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Vancouver, Canada with cargo bike by BoltBus

We’ve gone south to Portland four times with the cargo bike on BoltBus now, but this was our first time north to Vancouver, Canada! Lots of pictures below, but all the pictures on Flickr here.

Our day started with an 8:15 a.m. departure on Friday:


I didn’t realize our 10:00 a.m. BoltBus had started its journey down in Portland, Oregon, so it was already half full. Remember, if there’s not enough room for the bike, it doesn’t get to go…which means I’d either need to very quickly find somewhere safe for it and leave it behind or not get on the bus at all. Fortunately the driver saw my bike and instructed me to put it in the cargo hold before any of the bags went in. Phew! I’ve never had my bike turned away, but the possibility always makes me very nervous. Meanwhile, Amtrak Cascades only allows roll-on service to normal bikes, and boxed bikes must weigh 50 pounds or less so I’d need to separate my 76-pound bike into two boxes (assuming I knew how to take apart a bike and then put it back together). So once again, hooray for BoltBus making travel with a longtail possible!


The bus was full, but I was able to seat the kids next to one another and me right behind them. That ended up working very well–probably better than had I sat across the aisle from them. They happily chatted and drew and I just had to pass pencils and pens of the requested color forward every 10 seconds. And my seatmate had seven nieces and nephews and was happy to interact with the kids and chat with me. I was in the back row and at our 15-minutes stop in Bellingham, the kids had fun sitting in the way-back alcove:


I think I’ve noticed people sitting up there for the moving parts of the trip, and that would probably be pretty fun for kids. At ages eight and six the bus was a lot easier than our first time, but it’s still not as easy as the train.

Amtrak Cascade pros for travel with kids (and everyone?)

  • A dozen cars to walk through and get wiggles out!
  • Dining car with food for purchase (and seating for change of scenery).
  • So many potties! Including two very large handicapped stalls if you need to squeeze the whole family in at once.
  • Soap and water in the potties (versus just hand sanitizer on the bus).
  • Potable water in the dining car–our trip up was very hot and we drank all our water quickly (though this was my fault for not noticing the overhead vents! On the way home we put the air on and didn’t dehydrate, plus we found water fountains while crossing the border to refill–but there weren’t water fountains in the border-crossing room on our way up).

BoltBus pros

  • Fast customs clearing at the border crossing.

Our BoltBus was ahead of schedule on the way up (and only 10 minutes late on the way down), and the border crossing was a breeze–we drove through the smaller Blaine border crossing so although we didn’t get a view of the Peach Arch, we passengers unloaded with all our luggage (bikes got to stay in the cargo hold) and clear customs in a private room. A train will always generate a much longer line of passengers than a full bus.

And the bus arrives next to the train station so that’s convenient!


We stayed with my friend Tonya, who also has a Surly Big Dummy (so we’re basically family!), who met us at the train station and guided us home. But before that, getting off the train we watched a guy pull a folding bike out of the cargo hold and he realized we’d met on a group ride in Portland in December. He was able to navigate using his smart phone without having to pay for an international data plan thanks to the Maplets app (which I’ve just now installed).

I was so excited to show the kids the Trans Am Totem on our way from the train station (they loved it, too):


We stopped at Terra Breads and met up with Lisa of Spokesmama because we family bikers like to flock together. My kids became fast friends with the rest of the flock and I was intrigued by the variety of bikes as we hung out in Olympic Village Square: lots of road bikes, fast tandems and slow upright tandems, a BMX crew, little kids on bikes, and clunky old commuters.


I packed pretty light for the weekend, but realized something: my kids are getting heavy!

I think it’s partly due to the fact that we don’t bike daily right now. School is two blocks from home and we walk (it would take longer to bike!), and we generally don’t leave home after school…though now that the time has changed and it’s light later, we’ll start to do so. And I only have the kids every other weekend and don’t choose to carry a bunch of dead weight on my cargo bike on my non-parenting weekends. But also: they’re getting heavy!

Tonya offered to carry a kid at the train station and they both said no because they’re shy little ornery things, but after cookies at Terra Breads, my six-year old acquiesced. Yay! (Of course then the eight-year old said yes, too, and it nearly turned into an all-out brawl, but I got them to agree to take turns).


Then we biked to the MOST AMAZING STORE: Landyachtz. I thought Tonya was making a joke about cars, but they’re a Vancouver-based longboard brand! Tons of demo longboards, indoor skate park, bike repair, fancy coffee, oodles of pinball machines (including The Addams Family, my fave!!!!), and outdoor patio with lots of seating.





Landyachtz is on the Adanac Bikeway (Adanac = Canada backwards) so there were few cars and lots of bikes, making it was easy to test ride as many longboards as we wanted to.

Saturday was sunny! And cool. Big kid in the winter jacket was probably overly bundled and little kid in short sleeves runs weirdly warm, but I was just right in wool sweater and awesome new Canada v Mexico soccer scarf.


My big kid soon demanded his turn on Tonya’s bike and I was able to keep up with her and her son as we traveled along a terrific bike-friendly route across town. I visited alone 11 months ago and got to bike the excellent downtown Vancouver protected bike lanes with Tonya and Lisa so it was OK that we skipped any downtown action this visit. The traffic calming is amazing!






We soon arrived at Tandem Bike Cafe for my Urban Cycling book reading. The event was fun, and Tandem now has a copy of Urban Cycling in their library, or Vancouverites can purchase their own copies at Raincoast Books and MEC. And keep an eye on Spokesmama for a future giveaway.


