Archive | January 2012

First snow

We had our first snow today! The boys and I drove to Snoqualmie to go snowboarding yesterday so they weren’t too excited about the dusting we got today and it was already starting to melt by the time I convinced the little one to come out with me for a grocery run. I discovered mulch retains snow better than grass so we stopped in front of the mulchiest snowiest yard we could find to document our adventure.

On the way home, I let the little guy ride in his big brother’s seat. I didn’t need the rear seat for groceries, but I’d made the mistake of warning him we might be overloaded so he was excited about his first chance to ride on the FlightDeck. He’s almost two-and-a-half, but I think he’s better off strapped into a seat at this age. He had a blast so we’ll do this again, but maybe once winter is over and he can hold the stoker bars with more clingy bare hands.

There was only one other bike outside when we arrived–unheard of for a weekend afternoon–but by the time we were done, there were several bikes, including a tall bike. The rider of the tall bike came out while I was loading up so I asked him about his choice in shopping vehicle. Turns out he’s visiting town from Boston and no one had a bike lock he could borrow so he figured who would be able to steal an unlocked tall bike? Good thinking.

Drawbridges and runnels

I love that our preschool commute involves going over a drawbridge…except it’s often up when we’re running late. I need to work on my on-time performance if I want to inspire other families to start bike commuting. This morning’s drawbridge delay made us ten minutes late, but we got to see a very exciting big blue boat. One of our little classmates was meanwhile stuck in her car, but much too far back to see the boat. Not only do bike commuters get to enjoy the view in the canal, but I also saw three riders exchange introductions during the wait.

On the way home, I had to wait for the drawbridge again–that was a first. The traffic lights cooperated nicely and kept all cars away while the bridge was up. It was so peaceful with no idling cars sharing the road. I daydreamed about how nice it would be to have a bridge just for bikes.

The afternoon was cold, but clear, so we took the balance bikes out. I normally prefer to haul the balance bikes to a spot where I can sit while they ride around, but a friend is visiting (this time without her bike) so we let the boys lead the way. They led us down two flights of stairs to the water by Ivar’s Salmon House.

Yes, the stairs really are as steep as they look in the picture–I was impressed the boys were able to negotiate them with their balance bikes. Later, Mr. Family Ride told me he carries the bikes down the stairs for them. Oops.

We spent a bit of time throwing rocks in the water (because that’s just as fun as balance biking), but it eventually got cold and we made our way back uphill.

This was my first encounter with Wallingford’s runnel. The two-year old managed to wheel his bike up two steps, but I ended up carrying both bikes the rest of the way up. I’d imagine it works fine for full-sized people, though. Even with my light road bike, I think I’d opt to zig zag up the nearby streets rather than walk up a flight of stairs. But I’m all for runnels in other parts of the city that aren’t as easily conquered by streets.

Embracing Neighborhood Greenways

Riding home tonight was the first time I left the excitement of 45th for a quieter parallel street. I love that we’re on the road to Neighborhood Greenways, but I’m having trouble with the idea of giving up my cycle along my neighborhood’s main drag. In case greenways are new to you, here’s the definition from Seattle Neighborhood Greenways:

Neighborhood Greenways are dedicated residential streets, often paralleling an arterial, with low traffic volume and traffic speeds. Neighborhood Greenways are mapped to be an extended connection between parks, schools, libraries and neighborhood businesses, while providing a quieter, slower paced place where bicycles, pedestrians and neighbors’ safety are all given priority.

Granted, I’d already gone 9 of my 11 blocks and the decision to move over a block was partially based on not wanting to wait for a light to turn green, but also on the woman in the SUV talking on her cell phone who screeched to a halt next to me, almost running the red light. But I’ve been meaning to force myself to get used to riding on more quiet streets. We’re not often out after dark these days, but we’d had a bikey dinner date with a friend and her two kids who came by Madsen bucket bike. She had a much worse experience on her way home–a motorist nearly hit her while she walked her very lit-up bike through an intersection. So yeah, definitely time to embrace Neighborhood Greenways.

Earlier in the day, the travel was all good, though. I climbed Fremont Avenue again, this time just with the lighter kid. I was feeling pretty accomplished until I saw a guy on a bakfiets cruise by in the other direction. I believe this is the same bakfiets I usually see parked at Streambox on Westlake so this guy goes up and down this hill every day.

My destination was the Phinney Market Pub & Eatery, which has the greatest double-decker train table. I’ve biked by in the evening and seen the place packed, but it’s been fairly slow the few times I’ve visited in the morning.

