Archive | May 2016

Biking with Summer by Rail’s Elena around Seattle

I had the pleasure of biking around Seattle with Elena Studier today, visiting as part of her Summer by Rail trip.

Waterfall Garden Park

Waterfall Garden Park

From the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) press release:

With school and finals behind her, college sophomore Elena Studier this summer is taking her bike on an epic 38-day multi-modal “road trip” across the country by rail, visiting more than 18 cities and 15 states. Studier, 20, spent her school year interning with NARP and sketching out her big adventure. She kicks off her trip in New York City and will make stops in 20 locations—including Glacier National Park in Montana–before concluding more than 10,000 miles later in Washington, D.C. on June 20, 2016.

She’s about a quarter of the way through her trip, having visited six cities over nine days.

I caught up with Elena and Sean Jeans-Gail of NARP shortly after her arrival to the Emerald City, at Zeitgeist Coffee, conveniently close to King Street Station. They were just wrapping up a meeting with representatives from Sound Transit, whose offices are in Union Station, our former train station, located just across the street from King Street Station. The lobby, the Great Hall of Union Station, is open to the public and worth checking out.

I was doubly excited about the opportunity to connect with Elena, having just taken the train with my bike the day before. My trip was a pretty exciting one–something was going wrong with the radiator and just before we made it to Tacoma where they would add more water we stopped to let a train go by in the other direction and couldn’t get started again. A freight engine came 12 miles down from Tacoma to take us the rest of the way to Seattle and we were only an hour and a half late. I add this to a growing list of Amtrak Cascades mishaps with:

  • Train with “unknown power problems” ran out of gas two miles before reaching Portland.
    Apparently the fuel gauge was broken. Fortunately we were seated on the right side of the train to watch the fuel truck (“We’re going to have a fuel truck come by and see if that might be the problem…”) do its thing so the kids suffered through the two-hour delay just fine.
  • Car rammed train bridge and we had to wait an hour for an inspector to say it was OK to chug over.
    We stopped at Olympia for that hour so the smokers could get off and smoke.

Elena is also using other forms of public transportation as she travels, to highlight the various modes available. I made use of this yesterday when I dropped my bike off at a bike shop for a tune up and grabbed a bus back home. I took Elena and Sean to said bike shop, Back Alley Bike Repair because due to its proximity to the train, ferries, water taxi, and BoltBus, they see a lot of multi-modal bike travelers. And they’re awesome.

There was also a quick stop at Waterfall Garden Park, which has always amused me since it’s quite loud, yet people sit at the tables, trying to chat with friends. But it’s unique and a quick ride or walk from King Street Station.

Next up we met up with “celebrity” traffic engineer, Dongho Chang and Darby Watson from SDOT in Occidental Park just across the street from Back Alley Bike Repair. The park is bustling with food trucks, tons of seating, games (currently a foosball table, and I’ve previously seen ping pong and giant chess), totem poles, and musicians.

Dongho led us on a tour of Seattle’s latest and greatest bike-friendly infrastructure, including the 2nd Avenue protected bike lanes, Bell Street Park, the Mercer and 5th Avenue North bike lanes, and the 7th Avenue protected bike lane (and bicycle leaning rail!). We learned a bit about upcoming improvements–some not announced just yet. Exciting stuff! I pointed out to Elena and Sean that I found it a shame we had to utilize the sidewalk so much for our tour with Dongho, but at the same time, one of the first things I told them about Seattle is that it’s legal to ride on the sidewalk here…although I also pointed out that I find it sad that I consider that such valuable information. But it really is necessary for most people riding bikes in the downtown area. For now, anyway.

Elena, Darby, and Dongho on 2nd Avenue

Elena, Darby, and Dongho on 2nd Avenue

Marveling at Amazon's biospheres

Marveling at Amazon’s biospheres

5th Avenue North protected bike lanes to Seattle Center

5th Avenue North protected bike lanes to Seattle Center

Dongho Chang pushes the "beg button"

Dongho Chang pushes the “beg button”

Dongho and Darby headed back to important SDOT stuff and I tagged along as Elena and Sean headed into a meeting with Alta Planning + Design. We talked NACTO, various projects, and secure bike parking at transit stations. They had lots of great questions for Elena so I learned even more about the project. I was particularly interested to hear that rather than push an agenda of her own, Elena hopes to amplify the messages of the people she meets.

