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30 Days of Biking 2021 – day 6

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

I did one of those ‪”how it started/how it’s going” Twitter posts because ‪10 years ago yesterday we came to Portland to visit Clever Cycles for the first time…and now we live here and I often bike by them! Today I biked by on my way to and from the office to grab tabling supplies.

Then after work I swapped to my road bike and met up at the dentist for a repeat of yesterday, but in the opposite direction. It was nice scaling Mount Tabor first, but overall I like the other direction better.

Bonus glamour shot of my bike and trailer under a blooming magnolia tree:

Today’s miles: 40.3
Total April miles: 132.9

30 Days of Biking 2021 – day 5

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

Over a year after writing Are you biking during shelter-in-place? Us, not so much I still haven’t learned the trick of hopping on my bike if I don’t have an errand or a friend to ride with. Fortunately I have a lot of errands and a few friends so I think I’ll succeed at 30 Days of Biking this year.

Today I picked up kid lunches by cargo bike (with Pixie in tow, but no kids came along) and after work I biked over to my dentist’s office to meet my hygienist for a bike ride. Much better than going there for a cleaning! He and his friend ride on weekends year round and during daylight saving time on weekday evenings, too. And since my last cleaning I’ve been tagging along. Today was his standard after-work jaunt up through River View Cemetery (photo of the undulating steepest part above–I hate that part) and then up Mount Tabor.

Today’s miles: 23.7
Total April miles: 92.6

30 Days of Biking 2021 – day 4

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

I biked to North Portland for a haircut today. I didn’t used to bike an hour for haircuts, but the place I went to before the pandemic shut down and as luck would have it I realized my hair stylist from 20 years ago in San Francisco lives and works in Portland now! How auspicious. It was awesome to see Tina again and it was a lovely day for a bike ride.

It was surprisingly empty out (maybe due to Easter?) so I chanced the Eastbank Esplanade on my way home. I haven’t been on it in over a year since I avoid multi-use paths when I can–they’re not great for six-foot distancing and they tend to get crowded. But it was practically empty this afternoon.

Today’s miles: 18.3
Total April miles: 68.9

30 Days of Biking 2021 – day 3

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

Happy sunny Saturday! I started the day with my masked weekly walk with a childhood friend. It’s a 10-mile ride to her house, then we walk the hilly southwest hills (5 miles today) and then I bike back home. The riding and walking is great, but getting to see an actual human in person is my favorite part since I don’t get out of the house much.

Then I made a quick trip to a neighborhood burger joint for vegan milkshakes for the kids because my newly braceless 11-year old wasn’t up to eating hard food. I know his chompers will feel fine soon, but for now his retainer makes his teeth sorer than the braces ever did, poor little guy.

And then I got back on my road bike to cork (stand in intersections to protect the group ride going by) for the Stop Asian Hate Solidarity Ride. Hundreds of people came out and everything went really well.

Today’s miles: 38.7
Total April miles: 50.6

30 Days of Biking 2021 – day 2

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

Today saw no flat tires and no closed roads so I got my stuff done with three rides on two different bikes.

First up, I carried my 11-year old to the orthodontist to get his braces off, yay! Check out those pearly whites in my picture–hashtag mom joke! No teeth, just mask! Since parents are stuck outside due to the pandemic, I brought Pixie along, so that’s nice. What’s not so nice (though not so surprising) is that all the messaging from the orthodontist says parents must wait in their cars during appointments. A gifted bag of sticky candy is apparently standard operating procedure for braces grads. Weird, right?

Later on I took my road bike to see if my #hillkillerz hill was accessible and it was! The construction isn’t done yet–Portland is gradually replacing its antiquated sewers one by one and it’s a multi-day job–but the road was open for me to ride up and down five times.

And finally, since my kid with newly naked chompers had no interest in his sticky candy reward, he asked if he could have Dairy Queen for dinner. I’ve only gone there once before, also during the pandemic, and that time I waited in the drive through line on foot (because that’s the only way to access the place right now). This time I took the Big Dummy. I almost brought Pixie, but thought she might get bored and wiggly waiting in line. Good thing I left her because a German Shepherd kept poking his head out the window of the car in front of me. A guy and his grandson (you can see them placing their order in my photo) were also in line on bikes, but the place primarily draws people in cars.

