#coffeeoutsideforher: The Finale

So #coffeeoutsideforher kind of fell apart again. First the long, cold winter had me too chilly and grumpy to keep it up and then my broken-foot grumpiness had me canceling everything nonessential (not that coffee and friendship isn’t essential!)

But we’re getting the band back together one last time!* Join me on Saturday, August 12th at 10am in Gas Works Park. We’ll be in the plaza area deep in the south part of the park. No need to bring anything and as always, everyone is welcome.

#coffeeoutsideforher: The Finale Facebook event page

*This needn’t be the last #coffeeoutsideforher! Someone should take over. Feel free to move the time and/or place, too!

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Return of the Birthday Party by Bike

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

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

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

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

Snacks and Captain Underpants Craft Stick Bookmarks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo courtesy VisitKitsap.org

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

Photo by Cory Poole

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

Biking with a broken foot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo courtesy VisitKitsap.org

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kidical Mass Bike Travel Weekend 2017 Recap

We had a great Kidical Mass camping trip for Adventure Cycling Association’s Bike Travel Weekend!

* All the photos here: Kidical Mass Bike Overnight to Illahee State Park – June 3-4, 2017 – 201 photos
* Details on timing and routing here: Kidical Mass Bike Overnight June 3-4, 2017
* Our group numbered 35: 16 kids and 19 adults (and one dog). Four kids were on their own bikes!

Good eye if you noticed the kids’ bikes all look similar. All four are on Islabikes. They’re light, geared (for 20-inch-wheel sizes and up), and have strong brakes–all great for big hills! It helps that the US factory is close by in Portland, but they ship all over.

This was our first time bringing a group to Illahee State Park and it worked very well. All previous (six year’s worth!) Kidical Mass camping trips, like last year’s Bike Travel Weekend trip, have been to Fay Bainbridge Park.

The bike ride to camp from the ferry is shorter–3.7 miles to Fay’s 6.9 miles or 7.1 miles–but it feels hillier to me. I’m not good at comparing elevation profiles so feel free to tell me how hillier (or not) it is down in the comments.

Most of our riding was in the street, though with a blocked lane (by a parked car) for the uphill block away from the ferry, I took the wide sidewalk so my kids would follow me there. All in all, it was very calm riding. The Manette Bridge arches up over the Port Washington Narrows and has a bike lane, but I chose to have us ride over on the wide sidewalk.

Just off the Manette Bridge we ran into Patty of VisitKitsap.com, camera in hand. She snapped some pictures of us as we pedaled off the bridge and then caught up with us a block away while we rested and regrouped in the R K Mart parking lot. It was fun to happen upon a local VIP while just starting our adventure! Here’s her post to the Visit Kitsap Peninsula Facebook page:

Seattle Kids love Kitsap! A big group from Kidical Mass is on a weekend cycling adventure to Illahee State Park. We spotted them crossing the Manette Bridge and snapped a few photos. Thanks to Madi Carlson of Wallingford for arranging the party!

I reserved three sites (11, 12, and 13) ahead of time–spacious sites I chose during a test run. Upon arrival a few families added adjacent site 16 to our batch and we all fit quite well. It’s not the same as being all in the big clearing of Fay Bainbridge Park, but it was amazing being amid the trees.

Most of our campers made the trek down to the beach. It’s a great half-mile hike starting just across the street from the group picnic shelter parking lot. The trail ends with a street crossing to the beach parking lot–something to keep in mind for little hikers who run ahead.

The swings and teeter totter have been removed from the playground, but the slide is still there and the kids seemed satisfied. A new playground is coming at some point. During our stay we saw volunteers clearing the fallen tree that crushed the group picnic shelter this winter. The picnic shelter would normally have been a terrific place for charging of e-bike batteries and will be an option again next summer. As it was, e-people had to make do with the outlets in the bathrooms–there’s one at the campground and one down at the beach.

Everyone was pretty quick about packing up and heading home Sunday morning. Since my kids were on their own bikes it was pretty important we didn’t stay and play too long lest they become too tired to make it home cheerfully. The very organized campers rolled out around 9am and caught the 9:45am ferry. the rest of us set out for the 11:10am ferry. Even with a stop at Saboteur Bakery in Manette (recommended to us by Patty of Visit Kitsap) the families not stopping for lunch grabbed the 11:10am boat while 11 of us stopped just above the ferry terminal for lunch and caught the 12:20pm. A sandwich shop, European fry house, and quick Mexican food place are all in a row and have outdoor seating for keeping an eye on the bikes and are conducive to wiggly kids. A couple parents crossed the street to get good coffee.

