Archive | May 2012

Lake City by pedal power alone

I had written off Lake City as too hilly and too dangerous to get to by bike, but I proved myself wrong today. Wednesday is usually our car day because we have twenty minutes to get from Lower Queen Anne to Lake City, but the five-year old stayed home from preschool so I took advantage of our extra open time and set out for a ten-mile adventure. Last year I biked to Wedgwood during the Burke-Gilman Trail closure so part of the trip was familiar…but not familiar enough for me to catch the left toward NE 94th St. I realized my mistake when we reached Matthews Beach. Here’s what the turn-off looks like for future reference:

The steepest climb is up 94th away from the trail. I had to get out of the saddle, but I don’t remember having to walk it last time on the city bike so I declare it bikeable by all. There’s more climbing, too. The 35th Ave NE portion is a particularly unpleasant slog uphill. I think the best part is cresting the hill of NE 120th St and seeing the big green Vision Quest [Fitness Club] sign. I felt like Matthew Modine jogging into eighties-America’s heart.

We went out early to have time to visit Kaffeeklatsch coffeehouse. I thought their custom bike rack would have been moved to the street by now, but it was still on the sidewalk. The barista said it’s getting bolted down next week, but she didn’t know if it’s permanent spot will be on the sidewalk or street. My bike’s too long for its current location so I hope it moves into street corral position.

Then it was a quick–and flat!–ride to Olympic Hills Elementary for class…after some bike rack aerobics. I’ve put both bike rack pictures on Hum of the City’s new Kids on Bike Racks Flickr group. Add yours, too!

Our route home was slightly different and included this little gem of a cut-through:

I think that was Hiram Place NE cutting through 26th Avenue NE. We also discovered Virgil Flaim Park for next time. It’s tiny, but it’s a playground at the top of all the hills. Sometimes a park halfway up the hill is good, but I think this trek requires a park at the top of the hill. Also, despite the address given on the City’s site, it’s really at NE 123rd Street and Hiram Place NE. Since we were headed downhill we stopped to explore a bit farther along, at Meadowbrook Pond. Such a beautiful spot! We’d cut through just the edge of the park on our way north, but we rode into the center and walked around the raised walkways and trails on our way home.

Again, the steepest hill of the route was in getting back to the Burke-Gilman Trail, this time climbing 45th Avenue NE over Thornton Creek.

As we rounded the last curve, I saw a helicopter looming over Roosevelt so I opted not to go directly home. A friend texted me about today’s shootings while we were at Kaffeeklatsch so I followed the news at our various stops, but so far hadn’t read of a resolution. I’ve always meant to bike the two gravel paths from the Burke-Gilman Trail to Drumheller Fountain so that’s just what we did.

As usual, I had several days worth of snacks packed so we were able to have a picnic and hang out until I read the streets were safe.

Today’s miles: 20.9
May cumulative: 392 miles

Bikes at Northwest Folklife Festival

This Memorial Day the kids and I ventured to the Seattle Center to see our favorite kindiependent band, Caspar Babypants, play at the Northwest Folklife Festival. There weren’t many pedestrians out so we took the Broad Street underpass sidewalk to get past Aurora. Not the best route, but some days I don’t like biking so far out of the way to get around. Today we ended up following a dad pulling a trailer so it seemed like the route of choice. And this put us at the Harrison Street entrance so the boys got their first look at the parking squid:

Caspar Babypants is awesome, but I wanted to see The Hoot Hoots since Geoff is simply awesome: he built his own bamboo bike, he’s friends with Tom of Seattle Bike Blog, and when I asked him a few weeks ago if they ever play during the day so I can see them he said, “We play the Ballard Farmers Market, but might leave before the end this Sunday because it gets pretty hot in my bunny suit.” Bunny suit!? Does it get any better? Here they are setting up, with upside down bike as kick drum stand (and Geoff out of the shot off to the side–sorry, Geoff).

And here they are in action:

I bought two CDs to help finance their June West Coast tour, but we couldn’t watch for too long because while it was hot in the sun, their shady busking spot was quite cold (good for the bunny) and the kids were too shivery to hang out.

We saw one other performer with a bike–Christopher of the Wolves with a Bikes At Work trailer. It looked like he had more gear than the trailer could hold, but he confirmed it brought it all on his bike…but from the parking garage, not Port Townsend.

