Archive | April 2013

Riding with Critical Lass to Pedaler’s Fair

Last year we rode to Pedaler’s Fair with Kidical Mass which was great fun, but I didn’t get to spend much time at the fair. So this year we organized a Critical Lass ride over, which I intended to do sans kids. The ride worked great, the fair worked great, but the leaving the kids behind part didn’t. Oh well. But we started the day right with a stop at Dutch Bike Co for coffee (coffee!) and cookies.

Treats from Dutch  Bike Co

The fair was at the Underground Events Center in Belltown which is tricky to access with a pleasant route. We met at the Locks and used the West Thomas Street Overpass since everything else is so steep. We stopped at the Seattle Center for lunch–and to disguise the fact that we climbed uphill only to head back downhill into Belltown. No one complained so I think it worked! The woman riding the single speed beach cruiser even said she was encouraged to start biking around Seattle (this was her first time on her bike since moving from Southern California). I’d forgotten Whirligig was going on in the Armory so there was a bit of kid pushback during lunch, but we made it out. Here’s the whole route we took:

Again, I didn’t get to really experience Pedaler’s Fair, but third time’s the charm–I’ll make it over solo next year, I’m sure. The kids were very excited about the temporary tattoos (so much so that later at the Seattle Art Museum Earth Day Celebration they wrote temporary tattoos! on the “What would you like to see at SAM Earth Day next year?”).

Temporary tattoos at Pedaler's Fair

The bike behind the kids was fascinating–and that was before I noticed the brake. A foot lever pushed the rear fender onto the wheel to [hopefully] stop the bike.

Freak bike at Pedaler's Fair

Also outside was Bikelava – Artisan Peddled Baklava with regular and new chocolate almond hazelnut flavor. Yum! The kids are pretending to air up Frosene’s tires with Robin’s pump. Always a good distraction.

Bikelava!

Inside we saw bikes, dogs, accessories, and stickers. Here’s Haulin’ Colin grabbing me a replacement spring from a Rolling Jackass centerstand. The one he’s handling is his new model for Kona Ute longtails. The RJ is seriously the best part of my bike. And I’m not the only Big Dummy rider to say that. In fact, the burly kickstand enabled me to leave the kids out on the bike while I ran into Dutch Bike Co for our morning treats.

Rolling Jackasses at Pedaler's Fair

Today’s miles: 18.8
April miles: 259.4

MOHAI to MOHAI

We hid out from today’s rain at MOHAI (Museum of History & Industry), where Jen of Loop-Frame Love saw my bike parked outside and found me inside–hey, another version of friends running into friends thanks to bikes.

On the way home the rain let up for ten minutes and during those measly ten minutes we decided to check out Marsh Island, adjacent to the former MOHAI site.

Marshy Marsh Island

Surprise, surprise: Marsh Island is a frickin’ marsh.

I read ahead of time that bikes must be walked over the footbridge, but the path itself is made of wood chips (and the submerged portions are made of water) so nothing was bikeable. I pushed the bike along while the kids hiked ahead until I declared it too soggy.

Marsh Island footbridge

We’ll be back, but only after a string of dry days. The 520 widening project won’t spell the end of Marsh Island, but I’d imagine it’ll have an impact so we’re hoping those dry days come soon. Ha.

Today’s miles: 11.8
April miles: 240.6

30 Days of Biking meets 30 Days of Scootering

Today we trekked to Issaquah (20 miles away) by bike and bus for a toddler dentist appointment. Sometimes we drive there and sometimes we use two buses, but we generally ride downtown to catch the 554.

Bike at the bus stop

We headed over a bit early to hang out at the train museum and meet up with Issaquah bike personality extraordinaire, Kent Peterson, who is not content to simply do 30 Days of Biking like the rest of us and is “kicking” it up a notch with 30 Days of Scootering on a KickPed scooter.

Kent on his KickPed

I tried it–it’s fun! I’ve never been on a scooter before, but I used to skateboard so it didn’t feel too unfamiliar.

Photo courtesy Kent Peterson

Photo courtesy Kent Peterson

And Kent took a spin on my bike. I’ll have to have him try the Big Dummy once I get the drivetrain fixed so he can better experience modern family biking. His experience is with bike trailers. The old mamabike is a bit of a wobbly beast…though he was too polite to say so :)

Kent on the old mamabike

Then Kent took off for Seattle for a meeting (by scooter and bus) while we headed for the dentist and then the salmon hatchery. We’ve never come to Issaquah for a reason other than the dentist, but I think we’ll make an exception for Salmon Days in October.