Tonya secured a projector and screen for my presentation so of course we argued over who got to carry it home afterwards. She won and took the big screen, but at least I got the projector. (This is what cargo bikers do, we stubbornly fight over carrying all the stuff.)



We dropped the gear at home, did some kid- and bike-swapping and made for Plateau Park.


I got to see this park 11 months ago, but it was 99% done and surrounded by a fence. It was so great to share it with the kids this time.


Sunday started grey and drizzly, but 42 people gathered for the Vancouver Family Biking Easter Bonnet Ride! Read Lisa’s #YVRFamilyBiking Easter Bonnet Ride Recap on Spokesmama.



The clouds blew away and left us with gorgeous blue skies, but it stayed windy along the water. Our route was amazingly pleasant with multi-use paths, bike trails, separated bike lanes, and quiet streets.






Our destination was the Wild rabbits of Jericho Beach because Easter! We only saw a couple bunnies, possibly because they sensed the eagle watching us all from a nearby tree.

After the ride we hit Granville Island. We visited the island five summers ago (by car), but the kids didn’t remember it. The spray park was open our previous visit and I think the play structure was different and bigger. Still awesome, though!


And then back to the bus. For travel away from Vancouver, one gets to BoltBus through the train station which is nicer than standing out on the street like in Seattle and Portland. Our border crossing was quick again, but our driver reminded us several times to have our papers filled out and worried aloud it might take a long time, so maybe it’s not always fast. There was also a border control agent who pre-checked all our stuff while we were waiting in line, looking for problems. It’s interesting how differently things work on one side of the border than the other. When driving in years past, I’ve been impressed by the signs to turn off engines and the convenient holding areas to move cars efficiently towards the crossing on the Canadian side versus the inching-forward traffic jam on the U.S. side. But it’s been a while so maybe it’s better now.


The 5:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. bus ride home was not as easy for the kids as the 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. ride up, but we made it! Pulled in at 9:10-ish, loaded up at 9:18 and home a bit over an hour later.



All in all, an awesome time! We’ll visit again in the summer. But it’s tempting to travel by city bus to the train and borrow or rent a bike or bikes in Vancouver. We’ll see.

Longtail cargo bike on BoltBus

I’ve traveled to Portland from Seattle via BoltBus before (three round trips!), but it’s been over two years. BoltBus can accommodate a longtail cargobike if there’s room whereas Amtrak Cascades only allows regular bikes weighing under 50 pounds (so my 75-pound longtail would need to go into two separate boxes to travel on the train. And Amtrak Coast Starlight doesn’t allow roll-on service so all bikes need to travel in boxes). But the train takes $5 bike reservations so when I have a choice, I choose to take a regular bike on the train. This trip was originally scheduled to be an Amtrak trip with regular bike, but I ended up needing to bring the big bike (though I was traveling without the kids) so I switched things up at the last moment and did some breathing exercises to prepare myself for the eventuality that there might not be room…BoltBus is awesome, but BoltBus makes me nervous!

First up, pedal down memory lane of previous BoltBus trips:
July 2013 for DRT (and recap of the DRT event), August 2013 for Fiets of Parenthood, and January 2014 to go to the Islabikes warehouse.

And here’s the Flickr gallery of 84 photos from this trip.

Traveling solo meant for a lot less luggage (and a ton less snacks) than previous cargo bike/BoltBus trips: the blue bag on my FlightDeck contains three days worth of clothing, the black messenger bag contains my laptop and rain gear, and the big blue thing in the FreeLoader bag on the side of my bike is my longboard skateboard because why not? It’s hard not to fill up that free cargo space.


Loading went well! The bus was half empty so the driver let me have the middle of three luggage bays to myself (and later had standby passengers fill in around it). I had stripped my bike down of all easily removed bits (Hooptie rails from the sides, two-bike tow hitch from the back) so the widest thing behind the handlebars was my Rolling Jackass centerstand…which scraped horribly as a shoved it into the bus and a kind woman helped me lift and shove–a first! In retrospect, I should have used the skateboard to help roll it in…that’s how I’ve always moved furniture around the house, after all!


Not that I come to Portland for the weather, but I’ll admit I prefer when it’s not wet and not cold. I checked my favorite app, Dark Sky (I don’t usually purchase apps, but this is totally worth $3.99, and no, I don’t want to learn to read a free weather map) and knew I’d have ten dry minutes upon arrival. Unfortunately I wasted many of those minutes loading my bike back up and then posing for my TimerCam Pro app (also worth paying for–$1.99) on my favorite bridge, Tilikum Crossing.


My aim was a bit off–I thought I was pinching the words “TILIKUM CROSSING”. Also, it hailed a little while I was standing there so I arrived to Rivelo quite bedraggled, which isn’t the best way to present oneself the day before a book reading about urban cycling (including lots of information about rain gear!).

I continued my rounds, popping in at Islabikes (such great kid bikes!) and Clever Cycles, where I got my rear brake tightened up and my broken front-wheel stabilizer replaced (with the last Hebie one in America! Well, maybe. Probably.)…which made shoving the bike into the BoltBus on the way home quite a bit easier (no scraping RJ as the handlebars tracked in level).

