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

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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 )

Swift Campout Kidical Mass June 24-25, 2017

Let’s go camping! As part of the global phenomenon Swift Campout: Solstice Bike Overnight we’re doing a family bike camping trip Saturday, June 24th through Sunday, June 25th at Fay Bainbridge Park.
New this year, I’ve reserved the three sites next to the kayak-in camp area so we can stay in our favorite section without worry of displacing anyone.

Important:
Register (free) on the Eventbrite event so I can keep track of our numbers and know if we should reserve more sites.
Facebookers can RSVP and connect in the comments on the Facebook event page, too.

Here’s a recap of a June 2016 family bike camping trip at Fay or go straight to the Flickr gallery of 194 photos.

Price:
Hiker/biker sites are $7 per person so we’ll plan for $7 per family or tent to cover the cost of the three sites. This will be paid while camping.

Timeline:

9:15 a.m. Saturday, June 24, 2017 – meet outside Fremont PCC Natural Market or earlier if you need last-minute groceries (kids get a free piece of fruit!) or want to go in for potty visits.
9:30 a.m. we ride! Promptly at 9:30 a.m.! (Which means 9:40, but for real we are leaving by 9:40!)
– or –
11:00 a.m. meet us at the ferry (pay in the kiosk, get in line).
11:25 a.m. Seattle-Bainbridge ferry sets sail (ARRIVE AT LEAST 20 MINUTES EARLY).

Routes:

Ferry information:
From the Bicycles on Washington State Ferries webpage:
“Bicyclists should arrive 20 minutes prior to departure time to be loaded at the beginning of loading process. If a bicyclist arrives after vehicle loading has begun, they will be loaded at the end of the load.”

So arrive by 11:05am. BUT if you’re late, they’ll still put you on–just after the cars load. I love how versatile they are with bikes! But it’s so super fun to roll onto the empty ferry so be early if you’re meeting us there. Plus we can socialize in the bike lane before loading.

If you have an Orca card, there is an automated tollbooth at the far right–no waiting behind the cars! But otherwise you need to wait in the rightmost car lane to pay. Current fares are $8.20 for adults, $4.10 for kids six and up, and $1 for bikes (sometimes big bikes cost extra, though I’ve never been charged extra for the cargo bike or tandem + trailer bike). The Bainbridge-to-Seattle direction is free.

Once on Bainbridge Island, we’ll ride about a block uphill within the ferry terminal area to Bike Barn Rentals and hang out while the car traffic clears. Generally, we push directly onward to the campground, but there’s a grocery store in Winslow for any forgotten items. During our June group trip, we used this stop to divide into three groups:
– Group hitting grocery store and then taking scenic route
– Group taking scenic route
– Group taking direct, highway route (this is the group I, Madi, will lead)

Fay Bainbridge Park
Fay Bainbridge Park features a great playground (!!) and BEACH. There are outlets in the bathrooms and picnic shelter (which might be reserved) for those who need to charge e-bike batteries or other things.

Showers: Bring quarters if you might want showers. Each quarter buys 1.5 minutes of hot water. (I’ll bring a ton of quarters to share because I know how it is to have miserably sandy kids and no quarters.)

Cars/”Supported” camping
Since we’re paying for three sites with parking spots, that means three cars can come. Past trips have see a couple families with various levels of supported bike camping, with half the family on bike and some or all of the gear meeting them via car. Or a van carrying everything. So indicate if you want to nab one of those car parking spots.

Note: We’ve been doing group summer camping trips to Fay for several years now and we’ve gradually been seeing more kids riding their own bikes–we had four last June! Bainbridge Island is very bikey with drivers used to seeing bikes on the roads, but it’s definitely busier (even the quiet, scenic route) and hillier (even the flat highway route) than my own Seattle kids are used to…however, they’re going to ride their own bikes for the first time this trip! I’ll take my cargo bike just in case I need to carry one or both of them and their bikes for part of the way.

Sunday
At this point no concrete plans for when to head back Sunday. We’ll most likely have an early crowd and a later crowd. I’ll probably be part of the later crowd. We can try to have energy to head to Peddler Brewing Company or Fremont Brewing for a Seattle-side hangout before going our separate ways. Our route from Fay to the ferry is a backtracking of our Saturday route over and here’s the route from the Seattle Ferry Terminal to Peddler Brewing Company and the route from the Seattle Ferry Terminal to Fremont Brewing.

