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Three days around Mount Rainier (and to Mount St Helens)

My friend Brad and I had some overlapping kid-free days so we left our Big Dummies and tandem bikes at home for a multi-day bike tour on single-occupant bikes. I’d never done multi-day/multi-site bike camping, and last year marked the first time the kids and I camped for more than just one night period (on Vancouver Island over Spring Break and at Fay Bainbridge Park in August).

Here’s the photo album: Three days around Mount Rainier (and to Mount St Helens) with Brad (435 photos).

And here are my Strava recordings of the trip to see the route:

  • Day one: 85.6 miles, 7:47:36 moving time, 6,593 feet gained
  • Day two: 109.3 miles, 11:43:18 moving time, 10,663 feet gained
  • Day three: 114.1 miles, 9:31:59 moving time, 4,057 feet gained

Brad and I usually ride with our four respective kids–like when we went bike camping at Manchester State Park last month. This trip was very different. I’ve known Brad for years through family biking, but he’s also a randonneur so I should have realized going into our trip that it would be really hard. Note to self: no more bike touring with randonneurs–it’s too hard! That said, it was also really fun, and I’m glad we went. But I’m glad we ended up coming home a day early and I’m REALLY glad we cut out two of the mountain passes Brad had planned. I feel a great sense of accomplishment at our miles and elevation biked, and the scenery was spectacular, but the best part was the people we met along the way.

Brad plotted our route, including checking with other randonneurs about the status of washed-out roads, plus he was familiar with a lot of the area thanks to Seattle International Randonneurs events. So I just answered “yes” to any route questions posed to me, let all the details go in one ear and out the other lest the number of miles or mountains intimidate me, and blindly followed along. Now, I love leading rides and planning routes, but it’s so nice to take a break and not do any thinking about things every once in a while! He mentioned taking the bus to cut out the “boring miles” and get out of the city faster so that meant I had to take my road bike, since the front rack and basket on my Surly Straggler mean it doesn’t fit on the bus rack. I knew from a recent trip to Veneta, Oregon (which I hope to at least post photos of soon, if not also do a little blog recap) that I could fit my camping gear on my road bike. And I was happy to have my lightest bike along for the big ride, though that meant no room for Pixie so I left her behind with a friend.

My bike:

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2006 Specialized Dolce Elite road bike with:

My tires are 700c x 25mm at 110psi (max tire pressure is 120psi) and they proved uncomfortable on the miles and miles of bumpy chipseal. Perhaps the aluminum frame (versus steel) added to that, but it was probably more about my tires. My Surly Straggler’s (steel, btw) tires are 700c x 38mm and I keep them at 30psi. Big difference! But with that bike come two big panniers and a front basket and I tend to shove as much stuff as I can in all that room so it would have been much heavier.

Brad rode his Surly Long Haul Trucker with four panniers (two of which started out empty), a small frame bag, and a handlebar bag. He offered to carry a bunch of my stuff so I could better keep up, but I don’t think the small weight of my gear made any difference–I’m a much slower rider than him in general. But still, I let him carry increasingly more stuff: rain jacket on day one; rain jacket and sleeping pad on day two; rain jacket, sleeping pad, bag of extra snacks, and tent poles on day three. Had we kept our day four, I’m sure I would have ported over all my stuff.

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Day One:

Taking the bus (Sound Transit 578) to Auburn cut out 20 miles. We cut through the Seattle Center (Space Needle!) to get to the bus stop so at least I got a good little dose of city riding, since that is my thing after all. While most Seattle area buses have three-bike racks (all King County Metro and most Sound Transit buses can carry three bikes, I think), the 578 had a two-bike rack. So we were lucky there wasn’t already a bike on board.

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It was fun to recognize a couple places from my first big bike overnight, the Swift Campout to Ipsut Creek. First up was Enumclaw-Black Diamond Road, though Brad and I took it in the easier direction, and at the beginning of our day. Then we stopped for lunch at the Safeway in Enumclaw, our return lunch stop of the Swift Campout.

And this is where we made our first friend of the tour, Claire from Seattle, who had biked all the way from Capitol Hill on an old Schwinn mixte with a backpack and no firm plan, other than to take a few days to explore around Mount Rainier. We bumped into her two more times over the course of the day so that was really fun.

We took a look at summiting Crystal Mountain. I’ve never been there in the winter (I’ve been to Stevens Pass once and Summit at Snoqualmie a bunch of times) so it sounded exciting, especially since we could ride the gondola at the top. But there was no way we could bike to the top (six miles) in the hour before the gondola closed due to intermittent road closures for construction. However, we could have made it up in time were we able to catch a ride in the back of the construction truck. The friendly construction worker checked with her boss if it was OK to give us a lift up the mountain, but unfortunately she didn’t have enough time before the tar arrived at 5pm. Oh well. It was a fun almost-plan!

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Our next almost-peak was Sunrise, but with so many clouds in the sky, we weren’t sure we’d see Mount Rainier. So we biked down down down to the White River Ranger Station to check the conditions. Brad said the park ranger would be able to tell us about visibility, but the gate and ranger station were already closed so we flagged down a passing car to ask some fellow park visitors. Conditions were spotty so we decided to skip seeing the sunset at Sunrise. But we did learn that restrooms are now called “comfort stations” and we saw Claire for the last time as she arrived to camp at White River Campground.

So we biked up up up to the top of Chinook Pass. It was exciting to see the first bit of snow–proof that we were up high in the mountains! And I saw one marmot close to the top, but I didn’t get a picture of him. And then we biked down down down to Ohanapecosh Campground.

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The descent from Chinook Pass to Ohanapecosh was ridiculous! You know when Bugs Bunny falls down a hole and screams and flails for a long time and then gets bored of screaming and flailing so he sits in an easy chair and reads the paper…and then he makes a cup of tea…and then he yawns and puts on his jammies, sets the alarm, and goes to sleep…and then the alarm goes off and he jumps up and starts screaming and flailing again? It was like that. Sooooo loooooong.

Ohanapecosh was a great campground! We arrived at night and chose a walk-in site, which is not like the hiker/biker sites I’m used to, but rather means you park your car in a parking lot and walk a few extra steps to your site. And the walk-in site area doesn’t have a bear box like the other areas do so we stashed all our food in one pannier and stuck it in the bathroom, not having a bear-proof vehicle like everyone else. This would definitely be a great campground to rent a car and come to with the kids (or bike to when we’re all up to this long of a journey). The visitor center was great as was the variety of programming in the amphitheater.

