Archive | August 2014

Iron Horse Trail with family bikes 2014

It’s been nearly three years since our Snoqualmie Tunnel ride with Brad and a lot has changed since then. I have a Big Dummy now, too! And all four kids have since traded balance bikes for pedal bikes. Also in the interim, The Path Less Pedaled has come Bikefishing on the Iron Horse Trail and many more people know how cool it is here.

If you want even more photos than those in the post, see my Iron Horse Trail Flickr album.

Most exciting: this was my cargo bike’s FIRST TIME ON A CAR!


Brad says his rack is a Thule van rack, but I don’t see that they make one, so I think it’s a regular little trunk rack like mine. Eek. My bike weighs 76.4 pounds before I take the Yepp seat off (which was stowed inside the van) and Brad’s must be about the same. He removed his Xtracycle rack, bags, and deck, but the BionX motor must add back some of that weight. And his frame is the biggest 22″ to my smallest 16″–more steel, more real. Last year we had three adult bikes back there and it was a tight squeeze. These two fit pretty well and it would have been even easier if one of us didn’t have a big front basket and wide Rolling Jackass centerstand.

Here’s what it looked like with just Brad’s bike on the rack:


Brad picked us up at 8:00 a.m.–two cargo bikes on the back of the van, four kid bikes (and their kids) inside. We stopped for breakfast in Eastgate where we met up with Mark and his daughter. They ride a Counterpoint Opus semi-recumbent tandem. These make great family bikes. Find this bike now as the Bilenky Viewpoint tandem and find a similar setup in the Hase Pino.


After the people fueled up, the cars needed to do so, too, so we drove separately to nearby Issaquah where we were drawn to Bicycle Center of Issaquah when we realized it was almost 10:00 a.m. opening time and we could visit with Kent Peterson. Brad and Kent talked kid mountain bikes while the kids biked around the store and played with Dillon the shop dog.


And eventually we made it to Hyak parking lot and were ready to go!


…but after a bit of fun: we posed Brad’s BionX battery on my frame. He’s pretty much killed his e-assist system so he didn’t have much of an advantage. Sadly, I didn’t get to hear the weird, animal-like noises he says it makes when he asks too much of it.


After a string of clear and sunny days, today was foggy and though Hyak had cleared by the time we arrived, fog belched out of the tunnel towards us. Inside was dark and creepy, like last time, but having dynamo lights meant I could light my own way this time. My kids’ Knog Blinders probably didn’t do much, but they stayed alongside the big bikes and Brad’s kids had bright headlamps and charged on ahead.


I’m not sure if the kids had more fun traversing the tunnel or closing the gate on us after they made it through. Ha ha. Don’t come with us next time if you’re claustrophobic.


We spent a lot of time on the south side of the tunnel. The kids hiked down the ravine and then up and over the tunnel. Where mine fell into a creek. Of. Course.



I climbed up to the tunnel’s lid, but didn’t explore with the kids. I did, however, take my new favorite picture:


These two decided they are best friends who stop for one another as needed, be it to skid to fish-tail-y stops (over and over and over again) or to stop and pick edible (I hope) flowers.


And this guy is riding in his spare pants and my sweater with wet, sockless shoes (saving the dry socks for later). The 30% chance of rain meant I brought his jacket, but that went in the creek, too. Next time I bring spare shoes. Even the biggest bike will not always carry enough in the way of spare clothing or snacks for a day trip with kids. And this big bike was kept to minimal load so I could bag and drag both bikes if need be.


We saw a few other riders in both directions. I forgot to ask Brad what this guy’s story was. I was worried one of the kids would demonstrate a skidding stop right in front of him…but he made it past us unscathed after a five-minute rolling chat.


Then we broke for lunch on the bridge over Hansen Creek.


Mark and his daughter turned back to Hyak at this point. I think it was after 4:00 p.m., so he knew they would miss rush hour traffic by the time they got in the car.


The other six of us continued on in search of “the next bridge”. Brad had left his extra water at home. And then left his replacement extra water in the car (so glad I’m not the only one who forgets important things!), so he filled his camping stove with water from the river and boiled it alongside the trail while the kids frolicked on the hillside. And then: hot chocolate!


As well as some parental frolicking. I did most of my riding with butt on saddle and feet on pedals, but Brad is more, uh, creative.