Extra night?
Fay Bainbridge Park has a two-night minimum for reservations so I’ve paid for Sunday night, too. Stay an extra night if you can! We’re bummed about the Seattle Public Schools snow make-up day on Monday or we’d stay, too.

Questions?
New to bike camping or bike camping as a family? Feel free to ask questions in the comments or contact me. The Seattle Family Biking Facebook group is also an excellent resource–many families have borrowed gear via that group! Do you want to come, but don’t have the right bike? Check out the Familybike Seattle Rental Fleet.

Social-media-inclined campers should use #swiftcampout

30 Days of Biking 2017 Wrap Up

And so ends another April and another 30 Days of Biking, my favorite bike event in the world! This one has been a little harder than others, with more just-for-the-sake-of-it rides up and down the street in front of our house. It’s been a rough winter and I’ve been blaming the weather a lot (which has been exceptionally bad), but it’s more than that. My friend, SisterX says it much more eloquently than I ever could in her Frugal in Seattle blog post, Quiet. Anyhow, I dragged myself out of bed every morning and biked every day, and I’m calling that a success. 30 Days of Biking can be about so much more than simply hopping on a bike each day for a month. After all, I learned more about myself the time I failed six years ago, than during the years it goes according to plan.

I didn’t have a theme (other than “just get out of bed today”) this time, as I often have in the past, and I didn’t do anything super special, which is also something I’ve had fun with for 30 Days of Biking in the past. Strava says I biked 258.6 miles which is probably a lot less than previous Aprils.

The kids’ Spring Break falls in the middle of 30 Days of Biking which can make things tricky. Last year we went to Minneapolis, birthplace of 30 Days of Biking, for Spring Break and biked all over the place so the only challenge was a quick spin before leaving for the airport. This year we visited family in Los Angeles which is not nearly as bikey and resulted in lots of just-for-the-sake-of-it rides of a block or less.

However, 30 Days of Biking inspired me to do two very fun things while in Southern California: while visiting my hometown, we rented THREE SEPARATE BIKES for the first time and had a fun adventure in Santa Barbara. And then we rented kid bikes where we were staying in Venice Beach (our apartment came with an adult bike) and biked the Venice/Santa Monica boardwalk.

Otherwise April featured the normal amount of grocery trips and the normal amount of fun stuff…we kicked off the month with April Fools Kidical Mass that was a blast! And it finally got warm enough that Pixie the dog and I took a camping trip to Illahee State Park to plan for an upcoming Kidical Mass Bike Overnight.

Our last day of April was pretty unspectacularly special, like all bike rides are. It was our third visit to Lynnwood Bowl and Skate (14 miles from home) to go roller skating. The first time we carpooled with friends there and back, the second time we took two buses there and were offered a ride in a car home, and this third time we bus/biked. Not because it was 30 Days of Biking, but because I dislike timing bus transfers. First of all, biking 10 blocks to the bus stop is nicer than walking, and while the one-mile trip on the other end isn’t so long that it really feels worth it to have the bikes along, it’s a lot farther than we regularly walk and would have been pretty difficult after roller skating for three hours. Plus that mile of biking makes the trip so much fun!

The mile ride in new territory was pretty typical. Had we been on the cargo bike or tandem (i.e. all connected) I would have biked with the sharrow in the street to the roller rink and the bike lane in the street on the way back, but with one loose kid we stuck to the sidewalk. The signs said 30mph, but in the Seattle area people tend to drive the speed the streets allow and a wide, straight street tends to invite speeding above 30.

These crossing flags and sign make it clear this is not a very safe street:

But it was just a mile and not scary on the sidewalk so we’d do it again! We even saw a cute park, Lynnwood Mini Park, embedded in a bunch of wetlands so we’d build in time to explore that. In addition to that we saw the other host of neat things so easy to see while biking or walking, but just a blur from the bus: cool art attached to houses, rocks arranged in a heart around a palm tree, a hand-made “Old Man Crossing” sign, that kind of stuff :)

I’m sure I’ll be back on my game next year and go big for #30daysofbiking 2018. And of course now that it’s May: happy Bike Month!

Kidical Mass Bike Overnight June 3-4, 2017

Let’s go camping! As part of Adventure Cycling Association’s Bike Travel Weekend we’re doing a family bike overnight Saturday, June 3rd through Sunday, June 4th at Illahee State Park.
There are only two tiny hiker/biker campsites, so I’ve reserved three big sites for us.