Lunch was at Pike Place Market, our bikes locked securely at the bike corral (the one on Pike Place, not the fence on Pike Street by the balloon clown), while we explored on foot. We dined in Victor Steinbrueck Park, watching Washington State Ferries on their ways to Bainbridge Island and Bremerton and the Clipper Ferry on its way to Victoria, BC, Canada, while I shared tales of bike-and-boat trips I had taken. My cargo bike and tandem bike aren’t allowed on buses (other than BoltBus) and trains, but they fit on boats! So the ferries make some wonderful trips possible, like our most recent family bike camping trip at Illahee State Park and Spring Break 2015 on Vancouver Island.

Rather than navigate the Pike Place Market crowds with our bikes to get to the elevator, I led us down Western Avenue. I discovered Western Avenue as a not-too-steep route up from the waterfront by finding a pedicab driver without an e-assist to follow. One of my many route-finding tricks. Elena agreed with me that steep downhills are even worse than steep uphills.

I apologized for the state of our waterfront, but we were soon at the beautiful Elliott Bay Trail and pedaling through the Olympic Sculpture Park and Myrtle Edwards Park. I pointed out the West Thomas Street Overpass, another not-too-steep as well as all-user-friendly route up from the waterfront.

I had to rush home to fetch the kids from school and cut off towards the Ship Canal Trail while Elena and Sean pushed on to the Ballard Locks and beautifully bikey Ballard. I look foward to reading about their experiences there, as well as the Burke-Gilman Trail (and Burke-Gilman Trail Missing Link), Link light rail, and Broadway Cycletrack.

Happy rails to you, Elena!

Family bike camping at Illahee State Park

New family bike camping territory! As much as we love bike camping at Fay Bainbridge Park, we wanted to try something new. Enter Illahee State Park.

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First up, here’s the Flickr album of 81 photos.

Now Pixie and I bike camped at Illahee last month (Flickr album of 91 photos here), but camping with a regular bike and nine pounds of passenger isn’t nearly the same as proper family bike camping so it doesn’t really count. Good test run, though!

Same ferry terminal as if going to Bainbridge which means even though the Bremerton ferry tends to be less crowded, the ticket booths are filled with people driving onto the Bainbridge ferry. The booth adjacent to the bike lane was closed so rather than wait in a long line of cars, I swiped my adult Orca card and one of our youth Orca cards to match what we were charged last trip.

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The ferry ride to Bremerton is 60 minutes (compared to Bainbridge’s 35) so as a woman in Bremerton said, “You better get your money’s worth!” And there’s also plenty of time to wait in line at the cafe (not that the line is as long on this less-packed ferry) for kid snacks.

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Even on my Surly Straggler (which I had built up with a triple ring on the front for MOAR GEARS for our hilly city) I knew this to be a hilly four-mile ride from the ferry and even thought of possible nicknames for the park on the boat ride:

  • Hillahee
  • Illahill
  • Illahillahee
  • Illahilly

I studied the map ahead of time and opted to stray a bit from the Google Maps’ suggested route once across the Manette Bridge to cut out some elevation loss: like so, straight through the traffic circle, left on Pitt, right on 14th, left on Perry. I think this was better than my last route, cutting off some of the long slog up Perry. But it was still quite a climb and the kids opted to walk two blocks (thank goodness!) since our riding was so slow. The road wasn’t busy, but since we were so slow I kept to the empty sidewalk until Perry flattened out.

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I discovered last visit that the hiker/biker spots are tiny. Plus they have no picnic tables (though we didn’t sit at our table since it was so wet…but it was nice to stash the panniers underneath while I was setting up camp). And somewhat expensive at $12. I wasn’t sure if they’d want $12 per person or $12 for the site (and we never saw the camp host!) so we opted for a $25 car site. Note: this was on May 14th, the last day before the price went up to $30 for summer.

We biked the whole loop and the kids selected site 5. It was great with a direct path to the restrooms and two spots for tents, one of them a bit bigger than the spot at the hiker/biker sites. This was good because I brought two tents this time. The silly thing is, I didn’t bring my new small two-person tent when I camped with just Pixie because I didn’t want my brand new tent to get wet. But I’d never pass up a chance to carry extra stuff and this trip we crammed in the second tent, an extra sleeping bag, and an extra sleeping pad. Our original plan was to camp at Manchester State Park, but then we found out our friend Brad (one of my first friends with a Surly Big Dummy, before I got mine! Jon to my Ponch, I like to call him) was riding the 400k le Tour d’Hood Canal and would need to stay in Bremerton overnight. So obviously the smart thing to do was tote extra gear so he could sleep on the ground, right?

