Archive | November 2011


My ears will stay toasty all winter with my new Helmuffs from Heidi’s Hand Knits. If you want to see her selection in person, check out the free Urban Craft Uprising Winter Show at the Seattle Center this weekend. See, no need to be sad that you’re not down in Portland for BikeCraft.

You may recognize the pillar behind us from the I-5 Colonnade. I love this place, but haven’t yet made it back with my mountain bike.

Our ride home from Capitol Hill was via the colonnade, but we took a new route on the way there, using Lakeview Boulevard East to cross over the freeway.

I almost didn’t follow the suggested route because Lakeview looked like a freeway onramp from down on Eastlake. I knew it wasn’t an onramp, but I wasn’t keen to ride on something that looked like an onramp, either. I stopped to consider things for a couple minutes and saw several bikers come down the ramp. I was loathe to lose any of the elevation I’d already gained so I crossed to the opposite sidewalk and braved the ramp. Once over there I could see the bike lane so I popped down the curb (possible with just the front kid) and rode up and over the freeway comfortably. I think the ramp would have been doable with the weight of both kids on the bike, but a block on either side were killer.

In more not-locking-the-bike news, fresh off our unlocked bike in the train station stint yesterday, I considered leaving the bike loose by the U-District Super Supplements door, but considering the state of the bike at the nearby bike rack, I came to my senses. Like train stations, university-adjacent neighborhoods are probably high on the list of places to secure one’s bike.

Train to Portland (next week)

We’re finally taking a bike-train trip! The littles and I will ride the Amtrak Cascades to Portland next week. If you’re in the area, come to a bikey family playdate:

Tuesday, December 6th
3:00-5:00 pm
Sewallcrest Park
SE 31st Ave & Market St, Portland, OR

King Street Station is pretty nice. I’m mostly basing that on the state of the bathroom. I especially like that theres a very large sitting room in the ladies room so I was able to wheel the bike in there and leave it for a moment while the boys used the facilities. Probably not the best idea to leave one’s bike unlocked in any location of any train station so I won’t do it again.

Naturally, I forgot to time how long it took to get to the train station so that part of the test run didn’t work so well, but it was good to get a lay of the land and purchase tickets in advance. Since I’m using the Chinook Book free kid coupon, I don’t think I could have purchased them online.

I haven’t had a chance to figure out any of the logistics yet, but I did think to ask what the bike accommodations are and learned bikes hang vertically from hooks on the train. I’m not sure how I’ll get the bike up there, given past failures: trying and failing to use the tilted bike rack at Whole Foods, and trying and failing to get the front wheel over the bike fence at Pike Place Market. Should be interesting. I’m not ready to think about how I’m going to pack three people’s worth of stuff into two little bags.

Riding to the train station I was reminded of a Seattle Bike Blog commenter’s complaint about the 2nd Avenue bike lane. I started in the offending bike lane, but when I saw another bike riding on the other side of the street in the Bus Only lane, I did the same. The bus lane is next to the parked-car-free curb and I didn’t see one bus our entire time on the street. The bike lane, however, is next to a solid wall of parked cars. Given the slight downhill slope, I was moving faster than normal which makes the “door lane” scarier. At my incredibly slow uphill rate, I can see into each car and am warned if the driver is inside and might swing the door open into my path.

No traffic for me

Today was not the easiest day to visit the Seattle Center–for four-wheeled vehicles, that is. Cars and buses had to deal with a series of street closures for the Seattle Marathon, but my bike route was unaffected. I encountered one closed road, but the sidewalk was open so I was home free. A nice side effect was that the Center House and Children’s Museum weren’t as crowded as normally is the case on weekends. The Winterfest model train is up and running and it’s not always easy to get an unobstructed view of it on non-marathon days.

I’ve been too lazy to deal with my Denny Way bypass of Aurora my last few visits to the Seattle Center and have taken Broad Street’s sidewalk under Aurora. I met a couple finished marathoners on my way over and we fit past each other on the sidewalk, though it was a little tight. I don’t like inconveniencing pedestrians when I share the sidewalks so I might go back to my old route…but it’s hard to see the Space Needle so close and then have to loop around a mile and a half.