I rode home with my friend’s family–she on her new Big Dummy and her husband on his commuter bike. We left the Seattle Center via Mercer and almost gave the Mercer underpass a try, but I figured that even if it’s no worse than Broad, I wouldn’t want to take a friend along it. My routes aren’t feeling as family-friendly when I escort a trusting friend along them. I’m not sure what to do about that since there aren’t a lot of options. We took the Denny sidewalk to Dexter and enjoyed the separated bike lane back to North Seattle. It’s more hill than Westlake, but she and her Big Dummy scaled it, no problem. Granted we were both much slower than her husband who even had time to squeeze in a quick grocery trip while waiting for us halfway to the Fremont Bridge.

Today’s miles: 10.1
May cumulative: 360.5 miles

Mr. Family Ride on the FlightDeck

I didn’t think I’d get on the bike today. We drove 17 miles to Renton this morning to meet some of the five-year old’s preschool class for a lion dance performance. I didn’t even look into the possibility of biking there (it would have been bike + bus or bike + light rail train) since Mr. Family Ride came along. He’s been on his bike twice since breaking his shoulder (not bike-related) so it’s just a matter of time before Team Family Ride rides again.

This afternoon Mr. Family Ride took the boys out for a balance bike ride and warned me he might call for a rescue since last time he ended up carrying two bikes and one boy two blocks uphill and his shoulder wasn’t happy about it. I wasn’t excited about the prospect of cutting my afternoon of relaxation short until I realized I could probably turn this into a new cargo-carrying experience. I envisioned the big kid staying on his bike while I carried the small balance bike, small kid, and Mr. Family Ride on the Big Dummy. I gave the iPhone to the five-year old to document the momentous event so the pictures of the event are more artsy than useful. Here I am trying to talk Mr. Family Ride onto the FlightDeck:

I didn’t get to carry him right away because both kids decided they weren’t tired after all and wanted to ride more. I eventually talked the little guy into his seat and stowed his balance bike in a FreeLoader while the big guy carried his bike up two flights of stairs with Mr. Family Ride. We met a block south of our house, on a flat street, and while both kids hoofed it, I finally got my chance to play pedicab driver with Mr. Family Ride on the deck. He awkwardly held the big kid’s balance bike and perched side saddle and it didn’t work so well, but I made it most of a block before I let him off so I’m calling it a success.

Today’s miles: 1.1
May cumulative: 350.4 miles

New longtail bikes for everyone!

I took my Big Dummy in for cable tightening/adjusting this morning and happened upon my friend’s husband’s new Xtracycle!

This just so happens to be the same Xtracycle I tweeted about after Menstrual Monday a couple weeks ago. Turns out, the new owner also knew the old owner and a happy new home was found. The seat post was too thick to take stoker bars, but tonight I saw a picture on Facebook of a setup I’m going to have to see in person soon. It looked like it involved a block of wood and pair of handlebars.

I also brought in the borrowed 12-inch kiddie bike for a flat fix. Turns out we have every size wrench except the one needed to take off the wheel. (Well, it’s somewhere, probably in a box buried in the garage.) There’s nothing cuter that a tiny bike up in a repair stand.

And there’s nothing odder than watching Christiaan test ride a tiny bike to make sure it’s road ready. I don’t think this is standard practice so don’t be scared to take your little bikes to Ride Bicycles for work.

I thought we’d head immediately to a park and the little guy would learn to pedal, but he wanted to head home. Boo. The five-year old has no interest in pedaling so I’ve decided to teach the two-year old first. My younger brother learned to ride a bike before I did so I figure it’ll be the same this generation. By the way, that’s bike mechanic Edward’s Big Dummy in the foreground, making three longtails so far for those keeping count.

Edward called shortly after I got home to let me know I’d left my bike lock there. I took that as a sign I should leave both kids with Mr. Family Ride and take my road bike (not that I can’t fit both kids and road bike, I’m sure!) in for a long-needed tune up while retrieving the lock. Part of my Mothers Day present was “more time to ride bikes alone” so I’ve signed up for Menstrual Monday’s Girls of Summer Alleycat and I’d like to be able to ride it without having to stop and put my chain back on a bunch of times.

Christiaan took a look at my bike and said he’s never seen anything like it. I have no way to explain it, but just the middle ring is missing a bunch of its teeth.

And the fourth and final Big Dummy of the day–my friend’s new one! Pretty similar to mine with dynamo hub lights, Yepp Peapod III for the toddler and preschooler on the FlightDeck, and Rolling Jackass center stand.

One difference: she’s got all four water bottle cages. I definitely need to add another.