And then the reason for bringing the longboard…
I met up with Ginger of Biking While Fashionable (psst, they’ve also taken a Big Dummy on BoltBus) to check out PDX Dance Dance Revolution Session #1, a longboard skateboard dance party. They intend for it to be a weekly event, Fridays 5:30 p.m. at Alberta City Park. I got to carry one of the two kids there, which was awesome, because it’s silly to have that big deck with no people or bookcases on it.

Later on, I fetched my Seattleite friend, Alyssa, from the final train of the day–she, too, left her kids behind, but also left longtail behind, thus the train rather than bus.

And the next morning we had SUN! Look at that!


And this was why I brought the big bike…I met with Laura and Russ of Path Less Pedaled to be part of a video about longtail cargo bikes for Clever Cycles. Super fun! I needed multiple takes, but my bike and book got it right the first time. Natural stars!


Last time I was down in Portland with my Surly Straggler (a normal-sized bike I took on Amtrak), I Instagrammed a picture of the bike on Car2Go bike rack because Portland has bike racks on Car2Go and no one else does. The crowd went wild! So this time we took a silly photo of my way-too-big Big Dummy on a rack. Totally doesn’t work.


And then on to the other main purpose of the visit, Urban Cycling book reading at Rivelo! Rivelo is such a cool shop. Lots of my friends ride gorgeous Rivendell bikes and they carry tons of cool smaller items, too. I got my first-ever pocket knife last visit (which I used on a recent bike daytrip I intend to blog about soon) and this time I got a John’s Irish Strap, named after John Bennett of Rivelo.

The reading was fun! And there are signed copies of the book at Rivelo still so go grab one! They make terrific gifts, wonderful for your interested-in-biking-but-not-sure-how-to-get-started friends just in time for spring and Bike Month.

Photo by @kelleyas

Photo courtesy @kelleyas

On Sunday, Shawn Granton of Urban Adventure League took me on a tour of North Portland (thanks Shawn!). The tour outlasted my Garmin battery by a teensy bit, but here’s 20 miles of NoPo fun, including a little Statue of Liberty, Skidmore Bluffs, Kelley Point Park, the street above the off-road section of 2013 Portland DRT (spot of possibly my favorite photo ever, by @mybagisbigger), Chimney Park/Pier Park, and Cathedral Park under the St Johns Bridge.


The BoltBus trip back to Seattle the following morning was the smoothest one yet. There were a lot of people waiting to board which made me a little nervous, but the bus driver saw my bike and cheerfully told me to load it before anyone else shoved in their bags. Wow, that was a first!

And soon enough I was back home, to a land where the drawbridges raise much more often. Oh, there’s one now…


Future trips:
The kids and I plan to take BoltBus and the longtail up to Vancouver for Easter weekend, but it’s too early to book yet…another benefit of Amtrak and its much more advance calendar. And I’d like to visit Portland during Pedalpalooza for the first time, maybe once with kids and cargo bike on BoltBus and once with no kids and regular bike on Amtrak.

Cargo bike on BoltBus

I never thought I’d see the day–my big bike, down in Portland!

Big Dummy in Portland

Previous trips have been on Amtrak with the small bike, but now that BoltBus is in the Pacific Northwest, anything that fits in the luggage bay is welcome. The experience is quite different than taking Amtrak Cascades, but it’s cheap and it worked!

Bike at BoltBus

The bus picked us up on the east side of Union Station, right where S King St runs into 5th Ave S. A northbound BoltBus was at the curb so it was apparent where to go, but otherwise there was no signage or attendant. My ticket confirmation suggested I show up 15 minutes early and I think that’s because there’s not much one can do before that time. We all milled around until our bus arrived and then awkwardly milled around more, not knowing what to do. Eventually, we all rushed at the luggage bays to shove our stuff in. I heard someone describe the experience as “You get what you pay for” and it is indeed cheap, but the driver was very nice and when he noticed my bike, he cleared out one of the luggage bays (the whole bay! I felt a guilty I was given so much room!) and then helped me lift in the bike.

Here’s a picture of the bike in the luggage compartment before I put my small wheelie bag on top of it. I removed the Yepp seat and shoved it alongside to make the bike lighter and smaller, but it looks like it would have fit even with the seat in place. I also removed the WideLoader and stowed that inside a FreeLoader bag, but that may have fit on the upper side of the bike as well. Either way, it’s easier to manipulate with fewer poking-out appendages.

Bike in BoltBus

As for on board the BoltBus, my main takeaway was: it’s much smaller than the train. Duh. It looks so big from outside, but once we were confined to our seats and surrounded by extremely quiet people, it felt very very small. A four-hour train trip with little kids is long, but it’s helpful to fill the time by walking repeatedly to the dining car for a change of scenery. And the train seats have that useful table. I thought the bus would have seat-back tray tables like an airplane, but we only had a drink holder by our feet. So we didn’t bother with coloring and made do looking out the windows. Everyone else seemed to be traveling solo so all the chatter was from us: “Mama! Mama! Cement mixer truck!” and “Ooh! Train tracks!”

But we survived. The women behind me declared the children excellent travelers. She must like construction equipment, too, I guess. And we arrived 20 minutes early.

I neglected to plan our first afternoon in town, so out of habit we headed directly to Clever Cycles. I figured I could wheel my luggage-laden bike inside and the kids could play on the Lego table while I checked out the pretty bikes. We were in town for the Disaster Relief Trials and I discovered one of the bike mechanics was building himself a Stokemonkeyed Xtracycle EdgeRunner to compete in the e-assist class. He did his best to scare me. Or maybe he didn’t mean to scare me with his “Oh yeah, last year I was like you and thought civilian class was just going to be a fun ride with friends. It wasn’t. Not at all. So hard.” Nice guy.