Issaquah salmon hatchery

Issaquah salmon hatchery

One bad thing about long bus trips, especially when back-to-back with long bike rides, is that it’s hard for the kids to eat. We ate lunch before catching the bus, but the kids wanted a snack before the 45 minute ride home. This won’t be such an issue when it warms up and their hands aren’t encased in mittens preventing snacking, but for today we hid from the rain in front of Cinerama for a quick bite.

Sheltering at Cinerama

When we said goodbye to Kent I said, “Maybe we’ll see you on the other side” but of course I didn’t think it would happen. We bumped into one another in Issaquah once, but that’s not the same as in big bad Seattle. But lo and behold we saw him on the Burke-Gilman Trail! I have to admit that in Issaquah I thought the scooter’s bell and headlight were just for fun, but seeing him in action in the falling light on the busy trail, I got it. I should have gotten it to begin with, but I’m slow to change. Maybe he can give me a little advance warning what he’s going to pull next round.

Kent on the BGT

Today’s miles: 11.7
April miles: 228.8

Riding bikes means more running into friends

First of all, I need a better phrase than running into or bumping into a friend on the bike path, especially after after yesterday’s “bike crash, sort of.” What do you say?

Anyhow, I ran into a couple friends today. En route to meet Kona-MinUte-riding Barbara at the zoo, I saw Brad plus one kid whiz by on his Big Dummy. I shouted a hello and he said he’d meet us after retrieving his other kid.

Upon leaving the zoo, I saw Dutch-bike-riding Sara wheeling her bike while her daughter slept on her back. Yes, bike seats work great for napping toddlers, but this nap started when they were inside the hardware store. So we all walked them home. It was quite the parade.

Walking bike parade

Then Barbara showed me her route to the zoo, using Woodland Park Avenue and cutting through Woodland Park. It’s much better than either of my routes:

  1. 50th is just a bit too steep to be pleasant, not to mention having to cross like a pedestrian at Stone since there’s no left turn, which means waiting eight minutes (I timed it last time) for the two lights to change.
  2. My usual route involves using the sidewalk of 45th/46th as soon as I cross west of Stone. The sidewalk is narrow and it there are several busy street crossing, but at least most of them are controlled by lights.

The park part of Barbara’s route was great and Woodland Park Avenue is nice and wide, but the unprotected crossings at 50th and Green Lake Way are pretty sucky. I’m still deciding which is the least of all the evils. I might really like this new route on the way to the zoo because having to wait for crossing openings in the middle of a hill climb is fine by me.

Today’s miles: 4
April miles: 217.1

A bike crash, sort of

It’s Spring Break from school and preschool this week and therefore the perfect time to schedule appointments that take a long time to reach by bike. The only thing on today’s agenda was a follow-up chiropractic appointment after the rain pants + slide incident on our abbreviated day. But first, we grabbed a bunch of stuff from the old house by bike.

Bikemove

Having discovered how much I like the 39th Avenue Northeast Greenway on the way home from the Memorial Walk, I was eager to try it in the uphill direction. We backtracked our previous route to 70th and stopped at Grateful Bread Bakery & Cafe on our way. 70th is a bit steep (and busy) to climb so next time I’ll try 68th, as suggested by the NE Seattle Greenways map.

NE Greenway

After lunching and tiring of the cafe’s play area, we headed north on 35th, thinking we’d visit a small park by the chiropractor. We impulsively stopped at the abandoned-for-the-off-season Hunter Tree Lot. It was great run-around spot and we were all smitten by the wood/bike wheel contraptions [benches? tree delivery hand trucks?]. I basked in the sun–the day was great when the sun wasn’t behind clouds–while the kids collected dandelions and chased butterflies.

Hunter Tree Lot

Hunter Tree Lot

And we saved a bit of time to explore Penguin Park, our original pre-appointment destination. It’s a hidden gem! I thought it was an empty lot neighbors had adopted and turned into a park, but I read it’s an “undeveloped SDOT right-of-way.”

