Archive | January 2012

Interurban North to Shoreline

With a high of 46 and slight chance of rain, today seemed like a good day to bike 8.5 miles to a birthday party at Highland Ice Arena, just off the Interurban Trail in Shoreline. The only hard part of the journey was climbing to Phinney to catch the trail, making the trip take more like an hour fifteen instead of Google maps’ estimated 56 minutes.

Much of the trail is road-based sharrows, but two intersections had nifty no-through-traffic arrows to cut down car use. Unfortunately, cars ignored the arrows and drove straight through the intersections both times.

The trail portions were great and there’s even art on the trail. There are four sets of these flip book panels, which probably look animated to the faster trail users.

A set of bridges carries bike and pedestrians safely over 155th and then Aurora.

The ice skating place was right across the street from the trail. It looks like a wide sidewalk in the photo, but this is the trail. From Google maps, I don’t think it extends too far past this before being broken up by road again, but I’d like to explore it more once the weather warms up and I’m on the lookout for more near-to-trail destinations.

I wasn’t surprised that there’s no bike rack at the ice rink so I made use of a pole right by the front door. Lack of bike racks usually means even more convenient bike parking in my book. It would have been even better if there was a curb cut to get onto the sidewalk, but it was easy enough to walk the bike over the curb once the big kid hopped off.

We left for home at five and it took about an hour. There was a bit of light for the unfamiliar part of the trip home, but there are no lights on the trail so I’m happy we didn’t leave any later. Exploring will be so much more fun when the days stretch longer and get warmer. Also, the four-year old started dozing off close to home. That’s not something I’ve had to worry about before since he’s ensconced in his Bobike maxi on the old bike. I kept him awake by pointing out phantom squirrels and asking train-related questions. I think he’d probably stay sitting up for a short nap (based on a story I heard at the first Kidical Mass we attended), but I’m not ready to test that theory.

One other bit of bikey excitement today: in the morning we went to Ride Bicycles to get my front wheel stabilizer. It’s a very strong Civia Loring Basket Fork Spring 58mm held in place with a Problem Solvers dual cable Backstop 1-1/2″ cable with slots. Apparently this isn’t the usual use for the backstop, but my tube is so big it took some investigating on Edward’s part to find something to clamp around it. So now my wheel and basket won’t automatically flop to the side every time I take my hands off the handlebars. Safer basket cargo and prettier pictures. I also got a blue Jellibell because I apparently have a bell-buying problem of late. I think this one will go on the kid handlebars and I’ll get the black time clock bell. Not sure where the kitty cat will end up. Maybe I can claim it for my beach cruiser…but only after I find it a tiny shower cap to protect it from rain.

Broken bits and new bells

Most of my days are incident-free, but today was a double whammy. This morning my loose left pant leg caught on one of my three (yes, three!) empty water bottle cages and bent it. Much better than getting caught up and falling, but grrr. I think I bent it back into shape and these pants won’t be allowed on the Big Dummy again. Then I rode the Milano in the afternoon with the idea to bring it by Dutch Bike Co to see if they could straighten out my kickstand. It’s been getting gradually more sticky and I hoped it just needed a good tightening and not a retirement party.

The kickstand took matters into its own hands (legs?) and broke in half as soon as I wheeled the bike out of the garage. The remaining leg wouldn’t stay up so I zip tied it to the frame and crossed my fingers it would stay. Fitting since I learned the magic of zip ties from Dutch Bike Co. The zip tie held through preschool pick up and ride to the shop where I learned they don’t have a Pletscher two-leg kickstand in stock, but should get one soon. They removed the leftover pieces and politely accepted the fallen-off bits I’d transported in my pocket with the promise to call if it could be put back together. (I’m not expecting a call.) In the meantime, things aren’t too bad with no kickstand. Since I started out with a normal single kickstand, I’m used to leaning the bike against my hip while loading the kids. Granted, it’s not as easy and comfortable as a double kickstand, but it’s safe and effective.

I wasn’t able to leave the shop empty handed once we saw the bells. They now carry kitty cat bells! The Milano’s bells are currently a bunny bell with missing ear and kitty bell with missing kitty (it’s in the house just waiting to be glued back on) so this kitty bell will go on the Big Dummy. I also got an Origin-8 Time Clock Bell. I had assumed the time clock bell would go on my handlebars and the kitty cat on the seat post bars, but the four-year old has other plans. It’ll take me weeks to get around to installing them so hopefully he’ll have forgotten about wanting *my* bell by then.