On the way home, we swung by Ride Bicycles to visit the new bike. The Xtracycle stoker bar isn’t black like the rest of the non-pink parts so we’re trying a black stem and bullhorn handlebars, which will get black tape. Edward offered to chop the handlebars to make them smaller, but I like them big.

So all that’s left is the super stable Rolling Jackass center stand and footsies…although it looks like the footsies might be a little too low to be useful yet. The new running boards look very cool, too, but sold out within a day of their release. They’ll also be too low for a foot rest, but will probably make climbing aboard easier.

Ship Canal Trail and beyond

We rode the new Ship Canal Trail from east to west for the first time and it’s only slightly less awesome than I’d envisioned. The switchbacks to cross the train tracks seem excessive, but I mostly don’t like that it spits the rider out on Emerson, which isn’t very bike friendly and is just steep enough to make me complain. I guess this technically isn’t part of the new trail, but having never crossed the Ballard Bridge, it’s all new to me. However, I was able to get to the waterfront without having to walk through the locks or navigate the busy downtown streets. And there’s a blue train engine–nothing could be more exciting than that.

Seattle Bike Blog has a nice video and description of the new trail and Jen of Loop-Frame Love has a great description of our Kidical Mass trail opening ride.

We were soon back on familiar ground–Gilman Ave W–and saw five airplane fuselages in the train yard as we made our way to the waterfront. I cheated and took the elevator at pier 66 to get up towards Pike Place Market, though with a three-minute wait for a guy to finish cleaning the elevator, a pair of pedicabs beat us from the waterfront to the market. So not quicker, but easier. Next time maybe I’ll let the pedicabs pace me up the hill.

Our purpose of visiting Pike Place Market was to see Santa and he was awesome. Still coming to terms with how much the big kid lurves Santa. I’m not a Christmas celebrator myself. The little kid wasn’t so sure about him, but didn’t mind sitting on his lap for a moment while his brother talked about trains and I took a picture.

We rode home our usual way, mostly on the sidewalks to avoid the heavy traffic. I’d prefer a route that doesn’t involve sidewalks, but we saw our usual batch of exciting stuff–we rode under a moving monorail train and paused to admire Chalky the Pig’s holiday wreath at Harrison and Westlake (Rachel the Pig at the market has one, too):

At South Lake Union Park we saw the Christmas Ships lighting up, which is the only way we’ll see them with the no-nappers’ early bedtimes.

I’d had enough excitement for the day, but it seemed like a fine day to make good on my promise to visit the Dewdrops sculpture at Wallingford and 34th. It wasn’t bad riding up Wallingford, but I think I’ll stick to Densmore, favorite hill of Spokespeople. I haven’t compared the grades with the Veloroutes Hill Caluculator yet, but I think Densmore is a little easier. I’ve completely given up on my shorter and steeper route of 4th-to-40th-to-Latona since it’s just no fun walking half a block (or more on extra tired days).


This post was going to be a recap of today’s Buy Nothing Day Cargo Bike Ride, but instead it’s a love letter to Seattle and her awesome bike riders. Say what you will about the Seattle Freeze, but there are some remarkably nice folks here, many of them on bikes.

I started out with the group from Pike Place Market, but my bike was making a rubbing sound so I stopped briefly to tug on my kickstand and try to get it back into place. No luck so I stopped on the sidewalk and let the group get away from me while I gave it a more proper tugging. A nice pedestrian offered to hold the bike while I manhandled the kickstand and diagnosed it as my needing to find someone with an allen key to loosen it a bit. I rode another block and saw John, who hadn’t set out to take part in the Cargo Bike Ride, but saw Aaron and stopped to say hi right before we set off for Oxbow Park. He’d apparently changed his mind about riding around alone and was looking for our group. I asked if he had an allen wrench and he kindly removed my kickstand for me. Unfortunately that didn’t stop the rubbing so I stopped yet again and tugged at my rear fender and that stopped the sound.

John, friendly Seattle cyclist

I admitted to John that while I’ve been to Oxbow a few times, it’s always been by bus from downtown so he took the reins and at my urging, set a nice quick (for me) pace down there. I can move fairly quickly as long as I’m on flat ground and I was in my hardest two gears most of the time. The only hill we had was the 1st Ave South bridge over the train tracks. We figured Aaron had led the group along the waterfront since we didn’t see them and given our pace, I wasn’t surprised when we beat them to the park. That gave me time to find a tree for the boys–the irony of Oxbow Park is that while the boots housed the gas station bathroom in the Hat n’ Boots days, there’s no restroom in the park now–and John reattached my kickstand.