I hung around the shop until she came in to claim her new rig and escorted her to Tangletown to reunite with her family. I don’t doubt that she could have carried two kids and 16″ kiddie bike on her first voyage, but I offered to carry the bike so she could keep things somewhat simple this first day out. Meanwhile, her husband was on their Madsen bucket bike and we followed him to a yard sale to retrieve two bookcases before heading home. We made quite the parade! He’s pretty speedy on any bike, but she was able to leave him in the dust on a fairly minor hill. Go Big Dummy, go!

Today’s miles: 7.2
May cumulative: 349.3 miles

Ready for anything

There’s a picture of my bike in the current issue of Seattle Magazine! I bought the issue because I knew there was a picture of my friend, Leya, and her Madsen bucket bike in it, but I didn’t know I’d see my bike, too! The caption with the photo is “Ready for anything on the Easter Sunday Cargo Bike Ride, April 8.”

Today we were ready for more than anything with the same load, but quadruple the amount of beach toys, non-beach toys, picnic blanket, swim suits, towels, extra layers of clothing, and our new sun shelter.

I’m very excited about my new Shade Shack Instant Pop Up Family Beach Tent and Sun Shelter. It pops up quite big and comes with stakes for grass and pockets to fill with sand to keep it weighted down at the beach–the other family with a sun tent had theirs tied down to a couple logs.

And it folds up to about the size of my wheel–duh, I should have thought to photograph it next to my wheel, rather than next to a balance bike. Despite not practicing at home five to six times as the instructions suggested, it was easy to get back into the sleeve…even with four extra hands trying to help.

We decided to take the West Seattle Water Taxi to the beach again today, but I timed things horribly (I didn’t even check the schedule before leaving the house and we decided en route to take the water taxi) and we ended up waiting 45 minutes for the next boat. But the kids were cold and hungry so it worked out well. I need to get some sort of handlebar bag to hold snacks for the five-year old, but as it is now, he can’t easily eat while we’re on the way somewhere since he’s so new to holding the stoker bars. I think he’d balance fine if he were only holding on with one hand, or even no hands, but he’s not ready to try that yet.

By the end of the day I decided I probably won’t take the west-bound water taxi again. It’s hard to time my arrival to pier 50 and to pay $3.50 to cut five miles off the trip, but the worst part is the ramp up from the pier up to dry land. It doesn’t look ominous in this picture, but it’s almost too hard to push the Big Dummy (gear on it, but kids walking separately) up.

On the way home we just missed the water taxi so I ended up wheeling the bike down and up the ramp an extra time. That really helped solidify my opinion of the up-ramp. Since it was Friday, the taxi runs every 30 minutes in the afternoon so we didn’t have to wait long for it to come back. Also since it was a weekday, we watched the Vashon Island Water Taxi speed by a couple times. I’m not sure if Vashon is flat enough for me to bike around on, but it’s an idea…

Today’s miles: 22.6
May cumulative: 342.1 miles

Tour of Issaquah with Kent Peterson

The bus did most of the work (15 miles to my 6) as we multi-modaled it to Issaquah this afternoon. We headed over with time to spare before our dentist appointment so we could meet up with Kent Peterson for coffee and a small bike tour of Issaquah. I really need to start using my Endomondo GPS tracking app because I’m not sure of the route we took, but it was a good one–starting on the raised wooden path along Renton Road we’ve often admired, but never biked on, and on a gravel path through a forested area in search of three resident deer.

My first question for Kent was if he’s secretly British, based on two recent “tyre” tweets, but it turns out those were just quotes for highlights and notes of a book, The Bicycle and the Bush: Man and Machine in Rural Australia, he was reviewing. He’s from Minnesota, near Duluth, which is completely in line with his extraordinarily kind demeanor.

In addition to deer habitats and the turn-off to Pickering Barn (farmers market on Saturdays), Kent pointed out the East Lake Sammamish Trail, which is closed for paving. I’d like to think that one day I’ll ride all the way here from Seattle (alone on a road bike, mind you) and experience that new smooth trail.

I’ve yet to visit Kent’s shop, Bicycle Center of Issaquah, but after he tweeted a picture of Eddy the shop pug, we’re going to prioritize going in to see puppies and the Penny Farthing replica. Eddy works Friday through Monday and Dillon, a Chihuahua/Jack Russell mix, works Tuesday through Saturday.

Kent dropped us off at the Cut Loose Caboose and sped off into the snowstorm of tree fluff.

Photo courtesy Kent Peterson

Last time I opted for a long, slow bus that arrived close to home and realized that is not the way to do it (especially if said long, slow bus has something wrong with the battery, making it smell like rotten eggs, necessitating a vehicle change and associated wait). Today we took the Sound Transit 554 both directions and rode home from downtown.