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We hit the hay long before Brad arrived. Even though the ride was only 4 miles, I was exhausted and went to sleep at kid time. Normally one gets less sleep camping, but it was nice to get a lot of extra sleep. And the kids both slept with their heads at the opposite side of the tent from me this time, plus they wanted to be next to one another rather than have me in the middle so I was more comfortable than ever before. Next time I’ll see if I can convince the dog to sleep in one of their sleeping bags instead of mine to make it even better. Brad ended up finding a hotel with a group of the randonneurs, but he arrived to camp early in the morning and took a nap so our spare tent wasn’t for naught.

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This new tent is the Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 and it’s so light! I wouldn’t want to cram all three of us in it, but next time I camp with just Pixie, I’ll use this tent. The poles fold up short enough that they fit in a pannier. I remove the pole bag from the REI Half Dome 2 Plus tent bag so the tent fits in a pannier and the poles either go in the side pocket of a pannier or strapped across a rack.

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While Saturday was pretty wet, Sunday was dry! We traded a blueberry muffin to Brad for some Oreos, bid him farewell as he pedaled off to the 8:45am ferry, and hiked down to the beach.

Fay Bainbridge is convenient in that the beach is adjacent to the campground and kids can play there while adults are doing camp stuff. Not so at Illahee, though the playground and cannons are close by. And of course this all varies based on your degree of free-range-ness. The beach might not be too far away for all parents and the playground might be out of range for others.

The Illahee beach is terrific with tons of tiny crabs under every rock. And a covered picnic area in the grass and picnic tables with amazing views at the end of the pier! (The pier picture is from Saturday when it was wetter.)

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And the playground is small, but fun. It’s rare to find a seesaw in Washington. Of course there was a communication mishap during a seesaw dismounting resulting in a bruised butt and some yowling.

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And cannons!

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Payment–Sites and Showers
This was the first time we needed showers while camping. At Fay Bainbridge once last summer the kids requested showers after three days of beach play, but I didn’t have any quarters. So now I’ll always bring quarters to Fay. And always include shower information in bike camping posts.

Illahee requires paper money–ones or fives–to buy tokens. Each dollar buys two tokens that are good for three minutes of hot water each. The token machine is next to the campsite pay station, close to the camp host and restrooms. Sites are paid for with cash or check in an envelope. I think the $5 firewood fee goes directly to the camp host, but since we never saw the host I scored some firewood in restroom deal with another camper. (Bainbridge is all by machine that takes cash or credit card between the restrooms and camp host.)

Heading back down the hill I followed the Google Maps suggested route and ran into a little trouble on the tight switchbacks to the Manette Bridge. I was able to walk the bike through them, but next time I’ll stick to the street, reversing our outbound route. The bike and ped path over the bridge is on the eastbound side, but approaching the bridge from the east in the street will work fine. Even with a bike that could navigate the switchbacks, I’d probably stick to the more direct street route.

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We swung by the USS Turner Joy U.S. Naval Destroyer Museum with plans to come back for a day trip without the dog. No hill climbing since it’s right next to the ferry!

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Looking for Fritz European Fry House by the ferry we discovered how friendly Bremertonites (Bremertonians?) are! I stopped on the edge of the road to look around confusedly and a guy strolled out of a bar next to us, saying we looked lost and could he help. Fritz is tucked behind Taco del Mar, by the way. We also smiled for two sets of people to take photos of our bike and had several nice conversations with locals during lunch.

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All in all we had a terrific time! But I’m going to need some time to pass so I can forget how hilly the hill was before I want to go back on the family bike.

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Donate to Familybike and G&O Family Cyclery will match your donation

May is Bike Month, which means riding our bikes a lot more for many of us, but it can also mean helping more people ride bikes. Especially families, because family biking is simply AWESOME.

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I think you all know family biking means the world to me, and getting more families out on bikes is one of my favorite things ever. I’m on the board of Familybike, our local nonprofit with the amazing rental fleet, family bike expos, Kidical Mass organizer, Disaster Relief Trials organizer, advocacy, seminars, and more! And we’re super excited that G&O Family Cyclery is matching donations this bike month!! Join the Familybike Sustainer Circle to keep our programs rolling and enjoy awesome discounts to boot! All the details here!

This match is up to $1000 dollars, and if that amount sounds familiar, it’s the apology money Specialized donated to the Support G&O Family Cyclery Fund. Read all about that at Specialized, How Rude! on the G&O blog.

Your bike and kids want you to take them camping

This is not family bike camping:

This is not bike camping

This is family bike camping!

This is family bike camping!

Bike camping with kids is just like car camping with kids, but so much more fun! I’m no pro, but we’ve done a bit of bike camping. Primarily overnighters to the closest campground, but with repetition comes refinement.