Penguin Park

Then crack-crack-crack, the kid looks great, and along to Meadowbrook Pond since it’s on the way to the Burke-Gilman Trail.

Meadowbrook Pond

I walked the bike as the kids led us on a hike. Unfortunately, they led us down seven steps which was no fun for me, but the plethora of trails meant we could circle back around and I didn’t have to carry the bike back up.

Stairs on the hike

We stopped for dinner halfway home, at U-Village. Coming from the east I enter the shopping center by Counterbalance bikes and I used to leave at the southwest corner, but the parking garage construction (because more cars and more parking is exactly what this place needs) has made that street temporarily one way into the center and the sidewalk’s been removed. So I brave the stop-sign-ignoring cars (Two today! What’s your hurry?!) and take the exit to 25th and then use the sidewalk to head north and connect with the Burke-Gilman Trail. Our light turned green as we arrived to Blakeley and the trail, but so many bike commuters were going in either direction that we stopped 10 feet shy of the corner and just as I was saying to the kids, “We might need to wait for the next light cycle to cross…” an eastbound bicyclist lost control, turned right towards us, and bumped into my front wheel. He was riding with a friend who raced up and apologized, “He lost control! His wheel got stuck in the rut!” It was pretty uneventful on our end. We tipped over into the thick grass where I helped my front kid crawl out from under the bike so I could lift the remaining kid and bike. The kids weren’t phased in the least. I guess it’s a good thing I’ve dropped the bike here and there…not lately, but apparently often enough to condition them not to get scared by being suddenly horizontal. I didn’t stick around to see if the guy was OK since he had his friend along. I figured it must have been his first day of the year back out on the bike and he hadn’t relearned his clipless pedals yet. There’s a good chance crashing into my steel beast mangled his little bike, so I hope both bike and rider are OK and not discouraged.

Today’s miles: 15.2
April miles: 213.1

Juniorcykler

My kid is six today! He woke up and discovered a 20-inch Mosquito Sky bicycle in the living room. We’re the third owner–it moved here with a family from Denmark and has found happy new homes via Craigslist twice. It doesn’t have lights, but it’s otherwise similar to the Mosquito Sky Light 24″. It is really really cool–fenders, a rear rack, full chain guard, wheel lock, rear coaster brake and front hand brake, and a three-speed internally-geared hub (indvendige in Danish)! Here are a couple pictures from the day I picked it up:

Danish Mosquito Sky

Danish Mosquito Sky

We took off the bar ends off–they poke the back of the Yepp seat when I drag the bike in my cargo bike pocket. And I added some blue Fun Reflectors–stars and dolphins. The one problem with getting my bike powder coated is that the kids want to choose the colors of their bikes, too. Fortunately, the blue stickers were sufficient–he loves it!

Riding the Danish Mosquito Sky

Then we left the bike at home and went to celebrate the big day with a bunch of train activities (climb the old blue engine, cruise through the train yard, lunch in a trolley car, monorail ride). We had one bike-related errand: the one thing the missing on the new bike was a bell. Of all the great bike shops in town, we ended up getting a cheapie compass/bell at Daiso in the Westlake Center. We got two since my new pedaler’s bike doesn’t have a bell, either. Unfortunately his was broken and apparently parts from two different broken bells since they don’t fit together. But this is the first time I’ve been burned by the Daiso everything-$1.50-all-sales-final so I figure I’m way ahead and we’ll stick it together somehow.

Daiso bike bell

Heading up steep steep steep Broad Street from the waterfront, a guy walking his dog nominated me for Mom of the Year during the first block of the climb, but then I slipped a gear on the second block and couldn’t get started again–it was just too steep. Then my chain started squeaking (and I remembered Edward mentioned it looked dry when I ran into him on the trail two weeks ago…oops) so we swung by Wrench Bicycle Workshop on our way home. I really like Wrench and Buck and Greg are truly excellent at putting a positive spin on big bad bike things. Two weeks ago when I told Buck I’d worn out all my rings save the big one, he said, “Well, that’s good. The big one is the most expensive one.” Now I feel frugal, not wimpy. And today, having just learned yesterday that I am the reason my drivetrain is hosed (more below), Greg helped put my mind at ease with his rationale that many people are of a mind to ride until something breaks and then address it. I’d certainly like to be more proactive about bike maintenance, but historically that’s not how I operate. Anyhow, they’re awesome and even have a magical tool they can use to check if a chain needs replacing. And judging from the trouble I’m having at absorbing the info in Sheldon Brown’s Chain Maintenance article, I need supernatural help. By the way, Wrench is one of the three shops conducting free tune-ups at Cascade Bicycle Club’s Dust Off Days Saturday April 27th, 11-3 at the Swedish Cultural Center on Dexter.

