Archive | April 2012

30 Days of Biking winds down (windily)

I wanted to do something epic for the last day of 30 Days of Biking, but the forecast called for all-day rain. And it’s Monday. Not to create an excuse, but in thinking about it, I realized that biking everywhere really makes each day epic. The bike adds a sense of adventure to every trip–especially long trips, but even just the two-mile run to preschool.

I also noted that just 15 miles would put me over 350 miles for the month. That would be pretty epic, even if we didn’t travel somewhere new in achieving it. Just the fact that I’ve gotten to the point where not only does a 15-mile day sound possible, but not epic, is amazing. But I settled on just doing a bunch of fun little things.

After dropping the big kid at preschool (where we were not the only biking family–a classmate rode all the way from home on his 16″ bike while his mom took his baby brother in an iBert front seat on her mountain bike) we went to Short Stop Coffee. I haven’t been before, but have wanted to go to see the small Henry paintings. There wasn’t a good bike parking spot I could see, but no one was going to use the porch in this weather so I stuck my bike there.

The place is covered in Henry and other murals and the coffee and food is good. I think we’ll be back in the summer for sandwiches and [dairy-free!] smoothies. I had their signature drink, the Rico Mocha: Mexican Ibarra and Ghirardelli chocolate with cayenne pepper and cinnamon. The bathroom had the best murals. The toddler thinks skulls are owls (his fave) so he was quite taken by the mermaid with starfish covering her boobs holding a skull in each hand. Here are some G-rated starfish:

Then we stopped at Fred Meyer for more bungee cords and zip ties. I wanted a bungee net after reading how awesome they are on Hum of the City, but the smallest they had was four feet by three feet (which Mr. Family Ride just pointed out would be great for behind-the-seat loads so I think I’ll go back for it). I think I’ll need to find a shop that doesn’t keep their zip ties and bungee cords/nets in the automotive section if I want to find a front-rack-sized one.

Next up I rode to the top of kite hill at Gas Works Park. I took the gentle back route since I’m too long to manage the hair pin turns on the front. I also took the gentle route down because the toddler was adamant I not ride straight down the grassy slope. Even without the exciting descent, it felt pretty epic to climb that tiny peak.

Then we paused at the fish-shaped bike corral outside Essential Baking Company. The owner of the bike on the crosswalk sign was locking up as we arrived so I hollered to him, “Hey, why aren’t you parking on the fish? I was hoping I’d have a neighbor!” I think I scared him because he scurried into the bakery. Perhaps he didn’t realize it’s a bike rack. He knows now.

Then a look at the bike tree on Densmore. Our current arguments on the way home are over which route to take. The big kid likes Meridian (“Colored houses!”), but the little kid prefers “Bike tree! Bike tree!”

And our final fun little thing was a detour an extra block north to follow the Neighborhood Greenway home. I was hoping to discover the sharrows on my street, but they still stop a block shy. It’s just a matter of time, though.

After preschool pickup, we headed back to Gas Works Park so we could all ride up the big hill. The two-year old decided he wanted to ride on the mamabike halfway up and rather than reload the FreeLoader with his bike, I draped it over the stoker handlebars.

It slid off the bars on the way up, but stayed on the bike OK without scratching the paint so we all made it up without incident.

A group of tourists had me take a photo of them so I had them take one of us. The toddler couldn’t take his eyes off a passing tugboat, but two of us flashed our victory smiles.

We tooled around the park for a while and picnicked by the sand pit while the wind whipping around us. It was a great day for kite flying, but not such a great day for biking.

Inspired by our bike commuting preschool friend, I left the kids on their respective balance bikes as we headed for home. We took the sidewalk instead of the Burke-Gilman Trail since there are so many full-speed bikes heading in both directions. They didn’t make it all the way–not even all the flat section–but it was still pretty exciting.