The main concerns for any sort of bike camping are:
Can I fit all the gear on the bike(s)?
and
Where can I ride on this heavy bike?

I used to take our car camping gear on my Surly Big Dummy cargo bike:

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but I’ve gradually replaced things (stove, tent, pillows, my sleeping bag) with lightweight versions. Three full-size pillows looks neat and all, but now I can fit our stuff into six the panniers of our tandem plus trailer bike or the big Xtraycle FreeLoader bags of the Surly Big Dummy longtail cargo bike with room to spare.

Here’s what I brought for our recent overnight for one mom, two kids (ages 9 and 6), and one dog (9 pounds)…

Packing list

  • Tent
  • 3 sleeping bags
  • 3 sleeping pads
  • 3 pillows
  • Clothing
  • Minimal toiletries
  • Camp kitchen
  • Dinner
  • Breakfast
  • SNACKS SNACKS SNACKS
  • Stuffed animals
  • Football
  • Dog stuff
  • Speaker
  • iPhone
  • Chargers
  • Flat repair kit
  • Bike lock
  • 4 water bottles

Packing list in more detail:

  • Tent:
    REI Half Dome 2 Plus Tent
  • 3 sleeping bags:
    Mountain Hardwear Lamina 35 Sleeping Bag for me,
    2 cheapie kid sleeping bags from Fred Meyer for the kids
  • 3 sleeping pads:
    Therm-A-Rest NeoAir Camper Mattress for me–comfy!,
    REI Lite-Core 1.5 Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad – Women’s for the kid that likes blue,
    REI Lite-Core 1.5 Self-Inflating Pad for the kid that likes yellow
    …I had read that kids’ squishy bodies don’t need sleeping pads so the Lite-Cores were for we adults, but when the kids discovered they were their favorite colors, they commandeered them and we parents were left on the cold, hard ground. So always pack sleeping pads for everyone! And now I have a much comfier one anyway.
  • 3 pillows:
    Sierra Designs DriDown 600 Fill Pillow
  • Clothing:
    One+ change of clothing for kids (shorts and sweatpants just to be safe…more than necessary), one change of clothing for me, pajamas for me. Sweatshirts for each of us (with one spare sweatshirt for big kid, oops), knit cap for me since my sweatshirt didn’t have a hood.
  • Minimal toiletries:
    Toothbrushes, kid toothpaste, adult toothpaste, sunscreen, contact lens container and solution, Advil.
  • Camp kitchen (all the non-food stuff):
    Snow Peak BiPod Stove, 1 large Snow Peak fuel canister, lighter, 1 pot, 1 kettle, 3 bowls, 3 spoons, 1 fork, 1 knife, 1 mug, 3 napkins, 1 dish towel, sponge (1 quarter of a sponge I cut up), small container of dish washing detergent, 1 ice pack, Aeropress and coffee filters.
  • Dinner:
    Package of 7 hot dogs, 5 buns, small container of ketchup, carrots, 2 avocados.
  • Breakfast:
    8 instant oatmeal packets, ground coffee.
  • SNACKS SNACKS SNACKS:
    2 apples, 2 bags Earth Balance Puffs, 4 blueberry muffins, 2 croissants, 1/2 bag potato chips, 6 granola bars.
    Taking a Friday evening ferry meant long lines for the cafe so it was important I have blueberry muffins on hand ahead of time because the kids think ferry = blueberry muffins. In general, saving cargo space and buying food on the ferry or in town is a great idea, though!
  • Stuffed animals:
    4 big ones, though I had planned on 2 little ones. Still working on this area of overpacking. The sea monster was technically my stuffy–my Mother’s Day present created in sewing class that day.
  • Football (the squishy kind, lighter than the regular kind)
  • Dog stuff:
    Dog bed and baby blankie Pixie rides in in the front basket, small container of food, small empty container to put water in, packet of salmon snacks, homemade dog sweater.
  • Speaker:
    ECOXGEAR EXOXBT. 1.5 pounds…or 680 grams if that’s your unit of choice. Kinda heavy, I guess.
  • iPhone (5s has a flashlight)
  • Chargers
    RAVPower® 3rd Gen Deluxe 15000mAh External Battery Portable Dual USB Charger 4.5A Output Power Bank (holds 7 iPhone charges, has a flashlight!), iPhone USB cord and plug adapter, Garmin Edge 25 cord.
  • Flat repair kit:
    Lezyne Micro Floor Drive pump, 2 tire levers, multitool, patch kit, 26″ inner tube, 20″ inner tube
  • Bike lock:
    Abus folding lock that I use to lock front wheel to frame overnight and would probably also work well as a tent stake mallet, but I haven’t hammered with it yet.
  • 4 water bottles:
    Extra water is always good. We didn’t run low, but always fill every cage with a full water bottle, and sometimes shove extras in panniers.