We continued our search for “the next bridge” for a while, but eventually decided we should turn back. Our original plan was to ride 20 miles downhill to a waiting car, but I’m not sad that didn’t work out because it would have been a shame to miss the uphill climb back–we’re Seattleites after all, we eat hills for breakfast! Of course I was only carrying my five-year old and the grade is 2% so “uphill” might not be the best word for it. As it was, we were probably 10 miles past the tunnel when we declared it was turn-back time.

Brad’s uphill ride started with his five-year old and her bike and my seven-year old and his bike, but that wasn’t enough so I gave him my cargo strap to use as a tow rope for his seven-year old. Behold our photo and video series “What could possibly go wrong?” [Spoiler alert: nothing goes wrong.]





I took my kid bike (but not my kid) back after the videos for better side-to-side “water skier” action and I’m sad I missed filming the first stop because it was hilarious: the tow-ee stopped a second before the tow-er and was dragged into the funniest lurch forward.

It was slow going much of the way–my seven-year old was determined to ride the whole thing for a while and Brad’s BionX display helpfully let us know we were crawling along at 3.5 miles per hour. Brad cheerfully said, “If we take long enough, it will all be a tunnel.” And then he got a flat.

During the changing of the flat he dropped this other gem: “I’ve actually had a number of flats with these tires. I should change them, but I really like the color.”


The speed at which he took the bike apart and changed the flat was impressive, but it still makes me rethink my recent idea to swap my Schwalbe Marathon Pluses for Schwalbe Big Apples when the time comes.

And then we were off again. Our second spate of drizzle started and after riding through it for a bit Brad said, “Oh, yeah, lightning” and I started giggling hysterically. My cheeks still hurt, I laughed for so long. That’s when I realized I was a bit worn out. The tiredness caused by gravel riding really sneaks up on me.

We reached the bottom of the tunnel at 7:12 p.m. I forgot to check what the numbered alcoves start with at the top so I couldn’t gauge how quickly we were getting through. For next time: 40. 40 consecutively marked alcoves. Now you can keep track on your way up, too.


We stopped for dinner on the way home and were finally deposited at our door, kids fast asleep, at 10:04 p.m. What a long and awesome day!

Of course a trip to the Iron Horse Trail need not take this long. The two-car, one-way 20-mile trip from Hyak to Rattlesnake Lake, or even a bit shorter from Hyak to Exit 38, seems great for riders both little and big. And even just riding through the tunnel and back is worth the trip. Having the luxury to both carry and ride alongside the kids thanks to the cargo bike is wonderful, but it would have still been fun carrying both kids the whole way or on separate bikes, being careful not to take them too far before heading back.

Brad regaled me with tales of randonneuring (long-distance unsupported endurance cycling) throughout the day. The stories are great, but actually doing randonneuring sounds a little scary. However, I would like to do a regular-bike ride along the Iron Horse Trail–maybe even with just adults!–someday.

While we were 60 miles from home, having the time of our lives on the car-free Iron Horse Trail, something horrible happened back in Seattle: Sher Kung was killed by a delivery truck driver while biking in the 2nd Avenue bike lane. I hate 2nd Avenue. Everyone does. Bike expert John Pucher gave it a scathing review. I used it for the first time two years ago. Brad and I were both in Cascade Bicycle Club’s first round of the Advocacy Leadership Institute and we usually biked over together, except for this one time when I was on my own and followed Google maps’ instructions to take 2nd Avenue to Pioneer Square. After a couple scary blocks I caught up to an experienced bike commuter and followed him. I learned so much during that ride. I followed him up into driveways to skirt around the backs of cars poking out into the bike lane despite the enticing open space in front of those cars. And we danced to the right (the bike lane is on the left side of one-way 2nd Ave) of cars stuck in the middle of left turns. It was exhilarating! Exhilarating in the sense that I couldn’t believe we’d made it through unscathed. He didn’t know I was behind him so I pulled alongside at my last red light before turning west to thank him for the lesson. He said this night was worse than normal. Now I use 3rd Ave with the buses or 1st Ave with its many red lights. They’re both crappy, too, but not as bad as 2nd. And if my destination is on 2nd I use the right lane instead. But I only know about using the right lane by reading comments on Seattle Bike Blog. A lot of people ignore the left-hand bike lane and ride to the right, but a lot stick to the left lane–why would it be there if we weren’t supposed to use it? This tragedy is extra frustrating because this horrible street is finally getting a protected bike lane in a week. We experienced the practice version on Park(ing) Day last year and of course it’s a world of difference. Just too late for Sher. And others.