Clever Cycles

Fortunately, Clever Cycles didn’t have a Nihola cargo trike on the floor so we didn’t have to do any test riding. The kids just love the window on the front of that bike–specifically to test ride with the big stuffed doggie in the shop because it is SO FUNNY to have that stuffed dog looking out the window. And between the potty breaks and pep-talking mechanic I made playground plans.

We found Kath and her bakfiets at Grant Park and check out her snazzy new Radio Flyer wagon canopy:

Kath's bakfiets canopy

I wish I’d taken a picture without my bike in front, but here’s the whole thing, sort of:

Kath's bakfiets with canopy

And just to throw one only-in-Portland thing at you: Slappy Cakes for brunch the following day, which even on Friday had an hour-long wait. Yes, that’s a hot griddle right in the middle of the the table. Amazingly, only one finger was burned in the brunch-making process when the three-year old tried to reposition a strawberry, poor little guy. They had fun; I was a nervous wreck the entire meal.

Slappy Cakes

30 Days of Biking 2018: Day Seven

It’s April! That means 30 Days of Biking and biking every day and hopefully blogging about it each day.

Super exciting day with my Big Dummy on the back of a van!!!

It’s been on a van once before — to the Iron Horse Trail — and it’s been in the BoltBus several times, but it still feels novel to transport it anywhere. Sarah of Cordilleran Tours has a Drayton Solutions “Hitch Mounted Eight Bicycle Folding Bike Rack” that held my Big Dummy. There wasn’t a lot of clearance…but there was enough!

We drove an hour to Vista House in the Columbia River Gorge to meet up with Jerry Zelada (of Safe Routes to Groceries as well as many other awesome things) to shoot some video for his upcoming Gorge Pedal:

The Fire is Gone.

Bring your Bicycle Legs and Families to the First Gorge Pedal Ride.

Come Back to the Gorge. Wake up your Senses and Mind.

See & Hear how the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area is rebounding after the 2017 50,000 acre fire.

Experience first hand seeing the Gorge’s rebirth on both the Historic Columbia River Trail & Highway.

Meet passionate people who present the Botany, the Geology, and the Native American perspective. Listen to Ambassadors/Advocates of the trails and history of the Gorge.

Enjoy Dave’s Killer Cinnamon bread, Fresh Salmon lunches, and other goodies along the rides.

Biking by Shepperd’s Dell Falls. Photo courtesy Sarah Gilbert, Cordilleran Tours

Right now the Historic Columbia River Highway is only open from Chanticleer to the Angel’s Rest trailhead, but Gorge Pedal isn’t until August 25th and by then it will be reopened for the 12-mile family ride and 46-mile cardio ride. Bike: Surly Big Dummy.

Despite forecasts for lots of rain and high winds all day long, we were incredibly lucky for filming in the Gorge. But the rain came to Portland in the afternoon and I spent four hours saying “I’m leaving in five minutes to go grocery shopping” before I finally mustered the energy to go out into the wind and rain for a five-minute pedal to the store. It wasn’t all that bad. I parked under an overhang, but I’m not sure what that motorcycle in my photo was doing on the sidewalk in front of the grocery store. He was a jerk and got in an argument with a homeless man trying to stay dry outside the store before revving his engine right by the front doors. Bike: Surly Big Dummy.

April trips tracked on Strava
Today’s miles: 9.01
Total April miles: 166.93

Biking in Downtown Seattle with Kids

Monday morning the kids and I escorted Russ and Laura of The Path Less Pedaled to their BoltBus and found ourselves downtown with three bikes, no school, and unexpected great weather. I don’t really like biking downtown with the kids so we don’t do it often. I prefer to bike “scary” places as one unit, either on the Big Dummy or tandem + trailer bike, but during non-peak hours it can be fun to be on three separate bikes…though we resort to quite a bit of slow sidewalk riding.


…but first, here are my photos from the kid-free weekend with Russ and Laura. And allow me to confirm that the breakfast burritos at TNT Taqueria are excellent. And our evening burritos mentioned in VLOG 027 were from Rancho Bravo. Seattle: not just coffee.

“VLOG 026 – Cranksgiving Seattle – Day 2 Part A” is the best of the Path Less Pedaled videos because Pixie gets the most airtime:

but VLOG 025 – Bikey Seattle Day 1 and VLOG 027 – Bikes Bikes Bikes in Seattle! are also great.

Back to the family biking stuff…
Our first stop was 5.5 blocks to Back Alley Bike Repair. I thought we had done a combo of street and sidewalk, but my Strava recording makes it look like we stuck to the sidewalk the whole way. Jackson Street has streetcar rails and can be pretty busy. At the bike shop I looked into replacing lost gloves and stolen helmet, but didn’t make any purchases. The kids signed the shop copy of “our” book, URBAN CYCLING: How to Get to Work, Save Money, and Use Your Bike for City Living. Fun fact, even the page that looks like it’s signed by me isn’t–it’s been forged by (outsourced to?) Stevil Kinevil.