This evening I realized I was only 1.2 miles from hitting 350 miles for the month. I thought about heading out solo after the kids were asleep, but dismissed the idea as silly. But those kinds of rides are totally in the spirit of 30 Days of Biking. Even if it’s in the driveway in one’s pajamas at 11:59pm, it counts. And what better way to end my month than with a just-get-it-done 1.2 miles. I tried to sneak in an errand and rode to Kinkos to print Critical Lass posters, but it turns out I had the wrong version on my flash drive so it ended up being a event-free ride after all.

I’m know I’m not the only person saying this tonight: I’ll miss you, 30 Days of Biking!

Today’s miles: 14.9 miles
April cumulative: 350 miles

Junk in the trunk

A new chapter in cargo loading: two balance bikes, large bag of food/clothing, and full set of beach toys. I couldn’t fit the sand toys on the side so I just bungeed them behind me. I can only find one of my bungee cords (the kids like to use them to create trains by linking trucks together), but one did the trick. Mr. Family Ride thinks we should build a little shelf behind the bike to perch loads like this on…a useful suggestion after his obligatory “That looks sketchy” and my obligatory eye roll.

We discovered seven blocks in a row of new Greenway sharrows! NE 44th Street from 1st Avenue N through Burke Avenue N is prettily painted.

The Greenway turns south at Burke and there’s a new directional sign:

The beach was a bit cold, but that just meant there was room in the parking lot for Mr. Family Ride to come out and join us later in the day. The balance bikes were used more in the sand than on the path and the little guy’s new bike basket carried its first load of wet sand. We’ll see how long this one lasts.

The boys opted to drive home in the car (“So we can see more stuff, faster!”) and I let Mr. Family Ride take the bag of sand toys, too. Even with the balance bikes on board (just 19 pounds total), I was able to take the short and steep route home. It’s still not fun, but it is quicker. On the way I saw the old Ballard Railroad engine in action so those boys in their fast car missed out.

Today’s miles: 14.9 miles
April cumulative: 335.1 miles

Only to Alki

I really wanted to attend West Seattle CoolMom’s Think Outside the Car event today and accompany West Seattle Spokespeople there from Lincoln Park. BUT that meant leaving the house at 7:30 to catch the 8:30 water taxi…which didn’t happen since our late night saw us all sleeping in until 7:15. I really should have packed up the night before (I say this every day!), but we eventually got out the door at 8:05. Too late for the water taxi, we took the long way around and I remember looking at the clock thinking, “Where will I be an hour and a half from now? Will I be all the way to Lincoln Park?” So I pedaled pedaled pedaled for that 90 minutes…thinking about trying to find my way uphill to the event alone…wondering if they’d have coffee at the event…thinking how nice it’d be to give up and have breakfast and COFFEE. So after 13 miles I called it and we stopped at Bamboo Bar and Grill at Alki Beach. We came here two years ago for brunch and really liked it and they’ve since added fish tanks! Containing real fish and toy dinosaurs!

The CoolMom event went until 2pm, but I wasn’t feeling up to tackling the hill so we stayed down at sea level. I’d brought balance bikes for the Cascade bike rodeo, but didn’t think to pack sand toys. There are no drug stores in Alki, which I hadn’t noticed before and is nice, but not so nice if one needs sand toys. Fortunately, we found Coastal and the day was saved. I picked up some pricey, but sturdy shovels and a big bucket that will make great additions to our sand toy stable.

After much beach play, we had our own bike rodeo which involved riding barefoot over sand and rocks and along the beach-front path.

I still love the novelty of riding separately. We didn’t get too far on six wheels, but once the little kid decided to play passenger, the big kid and I rolled two miles to the water taxi.

This was the Big Dummy’s first ride on the water taxi. It was too big to maneuver to the bike rack so they had me park by the galley. I was worried there might be a rule against big bikes on the water taxi (I hadn’t thought to check ahead of time), but they assured me it was OK–they just hope not too many show up at once.

The waterfront was packed, but the bike pathway on the east side of the street is closed for construction and the two car lanes have been cut down to one so I inched my way along the sidewalk. I got a “Nice steering!” from a pedicab so that felt pretty good, but I can’t wait for the trail to be back in business.

