Archive | December 2011

Bike + train to Portland

It wasn’t easy, but I crammed three days’ worth of stuff onto the bike this morning: clothes, toiletries, gifts, and snacks in the two big zippering Trader Joes bags in my rear baskets; toys and more snacks in the kids’ backpacks held on their laps; and small messenger bag, laptop, Ergo, and even more snacks in my big messenger bag. Thank goodness it was all downhill to the train station.

It was very easy getting the bike on the train. I left it fully loaded with kids and bags and walked it to the baggage car at the end of the train where I dumped everything in a big pile, folded up the baskets, and handed the bike over to an Amtrak guy who hefted it into the car and hung it from the vertical bike rack. I don’t know if this was by design, but our seats were next to the baggage car so I didn’t have to transport our stuff far and we could look at the bike through the adjoining window.

The three-and-a-half-hour trip was long, but easier than a car or airplane trip. We were seated in a cluster of four seats with a table…with a poor solo guy sharing our space. He was very patient and helped retrieved dropped toy cars and trains and somehow managed a bit of a nap. We paid a couple visits to the dining car, which was clear on the other side of the train. Also at that end of the train was the handicapped bathroom which easily accommodated the three of us, though even the normal bathrooms were more generously sized than airplane lavs.

Getting off the train was a snap, too. I loaded up all our stuff train-side as soon as I retrieved the bike so had to do very little carrying of heavy bags to do. The only casualty of the trip was one of the ears of the bunny bell.

My friend Andy, a recent Seattle transplant, met us at the train station, sporting some sweet holiday decorations on his Surly Big Dummy. Thank goodness for cargo bikes–I happily handed off my enormous messenger bag and the kids’ backpacks which easily fit in his custom cargo bags.

He led us on a tour or Portland, with our first stop Voodoo Doughnut. I noticed a “Skate Route” directional sign along the way which made me smile because nothing says flat land better than a skate route sign. We rode by several fountains we’ll have to come back to visit in the summer, admired the Portland Oregon sign, and stopped at the food cart pod on Hawthorne (which is apparently called Cartopia) for dinner. Potato Champion was unfortunately closed, but the rest were open, the heated tent was great, and they even turned on the little merry-go-round for the kids.

We headed up the Sockeye Salmon Street (you may translate SE Salmon St. as Southeast, but the boys insisted upon Sockeye) Neighborhood Greenway to Inn Beervana, my brother’s friend’s beer-themed vacation rental. Salmon was a nice quiet street and we saw a great bikey house on it–with bike wheels decorating several surfaces–but it was hardly the flat route I’d imagined. The parts of Portland we rode through weren’t hilly like Seattle, but they weren’t completely flat, either.

New longtail and frozen kids

First day on the new bike!

It’s a Surly Big Dummy with Xtracycle Family Kit. Seattle Powder Coat painted it bubblegum pink, Haulin’ Colin installed the Rolling Jackass center stand, and Ride Bicycles put it all together, including add-on Surly Open Bar Handlebars, “grippy yet fast” Panaracer T-Serv 26 X 1.75 tires, bullhorn handlebars on the seat post, dynamo hub to power front and rear lights, and tricky install of Linus Delano Basket purchased at Dutch Bike Co. I think that’s everything. I’ll update with the make of dynamo stuff when I get around to reading the loooooong receipt. I think I may eventually add the new Xtracycle RunningBoards (narrower than wideloaders) and I’ve convinced myself I need a Brooks saddle, but I’m not allowed to make any rash purchases, plus I haven’t argued my case very well–“because everyone has ’em!” didn’t cut it.

I packed up the U-lock and kids to ride nine miles via the new ship canal trail to the waterfront to meet Santa Clam at Ivar’s Acres of Clams. I gotta say Santa Clam wasn’t really worth the big trip in 39 degree weather, but we’ve been here three years and never seen him.

The “free gift” from Santa Clam was a coupon for a free kid meal at Acres of Clams, but we opted for to-go lunch next door at Ivar’s Pier 54 Fish Bar. Eating it outside in Toyland Village seemed like a great idea at the time, but the kids were pretty cold by the time we packed up to head back north. The snow we saw on top of some box cars on our way down was unmelted when we rode back by.

I had hoped to make it to Wallingford in time for the Spokespeople ride along the soon-to-be Wallingford Neighborhood Greenways, but the kids really needed to thaw out and the riders were long gone by the time we reached the meeting point at 2:20.