Then we rode a whopping 1.5 blocks to the Klondike Gold Rush Museum and National Historical Park. I thought we had stuck to the sidewalk since it was so close and on our side of the street (and rails), but Strava says we took to the road so I guess that’s what we did. It’s all flat down here, by the way, which makes it easier riding in the road with kids, knowing we can move along at normal speed and not uphill crawl speed. It’s a great little FREE museum, by the way. We spent a lot of time this visit and learned much more than last time. The kids were game to sit through the 25-minute movie, something they usually don’t have the patience for.


Then we went 16 in-street blocks (16!) and one park block through Occidental Square to get to Westlake Park for a snack and playground break. This took us along the 2nd Ave Cycletrack. I let my speedy seven-year old zoom ahead since he knows to wait at intersections. If there weren’t so many people in cars who either don’t notice or ignore the NO RIGHT ON RED arrows (we saw two such people today) I would have urged him to go through ahead of me. While stopped at a red light at 2nd and University I pointed out the silhouette for Sher Kung–one of 240 placed around Seattle on Sunday for World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims. We attended the memorial ride for Sher Kung two years ago, which was the reverse of this part of our route (Westlake Park to Occidental Park). The kids sat on the Big Dummy that day and we felt safe in the company of hundreds of other bikes, but I wouldn’t have let them bike downtown on their own back then.


From the end of the 2nd Avenue Cycletrack we biked two blocks of Pike in the street. As you can see, I took the Big Dummy just in case either (or both) kid wanted a lift, but I got lucky and didn’t have to tote anyone.


Fun times at Westlake Park and the Holiday Carousel looks ready to go in a few days. The kids aren’t currently carousel fans so we won’t come back down for it.



From Westlake Park we rode the sidewalk for 10 blocks: a block of 5th alongside Westlake Center to cut across McGraw Square and stick to the sidewalk of Westlake until the street car rails peeled off. FYI, BUS ONLY is for bikes, too. Then we got back on the sidewalk for the last block of Westlake between Mercer and Valley because it’s a mess.


And then that long glorious stretch of the Westlake Bikeway. I learned that the yellow strip I thought was a divider between bikeway and sidewalk is actually a bike bridge between hot lava and piranha-filled river! It also looks like an effective way to avoid the carpet tacks.


There’s also a new trick called “The Limbo”…but also sometimes called “The Limo”. Pedal fast to build up speed and then coast past your mom like this:


We stopped for sushi in Fremont, then biked home at 4:30 in the dark (ugh, yes, dark at 4:30 p.m. way up here). We ride three sidewalk blocks up from the Burke-Gilman Trail before we can ride a couple street blocks. Yahoo for those sidewalk blocks this time because they brought us face to face with a new cat! He’s super friendly and the kids have named him Fluffy Star Nightmare.


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!

3 Reasons to Ride a Longtail with Madi Carlson – video for Clever Cycles

This was the video Path Less Pedaled shot with me for Clever Cycles during my BoltBus visit to Portland last month.

I hope it’s common knowledge that I love all types of cargo bikes and strongly believe that you can’t go wrong. If you’re drawn to a certain bike–even for inexplicable reasons–go for it! Odds are you won’t regret it, but if you do, bikes are certainly a lot easier to resell and try again than are cars.

That said, I LOVE LONGTAILS. Especially my own Surly Big Dummy. For all the reasons stated in the video. These days, I’m quite fond of their “LONG-evity ;)” referred to at 0:58 in the video. It’s easy for me to fit two (or three if I find an extra) kids on my deck as well as carry along their two bikes. With room for additional stuff in the cargo bags and our doggie in the front basket. That’s not to say longjohns can’t do this, too (especially with the Caddyrack rear rack by Cycletrucks), but longtails are exceptionally good at it.

Like the more-well-spoken version of me in the video says, Clever Cycles has a big selection of longtails and other cargo bikes (and folding bikes…and kid bikes…and plain old regular bikes…and kid play corner…and kid-friendly restroom) if you’re in or visiting Portland.

Biking in Eugene, Oregon

I just spent a wonderful weekend in the amazingly bike-friendly Eugene, Oregon. I took the train–Amtrak Cascades allows roll-on bike service for $5 (reserve ahead of time to guarantee a bike spot). The trip is six and a half hours and is often early (my train was 20 minutes early, even with some fire alarm business and the forced detraining of a bathroom cigarette smoker in the middle of nowhere–Amtrak doesn’t mess around!). One can also take BoltBus between Seattle and Eugene, but I think it might be seasonal…I can see bookable trips in February when I click around now, but I wasn’t able to find trips back when I was booking this visit. We’ve taken the cargo bike on BoltBus to Portland, but it’s an as-space-allows thing when it comes to bikes so I prefer Amtrak and the guaranteed bike spot (though cargo bikes aren’t allowed).


Saturday morning I kicked off the day with an Urban Cycling book reading at Arriving By Bike™, a terrific and super-friendly family-owned bike shop. It was a good-sized crowd, especially for 9am on a Saturday. I should have taken a photo from the front, but I was a little busy talking about how much I love biking so check out these snaps by Kent Peterson:

After the reading, Shane MacRhodes, creator of Kidical Mass, led a group bike ride. I cannot tell you how exciting it was for me to be in the birth city of Kidical Mass! Not to mention seeing several friends who live down here, including the aforementioned Kent Peterson who recently moved down from Issaquah, and my friend Victor who just moved down from my neighborhood. They both seem to have found heaven on earth in Eugene.


