Archive | December 2014

Kidical Mass to Olympic Manor Holiday Lights 2014

This was our third group ride (Critical Lass in 2012 and Kidical Mass in 2013) through the Olympic Manor holiday lights. Last year proved a little early in the season and not all the houses were decorated, so waiting until the 21st this year worked out well. Plus, the kids got to shout “Happy Solstice!” to everyone in addition to “Merry Christmas!” and “Happy Chanukah!” The weather was perfect and we had 20 participants.

My original plan was to leave home early in the day, like last year, because it’s difficult to rally to get out the door once it’s late in the day and dark. However, a sick five-year old kept us home all day (he slept from 5:00 p.m. Saturday to 2:00 p.m. Sunday!) so rather than cancel the ride, I opted to take the old mamabike and stick him in the trailer with a blankie and stuffed animal. He was eager to hang out and stay awake for a while so it worked out well. Thank goodness my seven-year old is still light enough that he fits in the Bobike maxi rear seat. But I have to admit this setup was pretty heavy for the eight-speed Bianchi Milano and gave me a reminder how much I respect those with insufficient gear range for our hilly city and/or those saving up for electric assist bikes who are struggling for the time being.

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Part of the fun of a holiday lights ride is stringing extra lights on one’s bike, but due to the last-minute vehicle change, I tossed on what leftover battery-operated lights I could find before rushing out the door. I attached my seven-year old’s shark handlebar bag to hold the battery packs and wrapped red and white strands around my top tube, candy cane style. These lights aren’t waterproof, by the way, but they’ve lasted a few seasons, which is apparently not bad per Car Free Days: Light Up Your Bike with Battery-Powered-Holiday-Lights one- or two-season light estimate. The little white and red lights are from Ikea and the blue lights on my rear baskets are from Bartell Drugs.

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The timing worked well this year, we gathered at the playgroud at Loyal Heights Community Center at 4:00 p.m. while it was still a bit light out so we could see one another and I could get some pictures of the bikes.

All my pictures are here in the Flickr gallery.

I was fifteen minutes late to the park–oops–so we probably ended setting out around 4:45 which proved perfect.

My bike-by photos were all blurry so I might have us do a start/stop tour next year if the weather is as good and all the kids are cool with that–sometimes it’s not so fun for passengers when the momentum stops repeatedly. Thank goodness holiday Yoda and Darth Vader (with lightsabers!) came out OK:

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And my favorite, the Flying Spaghetti Monster in Santa hat.

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Behold the FSM! The kids were all impressed, too.

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I wish I’d thought to do a group shot at the start when it was still a bit light, but our group shot in the dark is good one:

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We arrived to Grumpy D’s Coffeehouse at 5:30 p.m. There’s a warm fireplace near a group of comfy chairs, plenty of table seating, and toys! I didn’t stay for the afterparty this year due to sick kid, and three other families peeled off during the course of the ride as they got close to home, but several families stayed for peppermint hot chocolate and other treats.

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After getting the ride a bit lost last year which resulted in us doing the loop in the opposite direction and climbing a huge hill, I decided to up my route map game a bit. My regular system is a bit convoluted: I take a screen shot of my Google map directions and paste it into Photoshop where I type in each street name REALLY BIG so I can see it on my small phone screen easily. Then I email the image to myself so I can download it on my phone. My old system was to just save the image to my camera roll, but then as I take pictures during the ride I have to scroll farther and farther back to see the map. So this time I set it as my lock screen and could see it with just a quick push of a button!

And with this and checking our position on the real map, we stayed on course.

However–and this is mainly a note to myself for next year–we’ll turn off at NW 95th Street next year. Riding down 96th afforded us a beautiful view of the Sound, but it’s a busy street without any spectacular lights we would have missed. Plus we’d cut out one uphill block of 23rd by turning earlier. Everyone seemed fine with the amount of hills–it wasn’t too hilly of a ride, but it’s nearly impossible to avoid some climbing in Seattle. The three Xtracycle EdgeRunner longtails had BionX electric assists and the Larry vs Harry Bullitt longjohn had an Ezee front hub assist, but the two regular bikes, the Yuba Boda Boda midtail, the tandem, and my rig were regular ol’ pedal-and-sugary-candy-cane powered.

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Happy holidays!

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Happy third birthday, Big Dummy!

The best bike in the world has turned three! Happy birthday, big girl! Three cheers for the Surly Big Dummy!