Today’s miles: 8.9
Total April miles: 11.9

30 Days of Biking 2021 – day 1

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

Today did not go according to plan, but I still did a bit of biking. Last night my front tire went flat while I did my midnight ride (tiny piece of glass–it’s always nice when one can find the culprit), so I patched it up, but didn’t ride my cargo bike again today.

Instead I grabbed my road bike for #hillkillerz because this is a month of two challenges! Bicycle Kitty Maria devised an amazing (or horrible, depending how you look at it) challenge in which she chose a different hill for 55 of us participants and we have to ride up and down it five times in a row once a week for five weeks. However, when I got to the top of my hill I encountered a ROAD CLOSED sign, spewing hoses, and construction equipment. I’ll admit I wasn’t too sad about not getting to slog up the hill over and over and over. It didn’t look like a major construction job so I bet it’ll be open for business tomorrow and I can share a photo of it.

Today’s miles: 3
Total April miles: 3

30 Days of Biking 2021

It’s the middle of the night on the last day of March so it’s technically April and that means it’s 30 Days of Biking!

“30 Days of Biking is a pledge to ride your bike every day in April and share your adventures online with the hashtag #30daysofbiking. There’s no minimum distance–down a hill and around your garage count just like a 20-mile commute or a 350-mile charity ride.⁣⁣ ⁣If you miss a day, no worries. Just keep riding and don’t give up! It’s all for fun, or as serious as you want it to be. What matters is we’re all in this together.⁣⁣⁣⁣” – 30DaysofBiking.com

I adore 30 Days of Biking and credit it for turning me into an everyday bicyclist 10 years ago. Since then, I went car-free, became a bicycle advocate, and published a book about bike commuting. Yay bikes!

I didn’t do such a great job at 30 Days of Biking 2020. Looking back at blog posts I can see I made a bit of an effort, but I have to admit I don’t remember much about a year ago. I was in such a deep hole for such a long time, in the throes of feeling like a failure as a mother, as a coworker, as a friend, and just as a human. Things are much better now, though one thing that hasn’t returned to normal is my ability to sleep–but that just means it’s easy to ring in April with a midnight ride! (*Obviously riding my bike more would have made things considerably better a year ago even if it didn’t erase the underlying problems. But it’s one thing to know a thing when you’re down in the hole and another to actually make it happen.)

My kids haven’t been riding their bikes very much, nor getting outside the house as often as I’d like. With the days getting longer and warmer I’ll hopefully get them pedaling a bit more, though I don’t intend to force the issue. Lately I’ve been focusing on getting myself outdoors more since that’s something I can control.

I dunno if I’ll have any sort of theme this year (some years a theme develops on its own), but I’ll track my mileage since historically that’s been fun to do. Nowadays I usually ride sans kiddos and doggo so I’ve been on my road bike a lot, which means I can go farther faster. And even though I have nowhere to go with work being remote and kids’ school being remote, I think I might rack up some impressive mileage.

Bike touring with a dog as practice for pandemic touring?

First of all, I haven’t done any bike trips in the last year. Heck, I’ve only peed away from home a few times during long bike rides recently! But when I think about eventually leaving home again, bike touring with Pixie in the past seems like it was perfect practice for bike touring now. Exactly two years ago, March 2019, Pixie and I biked from Portland to Eugene, Oregon and having Pixie along made for a mostly outdoor and distanced trip. While I’m totally down with the Path Less Pedaled’s bikes means business take on bike touring and think it’s a good thing to support local businesses of the places I’m passing through, having Pixie along meant I didn’t go inside anywhere or interact with many people over the four days of travel.

I tend to bring all my food and supplies along to begin with, but had Pixie not been along I probably would have supplemented my food supply with grocery and cafe stops. I wish I’d made a note of exactly what I brought along for future reference, but it was pretty boring: a bunch of avocados, a bunch of hard boiled eggs, lots of cheese sticks, tons of chocolate covered peanut butter cups, coffee, and dog food. I’ve always overpacked dog food on shorter trips so this time I packed a more reasonable amount, knowing Pixie doesn’t like eating kibble while camping. And I shared my avocados with her.

