Christmas Tree by Bike 2017

We had our best tree-fetching experience to date! It’s so cool to live biking distance to a proper tree farm and even better to go there with a group of friends.

We’ve always fetched our tree solo before, but enjoyed a bikey community aspect at the bonfire at the end of the season. Here’s a look back at previous trees:

  • Xmas 2016 was our previous funnest tree purchase experience when we got it at the Swansons Nursery Reindeer Festival.
  • Xmas 2015 was the year I brought the kids to the bonfire.
  • Xmas 2014 was the year I carried our tree and our neighbor’s huge tree to the bonfire.
  • Xmas 2013 was the first year I carried a tree (a twofer) to the bonfire and was bitten with the tree-carrying bug.

Check out the album of 33 photos from the current tree. Our group was 16: eight adults, eight kids, and one dog.

It was a nice mixture of bikes, here it is broken down by family:

  • mom on Surly Big Dummy longtail cargo bike for tree, dad/kid on Bantam Bicycle Works tandem, kid on her own 650b Surly Straggler bike
  • mom on Bike Friday Haul-a-Day midtail cargo bike carrying one kid, dad on regular bike with trailer made from double jogging stroller for tree, kid on her own 26″ beach cruiser bike
  • partner on Bantam Bicycle Works bike with trailer for tree, dad/kid on Bantam Bicycle Works tandem
  • mom on Surly Big Dummy longtail cargo bike for tree, 2 kids on their own 24″ and 26″ Islabikes Beinns
  • mom on Yuba Mundo longtail cargo bike for tree, kid on his own 26″ Islabikes Beinn

I don’t know the name of the tree farm, but it’s in Milwaukie on the southeast corner of SE Freeman Rd & SE Lake Rd. There are 100s of trees, averaging six feet tall, and they all cost $30. There are lots of saws, endless twine to squish down fluffy branches for transport, and tree-purchasing kids may collect as many chiweenie-sized trees from the ground (aka fallen branches) as they want. Their hours are “We’re open when I’m here” per what the owner told Andy, our ride organizer. Our group ride to the farm was only 2.5 miles from our friends’ house in Milwaukie, but we rode over 15 miles total for the day. That’s a lot for my kids!

We take a bit of a roundabout route to get to Milwaukie for quiet, flat streets (otherwise there’s a big, busy downhill on the way there and uphill on the way back). This makes the trip 4.5 miles instead of 2, but it takes us by Cartlandia so we stocked up on Voodoo Doughnuts.

Using this gentle route on the way home meant we got to experience the infamous east wind along the Springwater Corridor Trail. I asked the kids if they prefer wind or rain and they said rain, but I’m not sold. The wind is a pain, all right, and the tree caught quite a bit of it, but we didn’t get pushed around too much. Plus we were dry upon arriving home. So for me, the jury is still out, but I’ll surely form an opinion over the course of winter.

On the way home we stopped at the Milwaukie Station Food Cart Pod for lunch. Food cart pods are so great for kids and dogs! Some even have tents and heaters. And breaking up big bike rides with food stops is critical.


Happy Sixth Birthday, Big Dummy!

Time for the annual love letter to my Surly Big Dummy. I love my beast of a bike as much as ever. While I lamented that My Cargo Bike is a Glorified Bike Rack eight months ago, my Big Dummy has proven her worth in much more exciting ways since.

Best bike for a broken foot.
I broke my foot in May and while walking was a pain in the foot and hopping was a pain in the butt, I was fine on the Big Dummy. It’s easy to get on and off, especially thanks to the Rolling Jackass centerstand by Haulin’ Colin at Cyclefab. Being able to slowly heft my broken foot in the walking boot over the low top tube while the centerstand was engaged was extremely helpful. Then it’s just a small shove forward with feet planted on the ground (even possible with one foot unable to bear much weight before I got the special boot) to get the bike rolling. Same goes for parking the bike: engaging the centerstand while stradling the bike and being able to slowly and clumsily lift that broken foot over the top tube while the bike was rooted to the ground made getting around foolproof. Not to mention it’s just a super sturdy and stable bike. Now that I’m thinking about it, I feel more comfortable and confident on it than any other bike.

Photo courtesy

And more than just everyday biking around, the Big Dummy made it possible for me to still go bike camping with my broken foot. Note: I probably wouldn’t have gone at all if I wasn’t in charge of leading the group trips, but I’m glad I didn’t cancel because it all worked out fine. Our tandem had become our go-to camping bike, but I didn’t feel confident piloting what’s kind of a bigger beast than the Big Dummy. It’s five pounds lighter, so that’s nice, and the six panniers mean I pack a tad less than on the Big Dummy, but as you can see from the photo I’m often the only one pedaling. I still have high hopes for it as a camping rig in the future (and it’s really fun to ride with just one kid and minimal stuff!)