At Wrench

My hosed drivetrain:
I probably haven’t remembered everything Seattle’s family biking guru, Morgan Scherer, explained, but something along the lines of the chain stretches–especially if one doesn’t clean or oil it regularly (hey, that’s me!)–and the stretched out links don’t fit as snugly to the chainrings and wears those away gradually. And…yadda yadda yadda…the whole drivetrain needs replacing. Groan. Or I could replace my chain every six to nine months. Lesson learned, I hope.

The Mosquito's wheel lock

Today’s miles: 13.4
April miles: 197.9

Two flavors of clown bike

Made a solo run to the old house to pick up some stuff left behind: shoe rack, big poster, refrigerator contents, coats, boots…and the Yepp seat since I didn’t think to leave it at the new house.

Bikemove

I was disappointed I couldn’t also fit the new 20-inch kid bike on board so I went back after the kids were asleep to fetch it. 20-inch kid bikes are much easier to ride than 16-inch ones, though I still felt like a clown.

Adult on 20-inch kiddie bike

Earlier in the day, a friend came by to pick up a computer monitor we no longer use (which the kids and I carried from old house to new in the front basket, btw). I oohed at her Mazda5 and I feel weird about it. Am I a victim of our car culture? Or am I overcompensating and trying to seem relevant the way acquaintances force out any random biking anecdote when they see me? I dunno, but it is a good thing her family of five squeezes into a “nano” van (her term) rather than a minivan. And I could certainly relate to her swearing off long car trips after the miserable experience they’d just had dropping her spouse at the airport on the way over. Oh snap, did I just miss an opportunity to woo her to the dark side? Doh! I’ll do better next time.

Today’s miles: 5.8
April miles: 184.5

Moving day

Today is moving day in which I disappoint my biking peers and reveal that professional movers put most of our stuff in a gas-guzzling truck and drove it around the corner to our new house. The kids and I cleared out for the day so Mr. Family Ride could deal with the moving stuff.

Our first stop was the library to return some soon-to-be-due books rather than risk them getting lost in the moving shuffle. Remember, I went out in Snowmageddon to avoid accruing more overdue fines. Must return the books!

Returning library books

Then we headed to Top Ten Toys for a birthday present. They’re moving in two days–and also around the corner! We scouted the new location, sure that it meant more bike parking (currently I park on the narrow sidewalk, bike locked to itself) since it’s by the newer Piper Village Shopping Center area, but for all the loveliness of the brick walkways and benches, there is one tiny bike rack at either end of the block. Kind of surprising. But in better news, on the way over I got to use this great loop detector (place wheel on icon to trigger light) on Greenwood at 85th. I love that it’s right in the middle of the lane! They’re usually very far over to one edge and put you uncomfortably close to neighboring (or oncoming) cars. I hate the one on Latona at 45th in Wallingford. It’s on the far left of the left lane of this one way street, but on the other side of the intersection cars are parked along the left so it’d be ideal to be on the right side. The street is slightly uphill so cars always catch up and pin me to the left for a while. No fun.

Centered bicycle loop detector

Then we wiled away the afternoon at a birthday party, including awesome face painting. But moving day is not the best day for face painting. Especially if one is moving to a house with no bath tub and hasn’t yet procured the “I’ll take showers if I can wear a snorkel mask” snorkel mask and extra especially if the face paint doesn’t seem to really be face paint and won’t scrub off. Yellow eyebrows all week!

Happy birthday face

Also at the party I got to see my friend’s “kitchen bike.” When she told me about it, I thought she was talking about some obscure German brand of bike so I nodded like I knew what she meant. Turns out it’s literally an old Schwinn on an indoor trainer in the kitchen. She’s car-free and her regular ride is a Dutch bike with two kid seats. Training on the kitchen bike has made her faster on the heavy bike.

