FREE BIKE Festival coming July 1-10!

freebikeI’ve never been down to Portland for Pedalpalooza, but I’ve heard about it for years and hope to make it down next year. But in the meantime, Seattle now has its own similar festival: FREE BIKE. Details from the All about FREE BIKE page:

For ten days July 1–10, FREE BIKE will be whatever people like you make of it. Inspired by Pedalpalooza in Portland and Velopalooza in Vancouver, FREE BIKE invites anyone to host their own group rides, parties, discussions or anything else you can imagine. We will gather the details into one convenient, bike-fun-packed calendar.

Express yourself, meet new people and explore your city like you’ve never experienced before. That’s what FREE BIKE is all about.

There are only a few rules to being a host: You take full responsibility for your own event, and it must be free to participate.

Want to share your knowledge of neighborhood history? Lead a tour by bike! Is there a social issue near to your heart? Lead a bike ride to rally around the cause! Ever dreamed of cruising down Broadway with your bike posse blasting Sir Mix-A-Lot? I will join if you make it happen!

The organizers (Tom Fucoloro of Seattle Bike Blog, Brock Howell of Bike Happy Cascadia, and Jason Goods of Swift Industries) have some great events on the calendar already, but it’s really up to us normal folks to make this event shine with lots and lots of rides!

I’ve put four things on the calendar:

  1. Sunrise Coffee Club
    July 1 @ 5:00 a.m.
    Facebook event page
    Let’s channel our cool cousins to the south and be like Portland Pedalpalooza with a #SunriseCoffeeClub on the first day of FREE BIKE!

    Be at the Madrona Park picnic shelter (853 Lake Washington Blvd, Seattle, WA 98122) at 5:00 a.m. so we can enjoy the sunrise together at 5:16 a.m.

    Bring your outdoor coffee making stuff (camp stove, coffee, water).

  2. Kidical Mass to FREE BIKE Party
    July 3 @ 10:00 am
    Facebook event page
    Kidical Mass is a fun bike ride for kids, kids at heart, and their families with over 50 chapters around the world! Join us for a bike parade to the FREE BIKE Party and Pedaler’s Fair.

    We’ll meet at Salmon Bay Park at 10:00 a.m. for some playground action and bike decorating before setting out at 10:30-ish.

    Our 2.5-mile route will travel mostly on Neighborhood Greenways and proposed Neighborhood Greenways. It’s mostly slightly downhill and we will move slowly so it’s a perfect ride for even the littlest biking kids. Kids on bikes, kids on balance bikes, trailers, trail-a-bikes, cargo bikes, bike seats, family tandems–all welcome!

    We’ll make a pit stop at Adams Elementary for some fun bike games before enjoying a nice, long stretch of the 58th Street Greenway past Ballard Commons Park and the bike counter before hitting the party.

    Once at FREE BIKE Party, join in the Family Bike Expo! Ride bikes, leave your bike for other parents to try, and join Morgan Scherer in staffing the event. Volunteering for a Family Bike Expo is easy, and includes talking to people about the bikes/family biking, referring folks to talk to Morgan if you don’t feel confident answering, and helping get waivers signed. Contact Scherer at morgan@familybike.org or 206-841-6538

    Read more about FREE BIKE Party here. Food trucks, Pedaler’s Fair, Bike Poster Art Show, music, kid-friendly breweries!

  3. Let’s Skip Town with Kids and Dogs
    July 5 @ 10:30 am
    Facebook event page
    Everyone knows July 5th is the first sunny day of summer in Seattle so let’s commemorate the day with a huge ride (huge for kids and dogs, that is) with an 11-mile pedal (route here) along the Burke-Gilman Trail to the kid- and dog-friendly Lake Trail Tap Room and Beer Garden of 192 Brewing in Kenmore. We will be moving very slowly–possibly 3mph, though it will depend on what sorts of bikes we have along–and likely stop several times along the way for rest breaks, snacks, and checking out the fairy door. A stop at Log Boom Park for a bit of playground time and potty breaks will probably be a good idea before settling in at the brewery.

    I don’t think there’s a kid menu, but the pretzels from the taproom menu are tasty!

    Our meeting spot is Rainier Vista at UW, the big grassy area between Stevens Way and the Burke-Gilman Trail, south of Drumheller Fountain, north of the new light rail station.

  4. #coffeeoutsideforher
    July 7 @ 10:00 am
    Facebook event page
    #coffeeoutsideforher is a weekly gathering of biking coffee (or tea) drinkers, started last winter. It’s not just for women–everyone is welcome!

    It’s also not necessary to bring anything–I always have plenty of coffee and mugs, though the usual gist of #coffeeoutside is that everyone brings their campstove and coffee kit to make their own coffee (and yield a cool photo of all the various coffee systems).

    Find us on the plaza at the southeast side of Gas Works Park. If you’re early, bike up Kite Hill to check out the view first! It’s easier to climb up the back/south side of the hill.

    There is no late. If the weather is nice, we often stay until noon and we’re always there at least an hour.

Also, LOOK LOOK LOOK we’ve got a ringer! Shawn Granton of Urban Adventure League from Portland and practiced Pedalpalooza event host is in town and hosting a Sunset Mystery Ride on Thursday, July 5 @ 7:00 pm, starting at Fremont PCC.

Come to my events if you can, and add some of your own!

Kidical Mass for G&O photo shoot

Casting call!
Sunday 6/19 10am at G&O
Facebook event

This is a regular Kidical Mass family bike ride, EXCEPT there will be some photo- and video-taking for our friends at G&O Family Cyclery to use on their website and in an upcoming commercial. No need to have any particular type of bike from any particular shop.

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You can help!
Do you have video-shooting skills and equipment and want to help? Call the shop at (206) 363-4663 or email Davey: oil[at]familycyclery[dot]com

The scene…
Meet at G&O Family Cyclery (8554 1/2 Greenwood Avenue N, Seattle, WA 98103) at 10:00 a.m. on Sunday, June 19th (a.k.a. Father’s Day).