Alki was a little flat for the boys so we stopped at Gas Works Park on the way home. We swung by the Go Means Go going away party (Ryan fishes in Alaska all summer so he can spend the rest of the year doing bikey stuff in Seattle). My bike was the only one there with a kickstand, but the hipsters were intrigued by it.

It’s nice being at Gas Works on a Saturday–lately we’ve been coming on Sundays when the medieval battle crowd is there. It was so quiet without the cacophony of swords striking armor, and the boys were able to ride their balance bikes on the war-free rolling hills.

My bike wasn’t the most exciting party guest for long–someone showed up with the custom job in the above photo–it has a kickstand and is even longer than the Big Dummy. Ryan borrowed it to run it up the side of kite hill and careen down. The kids and I were a little more controlled about our descents, though I couldn’t manage the hairpin turns and also resorted to heading straight downward on the grass.

Today’s miles: 25.9 miles
April cumulative: 320.2 miles

Neighborhood Greenway signs

I just read the exciting news about new Greenway sharrows on Wallyhood and today saw some Greenway signs. On 44th and Sunnyside:

And on Stone and 44th:

We played with friends at the Seattle Center and checked out the World Rhythm Festival for a while (and the International Fountain, and a cool indoor terrarium, and the Children’s Museum–phew!) and then decided to meet for dinner down the hill at Old Spaghetti Factory. I’m happy to report that bike beat car by at least ten minutes–and that included toddler laying on the ground (“Carry me!”) on the way to the bike, stopping to observe a moving freight train, and circling the building in search of a bike rack.

I didn’t find anywhere appropriate to lock up so I shackled the bike to a chain at the edge of the parking lot, in the buffer zone between two handicapped spots.

We didn’t use the new weather shield today. We compromised on going slightly faster downhill and on the way home, used my rain jacket as a blanket.

Today’s miles: 18.7 miles
April cumulative: 294.3 miles

Unappreciated rain shield

Today I built a weather shield for the Yepp kid seat. I’d like to say it’s to protect my sweet toddler from the rain, but it’s really so I could go fast downhill again. The little guy misses his fairing on the old bike and hasn’t adjusted to the sensation of the wind in his face yet. I first got the idea from this DIT: Shade and rain covers for the PeaPod LT article on Every Day Adventurers, though I don’t have the same seat and the drilling of holes isn’t in my repertoire. You Ain’t Got Jack more recently created and step-by-stepped this awesome and easily duplicated D.I.Y. Child’s Bike Seat Weather Protector.

Yesterday we swung by Tweedy & Popp for supplies, but couldn’t find PVC pipe so just got some expensive zip ties. This morning I attached the sunshade from my umbrella stroller (a handed down UPPAbaby G-LiTE) to the seat directly with the new zip ties, but it wasn’t quite high enough and the toddler didn’t like it brushing against his helmet. The holes in the Yepp make attaching things easy (no drilling necessary!), though my pricey eight-inch zip ties were a little on the short size.

Today we went to Stoneway Hardware and found half-inch PVC pipe and slightly less expensive eleven-inch zip ties. My rain cover is more HAIY (half-ass it yourself) than DIY so please follow the You Ain’t Got Jack tutorial to make yourself an awesome one. My initial batch of zip tying things together left me with one arm strap stuck to the pipe. Oops. But once I redid that one spot, things looked very sturdy. It’s four zip ties holding the pipe to the bike and four zip ties holding the canopy to the pipe.

The only problem is, he doesn’t like it! I have a BOB jogging stroller rain shield that fits very well upside down. The back of the canopy is completely open so I don’t have to worry about venting…but of course that doesn’t matter if I can’t put the shield down. Grr.

We rode around with it tucked around the canopy and I zoomed down some hills hoping he’d change his tune, but he chose wind over comfort. I’m not hoping for rain, but I do want an opportunity to get him used to the cover.