The bike handled great. It’s nice having a granny ring and I used it on many of the hills, but not all of them. However, I did still need to shed my sweater and gloves for the eight-block climb up Densmore so while the new bike doesn’t feel heavy to ride, it also doesn’t negate the weight of the kids. I think one can stand and pedal uphill with kids on the back of a longtail, but I didn’t give that a try.

The kids had more of a changed ride than I. The little guy is used to having his fairing block most of the wind so he was extra chilly by the end of the ride. Next time he gets takled into the balaclava and ski goggles. The big guy is used to being ensconced in his Bobike maxi so no seat was a big change for him. He was perfectly comfortable and even kept his hands on his handlebars when we rode alongside a moving train–an event usually too loud for him, requiring ear covering. His feet aren’t long enough to reach Footsies or RunningBoards so we just tucked them in the FreeLoader panniers.

First brush with theft

I’ve been very lucky–I haven’t used a U-lock in years, I only lock my frame to bike racks, and I often leave items unattended in the bike baskets and helmets sitting on the kid seats. I had a rude awakening today when I left a bag full of stuff in a basket and my helmet on the rear seat (the kids kept their helmets on) to make a quick trip to the Ballard Fred Meyer. When we returned to the bike the bag was gone, but my helmet was still there. I’m primarily mad at myself, but damn that thief! Our newest kid mittens and knit cap were in the bag as well as some toys. I didn’t let on to the kids how distraught I was, but I wanted to throw a tantrum that would have put any toddler to shame. Wah! We have a U-lock at home so I intend to start using that and empty everything from the bike every stop that takes me out of line of sight.

This afternoon, the boys and Mr. Family Ride drove me to Ride Bicycles to pick up the new bike. It was hard to be sufficiently excited about it while I was still wallowing in “I don’t deserve nice things, I’ll just break them or lose them!” but this bike will only be locked by U-lock with no enticing bags left in the panniers. So more on the bike tomorrow once I’m not feeling so whiney.

Cyclist of the month

I hardly feel worthy, but I’m Cascade Bicycle Club Cyclist of the Month!

I’m hoping to make an impact and encourage more want-to-be bikers to get out there at least once this month. If you need even more kick in the butt than my smiling face, consider taking The Winter B-icicle Challenge:

Take The Winter B-icicle Challenge!
As winter settles in across all Northern Hemisphere nations, and the cold wind blows, it’s tempting to put your bike away for hibernation. But as of December 1, we’re asking you to keep on pedaling through all three winter months.

Why are we doing it?

  • To see if we can put our money where our mouth is in regards to living a greener life, and not just when weather permits
  • A good time to reflect about those people without homes during winter
  • We love riding our bikes and don’t want to go three months without it
  • We hate traffic jams!

Rules. We will ride to work or school everyday unless:

  • The road is so icy we’ll most probably break our necks
  • We have a meeting or activity that is more than an hour bike ride away
  • We’re so sick with the flu we can’t even be bothered to watch The Wire

Sign up on Facebook or through The Winter B-icicle Challenge website. It’ll be fun! Even more fun if you do it sporting helmuffs, like me. Thanks to Stacy of A Simple Six ofr inviting me to the event!

In less exciting news, I got my first flat-tire-on-the-go in over ten years today. It was my once-every-three-weeks work day at preschool so I was just with the four-year old and most things are easier with one kid in tow than two. I’d like to say that I know how to change a flat, but I’ve long forgotten. I was so proficient in college. I biked all over Santa Barbara with a patch kit and two spoons I’d borrowed from the UCSB dining commons. But hey, this is just an example of how even an inept bike maintainer can tackle a daily commute with kids. I’ve been fond of telling people “If I were to get a flat, I’d probably sit on the curb and cry until someone came along to help me” but I remained calm…and called home. I knew I was very close to FreeRange Cycles so my husband gave them a call to make sure they were open (FreeRange Cycle’s hours are right there on their website, FYI) and let them know I’d be there in a few minutes.

Kathleen and her mechanics were all very nice and fixed my bike on the spot. There was a small stash of little toys for kids, free Momentum Magazines for adults, and lots of great bikes and accessories. In fact, a guy came in while we were waiting/playing/browsing and exclaimed that everything he’s ever wanted was in the shop. It was so sweet, but I was distracted by my preschooler ringing bike bells so I didn’t get to hear if he was visiting from out of town or a local. OK, so I almost laughed when the mechanic paused in his tire resurrection to ask me what pressure I like to keep my tire at, but it was nice of him to pretend I’m not as clueless as I appear.