As always I took a gazillion pictures and recorded my route:
Portland to Eugene – March, 2019 – 351 photos

And the whole route on Ride with GPS.

As for the trip itself, my main takeaways were:

  1. All Scenic Bikeways are not created equal. My first Scenic Bikeway was the Cascading Rivers Scenic Bikeway (my pix here) in 2018 and I figured all of them were beautiful and quiet. The Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway…not so much. There were a few awful spot–some possible to route around, some not. Which leads me to my other takeaway…
  2. I need to stop treating my solo trips as test runs for trips with the kids. I consider every single bike ride I take without the kids an opportunity to imagine making little changes, if necessary, to turn it into a family ride. The awful spots of the WVSB made me realize I need to stop doing this. Plus I should get to enjoy these solo (sorry Pixie! not really solo) trips as just for me. ALTHOUGH, my 11-year old said in passing he’d like to do a big bike trip with me and now I can’t stop thinking about a redo on our tandem bike!

I think most people would have done this ride over two days, but since I was in “practicing for doing it with the kids” mode I had planned to stretch it to five. I would have stretched it even longer, but I couldn’t find sufficient spots for camping. Not all campgrounds are open for business in March, but there also aren’t many spots to stop and camp along the way. As it was, I had to pay for fancy camping twice–at a KOA in Albany and a Hipcamp in Brownsville. If you’ve been doing the math and noticed I did it in four days, not five, that’s because it was raining on the Monday I meant to leave, plus I had to work all morning, so I decided to just add days one and two together. What a convenient side effect of planning small days and not needing a reservation until day three!

Things I’d change for next time:

  • Route my way to the Oregon City Municipal Elevator to save myself from some of the hill climbing in Oregon City.
  • Leave Salem through Minto Park instead of River Road (thanks for the tip Maria!) because that was one of the worst spots.

My other general takeaways were:

  • The roads were very clean! The sucky parts of the WVSB were gritty as well as too busy, but the quiet parts were surprisingly clean and free of litter (when I biked down from Seattle to Portland in 2016 I was appalled by the amount of litter!)
  • There wasn’t much in the way of roadkill! This, compared to the highway out to Snoqualmie Falls which is a veritable pet cemetery. The biggest dead thing I saw was a beaver, the smallest was a snake, and the middlest was what I thought used to be an opossum. And other than that, just a handful of squirrels.
  • Highway 99 (18 miles into the trip on day one, for two miles) was awful. The initial uphill part had the smallest shoulder I’ve ever seen…though that made the flat part with normal shoulder seem not as bad as it otherwise would have. This one stretch makes me think I’ll never take my kids to Champoeg State Park.

Day One
My original plan was to stay at Champoeg State Park (hiker/biker $7, 33 miles from home) for the first night, but since I combined days one and two I simply stopped there for lunch at a picnic table by the visitor center. Normally one enters the park via a trail, but it was closed so I entered via the road. There weren’t a lot of cars so it was still pleasant.

I also rode through Willamette Mission State Park which wasn’t open to camping for the season yet. It’s huge! It’s also right next to the Wheatland Ferry which Pixie and I rode across the Willamette River and back just for fun.

Our night one campground was the Independence Riverview Park Biker/Boater Campground ($10, 78 miles from home) which was a weird little spot right in the small town, but it did the trick!

Day Two
Another ferry! The Buena Vista Ferry is just like the Wheatland Ferry, which means it’s awesome and totally worth doing, even if you just rode the Wheatland Ferry 24 hours earlier.

And one of the highlights of this trip was passing through Albany, Oregon. Having grown up in Albany, California, it’s always great to visit the next closest Albany. It started raining as we arrived so we stopped for lunch at a covered picnic table. The rain never let up, but I had to explore a little bit and in front of the historic Albany Carousel I encountered a carousel volunteer who had reported to work early and had time to listen to me excitedly tell her I’m from the other Albany and take a picture of Pixie and me.

We spent the night at the Albany/Corvallis KOA (tent + dog $35, 45 miles from previous night’s camp). I didn’t like the highway 34 crossing to sidetrack to the KOA, but in looking at the official Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway route it looks like that crossing of 34 would have been even more uncomfortable with a bit of travel along the highway.

