Archives

Return of the Birthday Party by Bike

Having kids with birthdays during Spring Break and Summer Break means we haven’t been in town to throw a birthday party for a while–six years sez the blog! Doing super fun (usually bikey) things on their big days has been terrific, but my freshly minted eight-year old wanted a party in town this year.

He decided we’d watch Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie and have Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt (one of those places with too many apply-your-own toppings and then pay by weight) afterwards. The only place still showing Captain Underpants was the Landmark Crest Cinema up in Shoreline, nine uphill miles from home. The birthday boy wanted to bike the whole way there, but I thought that might be too big a day, even with the closing sugar high so I suggested we bus there with our bikes and bike home.

Menchie’s is two miles from the movie theater so we shuttled the party between the two venues by city bus. And we started the party at a park near the theater so they could play a bit and then trek half a mile while the kids and I pushed our bikes. Fun and multi-modal!

I did most of the carrying (the kids carried stuffed animals on their rear racks) on my road bike. I have a handlebar bag and saddle bag (Swift Industries Paloma and Large Zeitgeist) that hold a lot, but most of the stuff (snacks, cake, candles, party favors) were in my big All-City backpack. One of the mom offered to carry the presents to the end of the party, but we’d eaten enough snacks that they fit in the backpack.

Snacks and Captain Underpants Craft Stick Bookmarks

Our starting park was Northcrest Park and it was great! We took two buses to get there and it took about an hour…which is probably quicker than it would have taken us to bike there (Google maps says 59 minutes, but Google maps doesn’t bike with two kids). We entered at the south of the park and biked along a great trail a quarter of a mile long to get to the playground at the north end of the park.

I hadn’t counted on the six kids tiring of the small-but-fun play structure way before our 45 minutes of snacking and playing was up and they bolted for the trees and all found very big sticks. Eight-year olds have matured beyond the “sticks cannot be longer than your arm” rule I found out. But no one got hurt and I talked one of the kids out of brandishing a log (a log!) and soon enough we hiked south through the park trails and one sidewalk block to the movie theater.

The Landmark Crest Cinema shows $4 movies! And has bulk snacks! I got the kids two large popcorns (comes with a free refill!) and initially talked them out of sweet snacks since we’d be having plenty of sugar later, but was overruled halfway through the movie and ducked out to get $8 worth of bulk M&Ms. I thought the movie was pretty great, too.

Then we had a bit of a walk to the bus stop, from 165th to 175th. I say the street names because that makes it sound farther than “half a mile.” I lost control of the group again as they spied a preschool playground next to the bus stop. That helped the 15-minute wait go by more easily.

Paying for the bus proved a little confusing. I asked our driver on the first bus (when it was just us three) if I could tap five kids on one ORCA youth card (I know you can do this with ORCA adult cards) and he said they were really just for one kid. So I asked what the price for each extra kid was and was told it’s 50 cents. Um, no. I know that’s not the cash price because there’s a great Summer Youth Program giving kids free ORCA cards and charging all youth paying with ORCA only 50 cents. Finally he shared that cash youth are $1.50. Which I really should have looked up, but I was sure we’d be able to tap them all on one card. So I gave my oldest our three ORCA cards and $6 to pay for us all while I put the bikes on. Except everyone had to hold something so three someones had ORCA cards, someone had a five dollar bill, someone had a one dollar bill, and someone was sadly empty handed. Probably the birthday boy’s big brother. I wish I had thought to bring six one dollar bills. I forgot how fun it is to feed things into the bus till. By the time I had racked the bikes and climbed the steps into the bus, I came upon the end of some confusion. I’m not sure what happened, but the driver had the kids keep the cash and I think she tapped them on my adult card. Or maybe she just let them on free? This led to a brief moment of excitement by the two party attendees holding the cash over possibly keeping the bills, but I was able to get them back. The kids were very well behaved for our six-minute bus ride, though the driver stressed I wasn’t allowed to leave any behind on the bus. Heh.

And then we just had to cross two busy streets of the Aurora/185th intersection and were at Menchie’s! Everyone’s eyes were bigger than their stomachs, plus we had birthday brownie cut into small pieces to add as an additional topping. Thank goodness for good weather and outside seating because I didn’t think Menchie’s would take kindly to fire and food brought from home in the shop. I gave us an hour of Menchie’s time before the parents were supposed to arrive and again I kicked myself for not planning for a bunch of fresh-out-of-an-action-movie, sugar-fueled active kids. I reined them in to open presents, but the last 20 minutes were spent playing dodge ball with a small dog in a bear suit stuffed animal. Poor Boo (or poor Poo as we was renamed moments after his name tag was removed).