If there’s a memorial ride next week, we’ll attend. The only other thing I know of to do as an individual is to donate to the Sher Kung Memorial Fund. And if you bike downtown, join Connect Seattle’s Connect Downtown group. And/or join a different Connect Seattle team. And your nearest Seattle Neighborhood Greenways group. And ride your bike. And talk to others about biking in Seattle. We need better bicycling infrastructure, but we also need more people biking. And if you drive, slow down. 20 is plenty in the city. Even if the speed limit sign has a higher number. And stick your phone in the glove box when you’re driving. And open your car door with your right hand to make it easier to look out the window into the door zone first. And know that I’m shedding a tear (or 100) for Sher with you right now.

Family bike camping 2014 recap

Family bike camping 2014 was a big success! Three families (4 adults, 5 children, 2 Big Dummies, 1 Xtracycle EdgeRunner, 1 Xtracycle FreeRadical) met by the Fremont Bridge to ride to pier 52 for the ferry to Bainbridge Island. This was our 7.6-mile heavy-bike-friendly route. A fourth family (on two regular bikes with double trailer holding two kids and single trailer holding gear) came on the next ferry and joined us for the ride from Winslow to Fay Bainbridge Park.


I packed much lighter than last year and was quite proud of myself. No camp chairs, no full-size pillows (or pillows of any size, for that matter), NO STUFFED ANIMALS. Not to mention I was the only parent of our family this year and got to carry it all myself! I can’t believe I made it happen. I loaded up the right side of my bike the night before–I stuck on the Xtracycle WideLoader and piled on tent (REI Base Camp 4, kinda big), three sleeping bags, and three sleeping pads.


The three bags on the left side of the bike are food, clothing, and kitchen stuff.


But Matt gets the awards for both Cutest Backpacks and Most Symmetrical Packing:


The bike lane to the ferry tool booth worked well again. The lanes were all backed up with cars, but we were able to follow bike icons on the sidewalk to make our way to the front of the line and pay between people in cars. I think we were about 20 minutes early for the 10:35 ferry; people in cars coming through at the same time were assigned to the following ferry.



There were several bicyclists waiting to board. I saw these guys get started from Gas Works Park and was surprised we beat them to the ferry, but they had taken a loop around Magnolia on the way over. The other bicyclists were also day trippers. As were all the motorcyclists in the lane to the right. Fun mix.


Once on the island, we headed straight for the Winslow Wharf Marina by Pegasus Coffee House to have lunch outside while the kids explored. The family on the later ferry caught up and we were soon on our way.

Bainbridge was as lovely as ever.


And as hilly as ever. I love this “husband assist” by the TAKE YOUR TIME heart sign. I hate to badmouth trailers because they’re great: they’re easy to add to any regular bike, they’re great for naps, contain toys and snacks, and keep passengers warm, dry, and shaded. But they’re a pain to lug up hills. I much prefer my cargo weight all up on two wheels when there are uphills involved.


Finally on the last stretch, a 2.7-mile up-and-down along Sunrise Drive, we met with an unexpected DETOUR AHEAD sign less than a mile in. I convinced everyone we counted as local traffic and should keep going straight. So we started down the ensuing hill and thank goodness we met my friend, Victor, coming from the other direction who warned us to turn around. So we took a mile-long detour of unfamiliar hills. I think it was hillier than the original route, but who can tell on Bainbridge?! Here’s our detoured route to the camp site. I’m not sure what I would have done had we biked all the way to the road closure. I think I would have screamed, cried, and set up camp right there by the excavators.


About an hour and a half later (I forgot to time it!) we arrived to Fay Bainbridge Park. The kids immediately hit the beach while I set up camp.


In addition to this being my first time carrying all the stuff, this was also my first time setting up the tent (well, other than practicing in the back yard on Friday). Success! In previous years, we’ve camped on the beach, which I thought was the hike-in area while the regular bike-in area is higher up the hill. We couldn’t locate the camp host upon our arrival and there was plenty of room on the beach (though we ran into a fellow family biker who arrived Friday when it was full and was camping in the high spot). The camp host–a new one this year–drove up soon after and let us know the beach spots are reserved for kayakers following the marine trail and cost $15 instead of $7, but since we were only four tents and had already set up, we could stay if we paid the remainder. Phew.


I made a couple great discoveries in setting up camp. First, my U-lock made a great mallet for pounding in tent stakes. And second, bungee cords as tablecloth holders! Love to have things perform double duty. I wouldn’t necessarily call this toddler-safe, but no eyes were poked out nor fingers squished.