We’ll ride 2.5 miles along quiet streets, Greenways, and the Interurban Trail to Bitter Lake Playfield for some playground time. The wading pool isn’t open yet, but perhaps I’ll bring my bike teeter totter (note: only works for kid bikes) since empty wading pools are pretty good teeter totter spots!

About Kidical Mass
Seattle Kidical Mass rides are presented by Familybike Seattle. Familybike Seattle is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit that decreases barriers to bicycling for families of all income levels. We believe that biking as a family increases our individual, family, and societal quality of life, while at the same time moving toward sustainable lifestyles and communities.

Kidical Mass is a fun, safe, easy-going, and law-abiding family bike ride for kids of all ages. It started circa 2008 in Eugene, Oregon, and has since spread to other bikey burgs, like Seattle! Our monthly group rides include a nice mix of experienced cyclists, and folks just getting started. We hope to educate bike-curious parents about ways to bicycle with children, help kids learn to ride safely in the city, and increase the visibility of family biking on Seattle streets. Kids are traffic too! All manner of bikes and high-occupancy velos are welcome.

Some Kidical Mass ride leaders are Cascade Bicycle Club volunteer ride leaders. Cascade Bicycle Club is the nation’s largest statewide bicycle organization and serves bike riders of all ages and abilities throughout the Puget Sound region and across Washington state. Cascade’s mission is to “improve lives through bicycling” through many programs including free group rides. For Kidical Mass rides led by Cascade ride leaders, all participants are required to sign a wavier and wear a helmet.

Note: this particular Kidical Mass won’t be a Cascade Bicycle Club event due to the promotional nature of it. Therefore no waviers and related requirements.

Recap: Family bike camping Bike Overnight

We had an amazing time on our Family bike camping Bike Overnight June 4th-5th! This bike overnight was part of Adventure Cycling Association’s 40th Anniversary National Bike Travel Weekend, a nation-wide event.

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The tally: 62 people (23 families/32 adults, 30 kids), 1 dog, 36 bikes, 22 tents
The pictures: Flickr album of 194 photos.

Our group was even a little bit bigger than last year’s epic Swift Campout for Seattle family bikers (that’s coming up June 25-26, by the way, if you want to join or set up a ride!).

Here’s our cast of characters…oddly arranged because I had trouble making an accurate count and ended up just taking photos of each tent/bike(s) to tally at my leisure later:
1 tent, 1 adult, 1 kid, 1 bike (Xtracycle EdgeRunner with BionX e-assist)
+ 1 tent, 1 adult, 1 kid, 1 bike (Surly Big Dummy visiting from Portland!)
+ 1 tent, 2 adults, 1 kid, 2 bikes (bikes + Weehoo iGo trailer bike, BOB cargo trailer)
+ 1 tent, 2 adults, 2 bikes (from Portland!)
+ 1 tent, 2 adults, 2 kids, 2 bikes (Xtracycle EdgeRunner, bike + Xtracycle FreeRadical)
+ 1 tent, 2 adults, 1 kid, 2 bikes (Brompton with IT chair for kid, bike with Burley Travoy trailer for gear)
+ 1 tent, 1 adult, 2 kids, 1 bike (Bike Friday Family Tandem + Burley Piccolo trailer bike)
+ 1 tent, 1 adult, 1 kid, 1 bike (Metrofiets longjohn with Stokemonkey e-assist)
+ 1 tent, 2 adults, 2 kids, 2 bikes (Yuba Mundo and regular bike)
+ 1 tent, 1 adult, 2 kids, 1 bike (Sun Atlas with e-assist…rented from Familybike Seattle!)
+ 1 tent, 2 adults, 1 kid, 2 bikes (Xtracycle EdgeRunner with BionX e-assist and regular bike)
+ 1 tent, 1 adult, 1 kid, 1 bike (Xtracycle EdgeRunner)
+ 1 tent, 1 adult, 1 kid, 2 bikes (one kid bike!)
+ 1 tent, 1 adult, 1 kid, 1 bike (Xtracycle EdgeRunner)
+ 1 tent, 2 adults, 1 kid, 2 bikes (Yuba Mundo with Stokemonkey e-assist and regular bike)
+ 1 tent, 1 adult, 1 kid, 2 bikes (1 regular bike, 1 kid bike…they weren’t with our group, but I’m counting them anyway since they’re new friends and were happy to set up in the same spot)
1 tent, 2 adults, 2 kids, 2 bikes (Surly Big Dummy, bike with trailer)
+ 1 tent, 1 adult, 2 kids, 1 dog, 1 bike (Rodriguez tandem with kidback plus Burley Piccolo trailer bike)
+ 1 tent, 1 adult, 2 kids, 1 bike (Xtracycle EdgeRunner with BionX e-assist and cycletruck conversion…+ 1 adult via car)
+ 1 tent, 3 adults, 2 kids, 3 bikes (Xtracycle EdgeRunner with e-assist rented from G&O Family Cyclery, Brompton folding bike, regular bike rented from Bainbridge Island Bike Barn rentals, 2/5 of party visiting from Dublin, CA!)
+ 2 tents, 2 adults, 3 kids, 4 bikes (2 solo-riding kids, 1 kid coupled to 1 adult bike via FollowMe Tandem coupler, 1 regular bike)

As you can see, lots of longtail cargo bikes, quite a few with electric assist. Also, four kids riding solo this year! I think I’ll have my kids ride their own bikes next time out, but I’ll bring the Big Dummy just in case one or both needs to be carried at any point. I’m slow to change and would probably have kept doing all the work (they don’t do a lot of pedaling on the tandem+ but it’s still more pedaling than when they sit on the Big Dummy) a couple more years had I not witnessed little kids riding so competently this trip. But this trip, we were on our used Rodriguez tandem (of older vintage than I realized, it appears…foreshadowing!) with Burley Piccolo trailer bike.