Ryan of Go Means Go met me there so I could give him the awesome bikey tie I scored at the bins on Sunday. I’ve heard of Cycle Cap Tuesday, but apparently there is also Tie Tuesday so the timing was perfect. Mostly he listened to me whine about having to roll up my pant leg until Edward comes up with chain guard solution, but we also talked about other bike, Seattle, and train stuff.

I was a little disappointed Ryan didn’t put a Go Means Go sticker on the bike rack outside Phinney Market (I’d even taken a “before” picture of the rack, but he’s out of stickers!), but he’s printing more soon. Here’s a picture of him and his Raleigh looking tiny compared to my massive bike.

Apparently Ryan is thinking about a cargo bike for himself. He thinks he wants a bakfiets, but this is based on having dragged trailers around and wanting his cargo in front of him. I extolled the virtues of the Big Dummy, of course. Not sure how effective my “two kids, two balance bikes, and five hours worth of snacks!” was. I’m not sure what that correlates to in his world.

His regular-sized bike has a great rack, though, so he can carry more cargo than the average Joe. It’s got a nice bell as well. I’m still on the lookout for he right bell for my bike, but I don’t know how gold will go with my pink/black theme. Plus, imagine how annoying for everyone to have to hear me chirp, “It’s the same bell Go Means Go has!”

Double shopping

Just another day of appreciating my new bike and how much junk it can accommodate in its trunk. I swung by the grocery stores to get a couple bags of stuff and since I still had room, stopped in at the pet store for a 14.5-pound bag of dog food. Only one problem: now that the kid seat is as far back as possible, the longest part of the foot rest is in the middle of where the backmost shopping bag sits. That cuts down cargo capacity a bit so I’m considering moving the seat back to its previous position. I’m sure the two inches of space is negligable in other areas–separation of the two boys (we’ve had occasional “He’s touching me!” incidents), room for a possible third passenger (friend, not new baby), versus weight feeling heavier farther back on the bike–so I guess I’m not too disappointed at the thought of changing things back the way they were.

I didn’t want to risk sticky FreeLoaders and placed my bulk honey in the front basket. It was still a little precarious with my floppy front wheel; items like this will travel more safely once my front wheel stabilizer spring is ready. The basket usually swings all the way to the side (that’s the reason for the inner tube wrapped around the top tube in the bottom of the picture below). But even when the basket stays put, I think I’ll continue to transport the most fragile items, such as eggs, in my messenger bag on my back. I’m still figuring out the many nuances of grocery shopping by bike.

In the afternoon I took the direct route all the way up Fremont Avenue North to the zoo. It’s totally doable with two kids and 27 gears! It’s still not easy, but it’s nice to know I don’t have to go out of the way if I don’t want to. I didn’t transport much weight besides the kids, but I did have a lot of bulk on board: stroller, big bag of snacks, and big bag of cloth diapers and baby clothing to hand down. Love this bike!

Solo to SODO

I met some seasoned friends at the Goodwill Outlet for my first visit to “the bins.” This was also my first time to take the Yepp PeaPod III off the FlightDeck Adapter–wow, it was easy! I know, I’ve had the bike a month and should have figured out all (or at least some!) of its intricacies on day one, but I needed the impetus of the possibility of transporting something big and cheap.

In addition to feeling sporty and aerodynamic (don’t laugh, I know I’m still more elephant than cheetah on this bike), it was amazing how quiet the ride was. This was the longest solo ride I’ve taken–50 minutes there (that includes getting lost time, by the way) with no constant chatter. My biggest revelation was that I retained most of my directions and was able to notice and remember things from the trip. It was my first time on the SODO Trail, which isn’t very scenic…unless you’re a fan of light rail trains and buses. LIGHT RAIL TRAINS AND BUSES! I’m not sure I’ll take the boys down here, though, because while the light rail train is surprisingly quiet, I happened to hit an intersection as the barriers were coming down and the alarms that accompanied it were so loud, I was a bit scared.

My getting lost detour was because I couldn’t see street signs from the SODO Trail and I missed my turnoff, but it was great to see the entire mile of bike path. It’s so wonderful to discover all these separated paths around town. I passed by Velo Transit as I made my way back on track. I recognize the logo, but didn’t realize they were a local company making waterproof packs and bags for bike commuting. They weren’t open, but a guy inside noticed me stop to take a look and came out to say hi.