I should have also brought:

  • Band aids
  • Lantern:
    I have a big car camping lantern, but I’d like a small one. For this trip I perched my iPhone flashlight atop a lidless water bottle and it lit our dark dinner table.
  • Mosquito repellent
  • Paper and pencils for ferry
  • SWIM SUITS! ALWAYS BRING SWIM SUITS! MAY IS NOT TOO EARLY FOR SWIM SUITS!
  • Quarters for the shower. We haven’t used campground showers before, but the kids got so sandy this time.
  • S’mores fixings. Despite our late arrival and the kids begging to go to sleep at 9:15 as soon as they were done eating, the next day they were pretty pissed there had been no s’mores. From now on: always s’mores or at least up-front discussion about lack of s’mores.

I could have skipped:
I don’t feel that I really overpacked, but I had way more snacks than necessary (but you never know!) and I think I’d like to try bringing a frozen can of beer instead of the ice pack…that makes sense, right?

Where to camp?
Here in the Seattle are, I don’t feel there are a lot of camping options when on a very slow bike with kids. My bike is too heavy to push up a hill, even with the kids walking alongside and I don’t want to be on certain fast roads that might not bother quicker bicyclists. My cargo bike and tandem don’t fit/aren’t allowed on our buses and trains (Amtrak, light rail, street car…well maybe street car, but it doesn’t get us very far) so that leaves us with the ferry as our only option besides plain old biking to the destination.

  • Fay Bainbridge
    This last trip (and most of our other trips) was to Fay Bainbridge Park via Washington State Ferries from the Seattle waterfront, 6 miles from home, and then 7 miles from Bainbridge Ferry Terminal to the park.
  • Manchester State Park
    I camped at Manchester State Park with 13 adults, using my Surly Straggler (and my load was super light because I forgot my tent, doh!) last summer and I think it would work OK with a slow, heavy family bike. Coming from our home in Wallingford, the Fauntleroy-Southworth ferry is a pretty long haul with 17 miles to the Fauntleroy Ferry Terminal, but it’s mostly flat until one big climb out of Lincoln Park at the very end. We’ll try this soon. Actually, I thought we’d try this this weekend, but just moments ago decided we’re going brave the hills at Illahee to try to coordinate with a friend.
  • Vancouver Island
    Last Spring Break we took the Victoria Clipper from the Seattle Waterfront to camp at Goldstream Provincial Park. There are closer campgrounds to Victoria, too. And wonderful trails to use to reach them.
  • San Juan Islands
    We haven’t done this yet, but this summer we plan to take the Clipper to the San Juan Islands and hopefully do some island hopping!
  • Illahee State Park
    I think Illahee State Park might be a bit hillier than I’d like to camp with a family bike, but I camped at Illahee on my Surly Straggler with Pixie recently.
  • Now, for those of you not constrained by very heavy and slow bikes, my wonderful friend Marley (with whom I camped at Manchester) recently wrote A Non-Definitive Guide to Bike Overnighters within an Hour-ish of Seattle.

Our trip this past Friday was a fun, last-minute trip. I usually plan things way in advance so this was out of character and so adventurous! I stayed up much too late Thursday night (NOT biking on the closed viaduct, of course! I would never! ;)) and got up earlier than necessary for En Plein Air Coffee Club and then rushed way uphill to help a friend with a thing and afterwards, while heading towards Capitol Hill to route test for Seattle CycloFemme two days away, I decided it’d be a great day to go camping! So I quickly route tested, rushed home to swap bikes (road bike for Surly Straggler and two panniers) to grab some groceries, and then packed up the tandem plus trailer bike with all our gear. Somewhere in the packing-up I remembered my first grader had after-school sewing class so we weren’t actually free to skip town at 3:40. Doh! That’s where not sleeping enough will get ya. But had I realized ahead of time our weekend didn’t start until 5:20, I never would have considered camping. So we patiently waited, I grabbed the remaining kid (five minutes early) and we raced to the ferry. Miraculously we made the 6:20 p.m. ferry! This after dropping the chain twice, dropping a pannier on Alaskan Way once (eek!) and crawling up Dexter at 3mph.

All the photos from there trip are here: Bike camping at Fay Bainbridge – May 6/7, 2016. Check captions for details.