Important:
Register (free) on the Eventbrite event so I can keep track of our numbers and know if we should reserve more sites.
Facebookers can RSVP and connect in the comments on the Facebook event page, too.

Illahee is new for a Kidical Mass trip, but I’ve camped there a few times without a big group. Here’s a write-up with lots of pictures from a camping trip the kids and I took last year: Family bike camping at Illahee State Park.

Price:
Hiker/biker sites are $12 so we’ll plan for $12 per family to cover the cost of the bigger sites. This will be paid while camping.

Timeline:

8:00 a.m. Saturday, June 3, 2017 – meet outside Fremont PCC Natural Market or earlier if you need last-minute groceries (kids get a free piece of fruit!) or want to go in for potty visits.
8:15 a.m. we ride! Promptly at 8:15 a.m.! (Which means 8:20, but for real we are leaving by 8:20!)
– or –
9:40 a.m. meet us at the ferry (pay in the kiosk, get in line).
10:00 a.m. Seattle-Bremerton ferry sets sail (ARRIVE AT LEAST 20 MINUTES EARLY).

Routes:

Ferry information:
From the Bicycles on Washington State Ferries webpage:
“Bicyclists should arrive 20 minutes prior to departure time to be loaded at the beginning of loading process. If a bicyclist arrives after vehicle loading has begun, they will be loaded at the end of the load.”

So arrive by 9:40am. BUT if you’re late, they’ll still put you on–just after the cars load. I love how versatile they are with bikes! But it’s so super fun to roll onto the empty ferry so be early if you’re meeting us there. Plus we can socialize in the bike lane before loading.

If you have an Orca card, there is an automated tollbooth at the far right–no waiting behind the cars! But otherwise you need to wait in the rightmost car lane to pay. Current fares are $8.20 for adults, $4.10 for kids six and up, and $1 for bikes (sometimes big bikes cost extra, though I’ve never been charged extra for the cargo bike or tandem + trailer bike). The Bremerton-to-Seattle direction is free.

Once off the ferry, we’ll ride just over to the right (to the Bremerton Marina/Bremerton Boardwalk) rather than up the hill to congregate while the car traffic clears. Generally, we push directly onward to the campground, but this is when we will discuss if anyone needs to stop at the grocery store or mini mart at the half-way point. Sometimes part of the group stops for a sit-down lunch in town.

The ride
It’s less than four miles to the campsite, but it’s mostly all uphill, though not steep. There’s a bike lane on the Manette Bridge, but we will probably want to take the very wide walkway single file.

Perry Avenue is a long, uphill slog. We’ll take rest breaks as needed, if needed. It flattens out at the middle school, and taking a break on the grass might be nice. However, I couldn’t locate a drinking fountain when exploring the school so it’s just a rest spot, not a water-filling spot.

It’s all flat after the middle school and we’ll pass two mini marts, a Franz Bakery Outlet (open 10-6 Mon-Sat and the Saturday special is 4 doughnuts for $5), the Perry Market grocery store, and a drive-thru/bike-thru coffee kiosk…here’s its menu:

Illahee State Park
Winter was not kind to Illahee State Park–several big trees fell and hadn’t been cleared away during my April visit. One crushed the large picnic shelter near the the campground, a spot I formerly thought would be nice for those with e-bikes to charge their batteries. And the swing set was swing-less, but the slide and teeter totter are intact. I’m waiting for a call back from the park to find out if the swings will be replaced and when the picnic shelter will be back.

There’s a big playfield attached to the campground (the two hiker/biker sites are against it) and the playground is a one- or two-minute walk.

The beach is a fun little hike downhill. There’s a pier to walk along, a great view of Mount Rainier, and tons of tiny crabs hiding under rocks.

The women’s restroom has four outlets…but also a sign to not leave cell phones charging unattended. E-bike batteries are probably safer to leave in there, but perhaps the camp host would let people use the outlet at the camp host site.

Showers: Illahee requires paper money (ones or fives) to buy shower 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.

Cars/”Supported” camping
Since we’re paying for three (or more) sites with parking spots, that means three cars can come. Past trips have see a couple families with various levels of supported bike camping, with half the family on bike and some or all of the gear meeting them via car. Or a van carrying everything. So indicate if you want to nab one of those car parking spots. Don’t forget to look into getting a Discover Pass, I think your car will need one to join us in the park.