The gang arrived soon enough and fetched a picnic table with the huge trailer behind Aaron’s bakfiets. He’d used the trailer to haul three huge logs and an axe to the picnic. I was still impressed with myself for hauling a growler of beer, chips, and guacamole. Small bike, small load. Big bike, big load.

The sun was starting to get low in the sky at 4:30 so we packed up shop and planned to follow a couple Xtracycles through Beacon Hill to Capitol Hill and then find our way home. But I saw that first hill heading east on Lucile under the freeway and decided to go it alone back the way we came. I was heading up 1st in SODO trying to decide if I wanted to deal with hills and find my way up through Westlake, find the new ship canal trail, or just take the flat and long trip along the waterfront and through the locks. I heard a bike behind me and kept expecting him to pass. Instead, it seemed like he was riding protectively, swinging out to the side as cars passed around us. I glanced back a couple times and saw a glimpse of green, but didn’t turn my head enough to get a good look at the guy. Finally I took a proper look back and lo and behold, it was David and Stella. Stella is the luckiest dog in the Puget Sound and rides everywhere in David’s front basket. Another Seattle Freeze misunderstanding narrowly avoided: I’m not rude, just nearsighted. So we rode together along the waterfront and David offered to lead us down to the new ship canal trail, but we opted to follow him through the locks instead. Stella had her warm blanket to nestle under, but my puppies were underdressed so we stopped at the locks to layer up while David and Stella pushed on north.

Heading up Market we ran into Cascade Bicycle Ambassador Brian Bothomley, another one of Seattle’s most awesome bike riders who is officially recognized for being such. I often see him at the Ballard Farmers Market on Sundays where he can answer any biking question you may have.

Finally nearing home, I cruised along the Burke-Gilman Trail and reflected on how terrific Seattle is. Mind you, this post probably wouldn’t have seen the light of day had it rained today, as expected. But today was sunny and not too cold (until the sun set) and somehow magical. Despite my occasional complaining that no city is bikey enough without miles upon miles of separated bike lanes like in the Netherlands, Seattle is the bikiest place I’ve lived. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to easily bike many places in my various cities–Santa Barbara, Albany (CA), San Diego, and Las Vegas (the four weeks of the year it’s not too hot or too cold)–but Seattle is set up well enough that I can get most places, not only nearby places, with the bike. Love ya, Emerald City!

Practice carpool

After no biking and a lot of driving yesterday (down to Kent and back and then to Issaquah and back), we got back on the bike for a rainy two-mile ride to preschool. I wrapped up the bike for a four-hour sit and a friend fetched the little one and me on her way home from kindergarten dropoff for a playdate at her house. Due to the slight difference in school start times, I probably could have arrived at her Loyal Heights (heights=uphill) home at the same time as her, but it was a convenient experiment. From reading Car Free Days and A Simple Six, I’ve discovered it’s helpful to utilize carpools for car-free and car-light living.

There was one problem: I got really cold! All my routes involve enough hill (and it doesn’t take much) to keep me warm, but sitting in a car for ten minutes instead of pedaling for 30 doesn’t heat one’s core. Now I know how the kids must feel. Bummer for them, because I probably won’t be as accommodating of “But I don’t want to wear my mittens!” as I have been.

Kidical Mass to Ship Canal Trail

A big crowd braved the cold weather for today’s Kidical Mass to check out the newly completed Ship Canal Trail and after-party at the Fremont Brewing Urban Beer Garden. Today was also Cranksgiving, which we enjoyed participating in last year and were sad to miss, but we couldn’t miss a Kidical Mass! Not to mention KM was closer to home, less hilly, and ended in a brewery rather than outside in the cold.

The ride was big fun, with more family bikes than I could count, including four Madsens, a couple bakfietsen, an Xtracycle or two, trail-a-bikes, kid seats, and trailers. I think the most impressive (though we’re all impressive) was Babette with her Madsen containing two kids towing a trailer containing two bikes. Her husband wasn’t empty handed, either, pulling a trailer containing their puppy–their 65-pound puppy. We weren’t able to discover if an extra-long bike plus trailer can negotiate the walkways over the locks because a family with an unencumbered bike showed up and took charge of her trailer.