Day Two:

We started our day with a long climb to Paradise. I’ve been once before, but by car, so it was really exciting to arrive by bike!

It was a long, slow ride, but filled with tremendous views. The first of the three Reflection Lakes reflected Mount Rainier perfectly, though someone piloted a drone low over the lake, creating ripples.

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On the way up, we stopped to let a mom and daughter cross the road from the Cowlitz Divide Trail. We stopped to talk and learned the mom is a tribal leader of the Cowlitz Tribe and in the space of ten minutes, we learned a ton of history. Here’s a tidbit for you: the Cowlitz word for Mount St Helens is Lawetlat’la.

It was also neat to use Strava FlyBy to identify and “give kudos” (that means clicking the thumbs up on someone’s Strava recording) to the fast guy who passed us as we crawled up Paradise.

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For heading down from Paradise, out of Mount Rainier National Park, and into Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Brad took us on a great forest road/service road/dirt road cut-through he’d ridden before. It led to the lovely Skate Creek Road, which is apparently Jan Heine’s (randonneur extraordinaire) favorite road. So while bike touring with a randonneur will make the miles and elevation really add up, it can lead to some great stuff. It also led to us finding our way to Cline Road to avoid busy highway 12 which was quiet with a few rolling hills, but we were chased by four dogs! So now I’m scared of farm dogs. Granted, one of those dogs was a tiny Yorkie.

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We stopped for lunch in Packwood and while stocking up for dinner and breakfast at the grocery store, a guy confided in us that the town is run by elk. I was kind of relieved to hear that because it explained all the NO SHOOTING signs. He said they know exactly where the signs are and keep on the right side of them. And when he has to open the pizza place early in the morning it often takes him an extra half hour because they’ll block his car in the middle of the road and only move aside when they’re ready. Brad didn’t seem convinced, but I’ve had a healthy fear of elk since I was a kid camping in Oregon and Washington and took the warnings to stay away from elk because they’re assholes (that might not have been the exact word the park rangers used) very seriously.

It was late by the time we got into the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. I’m not sure if it was the result of the long day of biking or if the grades of routes 25 and 99 were really steep, but I had to slalom back and forth to get up the hills. It was too dark to see Mount St Helens, but the clear sky and half moon meant we had a terrific view of shooting stars from the Perseid meteor shower.

Day Three:

Getting to see Mount St Helens and view the distinct flora (and lack thereof) of the blast zone in all directions in the morning was amazing. We met a few people setting up an aid station for the Bigfoot 200 Mile Endurance Run along the Truman Trail at the Windy Ridge Viewpoint. Oof, I can’t even imagine.

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Even with our less strenuous day planned, I was having trouble finding my groove. It may have been the two big days in a row, or having spent almost 12 hours in the saddle on day two, or something else (or all three!), but even on the descents I was moving slowly. After many sluggish hours, we stopped for lunch in Elbe at the Mt. Rainier Railroad Dining Company and that fixed everything. Elbe is also a place I’ve been to before, but only by car.

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We didn’t have a set plan for days three and four, but were tentatively thinking about aiming for Orting where we’d either have to pay for a hotel or “free camp” (a term we learned from some nice bike tourers we met on highway 12 or 7…it was before lunch so I can’t remember where we were). Somewhere along the way we realized we could make it all the way home a day early, most easily done if we caught the bus again. Sound Transit 578 starts in Puyallup, but Sumner was closest to us if we could make it there by 9:19 p.m. So I rallied and we picked up the pace and we arrived to Sumner Station at 9:03–a whopping 16 minutes early to snack and unload our bikes. This bus also had a two-bike rack, but the driver told us the last bus of the night will allow excess bikes inside.

En route to Sumner I recognized Orting from having passed through in the other direction during Swift Campout. We raced along the Foothills Trail, though not as fast as the world’s fastest ElliptiGO rider (stepper?). He slowed his roll for a bit to chat with us. Turns out he’s doing the High Pass Challenge (a ride from Packwood up Windy Ridge–where we just were!) and will probably be way faster than a lot of the bike riders.

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Ta da!

318.5 total miles (adding in my Seattle miles on either side)
21,313 feet climbed (not adding in my Seattle elevation because I didn’t Strava that and don’t know how to calculate it easily)

Aches and pains:

I wish I’d brought my fingerless gloves along because by day two I was getting a bit of chafing on the sides of my forefingers where they rested against the hoods of my drop bars. I bought the gloves for biking the McKenzie Pass while visiting Eugene in May, but didn’t need them, nor did I use them for biking from Seattle to Portland shortly after that. So it didn’t occur to me to bring then on this trip. I ended up with a blister on the heel of one hand by the end of day three, but it wasn’t painful.
And I got “hot foot” (a fancy term for an achy foot from being trapped in a tight cycling shoe all day) halfway through day three, but stopping for lunch and taking my shoes off while eating meant I could make it through the rest of the day relatively discomfort free.

Donate to parks and forests

In addition to having a tremendous time in Mount Rainier National Park and the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, we did so very cheaply. We arrived too late to pay one entrance fee and a nice park ranger decided to waive our fee at another gate. So I settled up by donating, both to Washington’s National Park Fund (WNPF)–you can select the specific park–and the National Forest Foundation–you can’t select which forest, but you get to see how many trees your donation will plant.

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Seattle Kidical Mass Bike Camping Sat-Sun July 30-31, 2016

CAMPSITE UPDATE: We will be camping in the hiker/biker sites which are on the north end of the beach (close to where we come in). Pay per bike at the kiosk and clip your receipt to the post by the site(s) (unless the camp hosts are around and says they want to hang onto receipts to keep track of our numbers). My family needs to get rolling by 10am on Sunday, but there’s bound to be a later group leaving, too!

Let’s go camping! Time for our annual summer bike camping trip to Fay Bainbridge Park: Saturday, July 30th to Sunday, July 31st, 2016.
Facebookers please RSVP on the Facebook event page.

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9:00 a.m. Saturday, July 30, 2016 – meet by Fremont PCC Natural Market (on the south side of 34th Street)
This will give us time to watch one another’s luggage-laden bikes to pop inside for last-minute supplies and potty breaks and be ready to ride at
9:30 a.m. we ride! Promptly at 9:30 a.m.! (Which means 9:40, but for real we are leaving by 9:40!)
– or –
11:00 a.m. meet us at the ferry (inside, in line).
11:25 a.m. ferry sets sail (ARRIVE AT LEAST 20 MINUTES EARLY).