And then everyone left and I crammed all the stuff back on my bike.

I hadn’t realized this Shoreline Menchie’s is the one right on the Interurban Trail! I think riding from the trail the two miles to the movie theater would have been hilly and unpleasantly busy, but only riding along the trail in the south/downhill direction was awesome.

It’s still a longer ride than we usually take and we stopped for a few brief rest/water breaks. We opted to come over the top of Green Lake on our way home (we usually go south of the lake) and contemplated stopping at the wading pool to get our feet wet, but the kids decided they would rather rush home…that is, until we cruised by the dirt jumps in Lower Woodland Park.

And to round out the day with the birthday boy’s favorite meal, we made one last stop on the way home for sushi to go. Happy happy!

Advertisements

Why I Don’t Have an E-Assist (or Why I Don’t Want a Car-Replacement Bike)

Note: I think e-bikes are amazing. I truly believe bikes can save the world, and for a ton of people that means e-bikes. This post–like everything on this blog–is simply my own experience. If you want an e-bike, you should totally get an e-bike!

For years I’ve joked my way out of answering why I don’t have an e-assist:

“I’m too rough on my bikes, it’s just one more thing for me to break.”
“I’m too stubborn to add one now and they weren’t really a thing when I got my cargo bike six years ago…and the kids were 100 pounds lighter back then!”

But the thing is, I never really thought it through. Yes, I am stubborn, and it wasn’t at all on my radar six years ago (knowledge-wise, budget-wise, necessity-wise), but that’s not it.

I Don’t Have a Car-Replacement Bike Because
I Don’t Have a Car-Based Life; I Have a Bike-Based Life.

I don’t want a life with things car distances away or with things timed such that the distances must be traversed at car speed.
I don’t want my backup plan to have to be a car.
Were my bike to break, or were myself or one of the kids unable to bike, I don’t want that to mean our only alternative is a car.
I always want my options to be walking and busing, and our bikes simply make things quicker, easier, and a lot more fun.

Right now “bike distance away” is the distance I can bike on a slow and heavy bike or that the kids can bike on their own little bikes. And if it’s farther, I want to take the bus, train, or ferry, ideally paired with bikes. If there’s ever a time we can’t bike or don’t want to bike, I want my life to support taking a little extra time to walk to the close things and bus to the far things.

Caveat: this works for me because we live in a big city (a.k.a. an Urban Cycling-friendly city) and I want to take advantage of that. Things are tightly-packed here. That means school is three blocks from home, and everything else is almost as close: a few parks, a few libraries, a few bike shops, a few grocery stores, farmers markets, art supply store, veterinarian, umm…what else does one need?…cat cafe, funky gift shop, conveyor-belt sushi a ten-minute pedal in either direction along the multi-use trail two blocks from our home.

One very important thing that makes this work as a family biker is that I’ve been biking with my kids since they were tiny and totable. I was able to build muscle, confidence, and stubbornness; they were able to grow up learning getting everywhere on bikes is an ordinary thing. Babies and toddlers are so little, light, and portable, and many conveniently grow into kids who will ride their own bikes right around the time they become too hefty to carry easily. When kids are young, they fit well on regular bikes, like my old mamabike, so it’s not necessarily a big investment to adopt a biking lifestyle.

July 2010

Nowadays my main bike is a Surly Big Dummy, one of several longtail cargo bikes available these days. It makes it easy to carry both kids and stuff. One things exceptionally terrific about longtails is that they make it easy to carry kids and their bikes, so I can carry the whole show through sections I don’t want the kids riding on their own or give them lifts when they get tired. The bike weighs about 75 pounds and is geared for hauling weight. The kids weigh about 70 and 55 pounds, but fortunately I rarely have to carry them these days. Toting one kid and his bike is fine, but they have hit a combined weight that I prefer not to carry.

Cars and me
And yes, we use cars occasionally. A year and a half ago I rented a Zipcar to take the kids snowboarding: Snowboarding for the car-free family. I’m not sure I could get us up early enough for the ski bus so we may do this again next winter, but when the kids are bigger and I’ve hopefully outgrown my phobia of waking sleeping babies too early, the bus it is!