In the past I have been able to use my Orca card in the bike lane at the ferry terminal and ask the adjacent kiosk to charge me separately for the kids (kids under six are free, FYI). But this time the ticket agent at that closest kiosk said I couldn’t use Orca for a non-standard bike and I would have to use one of the other kiosks. I was charged $14.30 for an adult plus bike and a kid plus bike. I feel that a weekend trip may have cost less, but of course this is always at the discretion of the ticket agent.

The 35-minute ferry ride was great. Lovely views. And long lines at the restaurant as predicted so our snacks-on-hand came in handy. And I discovered three friends were also bike camping at Fay.

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Off the ferry

I like to ride halfway up the hill from the ferry and then pull over at the Bike Barn and wait while the cars offload rather than share the road with them. I timed it this time. It’s a 10 minute wait, but of course it feels much longer. We only waited 9 of those 10 minutes because I got impatient, but then had to ride up the sidewalk because five buses took up the shoulder-less right lane. In the future it would be helpful to have a 10-minute activity of some sort planned for this stage (more for my sake than that of the kids!).

Nowadays we take the flat highway route to Fay. It is a highway with highway speed limits, but most of the shoulders are very wide and drivers on Bainbridge are very used to seeing people biking all over the place. Here’s the hilly, scenic route used on Cascade Bicycle Club – Chilly Hilly and Squeaky Wheels – Bike for Pie. And probably the upcoming Alleycat Acres – Streets + Beets. Even with the flat route, there’s still one proper hill on Lafayette Avenue, but halfway up it flattens out at a cemetery. We took a breather there.

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To provide a more realistic picture of family biking on Bainbridge, it took us one hour and 17 minutes to get there with a stop at the fire house and one hour and 13 minutes to get back with a quick stop at Frog Rock.

There’s a playground at Fay, but the beach is so amazing that the kids all tend to stick there. At high tide they climb on the big log and throw rocks into the sound and at low tide there are sea anemones to admire, geoducks squirting left and right, and wet sand to throw at your brother.

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I never know what to pay. Hiker/biker is $7, but in the past we haven’t had to pay for kids. The camp hosts weren’t in when we arrived and I was feeling spendy so I decided to pay $20 for site #37, figuring three hiker/bikers would be $21 anyway. No one was at the kayak area so I could have just set up there and saved $13.

One new discovery this trip: if one kid sleeps with his head on the opposite side as the other, it makes the small tent feel more spacious! I hope I can convince my nine-year old to do this always because we’ll never outgrow the two+ person tent in that case. However, I do have a second, smaller two-person tent to add alongside when the day comes they get to big for us to all cram into one tent.

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Upcoming camping

  • June 4-5, 2016 – I’ll lead a group back to Fay Bainbridge for Bike Overnight June 4-5, 2016. Our awesome camp hosts from this trip will be away running a race just this one day, but Ranger Mike, the Owl Show guy (apparently he’s not a ranger, but our hosts said he’ll love knowing we call him “Ranger Mike”) will be in charge. They thought our staying in the kayak area should probably be fine and they usually charge the $7 hiker/biker fee per tent so that’s nice–free kids!
  • June 25-26, 2016 – I hope to recruit someone to lead a Swift Campout to Fay because I’m unavailable. Last year’s family biking Swift Campout was awesome!
  • July 30-31 – Our annual family biking camping trip to Fay. I should really create the Facebook event for this soon!

As always, please feel free to provide your tips below in the comments!

Happy Mother’s Day!

What kind of frazzled mother would I be if I posted my “Happy Mother’s Day” entry on time ;) Anyhow, one day late: HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY! Here’s my mom being family biked around by my oma:

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My mom is the kid at the back of the bike, aged six. She died 15 years ago from breast cancer, but it still feels like yesterday. My oma died last June and my uncles (one on the front of the bike, one in utero) are alive and well :) Photo and uncles are in the Netherlands. Of course. I was born here in the US, in Santa Barbara, California. However, I think of my mother’s birthplace as the motherland. It’s certainly the motherland of family bicycling.

Did you have a good Mother’s Day? I hope it included an activity of your choosing, especially if that activity was biking. I got to go biking as well as get around to moving my laundry from washer to dryer so it was a pretty awesome day.

These last five years, Mother’s Day has meant CycloFemme for me. We formed Seattle Critical Lass to coincide with the first CycloFemme event and it’s been going ever since, encouraging more women to ride bikes in Seattle.