I’m so happy with how well the brand new camp spot worked out! We’ll definitely do this again as a group.

In the meantime, if you’re a family biker and want to come camping, we’re going again soon: Swift Campout Kidical Mass June 24-25, 2017! This trip will be to Fay Bainbridge.

Riding the Deschutes River Trail

A couple weeks ago, on Bike Everywhere Day, I took a kid-free/Pixie-free train trip to Portland to carpool with friends to The Dalles for camping and bike riding.

All my photos here: Flickr: Portland/Deschutes River Trail – May, 2017 – 161 photos, 1 video

The impetus for the trip was Life on Two Wheels Marley’s plan to ride the Dalles Mountain 60 with a huge group of women over two days with camping in the middle. It sounded amazing! …except having just done the Dalles Mountain 60 with Pixie in March while carrying more weight than necessary on my bike (in addition to Pixie, that is) and considering I’m still quite a bit out of regular shape from riding a lot less than normal this winter/spring I knew I wasn’t up for it. So instead a few friends (Coffee Kelley, Neighbor Kelly, and Chele) and I made plans for a gear-free (other than snacks) bike ride in the area with plans to visit Marley’s #galsatthedalles group Sunday morning. We would car camp at the Deschutes River State Recreation Area Saturday night after riding one of many scenic loops in The Dalles area. the original plan was to ride either Japanese Hollow or Hastings, but in the end we decided we’d simplify things and just ride out the Deschutes River Trail a bit, turn around, and come back.

It was terrific! And since I tackle everything thinking about how it would be for kids: this would be a nice trail for kids, too! This Oregon Bikepacking post, Deschutes River Trail: An introduction to bikepacking, has terrific descriptions and photos of the trail. It’s nice to know we stopped before the goat heads (very pokey burrs that cause flat tires) got bad and that the rattlesnakes we saw are summertime-only denizens.

We weren’t in a rush and thus got started fairly late in the day after driving over and setting up camp. It was close to 3pm and fairly warm by the time we hit the trailhead.

The trail is mostly flat, save for one big dip where an old bridge was removed. On our way out we saw a mom and three kids coming up the hill–the oldest kid had biked up it and was resting/waiting at the top, the mom was pulling a trailer containing one little kid (!!! trailers are very hard to lug uphill!), and the middle kid was walking his bike up from near the bottom. Taking kids three miles down the trail and turning back before the hill would even be a fun ride, but tackling the hill yields some great scenery on the other side…but, of course, having to descend and climb the hill again on the way back. I found descending the hill more difficult than climbing the hill, but I’m not much of a descender.

Lots of the gravel is the good kind of small hard-packed gravel, but there is also quite a bit of rocky stuff to maneuver around. I rode my Surly Straggler with smooth Compass tires with 38mm of width and they were OK. Neighbor Kelly’s Rivendale Atlantis was the other “narrow” tired bike with 42mm wide Compass tires and Coffee Kelley and Chele rolled on 3-inch fat tires on rigid (no suspension) fat bikes–a Surly ECR and a Bantam adventure bike. We all thought it was pretty bumpy.

Along the trail are several pit toilets (bring toilet paper if you’re visiting outside the high season) down near the river surrounded by open areas for dispersed camping for hikers, bikers, and rafters. This is where the 18 #galsatthedalles camped, but we opted for the luxury of the regular, less-rustic camping at the Deschutes River State Recreation Area campground.

While we didn’t go quite far enough (and I’m not sure how eager I would have been to hike up a steep side trail if we had!) to see the petroglyphs mentioned in the Oregon Bikepacking post, we saw lots of cool stuff.

Abandoned train car! The abandoned train car around mile six provides shade! And it’s fun to explore. It’s very close to a spot with cell phone reception, too.