Day Three
The best day! Every stretch of road of day three was nice and quiet. I spent a little time exploring adorable Brownsville, where Stand By Me was filmed. And despite worrying my detour from the bikeway to my camp spot would definitely be up a mountain it was completely flat!

We stayed at the Sunset Farms Animal Sanctuary ($75–but now there’s a $50 option, 31 miles from previous night’s camp). This was my first time using Hipcamp since they tend to cost more than regular campgrounds, but with no other camping options it was a lifesaver. And the place was amazing! It was also nice to hide from the rain in the trailer rather than pitch my tent. Pixie didn’t take to farm life, but I had an excellent time meeting most of the 200 animals.

Eugene
38 miles later I was done with my journey. Once in Eugene I wasn’t in bike camping mode anymore, though I guess it was still “practice pandemic” mode because I stayed in an Airstream trailer AirBnb, and had one outdoor conversation with the host. I visited friends outside, and mostly ate at outdoor places due to Pixie…though one restaurant let me bring her inside so that was one thing that wouldn’t fly now. Pixie and I hung out for two days and then took Amtrak home.

Bike, Light Rail, Train – Just Like Old Times

The kids, dog, and I took transit for the first time in over a year today! And the train for the second time. Before the pandemic we used to take the bus and/or light rail to Union Station and ride Amtrak up to Seattle once a month so the kids could visit their dad for the weekend, but nothing is regular right now. Our last train trip was in November and to get to the station we biked the entire eight miles from home. I knew that would be too hard this morning given our slow adjustment to daylight saving time, the fact that the kids have barely been biking lately, and the cold temperature. We haven’t been using transit, but not because it’s unsafe–it is safe to ride transit right now–it’s just that we don’t go anywhere. The bus that runs right by our house doesn’t operate early on weekends so we did the next best thing and biked to the light rail. We got up at 6:00 a.m., left home at 6:30 a.m., and biked 2.5 miles to the orange line which took us right to the train station with plenty of time to walk the dog and lock up the bike for our 8:20 a.m. train.

We only took two bikes–I carried my 11-year old on my Big Dummy and my 13-year old rode my mountain bike. Here’s the awesome part about sharing a bike with a kid: I locked the Big Dummy up with every lock we own (that’s my standard train station behavior) and took the mountain bike along to use for myself! The Big Dummy isn’t allowed on Amtrak (well technically it would be allowed boxed into two different boxes since it weighs more than 50 pounds and is too long to go as a roll-on bike), but I needed the cargo bike both to get the 11-year old to the train station and to get the 13-year old’s bike back from the train station at the end of the day. I should point out that cargo bikes aren’t supposed to go on the light rail so this was not a foolproof plan, but the MAX was very empty so I wasn’t in anyone’s way and we didn’t encounter the transit police (who sometimes but not always kick off cargo bike moms from what I’ve heard). And now I know my long bike fits in the Bybee MAX Station elevator without having to tipped it up vertical.

Rather than travel all the way to Seattle, today we only went halfway–to Olympia–which was the closest station to the kids’ spring break destination with their dad. This worked out great for me, because with five hours to kill before my train home I was able to bike seven miles to a friend’s new house for outdoor hangs in a covered carport. The skies were dry for the Portland portion of our trip and at the beginning of my Oly ride, but I was soon greeted with that typical Seattle (and apparently Olympia, too) very light, but very dense mist-that’s-not-quite-drizzle that slowly but surely seeps into everything, soaking you completely.

I didn’t get to see too much of Olympia, but I really liked going through two roundabouts with incoming bike lanes that seamlessly fed up to a widened sidewalk to prevent conflicts with drivers, taking two miles of the Chehalis Western Trail, and cutting through a park and finding some singletrack. It would have been nicer without rain, but it was still a beautiful woodsy day.