I met Shane in Seattle when he taught my League Cycling Instructor class, but I hadn’t seen his striking Bike Friday Haul-a-Day cargo bike in person before now.


And since his trailer bike is a Burley Piccolo like mine, I was able to borrow it and one of his kids! (Kid was more stoked than photo lets on.)


There was quite a bit of kid shuffling and at one point, they were all three on separate bikes. So fun!

Photo by Sally Hunt

Photo by Sally Hunt

The amazing weather made our trip along roads and trails, across the river and back, all the more enjoyable. Just look at that sun!

Photo by Sally Hunt

Photo by Sally Hunt


Seattleite Neil Hodges paid a bike visit to Eugene a week ahead of mine and I was inspired his photos to check out some of the same places and same murals. Kent Peterson shared The Murals of Eugene on Twitter so I got a nice preview.

I got the idea to take note of murals after the Kidical Mass group ride when I rode with Sally Hunt to Bike Friday and decided we should recreate Neil’s photo.

Photo by Sally Hunt

Photo by Ron Hunt

Much of their showroom fleet was over at the fairgrounds for the Eugene Home Show, but there was still plenty to see and the first question as we entered was, “Are you here to test ride?”

By the way, many of my friends in Eugene have Bike Fridays. I love the hometown pride!

Sunday I went back by Arriving By Bike™ to sign the remaining books and my friend Maritess, also down from Seattle, humored me with a photo by ABB’s mural. See, too, ABB from the outside:

IMG_4699 IMG_4694

Another mural at Sundance Natural Foods, Victor’s favorite grocery store:


And two on the way to the train station, a block after the Ninkasi Brewery on the left, and at Morning Glory Cafe across the street from the train station (with awesome bike rack I want to climb!) on the right:

IMG_4725 IMG_4726

Had Sunday not been so drizzly, there would have been even more mural stops.

Bicycle Infrastructure

Saturday’s group ride took two of the five (I think) walking-and-biking-only bridges across the Willamette River. The trails (a.k.a. multi-use paths) and car-free bridges are awesome.

Then on Sunday Maritess on her folding Brompton and I on my non-folding Surly Straggler biked around with Eugenians Jolene and Victor on their folding Bike Fridays.


Near University of Oregon we used the two-way cycletrack and I hear there are more to come:


I also quite liked this covered cut-through:


The City of Eugene has a Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan and a Pedestrian & Bicycle Strategic Plan Update, but also some pushback from a couple businesses on much needed bike lanes. I’m not sure I’ll see any new developments come May, but Eugene is currently pretty great to bike around.


My photos aren’t worth sharing and I didn’t see any of the promised deer, but on Saturday I saw a nutria with Sally! I found this very exciting because I didn’t know they lived out here–I’ve only seen then in New Orleans (where they’re called jokingly “cajun chicken”).

The nutria sighting was right in town alongside a bike trail by a small river, but uphill towards Victor’s house we saw wild turkeys! And stopped a car to let them cross the street. I hear there’s a cougar in his neighborhood, but we didn’t see it.

Riding home through Amazon Park Saturday night I heard what I thought were crickets from far away, and then assumed was a burglar alarm as I got closer. Turns out it was bullfrogs! I don’t know if they were extra loud for the full moon, but they were deafening.


Next time!

I cannot wait to come back to Eugene. A weekend is not enough time to do it all.

I’ll be back on Friday May 20th to be part of the University of Oregon LiveMove presentation series. And hang around for Bike Month activities through the weekend. I missed out on seeing the Center for Appropriate Transport so that’s at the top of my list of things to do.

And once school lets out, the kids and I will come down for a longer visit. We’ll probably travel by train without a bike and rent a cargo bike upon arrival, but perhaps we’ll take the Big Dummy on BoltBus or three separate bikes on the train…but I think we’re still a couple years away from them being in charge of all their own pedaling–I worry about the trip to and from the Seattle train station as well as an entire weekend in an unfamiliar city.

Portland Fiets of Parenthood 2014

Two years ago we took Amtrak Cascades to Portland with the old mamabike for Fiets of Parenthood, last year we BoltBused with the Big Dummy, and this year we drove the car with the old mamabike, trailer, and kid bikes. More bikes, less green.


After nearly six years with the old mamabike (Bianchi Milano city bike), I finally invested in a SunLite Adjustable Cross Bar Bicycle Adapter for Rear Car Rack to make the step-through frame fit on the car rack more easily. It’s great! I’ve only put the bike on the car a few times, but it’s worth it to keep it level and secure. I was able to squeeze the 20-inch kid bike on the rack, too, and the single Burley trailer rode shotgun (I was able to break it down even more and shove it in the trunk for the ride home) and the 16-inch kid bike in the trunk.



We set out Friday at 10 so traffic wasn’t bad and were just a little late to join the PDX Cargo Bike Gang at the Eb & Bean artisan frozen yogurt shop.


The bakfiets belongs to Kath of Portlandize and we rode to a park together after marionberry yogurt with sprinkles (that’s what I had, anyway). I discovered since my last visit tons of traffic lights have a tiny blue dot (next to the red light, hopefully you can see it) to indicate one’s bicycle has triggered the light to change. Amazing! The little bike icon at the bottom of the photo below is where one places her wheel to trigger the light and indicator.