We didn’t ride all the way home, though, since the UW Burke-Gilman Trail Party promised chocolate samples of Theo Chocolate World Bicycle Relief sea salt dark. We didn’t win anything in the free drawing, but the boys played with a puppy at the SDOT booth and found an open spot of bike rack upon which to hang–near a yellow recumbent bike they were quite taken with. I don’t know what it is with weird bikes, but the kids love ’em–tall bikes, penny farthings, recumbents. I guess it goes inline with preferring cement mixers, tow trucks, and buses to run-of-the-mill cars.

Today’s miles: 21.2
May cumulative: 319.5 miles

Little ride leader at Alki Summer Streets

I ignored today’s crap forecast and loaded the bike with beach gear, picnic, and balance bikes for Alki Summer Streets. I put the boys in sandals (with socks because that’s how we Seattleites roll) and wore my new used sundress that was too summery for Friday. Here’s the best picture my five-year old took of the beach bike and sundress–right before his “finger in front of the lens” series.

I left the house half an hour later than planned, but decided waiting an extra half hour for the next water taxi would still be quicker than biking the whole way there. This time a crewman helped me maneuver the Big Dummy through the small opening and next to the bike rack.

I think the nasty weather kept many of the booths away, but we visited the fire truck, ogled the cats in the Seattle Humane Society’s MaxMobile Adoption Center, decorated balance bikes at the Cascade Bicycle Club bike decorating station, and best of all: my five-year old was invited by Cascade to lead the Seattle Police Department Kid Bike Parade…or as he saw it, he was the engine of the bike train with five police cabooses.

Here’s video of the parade from West Seattle Blog. The police officer with the decorated bike is the one who foolishly left his bike unattended with his fellow bike cops near the bike decorating station.

At the Cascade booth I picked up a pamphlet for Cascade Bicycle Club kid bike classes and camps and assuming the kids pick up pedaling, we’ll enroll in a camp or two (or all of them!) next summer.

The trip home was slow going. In theory, I like the idea of the kids riding alongside me, but in practice, it’s nerve racking! The little kid opted to sit on the mamabike for the parade, but he wanted to ride to the water taxi with many many stops to say he was too tired, but after a ten-second rest he was raring to go again.

It was nice (but also nerve racking) having them wheel their own bikes down the floating ramp to the water taxi.

I was hoping they’d want to be passengers after the water taxi crossing, but they were determined to keep at it. Despite the weather, the waterfront was crowded and it was not fun chasing after the two kids. Really not fun was when in my distraction at riding and overseeing, my wheel slipped alongside the metal rail of a tree planter and I had my first crash on the Big Dummy. Not fun at all! I scraped up my left foot and ankle, and somehow my right knee, but was up in a matter of seconds. The toddler took a couple rests on the mamabike, but kept wanted back off to balance bike after his brother again.

I finally got them back on board before crossing the street away from the Elliott Bay Trail and into the train yard. Not because they had finally tired, but because I thought the path was too narrow for them.

I was getting pretty grumpy as the adrenalin from the crash wore off, knowing we still had six miles to go and a stop at the grocery store to pick up cold medicine and soup for Mr. Family Ride. But outside QFC I saw a happy sight: an old Centurion road bike with a plastic bag containing a six pack of beer tied to the top tube and a seventh bottle in the drink cage. I offered its rider a nylon shopping bag, thinking it might tie tighter and stay stronger, but he was stubborn and wanted to stick with his plastic bag. That made me happier, too. Stubborn kids: not fun, stubborn beer biker: cool.

Today’s miles: 21.3
May cumulative: 260.7 miles

Biking up Kite Hill

We started our day with a cycle to the University District Street Fair in search of bounce houses. We only found a single one-kid-at-a-time trampoline, but in hanging out at the kiddie area we saw a cameraman arrive by bike, with all his gear in a backpack. He said he wants to get a trailer and of course I planted the seed that perhaps he deserves a cargo bike.

We don’t spend a lot of time in the U-District so we made a couple cool discoveries on our way home. First up was a train mural on the side of Brooklyn Frame Shop (4733 Brooklyn Ave NE). It’s next to a grassy, hilly empty lot so the kids ran up and down and up and down ’till they’d both fallen and scraped themselves up enough to want to hit the road.

And a couple doors down, The Weaving Works has a very nice yarn-bombed bike rack.

I was happy we weren’t stuck at bouncy houses all day because that meant we could attend the Police Boat Open House. We were there for the clown protest and while the boys are probably now part of the legion of clown fearers, they were fairly distracted munching on hot dogs and apples from the complimentary BBQ.