Photo courtesy Neighbor Kelly

I didn’t do any kid toting while my foot was broken so this meant my kids got to ride their own bikes to Fay Bainbridge Park and Illahee State Park for the first time. Those were big and hilly rides for them and I didn’t have them carry any of the gear to help ensure they stayed happy and helpful.

Best bike to carry a kid with a broken arm (and his perfectly fine little brother).
Shortly after my broken foot healed, my 10-year old broke his arm and I found myself carrying both kids all the time again (apparently it’s a rule that if you carry the older kid for any reason, you have to carry the younger kid, too…so says the younger kid). Tall and heavy kids are not all that easy to carry without an e-assist, but I lucked out with the way they ended up arranging themselves and it worked just fine. Since I keep only the left rail of my Xtracycle Hooptie on the top of the bike (the other rail is down low on the right for stepping up to the deck), my 10-year old with the broken left arm sat backwards at the front of the deck to hold the rail with his good arm. Then the eight-year old sat sideways or backwards to have adequate legroom. This put the heaviest part of the heavier kid at the closest spot forward and the lighter kid more forward than had be been sitting forward-facing. I was delighted to find out I can still carry them both easily! Especially considering I wasn’t back up to full strength after the broken foot.

It’s a mountain bike!
After moping and whining about not being able to fit camping gear on my old full suspension mountain bike because I really wanted to bring a mountain bike on my second trip to the Deschutes River Trail, I made the startling realization that the Big Dummy is indeed a mountain bike. One forgets when she covers it with kids and groceries and a little doggie. It was really fun to ride on the trail and it was really fun to discover it fits in my friend Jolene’s van! I hope we can have more adventures together that involve the Big Dummy being driven somewhere.

Fewer hills, more riding.
Moving to Portland three months ago means everything is a lot flatter now (no, I’m not saying Portland is completely flat–it’s just that our neighborhood in Portland is a lot flatter than our former neighborhood in Seattle) and I’m perfectly happy to ride the Big Dummy everywhere for everything and my love for my Big Dummy is stronger than ever. The Big Dummy has been to a farm in Boring and IKEA so far.

A new dinghy.
I’ve always thought Brompton folding bikes make terrific dinghies tucked in a Big Dummy’s cargo bag, and now I have one! Portland buses have only two bike rack slots so it’s the only way we can all three bus and bike together. And it’s a great loaner bike as it’s incredibly adjustable so several friends have borrowed it already, though I don’t always get to carry it to them via the Big Dummy and that’s really what it’s all about.

How we spent the big day.
Er, I didn’t even ride the Big Dummy today. But three friends did! Two families (three adults, three kids) were down visiting from Seattle for the weekend, though yesterday the Big Dummy sat home yesterday and we used a plethora of other bikes: I borrowed Kath’s bakfiets for Lindsey to carry her baby with, Jen rode my Surly Straggler with one of her kids on the Burley Piccolo behind it, Jen’s other kid rode the Islabikes we just outgrew, John rode my All-City Nature Boy Disc single-speed cyclocross bike, my kids rode their own bikes, and I rode the Brompton in case Lindsey wanted to swap bikes. I figured we’d do the same today, but Jen wanted to ride the Big Dummy (so I rode the Straggler and carried her kid so she could enjoy the bike empty).

And then she and John switched bikes so he could ride the Big Dummy.

Photo courtesy Lindsey Bikes!

And then once we got home from our day of swimming and checking out the neighborhood, Lindsey took a spin on it.

Now that cargo bikes are so prevalent (at least in Seattle and Portland) my Big Dummy hasn’t seen action like this in a long time. Back when it was the only small Big Dummy in Seattle (not to mention one of few cargo bikes) I felt it was my duty to have it available for anyone who wanted to test ride it.

In general Big Dummy news, Surly now makes a Big Fat Dummy. I love that this bike exists. I personally have no need for one (and I’m not sure if I’m tall enough for it), but there are a lot of people doing fun stuff on them.

So here’s to another year, Big Dummy! …who just this moment I remembered I named Babe last year. Let’s see if I remember to use her name more now. I’m sure many adventures await us in the coming 12 months.

Read previous birthday posts:

Portland IKEA by Bike on the I-205 Multi-Use Path

Last month I biked to an IKEA for the first time! It was also my first big trip on Portland’s I-205 Multi-Use Path (I’d tagged along with Kath when she did a test run for a Kidical Mass to the Belmont Goats). Bike Portland has a great write-up of the I-205 Multi-Use Path here: Ride takes closer look at I-205 path, the ‘Grandaddy of MUPs’.

I adore multi-use paths. They tend to be flat and they have few intersections. Since they’re “multi-use” they shouldn’t be considered bike highways, but as I’m not a high-speed rider, navigating slowly and politely around dogs and walkers is fine by me. When we lived in Seattle we were a couple blocks from the Burke-Gilman Trail and I knew fast bike riders who avoided it because they thought it moved to slowly as well as parents who avoided it because they thought there were too many fast bike riders on it for it to be safe for their kids. I’d imagine the I-205 MUP receives similar criticism. It also has quite a bit of broken glass which is something we never had to deal with on the Seattle MUPs.

The I-205 Multi-Use Path is one-and-a-half quiet and flat miles from our house. IKEA is then 7.5 miles along the MUP followed by half a mile of flat roads. Much of the path is elevated as it crosses over big streets and parallels the TriMet MAX light rail green line. This loftiness gave me a great view of businesses below, like a bowling alley and Chuck E. Cheese. However, both of those are relatively close to our house so I don’t know that the I-205 MUP is the best way to get there–it might be more direct to cut diagonally through the neighborhoods from our house. However, it’s a way to reach them–a way I made use of recently from Montavilla. After navigating our way through two little construction road closures on our way to see Despicable Me 3 at the Academy Theater (the sewer pipe repairs are everywhere it seems!), I elected to go a tad out of the way and use the path to get home, figuring it’d be simpler. And we got to see the goats on the way home.

Also along the path is Gateway Green mountain bike skills park. This would be a fun destination with the kids, though we’d probably plan to take the MAX part of the way home after tiring ourselves out.

And sort of along the way to IKEA is Rossi Farms. I was still investigating local Halloween pumpkin patches during this IKEA trip so I detoured off the path to check out the farm. I didn’t like the route google suggested–the staggered crossing of NE 102nd Ave was so bad that I wouldn’t want to take the kids before doing another test run. Perhaps passing by the elementary school would work better. The farm is gorgeous, though, with a lovely view of Mount Hood. I tend to do all my test runs in the morning when the sun is behind the mountain, though, so it’s impossible to take a good photo to show it off.

As mentioned in the Bike Portland article, the path has some busy street crossings. At Burnside one has to bike over the freeway as the trail moves from the west side of I-205 to the east. Google street view is showing me a paint-buffered bike lane on Burnside, but I don’t remember noticing it and stuck to the sidewalk. It’s a pretty fast street, even with it road dieted down to one lane in each direction and the buffered bike lane. Then at Glisan a misleading sign sent me over the freeway again…but this time the path stuck to the east side.

Er, no–I-205 Multi-Use Path is to the right

The IKEA part of the trip was terrific. There are a ton of bike racks out front, though I was the only bike there this day.

The purpose of my trip was to get bookcases, having moved from a house with built-ins to one without. Naturally I ended up making some additional fun purchases. Behold:
2 small Billy bookcases, 1 tiny Billy, 1 tiny drawer unit, 1 Dimpa bag (fits a Brompton!) with a bunch of little stuff inside it. My haul was about 125 pounds, which is less than the kids weigh, and decidedly less wiggly. I was dismayed to see that the wind had picked up as soon as I left the store, though. I think this IKEA is just in a windy location, though, and path was a pleasant, wind-free ride.

Here’s my Strava recording of the trip which is useful for seeing the small elevation changes.

I hear one can bike to Minneapolis Ikea, as well. Do you know of other bikeable IKEAs? Lemme know in the comments below!

Deschutes River Trail with Cargo Bike and Pets

Last month I took my second trip along the Deschutes River Trail. I’d been for the first time in May: Riding the Deschutes River Trail, as well as caught glimpses of the trail and developed a love for the area in March: Dalles Mountain 60 with Pixie. There might be people who bike all the way to the area, but my three trips have involved hitching rides in cars (an hour and a half from Portland or four hours from Seattle).

* All the pix! Deschutes River Trail with Jolene – October 13-14, 2017 – 143 photos

* Strava maps: Deschutes River Trail to Bedsprings Camp, Deschutes River Trail: Bedsprings Camp to the water tower and back, Deschutes River Trail back from camp.

* Great resource for this trail on Oregon Bikepacking: Deschutes River Trail: An introduction to bikepacking

The aforementioned two trips were both on my Surly Straggler with slick Compass Tires (Barlow Pass, 700c x 38mm) and it was perfectly fine, but I wanted to take my mountain bike this time to have even more fun bumping over the gravel. However, carrying stuff for camping on a full-suspension mountain bike (an old one that doesn’t have the option to lock out the shocks) when you are short enough that there’s not a lot of air between saddle and rear tire makes it difficult to load it up with a bunch of gear. I learned that in January when I came down to visit Portland Snow with Pixie.

These days I mostly only use my mountain bike for riding in the city snow once a year. I wish I could trade it for an equally old hardtail mountain bike so I could also take it bikepacking. Anyhow, I couldn’t figure out fitting all my stuff on it, especially with wanting to pack water, so I reluctantly gave up on the idea. I had nearly resigned myself to the idea of riding my Straggler again, but then I remembered: I HAVE A SECOND MOUNTAIN BIKE, and a fully rigid one at that! It’s just that it’s also a cargo bike so I mistakenly think of it as a kid hauler and grocery getter. I measured its length and Jolene measured the back of her van and we were both delighted to learn my Surly Big Dummy would fit!

I have flat-resistant Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires on the Big Dummy which aren’t knobby mountain bike tires, but I still thought they’d feel fun on the gravel. And the best part is that I could carry Pixie in my front basket and have room to carry Jolene’s awesome new rescue cat, Houdi Joe Pye, on my back Xtracycle FlightDeck in his new backpack.

Had I been on the mountain bike, we would probably have each worn our pets in backpacks. Houdi has a basket he rides in on Jolene’s folding bike, but she worried about the low derailleur mixing with the gravel. I got to take a quick spin on her mountain bike, a Salsa El Mariachi, and it was really fun!

I want to learn to pack less stuff when I camp and bringing the Big Dummy makes it easy to overpack. I decided that since this was my first time camping with no water source I wouldn’t try to pack light water-wise, but I’d practice in other areas. There’s water at the Deschutes River State Recreation Area so we refilled our water there–I had water bottles in my four water bottle cages as well as a growler full of water. I got the growler and velcro-on growler cage from the MiiR store in Seattle.

I also brought my water filter because while the water in the Deschutes River isn’t safe to filter due to agricultural run-off, there’s a stream around mile marker 12 we could have filtered. And we would have had to do that had we stayed a second night, as we went through all the water. However, my food would have been different had I been trying to pack lightly and not need lots of water for cooking. Thanks to the Big Dummy I brought my usual meals that required boiling water (pasta for dinner and oatmeal for breakfast) as well full coffee setup. I ended up packed doubly heavy since we decided at the last moment to just camp one night rather than two and I figured I may as well keep my camp kitchen bag packed up with double the food for just in case (Just-in-case food is admittedly part of my overpacking problem). So I also had my no-water-needed can of chili and can opener, double the oatmeal (which I gave to our camp neighbors who didn’t have enough and were camping for two nights), and snacks for days and days and days and days. However, I took a moment to remove my no-water-needed canned coffee (hadn’t decided if I would heat it or drink it cold) which would work for saving both equipment and water space. I’ll try that on some future trip. Maybe. Real coffee is pretty important.

So I guess my only light-packing concession was bringing one of my folding Fozzils Bowlz. I don’t like to use plastic for warm or hot stuff (and hope to someday avoid it for all stuff), but this thing is pretty nifty and my friend Marley has it in the top spot of her 5 Must-Have Camping Gear Items. Mine is part of a three-pack from a gifted three-month subscription to Cairn which delivered a lot of cool stuff.

Before I knew for sure which bike I was bringing, I had loaded up my frame bag with the things I might need to quickly access. It’s a great bag, but my bikes are so small that I can’t easily fit it on them (I’m 5’5″ which isn’t that small, but it’s small enough to feel jealous of tall people and their many options…like the whole saddle bag bumping the rear tire of my mountain bike thing).

Seeing my idea of “most essential things” might be a window into my need to learn to pack better:

Oveja Negra 1/2 Pack™ Frame Bag with:

I also took advantage of the cargo bike and brought a full-sized pillow and a second sleeping pad because I was experiencing quite a bit of temporary back pain. The second sleeping pad was also for warmth as I’m not normally a three-season camper and was pretty scared about being cold overnight. It was heavenly! I might need to figure out a way to do two pads in the future. One of the pads belonged to my eight-year old so I only have access to an extra if I don’t bring the kids along. I see a lot of friends with Therm-a-Rest Z Lites so that looks like a good one to add to our stable. Note: our current camping gear is all listed in my Family Bike Camping Primer.

The trail was much like my last visit, except it was too cold to see any rattlesnakes this time, yay! Dispersed camping along the river was new for me (we camped at the recreation area last time) and we shared our site around mile marker 8 with two backpacking women. They referred to the campsite by its name, Bedsprings Camp, rather than mile marker which lead me to find this link, Deschutes River Hike, with all the campsites listed by name. I’m not sure the bikepackers know these cool names!

On day two Jolene and I pedaled on from camp to the Harris Homestead and I was glad to see the farmhouse is still standing…though probably not for much longer.

This is the spot at which Chele, Kelley, Kelly, and I turned back last time so I was extremely excited to hit some new territory this trip. The trail is still pretty easy to ride to the water tower, but past that is when the gravel gets rougher and there are probably many tire-puncturing goatheads. We discovered more buildings to explore and the creek makes for a pop of green amid the mostly yellow landscape.

Biking from Portland to Oregon City

On World Car-Free Day (September 22nd) I joined eight other women to bike to Oregon City. I’d heard that it was fairly close and fairly flat so this seemed like a perfect test run to see if it would be a good trip to make with the kids.

My photos: Flickr: Oregon City ride with Women Bike/The Street Trust – 46 photos
My Strava: Strava: Oregon City with The Street Trust Women Bike

The ride was organized by Women Bike, a program of The Street Trust–an Oregon transit, walking, and bicycling non-profit based in Portland. I found it via their Facebook group.

I nearly didn’t make it to the ride; as I rode to the meeting point, a squirrel darted across the street in front of me and smashed into the side of a car coming from the other direction. It lay twitching in the road as I pedaled past. I’d noticed the squirrel on the sidewalk, before it started across the street, but the woman driving the car who killed it didn’t even register the small bump. I had to staunch the urge to turn around and head back home. Obviously, the squirrel didn’t represent a squirrel, the squirrel was everyone and anyone lost to shoddy implementations of Vision Zero.

Anyhow, I sucked it up and continued along to Grand Central Bakery in Sellwood where I met seven awesome women (one more joined us en route) and we soon took off for Oregon City.

We sort of knew what to expect from this great Bike Portland guest post: Trolley Trail tour: You can now ride Portland to Oregon City nearly carfree…except it turned out being a lot quicker than we thought it would be, both because it was fewer miles than we had estimated and because we traveled faster than the advertised “brisk-but-still-leisurely pace of about 10mph” given the makeup of our group. The route wasn’t completely straightforward and our ride leader, Lise, stopped briefly a few times to check the map and keep us on course. I’ll turn my Strava recording into a Ride with GPS route I can easily follow before going on my own.

The first cool thing we saw was early in the trip, along the Sellwood/Milwaukie 17th Avenue Multi Use Path, when we came face-to-brush with a tiny street sweeper! I read about this four years ago on Bike Portland: Portland buys a new, bike path-sized street sweeper (and Seattle was supposed to buy one, too, but I don’t think that ever happened: Seattle Bike Blog: Seattle will purchase skinny bike lane sweeper machine). It turns out this one we saw belongs to the City of Milwaukie, and the kids and I got to see it up close two days later at Sellwood-Milwaukie Sunday Parkways where it was parked next to a full-sized street sweeper for a dual naming contest.

Next up, halfway to Oregon City we discovered the perfect restroom/drinking fountain/playground stop: Stringfield Family Park.

As we approached Oregon City I saw a billboard for the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive & Visitor Information Center which I can’t wait to check out with the kids. We didn’t ride by it in the group, but it looks bike accessible as I look at the map.

The last bit of the Trolley Trail wasn’t done, but there was an arrow spray painted on the road directing us towards Oregon City. A guy working on the site also gave us directions.

Our plan was to hang out in Oregon City for an hour, exploring the area and finding a spot for lunch. One of the women on the ride had been to Oregon City recently for an Oregon Trail themed 5K run and told us about the elevator and trail up on the second terrace so we headed for the Oregon City Municipal Elevator.

I love the elevator! It’s older than Seattle’s Space Needle and is the only outdoor municipal elevator in the US (and one of only four in the world). Bicycles are allowed in the elevator so four of us squeezed in with the operator for the first run. The remaining five opted to carry their bikes up the stairs. They were very quick to arrive and meet us, but I’ll use the elevator for future visits, even if I have to wait because it’s quite the walk. The observation deck is full of lenticular images (two-in-one holograms) and educational signage.

We walked and biked along the McLoughlin Promenade a ways for a lovely view of the Willamette Falls. One of our group was an architect who recently had a project in Oregon City and told us about the three terraces.

We split up for lunch, half of us at Oregon City Brewing Company (which is large indoors and out and looks good to visit with kids and dogs!) and half somewhere with vegetarian choices.

I’m thankful to have found this great resource. Two women knew each other from before, but the rest of us were all new to one another. Also in our group was a woman from the Portland chapter of Black Girls Do Bike. Portland has a lot of great resources for women, see Bike Portland: Portland’s network of bike clubs for women is thriving. I look forward to exploring more of the area with more of these groups!

Halloween Pumpkins ON A FARM by Bike

Ohmigosh we can bike to a pumpkin farm from our new home! Liepold Farms in Boring, Oregon is just half a mile off the Springwater Corridor Trail and about 16 miles from our house in southeast Portland.

My kids had never biked 32 miles in one day before, but our previous big rides in Seattle were hilly and this trip is mostly flat so I figured they’d be OK with taking time for resting and snacking along the way.

Here’s my route with some points of interest called out.

The trip there took over three and a half hours (3:36 total, 2:05 moving time) including doughnut stop and the ride home was just about the same: 3:38 total including dinner stop and 1:55 moving time.

I took a test ride alone during the week, mostly to see what the portion on Richey Road in Boring was like as well as to check out the trail-side encampment situation. Multi-use trail shoulders make for safe camping spots (versus anywhere near cars, say), but sometimes encampments encroach on all or part of the trail and I wanted to know what to expect before bringing the kids through. On my Tuesday test ride there was a spot close to home where one guy had his stuff covering half the trail. This was close to where a group of people lived barely visible from the trail and he had cleared the stuff away by the time I went back by a couple hours later. Under I-205 a group living on either side of the trail had a branch stretched across the trail, I figured as a makeshift speed bump. That was gone on the way back, too. Come the weekend, the entire encampment had moved to a different spot. And once I got out of Portland there was just one lone tent visible from the trail. In Gresham I saw a serious looking vehicle talking to a homeless guy near some stuff strewn under a bridge. So while encampments tend to move around, I think there are rarely trail blockages, or even any tents, outside Portland proper.

As for the half mile of country road, that sucked. Richey Road starts at 35 mph and goes up to 45 mph and there is a very small gravel-strewn shoulder. However, the farm looked so cool–even during my quick peek during the test ride–that I deemed it worth braving. I’m glad we went with friends because I wasn’t sure if I’d rather have the kids in front of me so my bigger, more visible bike was at the back (assuming they’d be game to ride ahead) or if I’d stick to my normal lead position. As it was we sandwiched the kids: parent, kid, kid, kid, parent carrying kid, parent. Best of both worlds! Plus the road had been swept by the weekend so we were OK in the shoulder, even the parts where it was pure gravel…though I rode to the left of the white line for some of the way. I think everyone behind me stayed on the shoulder. All cars passed us safely, but this is definitely not the type of road I like riding, with or without the kids.

On the big day we met with Portlandize’s Kath and her family at Cartlandia, one of Portland’s many food truck pods, and the spot where we enter the Springwater Corridor Trail. The children were very excited about the Voodoo Doughnut truck so we waited a few minutes for it to open (at 10:30 a.m.) and eat doughnuts before setting out.

My eight-year old got hungry again a mile and a half later (seriously?!) so we stopped at one of the many trail-side benches for him to eat a sandwich. Lots of these benches are at trail heads, this one at Beggars-Tick Wildlife Refuge. I need to ask around and see if it’s considered safe to leave bikes locked up alongside the Springwater Corridor Trail because there’s some great wetlands hiking to be done here. The trail also features an entrance to Powell Butte Nature Park.

Water and restrooms
About halfway there we stopped at the Linneman Station Trailhead building, only to discover it temporarily closed, with even the water fountains shut off.

The next water fountain I saw was at Gresham Main City Park, by the baseball field right alongside the trail. I didn’t see a restroom, but I bet there’s one deeper into the park. Either way, it’s a good spot to stop for passengers to run around and stretch their legs or pedalers to collapse on the grass for a bit. UPDATE: There are restrooms at Gresham Main City Park, next to the baseball diamond (thanks, Caitlin!)

The best stop is at the end of the trail: Boring Station Trailhead Park. It has everything! Water fountain, extremely clean bathrooms that “smell like a swimming pool,” and a play structure. We topped off our water bottles, used the facilities, and let the kids play on the play structure for a bit before tackling the crappy road.

Note: the edge of the park, by the stop light is where you’ll find the “Welcome to Boring Oregon” sign if you want to take a photo with it.

Even if you don’t stop for wildlife area hikes, there’s a lot to see from the trail:

Snakes! I saw one little snake during my route test ride and my 10-year old saw one during our big ride.

Caterpillars! Once it was warm out (for my test ride on the way back and for our weekend ride on the way out), we saw lots of fuzzy caterpillars. We make a habit of dodging them and during my test ride I saw evidence of other caterpillar lovers: a dog walker stooped to move one off the trail to safety and a mom and toddler crouched to watch one crawl past them.

Horses! People ride horses on the Springwater Corridor Trail, and many intersections have crosswalk buttons set at walker/bicyclist height and at horse rider height. Sadly, the horses we followed across a street on Saturday were at one of the rare non-horse-height button intersections and one of the riders had to kick our short button with her foot.

Sheep! There are some sheep on the north side of the trail near Powell Butte (marked on my map). Fun joke opportunity: we headed home later than expected and I chastised the kids for trying to count the sheep as we biked by lest it put them to sleep.

Goats! There are some very friendly goats near the end of the trail (marked on my map). One will amble towards you if you make eye contact.

Bunnies! Our late return meant the bunnies were out in full force. We saw quite a few of them on the side of the trail near blackberry brambles. But it was too dark for my picture to be interesting so here’s a loose bunny we saw on our way to the trail in the morning.

Beavers. We didn’t see any beavers, but there’s a nice interpretive sign about them. And a good beaver lodge (marked on my map)

Nutria. We didn’t see any nutria, either, but there’s a sign about them. My kids would have loved to see one and spent a lot of time talking about nutria and beavers.

Cows. Somewhere near the start we passed a field of cows. Not as exciting as the other critters, but they still count.

Liepold Farms
I don’t know what to tell you for bike parking. I asked around during my test run and no one knew where I should park. I figured there’d be more staffers, including parking attendants, on the weekend and it wouldn’t be confusing. However, there’s no dedicated bike parking so I suggested I just put the bikes off to the side near the info booth and they were fine with that. Kath and I both have sturdy double kickstands so we played bike racks for our families’ bikes. Tippy bikes could find a building to lean against.

We bought complete passes and had a blast on the hay ride and in the corn maze. The price was reduced on account of some of the corn maze having been flattened by high winds, but it felt plenty big to me…in fact, the little kids made it through to the end while the rest of us gave up and backtracked out. We didn’t stand in the long line for the pumpkin/apple slingshot, but it looked awesome.

The pumpkin selection was great and we left with three extremely big pumpkins ($20), one adorable tiny $1 watermelon-looking pumpkin, and a bag of apples for $5. We admired the “frickin’ huge” (apparently they say that a lot on MythBusters and I’ve failed to notice) $1-each Hanner apples.

There’s barbecue on the weekends, including a good selection of kid options and a large, covered dining room next to the kid pavilion (which my 8- and 10-year olds found fun to play in, though it looks sized for toddlers).

Perhaps the most exciting thing is that dogs are welcome! I didn’t realize that until seeing the sign during my test ride. So Pixie came along and had as much fun as the rest of us. A lot of other visitors brought dogs, too. We were the only visitors by bike that day as far as I could tell, though.

I heard one of the food servers mention a bike race at the farm on November 11th. Turns out it’s a cyclocross race, Corn Cross 2! I didn’t realize there was cyclocross within biking distance of us. PIR and Alpenrose both seem way too far to bike to with the kids. My littles say they want to come back to Liepold for Corn Cross 2 to do the kiddie lap.

Other Portland pumpkins

Portland Nursery. In Seattle we couldn’t bike to a farm, but we enjoyed visiting Swansons Nursery’s “Fall Adventures” by bike. There are similar experiences in Portland, such as the Portland Nursery Apple Tasting and Kid Activities. We visited on a very rainy weekend and had a great time choosing big pumpkins and painting little pumpkins. I was very impressed by the amount of bike parking. We’ll look for future activities here.

Rossi Farms. Rossi Farms is close to the I-205 Bike Trail so I did a test run there while on the way to IKEA (I can bike to IKEA!!!! Blog post coming soon), but I didn’t like the default route given by Google Maps once I left the trail so I’d have to do some experimenting (at least using Google Street View and possibly riding over alone again) before bringing the kids here. This is closer than Boring, but it’s more of a pretty wedding venue than an actual working farm. However, it has lots of pumpkins and free tractor rides so it’d be fun to visit next year.

Bushue’s Family Farm. This farm is also in Boring and was my first choice for our big trip, but once I saw how far off the trail it is, I didn’t even visit for my test run. It looks like an awesome farm and has tons of farm animals (though no pet dogs allowed), but four miles of country roads felt like way too many.

Sauvie Island Pumpkin Patch. Sauvie Island seems to be the most popular pumpkin patch in the area and some people bike to it, but most people drive there. I hear highway 30 is horrible for biking so I don’t plan to ever visit, plus it’s farther from home. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention it when talking about area pumpkin patches.

Have I missed any? Let me know in the comments!

Biking to a New School

Our move from Seattle to Portland happened two weeks before school started so we had a good amount of time to explore our neighborhood and beyond before settling into our new daily schoolyear routine.

Our school has so many bike staples!

It’s not entirely fair to say Seattle is hilly and Portland is flat since Seattle has some flat neighborhoods and Portland some hilly ones. But I think it’s safe to say that in general Portland is flatter than Seattle. I’m happy to say we landed in a neighborhood that is flat as far as the eye can see. Versus our old neighborhood in Seattle which a biking friend referred to as “living on the side of a cliff” (which is an exaggeration, but other than two flat blocks to the east it was a steep two- or three-block climb or descent in all directions).

Our biggest change is that school is no longer a two-and-a-half-block walk from home (it took longer to put on helmets and bike than to walk so we only bothered with bikes on Bike to School Day). Now school is 15 blocks away–a legitimate bike-distance from home, and I’m pretty excited about that.

One huge bummer is that my 10-year old broke his arm four days before school started. However, that meant I didn’t need to figure out a kid-safe bike route to school for a month.

I have 3 types of routes:

  • me alone (and sometimes me alone in a hurry versus me alone slightly less direct, but more pleasant)
  • me with kids attached on tandem or cargo bike
  • me plus kids riding separately

They’re rarely the same.

Allow me to stray from routing talk for a moment and acknowledge that my beloved cargo bike is yet again a lifesaver. The kids have been riding their own bikes primarily for a while, plus I needed them to ride on their own all the time while I was biking with a broken foot so it’s been a while since I’ve carried them both. And yeah, just the one kid broke an arm, but apparently there’s a rule that if one’s big brother gets a lift the littler kid gets a lift, too.

I’m pretty sure the arrangement of kids we found ourselves in is the only way this would have worked. I keep only the left rail of my Xtracycle Hooptie on the top of the bike (the right rail is down low for stepping up to the deck) so my 10-year old with the broken left arm sat backwards at the front of the deck to hold the rail with his good arm. Then the eight-year old sat sideways or backwards to have adequate legroom. This put the heaviest part of the heavier kid at the closest spot forward and the lighter kid more forward than had be been sitting forward-facing. I think I would need an e-assist with throttle/boost button to get started safely if they were both facing forward with the little one in his usual front spot and the heavier one at the very back. Biking around our flat neighborhood was fine, as was the one decent block-long hill coming back from all points close in. However, I had to stop twice to rest briefly on the big half-mile-long hill between the hospital and home. We took the bus to get to a few appointments downtown, though that was more out of worry about the kids sitting in the cold for such a long time on my bike–there’s always a bit of adjustment as the seasons change. Next broken arm (ha!) we’ll be acclimated enough to bike to the orthopedist.

Now, back to school…

Portland has some awesome bikeways, but there are also quite a few busy streets that only have stop signs or stop lights if you’re crossing using another busy street. There are two busy streets (one east-west and one north-south) between home and school. Those intersections are OK for me alone or me carrying the kids, but I don’t like the kids riding through on their own bikes.

I didn’t do a ton of exploring and experimenting, but the day before the cast came off I carried the kids on my proposed kid-friendly route to school and the kids declared it a winner. It’s 50% longer and takes over twice as long (I phrase it that way to sound dramatic–it only takes 13 minutes versus 6 minutes when I carry them on the more direct route). It also has more blocks of gravel than I imagined possible even in this neighborhood of many unimproved roadways. Obviously, that’s a bonus in the eyes of the kids.

What I don’t consider perfect is that instead of biking in a door zone bike lane for one block (a BIG block, the length of three of our other blocks) we cut through a church parking lot (which is fun and safe, but not as ideal as using a quiet public street) to avoid half of that block and then we stick to the sidewalk for the other half of the block.

But we all love the route! Highlights include spotting a feral cat, Mr. Moo, each morning and afternoon, the kids learning the different contours of our six consecutive unpaved blocks as the gravelly craters fill with rainwater and become enticing puddles, and my pride as the kids confidently zoom home ahead of me as soon as we cross the second busy street.