The canopy blocks a teeny bit of the view behind me. Even before today, I’ve been thinking about rear-view mirrors. They seem useful for seeing the kids, but I originally got the idea because it’s embarrassing to realize a cyclist has been stuck behind me in a bike lane listening to our inane conversations. A month ago on Dexter a guy may have heard a long, ridiculous, hypothetical discussion about whether or not we should buy a convertible car. And a common theme overheard this week is chasing down and catching pretend trains: “Don’t worry, Mama, it’s a very slow train–as slow as you!” Not that I can necessarily steer the conversations to more mundane subjects when I notice someone behind us, but at least I can try.

Today’s miles: 9.3 miles
April cumulative: 275.6 miles

A nanny on a bike

I had thought Sara added the Yepp Maxi rear seat to her gorgeous Dutch bike to move her daughter from the front to the back soon, but it turns out she’s started watching another little girl–and fetches her by bike! We met them at Phinney Market’s double-decker train table this morning and she had already cycled from home to her charge’s house and then to the cafe. She later cycled to her house and then back to the little girl’s to drop her off. What an awesome gig!

On our way home, I saw this new bike rack (?) on 45th, between Stone and Interlake. The wooden posts have been there, but the metal bars and little bikes are new.

Today’s miles: 9.1 miles
April cumulative: 266.3 miles

Voyage to Value Village

With just the little kid in tow, I rode three miles up 8th Ave NW to the Crown Hill Value Village in search of bike supplies. I usually stick to lower Ballard and can never remember which streets to take go climb north. I’ve checked with Jen of Ballard Greenways and Loop-Frame Love and know to use 6th or 17th next time.

I thought crossing 85th would be a pain, but traffic was closed in one direction while a median strip was being installed. I guess the cars leaving Value Village don’t always mind the RIGHT TURN ONLY sign. I like the cut-throughs for peds/bikes/skateboards.

I found a new $2 basket for our red balance bike. This one seems pretty sturdy and should last a while. Two-dollar baskets aren’t cheap when one buys them repeatedly. I was also hoping to find a small bag of some sort to hang from my seat post handlebars to stow snacks and toys for the big kid. No luck, but while looking around on Etsy I discovered this very cool Bartender Handlebar Bag. Her M.U.T. (Multi-Use Tote) bags are very cool, too. Two more things to add to my wish list.

Other scores were a dog-covered kid tie and a dress to wear to Seattle’s first Critical Lass Ride (no fancy dress required): Sunday May 13th at 2pm, meet at the Ballard Library.

Today was quite cold and I tend to be ill-prepared on cold days that fall after warm days. The ride back to preschool was all downhill so I couldn’t give up my jacket and instead stuck my cold toddler in a spare shopping bag. It doesn’t work as well as it looks like it should.

Home from preschool is all uphill so I was able to share my jacket for the cold sweater-clad five-year old.

And I discovered the best distraction for cold kids is pausing to cluck at lawn chickens.

Today’s miles: 13.2 miles
April cumulative: 257.2 miles

First bike train

First up, the obligatory bike-loaded-with-groceries shot:

I still have trouble reaching my middle FreeLoader buckle because of the child seat, but that didn’t stop me from shoving four very full bags of groceries in my bags. There’s a half-full fifth bag back there, too, which I had to tie to the top of one of the securely stowed bags. I should always travel with bungee cords.

Today’s real excitement came after school when for the first time this year, another mom did pickup by bike. I don’t want to imply I’m at all responsible for her first two-wheeled trip to school, but I was still incredibly giddy about it. She lives even farther uphill than I and rides a Madsen bucket bike. Her preschooler recently upgraded from a 12-inch pedal bike to a 16-incher and can now make it up the hill, so that combined with the nice weather precipitated the big day. She biked her toddler and the kid bike down to school and we rode together to Wallingford Playfield–all the way uphill for me, and most of the way uphill for them.