Portland is the best in America when it comes to bicycle infrastructure, but I experienced a couple problems. I encountered a salmoning (heading against traffic) skateboarder in the protected bike lane near the Convention Center. He didn’t notice us until the last moment, but was easy enough to dodge. Much worse was a guy that pulled his car over in front of us to park in the protected bike lane to take a picture of this movie marquee–but a couple hours before this picture when it read:


Ah, Portland. I could have squeezed around his car, but figured he’d be quick enough so we stopped and waited so he’d notice us and feel bad and hopefully think twice about obstructing a bike lane in the future. Bringing a bit of the passive-aggressive Seattle style to town.


After Dawson Park, I parted ways from Kath to visit the Islabikes warehouse and crash my friend, Alyssa’s, appointment for her daughter to test ride. Both my kids have Islabikes and we LOVE them. I’ll write about them for real at some point, but in the meantime, read this super-informative Two Wheeling Tots: Islabikes Beinn 20″ Small review.


While we were inside the warehouse I saw the strangest sight out the back door–some sort of vehicle piled with 300 wooden chairs followed by a longjohn holding a couch.


Unsurprisingly, it was Emily Finch ferrying over a bunch of furniture for the Disaster Relief Trials afterparty. I had hoped to see her new Metrofiets this week (replacing her stolen bakfiets), but it’s not quite ready so she was on her Christiania cargo trike and followed by her eldest daughter on a borrowed Bullitt.


We rounded out our big day with a dip in the hotel pool and the Disaster Relief Trials pre-party at Velo Cult. A few people didn’t recognize me since I didn’t have my regular bike along, heh.


Fiets of Parenthood Day

Saturday was action-packed with Fiets of Parenthood and DRT sharing space. This year’s DRT had a competitive Open Class and a new Replenish Class that was to be completed with a child along and was only (only!) 15 miles. My original plan waybackwhen was to try Open Class…but then Replenish Class with both kids sounded easier to make happen…but once I decided to drive with the small bike it became apparent just Fiets of Parenthood would be best. Speedy DRT Replenish Class participants were able to do both DRT and Fiets, but I didn’t think I’d be fast enough for that, and certainly not fast enough for the kids to do Kids Fiets before I did Parent Fiets.

We started with a Kidical Mass ride with the Marleaus, in town from Northern California. Peter won Fiets of Parenthood on his Brompton last year. We met near the Hawthorne Bridge, but rather than take a direct one-mile trip over that bridge, we did a three-mile jaunt via the Steel Bridge which we all deemed more kid friendly.


We headed over early to watch the start of DRT. Here’s Kath taking off with Replenish Class:


And shortly thereafter, the start of Open Class:


Longboard skateboarder (with cargo trailer) Cory Poole showed me his map and said the course looked tough:


Below is a picture of him setting off. Just as he started skating, someone ran up and handed him a GoPro on a stick. He later told me he was asked to record the first leg since he was the only hands-free competitor. Very generous–it can’t have been easy! But my favorite moment of the start was happening in the background: Joyanna, my DRT partner in crime last year finished stowing stuff in her red-and-yellow trailer and then helped her friend get her helmet on so they could have a speedier start. What teamwork!


And cargo dogs! First I saw this shortie (corgi?) in a longjohn:


And later Rando Awesome showed up in a lofty ride. I met him last DRT in a sidecar on a BMX bike, but he’s too awesome for just one bike:


The Fiets of Parenthood course was tough! First up: raised, twisty track with very narrow bridge over hot lava. Most of the kids shuffle-stepped across it, but I had to put a foot down to help drag my trailer back up on the track. Ouch, it burned!


Then slaloming through cones:

Photo courtesy Kelly Williams

Photo courtesy Kelly Williams

Two heavy grocery bags, a ramp just wide enough for my trailer, the dropped toy retrieval, and new this year: FIRE EXTINGUISHING!


Then a new enormous teeter totter (not pictured) and the also-new woop-di-doo, shown here with last year’s winner, Peter Marleau. On one of my two practice runs I got a little off-center and dropped the trailer off the side, but we got it right for showtime.


But this year’s winner was the other Marleau, Kristi!! Behind her is Andy, who made all the course pieces, and Cafe Mama Sarah Gilbert was the hostess-with-the-mostess emcee again.


I didn’t note the kid results, but here are the Parent Fiets times. Two minutes and five seconds of the most fun ever!


And back to DRT stuff…here’s Zak, visiting from Temecula, coming in from the Replenish Class. He has a Metrofiets at home, but he’s borrowing Metrofiets framebuilder Phillip Ross’s for the event:


And the Open Class winning bike was a custom Bike Friday longtail. Or maybe it’s a midtail. It’s similar to the amazing Haul-a-Day midtail, newly available to the public.


The DRT after-party at Islabikes was hopping…despite adequate seating thanks to Emily and daughter. The caliber of the temporary bike parking in the rear parking lot was amazing. I wish I had thought to ask where all the racks came from. Good bike watching, too! I love this Bullitt with a grocery store shopping cart body as its cargo box. Part of “Team Beer” according to a sticker on the frame. Go Team Beer!


And I wish I’d seen this Perennial split frame in motion–just look at it! Is that U-lock even doing anything? I’m so confused by the whole thing. But I like it.


I also got my first in-person look at Michelle’s DIY sunshade on her Xtracycle EdgeRunner


The kids were kept busy riding the test track. It’s normally made of bike boxes, but Islabikes had borrowed a bunch of cones (dirty ones, I think they had been part of a mountain-bike- or off-season cyclocross race) which worked better for multiple bikers at once. And Olive Rootbeer and Dingo rode up on their tall bikes to wow the kids with their clown skills, storytime, and balloon twisting.