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I love this picture from heading home Sunday with my lackadaisical stokers doing their thing. I’m happy my six-year old (in the middle) didn’t resort to his usual tricks of sitting backwards on his handlebars, leaning against my back with his feet extended along his top tube; staying forward facing with his feet resting atop the top tube is NBD. And I guess my nine-year old is examining a ladybug on his wrist? I think they would have had a lot of fun on their own bikes.

We started our Saturday morning by meeting outside the PCC Natural Market in Fremont. We met at 9 (well, 9:05 in my case) with firm leaving time of 9:30. Outside PCC offered less room than last year’s spot a block away in front of the bank, but it’s right by groceries and potties…and in the shade. I think I’ll keep this spot for the future, or perhaps convene across the street so we’re on the correct side of the road to get rolling, yet still close to food and restrooms.

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We got rolling at 9:45, only 15 minutes later than I had intended, with about 50 people on 30 bikes. Here’s our Strava’ed route from PCC to the Seattle Ferry Terminal–it took 54 minutes so we were plenty early! Riding along the nearing-completion Westlake bikeway was very nice.

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And we encountered a street fair on Bell Street! The east-most block of Bell Street Park (or “Bell Street Park for Cars” as I like to call it since no one heeds the “No through traffic” signs) was closed to cars, but we were welcome to bike through slowly and admired the many fire trucks. One family even grabbed a couple kid fire hats.

There were two cruise ships parked (moored?) at the cruise ship terminal, but our timing was such that we weren’t stuck behind a traffic jam of taxi drop-offs. In the past the roads have been clogged and we’ve opted to take the sidewalk on the east side of Alaskan Way. Options like this are one of the many benefits of traveling by bike :)

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Arriving 45 minutes early for the ferry (we were aiming for 25 minutes early) meant no waiting in line for ticket booths. There’s a bike lane to the right with an ORCA card reader that works well for adults on regular bikes (and I’d imagine for youths on regular bikes who have youth ORCA cards, too), but I’ve been stopping at a ticket booth lately thanks to my confusing bike. It didn’t take an excruciating amount of time for us to get through, but I think I’ll lead with a “Last time I was charged for an adult plus bike and a youth plus bike” although now I realize I’m underpaying by one youth, even though I’ve mentioned the kids’ ages. I think I’ll just swipe all three of our ORCA cards next time, which I guess would be one dollar too much on the tandem+, but will be spot on for three separate bikes. Sometimes friends are charged an extra bike surcharge ($1) for trailers or big bikes, but usually they’re not. Ferry fares here.

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I love how accommodating Washington State Ferries are of bicycles. Early birds get to board before the cars and latecomers are allowed to squish on at the end. We were waved aboard first and directed to one of the side car lanes. This left many of us in the wrong gear for the uphill slope, oops! It’s always a good idea to downshift aboard the boat in case the tide is low and the climb off the ferry is a steep one…but I usually do this while riding across the empty ferry, not ahead of time. But anyhow, this crossing was great with the front of the left-most car lane set aside for us. Half of our area was flat and half on a slope, but all the bikes stayed upright for our 35-minute voyage. There are spots to tie up along rails on either side and those of us with sturdy kickstands (I have an Ursus Jumbo on the tandem, the widest after-market center stand for non-cargo bikes and lots of the longtails had Rolling Jackasss center stands) parked in the middle. Another option is to lay bikes on their sides (not on your chain side, FYI!), but in my case, I don’t think I’d have been able to muscle my bike upright again and removing all or some of the panniers to do this didn’t seem worth it. But that’s an option.

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Off the boat, we climbed the hill away from the ferry terminal and pulled over outside Bike Barn Rentals, which doesn’t have much shade for a hot day, but is a good spot to wait for the ten minutes it takes the car traffic to clear out. This also allowed the group to split into three: those stopping at the grocery store and taking the scenic route, those leaving immediately for the scenic route, and those taking the highway. I prefer the highway since it’s a lot flatter and the shoulder is very wide. A lot of the side roads (on the scenic route and for the second half of the highway route) have no shoulders, but they’re very quiet roads.

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We still had a large group for my ride on the highway. Here’s our route on my Strava. Our moving time was 55 minutes, with regroup stops after every stop light. Our overall time was two hours…because I got a flat tire! That added quite a bit excitement, but most importantly, helped me realize how awesome and helpful a group we were among.

The *pop* of my tandem’s rear tube exploding was heard halfway down the long bike train on highway 305, only halfway through our seven-mile journey. I knew we were just about to the point where we exit the highway so I nominated a new leader, showed him the map and described a nice area to pull over where I would meet up with them to fix my flat after walking there. The highway shoulder is nice and wide and drivers on Bainbridge Island are very aware of and kind to people on bikes, but I didn’t want to fix the flat out in sun next to the noise of the highway. Instead, the kids and I trekked less than half a mile to the aforementioned meeting spot.

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Halfway through our trek a dad–now relieved of his passenger at the meeting spot–swung back to offer one of my kids a lift with his trailer bike. The remaining kid and I found our way to everyone happily resting and snacking in the shade of a fire station, and I was given a spare tube (because of course the one size tube I couldn’t locate while packing the night before was this one!) by a well-prepared mom. I parked my bike in the shade and before I could dig my way to my tools (six panniers hold a lot of stuff so you have to memorize where you put everything), the dad who led the party in my stead had already removed my wheel and started fixing it. It was apparent my old tire was in dire need of replacing so I hoped for the best and pedaled the remaining three miles to camp. It held!!! Then at camp, a mom loaned me her bike (which even had a puppy basket so I could bring Pixie along for the errand!) and offered to watch my kids at the beach while I biked into town for a new tire.

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Classic Cycles on Bainbridge Island (right by the ferry terminal) is AWESOME, by the way. Jaime remembered me from a previous visit and we had a lovely chat. Another bicycing family camped at Fay Bainbridge a week ago (Bicyclebungee USA: Bike Camping on Bainbridge Island) and ended up with a new, bigger kid bike at Classic Cycles on their way home! I was tempted to buy 10 spare tubes, but that seemed excessive to the point of tempting fate and causing all the bikes to get flat tires so I settled for three–one to replace the one I borrowed (and popped while transporting the wheel) and two for me. And an extra tire for my front wheel which looks OK, but is apparently from the 80’s.