This year we rented a car during Spring Break to stay near family in Venice Beach and easily drive up to my hometown of Santa Barbara. I dream of finding a way to visit Los Angeles without a car while still seeing my family as much as when we have wheels.

So cars for big things, but not for everyday things. Oh, and we’ve carpooled with friends three times over the last year, but that’s it for our car stuff.

I feel that I can’t write about being car-free and using cars without bringing up one specific beast: Uber.
I hate Uber.
I hate Uber because every Prius driver parked in the bike lane, running a red light, turning right on red without checking for bikes in the bike lane, staring at a phone while speeding down the street is probably an Uber driver.
I hate Uber because Uber Is Quietly Terrible For Women And Black People: Study.
I hate Uber because Why Uber’s Expansion Plans Would Make City Life Unbearable.

I started writing this blog post months and months ago so those Uber stories are dated and I’m sure there is even more horrible data available now. I’ve never used Uber and never will and it seems like there are plenty of better options out there (and please feel free to correct me/argue with me/disagree with me in the comments because I don’t understand why Uber is so popular).

One good (?) thing about my taking so long to finish this blog post is that I can put my money where my mouth is: I broke my foot four weeks ago and my bike-based life holds up to the test as I’m successfully biking with a broken foot.

Photo courtesy VisitKitsap.org

E-Bikes and me
Also thanks to the delay, I finally go around to posting about last summer’s week in Portland with an e-bike. It was awesome! That week was eye opening and I TOTALLY GET IT ABOUT ELECTRIC ASSIST NOW! We spent the week living the equivalent of a car-based life, but with a bike. Yeah, it was fun, but it also wasn’t our normal pace of life. I guess renting an e-cargo-bike in Portland is the equivalent of renting a car in Southern California. Except so much better.

Photo by Cory Poole

Perhaps there will come a day I need an e-assist to keep up my current non-e-assist-bike-paced life. That’s OK by me, but for now and the foreseeable future, this is it.

Biking with a broken foot

I broke my foot two and a half weeks ago. I was rescuing a kitten from a burning tree and was attacked by a wolf who clamped onto my right foot and wouldn’t let go until the kids threw every rock and stick (about 100) they’d stashed in my cargo bike bags at him. The kitten is fine, so it was well worth the fractured foot.* (*I tripped while mowing the lawn.)

It’s the good kind (and the most common kind) of 5th metatarsal fracture. It hurts and my energy level has plummeted (turns out it takes a lot of energy to mend a broken bone, even a tiny fracture), but with giving myself lots of extra time to do anything and resting a ton, life goes on well enough.

I didn’t realize it was broken at first so I still took the kids and their playdate pal to our local farmers market via bike. Especially that day, and even still now, pedaling is much easier than walking. I sat on my picnic blanket while the kids played (which is what I normally do at farmers market because it’s one of the few things where I can just sit and chill) and was even fine carrying my seven-year old and his bike home.

I visited the urgent care three blocks from home (by bike) the following morning. MultiCare Indigo Urgent Care is terrific, though I hope I never have reason to visit them again. They did x-rays on site (I hear the second-closest urgent care doesn’t), wrapped my ankle in an elastic bandage, gave me some crutches, and referred me to an orthopedist a block away with whom I made an appointment for the following week. They thought my insurance wouldn’t cover a medical walking boot so I decided I didn’t need one.

Let me just say, crutches are tough! I crutched my way three blocks to school pickup once and it was horrible so I quickly switched to biking. Six days after the break I had to take one kid to a doctor’s appointment in Bellevue and we opted to ride our bikes one mile to a bus stop by campus and leave them locked up there, and then take two buses that would deposit us right across the street from the medical building. The transfer between buses was at a transit center so we didn’t have far to walk (but it was still horrible). However, once in Bellevue we had to walk half a block to a street crossing and then through one building and a parking garage to reach the proper building. That was pretty awful. I was completely worn out by the time we got home. The stress of not being able to make it across any street during the course of a green light with a kid at my side probably added to my end-of-day exhaustion.

Fortunately I had my orthopedist appointment the following day and got my boot. It remains to be seen if my insurance will pay for it, but it has made life so much better! The swelling and pain had already decreased quite a bit over the course of a week so I’m trying to convince myself I didn’t inconvenience myself too much by waiting on the boot. And I got “credit for time served” before the boot and only need to wear it for three weeks. Then I’m in a stiff-soled shoe for two weeks and then I’m good as new! True to frugal form, I opted not to get an Evenup, but mostly because I thought it would be a bad match for my klutziness. It seems like a very cool product, though, and if you’re going to be doing more walking than pedaling, you’ll probably want one when you break your 5th metatarsal.

I kept the crutches with me for a couple days just to be safe, but I got the hang of the boot pretty quickly. I have fairly big pedals on my Big Dummy–MKS Grip Kings–and while it took a couple days to get used to pedaling with the boot, my foot only slipped off twice while getting used to it–and it wasn’t a painful slip. I’ve accidentally taken a few painful steps while walking, but the pedaling is really A-OK.

It’s much easier to walk with the boot and no crutches and I’ve been walking to school pickup more than biking–that way Pixie gets a little walk and I don’t have to deal with the many cars also trying to pick up kids. The kids have been walking themselves every morning which has been great! While it takes a lot less energy to walk with the boot than it does with crutches, it’s still quite tiring. My friend Jen told me about a saying hikers have: “a pound on your feet equals five pounds on your back.” Heaving the boot around is a bit of a task, plus there’s still that whole energy-to-heal-a-tiny-broken-bone thing going on.

For two weeks I only used my Big Dummy. All the other bikes live up a few stairs in the house or down a bunch of stairs in the basement and I knew I wasn’t up to doing any bike carrying. The Big Dummy was convenient for carrying the crutches back when they were part of my outfit and proved incredibly comfortable to bike while broken. Yeah, it’s an 80-pound bike, but it’s geared for carrying a lot so moving even slower than my usual slow pace works beautifully. Heh, fun side note: my urgent care visit was during May/Bike Month during which I had the Ride Report app on my phone for automatically logging any bike trips. I biked there so slowly the app must have thought I was walking and didn’t acknowledge the trip.

I was even able to lead our Kidical Mass Bike Travel Weekend camping trip. I was very worried about the multiple stops to rest on hills and having trouble getting started, but it wasn’t a problem at all. It all went better than I thought it would and I had plenty of energy Saturday evening…I thought I’d need to go to sleep at 7pm, even before the kids! Granted, once we were home I was a tired wreck Sunday night and all day and night Monday.

Photo courtesy VisitKitsap.org

Two weeks post-fracture we needed to go to Issaquah (20 miles away) for an orthodontist appointment. We normally bus and bike to get there and I usually carry one kid on the old mamabike while one rides his own bike, but I didn’t feel up for carrying a kid unless it was on the Big Dummy. The Big Dummy doesn’t fit on the bus, though. So I decided we’d do what we’ll need to eventually do when the kids outgrow the Bobike Junior seat on the old mamabike: two kids on their own bikes and me on a folding bike. Most Seattle buses have three bike slots on their racks, but I worry about encountering a bus that already has a bike on it…as well as worry at taking up all three slots making a regular commuter have to wait for the next bus. And this appointment was for 5pm so there would definitely be a lot of people on the bus.

Toting the folding bike around wasn’t too bad. It would have been hard a week earlier when my foot was less healed. Appreciating the daily healing progress makes it a lot easier to cope with what I can do and not focus too much on how hard and painful everything is. The bus was packed and I stood with the bike for a bit while the kids shared a seat. This was probably the first time they’ve shared anything well in years ;) So many silver linings to this fracture!

We took two buses there and then biked a mile. The folding bike’s pedals are smaller than the Grip Kings (MKS makes a removable version of the Grip Kings that a lot of people put on their Bromptons, but I have the regular pedals) so it wasn’t quite as comfortable and I couldn’t get the saddle just right so it felt the same as the Big Dummy. I’m pretty sure the two bikes have the same length cranks, but it felt like my foot was moving around more so I figure it had to do with my saddle height. While it felt like I was getting some motion in my foot, it wasn’t more than that caused by walking with the boot so it was just a bit uncomfortable and required extra rest afterwards, no harm done.

We didn’t see any other bikes on the way out, nor on our first bus home, but I was still a bit worried about not fitting on the rack so we skipped the second bus and biked home five miles from downtown Seattle. OK, OK, I also wanted to tire out the kids so they’d go to bed easily since this had been a pretty big day for me with a bike ride to Greenwood earlier in the day while the kids were at school.

So the Big Dummy is by far my favorite bike to ride with a broken foot and the Brompton is OK in a pinch, with its nice low top tube even if the pedals are smallish. But I had plans to visit Portland with Pixie this past weekend and I’m not practiced enough carrying a lot of stuff with the Brompton (it’s new!) so I took my usual travel bike, the Surly Straggler. I wish I had thought to swap for the Big Dummy’s pedals because the Shimano PD-A530 pedals that are clipless on one side and flat on the other are small–and not easy to turn over with a boot on one’s foot. My booted foot slipped off once, but it wasn’t too bad. I was more worried about having to lift my heavy foot over the high top tube, but having gotten pretty used to taking my time for everything lately, this was also an unhurried affair and I didn’t get hung up on the top tube or panniers even once!

This trip was more exhausting than the camping trip, though, and I wasn’t while it was super exciting to be in Portland during Pedalpalooza for the first time ever, I couldn’t manage doing much. But I hit Saturday’s Clever Cycles’ 10th anniversary party (but skipped the preceding ride) and attended Sunday’s Cargo Bike Roll Call ride. It was totally OK that I attended without a cargo bike, by the way. There were a lot of cool bikes, but the sauna trailer was my favorite.

Life with a broken foot is certainly not as fun as life with a fully-working foot, but it’s really not that bad. It certainly helps that most things we do are nearby and that the kids are at an age where they’re usually riding their own bikes. Needing to manipulate a big bike with 120 pounds of kids on board would be extremely hard right now. The kids are being great about becoming more independent and helpful. Before the boot, I needed to take them along grocery shopping so they could push the cart while I struggled along behind them on my crutches. Normally that would have been a huge pain, because normally there’s nothing more enticing than fighting over pushing a grocery cart with one’s brother, but they held it together for our two whole-family shopping trips.

In being careful about not overdoing it, I had to skip the Emerald Bike Ride over Memorial Day Weekend. We managed an abridged version (just as much for the kids’ sake than mine!) of the Mighty-O Tour de Donut on Saturday, though! I even carried a kid and a bike for an uphill portion…but a kid lighter than my own.

At least I don’t have to miss out on the popular activity of posting Emerald Bike Ride bib numbers and can belatedly do that here:

Note my awesome low number! That’s because I can trade Cascade Bicycle Club ride leader credits (I lead my most of my Seattle Critical Lass rides as a Cascade ride leader) for rides. Note: there’s a ride leader certification class on June 19th if you want to join the ranks.

So step carefully, friends, but if you falter it’s not the end of the world.

Happy Bike Everywhere Day!

As someone without a regular job and regular commute, I love that Seattle’s Bike Month has become Bike Everywhere Month and Bike to Work Day is now Bike Everywhere Day. Our first or second Bike to Work Day in Seattle, I biked over to Gregg’s Green Lake with a baby and toddler and a volunteer from Cascade Bicycle Club said I obviously wasn’t on my way to a real job and didn’t want to give me a half banana. I think she gave me one anyway, but made sure it was clear she was doing me a favor. But now! Now there are tons of stations and everyone is made to feel welcome.

I was able to hit 10 stations after dropping the kids at school at 7:40am before they closed up at 9:00am. The timing was perfect for catching a 9:35am train at King Street Station.

I was tempted to do a repeat of last year’s Bike Everywhere Day trip and take the light rail to Capitol Hill to hit the Swift Industries station, but I thought saving the light rail fare and hitting more stations would be nice this time.

I was also tempted to skip all the stations and rush straight for City Hall and they 8:15am rally for the Basic Bike Network downtown. But I didn’t do that because I had blinders on for BREAKFAST PIZZA at the Washington Bike Law station.

There were so many bikes out! I was number 985 on the Fremont Bridge at 7:52am and number 422 on the downtown bike counter.

I had a bag with me to collect stuff at stations so I wouldn’t spoil my appetite before breakfast pizza. I ended up with an apple, a pear, 2 small Clif bars, a muffin, 1/4 doughnut, 1/2 doughnut, a whole doughnut, a brownie, a patch kit, a beer koozie, cold brew, hot coffee, and a container chocolate milk.

(Note: I’ll add links and photo captions later, just wanted to say “yay Bike Everywhere Month!” even if it means doing so from my iPhone on the Wi-Fi-less train :P )

Biking with kids in Venice Beach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Biking with kids in Santa Barbara

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ride Recap: Kidical Mass April Fools’ Day Ride

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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