Kitchen bike

While we were indoors a hail storm pelted the city. It looked liked it had snowed when we got outside. Fortunately it wasn’t slippery to bike on.

Hail-covered bike

I left my snowboard jacket outside on the bike so it was damp and wouldn’t have been comfortable over my three-year old’s pants, but I also didn’t want to stop our progress out (chocolate cake sugar high! all kids berserk! hit the road!) to dig out his Newt Suit and put it on him, so I used my rain chaps on him and they were great! The waist buckle fit around the back of his seat and the knee velcro around his ankles. And yes, unfortunately the snowboard jacket is necessary to keep him from [lovingly] strangling his brother.

Rain chaps on the toddler

Today’s miles: 7.2
April miles: 178.7

Meetings, annoyances, doggie on the bike

Sometimes, the hardest part of 30 Days of Biking is keeping up with the documenting. So here’s the past four days…

Tuesday: 14.5 miles

Took the route by the bike tree home from preschool. Tulips everywhere!

Bike tree and tulips

Then took my road bike out in the evening to stop in at our elementary school’s Parent-Teacher-Student Association board meeting to ask for money and support to launch a bike to school program (it’s a go!) and then on to our monthly coop preschool parent meeting. Thank goodness the rain didn’t come back because my road bike doesn’t currently have fenders.

Wednesday: 26.6 miles

The morning was miserably rainy, but then the sun came out and it was GLORIOUS. There wasn’t a cloud to be seen. But then everything reverted to grey and rainy.

The sun! The sun! The sun! For a while.

During an elementary school assembly at which the Green Team received an award from Washington Green Schools for reaching level 3, I announced our upcoming Bike to School program. The kids all seemed very excited…and that was before I mentioned mini donuts.

Then we biked up up up to Greenwood for tap dance class after school and I thought things might be quicker if I went up and around Green Lake, but then made the mistake of taking 83rd west from Aurora rather than my usual 84th. Too steep! I was able to pedal up and a couple pedestrians cheered (though I was too winded to properly acknowledge them).

After delivering the kids home, I pulled out the road bike (two nights in a row!) to hit the Walk.Bike.Schools meeting to learn more about starting our Bike to School program.

Oh, and the ParentMap article “Balance Bike Basics: Teaching Kids to Ride Without Training Wheels” came out, featuring some pictures and quotes of mine.

ParentMap balance bike article

Thursday: 9.3 miles

Today had its share of crappy moments. En route to preschool, a crazy guy wandering around in the street kicked a can at the bicyclist in front of me and then spit at us. Blech. His spittle only reached the sleeves of me and my five-year old and the rain quickly washed it away. Just something to add to my very short “This never would have happened if we’d been in a car” list.

Heading back to preschool a couple hours later I had to go around a FedEx truck parked in the bike lane. Extra aggravating given all the space on the other side of the street. Aggravating, but not surprising.

FedEx truck in the bike lane

And heading home from preschool we were met with a NO PARKING sign in the middle of the Burke-Gilman Trail. Now that I think about it, I did have to wait for an idling car to move off the trail near this spot last week, but I think blocking bikes with a NO PARKING sign is overkill.

No parking sign on the Burke-Gilman Trail

Friday: 1.6 miles

TGIF! The three-year old and I took a trip to our new house–we move tomorrow!–to drop off some essentials: Mega Bloks, toilet paper, and potty seat insert.

Moving some stuff

Have bike, will move

But we had even more precious cargo later in the day when we brought Bettie to the vet for a refill of her new heart medication (she’s doing great!). We tried yet another configuration for her with the cargo net holding her little carrier to the front of the FlightDeck. Bettie’s only 11 pounds, by the way. Makes for easy toting. And speaking of dogs on bikes–Elly Blue current Taking the Lane call for submissions is for Dogs on bicycles.

Bike, dog, kid

Tuesday miles: 14.5
Wednesday miles: 26.6
Thursday miles: 9.3
Friday miles: 1.6
April miles: 171.5

Hard core multimodal

Today we used the old mamabike so we could use the bus to pay visits to the doctor, chiropractor, and dentist with the slide-damaged kid. I wasn’t tempted to use the car, both because I’d love to go the whole 30 Days of Biking car-free, but also because going multimodal made a day of boring appointments an adventure whereas the car would have made for a nightmare of a day. And I figured if we’d gone the car route, I would have waited at home until all three offices opened to call and set up appointments and have to miss the whole day of school so the bike/bus didn’t put us behind in that respect. The fact that the offices had staggered openings made the whole thing seem more feasible–doctor at 9, chiropractor at 10, and dentist at 11.