The following day I took the Hawthorne Bridge to Clever Cycles and the true meaning of the new bollards sunk in. I thought they were excessive because cars have always waited for me here–maybe even too much…on our first visit a car stopped for me when I was quite far back from the intersection and had to awkwardly wait for close to a minute while I made my way uphill to the crossing. At first I thought maybe this was to prevent weird over-waitings like that, but it’s really to add this passing lane!


By the way, the guy on the longtail that passed me complimented my bike and I resisted the urge to say, “But I have a longtail, too, at home!” and just thanked him. It’s hard not to dis the old mamabike when the new mamabike is such a cargo-carrying queen.


And then the temporary bike lane next to the road construction! In Seattle this would have probably been a BIKES MERGE WITH TRAFFIC sign. I think they might not even make those signs in Portland.


At Clever Cycles I saw a half-a-Hooptie! I’ve been thinking about doing this myself. They said quite a few customers have done this and like it. I want to preserve easy access to my FlightDeck for a kid to hop off and push the walk button at intersections without loop detectors (maybe not an issue in Portland with all those little blue lights) and because I like sitting on my deck and I don’t fit in the full Hooptie. Others roll this setup so they can use the removed rail as a step rather than buy a set of U-tubes.


I believe that was our third visit to Clever Cycles of our four-day stay. This day I had a front-wheel stabilizer put on so it’s not all just using their kid-friendly potty and rendezvousing with friends. We also paid a third visit to Islabikes to get a rear rack for the 20-inch bike. Now to find some little panniers for it. I hear front rack panniers fit well. It seems like a sign I should put a front rack on one of my bikes so we can share bags. More cargo!


The test track cones were already gone, but the bike boxes weren’t back up yet so the kids made do in the parking lot.


This was my first time dragging a trailer around Portland and it worked OK. Parking such a long rig was a bit tricky in certain spots, but everything worked well. My four-year old rode in the Bobike maxi rear seat and my seven-year old in the trailer. The main thing I noticed was how quiet our rides were. The seven-year old couldn’t see all the interesting stuff from the bridges and when he did want to tell me something, we had to play telephone with my incomprehensible four-year old passing along the message. It was pretty fun.

It was nice being able to fit all our bikes in the elevator and hotel room; I have to valet the Big Dummy. I got pretty adept at squishing the bike/trailer into the elevator just so. It was a tight squeeze, but not tight enough that other hotel guests didn’t squish in with us most rides. I guess that’s a sign we don’t look scary.


I still can’t believe I figured out the trailer breakdown and putting-back-together. The kids took a picture of my allen-key-and-wrench technique for disengaging the trailer from the bike. I’d like to get one of those easy pins for it, but I don’t know if we use it often enough to warrant it.


Bye Portland, love ya!!


TBT: Portland Fiets of Parenthood 2013

I should be packing for our trip to Portland for Fiets of Parenthood 2014, but instead I’m looking at pictures from last year’s Fiets of Parenthood because it that’s much more fun. Here’s my Flickr album of all 167 pictures!

Headed for the BoltBus to Portland

We headed down by BoltBus with my Big Dummy and had an action-packed visit: hanging with Kath of Portlandize, biking with Andy to see Olive Rootbeer and Dingo (this was before Olive’s bike was stolen and recovered), playdate-ing with Elisabeth from Seattle, joining part of the group ride to Trek in the Park (the part before it went uphill), and all that before Fiets!

We joined the Kidical Mass ride to Fiets and volunteered to be the caboose. It was a huge group and we hung back with the sweetest little pedaler and his family. He was quite the trouper and refused my offers of a lift until after we had gone up and over the Hawthorne Bridge. The rest of the Mass was gathered, waiting for us on the Waterfront Trail and several other cargo bikers tried to get in on my action. I explained to them I had called dibs, plus I was the caboose who had hung back with him (happily, mind you) the whole time, so I finally got to collect kid and bike. He came up to me a bit later and invited me to his birthday party; his mom said that’s his way of saying thank you.

Three kids on my bike at Fiets of Parenthood 2013

My kids were on the course a lot. I borrowed bikes so they could ride the kiddie event, then they rode with me, and then they rode with Chele to earn her some extra points (extra points for each extra kid). She tipped the bakfiets and they were fine, like “Hurry, hurry, hurry, give us the cargo and get rolling!” Yes, they’re used to being tipped over. Bad for my pride, good for Fiets. Chele wins my Fan Favorite vote, by the way. She rocked that course! Most impressive after her slow and cautious approach in 2012. The only way to excel at the tricky 2013 course was to nearly tip…or have a small wheelbase, like the winning Brompton, to negotiate those tight little turns. Andy’s pictures were much better than mine so I’m borrowing some of them. See all his pix here.

Photo courtesy Andy Schmidt

Photo courtesy Andy Schmidt

Photo courtesy Andy Schmidt

Photo courtesy Andy Schmidt

Photo courtesy Andy Schmidt

Photo courtesy Andy Schmidt

Photo courtesy Andy Schmidt

Photo courtesy Andy Schmidt

I didn’t realize this at the time, but I think I was the fastest mom! Results weren’t broken down by gender so no prize for that.

Fiets of Parenthood 2013 results