Routes:

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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 11:05am. 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 and regular bike, 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 $8.10 for adults, $4.05 for kids six and up, and $1 for bikes.
Trailers, cargo bikes, tandems, and trailer bikes are sometimes charged an extra $1 bike fee so families with bikes of that ilk should hit a ticket booth. If the ticket agent seems confused, it’s helpful to say, “Last time families with bikes like this paid [fill in the blank].”
For example: for our tandem plus trailer bike carrying one adult and two kids age six and up, they’ve been charging me for one adult plus bike, one kid plus bike, one extra $1 bike charge. We can compare notes at PCC before heading down.
The Bainbridge-to-Seattle direction is free.

Once on Bainbridge Island, we’ll ride about a block uphill within the ferry terminal area to Bike Barn Rentals and hang out while the car traffic clears. Generally, we push directly onward to the campground, but there’s a grocery store in Winslow for any forgotten items. During our June group trip, we used this stop to divide into three groups:
– Group hitting grocery store and then taking scenic route
– Group taking scenic route
– Group taking direct, highway route (this is the group I, Madi, will lead)

Our campground is in Fay Bainbridge Park which features a great playground (!!) and BEACH. There are outlets in the bathrooms and picnic shelter (which might be reserved) for those who need to charge e-bike batteries or other things.

Hiker/biker camp spots are $7 per person, though sometimes the camp host is OK with us paying $7 per tent (essentially making kids free!), so we always check in with the camp host first. Also, we’re often given permission to camp in the kayak-in area, which we’ll try to do again this year as we like that side best! Payment happens at a kiosk between the restrooms and the camp host. Keep your receipt handy so we can give them to the camp host and help them keep track of our big group.

Here’s a recap of our recent June family bike camping trip or go straight to the Flickr gallery of 194 photos.

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Note: We’ve been doing group summer camping trips to Fay for several years now and we’ve gradually been seeing more kids riding their own bikes–we had four in June! Bainbridge Island is very bikey with drivers used to seeing bikes on the roads, but it’s definitely busier (even the quiet, scenic route) and hillier (even the flat highway route) than my own Seattle kids are used to…however, they’re going to ride their own bikes for the first time this trip! I’ll take my cargo bike just in case I need to carry one or both of them and their bikes for part of the way.

At this point no concrete plans for when to head back Sunday. We’ll most likely have an early crowd and a later crowd. I’ll probably be part of the later crowd. We can try to have energy to head to Peddler Brewing Company or Fremont Brewing for a Seattle-side hangout before going our separate ways. Our route from Fay to the ferry is a backtracking of our Saturday route over and here’s the route from the Seattle Ferry Terminal to Peddler Brewing Company and the route from the Seattle Ferry Terminal to Fremont Brewing.

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.

Recap: Family bike camping Bike Overnight

We had an amazing time on our Family bike camping Bike Overnight June 4th-5th! This bike overnight was part of Adventure Cycling Association’s 40th Anniversary National Bike Travel Weekend, a nation-wide event.

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The tally: 62 people (23 families/32 adults, 30 kids), 1 dog, 36 bikes, 22 tents
The pictures: Flickr album of 194 photos.

Our group was even a little bit bigger than last year’s epic Swift Campout for Seattle family bikers (that’s coming up June 25-26, by the way, if you want to join or set up a ride!).

Here’s our cast of characters…oddly arranged because I had trouble making an accurate count and ended up just taking photos of each tent/bike(s) to tally at my leisure later:
1 tent, 1 adult, 1 kid, 1 bike (Xtracycle EdgeRunner with BionX e-assist)
+ 1 tent, 1 adult, 1 kid, 1 bike (Surly Big Dummy visiting from Portland!)
+ 1 tent, 2 adults, 1 kid, 2 bikes (bikes + Weehoo iGo trailer bike, BOB cargo trailer)
+ 1 tent, 2 adults, 2 bikes (from Portland!)
+ 1 tent, 2 adults, 2 kids, 2 bikes (Xtracycle EdgeRunner, bike + Xtracycle FreeRadical)
+ 1 tent, 2 adults, 1 kid, 2 bikes (Brompton with IT chair for kid, bike with Burley Travoy trailer for gear)
+ 1 tent, 1 adult, 2 kids, 1 bike (Bike Friday Family Tandem + Burley Piccolo trailer bike)
+ 1 tent, 1 adult, 1 kid, 1 bike (Metrofiets longjohn with Stokemonkey e-assist)
+ 1 tent, 2 adults, 2 kids, 2 bikes (Yuba Mundo and regular bike)
+ 1 tent, 1 adult, 2 kids, 1 bike (Sun Atlas with e-assist…rented from Familybike Seattle!)
+ 1 tent, 2 adults, 1 kid, 2 bikes (Xtracycle EdgeRunner with BionX e-assist and regular bike)
+ 1 tent, 1 adult, 1 kid, 1 bike (Xtracycle EdgeRunner)
+ 1 tent, 1 adult, 1 kid, 2 bikes (one kid bike!)
+ 1 tent, 1 adult, 1 kid, 1 bike (Xtracycle EdgeRunner)
+ 1 tent, 2 adults, 1 kid, 2 bikes (Yuba Mundo with Stokemonkey e-assist and regular bike)
+ 1 tent, 1 adult, 1 kid, 2 bikes (1 regular bike, 1 kid bike…they weren’t with our group, but I’m counting them anyway since they’re new friends and were happy to set up in the same spot)
1 tent, 2 adults, 2 kids, 2 bikes (Surly Big Dummy, bike with trailer)
+ 1 tent, 1 adult, 2 kids, 1 dog, 1 bike (Rodriguez tandem with kidback plus Burley Piccolo trailer bike)
+ 1 tent, 1 adult, 2 kids, 1 bike (Xtracycle EdgeRunner with BionX e-assist and cycletruck conversion…+ 1 adult via car)
+ 1 tent, 3 adults, 2 kids, 3 bikes (Xtracycle EdgeRunner with e-assist rented from G&O Family Cyclery, Brompton folding bike, regular bike rented from Bainbridge Island Bike Barn rentals, 2/5 of party visiting from Dublin, CA!)
+ 2 tents, 2 adults, 3 kids, 4 bikes (2 solo-riding kids, 1 kid coupled to 1 adult bike via FollowMe Tandem coupler, 1 regular bike)

As you can see, lots of longtail cargo bikes, quite a few with electric assist. Also, four kids riding solo this year! I think I’ll have my kids ride their own bikes next time out, but I’ll bring the Big Dummy just in case one or both needs to be carried at any point. I’m slow to change and would probably have kept doing all the work (they don’t do a lot of pedaling on the tandem+ but it’s still more pedaling than when they sit on the Big Dummy) a couple more years had I not witnessed little kids riding so competently this trip. But this trip, we were on our used Rodriguez tandem (of older vintage than I realized, it appears…foreshadowing!) with Burley Piccolo trailer bike.