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Later a different dad helped me wrestle my rear wheel with new tire back on. Teamwork!

Now, this was just my own experience, but I saw so much camaraderie throughout the course of the weekend. I’m sure this isn’t unique to family biking, but there is just something about arriving by pedal power that makes us feel wonderfully strong, and perhaps more eager to share that strength and go above and beyond in lending support. I think I have something in my eye *sniff!*

Even with my 15-mile side excursion, I still got plenty of friend time, beach time, and campfire time. Though with a group this big, I never feel like I get enough time to talk to everyone. I wouldn’t have it any other way because these big groups are amazing…I just need to convince everyone to stay out a couple more days :)

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Sunday was HOT. Other than the excessive heat (excessive for the Seattle area–88 degrees), we had the best timing for our visit because Sunday at 11:40am was the lowest tide of the whole summer, -3.2! The beach at Fay Bainbridge Park is magical at any tide level, with a lovely view of Mount Rainier to the south, Seattle–so close, yet so far!–across the water straight ahead, so much driftwood to climb on and build stuff with, and a great view of boats sailing by.

Families tend to leave in small groups over the course of the morning, but we were in it for the long haul and stayed for the tide to go all the way out. The kids marveled at sea anemones, dodged squirting geoducks, and examined moon snails, crabs, shrimp, tiny flatfish, and sea worms. Such an amazing array of sea life!

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In the past we have congregated at a kid-friendly Seattle brewery at the end of the ride (Peddler Brewing last time, though I was pushing for Fremont Brewing this time since it’s on my way home), but this year we were more spaced out than last and everyone was ready to head straight home and get out of the heat. It was hot and Fay Bainbridge Park doesn’t have a lot of shade, but it was a bit cooler than Seattle and the bike ride between park and ferry has quite a bit of tree coverage.

Now the only unfortunate part of the trip (I’m not considering my flat tire an unfortunate part of the trip since it worked out OK) was our surprise arrival at the campground. Unfortunately the camp host hadn’t remembered our lengthy conversation during our last visit four weeks prior and the “It will be fine, I’ll let the park manager know” didn’t pan out. I feel horrible about our camp host being so stressed out by our arrival and catching the camp manager off guard. SO OUR NEXT TIME (and if you plan to show up with a big group on bike do this, too) I’ll send an email address of the camp manager (contact information is on the Fay Bainbridge Park website ) to get in touch ahead of time. For this particular visit, we were directed to camp in the kayak-in campsite (as has always been the camp host’s preference for our big group in the past) and it was great! There’s also a hiker/biker campsite on the other end of the park, but it’s a lot smaller and closer to the parking lot so it’s not quite as nice. There have never been any kayakers during any of our visits, but we would all fit just fine, though I’m not sure how kayakers feel about sharing their site with bikers. We were charged $7 per adult which was very generous. This is how it’s been in the past (and the camp host told me during our forgotten conversation that she believes in charging per tent), but we’re all always prepared to pay the $7 fee per person just in case. The camp manager called us “stinky bikers who would use up all the water taking showers” but I chalk that up to his having been caught off guard by our arrival. And he also stressed he didn’t want to discourage anyone from enjoying the great outdoors. Speaking of stinky, sweaty, sandy bikers, I brought enough quarters for everyone to take showers, but I didn’t find many takers and I don’t think we dipped into the water supply much.

Upcoming trips
I’m hoping to find someone to lead a group trip for Swift Campout June 25-26, but I’m not sure if that’ll happen. I will lead another group trip July 30-31 and I promise everything will go seamlessly!

And we’ll do a bunch of weekday camping at Fay and other places, too (like Manchester State Park and Spencer Spit State Park and/or Odlin County Park on Lopez Island). Any group trips will be linked to at the top of the right column (or down towards the bottom if you’re reading this on a small, mobile device).

Biking with Summer by Rail’s Elena around Seattle

I had the pleasure of biking around Seattle with Elena Studier today, visiting as part of her Summer by Rail trip.

Waterfall Garden Park

Waterfall Garden Park

From the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) press release:

With school and finals behind her, college sophomore Elena Studier this summer is taking her bike on an epic 38-day multi-modal “road trip” across the country by rail, visiting more than 18 cities and 15 states. Studier, 20, spent her school year interning with NARP and sketching out her big adventure. She kicks off her trip in New York City and will make stops in 20 locations—including Glacier National Park in Montana–before concluding more than 10,000 miles later in Washington, D.C. on June 20, 2016.

She’s about a quarter of the way through her trip, having visited six cities over nine days.

I caught up with Elena and Sean Jeans-Gail of NARP shortly after her arrival to the Emerald City, at Zeitgeist Coffee, conveniently close to King Street Station. They were just wrapping up a meeting with representatives from Sound Transit, whose offices are in Union Station, our former train station, located just across the street from King Street Station. The lobby, the Great Hall of Union Station, is open to the public and worth checking out.

I was doubly excited about the opportunity to connect with Elena, having just taken the train with my bike the day before. My trip was a pretty exciting one–something was going wrong with the radiator and just before we made it to Tacoma where they would add more water we stopped to let a train go by in the other direction and couldn’t get started again. A freight engine came 12 miles down from Tacoma to take us the rest of the way to Seattle and we were only an hour and a half late. I add this to a growing list of Amtrak Cascades mishaps with:

  • Train with “unknown power problems” ran out of gas two miles before reaching Portland.
    Apparently the fuel gauge was broken. Fortunately we were seated on the right side of the train to watch the fuel truck (“We’re going to have a fuel truck come by and see if that might be the problem…”) do its thing so the kids suffered through the two-hour delay just fine.
  • Car rammed train bridge and we had to wait an hour for an inspector to say it was OK to chug over.
    We stopped at Olympia for that hour so the smokers could get off and smoke.