Four bikes in four days

I took a solo ride on my road bike to meet some friends at the Panama Tea House this morning. I swung by the store for a couple items on the way home, but rather than take either of the cargo-carrying mamabikes, I wore my Tom Bihn Super Ego messenger bag which easily fit toilet paper, kleenex, and cough drops for Mr. Family Ride. I’ve previously only used for airplane carryon because it holds my laptop, many kid clothing changes, toys, and snacks. It wasn’t by design, but I just realized I’ve used four different bikes over the last four days (mountain bike/trailer in heavy snow, Big Dummy in slush, city bike for bus trip, road bike today). I hate to give the impression that it’s necessary to own multiple bikes, but it sure can be convenient.

The only problem with the road bike is that I haven’t taken it out in a while and the tires were very low. I was running late and the kids and Mr. Family Ride were watching me poke at the tires through the front window so I pretended they felt OK and took off, hoping for the best. I have to admit I haven’t pumped up my own tires since college. So there’s my bad-but-good example setting for the day: even someone as clueless and lazy as I can successfully bike with kids all the time. I’ll sooner remember which of Aaron’s cats is Schrader and which is Presta than be diligent in maintaining my tire pressure. If it’s not too late for New Year’s resolutions, I guess I’ve got one. There will still be plenty left for me to learn from the Bike Works Adult Basics Class once I have the time to take it. I can only imagine how fun today’s hilly ride would have been on hard tires.

In the afternoon the two-year old wanted to go for a balance bike ride so we went in search of snow and puddles. Schools have been canceled most of the week so the nearby schoolyard snowfall was undisturbed and made for some good crunching. It was so much easier to keep up with just one kid. Also easier to help push just one kid uphill when he got tired.

Kent by bike and bus

Yesterday’s rain washed away most of the snow so I felt safe to take the Milano out for a bike + bus trip 25 miles to Kent. Previously I would have thought a half hour drive with free parking was much better than a two-hour multimodal adventure, but I was so impressed by the ShoWare Center’s Getting There page’s mention of bike parking. Also, Mr. Family Ride had to work all day so adding a few hours of adventurous travel to our day helped get us out of the house for a longer period of time. I was also feeling extra bikey for having been featured on Velo Mom for Family Friday yesterday.

There was still snow to dodge, mostly in the bike lane/door zone. The roads were littered with bits and pieces of broken snow chains, but it was the most rideable it’s been in days. Fortunately no rain fell, but I put rain suits on the boys to shield them from the wind. I chose the University Street transit tunnel as our bike destination because I knew it’d be dry and it’s exciting to watch light rail trains go by. It was a little confusing finding the entrance to tunnel. I asked a pedestrian who looked liked he’d just gotten off a bus and he thought we had to go three blocks north, but we found an elevator inside Benaroya Hall. If there are also stairs to the tunnel, I have no idea where they are.

On the bus I realized I’d left my bike lock at home on the handlebars of my mountain bike. I searched online for sporting goods stores near the venue and the bus passed an REI, but I decided to see if I could talk them into valet parking my bike. I was in luck and the box office directed me around the corner to the group entrance where a staffer let me lean my bike against the wall. She even gave me a claim check for it. She wisely suggested I leave our helmets, too, so I only had to carry twice as much gear (instead of three times as much) as all the car-conveyed families.

When the show (Phineas & Ferb Live, if you were wondering) was over we were greeted with sun!

And we took a peek at the Interurban Trail a block from the ShoWare. I’d love to explore it one day. Preferably one day when it isn’t hugged by snow.

On the way home we took the bus to Convention Place Station to get close to Eastlake and minimize our hill climbing on the way home. I was a bit sad that I didn’t get to experience the full ShoWare bike parking experience, but figured I’d do some research for future shows and take a look at the bike rack closest to the Paramount since we didn’t use it during our visit in November. It’s exposed to the elements and doesn’t seem particularly secure–visible from the street and too far from the buses for their presence to deter theft.

Biking in Slushmaggedon

The snow is melting so I’ve stowed the mountain bike. Poor bike–last time it came out of hibernation was three and a half years ago when I got horribly lost in the Cottonwood Valley Trail System in Las Vegas and had to call home for a rescue. I think its previous ride was at least three years before that when I got lost from my group on Mammoth Mountain. I didn’t get lost yesterday or the day before so I guess the curse is broken. Should be safe to venture to the I-5 Colonnade with it and not get lost there, but maybe something as big as Duthie Hill should wait.

