Archive | April 2017

Kidical Mass Bike Overnight June 3-4, 2017

Let’s go camping! As part of Adventure Cycling Association’s Bike Travel Weekend we’re doing a family bike overnight Saturday, June 3rd through Sunday, June 4th at Illahee State Park.
There are only two tiny hiker/biker campsites, so I’ve reserved three big sites for us.

Important:
Register (free) on the Eventbrite event so I can keep track of our numbers and know if we should reserve more sites.
Facebookers can RSVP and connect in the comments on the Facebook event page, too.

Illahee is new for a Kidical Mass trip, but I’ve camped there a few times without a big group. Here’s a write-up with lots of pictures from a camping trip the kids and I took last year: Family bike camping at Illahee State Park.

Price:
Hiker/biker sites are $12 so we’ll plan for $12 per family to cover the cost of the bigger sites. This will be paid while camping.

Timeline:

8:00 a.m. Saturday, June 3, 2017 – meet outside Fremont PCC Natural Market or earlier if you need last-minute groceries (kids get a free piece of fruit!) or want to go in for potty visits.
8:15 a.m. we ride! Promptly at 8:15 a.m.! (Which means 8:20, but for real we are leaving by 8:20!)
– or –
9:40 a.m. meet us at the ferry (pay in the kiosk, get in line).
10:00 a.m. Seattle-Bremerton ferry sets sail (ARRIVE AT LEAST 20 MINUTES EARLY).

Routes:

Ferry information:
From the Bicycles on Washington State Ferries webpage:
“Bicyclists should arrive 20 minutes prior to departure time to be loaded at the beginning of loading process. If a bicyclist arrives after vehicle loading has begun, they will be loaded at the end of the load.”

So arrive by 9:40am. BUT if you’re late, they’ll still put you on–just after the cars load. I love how versatile they are with bikes! But it’s so super fun to roll onto the empty ferry so be early if you’re meeting us there. Plus we can socialize in the bike lane before loading.

If you have an Orca card, there is an automated tollbooth at the far right–no waiting behind the cars! But otherwise you need to wait in the rightmost car lane to pay. Current fares are $8.20 for adults, $4.10 for kids six and up, and $1 for bikes (sometimes big bikes cost extra, though I’ve never been charged extra for the cargo bike or tandem + trailer bike). The Bremerton-to-Seattle direction is free.

Once off the ferry, we’ll ride just over to the right (to the Bremerton Marina/Bremerton Boardwalk) rather than up the hill to congregate while the car traffic clears. Generally, we push directly onward to the campground, but this is when we will discuss if anyone needs to stop at the grocery store or mini mart at the half-way point. Sometimes part of the group stops for a sit-down lunch in town.

The ride
It’s less than four miles to the campsite, but it’s mostly all uphill, though not steep. There’s a bike lane on the Manette Bridge, but we will probably want to take the very wide walkway single file.

Perry Avenue is a long, uphill slog. We’ll take rest breaks as needed, if needed. It flattens out at the middle school, and taking a break on the grass might be nice. However, I couldn’t locate a drinking fountain when exploring the school so it’s just a rest spot, not a water-filling spot.

It’s all flat after the middle school and we’ll pass two mini marts, a Franz Bakery Outlet (open 10-6 Mon-Sat and the Saturday special is 4 doughnuts for $5), the Perry Market grocery store, and a drive-thru/bike-thru coffee kiosk…here’s its menu:

Illahee State Park
Winter was not kind to Illahee State Park–several big trees fell and hadn’t been cleared away during my April visit. One crushed the large picnic shelter near the the campground, a spot I formerly thought would be nice for those with e-bikes to charge their batteries. And the swing set was swing-less, but the slide and teeter totter are intact. I’m waiting for a call back from the park to find out if the swings will be replaced and when the picnic shelter will be back.

There’s a big playfield attached to the campground (the two hiker/biker sites are against it) and the playground is a one- or two-minute walk.

The beach is a fun little hike downhill. There’s a pier to walk along, a great view of Mount Rainier, and tons of tiny crabs hiding under rocks.

The women’s restroom has four outlets…but also a sign to not leave cell phones charging unattended. E-bike batteries are probably safer to leave in there, but perhaps the camp host would let people use the outlet at the camp host site.

Showers: Illahee requires paper money (ones or fives) to buy shower 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.

Cars/”Supported” camping
Since we’re paying for three (or more) sites with parking spots, that means three cars can come. Past trips have see a couple families with various levels of supported bike camping, with half the family on bike and some or all of the gear meeting them via car. Or a van carrying everything. So indicate if you want to nab one of those car parking spots. Don’t forget to look into getting a Discover Pass, I think your car will need one to join us in the park.

Sunday
We’ll decide when to head back home come Sunday. There will likely be an early crowd and a later crowd. I’ll probably be part of the later crowd. The later group will head to Peddler Brewing Company for a Seattle-side hangout before going our separate ways. Our route from Illahee to the ferry is a backtracking of our Saturday route over and here’s the route from the ferry terminal to Peddler.

Don’t despair if this weekend doesn’t work! There will also be a Kidical Mass camping trip for Swift Campout June 24-25 and maybe one in August, too.

Note: Social-media-inclined campers should use #adventurecycling #biketravelweekend #bikeovernights

New to bike camping or bike camping as a family? Feel free to ask questions in the comments or contact me. The Seattle Family Biking Facebook group is also an excellent resource–many families have borrowed gear via that group! Do you want to come, but don’t have the right bike? Check out the Familybike Seattle Rental Fleet.

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Biking with kids in Venice Beach

After biking with kids in Santa Barbara for an hour one day at the beginning of spring break, we had a second bike adventure: two biking hours in Venice Beach.

The apartment at which we were staying came with two adult-sized beach cruisers so I was set for wheels and the closest of the many bike rental places–just four blocks along our street at the beach–had a couple kid bikes that should be available if we showed up near 10am opening. My seven-year old got a cool-looking 20″ cruiser bike and my nine-year old got a 24″ mountain bike–his first bike with a front derailleur, but I don’t think he did any shifting.

As I mentioned in my last post, there are lots of options for kids these days. Santa Monica Bike Center is particularly awesome with cargo bikes, kid-friendly tandems, trailers, trailer bikes, bike seats, and kid bikes. It might have been worth looking for an apartment within walking distance of SMBC, but I didn’t think of that when planning our visit. As wonderful as the place looks, it wasn’t worth driving there from two miles away. So we walked to the close place, got the two bikes and were rolling right away. We started by riding one mile south to Muscle Beach. It was a little early in the day for weight lifters so the kids didn’t get to see it in all its glory. But I thought Muscle Beach Surf Shop was pretty cool: they have orange–and only orange–rental bikes! Kid bikes of all sizes, regular bikes, fat bikes, an orange trailer, and an orange Burley Piccolo trailer bike. It looked like all the rental places’ trailer bikes were Burley Piccolos and Kazoos. We use a Burley Piccolo at home and love it. The Piccolo (has gears) and Kazoo (no gears) mount to a rear rack for an incredibly stable ride. We had one of the seat-post-attaching trailer bikes before and I simply wasn’t strong enough to bike with it comfortably. I notice lots of kids on those tilted to the side, though I also know people who love theirs.

After Muscle Beach we biked nearly three miles in the other direction to the Santa Monica Pier. It was a long haul for the kids on unfamiliar bikes, but we made it. And after eating and resting, my younger and unhappier camper was back to normal!

So we rode back to the rental place, ditched the bikes and headed for the beach. That’s what I mostly used my own bike for all week: as a hand truck to ferry stuff to water’s edge.

I did a tiny bit of biking for the sake of 30 Days of Biking and the day after our rental adventure we brought boogie boards to the beach and I discovered how convenient it is to have a single speed and coaster (foot) brake: my hands had no tasks other than pinning stuff to the handlebars so I could steer. I could have carried way more stuff.

All week in Venice we saw so many families on so many bikes! I assume most of them were visiting town and only riding back and forth along the bike trail, just like us. I wished I could tell them all that they could have this fun experience back home, too. I hope some of them will. After all, that’s how many full-time family bikers I know got started: visits to bikey places (for instance: Copenhagen by Hum of the City and visiting my family in the Netherlands in mine) and wanting to replicate the joy and freedom of getting around by bike once back at home. Thank goodness one doesn’t have to cross an ocean to catch the family biking bug anymore!

Despite our two days of using bikes over spring break and my teensy bit of biking the other days, we did a lot of driving. Back in 2010 I read Los Angeles on $100 a Day by New York Times Frugal Traveler Seth Kugel and discovered one can avoid driving while visiting LA! Now I know people who live without cars there, but this was my first exposure to anything like that. I would love to do that someday. I went down once without the kids with a rental Brompton folding bike and didn’t need to rent a car, but I was chauffeured around by my family so that was hardly a car-free visit. At least our staying within walking distance of the beach and restaurants of Venice Beach meant we were able to do half our stuff without the car, which is better than some visits where we’ve had to drive for each and every thing. Last time we stayed in a hotel walking distance to the La Brea Tar Pits and The Grove so again we were able to do some walking, but still had to drive a lot. I think if I ever want to make this work, I’d need to find a bus stop near my brother’s house and examine where I could get easily from there to choose where we’d stay. Then I’d need to choose all the various places we could get from our hotel or apartment and set up an itinerary for the week and hope our family and friends were game to meet up with us in convenient places. But this would be just biking and bus- or rail riding, no bikes. But I’m eager to look into it next time we visit.

Biking with kids in Santa Barbara

We’ve entered new territory: the kids are big enough for their own rental bikes! Also, kid bikes are more readily available at rental places these days. So are bike seats, trailers, and trailer bikes for kids who don’t have the stamina or skills to ride on their own. And to a lesser degree, cargo bikes. We were on spring break last week and flew to LA to visit family with a day trip up to Santa Barbara for passover with family friends.

Last time we biked in Santa Barbara (six years ago) we rented one of several cargo bikes at WheelHouse (RIP) and I probably would have done that again to keep things simple (carrying kids is simpler than leading kids for me…especially if it’s flatter than home).

I wouldn’t have thought about biking at all for this visit had we not been in the midst of 30 Days of Biking and I’m so glad I did because it was great! I found Wheel Fun Rentals online ahead of time and hoped the kid bikes mentioned on the website were small enough for my kids, but as a backup I knew we could rent a surrey (those four-wheeled four- or six-seaters with canopy). The surrey wouldn’t have been as fun because it can only go on the Cabrillo bike path along the beach and I was really excited about the self-guided bike tour.

Wheel Fun Rentals Santa Barbara bike tour–PDF version here.

I grew up in Santa Barbara and know the terrain so I knew the kids wouldn’t want to ride all the way to the Mission (nor would I!) but biking to Alameda Park (to which we had plans to drive after our bike adventure because Kids World Castle Playground is the best!) and then over to the fig tree sounded perfect.

Note: the self-guided-tour map wasn’t available in print at Wheel Fun Rentals, but it’s totally worth doing so print one out before you go. There were more bike options than shown on the website–like trailer bikes! I bet I could have rented a tandem bike with trailer bike and even if my stoker couldn’t reach the pedals, we would have all been on a communal heavy bike like we’re used to.

As a kid in Santa Barbara I just biked on sidewalks near my house and as a college student I biked all over the place, though I avoided State Street because it wasn’t good for biking back then. I often wonder if my experience biking with kids in Seattle would be different had I lived here before becoming a parent. I can imagine as a [relatively] speedy bike commuter I might be scared to add kids to that mix, but only having started slowly doing small rides with a baby wasn’t intimidating. Not that this experience in Santa Barbara answers that question for me, but it was cool to lead my babies on streets familiar yet better than remembered.

I would have preferred staying in a bunch the entire time, but I knew my seven-year old would want to ride ahead for the downhill/uphill under the 101 while my nine-year old lagged behind. I stayed right in the middle, slightly nervous. Fun fact: in the old days there were stop lights to cross the 101. And I see the latest State Street improvements happened just a few years ago.

State Street is still busy, but traffic (one lane in each direction, scattered parking, left- and right- turn lanes at intersections) moves slowly and there are tons of tourists on beach cruisers in the bike lanes. The bike lanes are ridiculously narrow when sandwiched between straight-going and right-turning car lanes, but for kids (and adults) who are decent at riding in a straight line, it’s OK.

Before returning the bikes within an hour ($25.85 total for our three bikes), we headed a few blocks out of the way to the fig tree. I love how being on bikes makes it incredibly easy to add in little trips! When I was a kid one could climb on the trunks, but it’s protected by a fence now.

I made one interesting observation when we skirted around a car idling slightly in the bike lane/mostly in the right-turn lane near Paseo Nuevo. There’s no Uber (private taxi service) here! [Actually a quick Google search shows that there is Uber in Santa Barbara, but the Yelp reviews reveal it’s so poorly regarded that no on uses it.] It was so pleasant biking in such a bustling area and not facing the obstacle course of idling and mid-block-U-turning Ubers prevalent in Seattle.

Biking and busing strategies (help plz!)

We visit Issaquah about once a month for our orthodontist. I often skip blogging about it unless there’s something exciting and new involved (like adding the Bobike Junior kid seat in place of Bobike Maxi kid seat), but I try to document things more in April for 30 Days of Biking so here we are! Plus we mixed it up bus-wise a bit so this is also a good time to ask for HELP WITH STRATEGIES FOR BIKE/BUS ROUTING!

Here’s what I do:
I start with home-to-destination Google maps transit directions to see which bus(es) go closest to our destination. Often it’s a two- or three-bus trip so I try to find out if we can bike to the last–or at least the second–bus. Often this is the point of that bus’ route closest to home as the crow flies, but sometimes it’s less uphill or less busy-road-stricken for us to hit it somewhere else along the line. Or now that the light rail comes near us, it might be where light rail gets closest to that bus…though we haven’t been incorporating light rail with our multimodal travels much yet. THIS IS ONE SPOT I CAN USE HELP: I want to look at all the stops on a King County Metro or Sound Transit bus and I don’t think the websites show everything, just some of the stops (the timed ones?). When trying to hook up two buses and kids on bikes, I really want to know every single stop. So I pull out my iPhone and check on the OneBusAway (“The Open Source platform for Real Time Transit Info”) app. It seems silly to use both computer and smart phone to figure out my route.

Anyhow, today was a bit different because we ran an errand in Fremont on the way to the orthodontist. We usually catch a bus near home to get downtown where we can transfer to the 554 that takes us 16 miles to Issaquah. I didn’t want to bike back uphill to catch any of our usual buses (mostly for the sake of my nine-year old who was on his own bike, honest!) so I used Google maps transit directions to find an alternate first bus. I settled on the 62 at the corner of 34th and Fremont in front of Starbucks. Bonus: it’s right by PCC Natural Market (where kids get a free piece of fruit) so we grabbed some groceries on the way. Removing a kid from a seat and having to lock up two bikes is a bit more involved than grocery shopping on my own, but even so, bikes still make squeezing in extra errands so easy!

The kids have apparently been paying more attention than I realized and have become savvy bus riders because they suggested I check OneBusAway to make sure the bus was on time. So I checked and discovered it was running six minutes late. We had seven minutes to go a block and a half between buses so when we saw a bus 40 with DOWNTOWN on the display, I decided we’d hop on and figure out our stop once on board. This is way out of my comfort zone! I like plotting our trip the night before and hem and haw for way too long over various options. Thank goodness for smart phones–I spent most of the trip studying the 554 and 40 routes and chose the two stops that lined up best–close to each other, but not in the part of downtown where that close togetherness was down a very steep hill. But! Then I figured since we’d have quite a few extra minutes for our transfer we should do something more interesting than just riding one block of sidewalk. So we got off near the top of the 2nd Avenue protected bike lane and rode most of the way down it…a whopping half mile! It doesn’t connect to anything so I rarely take the kids on it which means it’s always a treat to have a kid or two on his own bike when we’re down here.

Turns out I was wrong about our timing (have I mentioned I’m not a pro at riding the bus?) because as soon as we got off the bikes, the 554 arrived. Usually I fold in my rear baskets and fold down the seat (like in my photo below of our trip back) but there wasn’t time! I even forgot to remove my water bottle, but that side-entry drink cage (the only one I could find that fits in the tiny triangle) held tight.

And then we were in Issaquah where the riding is great! It’s a flat mile from the bus stop to the orthodontist and Issaquah has a lot of double-wide sidewalks that are officially part of the Issaquah Trail System so we bike on those.

We usually eat lunch while we’re out this way, either sushi right next door to the orthodontist or Issaquah Brewhouse a block from the bus stop. Today we opted for the brewhouse. It’s a super kid-friendly place, with coloring sheet kid menus, a Duplo table (in the back section that’s usually closed during lunch, but they’ll let kids go play in it anyway) and several games (my guys always choose Battleship, and there are two sets of it). The kid meals used to come on Frisbees, but today they had regular plates. There’s also a dog menu (and that food comes on a Frisbee, too) so we’ll bring Pixie along come warmer weather when the outdoor seating is set up.

We left the bikes locked up and walked next door to the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery, one of our favorite places to visit. Despite being one of our favorite places to visit, we’ve never strayed from the front part before and I had no idea there was a back section with a fish ladder and many educational displays! Plus there’s a little playground just across the street. Wow!

But even better than all that, we were invited into the mysterious white trailer we sometimes see parked by the salmon ponds. They were piping in coho fry (babies), clipping their adipose fins, and counting them as they put flushed them out into a different pond. We didn’t get to do any fin clipping, but the kids got to pet them, name them, and put them down the drain. Extremely fun! And we’ll be on the lookout for Banana and Slimy the coho when they swim back up here in four years.

Then we biked a couple blocks (on the sidewalk) to the playground by the train museum, close to the bus stop. The water fountains were shut off (for the season, back on soon?) so we popped in the police station for the restrooms and to fill water bottles before we headed home. There’s a great display of police patches from all around the area inside if you’re into that kind of thing.

And there’s a great statue of an eagle trying to catch a salmon right outside that my kids love climbing on (always) and cutting themselves on (occasionally) while waiting for the bus to arrive.

Coming home we usually get off the 554 at Westlake Park and on nice days like today, stop at the playground for a bit. New this time was a little basketball toss.

Then just one block of street (and a BUS ONLY lane which is also OK for bikes) and half a block of sidewalk and we caught the bus that drops us off a couple flat blocks from home.

This last stop, as well as PCC to the first bus stop and the Issaquah Depot Park playground to the third bus stop are close enough that my passenger could run ahead so I didn’t have to deal with all the various steps of loading–I wore the backpack rather than pry open a rear basket and in this last case, popped the seat open to accommodate the bag of stuffed animals.

So we made it there and back just fine and had one of our best Issaquah visits ever, but seriously: give me all your bike+bus route finding tips and tricks!

Ride Recap: Kidical Mass April Fools’ Day Ride

We had the best Kidical Mass April Fools’ Day Ride today, no foolin’! I haven’t started a ride at noon for quite a while, but it seemed to work well for a lot of families and we had a great turnout–39 at the start and 10 more joining us later. See my 40 photos here.