Elena is also using other forms of public transportation as she travels, to highlight the various modes available. I made use of this yesterday when I dropped my bike off at a bike shop for a tune up and grabbed a bus back home. I took Elena and Sean to said bike shop, Back Alley Bike Repair because due to its proximity to the train, ferries, water taxi, and BoltBus, they see a lot of multi-modal bike travelers. And they’re awesome.

There was also a quick stop at Waterfall Garden Park, which has always amused me since it’s quite loud, yet people sit at the tables, trying to chat with friends. But it’s unique and a quick ride or walk from King Street Station.

Next up we met up with “celebrity” traffic engineer, Dongho Chang and Darby Watson from SDOT in Occidental Park just across the street from Back Alley Bike Repair. The park is bustling with food trucks, tons of seating, games (currently a foosball table, and I’ve previously seen ping pong and giant chess), totem poles, and musicians.

Dongho led us on a tour of Seattle’s latest and greatest bike-friendly infrastructure, including the 2nd Avenue protected bike lanes, Bell Street Park, the Mercer and 5th Avenue North bike lanes, and the 7th Avenue protected bike lane (and bicycle leaning rail!). We learned a bit about upcoming improvements–some not announced just yet. Exciting stuff! I pointed out to Elena and Sean that I found it a shame we had to utilize the sidewalk so much for our tour with Dongho, but at the same time, one of the first things I told them about Seattle is that it’s legal to ride on the sidewalk here…although I also pointed out that I find it sad that I consider that such valuable information. But it really is necessary for most people riding bikes in the downtown area. For now, anyway.

Elena, Darby, and Dongho on 2nd Avenue

Elena, Darby, and Dongho on 2nd Avenue

Marveling at Amazon's biospheres

Marveling at Amazon’s biospheres

5th Avenue North protected bike lanes to Seattle Center

5th Avenue North protected bike lanes to Seattle Center

Dongho Chang pushes the "beg button"

Dongho Chang pushes the “beg button”

Dongho and Darby headed back to important SDOT stuff and I tagged along as Elena and Sean headed into a meeting with Alta Planning + Design. We talked NACTO, various projects, and secure bike parking at transit stations. They had lots of great questions for Elena so I learned even more about the project. I was particularly interested to hear that rather than push an agenda of her own, Elena hopes to amplify the messages of the people she meets.

Lunch was at Pike Place Market, our bikes locked securely at the bike corral (the one on Pike Place, not the fence on Pike Street by the balloon clown), while we explored on foot. We dined in Victor Steinbrueck Park, watching Washington State Ferries on their ways to Bainbridge Island and Bremerton and the Clipper Ferry on its way to Victoria, BC, Canada, while I shared tales of bike-and-boat trips I had taken. My cargo bike and tandem bike aren’t allowed on buses (other than BoltBus) and trains, but they fit on boats! So the ferries make some wonderful trips possible, like our most recent family bike camping trip at Illahee State Park and Spring Break 2015 on Vancouver Island.

Rather than navigate the Pike Place Market crowds with our bikes to get to the elevator, I led us down Western Avenue. I discovered Western Avenue as a not-too-steep route up from the waterfront by finding a pedicab driver without an e-assist to follow. One of my many route-finding tricks. Elena agreed with me that steep downhills are even worse than steep uphills.

I apologized for the state of our waterfront, but we were soon at the beautiful Elliott Bay Trail and pedaling through the Olympic Sculpture Park and Myrtle Edwards Park. I pointed out the West Thomas Street Overpass, another not-too-steep as well as all-user-friendly route up from the waterfront.

I had to rush home to fetch the kids from school and cut off towards the Ship Canal Trail while Elena and Sean pushed on to the Ballard Locks and beautifully bikey Ballard. I look foward to reading about their experiences there, as well as the Burke-Gilman Trail (and Burke-Gilman Trail Missing Link), Link light rail, and Broadway Cycletrack.

Happy rails to you, Elena!

Family bike camping at Illahee State Park

New family bike camping territory! As much as we love bike camping at Fay Bainbridge Park, we wanted to try something new. Enter Illahee State Park.

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First up, here’s the Flickr album of 81 photos.

Now Pixie and I bike camped at Illahee last month (Flickr album of 91 photos here), but camping with a regular bike and nine pounds of passenger isn’t nearly the same as proper family bike camping so it doesn’t really count. Good test run, though!

Same ferry terminal as if going to Bainbridge which means even though the Bremerton ferry tends to be less crowded, the ticket booths are filled with people driving onto the Bainbridge ferry. The booth adjacent to the bike lane was closed so rather than wait in a long line of cars, I swiped my adult Orca card and one of our youth Orca cards to match what we were charged last trip.

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The ferry ride to Bremerton is 60 minutes (compared to Bainbridge’s 35) so as a woman in Bremerton said, “You better get your money’s worth!” And there’s also plenty of time to wait in line at the cafe (not that the line is as long on this less-packed ferry) for kid snacks.

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Even on my Surly Straggler (which I had built up with a triple ring on the front for MOAR GEARS for our hilly city) I knew this to be a hilly four-mile ride from the ferry and even thought of possible nicknames for the park on the boat ride:

  • Hillahee
  • Illahill
  • Illahillahee
  • Illahilly

I studied the map ahead of time and opted to stray a bit from the Google Maps’ suggested route once across the Manette Bridge to cut out some elevation loss: like so, straight through the traffic circle, left on Pitt, right on 14th, left on Perry. I think this was better than my last route, cutting off some of the long slog up Perry. But it was still quite a climb and the kids opted to walk two blocks (thank goodness!) since our riding was so slow. The road wasn’t busy, but since we were so slow I kept to the empty sidewalk until Perry flattened out.

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I discovered last visit that the hiker/biker spots are tiny. Plus they have no picnic tables (though we didn’t sit at our table since it was so wet…but it was nice to stash the panniers underneath while I was setting up camp). And somewhat expensive at $12. I wasn’t sure if they’d want $12 per person or $12 for the site (and we never saw the camp host!) so we opted for a $25 car site. Note: this was on May 14th, the last day before the price went up to $30 for summer.