Our little street was very slushy this morning, but the forecast called for rain all day long so I set out on the Big Dummy with the expectation that I’d be able to get home easily after playing at REI for a few hours. The two blocks downhill to 40th were hard–I dragged a foot most of the way. I think I was more uncomfortable with the center-of-gravity shift than the less knobby tires. I didn’t wobble once. This is huge since I’ve nearly dropped the bike on its side several times in dry weather. This isn’t the fault of the bike, mind you, I keep trying to manipulate it like my old bike and it doesn’t work that way. It’s simple to treat a bakfiets like the cargo beast that it is, but the Big Dummy is so agile I forget it’s a lot heavier than my old bike with double the kid weight on the back.

I normally don’t like Eastlake since it’s so busy, but that made it perfect for today. The relatively heavy car traffic had melted two strips into the road. One of the strips was even the bike lane…not that the cars cared. The ride didn’t feel dangerous and the few cars that caught up to us passed safely on the left using the center turn lane. I pulled over once at a clear side street to let cars pass. A man standing outside near his pickup truck offered us a lift and asked if we were just out for the sake of taking a ride. I assured him we were doing fine and he offered one more time before traffic cleared and we waved and carried on.

REI was packed, but the bike rack was all mine. I wanted to get a sled–not because I like sledding, but because I wanted to transport something big and bulky. I have yet to do any really exciting cargo transporting. Fortunately for my wallet, REI was out of sleds, but we found some clearance snow boots and replaced the four-year old’s stolen gloves. The new gloves aren’t as long as the previous pair, but the Swix Fun Split Mittens make me chuckle.

We hung out at the play area for a long time, watching the rain wash the snow out of the trees and headed home just as the deluge let up. Eastlake was slightly better on the way home, though it was still an on-foot negotiation getting from the sidewalk down to the street. My street was better, too, but I hit it from above in case the slush hadn’t washed away. I think uphill may have been easier in terms of riding in a straight line. I had to put a foot down several times as I veered into slush. I hadn’t previously realized it’s hard to hold a straight line on the Big Dummy. Seems I have a lot of adapting to do with the new bike still.

In very exciting news, the little guy was warm enough today. I don’t think it was much warmer than our last non-trailer ride so maybe the sunglasses add that little bit of shielding he needs.

Biking Snowmageddon again

The snow is still here and today we took and even shorter trip to the closest grocery store. I lost momentum with half a block of snow to go and had to walk to 45th for the cleared road. I’m not sure if studded tires would have made much difference with the trailer pulling me backwards.

There were more cars out than I’d expected, including a snow plow. It wasn’t plowing when we saw it and it looked like a privately-owned truck. The grocery store was more crowded than I’d expected, too. I didn’t take note of the parking lot yesterday, but I think today was probably the day people finally ventured out for supplies.

When we arrived there was just a dog at the bike rack and a pair of skis leaning against the building, most shoppers having come by car or foot. But upon our exit there were two bikes, two dogs, one kid, and one sled.

The trailer seems to be working well for the kids. They aren’t bickering in such close quarters and it’s warm enough to leave their hands bare so they can snack. I can’t hear a thing they’re saying back there, but for short trips that’s not a bad thing ;)

Biking in Snowmageddon

Several inches of snow fell and stuck and while I didn’t want to do a lot of riding, I had two overdue library books nagging at me. I didn’t feel comfortable taking the Big Dummy with its awesome-in-normal-conditions Panaracer T-Serv 26 x 1.75 inch tires so we hooked the double trailer to my mountain bike, a 2004 GT i-drive 2.0. Mr. Family Ride was worried about the trailer slipping back and bumping the disc brake, causing the bike to come to a sudden stop, but it stayed in place. It slips often when I have it attached to my road bike, but either the width of the tube or the freezing temperature kept it well attached today.

I made it a block and a half uphill OK, but had to walk three blocks up 44th to the top of the hill. As I trudged up the road, I realized I should have opted for 45th where the car traffic had melted most of the snow, but I didn’t want to slow the one lane of traffic with my snail’s pace ascent. I was tempted by a block of beautifully shoveled sidewalk, but by then I was at the top of the hill and could handle riding on the road again.

It was hard dragging the trailer over curbs so I asked passing pedestrians for a couple favors–pushing the walk button to get across Sunnyside and join the traffic of 45th and then to put my library books into the return bin.

We took a break from our mile-and-a-half round trip journey to visit the train table at the Wallingford Center. I’d read about the train theft on Wallyhood so we brought a few train cars from our B-team to donate. Turns out someone had already donated some much nicer Thomas trains. I wanted to take our trains back home, but the boys insisted on sticking with the plan to leave them to share. Aw.

The kids stayed warm in the trailer, and this was actually my original idea for winter commuting, before getting the Big Dummy. I wasn’t envisioning this kind of snow, mind you, but I thought it’d be good for heavy rain and cold air. This was the first time I used the removable waist strap on my Seattle-made Tom Bihn Imago messenger bag. I wasn’t sure the cargo compartment of the trailer would stay dry, plus I wanted the library books at the ready for returning.