The beautiful day lasted a little longer than expected when my train was an hour and a half late to arrive. But at least the morning train was on time for the kids and me. And this was still better than last time when my train home from the Seattle drop off broke at Centralia and after a two-hour sit hoping for a replacement engine we were put on a bus. A bit into this evening’s journey the conductor clued us newcomers in that the train had a mechanical problem after leaving Seattle so they had to turn back to get a new trainset and that’s why they were late. Wow, sounds familiar! But the new train chugged along just fine and my Big Dummy was still at the rack when we eventually arrived (I’m always worried it won’t be! It’s never fun to leave a bike at a train station…or anywhere).

Pixie was a trouper, as always, and was great company for the 10-hour day. Leaving home at 6:30 a.m. to get back at 8:30 p.m. makes for a long day of travel, but journeys like this always make me think back to meeting the Pleasant Revolution and how they challenge the idea of inconvenience in transportation. Of course they speak of touring with big cargo bikes and heavy instruments and equipment, not getting up early to sit on a comfortable train, but I think there’s a bit of a parallel in terms of eschewing just taking a car.

What we’re riding these days

We’re all on bikes with 26-inch wheels now!

2020-3bikes

Both kids outgrew their bikes in August and due to the bike boom that has oodles of people getting new bikes (yay!) but makes it hard to find bikes (boo) we’re making do with what we already have.

My 11-year old is riding his big brother’s handed down Islabikes Beinn 26 Large.

My 13-year old is on my old mountain bike, a 2004 GT I-Drive 2.0. That means he’s got disc brakes and a front derailleur! …though it isn’t currently going in its granny gear so I need to futz with it a bit. A full-squish mountain bike isn’t the most practical Pacific NorthWET school commute bike due to the lack of fenders, but it’s got a bit of a built-in rear mud guard and I bought a $10 zip-tie-on Bontrager Enduro Front Fender from REI, which has become our go-to bike shop thanks to curbside pickup and more availability than our nearby shops. Most importantly, he’s always wanted a mountain bike and I only use the thing once a year when there’s snow on the ground, like four years ago during icemaggedon. When he first got his hands on the bike he wanted to hit every unpaved patch of ground near home. Three flat tires later (never on his chunky tires, just me and his brother) I ruled that the alleys were too full of hidden blackberry brambles so now we stick to the many unimproved roadways with their plain gravel.

I had been dreaming of a Frog for his next bike–the Frog 73 8-Speed 26-Inch Kids’ Bike is “an 8-speed hybrid bike for 12 to 14 year olds” and it’s really light–on par with the Islabikes my kids have been spoiled by. At $600 it’s a serious investment, but light bikes are worth it and putting it through two kids sort of makes it feel half the price. BTW, here’s my reivew of Frog Bikes on BikePortland from a year ago. Fortunately (?) there are no Frog Bikes to be had anywhere so there’s the whole $600 saved. Once he grows another few inches he’ll fit on an old hybrid my neighbor gave us when they moved away (as well as on all my bikes!), but it’d be nice to find him a fendered bike before that.

2020-3bikes2

As for me, I’m still on my Surly Big Dummy. (The loaner Urban Arrow e-assist bakfiets went back in June.) Nowadays I always have my two-bike tow hitch attached just in case we run into trouble and I need to carry both kids and their bikes, though fortunately that hasn’t happened (not to mention we rarely leave the house so there’s not much trouble to run into). If you’ve noticed my bike is sporting mismatched tires that’s because while taking a close look at my front tire while fixing a blackberry sticker flat, I realized the old black tire was dunzo. In a normal year I would have bought a replacement Schwalbe Marathon Plus, but they’re probably not in stock anywhere…plus they’re $50 a pop. Lucky for me, while purchasing a couple small things at Crank’s going out of business sale a while back, Justin threw in two cream tires because no one wanted them. You also may have noticed I’m no longer running a front fender. That’s because I forgot to adequately weigh down the back of the bike while I was fixing that flat and it took a nose dive into the floor, tacoing the fender. It’s metal so it might bend back into shape, but I haven’t tried to do that yet. I’m also not sure it’ll fit around this massive 26 x 2.35 tire.

So there’s the punch line: three bikes with 26-inch tires, but with a total of four different sized tubes!

2020-3bikes3

In a pinch the wrong-sized tube can do the job–in fact, I started the white tire with a too-narrow tube from the mountain bike before the kid had grown into it, but I like to have the right sized tube in each tire.