Sunday
We’ll decide when to head back home come Sunday. There will likely be an early crowd and a later crowd. I’ll probably be part of the later crowd. The later group will head to Peddler Brewing Company for a Seattle-side hangout before going our separate ways. Our route from Illahee to the ferry is a backtracking of our Saturday route over and here’s the route from the ferry terminal to Peddler.

Don’t despair if this weekend doesn’t work! There will also be a Kidical Mass camping trip for Swift Campout June 24-25 and maybe one in August, too.

Note: Social-media-inclined campers should use #adventurecycling #biketravelweekend #bikeovernights

New to bike camping or bike camping as a family? Feel free to ask questions in the comments or contact me. The Seattle Family Biking Facebook group is also an excellent resource–many families have borrowed gear via that group! Do you want to come, but don’t have the right bike? Check out the Familybike Seattle Rental Fleet.

Biking with kids in Venice Beach

After biking with kids in Santa Barbara for an hour one day at the beginning of spring break, we had a second bike adventure: two biking hours in Venice Beach.

The apartment at which we were staying came with two adult-sized beach cruisers so I was set for wheels and the closest of the many bike rental places–just four blocks along our street at the beach–had a couple kid bikes that should be available if we showed up near 10am opening. My seven-year old got a cool-looking 20″ cruiser bike and my nine-year old got a 24″ mountain bike–his first bike with a front derailleur, but I don’t think he did any shifting.

As I mentioned in my last post, there are lots of options for kids these days. Santa Monica Bike Center is particularly awesome with cargo bikes, kid-friendly tandems, trailers, trailer bikes, bike seats, and kid bikes. It might have been worth looking for an apartment within walking distance of SMBC, but I didn’t think of that when planning our visit. As wonderful as the place looks, it wasn’t worth driving there from two miles away. So we walked to the close place, got the two bikes and were rolling right away. We started by riding one mile south to Muscle Beach. It was a little early in the day for weight lifters so the kids didn’t get to see it in all its glory. But I thought Muscle Beach Surf Shop was pretty cool: they have orange–and only orange–rental bikes! Kid bikes of all sizes, regular bikes, fat bikes, an orange trailer, and an orange Burley Piccolo trailer bike. It looked like all the rental places’ trailer bikes were Burley Piccolos and Kazoos. We use a Burley Piccolo at home and love it. The Piccolo (has gears) and Kazoo (no gears) mount to a rear rack for an incredibly stable ride. We had one of the seat-post-attaching trailer bikes before and I simply wasn’t strong enough to bike with it comfortably. I notice lots of kids on those tilted to the side, though I also know people who love theirs.

After Muscle Beach we biked nearly three miles in the other direction to the Santa Monica Pier. It was a long haul for the kids on unfamiliar bikes, but we made it. And after eating and resting, my younger and unhappier camper was back to normal!

So we rode back to the rental place, ditched the bikes and headed for the beach. That’s what I mostly used my own bike for all week: as a hand truck to ferry stuff to water’s edge.

I did a tiny bit of biking for the sake of 30 Days of Biking and the day after our rental adventure we brought boogie boards to the beach and I discovered how convenient it is to have a single speed and coaster (foot) brake: my hands had no tasks other than pinning stuff to the handlebars so I could steer. I could have carried way more stuff.

All week in Venice we saw so many families on so many bikes! I assume most of them were visiting town and only riding back and forth along the bike trail, just like us. I wished I could tell them all that they could have this fun experience back home, too. I hope some of them will. After all, that’s how many full-time family bikers I know got started: visits to bikey places (for instance: Copenhagen by Hum of the City and visiting my family in the Netherlands in mine) and wanting to replicate the joy and freedom of getting around by bike once back at home. Thank goodness one doesn’t have to cross an ocean to catch the family biking bug anymore!

Despite our two days of using bikes over spring break and my teensy bit of biking the other days, we did a lot of driving. Back in 2010 I read Los Angeles on $100 a Day by New York Times Frugal Traveler Seth Kugel and discovered one can avoid driving while visiting LA! Now I know people who live without cars there, but this was my first exposure to anything like that. I would love to do that someday. I went down once without the kids with a rental Brompton folding bike and didn’t need to rent a car, but I was chauffeured around by my family so that was hardly a car-free visit. At least our staying within walking distance of the beach and restaurants of Venice Beach meant we were able to do half our stuff without the car, which is better than some visits where we’ve had to drive for each and every thing. Last time we stayed in a hotel walking distance to the La Brea Tar Pits and The Grove so again we were able to do some walking, but still had to drive a lot. I think if I ever want to make this work, I’d need to find a bus stop near my brother’s house and examine where I could get easily from there to choose where we’d stay. Then I’d need to choose all the various places we could get from our hotel or apartment and set up an itinerary for the week and hope our family and friends were game to meet up with us in convenient places. But this would be just biking and bus- or rail riding, no bikes. But I’m eager to look into it next time we visit.

Biking with kids in Santa Barbara

We’ve entered new territory: the kids are big enough for their own rental bikes! Also, kid bikes are more readily available at rental places these days. So are bike seats, trailers, and trailer bikes for kids who don’t have the stamina or skills to ride on their own. And to a lesser degree, cargo bikes. We were on spring break last week and flew to LA to visit family with a day trip up to Santa Barbara for passover with family friends.

Last time we biked in Santa Barbara (six years ago) we rented one of several cargo bikes at WheelHouse (RIP) and I probably would have done that again to keep things simple (carrying kids is simpler than leading kids for me…especially if it’s flatter than home).

I wouldn’t have thought about biking at all for this visit had we not been in the midst of 30 Days of Biking and I’m so glad I did because it was great! I found Wheel Fun Rentals online ahead of time and hoped the kid bikes mentioned on the website were small enough for my kids, but as a backup I knew we could rent a surrey (those four-wheeled four- or six-seaters with canopy). The surrey wouldn’t have been as fun because it can only go on the Cabrillo bike path along the beach and I was really excited about the self-guided bike tour.

Wheel Fun Rentals Santa Barbara bike tour–PDF version here.

I grew up in Santa Barbara and know the terrain so I knew the kids wouldn’t want to ride all the way to the Mission (nor would I!) but biking to Alameda Park (to which we had plans to drive after our bike adventure because Kids World Castle Playground is the best!) and then over to the fig tree sounded perfect.

Note: the self-guided-tour map wasn’t available in print at Wheel Fun Rentals, but it’s totally worth doing so print one out before you go. There were more bike options than shown on the website–like trailer bikes! I bet I could have rented a tandem bike with trailer bike and even if my stoker couldn’t reach the pedals, we would have all been on a communal heavy bike like we’re used to.

As a kid in Santa Barbara I just biked on sidewalks near my house and as a college student I biked all over the place, though I avoided State Street because it wasn’t good for biking back then. I often wonder if my experience biking with kids in Seattle would be different had I lived here before becoming a parent. I can imagine as a [relatively] speedy bike commuter I might be scared to add kids to that mix, but only having started slowly doing small rides with a baby wasn’t intimidating. Not that this experience in Santa Barbara answers that question for me, but it was cool to lead my babies on streets familiar yet better than remembered.

I would have preferred staying in a bunch the entire time, but I knew my seven-year old would want to ride ahead for the downhill/uphill under the 101 while my nine-year old lagged behind. I stayed right in the middle, slightly nervous. Fun fact: in the old days there were stop lights to cross the 101. And I see the latest State Street improvements happened just a few years ago.

State Street is still busy, but traffic (one lane in each direction, scattered parking, left- and right- turn lanes at intersections) moves slowly and there are tons of tourists on beach cruisers in the bike lanes. The bike lanes are ridiculously narrow when sandwiched between straight-going and right-turning car lanes, but for kids (and adults) who are decent at riding in a straight line, it’s OK.

Before returning the bikes within an hour ($25.85 total for our three bikes), we headed a few blocks out of the way to the fig tree. I love how being on bikes makes it incredibly easy to add in little trips! When I was a kid one could climb on the trunks, but it’s protected by a fence now.

I made one interesting observation when we skirted around a car idling slightly in the bike lane/mostly in the right-turn lane near Paseo Nuevo. There’s no Uber (private taxi service) here! [Actually a quick Google search shows that there is Uber in Santa Barbara, but the Yelp reviews reveal it’s so poorly regarded that no on uses it.] It was so pleasant biking in such a bustling area and not facing the obstacle course of idling and mid-block-U-turning Ubers prevalent in Seattle.