First up: 1-mile bike ride to doctor’s office. I intended to go to the coffee shop across the street from the doctor before 9 so we could hang out and call right at 9 and hopefully get in. But we ran a bit late (surprise, surprise) and got there at 9:08 and were able to accost our doctor as she got out of her car. We were in luck and got in right away. Nothing injured, apply more arnica.

Waiting at the first bus stop

The chiropractor wasn’t open by the time we left the doctor’s office so we biked 2.5 miles to a bus stop in the University District and I called to make an appointment while we waited for the bus to arrive and bring us up up uphill. They had room for us at 11:45, but we headed straight over at 11 anyway so the kids could play in the Chiroland playroom. While we were there I called the dentist and said we could get there at 2, which worked great for their 2:15 appointment. Phew! Looks OK, apply more arnica, come back next week.

Still waiting at the first bus stop

I started getting a little antsy when the clock crept past 11:45; I wanted to catch a 12:17 bus 10 blocks away to connect to a 1:12 bus downtown. Amazingly, we got to the bus just as it was readying to pull away–success!

On the bus

On the bus I realized our stop would be in a transit tunnel, which means two elevators to get up to ground level and then figure out which direction to go to get to the connecting bus. Suddenly the “Walk to 2nd Ave & Seneca St/About 2 mins (7 mins to make transfer)” didn’t seem like enough. And it wasn’t! I could see the bus across the street from a red light. Never have I been so impatient for a light to turn! A pedestrian ran through the red light and flagged the driver down and was allowed on even though it had pulled away from the curb. Meanwhile the light finally changed so I rode up alongside and asked if we could please get on board. He shook his head, but said we could try to catch him at the next stop. [Note to self: make notes of subsequent bus stops for future missed buses.] I asked him where that was (please don’t be uphill, please don’t be uphill!) and chased him 5 blocks to Cherry Street. We even saw a friend along the way (Hi, Cathy!). And then we got on that bus.

Crossing Lake Washington

And this is why we don’t use the bus regularly! It’s so hard to work with a set schedule, especially when I have two small stubborn, barking children to tow along. And to board each bus the same process: remove kids, remove bags, remove windscreen, fold up baskets, buckle seat straps, find ORCA card.

This bus meant a change from King County Metro buses to a Sound Transit bus to reach the east side. The kids loved the Bikes + Sound Transit poster on board. I was confused by the cat, but pets and muscles sell.

Bike + bus = muscles!

Everything went fine at the dentist, too. Broken off spacer was put back on and we stayed in Issaquah for late lunch/early dinner. I fed the kids snacks at bus stops, but I neglected to eat all day. Rushing around from appointment to appointment doesn’t leave much time for meals. Oops.

I love riding around Issaquah. We generally get off the bus downtown and ride by the train museum to get to the dentist, but on the way back head for the transit center for a more rural excursion. Here’s a Canada Goose we honked at. It’s right next to the busy Trader Joe’s, but at the right angle it feels like one is out in the countryside.

Wildlife in Issaquah

My bike leaned precariously on the bus rack home from Issaquah, but it flexed its massive biceps, thought of its loving cat at home, and hung on for the 20-mile trip home.

Leany bike

As you can guess, our three-part excursion took all day and we rode home with the 5:30 commute crowd. Here are 12 bicyclists in front of us en route to the paint-separated Dexter bike lane. These folks are always a serious bunch and I only got one, “That quite a load you’ve got there!”

The commute crowd

One last shot: we stopped halfway up the hill home to admire our favorite garden (the kids’ because of the water-spitting frog statues and plastic alligators and mine because it’s halfway up the hill and therefore a great spot to rest). I couldn’t shake any cherry blossoms loose from the tree today, but soon. And notice the front kid’s new Giro Rascal helmet protrudes a lot in the back. We’re a little more cramped on the small mamabike now.

We brake for cherry blossoms

All told, we biked 11 miles and bused 47. And the kid is fixed!

Daily miles: 11
April miles: 119.5