Puddle! At the bottom of the hill (3.5 miles in) there’s a puddle or two to ride through. Deep enough to splash one’s feet. Related: there are also a couple cow catchers along miles 0-11 in case you’re touring with a Chiweenie (Pixie was running free for portions of the Dalles Mountain 60 and got tripped up by one).

Lava tubes! I think these were a bit past the hill. Remnants of little lava tubes according to Coffee Kelley who knew the most about the region–though the least about rattlesnakes–of all of us.

Old homestead! The old homestead 11 miles in was our turning-around point and a good shady rest spot. Coffee Kelley said last year when she was here the house was upright and she was able to walk up the stairs inside. I hope it doesn’t dilapidate more because it’s beautiful in its current state!

Rattlesnakes! We saw a rattlesnake in the barn by the homestead!!!!!! It was my first rattlesnake; Coffee Kelley’s, too. Neighbor Kelly and Chele both grew up with snakes (not to be confused by “were raised by snakes”). It wasn’t feeling social and slowly slithered away as we took photos. This one never coiled up and rattled. While heading back we passed close to a snake on the side of the trail that did rattle! I pedaled past before I realized what was going on while my three friends stopped behind it to let it move away from the trail. Coffee Kelley took pictures. I took pictures of Coffee Kelley taking pictures from a much safer distance and decided I’d Google “rattlesnake bite treatment” once back to camp with a cell signal.

I was relieved to read that the rattlesnakes are summer attractions. Between that and the heat we experienced, this trail is probably most fun in the spring.

Dispersed campers! We saw a group of teens with a couple counselors bike camping at the farthest (mile 10?) pit toilet. I was so impressed! Especially when I rode out the following morning and saw them returning to civilization, just after they scaled the hill. Go kids!

We encountered the #galsatthedalles group in small batches as we headed back to camp Saturday night and directed them to the camping area by the pit toilet around mile 8. Conveniently the group of teens had left markings in the gravel at the turn off (indicating “No, don’t stop here, continue along” for their own group). We may have been a little excited about our snake sightings and mentioned the possibility of rattlesnakes to each group, but I don’t think we caused any undue fear.

I rode back out the following morning to visit with the #galsatthedalles and found them breakfasting and breaking camp. It turns out they had a car at the trailhead for carrying their gear so I volunteered to carry stuff out on my empty bike since they still had a 30-mile day, including Old Moody Road. I scored two panniers and a shoulder bag. I also scored a pinch flat, boo. But that was the only flat for our small group all weekend.

And that’s that! It was awesome, but as I’m not a big fan of driving places to ride my bike and am perfectly happy with all the places we can reach by pedaling or pedaling plus bike/train/ferry, I’m not sure how soon I’ll be back. Neighbor Kelly pointed out the trail alongside the highway, but it doesn’t go all the way through yet. One can still ride all the way there, but parts of it are along fast-moving highways and parts of it experience stop-and-go traffic with no shoulder for passing near Multnomah Falls.

Portland Stuff
Just wanted to acknowledge a couple cool new Portland things:

Better Naito is a temporary bike lane I took upon leaving the train station and it’s amazing!

While accompanying Kath of Portlandize on her test ride for her weekend Kidical Mass PDX Treats Ride, we biked next to a contraflow bike lane on SE 34th Ave at Division. Kath said it was residents of that block who had spearheaded the project to fix the problem of people parking in front of their driveways. What an interesting and unexpected reason!

Train Stuff
I took the Amtrak Coast Starlight on the way down and the Amtrak Cascades on the way back. I’ve written a comparison of the two trains before: Portland with bike and dog! And Amtrak Coast Starlight vs. Amtrak Cascades and that all remains the same, but there is a new procedure at King Street Station in Seattle: someone walks your bike the looooooooong way down to the baggage car now! I’m not sure if this is only for the Coast Starlight or both trains. The Coast Starlight is much longer so I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s not for all trains. Also, it’s a very new procedure so despite several different employees warning me that someone would come for my bike at some point–including “in five minutes”–once I got out the door, there was no promised bike pusher so I walked the bike myself. One of the employees (the guy with my first and third warnings) saw me and jumped out of the baggage car to walk the bike the last little bit to facilitate this photo op:

Have you been along the Deschutes River Trail? What was the old homestead like during your visit? Any additional tips?

Photo by Coffee Kelley

Happy Bike Everywhere Day!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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