would have been hellish by car, but was perfectly fun by bike. To be fair, it was only three dismount/remounts since the hose from Tweedy & Popp was next door to the vitamins from Pharmaca. And I would have been loathe to negotiate the busy one-way block between toothpaste at Super Supplements and beer [not all for us! It’s block party night] at Trader Joe’s in a vehicle.
In the afternoon we took the balance bikes down to Gas Works Park to do some hill riding. We usually ride ’em to the closer destination of John Stanford International School, but soft grassy hills sounded better than concrete ramp with sharp turn at the bottom (the big one gets going too fast and endos a lot at JSIS). I was lazy and drove us down, but I’ll get into the habit of carting the trailer around.
I brought a basket left over from raspberry picking last week and twist-tied it to the big kid’s balance bike. It seems the perfect size for his little bike, yet still holds plenty of rocks, as you can see: