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Mount Rainier’s Westside Road

I found a great car-free biking spot nearish Seattle/nearish Portland: Westside Road, very close to the Nisqually Entrance of Mount Rainier. I didn’t have the kids with me for this trip, nor did Joe “Metal Cowboy” Kurmaskie, but it would be really fun to take kids on all or part of it.

Here are all my photos: Mount Rainier’s Westside Road – October 12, 2018 – 45 photos
Here’s my Ride with GPS route for the trip
And here’s my Strava recording of our ride

Map of Westside Road (starting from Nisqually Lodge)

Elevation profile of Westside Road and back (from Nisqually Lodge)

Here’s a bit from Visit Rainier:

There was a plan once for a highway that would encircle the mountain, a road through the high alpine wilderness, a dream of twentieth-century engineering that never quite materialized. Budgets, priorities and simple topography combined forces to kill the idea, but parts of the vision were actually completed, and one of the key portions is this spur road from the Nisqually River to the Puyallup River.

It doesn’t take too long after leaving the parking area for the feeling of wilderness to take hold. The road follows Fish Creek at first, before a major washout and a log crossing, then climbs along a little copper-colored stream, another tributary of nearby Tahoma Creek. Over time, volcanic flows of water and rubble have scoured the surrounding area and the ghost forests in the flood path provide ample evidence of the power of the mountain.

The Westside Road is a gravel road just one mile past the Nisqually Entrance. The first three miles of it are open to cars (we only saw one car driving, and four parked) and then it’s nine miles of car-free gorgeous scenery. There’s a parking lot just before the gate so the easiest ride with kids would be to drive into the park and as far up the Westside Road as possible before getting on bikes. This is probably also cheapest: Mount Rainier entrance fees are $30 for a vehicle and its passengers or $15 for each bicyclist. For this trip we stayed at Nisqually Lodge (which I found via the BringFido website), just five miles from the park entrance so we left the car there and biked over. There’s lots of lodging there in Ashford and a decent shoulder for biking along, though I don’t generally ride on roads like that with my kids.

Most of the Westside Road is uphill so the easiest thing to do with kids would be to ride the first four miles past the gate before it heads downhill. At this peak before the real peak is a clearing and the Marine Memorial Airplane Crash Monument, making it a fine turn-around point.

After the memorial the trail goes downhill for two miles and then uphill another three to reach Klapatche Point.

View from the top, Klapatche Point

A lot of the trail is gravel, but some is dirt which meant for some muddy spots. None of the mud was too squishy for either climbing slowly or descending quickly through, during this visit anyway. I can imagine the mud might be a bit of a problem during and after rainy spells. The elevation at Klapatche Point is 4140 feet so we didn’t get to see any snow or marmots up close.

Speaking of animals, I let Pixie out of the basket to stretch her legs on the outside of the gate and then kept her cooped up for the entire “No pets” part of the trail, which I think is OK per national park rules since her feet didn’t touch the ground.

The road crosses several hiking trails upon which bikes aren’t allowed, but at least one goes to a waterfall and there are backcountry camping areas along them. It seems like it’d be safe to lock a bike at a trailhead and add a hike and/or campout to the bike ride.

The trail that continues when the road ends at Klapatche Point

Thanks to my friend Deb who rides Rainier often for the route advice! My original plan had been to ride up to Paradise again, but this was such a different experience and so fun! It was reminiscent of riding to Ipsut Creek for the 2016 Swift Campout, but much smoother than that gravel.

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Happy Walk + Roll to School Day!

Yesterday, 10/10, was International Walk to School Day! …which in recent years has turned into Walk + Roll to School Day to include all active transportation…and come May when we celebrate what was originally Bike to School Day, that’s also Walk + Roll to School Day so active transportation is celebrated twice. Or celebrated every day of the year if you’re like me. But having a big party to celebrate other kids actively transporting themselves with us is fun to do on a couple special days.

This year I hosted a party in the park adjoining our elementary school (grades K through 5) to keep things close and easy. It worked great! I’m so impressed that people made it out earlier than normal–we had nearly 100 participants, starting at 7:30 a.m., for a school day starting at 8:15 a.m.

We gathered at the picnic table area, which is conveniently under tree cover to protect from drizzle. Luckily the skies were drizzle-free and grey, which keeps things warmer than blue skies this time of year. We couldn’t have asked for a better day. Our party featured prizes, snacks, and music, then at 7:50 a.m. the 42 walking and scooter riding participants (and three dogs) set out for a 0.23-mile parade along the curving path through the park to the front door of the school. As soon as this first parade took a left towards the front of the building the biking contingent of 47 set out for a slightly longer pedaling parade around the back of the school to end up at the bike racks, utilizing the wide-open school yard rather than the busy sidewalk in front of the building. It worked great! I hung out at the bike rack for a short while, handing out prizes to last-minute-arriving walkers and bikers. Some had forgotten about the party and some hadn’t known to begin with. There’s always room to work on promotion and advertising, it seems.

Prizes
Here in Portland we’re lucky that we can get free prizes to hand out! This year the prizes came from the City of Portland, but in previous years they’ve come from The Street Trust. We had stickers, temporary tattoos, sunglasses, reflective emoji key chains, pencils, and front and rear bike lights! They also provided four color posters we hung around school with details about our event.

Snacks
Our PTA voted to allocate $100 to us for supplies this year which we used some of for snacks. Last year I paid for everything out of pocket so this was really nice! I went with my co-organizer, Carolyn, to Costco last week and we selected big boxes of individual serving gummy fruit snacks and goldfish crackers and I have a lot left for future events.

Music
Leading up to the event I was very worried about coming off as un-cool because I said there would be music and I have no idea what kids listen to these days and never recognize any of the music at school events. Fortunately, I checked in with a friend who has two teenagers and he told me about the “Teen Party” playlist on Spotify. I listened to it and deemed it not peppy enough, but it gave me the idea to search Amazon Prime and I found the “Good Morning, Tweens” playlist which was perfect!

Advertising
* Posters. I already mentioned the four big color posters from PBOT. That was my only paper advertising this year, but I’m allowed to use the school staff black-and-white copier to make flyers so I could have designed my own posters or flyers and printed them for free, too.

* Newsletter. I posted a blurb in our weekly PTA newsletter for three weeks leading up to the event.

* Announcement. We have a Friday Morning Meeting in the gym every week. It’s the first half hour of the school day and many parents stick around for it, so making announcements is a great way to reach all the students, all the teachers, and some of the parents. Most announcements are done in skit form so I might need to up my game come May because to date I’ve only stood and talked. I spoke to the crowd the Friday before our event, but leading up to and during May I tend to speak each week.

* Sidewalk chalk ads. I love using sidewalk chalk to advertise my events by the bike rack and various entrances to school. This year a group of “student leaders” took care of it for me during the school day on Monday. Our weather wasn’t completely cooperative and some of the ads got washed away.

The sidewalk chalk was also great for marking our two routes. I wasn’t sure how I’d lead the two different groups until the morning of the event. One of the student leaders came to help distribute prizes and I tapped her to lead the walkers after doing a quick test run along the well-marked path during the party.

What about middle school?
I can’t speak for all middle schools, but ours didn’t seem to do any official event. There are some bikers, some walkers, and some school bus riders, but most kids seem to arrive by car. Our middle school starts an hour after our elementary school so I brought my older kid along for the party and then he and I biked four miles to middle school, arriving half an hour early so we had time to stop at a bakery around the corner for a celebratory pastry.

Another day in the life during summer break

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A day in the life during summer break

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New weekly family biking column on BikePortland

Hey! I’ve got a new Family Biking column on BikePortland, sponsored by Clever Cycles. It’s a weekly column, posting each Tuesday, but with some extra posts if events warrant.

So far there’s:

And the archive is here.

This doesn’t mean I’m going to stop posting here. In fact, perhaps it will get me more organized and I’ll post more often! Hopefully I’ll finish that post about Gateway Green I started weeks ago more quickly now.

The Trouble with Long Loads

Two months after my inaugural trip to Portland IKEA by Bike on the I-205 Multi-Use Path I made a second visit.

This time I didn’t get lost off the I-205 Path at Glisan, but I still think it needs one more sign. Below is my photo I took and shared last time: the bike arrow on the left is accurate, but there should be a second arrow indicating to use the crosswalk immediately beyond this sign. I think there probably used to be one. It wouldn’t be such a big deal if it was easy to recognize the trail across the street, but it’s tucked next to the freeway and winds out of view quickly so it’s hard to spot from afar.

I also paid attention to the Burnside crossing over the freeway and noticed that while there is indeed a paint-buffered bike lane in the street (I noticed this after the fact in Google street view last time), there’s no curb cut to get down to the street from where the trail surfaces. One could wiggle a little bit out of the way to the left to find a curb cut and make a sharp turn into the busy street so it’s just easier to stay up on the sidewalk.

FUN STUFF! New this time: I cut through the Gateway Green mountain bike park which is alongside the trail. It’s easy to see (and shudder at) the jumps while biking by, but I was happy to discover a whole network of single track! Blog post about that coming soon.

Unfortunately, my U-lock bounced off the side of the bike while I was hotdogging through the park, which I discovered upon arriving at IKEA. I explained my predicament to the greeter and asked if I could park inside and she said yes! So I tucked my bike off to the side…and had a nice view of it while eating lunch:

I have friends who shop with their cargo bikes in big home improvement stores, using them as shopping carts, but this is the first time I’ve had my bike inside a store. I have to say it was really nice to have it tucked fairly out of sight while slowly and clumsily wrestling my items on versus at the bike rack by the entrance on full display. Especially so this time, when the size of my load caught me off guard (but I’m always a slow and clumsy bike loader).

Which brings me to the real topic of this post: LONG LOADS.

Now I know and won’t make this mistake again, but before this trip’s rude awakening I only paid attention to the weight of IKEA packages online when deciding if a thing is bikeable. As long as it doesn’t weigh much more than the kids (~140 pounds together) I deem it carryable. This trip was to get a sofa sleeper: 63 pound bed frame and 29 pound mattress. Totally lighter than the kids! Even if I had looked at the dimensions (30 x 3 x 79 inches and 58 x 12 inches) I don’t know if it would have given me pause. They’re just random numbers when you have no basis for comparison, after all.

Small and heavy (like the bookcases on my first trip) is manageable, but big and heavy is another story. I was much too stubborn to give up my task when I found my way to aisle 32, bin 02 and discovered the size of this thing. It was hard to get onto my shopping cart, but that didn’t get me too worried–pedaling a bike with heavy stuff on it is much easier than loading said heavy stuff onto the bike or shopping cart.

I’ve carried things a little bit longer than my FlightDeck (the flat thing the kids sit on) before, but never anything so much longer that more of it would hang off the back than rest in the bags. I discovered this is simply too long and heavy to attach and pulls the bike down backwards. Of course my first thought was, “I need to put something really heavy in the front basket to balance it out!” but I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t have done the trick (though it probably would have helped with loading so next time I’ll borrow something small and heavy if I remember).

Now I understand what the Xtracycle LongLoader is all about! It’s a product made to use with the Xtracycle WideLoader (which isn’t on their website for sale currently, but here’s the PDF installation manual) that forces cargo out to the side at the front so it won’t hit you in the back of the foot while you’re pedaling. I have one WideLoader, but I don’t use it often because…well…it’s pretty wide. I got my WideLoader before the Xtracycle Hooptie came out and while I didn’t get one a Hooptie right away (since I had stoker bars for the front kid and Yepp seat for the rear kid), I got one early enough to get one of the older versions with easy-to-pop-off rails that I can put at the bottom of the bike where a WideLoader or Running Boards or U-Tubes would go to support big or heavy items. (Note: the newer Hooptie LT2 has removable rails, too, but they require a tool to remove.)

I don’t have a WideLoader, but I do have bar ends as foot pegs for my front passenger which totally did the trick–I stowed the sofa frame box on one side and the mattress on the other, both slid forward just enough to balance their weight and the foot pegs aimed them out away from my heels, preventing “pedal strike.”

I should add that my centerstand, the Rolling Jackass, plays a big part in my being able to carry loads like this. I’m not particularly strong so being able to clumsily load uneven cargo, knowing the RJ will keep the bike upright, is very important.

Here’s my Strava of the ride so you can see how nice and flat it is. Granted, there was a work truck with a cleaning crew blocking the trail at one point and I nearly wasn’t able to walk my bike through the grass around it, but the pedaling part was all terrific!

My next visit will be on a nice-weather weekend day with the kids. It’ll be a long ride for them, but I think it will be a perfect all-day excursion with lunch in the middle, mountain biking halfway there in both directions, and hopefully the perfect doggie window perch/bed as a result.

Car-Free Los Angeles Visit with Kids

We did it! We visited relatives in LA for six days without a rental car!

I didn’t realize it was possible to exist–even for just a weekend–in LA without a car until I read this New York Times piece seven years ago: Los Angeles, by Bike and on a Budget by then Frugal Traveler Seth Kugel. Ever since then I’ve pondered (previously without much luck) how to do LA car-free as a family. In the meantime, I’ve found ways to cut down on driving a teensy bit:

  • Three visits ago I went solo for a weekend with a rented Brompton folding bike and no rental car, but mostly ended up accepting rides from family members.
  • Two visits ago the kids and I stayed walking distance from the La Brea Tar Pits and The Grove so we did some walking, but still drove our rental car a lot.
  • Last visit we stayed in Venice Beach and enjoyed a very walkable neighborhood, but still drove our rental car every day for various outside-of-Venice activities and family visits.

I should point out that while my father (who was born in Hollywood) and brother both live in Los Angeles and I visit regularly, I’ve never lived there myself. Usually I say this as a point of pride (sorry, LA!), but this time it’s to demonstrate that I don’t have a local’s knowledge of neighborhoods or public transportation. My method for deciding where to stay and which places to visit was what I’d do for any foreign city and involved looking at unfamiliar maps and reading a couple articles from local publications.

FlyAway® Bus
While it’s possible to get to and from LAX via Metro Rail, it requires a shuttle bus ride and all the rail lines. Of course the combination of rail lines needed depends on where one is staying, but we would have transferred from the Green Line to the Blue Line to the Red Line to the Gold Line. Even the article I just linked to suggests FlyAway as a reasonable option (and cabs as a “TRAFFIC JAM-PRONE EXPENSIVE” option). So I decided early into planning that we’d take the LAX FlyAway® bus to Union Station and connect to Metro Rail there.

FlyAway away from LAX was very simple. It picks up outside each terminal at the green “FLYAWAY, BUSES & LONG DISTANCE VANS” sign. Tickets aren’t needed before boarding, but since I had purchased our tickets ahead of time online I didn’t need to stand in line at the kiosk at Union Station to pay before retrieving our suitcase and getting on our way.

FlyAway back to LAX took a lot longer (but also, we hit it at 8:00 a.m. on a weekday). The “arrive 10 minutes in advance of the scheduled departure time” suggested on the website really isn’t sufficient. There was already an organized line of people ready for the next bus so we found room on the bus after the one I had hoped to take. And having purchased our tickets ahead of time didn’t make much of a difference in the LAX direction since I didn’t know where to wait without checking in at the kiosk (now I think I could have just joined the end of the line of people waiting for the second bus).

I don’t know if all the FlyAway lines use big tour buses, but riding to and from LAX is in a tall bus with luggage bays at the bottom so I didn’t have to maneuver our suitcase up any stairs and onto a baggage rack like small shuttles (like the ones that take you to the rental car lots) require. I appreciate this even with bigger kids, though this would have been particularly nice back in the days of traveling with a toddler in a stroller and a baby strapped to my back. The tall bus also provides an excellent view of LA, something one can’t appreciate from a squat rental car when busy concentrating on the road.

Metro Rail
Riding Metro (mostly rail, but also bus) was great! In retrospect, I should have bought three $25 7-day passes (fares here) and TAPped with abandon. It would have cost more about $10 in the long run, but even as we got our teamwork dialed in for reloading our TAP cards with 1-way trips over and over and over, it took a lot of time and we could have caught earlier trains twice had we been ready with 7-day passes. One day I splurged on three $7 1-day passes and it was quite the relaxing day. The 1-way trips are $1.75 for adults and kids alike and last for two hours with transfers on rail and buses. Paying cash for the bus is $1.75 for adults and $1 for kids.

The TAP vending machine takes credit cards, but I found it easier to use cash since we were doing three cards in a row. The machine gives change in dollar coins, both the gold Sacagawea coins and the silver Susan B. Anthony ones.

I started out using Google Maps for transit directions and missed one bus when the stop was shown on the wrong side of the street. I could tell it was on the wrong side of the street, but I assumed the true stop was on the same block so we rushed a little too far, not even checking for the stop early enough, and had to wait 40 minutes (this bus alternated coming every 20 minutes and every 40 minutes) and missed connecting with some old friends and new kid so that was a bummer. The following day I saw a poster for the Go Metro app on the train which I bet would have better guided me.

Old Pasadena
In choosing where to stay I decided I wanted to be on the same rail or bus line as my brother in Highland Park. His house is a 15-minute walk from the Gold Line so I looked at hotels (with pools, essential for vacationing kids) close to other Gold Line stations. I ended up choosing the Courtyard by Marriott in Old Pasadena and it turned out to be a terrifically walkable neighborhood. I also found this LA Weekly article: 26 Cool Things Along the Metro Gold Line to be very helpful (they have articles for the other lines, too).

Old Pasadena has lots of restaurants, shops, playgrounds, and bus stops. What more does one need? We didn’t try all the sushi spots, but Kabuki is kid-friendly and was great for our group of eight (though my kids wanted Yelp accounts to warn other kids that they put cucumber in the salmon rolls–even when you specify *only salmon*) and Sushi Stop had too long a wait, but A’Float Sushi across the street had sushi boats in a real river (the kids love our local conveyor belt places, but boats are even more exciting). Plus, there’s an all-way pedestrian scramble between Sushi Stop and A’Float Sushi so we crossed diagonally! My kids are really into crepes these days and equally liked CREPEstudio and Crepes de Paris. Crepes de Paris has a terrific outdoor seating garden, but it was a little cold during the week of our visit so we dined inside. One morning we ate regular breakfast at Barney’s Beanery, which I didn’t realize is a sports bar (in response to being asked which game I wanted to sit by, I said “Pacman”). It’s got exciting decor and crayons and kid menus.

We were one block from Memorial Park and the kids preferred that playground. It’s small, but was plenty fun for them. The park itself is on a slope for kids who like rolling down grassy hills. Central Park was just a few blocks farther away and has a bigger playground and lots of room for running around. It’s a bit loud, being right on a busy street and the rest rooms are somewhat far from the playground so we just visited it once.

There are also several wide alleys fronted by little shops and cafes making for pleasant walking. Here’s one we used to walk between the two playgrounds, named for a TV show and with a bike share station:

I saw a few people biking through Old Pasadena, but no one on a bike share bike.

One day we took Pasadena Transit (only 75 cents for adults, 50 for kids, but doesn’t take the Metro TAP card) to the Kidspace Children’s Museum. The buses are small and infrequent, but they have a two-bike bike rack like the full-sized Metro buses. We took the 51 there and back and I was intrigued to see it runs more often on Saturdays than on weekdays (but doesn’t run at all on Sundays). Kidspace was walking distance from our hotel, but with all the walking we were doing the rest of the day the bus seemed a wise choice–the 15 minutes uphill to my brother’s house for dinner and then downhill late at night is more than we usually walk.

The kids want to stay in Old Pasadena for our next visit, too. I’m tempted to use the opportunity to explore another neighborhood, but this certainly was a terrific place.

Union Station
Who doesn’t love a good train station? (Well, other than Elon Musk, probably, as I ironically discovered while in Union Station.) Personally, I think it’s cool that it can be any train station in the world in movies. When my kids were littler they loved watching the trains (all the trains come here: small light rail trains, medium-sized regional trains, and big Amtrak trains) and the fish tank the most. This time they enjoyed the pianist (that might have been special for the holidays) and the Crepe Cafe, natch.

We all three liked the current art exhibit, Journeys: LA Communities Through the Eyes of Artists that filled the long hall between crepes and Red Line.

Union Station is big so it was nice to come through a couple times during the course of the week and become pros at navigating our way around before the rush from light rail to Crepe Cafe to FlyAway bus on our departure day. Our two mid-week trips through Union Station were to connect from the Gold Line to the Red Line and that was nice because the first trip was just one stop of the Red- or Purple Line to meet a friend at Grand Park, serving as practice for a bigger Red Line trip out to Universal City the following day. One thing about the Gold Line versus the Red Line: the Gold Line is mostly above ground with nice views while the Red Line is a subway and my noise-sensitive 10-year old found it unpleasantly fast and loud.

Universal Studios by Metro Rail
Last Spring Break we drove to Universal Studios from Venice Beach so it was a treat to compare that to taking transit this visit. I didn’t realize the kids would want to visit Universal again (silly me to think it was a one-time deal) so I didn’t consider its location when deciding where we’d stay. I’m not sure if it would have influenced things. I was pleased that the park has transit directions under Plan Your Visit > Directions and Parking (you have to click the “Public Transportation” tab to get there from the main menu link). So I read about the shuttle ahead of time. We took the Gold Line to the Red Line and then followed signs to walk to the free shuttle pick up. I told the kids that when they were tiny their favorite ride at Disneyland was the shuttle from the garage (and their second favorite thing was a water fountain). They liked this shuttle a lot, too. It was all really easy and requires much less walking and agony than inching along in car traffic and after parking, navigating one’s way out of the parking garage.

The free shuttle has a bike rack on the front, but I bet it’s intended for use by park employees only. We saw an employee use it on our ride in and later saw him working at Animal Actors–what a life!

In conclusion
I love visiting LA, and traveling all over without sitting in traffic and dealing with parking was magical! The trafficky ride to the airport in the FlyAway bus on our way out of town gave me a small dose of The Usual, but even that was much less stressful when not the one behind the wheel.

We “cheated” and accepted one ride in a car when friends I’ve known since preschool came out for dinner and we decided our group of 10 should eat two Gold Line stops away. One cool thing about my younger kid reaching age eight is that it’s not necessary to tote car seats around now. Rules vary state to state, but eight seems to be a common age per AAA’s Child Passenger Safety. [* Of course putting kids in car seats or boosters if they fit in them is always safest. My kids are both small so I kept them rear facing in convertible car seats until they were four…and I stopped driving regularly when I turned the first one’s car seat forward facing and then stopped driving all but once in a blue moon when I turned the other one’s car seat forward facing.] I don’t see the milestone of this trip so much the fact that the kids are both old enough to forgo car seats, but more than they’re both big enough to do the amount of walking required to use transit. By the way, one of my preschool friends walked from Old Pasadena to the pizza place and arrived nearly as quickly as the rest of us.

Do you use transit to get around LA? I’d love to hear your tips and tricks!