We biked the whole loop and the kids selected site 5. It was great with a direct path to the restrooms and two spots for tents, one of them a bit bigger than the spot at the hiker/biker sites. This was good because I brought two tents this time. The silly thing is, I didn’t bring my new small two-person tent when I camped with just Pixie because I didn’t want my brand new tent to get wet. But I’d never pass up a chance to carry extra stuff and this trip we crammed in the second tent, an extra sleeping bag, and an extra sleeping pad. Our original plan was to camp at Manchester State Park, but then we found out our friend Brad (one of my first friends with a Surly Big Dummy, before I got mine! Jon to my Ponch, I like to call him) was riding the 400k le Tour d’Hood Canal and would need to stay in Bremerton overnight. So obviously the smart thing to do was tote extra gear so he could sleep on the ground, right?

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We hit the hay long before Brad arrived. Even though the ride was only 4 miles, I was exhausted and went to sleep at kid time. Normally one gets less sleep camping, but it was nice to get a lot of extra sleep. And the kids both slept with their heads at the opposite side of the tent from me this time, plus they wanted to be next to one another rather than have me in the middle so I was more comfortable than ever before. Next time I’ll see if I can convince the dog to sleep in one of their sleeping bags instead of mine to make it even better. Brad ended up finding a hotel with a group of the randonneurs, but he arrived to camp early in the morning and took a nap so our spare tent wasn’t for naught.

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This new tent is the Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 and it’s so light! I wouldn’t want to cram all three of us in it, but next time I camp with just Pixie, I’ll use this tent. The poles fold up short enough that they fit in a pannier. I remove the pole bag from the REI Half Dome 2 Plus tent bag so the tent fits in a pannier and the poles either go in the side pocket of a pannier or strapped across a rack.

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While Saturday was pretty wet, Sunday was dry! We traded a blueberry muffin to Brad for some Oreos, bid him farewell as he pedaled off to the 8:45am ferry, and hiked down to the beach.

Fay Bainbridge is convenient in that the beach is adjacent to the campground and kids can play there while adults are doing camp stuff. Not so at Illahee, though the playground and cannons are close by. And of course this all varies based on your degree of free-range-ness. The beach might not be too far away for all parents and the playground might be out of range for others.

The Illahee beach is terrific with tons of tiny crabs under every rock. And a covered picnic area in the grass and picnic tables with amazing views at the end of the pier! (The pier picture is from Saturday when it was wetter.)

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And the playground is small, but fun. It’s rare to find a seesaw in Washington. Of course there was a communication mishap during a seesaw dismounting resulting in a bruised butt and some yowling.

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And cannons!

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Payment–Sites and Showers
This was the first time we needed showers while camping. At Fay Bainbridge once last summer the kids requested showers after three days of beach play, but I didn’t have any quarters. So now I’ll always bring quarters to Fay. And always include shower information in bike camping posts.

Illahee requires paper money–ones or fives–to buy tokens. Each dollar buys two tokens that are good for three minutes of hot water each. The token machine is next to the campsite pay station, close to the camp host and restrooms. Sites are paid for with cash or check in an envelope. I think the $5 firewood fee goes directly to the camp host, but since we never saw the host I scored some firewood in restroom deal with another camper. (Bainbridge is all by machine that takes cash or credit card between the restrooms and camp host.)

Heading back down the hill I followed the Google Maps suggested route and ran into a little trouble on the tight switchbacks to the Manette Bridge. I was able to walk the bike through them, but next time I’ll stick to the street, reversing our outbound route. The bike and ped path over the bridge is on the eastbound side, but approaching the bridge from the east in the street will work fine. Even with a bike that could navigate the switchbacks, I’d probably stick to the more direct street route.

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We swung by the USS Turner Joy U.S. Naval Destroyer Museum with plans to come back for a day trip without the dog. No hill climbing since it’s right next to the ferry!

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Looking for Fritz European Fry House by the ferry we discovered how friendly Bremertonites (Bremertonians?) are! I stopped on the edge of the road to look around confusedly and a guy strolled out of a bar next to us, saying we looked lost and could he help. Fritz is tucked behind Taco del Mar, by the way. We also smiled for two sets of people to take photos of our bike and had several nice conversations with locals during lunch.

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All in all we had a terrific time! But I’m going to need some time to pass so I can forget how hilly the hill was before I want to go back on the family bike.

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Donate to Familybike and G&O Family Cyclery will match your donation

May is Bike Month, which means riding our bikes a lot more for many of us, but it can also mean helping more people ride bikes. Especially families, because family biking is simply AWESOME.

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I think you all know family biking means the world to me, and getting more families out on bikes is one of my favorite things ever. I’m on the board of Familybike, our local nonprofit with the amazing rental fleet, family bike expos, Kidical Mass organizer, Disaster Relief Trials organizer, advocacy, seminars, and more! And we’re super excited that G&O Family Cyclery is matching donations this bike month!! Join the Familybike Sustainer Circle to keep our programs rolling and enjoy awesome discounts to boot! All the details here!

This match is up to $1000 dollars, and if that amount sounds familiar, it’s the apology money Specialized donated to the Support G&O Family Cyclery Fund. Read all about that at Specialized, How Rude! on the G&O blog.

Your bike and kids want you to take them camping

This is not family bike camping:

This is not bike camping

This is family bike camping!

This is family bike camping!

Bike camping with kids is just like car camping with kids, but so much more fun! I’m no pro, but we’ve done a bit of bike camping. Primarily overnighters to the closest campground, but with repetition comes refinement.

The main concerns for any sort of bike camping are:
Can I fit all the gear on the bike(s)?
and
Where can I ride on this heavy bike?

I used to take our car camping gear on my Surly Big Dummy cargo bike:

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but I’ve gradually replaced things (stove, tent, pillows, my sleeping bag) with lightweight versions. Three full-size pillows looks neat and all, but now I can fit our stuff into six the panniers of our tandem plus trailer bike or the big Xtraycle FreeLoader bags of the Surly Big Dummy longtail cargo bike with room to spare.