This year’s Seatle CycloFemme was big fun. My friend Jen is in the process of moving back to Seattle, but her bike is still out on the coast so she ditched her own kiddos for part of the day and walked over (we’re in the same neighborhood now!) to borrow my Surly Straggler and ride with us. (She claims that five people came up to her over the course of the day and asked just who she was that she got to ride my bike, but I’m not sure I believe her!) Having an extra mom on hand is AWESOME and made my morning a lot mellower than it would have been otherwise. And then once we all got home. she walked my kids to the park 30 minutes ahead of me and Pixie and I got my Mother’s Day wish of finishing laundry and cleaning up a bit while no one punched his brother. Heaven! THANK YOU JEN!

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We had 55 people on our ride and everyone had fun. I had a great time, but I always leave these big events wishing I could have spent more one-on-one time with each person.

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My kids had a great time. My six-year old loved the ride. He’s recently decided he wants to be a bike racer so I let him charge ahead when it was safe enough. On the way to the ride he raced uphill on his own, but we rode part of the way back with a dad who raced with him.

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My nine-year old likes bikes, too, but isn’t quite as rugged so I loved it when I got to carry him most of the way home. I do live to carry stuff with my bike, after all. Also, his many “bail outs” (he’s a military spy and has to practice jumping off his moving bike repeatedly much to my dismay) left his handlebars askew and I forgot my multitool so I clenched his forks between my knees and muscled his bike straight. In a strapless dress. Good times. Mothers make it happen on Mother’s Day. No job too dirty.

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Being surrounded by awesome biking people and the gift of coffee, doughnuts, and lunch from Public Bikes Seattle and gorgeous flowers from Detours made this day THE BEST.

Today was Bike to School Day?

Oh how the mighty have fallen.

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(This is actually a photo of a spectacular scooter-and-skateboard crash yesterday, zero bikes involved.)

I remember how excited I was to finally have a kindergartner, lo four years ago now. We biked to preschool each and every day, and occasionally inspired other families to bike, too, but a ten-family preschool has nothing on a 400-student elementary school! We’d finally be a real part of National Bike to School Day, Cascade Bicycle Club’s school-based programming, and Safe Routes to School.

Being the Bike to School Mom was great fun. Each school in our district is different and I found a lot of help in the parent-run grassroots Walk.Bike.Schools! group started by long-successful Bike to School parents who didn’t want the rest of us to have to reinvent the wheel. I don’t think the group is active anymore, but there’s still good info to be found on the website if you’re looking to start or improve your program.

Bike to School doesn’t have to be a huge time investment and for those of us here in Seattle, the Cascade Bicycle Club Bike to School resources have developed in an amazing way over the last few years. Some schools have more support and buy-in than others, and while Bike to School isn’t an unofficial part of our curriculum as in some schools, I was welcome to come talk to the kids about Bike to School at lunchtime, hang posters, run bike rodeos, and lead bike trains.

And everything was awesome! Two years ago I was in the Bike to School Day spotlight by the League of American Bicyclists, a story later included in their year-end inspirational stories.

Last year was huge, too. Not biggest-in-the-city huge, but something to be proud of. And most importantly, everyone had fun.

Then this year I threw it all away. A parent sent a very upset email to me (and some PTA parents and the principal), disappointed about a monthly bike-to-school day, something new from our school’s sustainability chair this year. The actual complaints were kind of weird, with expectations of a scooter being used in the hall and at recess, but the tone was impossible to misinterpret. While I’m not in this for accolades, I’m really only in it to have fun and encourage others to have fun. Reading this email was decidedly unfun. I sent an apologetic email, of course, and acknowledged that axing the whole program was a valid suggestion…not that it was my decision to make, but I would indeed remove myself from the program. Basically I’m a big baby and I’m never volunteering for anything ever again (except for my non-bike-related school volunteer duties to which I’m fully committed.) I assumed/hoped someone else would take over, but apparently that didn’t happen because our school didn’t participate in Bike to School Day today.

I feel like I’ve been complaining a lot lately, what with sharing the shoe thing, the “Hey, gorgeous!” thing, and the mean email to stay out of Burien. I tell myself they’re learning experiences and my thinking them through publicly is my easiest way to process things and will help me react more gracefully in the event of a next time…and hopefully my unfortunate experiences help others in some small way. But am I just getting disillusioned and crotchety? I see it happen to friends. I don’t think so in my case. And we did bike to school today…

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We don’t generally bike to school nowadays since we live two flat blocks from school and we can walk there in the time it takes the kids to locate and buckle their helmets. But today–even though I failed our school–we got our bikes out (well, two bikes, because my first grader didn’t want to pedal with his scraped knee from yesterday’s spectacular SKATETRON crash). We biked a mile uphill to Mighty-O Donuts (where I used to buy doughnuts for all the schoolkids) for a treat before school. We saw a big group of biking families gathered across the street, preparing to ride to nearby Cascadia Elementary. I was a little embarrassed to be seen without my own big bike train in tow. I was mentally chastising myself for being an overly-sensitive asshole when one of the dads shouted “I love your blog!” Well, damn. THANKS, CASCADIA BIKING DAD! You lifted my gloomy spirits and it was awesome seeing you out biking amidst the sea of happy kids and parents, and you made me realize I was happy to be out biking and doing what little I’m capable of doing for Bike to School Day this year.