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I love this picture from heading home Sunday with my lackadaisical stokers doing their thing. I’m happy my six-year old (in the middle) didn’t resort to his usual tricks of sitting backwards on his handlebars, leaning against my back with his feet extended along his top tube; staying forward facing with his feet resting atop the top tube is NBD. And I guess my nine-year old is examining a ladybug on his wrist? I think they would have had a lot of fun on their own bikes.

We started our Saturday morning by meeting outside the PCC Natural Market in Fremont. We met at 9 (well, 9:05 in my case) with firm leaving time of 9:30. Outside PCC offered less room than last year’s spot a block away in front of the bank, but it’s right by groceries and potties…and in the shade. I think I’ll keep this spot for the future, or perhaps convene across the street so we’re on the correct side of the road to get rolling, yet still close to food and restrooms.

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We got rolling at 9:45, only 15 minutes later than I had intended, with about 50 people on 30 bikes. Here’s our Strava’ed route from PCC to the Seattle Ferry Terminal–it took 54 minutes so we were plenty early! Riding along the nearing-completion Westlake bikeway was very nice.

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And we encountered a street fair on Bell Street! The east-most block of Bell Street Park (or “Bell Street Park for Cars” as I like to call it since no one heeds the “No through traffic” signs) was closed to cars, but we were welcome to bike through slowly and admired the many fire trucks. One family even grabbed a couple kid fire hats.

There were two cruise ships parked (moored?) at the cruise ship terminal, but our timing was such that we weren’t stuck behind a traffic jam of taxi drop-offs. In the past the roads have been clogged and we’ve opted to take the sidewalk on the east side of Alaskan Way. Options like this are one of the many benefits of traveling by bike :)

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Arriving 45 minutes early for the ferry (we were aiming for 25 minutes early) meant no waiting in line for ticket booths. There’s a bike lane to the right with an ORCA card reader that works well for adults on regular bikes (and I’d imagine for youths on regular bikes who have youth ORCA cards, too), but I’ve been stopping at a ticket booth lately thanks to my confusing bike. It didn’t take an excruciating amount of time for us to get through, but I think I’ll lead with a “Last time I was charged for an adult plus bike and a youth plus bike” although now I realize I’m underpaying by one youth, even though I’ve mentioned the kids’ ages. I think I’ll just swipe all three of our ORCA cards next time, which I guess would be one dollar too much on the tandem+, but will be spot on for three separate bikes. Sometimes friends are charged an extra bike surcharge ($1) for trailers or big bikes, but usually they’re not. Ferry fares here.

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I love how accommodating Washington State Ferries are of bicycles. Early birds get to board before the cars and latecomers are allowed to squish on at the end. We were waved aboard first and directed to one of the side car lanes. This left many of us in the wrong gear for the uphill slope, oops! It’s always a good idea to downshift aboard the boat in case the tide is low and the climb off the ferry is a steep one…but I usually do this while riding across the empty ferry, not ahead of time. But anyhow, this crossing was great with the front of the left-most car lane set aside for us. Half of our area was flat and half on a slope, but all the bikes stayed upright for our 35-minute voyage. There are spots to tie up along rails on either side and those of us with sturdy kickstands (I have an Ursus Jumbo on the tandem, the widest after-market center stand for non-cargo bikes and lots of the longtails had Rolling Jackasss center stands) parked in the middle. Another option is to lay bikes on their sides (not on your chain side, FYI!), but in my case, I don’t think I’d have been able to muscle my bike upright again and removing all or some of the panniers to do this didn’t seem worth it. But that’s an option.

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Off the boat, we climbed the hill away from the ferry terminal and pulled over outside Bike Barn Rentals, which doesn’t have much shade for a hot day, but is a good spot to wait for the ten minutes it takes the car traffic to clear out. This also allowed the group to split into three: those stopping at the grocery store and taking the scenic route, those leaving immediately for the scenic route, and those taking the highway. I prefer the highway since it’s a lot flatter and the shoulder is very wide. A lot of the side roads (on the scenic route and for the second half of the highway route) have no shoulders, but they’re very quiet roads.

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We still had a large group for my ride on the highway. Here’s our route on my Strava. Our moving time was 55 minutes, with regroup stops after every stop light. Our overall time was two hours…because I got a flat tire! That added quite a bit excitement, but most importantly, helped me realize how awesome and helpful a group we were among.

The *pop* of my tandem’s rear tube exploding was heard halfway down the long bike train on highway 305, only halfway through our seven-mile journey. I knew we were just about to the point where we exit the highway so I nominated a new leader, showed him the map and described a nice area to pull over where I would meet up with them to fix my flat after walking there. The highway shoulder is nice and wide and drivers on Bainbridge Island are very aware of and kind to people on bikes, but I didn’t want to fix the flat out in sun next to the noise of the highway. Instead, the kids and I trekked less than half a mile to the aforementioned meeting spot.

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Halfway through our trek a dad–now relieved of his passenger at the meeting spot–swung back to offer one of my kids a lift with his trailer bike. The remaining kid and I found our way to everyone happily resting and snacking in the shade of a fire station, and I was given a spare tube (because of course the one size tube I couldn’t locate while packing the night before was this one!) by a well-prepared mom. I parked my bike in the shade and before I could dig my way to my tools (six panniers hold a lot of stuff so you have to memorize where you put everything), the dad who led the party in my stead had already removed my wheel and started fixing it. It was apparent my old tire was in dire need of replacing so I hoped for the best and pedaled the remaining three miles to camp. It held!!! Then at camp, a mom loaned me her bike (which even had a puppy basket so I could bring Pixie along for the errand!) and offered to watch my kids at the beach while I biked into town for a new tire.