Speaking of the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, the big one was empty. Not a common occurrence, but apparently it’s been closed since the 8th. We haven’t been down this way as often with the colder, shorter days. I detected an awful, fishy smell as we neared the water and figured a stinky fishing boat was passing through, but the stench was coming from the dry lock. The kids didn’t mind the smell and found the empty lock fascinating. Another discovery I made today is that the bathrooms on the south side of the locks (by the fish ladder) are not big enough to easily accommodate a bike, one of my favorite things about the north bathrooms. But all little bladders in distress squeezed in and we were soon on our way to the Ship Canal Trail ribbon cutting.

Our Kidical Mass ride, a couple Spokespeople rides, and countless other cyclists showed up for ribbon cutting ceremony. The kids were all very patient through several speeches and we soon got to ride on the new path. I’ll have to ride it on my own from the other direction to really get a feel for it.

The new path is so efficient, we arrived in Fremont 20 minutes before the brewery opened. Everyone scattered to pick up lunch at various places and we spent our extra time at the new Milstead & Co coffee shop. Our friends who led us to the new cafe hung out in the garden, but we needed to thaw out indoors. I’m grateful there was no snow as originally predicted, but it was plenty cold enough.

Despite the cold, my Seattle-born child refused to don his jacket, balaclava, and mittens for the ride home (though he agreed to keep his hands warm under his stuffed salmon), but my desert baby’s ears were cold even with his extra layers and I had to wrap my sweatshirt around him to better protect his ears. Even his stuffed salmon was cold and wore one BabyLeg as a body sock.

There’s talk of another winter Kidical Mass, which is exciting news, but we’ll have to toughen up a bit for it.

Hail no

The forecast threatened a bit of snow tonight, but I didn’t take it too seriously…even after we rode over some salted sidewalk on Westlake. It’s much too early in the season to start worrying about snow. I wasn’t able to get the boys into all their new warm gear, but they were warm enough and I figure they’ll let me add pieces as they get chillier. The more exposed rear kid isn’t comfortable wearing the ski goggles so we substituted sunglasses. The front kid didn’t want balaclava, goggles, or even gloves, but his fairing keeps him sheltered. And he had his salmon on his lap to tuck his hands under.

Heading home from the Seattle Center at 4:30 we encountered a bit of hail. I thought it was freezing rain or sleet (maybe those are the same thing?), but a more weather-savvy friend later informed me it was hail. It wasn’t too bad, but it started while I was slowly making my way up Densmore–my latest hill of choice–on the way home. I’d taken off my jacket and gloves and found the hail refreshing. The kids didn’t complain, either, so this daily winter riding might just work out.

Covering cold kid faces

I’ve had to drastically reduce my downhill speed because my rear passenger shouts “yellow light!” as soon as we pick up the pace and cold wind hits his face. Not to be left out, the front kid shouts “blue light!” but I think his fairing keeps him warm enough and he’s just returning the favor of shouting out his brother’s favorite color. We discussed which specific body parts are getting too cold and the answer was: face, neck, and tail (because they’re puppies, you know). So we headed to REI for ski goggles and balaclavas.

I was delighted to find $10 clearance Scott Little People Goggles, but the kids didn’t like the $15 Seirus Thick-n-Thin Headliner Balaclavas I’d admired online from home and chose the $30 Turtle Fur Windtech Maskot Beanies. They’re worth the extra cost–the kids are more comfortable with the little nose hole and they’ll fit forever and work great in the snow, too. But then our visit got even pricier as we found plush salmon near the checkout. I wanted to replace our lost yellow perch with a salmon or two–every Pacific Northwestern child should have a toy salmon, right?–and at least we saved on shipping by buying on the spot. So we added two Cabin Critters to our haul: sockeye for the four-year old and chinook for the two-year old. We’ll earn a dividend big enough to also buy salmon for Mr. Family Ride and me at this rate.