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I feel a tad bit the poseur with Red Tricycle’s 10 Cool Biking Parents Reinventing the Wheel being released today. I am honored to be included in such an illustrious group, but couldn’t it have published yesterday or tomorrow? ;)

I don’t know if this is a cautionary tale or just another complainy post, but keep doing what you’re doing, especially if it’s encouraging more biking! Any little bit counts, probably more than you even realize.

CycloFemme is this Sunday!

CycloFemme is a socially-driven grass-roots celebration of women on bikes. Our annual Mother’s Day ride unites riders, regardless of gender, age, ethnicity or bicycle preference to share in the joy of cycling. We are of a growing community, for a growing community, and 100% volunteer-based.

Sunday, May 8, 2016 at 11:00 a.m. in Cal Anderson Park (1635 11th Ave, Seattle, WA 98122)
On the grassy field north of the play structure. Facebook event

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There are over a hundred rides registered around the world and they’re all a little different. Our Seattle ride is a collaboration between Familybike and Critical Lass and is a combo Kidical Mass/Critical Lass ride.

But wait, there’s more! Our friends at PUBLIC Bikes Seattle are sponsoring the event and meeting us at the park (starting at 10:45 a.m.) with coffee from Stumptown Roasters and doughnuts from Top Pot Doughnuts! They’re also financing a picnic for us all at the end of the ride! Also, our friends at local bicycle bag company Detours will greet everyone with flowers up arrival.

And do you need a quick tune-up before the ride? Call PUBLIC now for this amazing deal:

  • $35 standard tune up available for folks who participate in CycloFemme
  • Must call the shop to schedule: (206) 973-2434
  • Available through 5/6
  • Show your RSVP on Facebook to receive the discount

If you’ve previously read the event details, you probably think we’re riding to Seward Park. Surprise: change of plans! Sadly, Seattle Parks and Rec didn’t make May 8th a Bicycle Sunday and it’s just not nice enough to ride to Seward without part of Lake Washington Blvd mostly closed to cars. So instead we’re doing a loop–how convenient! We’ll start at Cal Anderson and end at Cal Anderson with a four-ish mile ride in between. Midpoint is Pratt Park where we take bicycle portraits and refill our water bottles (and I might have an additional surprise for you there!) I did some route testing today and I think this will be our route:

Open to any route-change suggestions if you see glaring problems. It’s not flat, but it’s not bad. And it’s just about all quiet streets and easy intersection crossings.

So instead we’re going to Madrona Beach! Alongside Volunteer Park, Interlaken, and the Arboretum. Google maps link to route and Ride with GPS link to route.

Additional things…

  • Getting there: This is my favorite route to Cal Anderson Park. It’s the flattest-possible way, though if the kids are riding separately, I’ll probably stick to the sidewalk for the blocks of Eastlake. We’re going to leave from Wallingford at 9am and hopefully arrive to the park at 10am so there’s time to play and greet any early arrivers.
  • Getting there part two: the new Capitol Hill Light Rail Station is right there! However, cargo bikes are more officially not allowed on board (we’ve all always known this, yet have also occasionally…and some families regularly utilized light rail with our big bikes during quiet times of day).
  • We’ve had some questions about who is welcome to participate and I haven’t posted anything specific yet because I was figuring there would eventually be some verbiage from CycloFemme HQ I could use. No such luck, though there is this: “At the core of CycloFemme are the women, children, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and friends who join us, support us and give this movement momentum. We ride together.” And our About Critical Lass page: “We don’t want to create any barriers to your getting out there so if you need to bring kids or friend who does not qualify as a ‘lass’ along, please do so!” So this ride is open to everyone because we wouldn’t dream of turning anyone away, BUT the focus is those who identify as female. BUT part two, it’s also a regular Kidical Mass ride at the same time and we want all non-female-identifying family bikers to feel completely welcome. Feel free to suggest better language if you find this confusing! Basically: come ride! And if you don’t identify as female, it’d be awesome if you could convince a friend who does identify as female to come out for the ride. This is a slow-paced social ride and a wonderful way to get back into bicycling.