The array of tents (and, heh, box of wine in foreground):


And three of the four camping stoves (with Mount Rainier in the background–terrific view of her!):




Every Saturday in August (8:30-9:15pm) features an owl show with facts about local wildlife and a visit with Orion, a great horned owl. Interesting take aways:

  • Crows are extremely intelligent. They even know the truck of the park ranger and follow him to peck at the trash bags in his trunk when he’s not looking.
  • Coyotes are usually blamed for missing pet cats and small dogs, but it’s usually owls. Owls can carry three times their weight and Orion weights 3-something.


We were the only family planning on riding Bike for Pie so we broke camp earlyish and set off alone at 9:15. We saw a bunch of Bike for Pie riders as we headed for registration and cheered each other on–they may have assumed we were already on the ride with camping gear along. Tons of kids were on the 8-mile family course, some on trailer bikes, but many on their own bikes.

We went to the registration table at Waterfront Park, but ended up skipping the ride because the kids weren’t keen on sitting for an extra 8 miles and I didn’t mind cutting out the extra hills. But since pre-registered we still got pie! I guess I could say I did the two-day course.


And we hung out for a while to talk to Demi about soon-to-be Pronto Cycle Share and meet Naomi of Biking with Child whose bigger kid needed a lift home after riding Bike for Pie, which they made work by his little sister taking his bike and a push start.


Then we caught the 12:25 ferry home. Bikes board first!


Love the view of Downtown Seattle from the ferry.


And 9 miles later we were home. The kid helmets are on the bike because I suggested they walk the last/steepest block. Thank goodness they obliged! I also had them walk the hill out of the campground–that hill is OK with just cargo, but too much with cargo and kids.


Ideas for next year:

  • Camping more than one night! I’ve never camped more than one night since kids. It would have been nice to take a day off from biking and hang at the Fay Bainbridge beach and playground all day.
  • Plan for camping in the proper bike camping area next year–which will also be nice if there’s an extra day to play at the beach.
  • Day trip for Bike for Pie. We rode the ferry with a dad and three kids who headed over early in the morning. I’d have the kids on their own bike, but use the Big Dummy in case a sag wagon is needed…and so I can carry us to the ferry more quickly (I like to think I’m still faster than the children, but I’m probably not).
  • Learn how to make better pillows. My five-year old woke up and said, “My neck hurts!” Camping pillow tips and tricks, anyone?
  • Keep a stash of twigs in the tent overnight because the BioLite Stove wasn’t happy about the damp twigs in the morning.
  • Have the camping trip announced on the Totcycle mailing list to reach more families.

And finally, a few more pictures!

Upcoming: 2014 Family Bike Camping and Bike for Pie

It’s that time of year again! Join us for bike camping at Fay Bainbridge Park, Bike for Pie, or both!

Saturday, August 9th and Sunday, August 10th, 2014
Bainbridge Island, Washington

Coming from Seattle:
Meet by the Fremont Bridge, on the corner outside KeyBank (601 N 34th St, Seattle, WA 98103) at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday morning. It’s a block from PCC Natural Market if you need any last-minute supplies (we’re aiming to head up a tad early to grab marshmallows for s’mores…oh, who am I kidding, for creating sugary fireballs).
Be prepared to pedal at 9:15!! We want to catch the 10:35 ferry so we can beat a bit of the day’s heat–it’s gonna be a hot one.

Here’s our low-traffic route from Fremont to Pier 52 in case you run late. I’m sure you can catch up to us:

Once on Bainbridge Island we usually break for lunch before the long trek to Fay Bainbridge. Some people will hit Pegasus Coffee House, some will stock up on forgotten items at the Town & Country Market, some will picnic outside, and some will push on ahead.

Here is our route from Pegasus to Fay Bainbridge:

Lemme know if you have a flatter suggestion! I think the highway might be slightly less hilly, but definitely busier.

Bike-in camping at Fay Bainbridge Park is $7/person–bring cash! Kids have counted in the past. I think the beach area is technically the hike-in camper area, but that’s where we stay–it’s close to the restrooms and playground.

We’ll time our trip to the campsite to decide when we head out Sunday morning, retracing our steps for the fun Bike for Pie event. I’m doing the 8-mile family-friendly course. I’m planning to have somewhere to stash our camping gear so we can ride unencumbered.

Some helpful links: