Archive | June 2018

Another day in the life during summer break

Well, I learned nothing from Monday and my plan to keep our days short while we acclimated to the long summer days. Yesterday we biked 16 miles over 7.5 hours…well, my 11-year old and I biked 16 miles, but my eight-year old biked almost 11 miles before hopping on my bike. My 11-year old has become such a little workhorse, that I might ride the tandem with his little brother for our next big day and feel safe that he won’t need to be carried at all. I used to pull him behind the tandem on a trailer bike, but he’s a bit big for that now.

The temperature would hit 90 degrees so we needed to play in water. There’s a small spray park by our house, but it’s not all that exciting, plus I really wanted to support the Occupy ICE PDX crowd. We brought our lunch to eat outside the building and discussed current events. One doesn’t need any sort of personal history with Nazis or immigration to appreciate the current horrors, but I was able to explain to my kids that while we personally don’t need to worry about being separated, my grandparents fled Nazi Germany and my mother’s first memory was her father hiding in he attic of their home in the Netherlands. These memories haunted her for her whole life — when her breast cancer metastasized and moved into her brain two years before she died, she began reliving their whispered conversations.

I made the mistake of posting to Twitter about our visit and had my first brush with Twitter trolls.

It’s hard not to feel hopeless these days; several things in my own life feel tough and out of my control and adding the news (I read the weekday emails from WTF Just Happened Today?, but try not to read too many duplicates on social media lest I get overwhelmed) can make it feel like living under a cloud. After seeing the amazing response to RAICES’ Reunite an immigrant parent with their child fundraiser and adding what I could, and making the decision to visit Occupy ICE PDX, it felt important to share more publicly, on Twitter, but I’ll stick to more quiet support again. However, I’m incredibly grateful for the more outspoken fighters out there.

After lunch with the protesters we visited Poet’s Beach. I’ve been a few times myself, though never when the river was low enough to reveal the sand, and the kids had never been before. They loved the poetry. Actually, too much. It was so hot out and they had to stop and read every rock on our way down the trail before I could run under the shade of the Marquam Bridge.

A guy walked his Big Dummy down to the sand to keep it near him, but we locked up at the racks above the beach and our bikes were undisturbed. The racks were in the shade for our whole visit, too.

Since we had a long ride home and it was still hot out, it seemed wise to swing by a spray park to remove all the sand next. The kids remembered Salmon Street Fountain from the Kidical Mass PDX bridges ride two years ago. They still love it.

Since we were just a block away from Mill Ends Park, the smallest park in the world, and it has a new sign, we stopped by there to visit.

The kids were hungry again so we opted to take the Hawthorne Bridge and go to Cartopia Food Truck Pod. Food truck pods are so convenient when we have Pixie in tow. And when the kids are so hungry they end up eating from two different trucks each–options! I was relieved to find water at Cartopia as we hadn’t happened upon any drinking fountains and were just about through our six water bottles by then. I don’t usually ride the Hawthorne Bridge with the kids, I try to stick to Tilikum Crossing and the Steel Bridge since there are no cars. But they did great and my little one loved the bike passing lane on the second half in the street…though he didn’t utilize it to pass me.

We didn’t get far after eating and took a rest break in Ladd’s Circle.

Then just as we started our slow ascent I got the “Mama, I need a lift!” request. I’m pretty sure a headwind hit us just then, too. Or maybe I was just tired. Or both.

I’m relieved it’ll be cooler for a while now and I’ll try again to work on gradually building up our summer hours.

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A day in the life during summer break

Yesterday was a fairly typical bikey day for summer break (or a weekend any time of year). I have a small list of things to do/places to visit over summer which includes the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden. We live very close to it and haven’t been yet, and it’s free on Mondays! (And only $5 for adults on non-Mondays.) And dogs are allowed! If I were biking there without the kids I’d just take the most direct route — the bike lane on a busy street, but we zig zagged through the neighborhood and then cut through Reed College. It made for a very nice ride, and I let Pixie out of the basket to run through Reed, starting at the “Dog Exercise Area” field where we enter the college.

The gardens were lovely, though past bloom time. It turns out people visit the gardens year round to see the ducks…which I realized when we ran into one of my younger son’s classmates hanging out on the nice lawn at Reed College whose mom said at least there are still some adolescent ducks in the pond. Fortunately she was wrong and there are lots of babies, too!

We saw a ton of bikes at the racks when we arrived (a summer camp?) but didn’t see a ton of people inside the park.

We also saw this smart idea: squirt bottle in drink cage. It was pretty hot today so I had water on the mind all day. The kids each had one water bottle and I brought two. But I should have filled all four of my drink cages so we’d have more backup. I don’t think there’s a drinking fountain at the rhododendron garden, and I think the only restroom are the three porta-potties out by the bike rack and parking lot.

Just visiting the garden didn’t seem like enough of a day so I combined it with lunch. Rather than climb back up through Reed College to get to a lunch place near home, it seemed to make sense to get over to the Springwater Corridor Trail and take that to the Cartlandia food truck pods. I didn’t bother pouring over route options at home like usual, but the default Google maps one wasn’t bad. We stuck to sidewalks for the fast streets and had to climb some small hills, but we discovered a new-to-us [small] playground on the way!

The Springwater Corridor Trail is terrific. The north/south section is closing for a while soon, but we usually use the east/west section.

And we popped out on the trail conveniently close to the restrooms and drinking fountain so I filled all our water bottles since Cartlandia has no water other than small plastic water bottles for purchase.

Once we got to the part with the gravel side path I let Pixie out again to run alongside.

We left her out to cross one road and roll into Cartlandia with us. Good girl!

Cartlandia is downhill from our house, but there are two ways to get home with very gentle grades. We chose the one that takes us by a playground to stop and play more. Barely on the way there my eight-year old developed a tummy ache and needed to be carried, but he was all better by the time we arrived at the park so Pixie and I hid in the shade while the kids played on the play structure and rode their bikes all over the park.

Unfortunately this park has no water (I think it’s broken and hopefully will be replaced at some point) so we ran out during our lengthy play break and stopped at another park to fill water bottles on the way home.

All in all it was a great way to kill six hours in only nine miles. Here’s our day in map form. It proved to be a pretty tiring day and we were all dragging today, especially Pixie and the eight-year old. I think our stamina will increase as summer break drags on, but in the meantime I might aim for shorter outings on the hot days.

Camping at Dash Point State Park via bike and bus from Seattle

I found a new bike camping spot near Seattle!

My full trip is posted on my Ride with GPS Ride Report: Bike camping at Dash Point State Park, but since day one could work well for a family (reversed to get back) I’ve got it on the blog here, with some extra kid stuff thrown in. Here’s my Ride with GPS recording of the trip and my Strava recording of the trip.

Once a month I deliver my kids to Seattle via Amtrak train so they can spend some quality time with their dad. Lately we’ve been leaving early enough that I can catch a train back home to Portland the same day. For these trips I carry them the eight miles to our train station on my cargo bike and leave it locked with every lock we own until I come back to it at night. When we haven’t been able to travel early enough for a same-day train I’ve brought a bike along and stayed at a friend’s house, but no one was staying in town for the three-day weekend. My friend invited me to stay at her house even though she’d be away, but that didn’t seem as fun as having her home (and to tell the truth, she lives around the corner from our old place and I wasn’t eager to climb my old hills now that I’m a grateful flatlander). I had the bright idea to camp overnight, but all my familiar spots didn’t seem to fit the bill very well. I love camping at Fay Bainbridge Park with the kids — the beach, play structure, and summer owl show are awesome. But without kids it can feel like a parking lot. And Illahee State Park Campground is closed for sewer repair work (and the Illahee Hiker/Biker sites are closed indefinitely for renovation). Manchester State Park, like the other two, relies on a ferry ride which didn’t seem like something that would pair well with rushing to the train in the morning.

A non-ferry spot close to Seattle I’d love to camp at someday is Tolt MacDonald, but it seemed quite far from the train station which led to my idea to check out campgrounds close to one of the next couple stations down, Tukwila or Tacoma.

Enter Dash Point State Park! I had to bring a bus-friendly bike to begin with, so I could bus with the kids to the Portland train station so I decided that rather than bike three hours to a new-to-me campground and arrive after dark I pedaled just a few blocks from Seattle’s King Street Station to catch Sound Transit 578 Seattle to Federal Way/Puyallup. Most Seattle buses have three slots on the bike rack, but the tour bus style Sound Transit coaches — like the 578 — only have two. One slot was already taken so I made it on the first 578 to arrive, phew. Otherwise I’d have had to wait 20 minutes for the next one. I’m not sure how to tell if a Sound Transit bus is a double bus with three bike slots or tall bus with two other than by looking it up in Google image search. Once on board my bus ride was one stop/30 minutes to the Federal Way Transit Center. If I were to do this with my kids, I’d need to be on my Brompton folding bike and carry it inside the bus (which holds more than my road bike anyway!) so we could fit their two bikes on the bus rack. We’d probably consider catching the bus upline, too.

The bus let me off next to a big shopping mall, The Commons at Federal Way. Bike lockers have been on my mind thanks to my last BikePortland column: Family Biking: Taking kids and bikes on MAX light rail and I notice Federal Way TC has bike lockers. They seem expensive, but you already have a locker card, stowing bikes full of camping gear in one and then hitting the mall for lunch and window shopping could work.

The mall is surrounded by busy roads with no bike markings of any sort so I opted to skirt around it on the wide sidewalk. It might be more fun to cut through the parking lot, depending on time of day. For a Friday evening I figured I was better off on the sidewalk, which had no one walking on it anyway. These sorts of sidewalks really seem more like multi-use paths. FYI, it’s legal to bike on the sidewalk here. Happily, a bike lane appeared as soon as I was beyond the mall.

I saw several route options in Google maps and opted for the slightly longer one since it utilized a trail, which seemed especially smart for a Friday evening. Car traffic at the start of any weekend, and especially a holiday weekend, can be a little unfriendly. This route was 7.7 miles/50 minutes while the shorter two were 6.2 and 6.4 miles/both 38 minutes.

The BPA Trail, named for the Bonneville Power Administration, is something else! I saw so many people on it! In wheelchairs, on skateboards, walking with bags of groceries, walking dogs, on bikes, jogging, bird watching. I stuck to the main paved trail, but there are multiple well-used parallel gravel trails. What a gem! If you have kids who are cool with walking a mile and then hiking, it’d be worth bus here without bikes: The Mountaineers: BPA Trail (“optional, short, dirt side trail goes to a lake in a wildlife refuge” !!! ). The Mountaineers call it “minimal elevation gain,” but I’m pretty sure my kids would consider it very uppy-downy.

A couple street crossing were tricky — I had to zoom way in on my saved Ride with GPS route map to figure out the trail continuation and I was thankful it wasn’t dark out yet. Also, some of the bollards at street crossings were a bit of a tight squeeze. On any ride I think about how it could work for any sort of bike and wide cargo bikes would have to be careful in these spots.

The roads after the BPA Trail had shoulders of varying width, but mostly wide. It was a pleasant ride. 5.5 miles of the way (out of 7.7 miles) I passed a shopping center (where Northshore Parkway and Hoyt Road SW meet) that would have yielded good options for sit-down dinner or grocery supplies. You’ll find it right after the “Welcome to Federal Way” sign where you probably just stopped for a photo op:

I love that Google Maps’ bike directions routed me into Dash Point State Park via a trail! I would not have loved this had it been darker, though. As it was, some of the tree canopy made it quite dark, but after dazzling a hiker with my bike light, I turned it off. This is definitely more of a walking path, but there was no “no bikes” sign so slow-moving bikes are OK. I was fine on my road bike with 25mm slick tires, even with some tree roots poking out here and there.

Dash Point State Park doesn’t have hiker/biker (a.k.a. primitive) sites which are $12 and not reservable, plus I felt safer paying ahead of time so I secured a $25 economy site that looked safely in the middle of everything. Some of the economy sites have space for two tents and the regular sites are only $5 more. I biked through the whole campground as I looked for my site and loved the look of the place! Large bathrooms with showers and sinks for washing dishes on the outside, a cute campfire area, and cute cabins. The sign near the other (real) entrance to the park said camping was full, and I saw tons of families with little kids, groups of happy teenagers, and even a French camper van.

Here’s some more about the park on Outdoor Project and TripAdvisor.

I didn’t visit the beach, but I know it’s great and well worth biking down and then back up the hill. Not that I’ve biked to it before, mind you, but when the kids were 2 years old and 3 weeks old and I had a car, I drove there for a day visit with friends.

Dash Point State Park beach nine years ago

Did I mention Pixie came, too? She was in my backpack the whole time.