The bins were overwhelming, but yielded some great finds, including 130 Mega Bloks and this sweet bikey tie:

I don’t know anyone who’d wear the tie, but I saw it as I was on my way to checkout and couldn’t help but grab it. When paying by the pound, one tie is essentially free, after all. My three bags of spoils were $10.70, though I didn’t find anything bulky enough to bungee to the top of the FlightDeck. I hadn’t expected to find bike parking at the bins, but there was a bike rack right by the door. There was even a bike already parked there which made leaving my bike unattended a little less scary. And as I was loading up to leave, a guy outside recognized my bike as a Big Dummy for the first time. I don’t think it’s just that I haven’t put the stickers (other than the head badge) back on, there just aren’t a lot of small Big Dummy frames out there so people aren’t accustomed to see the curveless top tube.

I stopped in at Ride Bicycles on the way home to talk to Edward about a front spring (waiting on a bracket thingy big enough to fit around my hefty frame), chain guard (still being researched), move my saddle back a centimeter, and move the kiddie seat adapter a notch. I don’t know if having the kiddie seat all the way back will make it easier to fill up the FreeLoaders, but it seems worth a try. And I’ve noticed an interesting thing about the Brooks saddle: it’s perfectly comfortable if I’m riding with just one kid, but if I’ve got both kids and both balance bikes (close to 100 pounds) aboard and I’m tired, it feels a little off. I’m curious if this holds true for other Brooks saddle enthusiasts. I’d like see how they like things dragging a hundred pounds of cargo around.

My final stop was the grocery store since I still had some available cargo space. If I’d left the kid seat on, I probably would have purchased one more bag of groceries and buckled it in there. I’m not sure what the lesson is there…

UW Self-Service Bike Stations with Spokespeople

This month’s Spokespeople ride was awesome! For starters the kids were the perfect amount of hungry and complacently tired so they quietly sat and snacked most of the time and I could actually pay attention and learn a thing or two. We rode to the self-service bike stations on campus which I’d been meaning to check out. The two of the three we went by were sheltered from the rain and are full of tools someone only slightly more competant than myself would know how to use.

Bob Edmiston was there with his e-bike, but not the same e-bike we saw last time and featured in this wonderful article: UW staffer zeros out daily commute costs, carbon footprint. I asked him what happened to the old bike and he said his wife took it for herself. I love it!

Scanning the assembled crowd, I noticed Robin of Phinney/Greenwood Greenways was sporting a le Tour de France vest, Cathy of Spokespeople and Wallingford Greenways pulled on the longest, sparkliest gloves I’ve ever seen, and Juliette from Hub and Bespoke is the most stylish of all the stylish Seattle bike riders, even with no pup in her wicker dog basket. Talk about a fashion show. But seriously, I was quite smitten with the clipless shoes on one of the guys. They look less “runnery” in person than on the Pearl Izumi site and he said they’re very comfortable to walk around in, and the metal part can be covered with a plastic plate for long-term comfort. I think for truly stylish clipless shoes, you have to make ’em yourself, but I can’t help but keep an eye out for a turnkey shoe. Not that I’m planning to go clipless on the mamabike. Or replace my 10-year-old Shimano SPD mountain bike shoes since I don’t have occasion to use them often on my road or mountain bikes. I’m not a shoe hoarder, but for some reason I just can’t let go my search for cute SPDs.

Before the ride, I rode the boys and their balance bikes down to Gas Works Park where I thought they’d bomb down some big hills, but they just hit the puddles and sand pit.

While down there I zip tied on the little guy’s replacement 99-cent thrift store basket (which he promptly filled with wet sand, so it probably won’t last too long) and attached his horn. I know you’re wondering why I brought along a Swiss Army Knife when I’ve got a cargo bike that can carry a full-sized screwdriver. I dunno. I brought full-sized scissors…which were extraneous given the Swiss Army Knife.

We swung by home before the group ride to drop off one of the balance bikes. We didn’t end up using the other balance bike on the ride, but it was cool to demonstrate to the riders how much cargo a longtail can accommodate. I took Meridian uphill from Gas Works this time. I’ll have to compare grades, but I think it might be an easier climb than Densmore. But even better, the first several blocks are at the edge of the dropoff and it’s buoying to glance to the right at the end of each block and see how much farther above the water one’s climbed.