However, I didn’t plan well food-wise starting later than normal. I assumed first breakfast and second breakfast would be sufficient and didn’t pack any snacks since we’d have brownies at the start, doughnuts in the middle, and lunch at the end, but my younger threatened to die of hunger a few blocks after we left home. So we stopped at Solsticio, 1.4 miles from home, just in the nick of time! From there it was just another .7 miles to get to our start point.

We met up at Fremont Canal Park, by the dinosaur topiaries. I passed out homemade brown Es (get, brownies? We had real brownies, too, lest anyone be disappointed) and packets of doughnut seeds for the kids to plant around the dinosaurs. The idea was that we were planting next year’s doughnut harvest and we’d be rewarded with some of last year’s harvest upon arrival at Mighty-O Donuts in Ballard.

Multi-use trail, proposed greenway, greenways!
Our ride was really great! We started out on the Burke-Gilman Trail and turned off at Hale’s Ales to get to NW 6th Avenue. The U-turny right turn onto 43rd from the Burke-Gilman Trail is a little tricky, so I think next time we’ll leave the trail one opportunity earlier, at 7th Ave NW and turn right on 43rd with a regular 90-degree angle.

I love the newish beg button for bikes to cross Leary Way here–it makes such a difference for biking into Ballard (photo below from using it in the other direction on our way back home).

We rode 15 blocks north on 6th Avenue NW, which is a proposed Seattle Neighborhood Greenway. It doesn’t have all the traffic calming of a built-out neighborhood greenway, but it’s a great street to use to avoid the Missing Link, which features very busy streets and lots of rail road tracks and isn’t a good place for a group of kids (or anyone!). It’s flat so most people ride through it anyway, but our pack all fared just fine on the slight uphill of 6th Avenue NW. It’s also covered with blossoms this time of year.

And from there we turned west on the NW 58th Street greenway. I love riding along Ballard’s first greenway with kids. It’s flat and calm. And it intersects Ballard’s second greenway! Here in Seattle we don’t have any other nice bikeways that connect (except for the 39th Avenue NE greenway and the Burke-Gilman Trail, I guess) so intersecting greenways is huge!

Stopping at Mighty-O worked very well. Everyone started in the Friends of Mighty-O Parklet boat while I ran inside to pick up the three dozen mini doughnuts I’d ordered online ahead of time. Then some families migrated inside for coffee and full-sized doughnuts and some stayed in the boat.

We backtracked a bit, going out of the way for the sake of controlled street crossing: 17th Avenue NW greenway to NW 58th Street greenway. We mixed things up by heading south on 14th Avenue NW which is a pretty big street, but with an island in the middle and it’s worth taking in the downhill direction since we can go at a reasonable speed. And it has a light for crossing Market. We biked five blocks of 14th before turning off at 53rd which crosses through Gilman Playground. Parallel streets are just as quiet, but cutting through a playground is always worth it. Then four blocks down quiet 9th and we were at Populuxe Brewing!

There was tons of room to bring our bikes into the patio, lots of outdoor seating and a huge annex (which I hear begins a remodel next week) with pinball and video games as well as a big-screen TV and lots of seating. On such a nice day (the sun was out for some of the time!) it was wonderful to be outside, though.

The food at Peasant Food Manifesto looked amazing (and others confirmed it was indeed so), but my littles weren’t adventurous enough for it so I headed down a few blocks to Giddy Up Burgers & Greens for kid burgers and fries. I hadn’t been there before and it looks great for kids: huge coloring sheets, lots of crayons, and little toy trucks!

Balleywood Creamery was at the brewery, too, and it was SO GOOD. There was a sorbet (peach this time) for my dairy-sensitive kid and I chose the not-too-hoppy caramel hop one. YUM!

We look forward to more sunny rides as the seasons change (finally!)