Here’s what I brought for our recent overnight for one mom, two kids (ages 9 and 6), and one dog (9 pounds)…

Packing list

  • Tent
  • 3 sleeping bags
  • 3 sleeping pads
  • 3 pillows
  • Clothing
  • Minimal toiletries
  • Camp kitchen
  • Dinner
  • Breakfast
  • SNACKS SNACKS SNACKS
  • Stuffed animals
  • Football
  • Dog stuff
  • Speaker
  • iPhone
  • Chargers
  • Flat repair kit
  • Bike lock
  • 4 water bottles

Packing list in more detail:

  • Tent:
    REI Half Dome 2 Plus Tent
  • 3 sleeping bags:
    Mountain Hardwear Lamina 35 Sleeping Bag for me,
    2 cheapie kid sleeping bags from Fred Meyer for the kids
  • 3 sleeping pads:
    Therm-A-Rest NeoAir Camper Mattress for me–comfy!,
    REI Lite-Core 1.5 Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad – Women’s for the kid that likes blue,
    REI Lite-Core 1.5 Self-Inflating Pad for the kid that likes yellow
    …I had read that kids’ squishy bodies don’t need sleeping pads so the Lite-Cores were for we adults, but when the kids discovered they were their favorite colors, they commandeered them and we parents were left on the cold, hard ground. So always pack sleeping pads for everyone! And now I have a much comfier one anyway.
  • 3 pillows:
    Sierra Designs DriDown 600 Fill Pillow
  • Clothing:
    One+ change of clothing for kids (shorts and sweatpants just to be safe…more than necessary), one change of clothing for me, pajamas for me. Sweatshirts for each of us (with one spare sweatshirt for big kid, oops), knit cap for me since my sweatshirt didn’t have a hood.
  • Minimal toiletries:
    Toothbrushes, kid toothpaste, adult toothpaste, sunscreen, contact lens container and solution, Advil.
  • Camp kitchen (all the non-food stuff):
    Snow Peak BiPod Stove, 1 large Snow Peak fuel canister, lighter, 1 pot, 1 kettle, 3 bowls, 3 spoons, 1 fork, 1 knife, 1 mug, 3 napkins, 1 dish towel, sponge (1 quarter of a sponge I cut up), small container of dish washing detergent, 1 ice pack, Aeropress and coffee filters.
  • Dinner:
    Package of 7 hot dogs, 5 buns, small container of ketchup, carrots, 2 avocados.
  • Breakfast:
    8 instant oatmeal packets, ground coffee.
  • SNACKS SNACKS SNACKS:
    2 apples, 2 bags Earth Balance Puffs, 4 blueberry muffins, 2 croissants, 1/2 bag potato chips, 6 granola bars.
    Taking a Friday evening ferry meant long lines for the cafe so it was important I have blueberry muffins on hand ahead of time because the kids think ferry = blueberry muffins. In general, saving cargo space and buying food on the ferry or in town is a great idea, though!
  • Stuffed animals:
    4 big ones, though I had planned on 2 little ones. Still working on this area of overpacking. The sea monster was technically my stuffy–my Mother’s Day present created in sewing class that day.
  • Football (the squishy kind, lighter than the regular kind)
  • Dog stuff:
    Dog bed and baby blankie Pixie rides in in the front basket, small container of food, small empty container to put water in, packet of salmon snacks, homemade dog sweater.
  • Speaker:
    ECOXGEAR EXOXBT. 1.5 pounds…or 680 grams if that’s your unit of choice. Kinda heavy, I guess.
  • iPhone (5s has a flashlight)
  • Chargers
    RAVPower® 3rd Gen Deluxe 15000mAh External Battery Portable Dual USB Charger 4.5A Output Power Bank (holds 7 iPhone charges, has a flashlight!), iPhone USB cord and plug adapter, Garmin Edge 25 cord.
  • Flat repair kit:
    Lezyne Micro Floor Drive pump, 2 tire levers, multitool, patch kit, 26″ inner tube, 20″ inner tube
  • Bike lock:
    Abus folding lock that I use to lock front wheel to frame overnight and would probably also work well as a tent stake mallet, but I haven’t hammered with it yet.
  • 4 water bottles:
    Extra water is always good. We didn’t run low, but always fill every cage with a full water bottle, and sometimes shove extras in panniers.

I should have also brought:

  • Band aids
  • Lantern:
    I have a big car camping lantern, but I’d like a small one. For this trip I perched my iPhone flashlight atop a lidless water bottle and it lit our dark dinner table.
  • Mosquito repellent
  • Paper and pencils for ferry
  • SWIM SUITS! ALWAYS BRING SWIM SUITS! MAY IS NOT TOO EARLY FOR SWIM SUITS!
  • Quarters for the shower. We haven’t used campground showers before, but the kids got so sandy this time.
  • S’mores fixings. Despite our late arrival and the kids begging to go to sleep at 9:15 as soon as they were done eating, the next day they were pretty pissed there had been no s’mores. From now on: always s’mores or at least up-front discussion about lack of s’mores.

I could have skipped:
I don’t feel that I really overpacked, but I had way more snacks than necessary (but you never know!) and I think I’d like to try bringing a frozen can of beer instead of the ice pack…that makes sense, right?

Where to camp?
Here in the Seattle are, I don’t feel there are a lot of camping options when on a very slow bike with kids. My bike is too heavy to push up a hill, even with the kids walking alongside and I don’t want to be on certain fast roads that might not bother quicker bicyclists. My cargo bike and tandem don’t fit/aren’t allowed on our buses and trains (Amtrak, light rail, street car…well maybe street car, but it doesn’t get us very far) so that leaves us with the ferry as our only option besides plain old biking to the destination.