Issaquah by bus and bike

Today was windy (so windy, I think I would have been blown off the trail had I been riding a bike of average weight!), but sunny and warmish so it seemed like a good day to experiment with taking the bike and bus 20 miles to Issaquah. I was also feeling a little anti-car after all the driving yesterday and I’m taking part in my Twitter friend, Zak Schwank’s Bike Temecula Challenge, which is open to riders not fortunate enough to reside in sunny Southern California any more :) Also, I let the boys decide if they wanted to take the car or the old mamabike and bus so they’re to blame. I’d like to build a little widget to track mileage in the right column, but for now, I’m logging my miles on a separate page.

The timing worked out perfectly for heading out of town: we arrived at the 4th and Seneca bus stop with five minutes to spare. And just in time to watch the most beautiful gold bike zoom by. The sun glinted off its gold rims and blinded me for a moment before it disappeared from view. So pretty! The bus driver was worried about my windscreen blowing off, but I assured him “It hasn’t blown off yet!” which in retrospect I realize wasn’t the best way to put it. It’s disconcerting to watch it flap around so maybe I’ll start adding one more step to my bus pre-boarding process and remove it. But in the meantime, the kids have solved the matter by choosing the front left seats on the bus so my bike is blocked from view. It’s amazing how much more relaxing a bus ride is when I can’t see my bike bouncing around.

It was too cold to walk around the trains at the Issaquah Depot Museum or climb on the train-themed play structures in adjacent Veterans’ Memorial Field, but we saw this great train mural on the two-block ride from the bus stop to Issaquah Brewhouse. It’s not the greatest food, but there’s a Lego table.

After second lunch, we took a spin through the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery. The boys’ love for salmon is fairly new so this was our first time checking it out. A quick ride around didn’t do the place justice so we’ll be back. And we’ll be sure to bring the plush salmon toys with us.

We didn’t have time to stop in at the Cut Loose Caboose barber shop which resides next to our dentist (our reason for the trip here, by the way), but we’ve pestered Maurice many times in the past. And the boys both barked in hopes that little Daisy could hear them from inside.

The way home wasn’t quite as easy. I decided to change the plan and catch the bus from the Transit Center instead of downtown so we’d have a better waiting spot. We missed the 554 by a few seconds–it was leaving the curb as we arrived. I guess I could have blocked its path and finagled my way on board, but I just muttered and let it go. Waiting 30 minutes for a bus isn’t so bad, but the kids were a little cold and a little tired (and I was getting tired and crabby). I hadn’t checked out the Transit Center buses ahead of time and it didn’t occur to me another feasible bus might come by. Too late to make a difference, I noticed a bus bound for Northgate pull away from a different bay (that may have worked!) and then a bus bound for University District (that would have been even better than the 554!). I’m too worn out from the whole ordeal to check out the other buses now, but I’ll have things better figured out for next time. And the extra waiting time allowed me the time to decide I didn’t want to ride home from downtown so we waited 10 minutes and transferred from the 554 to the 510. My main reason for the extra bus was because I knew the kids would get very cold during that last 45 minutes of riding, but the half hour of time saved and no big hill sounded mighty nice, too.

First visit to Bike Works

After scoring two less-than-road-ready free kid bikes (one by trailer and one by Big Dummy, I might add), I’ve promised Mr. Family Ride I’ll stop claiming freebies. And since we were already in the car for our Wednesday afternoon class (I haven’t figured any other method to get from Lower Queen Anne to Lake City in 30 minutes, unfortunately), I shoved the two bikes in the trunk for our first foray to the Bike Works Bicycle Shop.

I called yesterday to see if they have a 16-inch kid bike in stock and they do, but it’s “a very bright and unnatural shade of pink.” Too bad because we’re looking for “a light blue bike with light blue handlebars and even light blue pedals.” Maybe it wasn’t such a great idea to powdercoat my new bike–now the kids think they get to customize their rides, too. But the prospect of a new, working bike was too exciting for the color to matter so we got it anyway. The color is even more garrish than I’d imagined. I love it! And Bike Works is just wonderful. They had tons of adult bikes in great shape for low low prices. The shop is worth a visit, but to get even more bang for your bike buck, their annual warehouse sale is just around the corner:

Bike Works Annual Warehouse Sale
January 29th, 12-4pm
Just east of Rainier on Hudson St

Come one, come all, for the annual Bike Works Warehouse Sale! As usual, the warehouse sale will be jam packed with ridiculously low-priced bikes and bike parts! You might even find a book or two at this year’s sale. To speed up the check out process, we request that purchases be made in cash. We’ll see you there!