Since we were right by Gas Works Park, we ended the day with a trip up Gas Works Park Kite Hill, where I discovered bringing one’s bike to the top is the thing to do. I thought we’d only be up there for a short time and then hit the sand pit, but the boys broke out the sand toys and had a blast in the watery sundial. While hanging out at the top of the hill we saw a dozen people make their way up with their bikes to admire the view. Most of them walked their bikes up, but it’s really not a bad ride up the backside…although I haven’t tried it with a fully-loaded bike yet.

Today’s miles: 5.7
May cumulative: 239.4 miles

Bike to Work After Party

This afternoon we headed to Ballard for the Bike to Work After Party. We rode over early to listen to music (OK, we never made it away from the Ballard Coffee Works train table, but our friends broke away for My Goodness) and to get some wiggles out riding balance bikes in Ballard Commons Park.

I volunteered to lead a last-minute Kidical Mass ride and even though only three families came (including Seattle Kidical Mass conductor, Totcyle, thank goodness!), it was nerve racking. Hopefully it’ll be easier next time because I want to help with Kidical Mass leadership so we can have more fun family rides. I got route advice from Jen of Ballard Greenways and then got abbreviated route advice from her. And once we turned uphill, I had Julian of Totcycle suggest an even more abbreviated route. Using 61st to cut through Adams Elementary was really cool so I’m glad I was feeling wimpy.

The boys both opted to wear fairy wings since we were taking part in the “Share Your Style” Bike Fashion Show. Having felt so fancy at Critical Lass, I found a second thrift store dress, but the weather called for a warmer outfit. But that was cool–instead of thrift store chic, I was thrift store, hand-me-down, and fabulous prizes chic in handed down pants and a vintage wool jersey I won in a Go Means Go caption contest.

I wish I had a photo of us with our bikes up on stage, but it felt just like this:

Or at least I’m pretty sure that’s how the boys envisioned it. I have some pictures from “backstage” as we were getting ready that gives a bit of an idea how packed the place was.

Captain Sprocket in the red and yellow is Sander Lazar (I’m assuming it’s OK for me to disclose his secret identity), head of Cascade ride leaders. He obviously didn’t witness my Kidical Mass introduction (“Hi my name is Madi and I have no idea what I’m doing!”) and wants me to become a ride leader. Maybe once I have a real Kidical Mass under my belt…

Back to the fashion show. All entrants listed one quirky thing in their pannier, but my answer, “stuffed sockeye salmon” wasn’t in my FreeLoader bag for a change, but rather on the five-year old’s back [Note to self: next time fairy wings go under salmon in doll Ergo]. However, my bike was pretty full: a bag containing three jackets, a flowered lei, two little backpacks full of toys, an insulated bag of food, three water bottles, my messenger bag, one set of fairy wings, and 10 leftover CycloFemme temporary tattoos. If only it was a cargo contest!

I didn’t get to explore the booths at the street party, but I saw a lot of friends. Particularly fortuitous was the fact that my two friends who have recently added electric assist to their Big Dummies, Brad and Jake, were both there so I set them to talking about their recent e-assist failures. I’m not sure if they had the same issue since I was too busy chasing my balance biking maniacs to eavesdrop.

While I don’t have a good recap of the event, see Bikes, music, and fashion: scenes from the 2012 Bike to Work Day and the KEXP Hood to Hood Challange by Riding Reporter Anne-Marije Rook for all the deets.

Today’s miles: 12.8
May cumulative: 233.7 miles

Call me the bike taxi

Today I carried our two balance bikes and a friend’s 16-inch kiddie bike ten miles (round trip) intentionally–last time was just a few blocks on the spur of the moment. But last time also included an extra kid, which was pretty exciting for all involved. The little kid and I rode three-quarters of a mile to our friend’s house to fetch his bike before bike training down for preschool pickup. I started out with the Kinderbike in one FreeLoader bag and the Kinderbike Mini on the FlightDeck so I could put the pedal bike in its own FreeLoader.

Once I had the second kid on board I moved the Kinderbike Mini into the FreeLoader with the pedal bike. I loaded it vertically and bungeed it in place so each had its own half of the bag:

I might try this with just the balance bikes since my FlightDeck passenger mentioned the balance bikes block his feet from using the foot pegs. It worked well enough, but on the ride home I just loaded things as normal and the pedal bike fit fine next to the horizontal Kinderbike Mini–and no bungees needed.

The boys discovered extreme balance biking at South Lake Union Park and got soaking wet in the spray park. Yet again, happy to be able to drag this mess home by bike and not have to dirty up the trunk of a car.

Today’s miles: 17
May cumulative: 220.9 miles