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Classic Cycles on Bainbridge Island (right by the ferry terminal) is AWESOME, by the way. Jaime remembered me from a previous visit and we had a lovely chat. Another bicycing family camped at Fay Bainbridge a week ago (Bicyclebungee USA: Bike Camping on Bainbridge Island) and ended up with a new, bigger kid bike at Classic Cycles on their way home! I was tempted to buy 10 spare tubes, but that seemed excessive to the point of tempting fate and causing all the bikes to get flat tires so I settled for three–one to replace the one I borrowed (and popped while transporting the wheel) and two for me. And an extra tire for my front wheel which looks OK, but is apparently from the 80’s.

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Later a different dad helped me wrestle my rear wheel with new tire back on. Teamwork!

Now, this was just my own experience, but I saw so much camaraderie throughout the course of the weekend. I’m sure this isn’t unique to family biking, but there is just something about arriving by pedal power that makes us feel wonderfully strong, and perhaps more eager to share that strength and go above and beyond in lending support. I think I have something in my eye *sniff!*

Even with my 15-mile side excursion, I still got plenty of friend time, beach time, and campfire time. Though with a group this big, I never feel like I get enough time to talk to everyone. I wouldn’t have it any other way because these big groups are amazing…I just need to convince everyone to stay out a couple more days :)

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Sunday was HOT. Other than the excessive heat (excessive for the Seattle area–88 degrees), we had the best timing for our visit because Sunday at 11:40am was the lowest tide of the whole summer, -3.2! The beach at Fay Bainbridge Park is magical at any tide level, with a lovely view of Mount Rainier to the south, Seattle–so close, yet so far!–across the water straight ahead, so much driftwood to climb on and build stuff with, and a great view of boats sailing by.

Families tend to leave in small groups over the course of the morning, but we were in it for the long haul and stayed for the tide to go all the way out. The kids marveled at sea anemones, dodged squirting geoducks, and examined moon snails, crabs, shrimp, tiny flatfish, and sea worms. Such an amazing array of sea life!

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In the past we have congregated at a kid-friendly Seattle brewery at the end of the ride (Peddler Brewing last time, though I was pushing for Fremont Brewing this time since it’s on my way home), but this year we were more spaced out than last and everyone was ready to head straight home and get out of the heat. It was hot and Fay Bainbridge Park doesn’t have a lot of shade, but it was a bit cooler than Seattle and the bike ride between park and ferry has quite a bit of tree coverage.

Now the only unfortunate part of the trip (I’m not considering my flat tire an unfortunate part of the trip since it worked out OK) was our surprise arrival at the campground. Unfortunately the camp host hadn’t remembered our lengthy conversation during our last visit four weeks prior and the “It will be fine, I’ll let the park manager know” didn’t pan out. I feel horrible about our camp host being so stressed out by our arrival and catching the camp manager off guard. SO OUR NEXT TIME (and if you plan to show up with a big group on bike do this, too) I’ll send an email address of the camp manager (contact information is on the Fay Bainbridge Park website ) to get in touch ahead of time. For this particular visit, we were directed to camp in the kayak-in campsite (as has always been the camp host’s preference for our big group in the past) and it was great! There’s also a hiker/biker campsite on the other end of the park, but it’s a lot smaller and closer to the parking lot so it’s not quite as nice. There have never been any kayakers during any of our visits, but we would all fit just fine, though I’m not sure how kayakers feel about sharing their site with bikers. We were charged $7 per adult which was very generous. This is how it’s been in the past (and the camp host told me during our forgotten conversation that she believes in charging per tent), but we’re all always prepared to pay the $7 fee per person just in case. The camp manager called us “stinky bikers who would use up all the water taking showers” but I chalk that up to his having been caught off guard by our arrival. And he also stressed he didn’t want to discourage anyone from enjoying the great outdoors. Speaking of stinky, sweaty, sandy bikers, I brought enough quarters for everyone to take showers, but I didn’t find many takers and I don’t think we dipped into the water supply much.

Upcoming trips
I’m hoping to find someone to lead a group trip for Swift Campout June 25-26, but I’m not sure if that’ll happen. I will lead another group trip July 30-31 and I promise everything will go seamlessly!

And we’ll do a bunch of weekday camping at Fay and other places, too (like Manchester State Park and Spencer Spit State Park and/or Odlin County Park on Lopez Island). Any group trips will be linked to at the top of the right column (or down towards the bottom if you’re reading this on a small, mobile device).

Family bike camping at Illahee State Park

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Hillahee
  • Illahill
  • Illahillahee
  • Illahilly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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And cannons!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Your bike and kids want you to take them camping

This is not family bike camping:

This is not bike camping

This is family bike camping!

This is family bike camping!

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

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

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

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

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

Packing list

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

Packing list in more detail:

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

I should have also brought:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Off the ferry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Upcoming camping

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

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

Bike camping at Illahee

Pictures with captions to make up for quickie blog post! An actual S24O! (Sub-24-hour overnight)

The nice thing about the Emerald City Bike Ride happening so early is that I had tons of time to go home to rest and pack and make it with plenty of time for the 3pm ferry to Bremerton.

This was my first time taking Pixie camping as well as my first time on the Bremerton ferry. It’s downtown, same pier as our usual Bainbridge ferry, but the crossing is 60 minutes versus 35 to Bainbridge.

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Illahee State Park was just 3.5 miles from the ferry (my extra mileage is from going all the way down down down to the beach and back up up up).

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I took a different route on the way back and it was not as nice, with more climbing and a highway bridge with narrow sidewalk.

I got extremely lucky weather-wise and all the rain fell while we were asleep in the tent. I kept an eye on the morning forecast and left early enough to stay dry all day.

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Bremerton seemed hillier than Bainbridge, but I am prone to being more comfortable with the “hill you know” so I could be wrong. It’d be fun to go back and explore for a flat-as-possible route to Illahee and then take the kids.

Pixie did great bike camping. In the evening she didn’t want to stay super close while I set up camp, but in the morning she sat in her little bed and chilled while I put everything away. So having the kids to keep her busy will be nice next time. The hiker/biker sites were $12 which is more than Fay Bainbridge’s $7, and there are only two of them. They don’t have picnic tables and the square for the tent was a bit small for my REI Half Dome 2+ (you can see the corner of my tent staked outside the square on the right in the picture below). So we’ll shell out for a proper site when we come back. For dinner, Pixie and I walked down to the beach. There was a great trail and kids would consider it a fun hike. There’s also a small playground up at campsite level.

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One more thing: I couldn’t attend, but that night Menstrual Monday returned from hiatus! It’s a monthly ride for women–the first Monday of the month, meet at the Seattle Center International Fountain at 6:30 p.m., ride at 7:00 p.m.

30 Days of Biking stats:
April 4 miles: 10.9
April 5 miles: 12.2
April cumulative miles: 100.7

Family bike camping Bike Overnight June 4-5, 2016

Let’s go camping! As part of Adventure Cycling Association’s 40th Anniversary National Bike Travel Weekend we’re doing a family bike overnight Saturday, June 4th through Sunday, June 5th at Fay Bainbridge Park. Our bike overnight is called “Tots in tents at Fay Bainbridge” (per the “be creative” suggestion about the event title, sorry).
Facebookers can RSVP on the Facebook event page.

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9:00 a.m. Saturday, June 4, 2016 – meet outside Fremont PCC Natural Market.
This will give us time to watch one another’s luggage-laden bikes to pop inside for last-minute supplies and potty breaks and be ready to ride at
9:30 a.m. we ride! Promptly at 9:30 a.m.! (Which means 9:40, but for real we are leaving by 9:40!)
– or –
11:00 a.m. meet us at the ferry (inside, in line).
11:25 a.m. 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 11:05am. 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 $8.10 for adults, $4.05 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 Bainbridge-to-Seattle direction is free.

Once on Bainbridge Island, we’ll ride about a block uphill within the ferry terminal area to Bike Barn Rentals and hang out while the car traffic clears. Generally, we push directly onward to the campground, but there’s a grocery store in Winslow for any forgotten items.

Our campground is in Fay Bainbridge Park which features a great playground (!!) and BEACH. There are outlets in the bathrooms and picnic shelter (which might be reserved) for those who need to charge e-bike batteries or other things.

Hiker/biker camp spots are $7 per person, though sometimes the camp host is OK with us paying $7 per bike (essentially making kids free!), so we always check in with the camp host first. Also, we’re often given permission to camp in the kayak-in area, which we’ll try to do again this year as we like that side best! Payment happens at a kiosk between the restrooms and the camp host.

Here’s a recap of 2014’s summer family bike camping trip and Flickr gallery of our 2015 Swift Campout.

Note: We’ve been doing group summer camping trips to Fay for several years now and usually don’t have kids riding their own bikes. This isn’t to say it’s not allowed, of course, but both the quiet scenic route of years past with its lack of shoulders or bike lanes and the highway we’ll take this year (and took last year) with its very wide shoulders but spots of 50mph traffic are not what I would consider exceptionally kid friendly. Bainbridge Island is very bikey with drivers used to seeing bikes on the roads, but it’s definitely busier (even the quiet, scenic route) and hillier (even the flat highway route) than my own Seattle kids are used to.

At this point no concrete plans for when to head back Sunday. We’ll most likely have 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 Fay 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 trip for Swift Campout June 25-26 and I think our summer family bike camping trip will be July 30-31.

Note: Social-media-inclined campers should use #adventurecycling #biketravelweekend #bikeovernights for this Bike Overnight for National Bike Travel Weekend.

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.

Family bike camping 2015

It’s that time of year again–annual group family bike camping trip! Saturday, August 15-Sunday, August 16, 2015 (or longer).
We had a test run of sorts thanks to the Swift Campout over solstice. See my 187 photos on Flickr.

If you’re on Facebook, RSVP here and use the comments of the event page to do any coordinating (borrowing gear, riding to the start together, etc).

Routes:

Ride with us to the ferry from Fremont at 9:00 a.m.
– or –
Meet at the ferry at 10:15 a.m.

Group ride to ferry details:
9:00 a.m. Saturday, August 15th in front of Fremont KeyBank (601 N 34th St, the NW side of Fremont Bridge).
PCC Natural Market is a block away if you need to time your arrival early for groceries and/or potties.
*** We will leave very soon after 9:00 a.m. If you are running late, please text and catch us en route! ***

Saturday, August 15, 2015 – 10:35 a.m. ferry (ARRIVE AT LEAST 20 MINUTES EARLY)

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 10:15am. 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! Swipe your card and the attendent will collect additional fare for any kids six and over. Otherwise you need to wait in the rightmost car lane to pay.

To beat the heat, I recommend we eat snacks (BYO or purchase in the cafeteria) aboard the ferry and head straight for the campground. However, we’ll see what the collective mood dictates. After we ride off the ferry, we’ll ride a very short distance and regroup outside the Bike Barn to give the car traffic a chance to clear out, folks who boarded after the cars to meet up with us, and figure out if anyone needs to hit the grocery store in Winslow.

Our campground is in Fay Bainbridge Park which features a great playground (!!) and BEACH. There are outlets in the bathrooms and picnic shelter (which might be reserved) for those who need to charge e-bike batteries or other things.

Here’s a recap of last year’s summer family bike camping trip. And this year’s FLATTER route I found on my scouting trip.

Note: We’ve been doing group summer camping trips to Fay for several years now and haven’t had many kids riding their own bikes. This isn’t to say it’s not allowed, of course, but both the quiet scenic route of years past with its lack of shoulders or bike lanes and the highway we’ll take this year with its very wide shoulders but spots of 50mph traffic are not what I would consider exceptionally kid friendly. Bainbridge Island is very bikey with drivers used to seeing bikes on the roads, but it’s definitely busier (even the quiet, scenic route) and hillier (even the flat highway route) than my Seattle kids are used to.

The return trip
So…uh…I vehemently promised that this year’s bike camping wouldn’t coincide with Hempfest, but I lied. It’s my birthday so we’re going on August 15th! The Elliott Bay Trail through Myrtle Edwards Park is closed to through traffic August 14, 15, and 16. However, unlike last year, we’ve now got the protected bike lanes on 2nd Avenue so my route back will utilize that. After the solstice trip, many of us pit stopped at Peddler Brewing‘s beer garden on the way home and it was really fun. But since Hempfest will make it impossible to ride along the waterfront, I’ve routed us to Fremont Brewing for a similar experience.

My family will probably camp for two nights (or maybe even three!), though we’ll still have to deal with Hempfest cleanup and signs that require us to walk the bike if we want to use the waterfront route home. We generally have early and late Sunday departures, but stay longer, too, if you can!

Other stuff

  • There’s currently a burn ban so no camp fires, but s’mores by camp stove might work, right?!
  • Wanna join us by car? That’s OK, too! You can even reserve your car site ahead of time: “Sites can be reserved ten days or more in advance of arrival date by calling 206-842-2306 x118 Monday-Friday between 8:30am-5:00pm.” – Bainbridge Island Metro Park & Recreation District
  • We took a bonus camping trip last month (oh, notice my new tandem? I’ll blog about that soon!) and discovered campsite food delivery! We ordered a pizza from Westside Pizza and Tracey got Thai food. So that’s a nice option, burn ban or no :)
  • Did I miss anything? Comment below!

Seattle Family Bikers Swift Campout

swift-campout

Family bikers in Seattle, come be part of the worldwide #SwiftCampout!

Routes:

Ride with us to the ferry from Fremont at 9:00 a.m.
– or –
Meet at the ferry at 10:15 a.m.

Group ride to ferry details:
9:00 a.m. Saturday, June 20th in front of Fremont KeyBank (601 N 34th St, the NW side of Fremont Bridge).
PCC Natural Market is a block away if you need to time your arrival early for groceries and/or potties.
*** We will leave very soon after 9:00 a.m. If you are running late, please text and catch us en route! ***

Saturday, June 20, 2015 – 10:35 a.m. ferry (ARRIVE AT LEAST 20 MINUTES EARLY)

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 10:15am. 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.

Once on Bainbridge Island we generally stop for quick snack and run-around break, but we’ll see what the collective mood dictates. There’s a grocery store in Winslow for any forgotten items.

Our campground is in Fay Bainbridge Park which features a great playground (!!) and BEACH. There are outlets in the bathrooms and picnic shelter (which might be reserved) for those who need to charge e-bike batteries or other things.

Here’s a recap of last year’s summer family bike camping trip. And this year’s FLATTER route I found on my scouting trip.

Note: We’ve been doing group summer camping trips to Fay for several years now and haven’t had kids riding their own bikes. This isn’t to say it’s not allowed, of course, but both the quiet scenic route of years past with its lack of shoulders or bike lanes and the highway we’ll take this year with its very wide shoulders but spots of 50mph traffic are not what I would consider exceptionally kid friendly. Bainbridge Island is very bikey with drivers used to seeing bikes on the roads, but it’s definitely busier (even the quiet, scenic route) and hillier (even the flat highway route) than my Seattle kids are used to.

At this point no concrete plans for when to head back Sunday. We’ll most likely have an early crowd and a later crowd. I’ll probably be part of the later crowd. Our slightly different route for the way back allows us to avoid the long line of cars waiting for the ferry as well as an uncomfortable uphill bike lane sandwiched between two car lanes before one of the intersections near the south end of the reverse of our inbound route.

Don’t despair if your June is booked! If this weekend doesn’t work for you, we’ll also camp at Fay Bainbridge Park August 15-16.

Spring Break 2015 Recap

Spring Break week was awesome! We’re all exhausted, sunburned, and happy to be back home. What better indicators of a successful vacation?

Following is a quick-ish recap of the week, with miles and bikes tallied for 30 Days of Biking at the bottom. See all the pictures in the Flickr album–warning, mostly kids (the human kind) and kids (the goat kind), but also lots of bikes.

Saturday, April 11
The only biking the first day of Spring Break was a trip with the kids on the bike to the grocery store to stock-up on snacks for our camping trip. Despite Alyssa carrying lots of our gear to the campground in her van, we still had quite a bit of stuff to bring with. I loaded the bike Saturday night since we had to hit the road at 6am. Clockwise from upper right: rollie bag of raingear, two backpacks of kid clothing, Ikea bag of snacks, the sleeping pad I couldn’t find the day before, and blue bag of my clothing.

Sunday, April 12
Kids and messenger backpack added to bike and we were out the door, just 20 minutes behind schedule. The Victoria Clipper was great and uneventful. It’s not cheap, but it’s amazingly convenient!

Once in Victoria, much of the 22-kilometer ride to Goldstream Provincial Park Campground was along the Galloping Goose Trail. The highlight of the ride was probably getting to watch a guy training his dog to ride a skateboard. It was only the dog’s second attempt and we thought he did a pretty good job, considering.

Our route took us along the south side of Langford Lake on the Ed Nixon Trail which was all gravel and on a Sunday, filled with dog walkers and joggers–and one guy on a cyclocross bike. Two spots were a bit too steep and as I lost momentum, my overloaded bike tipped to the side. The kids opted to walk after the second toppling and while there were no steep spots after that, it certainly was a lot easier to ride minus 90 pounds of weight. I’ll soon post a more detailed post about the routing to the campground.

It was a long trip, more slightly uphill than down-, but soon enough we arrived to the park, met the camp host, and found the playground where we hung out for a mere 30 minutes before our friends arrived by van via two ferries and a bit of driving. And with them came our bikes, tent, and sleeping bags! My mountain bike ended up being merely my “campsite bike” but it was still fun to tool around on a sub-75-pound bike as much as possible.

Monday, April 13
On Monday I hung with the kids at the campground for four hours while Alyssa and Dave biked into Victoria to shop for supplies at Canadian Tire (I’d never heard of this place before, sounds awesome!) and MEC (I like to call MEC “The Canadian REI”). The kids and I filled our time with a lot of bike riding, ball playing, slug finding, and picture drawing. It was fairly cold and drizzly so we ate lunch in the large heated bathroom and hung out in the van before it felt too small and Thunderdome-like.

That evening, Dave discovered the trick of using his bike floor pump as a bellows for the campfire. Brilliant! And the kids loved patiently waiting in line to take turns. They plan to always camp with a floor pump now.

Tuesday, April 14
We rode back into Victoria, this time along the north side of Langford Lake for more busy roads, but passable gravel to meet up with Eunice of Growing up Bike on her Xtracycle FreeRadical and Amanda on her Xtracycle EdgeRunner. We had arranged to meet at the Switch Bridge, where the Galloping Goose and Lochside Trails meet. We were a bit early and checked out Recyclistas Community Bike Shop right there and fell in love with the place.

We biked to the Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary to check out the various creatures indoors and the walk the trail and feed ducks outdoors.

After we biked more and lunched together, the kids and I braved the shopping mall by the Switch Bridge and I entered a Wal-Mart for the third time ever for the essentials: s’mores supplies, potato chips, tortilla chips, gummy bears, drawing paper, scented markers, and 10 minutes of free wifi. The American Dream…courtesy of our friendly neighbor to the north.

Shortly after we arrived back to the campground, we were joined by our third family of family bikers, Brad and two kids, who also came by van with normal-sized bikes while cargo bike stayed at home in Seattle. This brought our numbers up to four adults, six kids, 12.5 bikes (the half bike is a Burley Piccolo trailer bike).

We were low on a couple staples so I borrowed Alyssa’s Surly Cross Check to ride up the hill out of the park to the grocery and liquor stores. She just swapped her drop bars for Surly Open Bars (same as I have on the Big Dummy) so it felt like a sprightly Big Dummy. Adults got beer and kids got Kinder Surprise (illegal in the US, A-OK in Canada!) and order was restored. And I got to add another bike to my monthly bike tally.

Wednesday, April 15
Wednesday saw we 10 campers on 9.5 bikes for a short ride to one of the trailheads.

Then the kids and I rode bikes around the bigger, closed-for-the-off-season, campground loop. I got to do a bit of a loop alone with my newly eight-year old during which we took a pleasant snack break and discussed slugs, salmon, and bears.

Later we hitched a ride in one of the vans (I’m a bit disappointed to not have kept the trip car-free, but it was nice to be a passenger!) into Langford to play at a playground, have birthday sushi dinner, and pick up a birthday cake.

Thursday, April 16
Thursday marked four days of sleeping in a tent. This was a record because previously I’d only camped one night at a time since having kids. Woo hoo! But we ditched the tent for the last night in favor of a hotel in Victoria.

All this went home in one of the vans. Now I understand supported bike touring!

Our light load consisted of a big bag of snacks and our three backpacks containing our remaining clean clothes.

We met up with Brad and kids at Recyclistas where I bought stickers for the kids–5 stickers for $5!–and they looked in vain for the big shy fish in the fish tank. We biked to Beacon Hill Park where we hung at the petting zoo long enough to see the goat stampede. It was amazing!

We got caught up in horse-drawn-carriage traffic on the way out, but that’s probaby par for the course in Victoria.

Brad and his kids headed home, Alyssa, Dave, and their kids headed farther north to camp one more night, and my kids and I hit the hotel swimming pool.

Friday, April 17

Friday was more proper eighth birthday celebrating. We started the day meeting up with local family bikers at a coffee shop and then all got a tour of the Victoria Police Department, courtesy of Community Mike (he has a Surly Big Dummy, too, which you can see half-way down my post from last summer, Victoria, BC with family bike).

He even arranged for his coworker to come by with his motorcycle, though we had to wait while he ticketed someone across the street on his way in. The kids found this awesome, of course.

And then an RCMP motorcycle officer happened to drive by and let the kids sit on his motorcycle, too! Very fun, though I’m worried the kids now prefer motorcycles to bicycles.

Once we learned everything there was to learn about policework, we rode bikes to Cook Street Park, where the zipline was sadly in for repair, but the kids still had a blast. This is Eunice on her Xtracycle FreeRadical, Amanda on her Xtracycle EdgeRunner, and Kristy on her Bullitt.

Amanda’s husband arrived a while later on his Xtracycle FreeRadical making five cargo bikes total!

We caught the Clipper home at 6pm and I enclosed the kids in the full Hooptie for the first time (oh, half-a-Hooptie blog post coming at some point soon), figuring they’d fall asleep on the way home.

We got home at 10:30 and they slept a bit on the way, but an accidental sleep headbutt led to some punching and crying so we’ll have to figure out sleeping positions if we expect to be out so late again.

Saturday, April 18
It was nice to come home on a Friday night and have what felt like a bonus weekend of Spring Break staycation. This meant we got to attend a friend’s fifth birthday party at the Olympic Sculpture Park beach and since they couldn’t carry all the party supplies on their mamachari, I got to help haul stuff, which is my favorite thing ever. We also carried what was left of the party back to our friend’s house and I was able to retrieve my road bike. I’d been lending it to a visiting Detroiter, but since I left town a day earlier than she, I arranged for her to drop it off with my friend. It seemed to all work seemlessly.

I hadn’t carried a big bike with both kids since swapping the Yepp Maxi seat for half-a-Hooptie and things are a little different now. My five-year old was very mad (as you can tell from the picture) about having his space invaded, so I’ll have to figure out a better system next time. I’ll probably have my eight-year old sit sidesaddle.

Sunday, April 19

And on the last gorgeous day of Spring Break, we hit our favorite beach, Golden Gardens. The kids rode their own bikes and just when I started thinking, “Wow, maybe I don’t need to bring the cargo bike because they can ride the whole way!” my five-year old stated he couldn’t manage any more pedaling and had to hitch a ride for the last little bit.

The beach was awesome and the bike rack was full. As was the parking lot, but I don’t find that as worth noting. Someone burned part of the jumping log which is a shame, but it still works fine.

Heading home we had about 20 swaps between “I want to ride on the mamabike!” and “I want to ride my own bike!” by the five-year old, but thankfully he wanted to hit the last hills home. And my eight-year old had learned about zig-zagging up a hill on the camping trip so he made it up more quickly than usual. The five-year old on his 16-inch single-speed bike is a much better hill climber than the eight-year old on his 20-inch seven-speed bike. And as you can tell from the vantage point of my picture, I am the slowest hill climber of the family.

30 Days of Biking stats

Miles biked Saturday, April 11: 1.6
Bikes biked Saturday, April 11: 1

Miles biked Sunday, April 12: 22.9
Bikes biked Sunday, April 12: 1

Miles biked Monday, April 13: 1
Bikes biked Monday, April 13: 1

Miles biked Tuesday, April 14: 29.9
Bikes biked Tuesday, April 14: 2

Miles biked Wednesday, April 15: 1
Bikes biked Wednesday, April 15: 1

Miles biked Thursday, April 16: 16.7
Bikes biked Thursday, April 16: 1

Miles biked Friday, April 17: 9.3
Bikes biked Friday, April 17: 1

Miles biked Saturday, April 18: 13.2
Bikes biked Saturday, April 18: 1

Miles biked Sunday, April 19: 13.8
Bikes biked Sunday, April 19: 1

Miles biked cumulative: 284.2
Bikes biked cumulative: 6