According to the Facebook event page, there will be pedicab service between the shop and the warehouse. Fun! If we go we’ll bike to downtown and catch the light rail to the Columbia City station, just a couple blocks from the shop. And I’ll be very clear with my passengers ahead of time that we’re going to Bike Works and not Gas Works Park. I almost had a mutiny on my hands when the littles realized there was no sand pit waiting for them.

In other news, I finally put a one less minivan bumper sticker on the new bike. The back of the Yepp seat isn’t sticker conducive so it’s not quite as visible on this bike as the old one. I’m not opposed to sticking it on my frame, by the way, but was just too hurried to clean off a spot for it. I wanted to have it onboard for a trip to University Village shopping center because the mall is where one takes her minivan or minivan alternative.

I’ve probably biked to U Village half a dozen times and until today hadn’t realized I’m going a half mile out of the way. I guess it’s easier to see the big picture without a toddler and windscreen blocking part of my forward view. I hit the mall by using my old method of staying on the Burke-Gilman Trail until intersecting 25th Ave. NE and then negotiating two busy sidewalk blocks to the busy car ramp that enters the parking lots. Coming home was much better by exiting at the southwest corner and riding 300 feet along the sidewalk to little Pend Oreille Rd to get back to the Burke-Gilman. It’s a steep little road so I may experiment with more sidewalk and pedestrian bridge crossing if there’s no heavy student traffic at the time.

New Year’s Cargo Bike Ride

50 degrees and sunny made for a great Opening Day of Bicycling Cargo Bike Ride. I loaded up the boys and their balance bikes and Mr. Family Ride secured my sweet new Marlin’s motorcycle clock to my handlebars. As you can see, I was only half an hour late for the ride (meet at noon, ride at 1).

I meant to leave the house at 11 and take the scenic route along the ship canal trail and by the train yard, but we left at 11:45 and braved Eastlake. It turned out to be a good thing because we ran into Claudia on her Xtracycle as she and her son headed west from Capitol Hill. What are the odds? Unfortunately, neither of us had plotted a route to the waterfront, but we did OK with my Seattle Center route.

I have to admit I was a little worried about the ride–especially after a guy with a big trailer on his bike examined my rig and said, “Where’s your Stokemonkey? How are you going to make it up Yesler?” He’d decided to skip the ride and go eat soup. The ride climbed Jackson and it was hard, but thanks to my granny ring I was able to stay in the saddle. I haven’t had to push this heavy beast up a hill on foot yet and hope I never have to. I was by far the slowest up the hill, but I just take that as proof that I was the cargo-bikey-est one there.

Pratt Park was great, with a nice water park come summertime. I’m not sure I’ll make it back up the hill again to see it in action, though. I checked the specs on the balance bikes and they weigh in at 8.9 and 9.5 pounds. So maybe with 20 pounds less crap it wouldn’t be so bad. Unfortunately, the restrooms aren’t open in the off-season–two cargo bike rides in a row with no bathrooms. Quite different from a Kidical Mass ride which takes two-year-old bladders into account.

Jasper’s bike was U-locked to a picnic table at the park, but the key went missing somewhere on the ride over. All that talent and no one could bust the lock. But after much trying, someone had the brilliant idea to take the picnic table apart instead. The bike was freed and while I don’t think I’ll start travelling with table-disassembling tools, a couple zip ties would have come in handy at that point–to pin the lock to the frame and render it rideable.

The party was still in full swing when we hit the road around 4. Actually, we didn’t hang at the potluck much with such an enticing play structure and sand pit on the other side of the park. The ride home included a scenic winding through Interlaken Park. I hadn’t planned a route from looking at the map, but got great directions from the cargo bike crew.

We didn’t leave quite early enough to beat the evening cold so I pulled over in Interlaken Park to throw my jacket over my cold little guy. Even with the downhill coasting, there was enough uphill to keep me too warm to need it myself.

If it hadn’t been so warm (for Seattle) earlier in the day, I would have brought along the little guy’s new Slanket. It’s made a world of difference for him. He’d really been missing his fairing on the old bike. It shielded him from wind and rain and he could even get by without wearing mittens, but since the Slanket he’s stopped requesting we take the old mama bike when we head to the garage. Here’s a picture of the miracle garment from yesterday:

One last great bit of the ride was in north Capitol Hill (by Hamlin and Broadway) where I discovered a bunch of great bike markings. Circles and arrows easily led the way to the University Bridge. If only all routes could have this!