I have yet to choose a favorite route to REI and often get lost on the way there if I haven’t studied the map closely before heading over. I’ve already forgotten the route I took there, but to avoid the Mercer Mess of South Lake Union, I took Eastlake home. It was convenient in that Eastlake runs right alongside REI (I hadn’t realized this before!) but Eastlake isn’t the most pleasant street to ride along, being so busy. I resorted to the sidewalk for half a block to avoid a delivery truck blocking my sharrow, but otherwise it wasn’t so busy that I couldn’t use the road. And it certainly is direct. I’ve also been taking Dexter a lot lately to avoid the South Lake Union construction, but I have to admit it’s really not that bad for bikes…despite the BICYCLISTS SLOW DOWN DANGER AHEAD signs.

Cyclocross for mom and kids

Last year only three-year-old Brandt participated in the Woodland Park GP cyclocross kiddie race, but this year little Rijder was also big enough, and I was talked into the new beginners category. I’m no racer, but Anne-Marije Rook, The Riding Reporter, made it sound fun with the heat just for beginners and demo loaner bike.

Photo courtesy Anne-Marije Rook, The Riding Reporter

I’m glad I was able to piece together a cycling kit because everyone else in the beginners heat was fully outfitted and looked very fit. I’m not sure I’ve ever worn those Shebeest shorts before, but I discovered if I took out the padded liner, they fit! And the jersey is an old racing jersey of my husband’s. I have no idea why he had such a big one–he was much narrower than me in his heyday. The gloves are also his and too big and got caught in the gear shift a few times. I’ll invest in gloves before next year’s race because it’s either than or compete single speed and I’m not game for that. The BACON socks are from The Sock Monster in Wallingford and probably wouldn’t have been my first choice, but they were left on the loom a little too long and came out a couple inches longer than they should have–over-the-knee socks for the to-the-knee price! (Not that they stayed up over my knees as you can see from the picture.) I brought my SPD shoes along, but no pedals. The demo bike came sans pedals so Recycled Cycles put my Milano’s pedals on and I rode in my running shoes. I thought I’d be more comfortable this first time on flat pedals, but in retrospect, I think clipless is the way to go. My Bern helmet was a little awkward. The shape is great on my more upright Milano, but its extra low in the back–I’m sure to better protect one’s tasty Cerebellum–and kept bumping against my back and pushing the visor over my eyes.

Photo courtesy Anne-Marije Rook, The Riding Reporter

The beginners raced at the same time as the juniors (Jr Boys & Girls 10-12, Jr Boys & Girls 13-14, and Jr Boys & Girls 15-16) so I got lapped by little kids while making my way around the course. One tiny guy passed me and I thought I could follow him for a bit, but he just hung right in front of me for a while and I eventually passed him back. But otherwise, the only people I passed were crash casualties. The crowd was great. They ran out of safety pins so I didn’t wear my number and several people read my jersey and shouted “Allez Cafe de Columbia!” with flourishy accents as I slogged by.

When I finished the first lap I saw a sign that indicated two laps to go, but when I finished the second lap it was all over. I don’t think I’d drive an hour to find a race earlier in the season next year, but I’ll do this one again and be a lot bolder. Hopefully three laps bold. And I’ll either bring my mountain bike or arrange ahead of time to borrow a bike for the Cat 4 Women (the least experienced) heat.

The kiddie race was awesome! Unfortunately Mr. Family Ride had to catch a ride to the airport right before the start so we couldn’t follow the kids separately and we missed out on taking a video. Brandt rode with a friend, also on a balance bike, in the middle of the pack, while I led Rijder at the way back. What a difference four months makes! At July’s Recycled Cycles kiddie crit someone made eye contact with him so he froze and dropped his bike. But today he kept with it. He got sidetracked by enticing piles of leaves a couple times, but made it all the way around. The men taking advantage of the open course time caught up with him before the last corner and rode around him and even that didn’t phase him! I’m pretty sure he was the smallest racer and he was definitely the last.

Our adventure wasn’t over with the racing, though. With Mr. Family Ride gone, we had both my bike and the car to get home. I opted to drive the car home first and then bus back for the bike. We don’t take the bus often these days, but it’s always fun on the weekend with a very different crowd. We talked to a lot of delightful people on the short ride on the 44 (our favorite bus!). The racing was long over by the time we made it back, but we saw a couple stragglers leaving, one of whom recognized my bike and asked if we were at Yo Gabba Gabba yesterday. Much better than being recognized as the racer getting passed by all the ten-year olds.