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A couple big changes with bike-related life over the last year, but just little changes with the actual birthday bike. The kid seat isn’t in the photo above, but we’re still rolling Yepp seat for the five-year old at the back of the FlightDeck and stoker bars for the seven-year old at the front. I’m still thinking about switching to an Xtracycle Hooptie soonish. Maybe after winter. Which is what I said last winter. Minor additions are: an Xtracycle Mini MagicCarpet seat pad for the front kid and mudflaps from T Leatherworks with cool silver cogs on them. The front mudflap is completely new, the rear one a replacement.

And some choice highlights since her last birthday:

You probably noticed the recap list is a lot shorter than last year’s. We’ve been doing just as much family biking, most of it on the Big Dummy, but I haven’t been blogging as much of it–and it all started exactly a year ago, on her second birthday. The appointment to which she and I biked was a meeting with Mountaineers Books about writing a guide to urban bicycling. So blogging has taken a back seat to working on that. Look for it next fall!

And the other big news is: I’M CAR FREE. So exciting. And about time, right? The car’s title is still in my name so I haven’t really felt official yet and will make a more proper announcement with details at some point soonish, but it’s so nice to be rid of my car. Yippee! And with the departure of the car, came the arrival of a new bike, a Surly Straggler that the poor Big Dummy had to spend her birthday babysitting. I can totally relate–so hard to become a big sibling and suddenly share time with one’s baby sister (or in my case, colicky baby brother)–but I know they’ll be best buds in time.

Which relates to more change in the form of growing children: both kids are in school five days a week. Last year, my younger son was in preschool three half days a week, with me volunteering there once every couple weeks, but now both kids are at the same school 9:30-3:30 Monday through Friday, a mere two blocks from home. So we walk (Walk! It’s quicker than biking!) to school and before the Straggler I’d been heading out with my road bike and laptop in my backpack (granted, an awesome All-City Low Profile backpack I won at Menstrual Monday Girls of Summer two years back). This worked OK, but I’d been dreaming about a true commuter bike with eyelets for a rack so I could get Swift Industries panniers to carry my laptop more comfortably and sturdy fenders instead of my road bike’s clip-on fenders, which are certainly better than nothing, but often rub against my tires.

So my poor birthday girl had to deal with towing her pesky baby sister around on her birthday because I’d dumped the Little Struggler at Back Alley Bike Repair for a front-rack install the day before. Oh yeah, the baby bike gets a name, yet the Big Dummy is still nameless outside of the very generic “the Mamabike”. And to add insult to injury, the Dummy had a broken front gear cable fixed; no one likes seeing the doctor on her birthday. But look, fun stuff, too! The bikes went to the movies:

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And had a GIANT POPSICLE:

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And checked out the ducks at the Lake Union Park model boat test pond:

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The small bike (just 32.4 pounds to the Big Dummy’s 74.6 pounds!) is really a joy. The kids are riding more and more on their own, though at 7 and 5, they’re certainly not safe riding on all Seattle streets, but we’re doing more and more riding separately, which is another thing to appreciate in the “new” column. I still primarily take the Big Dummy if we’re on separate bikes because odds are I’ll carry one of them at some point on a trip. But some day we’ll do more riding all on one-person bikes.

As a good example of the kids getting bigger, the night before the Big Dummy’s birthday, I dragged the kids to a school meeting at a house a half mile away, all uphill. All our biking means we don’t walk as much as many families, but they can handle this kind of walk now! So we left the bike at home and walked, and it was great. And to be completely honest, walking uphill is easier for me than biking us all uphill. I’ve slightly changed my route up to our house from the Burke-Gilman Trail to make the climb a little more gradual and compensate for the heavier kids, but it’s still working just fine to carry the both of them.

And of course the Little Struggler will be a kid-carrying bike of some sort, too. I’ve put the rack for the Burley Piccolo trailer bike on it, but it might need some adjustments before it can handle the weight.

And it’s a cargo bike, too! The night before the Cascade Bicycle Club bike move I was at Peddler Brewing Company filling a growler and mentioned the bike move. The next thing I knew, I had borrowed their Haulin’ Colin heavy duty trailer. It felt very weird attending a bike move without my cargo bike, but look at how much I could carry! Naturally, I had to put a Bike Rodeo Kit on top since that’s what I usually carry away from CBC.

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Don’t feel too bad for the Big Dummy, she got to celebrate her birthday properly come evening. After school, the kids and I biked to the grocery store. Kids and groceries: what she does best! And then we headed to Peddler Brewing Company (yes, kid friendly!) for the graduation ceremony of the latest Cascade Bicycle Club Advocacy Leadership Institute class. I was in the first round of graduates two years ago and went to cheer the new bike advocates.

Demonstrating the sturdiness of the Big Dummy and the Rolling Jackass centerstand in the ALI grad party photobooth:

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Here’s to yet another wonderul year with the Big Dummy! Thanks so much for reading along.