It was eye-opening to ride separately from a little guy and I admit I’m in no hurry to worry about a separate biker on these busy streets. We altered our route slightly–turning west after crossing the Fremont Bridge to more easily use sidewalks to connect with the Burke-Gilman Trail. Once again, I am so grateful that it is legal to ride bikes on the sidewalk in Seattle because they used the sidewalk when we weren’t on the bike path.

Getting dropped block by block by a single speed 16-incher made me think about electric assist. I haven’t needed a boost yet, but I am awfully slow and in two years (I know, a long way off) I’ll probably need to coordinate a preschool and elementary school drop off and that makes me a bit nervous, timing-wise.

A third preschool friend met us at the park. She’ll be ferried around by bike soon, too, I expect, but today they came by car with kid bike in trunk. We moms talked about various kid seats and two-bike coupling systems while the kids zoomed around on bikes and balance bikes.

Truly an excellent day!

Today’s miles: 11.4 miles
April cumulative: 244 miles

Perfect weather day

Today was glorious! I remember what summer is like now. So did everyone else–everyone was out on bikes and smiling uncontrollably. We loaded up the bike with beach toys and gear rather than balance bikes today (although I’m sure one of these days I’ll figure out squeezing on both–more bungees!) and headed towards Ballard. We ran into Flower Pedal Powered Family heading the other direction on their Big Dummy on the way. Seattle’s a big place, but I love when it feels small. It certainly helps matters to get around by bike–so much more to see this way.

We started out at the Pedaler’s Fair again, this time taking time to look around. We saw everything, though briefly. And I accomplished my two to-do items: I met Ann DeOtte of Iva Jean and creator of the Rain Cape. I’ve been meaning to submit some Seattle Rides to her site. Now that it’s sunny I hope to get my act in gear. And I talked with Tarik of T’s Leatherworks about his pink leather mud flap. In the four months I’ve had the Big Dummy, the cross bar at the back has picked up earthworms three times. Eww! No more of that. He still needs to add the metal rivets to the flap, but soon it’ll be mine!

I saw a cool light idea in the bike parking area. Of course it only works well if you have skinny tires that won’t obstruct the glow. It wasn’t her main rear light, it’s just for added pop. Plus it’s blue!

And parked outside was this homegrown recumbent:

Then we headed over to the Ballard farmers market where we found ourselves riding alongside the organizer of Messmann’s Messquerade Halloween Bicycle Scavenger Hunt & Costume Contest. He was riding with his toddler so I told him about the Seattle Kidical Mass rides in case he wants to balance his freaky riding with family riding. At the market I spotted an Xtracycle sporting a Madsen seat. Mix and match cargo bike parts! Love it.

On the way to the beach we met the owner of BoatHouse Cycles motorcycle shop. Turns out he does bikes, too. Yesterday we saw a loud motorized bicycle that sped by as fast as a car. I have a feeling that may have been his work. I showed him my motorcycle clock since it’s one of my favorite feature on my bike (but of course every feature is my favorite feature on the Big Dummy). I mentioned that several people have seen the baby seat fairing on my old bike and asked if I knew where one could get an adult-sized one. Good news: BoatHouse Cycles has built these before.

The beach was packed with no car parking spots, but still some room at the bike rack.

Golden Gardens is our favorite beach because it offers a view of the train tracks. Yesterday we only saw two trains (a freight train and the Amtrak Coast Starlight) so three trains today (Amtrak Coast Starlight, freight train, Sounder) was an improvement, but the best was yet to come–on the way home we saw a freight train engine pushing old hopper cars around. The bike path is right next to (and crosses) the old train tracks so we had an excellent view.

Then we noticed the old red engine missing from its usual parking spot along the missing link and soon saw it chugging along, too. I wonder if I’m the only biker to have waved at the Ballard Terminal Railroad (Salmon Bay Sand and Gravel owns the railroad and runs it just often enough to keep the rail line in working order and prevent the missing link from becoming part of the Burke-Gilman Trail).

The last bit of excitement came when I lost a flip flop on the ride up Stone Way. A kind pedestrian retrieved it before I had a chance to engage my center stand. I love my blinky pedals and that they’re grippy, but the grippiness doesn’t work well with flip flops. (Of course it’s the pedal’s fault and not the operator).

Today’s miles: 14.4 miles
April cumulative: 232.6 miles

Kidical Mass to Pedaler’s Fair recap

We had amazing weather and an amazing turnout for Kidical Mass today. I wish I’d counted participants–I think there were at least 20 families in attendence. Very impressive given the three day lead time.

There was a great variety of family bikes: two Madsen bucket bikes, two bakfietsen, at least three Big Dummies, two Xtracycles, front seats, rear seats, trailers, Weehoo iGo bicycle trailer, but my favorite was this Bilenky Viewpoint semi-recumbent tandem modified to carry an infant seat in the stoker position.

This was also my first time seeing the sidecar-style Chariot SideCarrier.

And several solo-riding kids…something our last Kidical Mass ride didn’t have (it also didn’t have as many riders in general given the less awesome weather that day).

We rode 2.7 miles, mostly along the Burke-Gilman Trail to the Pedaler’s Fair in Ballard. There were tons of people there and so much awesome stuff inside…but unfortunately the kids weren’t in a mood to explore the fair so we primarily hung out on the sunny sidewalk, eating snacks and watching the dogs (and vice versa).

Fortunately, photographer Russ Roca of The Path Less Pedaled was set up outside, taking bicycle portraits so I was able to do that, even if I couldn’t enjoy the rest of the fair. The little kid thought it was funny to look away from the camera (toddlers!!!), but the big kid and I had discussed the photo last night so he was on board with a rare smile for the camera. Usually he just barks.

Courtesy Russ Roca

Nine of us (three moms, six kids: Big Dummy + two balance bikes, Madsen bucket bike + big kid bike, bike + double trailer + iBert baby seat) continued along to Golden Gardens beach to keep the party going. I made the obligatory, “Wow, there’s no parking!” statement as we rode by the crowded parking lots. The bike racks were fairly open when we arrived, but they filled up over the course of the day. The nice weather brought a ton of bikes out. We even saw the Velomobile banana bike zoom by down on the street while we were on the final stretch of the Burke-Gilman.

A pack of very nice hipsters were leaving the beach at the same time as us. One of them said “Yay bike!” about my rig and I overhead another one call my bike the sickest thing he’d seen all day on account of it being a bike carrying other bikes. They passed us on the way out and we watched curiously as they performed hipster bike aerobics. It would have been even more impressive if they were fixed.

A bit farther down the trail, this shiny guy passed us. I saw him earlier in the day entering Pedaler’s Fair and had already decided he was the most interestingly clad character of the day (though the “Yay bike!” guy had very short and tight cut-off jean shorts on).

I made the mistake of cutting through Gas Works Park on the way home. It’s a lovely scenic detour from the trail, but today it meant stopping to do a bit of hill balance biking. The kids suddenly weren’t tired anymore and pushed their bikes all the way to the top of the hill…though the first trip down didn’t end too well when the two-year old happened upon the sole dip in the hillside.

But he brushed himself off and they were soon up at the top again, this time sticking to one of the paths down around the south face of the hill. We started discussing staying for a picnic dinner, but then the kids fell out of agreement on which path we should take. I went back to fetch the mamabike while they sped off in different directions. I feel lucky that I’ve never had to deal with varying kid trajectories before this. I was able to keep them both in sight for most of the trek up the hill, but of course the one minute I rushed up the south side was the scary north side minute for the little guy (naturally, he was the one who decided to go rogue). So the kids proved too tired and grumpy to stay for a picnic after all, but it was cool to be at the top of the hill with my bike. I didn’t ride it the whole way, but I think I could…so I’ll have to try again. Maybe tomorrow.

Today’s miles: 15.1 miles
April cumulative: 218.2 miles