  • Fay Bainbridge
    This last trip (and most of our other trips) was to Fay Bainbridge Park via Washington State Ferries from the Seattle waterfront, 6 miles from home, and then 7 miles from Bainbridge Ferry Terminal to the park.
  • Manchester State Park
    I camped at Manchester State Park with 13 adults, using my Surly Straggler (and my load was super light because I forgot my tent, doh!) last summer and I think it would work OK with a slow, heavy family bike. Coming from our home in Wallingford, the Fauntleroy-Southworth ferry is a pretty long haul with 17 miles to the Fauntleroy Ferry Terminal, but it’s mostly flat until one big climb out of Lincoln Park at the very end. We’ll try this soon. Actually, I thought we’d try this this weekend, but just moments ago decided we’re going brave the hills at Illahee to try to coordinate with a friend.
  • Vancouver Island
    Last Spring Break we took the Victoria Clipper from the Seattle Waterfront to camp at Goldstream Provincial Park. There are closer campgrounds to Victoria, too. And wonderful trails to use to reach them.
  • San Juan Islands
    We haven’t done this yet, but this summer we plan to take the Clipper to the San Juan Islands and hopefully do some island hopping!
  • Illahee State Park
    I think Illahee State Park might be a bit hillier than I’d like to camp with a family bike, but I camped at Illahee on my Surly Straggler with Pixie recently.
  • Now, for those of you not constrained by very heavy and slow bikes, my wonderful friend Marley (with whom I camped at Manchester) recently wrote A Non-Definitive Guide to Bike Overnighters within an Hour-ish of Seattle.

Our trip this past Friday was a fun, last-minute trip. I usually plan things way in advance so this was out of character and so adventurous! I stayed up much too late Thursday night (NOT biking on the closed viaduct, of course! I would never! ;)) and got up earlier than necessary for En Plein Air Coffee Club and then rushed way uphill to help a friend with a thing and afterwards, while heading towards Capitol Hill to route test for Seattle CycloFemme two days away, I decided it’d be a great day to go camping! So I quickly route tested, rushed home to swap bikes (road bike for Surly Straggler and two panniers) to grab some groceries, and then packed up the tandem plus trailer bike with all our gear. Somewhere in the packing-up I remembered my first grader had after-school sewing class so we weren’t actually free to skip town at 3:40. Doh! That’s where not sleeping enough will get ya. But had I realized ahead of time our weekend didn’t start until 5:20, I never would have considered camping. So we patiently waited, I grabbed the remaining kid (five minutes early) and we raced to the ferry. Miraculously we made the 6:20 p.m. ferry! This after dropping the chain twice, dropping a pannier on Alaskan Way once (eek!) and crawling up Dexter at 3mph.

All the photos from there trip are here: Bike camping at Fay Bainbridge – May 6/7, 2016. Check captions for details.

In the past I have been able to use my Orca card in the bike lane at the ferry terminal and ask the adjacent kiosk to charge me separately for the kids (kids under six are free, FYI). But this time the ticket agent at that closest kiosk said I couldn’t use Orca for a non-standard bike and I would have to use one of the other kiosks. I was charged $14.30 for an adult plus bike and a kid plus bike. I feel that a weekend trip may have cost less, but of course this is always at the discretion of the ticket agent.

The 35-minute ferry ride was great. Lovely views. And long lines at the restaurant as predicted so our snacks-on-hand came in handy. And I discovered three friends were also bike camping at Fay.

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Off the ferry

I like to ride halfway up the hill from the ferry and then pull over at the Bike Barn and wait while the cars offload rather than share the road with them. I timed it this time. It’s a 10 minute wait, but of course it feels much longer. We only waited 9 of those 10 minutes because I got impatient, but then had to ride up the sidewalk because five buses took up the shoulder-less right lane. In the future it would be helpful to have a 10-minute activity of some sort planned for this stage (more for my sake than that of the kids!).

Nowadays we take the flat highway route to Fay. It is a highway with highway speed limits, but most of the shoulders are very wide and drivers on Bainbridge are very used to seeing people biking all over the place. Here’s the hilly, scenic route used on Cascade Bicycle Club – Chilly Hilly and Squeaky Wheels – Bike for Pie. And probably the upcoming Alleycat Acres – Streets + Beets. Even with the flat route, there’s still one proper hill on Lafayette Avenue, but halfway up it flattens out at a cemetery. We took a breather there.

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To provide a more realistic picture of family biking on Bainbridge, it took us one hour and 17 minutes to get there with a stop at the fire house and one hour and 13 minutes to get back with a quick stop at Frog Rock.

There’s a playground at Fay, but the beach is so amazing that the kids all tend to stick there. At high tide they climb on the big log and throw rocks into the sound and at low tide there are sea anemones to admire, geoducks squirting left and right, and wet sand to throw at your brother.

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I never know what to pay. Hiker/biker is $7, but in the past we haven’t had to pay for kids. The camp hosts weren’t in when we arrived and I was feeling spendy so I decided to pay $20 for site #37, figuring three hiker/bikers would be $21 anyway. No one was at the kayak area so I could have just set up there and saved $13.

One new discovery this trip: if one kid sleeps with his head on the opposite side as the other, it makes the small tent feel more spacious! I hope I can convince my nine-year old to do this always because we’ll never outgrow the two+ person tent in that case. However, I do have a second, smaller two-person tent to add alongside when the day comes they get to big for us to all cram into one tent.

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Upcoming camping

  • June 4-5, 2016 – I’ll lead a group back to Fay Bainbridge for Bike Overnight June 4-5, 2016. Our awesome camp hosts from this trip will be away running a race just this one day, but Ranger Mike, the Owl Show guy (apparently he’s not a ranger, but our hosts said he’ll love knowing we call him “Ranger Mike”) will be in charge. They thought our staying in the kayak area should probably be fine and they usually charge the $7 hiker/biker fee per tent so that’s nice–free kids!
  • June 25-26, 2016 – I hope to recruit someone to lead a Swift Campout to Fay because I’m unavailable. Last year’s family biking Swift Campout was awesome!
  • July 30-31 – Our annual family biking camping trip to Fay. I should really create the Facebook event for this soon!

As always, please feel free to provide your tips below in the comments!