Fine-tuning our layers

I’m still trying to find a way to keep the little guy warm enough. The snow has mostly melted away, but it’s still in the 30’s. Yesterday his hands felt very cold, even under his snow mittens so today I bundled him up in snowsuit (though we compromised on no ski mask or ski goggles) plus Slanket. I think the short ride to drop his brother off at preschool and home may have been OK, but the threat of snow (what snow?) resulted in a two-hour delay for the start of school so we rode to the Ballard Fred Meyer first.

There was even another cargo bike at the rack–an electric-assisted trike. I was a little nervous that the guy left stuff in his basket, considering my bad experience, but we beat him out and his cargo was still there.

The other parents were impressed that we rode today, but today was a breeze compared to Sunday. And I made sure to stress we were ten minutes late because I went by the store, not because of the weather. I know by the end of the school year I won’t be the only biking parent, but I’m not setting a very good example by running late so often.

The little guy said he was still cold so I took the small bike in the afternoon so he could hide from the wind behind his fairing. And I tied my snowboard jacket around him as an extra layer. I’m not going to want to take this bike if there’s any chance of ice on the road, but today was just wet and cold. It’s only been a year since our crash so I want my longtail and disc brakes if we’re anywhere near ice.

Our afternoon took us to Pike Place Market which was emptier than I’ve ever seen it–even the balloon clown was absent. We had the fish throwers all to ourselves and picked up some salmon and watched them throw a fish around for us. The sun came out as we headed towards home, making for a terrific day. But once we were back home, the little guy said he had still been cold. Back to the drawing board.

So much snow gear

We headed back to the Seattle Center today for the Model Railroad Show at the Pacific Science Center. I’ve never parked a bike there and was looking forward to utilizing the bike rack inside the parking structure…but with running late and having to retrieve a runaway toddler boot I just locked up to the bike rack right outside the door. Someone had left his sleeping bag next to the rack so I figured it was well sheltered from snow.

I had bundled up the boys a bit more today: extra sweater under their snowsuits and ski mask and ski goggles for the little guy and sunglasses for the big guy. But it made for a lot of stuff to cart around. Even if I wanted to pay a dollar for a locker (which I didn’t–the whole reason I take the bike over is because I’m cheap!), I would have needed at least three.

The show was AWESOME. There was an indoor ride-on train as well as the Iron Horse Railway down from Bothell. I assumed the conductor had driven it down from Bothell Country Village so I asked him what the conditions of the Burke-Gilman Trail were. Turns out the train isn’t street legal and he transported it by flat bed truck.

First *real* snow

Yesterday’s afternoon grocery run didn’t really count as a snow ride, but today we were met with snowfall as soon as we left the house for the Children’s Museum. The roads, bike path, and sidewalks were all fine on the way over, but quite a bit of snow fell as we rode along. We saw the light green streetcar train off its tracks and a horde of fire engines at Denny and Vine so not everyone had as easy a morning of it as we did.

Heading home a few hours later, things were much snowier. A guy offered to take a picture of us in front of the Space Needle, but I didn’t want him to have to take off his warm gloves. Turns out they were smartphone-friendly Outdoor Research Sensor Gloves he got at REI. Very cool.

By 4pm, the sidewalks were awful around the Seattle Center and South Lake Union. I saw countless people slip and fall. The roads weren’t bad, though, so I took a lane and rode home without incident. The same didn’t go for the bike lanes–Dexter’s separated bike lane was a lovely white two-inch deep blanket of snow.

Things got much better as we started climbing the hill of Westlake to the Fremont Bridge. The sidewalk was clear so I was able to leave the road for my slow ascent and once we reached North Seattle, there was very little snow on the ground. We stopped off at Gas Works Park and were surprised to see so much green. My guys ran up and down the somewhat snowy hills while bigger kids sledded and rode truckless skateboards down the sludge, oblivious to the better conditions a bit to the south.

My two-year old got cold on the way over so I’ll force him into his ski mask and ski goggles tomorrow. I wrapped him in a scarf, but he didn’t want to burrow his face in it to stay warm. The four-year old was warm enough, though rolling down kite hill at the end of the day did him in. I did a bit of layering and was fine–rain pants over jeans paired with two sweaters and Mr. Family Ride’s Endura Luminite Jacket. It wasn’t too bulky and it kept me warm. I realize it was quite cold out because this was the first time I wasn’t tempted to remove gloves and jacket for the uphill ride home.