Portland has new “bike-friendly” speed bumps, but I don’t like them for families

He meant to do that.

It’s always exciting to see something new in the world of bike infrastructure. A few Portland roads were repaved and treated with new “bike-friendly” speed bumps. BikePortland ran a post about them last week: PBOT’s experimental bike-friendly speed bumps. The article garnered a lot of great (and some silly) comments…but there were few comments specific to biking the bumps with kids. I’d love to hear what other family bikers think here or there or both.

Even when I’m not riding with my kids in tow I imagine how each road I take would feel with them along. I take this one step further for any new infrastructure and wonder how all sorts of people would feel using it. In the case of these new bumps I immediately thought of trailers and trikes. Save some tilty cargo trikes and recumbent or semi-recumbent trikes, trailers and trikes like to stay level. Hitting the rut with one wheel at slow speed would probably cause an uncomfortable lean, but I think hitting it while traveling at speed would be jarring for a trike or trailer and possibly cause it to tip over. I’d really like to hear thoughts in the comments from trike riders and trailer pullers.

Bagging-and-dragging is as wide as I get–it kind of fits.

I’ve had a chance to ride on a road with these new-style speed bumps for a while now–before last month’s SE Clinton project over four miles of SE Harold (from 52nd to Foster) was repaved and decorated with these same bumps. Except I haven’t been using them as intended until recently because the installation left a lot of gravel in the ruts and it stayed there for a long time. I’m all for riding through the pebble- and rock-sized gravel on unimproved roadways, but I was too scared to ride through the sandy gravel in the ruts. I don’t know if this means they’ll collect grit throughout the winter, but it makes me suspect they will.

Harold Street, where the sharrows don’t aim at the bike-friendly ruts.

Like others, I assumed the ruts were for emergency vehicles. Many of the greenways in Seattle, our old stomping grounds, have cushions spaced for emergency vehicles (though often only on steep blocks) with wider ruts. My kids could easily navigate the wider Seattle ruts, but the thought of them using these narrow ones worries me.

Biking west on Clinton without my kids I got the distinct impression that the ruts are for people biking fast to stay up to speed. Harold is flat and I’m very slow without a downhill incline or I would have come to this conclusion sooner. Back to Clinton, it’s really fun to hit the ruts while barreling downhill fast. But I hope that’s not who our greenways are designed for.

And what about in the uphill direction? It’s hard to get a heavy bike or trike uphill to begin with and a regular speed bump makes more of a hill to surmount. So the idea of a channel is nice, but aiming a heavy bike uphill at such a narrow rut sounds horrid.

I talk to my kids a lot about riding predictably and in straight lines (not that you’d suspect this if you’ve biked with them lately–they’re predictably wiggly) so I dislike the swerving encouraged by the placement of the ruts. Harold is wide so I’m not already biking in line with the rut–especially if there are no cars parked for an entire block, leaving lots of space for me on the right side of the road. I dislike slowing to go over the bumps, but it seems safer than swerving to use the ruts. But even worse, people driving (about half in my observation) swerve to aim their front left tires at the ruts. Or as I saw once (so far), the man driving a big truck took to the center of the street so he could put his left tires into the oncoming traffic rut and his right tires into his rut. Eek!

I don’t take my kids on Harold regularly (too busy) and they haven’t been on that part of Clinton since the repaving, but I braved one block of Harold with my 11-year old to see what he’d think and do. He said he’d normally opt to avoid the ruts because bumps are more fun, but he humored me and rode the ruts–the first one cleanly and the second one wigglyly (see the gif at the top of the page). He claimed he did that on purpose and didn’t seem worried about losing control, however I was a bit scared for him as I watched from behind.

Personally, I think a busy street like Harold should have speed bumps, but either regular continuous ones or a truly bike-friendly design with bigger ruts. Meanwhile, greenways deserve more diverters and fewer speed bumps. Assuming a diverter costs 10 times more than one speed bump (per this and this) it doesn’t seem that far out of reach.

Tipping hazards should be fun and in car-free settings (woop-di-doo at the 2014 Fiets of Parenthood).

Our second annual visit to Liepold Farms for pumpkins

We biked to the full pumpkin experience at Liepold Farms again this year! Here’s the recap of last year’s first-annual visit: Halloween Pumpkins ON A FARM by Bike.

This year was a bit different in that we biked just the three (well, four counting Pixie) of us–last year we rode over with the Portlandize family, but this year we met up with the Metal Cowboy and two kids at the farm.

The farm itself was terrific as always:
Corn maze!
Scavenger hunt!
Hay ride!
Dark maze (I didn’t go in and the kids thought it was a little scary, but they did it)!
Apple catapult!
So many pumpkins!

My kids are that much bigger and stronger that the ride didn’t feel like such a huge undertaking this year, but that was balanced out by the weather being worse than last year. I tried to conteract that by using a makeshift tow rope for fun. Note: there are real bike-to-bike tow ropes out there and I’m intrigued by the TowWhee, which I first became aware of thanks to the Acme Bicycles Instragram (Tim and his son always have the coolest bikes and bike accessories!). I emailed with Eric of TowWhee to ask if anyone uses two TowWhees at once because it’s hard for me to do anything with just one kid at a time. Apparently some people use two TowWhees in a train-type orientation, but I was hoping to pull the two kids side-by-side behind me since they often ride side by side and chatter together to begin with.

Taking turns towing the kids with a cargo strap was an interesting experience. It taught me a lot about their different pedaling styles. My older kid is not a very consistent pedaler–which I had already learned from trying to ride our tandem with him once, and towing him was just as hard on me. I feel like we should do more tandem riding to work on our communication with one another, but oof it’s hard going! Meanwhile my little one was a breeze to tow and it was exactly how I had hoped towing would work in that I expended a little bit more energy than normal while he saved a bit of effort. Now that I’m not carrying them everywhere, I can afford to work a little harder and would love to translate that into them working a little less hard so we can go farther, more easily. So still working out the kinks on this idea. The TowWhee is only for use uphill, by the way, and is considered a tool for mountain biking.

Here’s my Strava recording of this year, 2:16 to get there versus last year’s 3:36 less business, more exploring (and doughnut stop) voyage.

The ride home was even more different because my kids deserted me to catch a ride home, gasp! Pixie and I had an extremely pleasant 1:22 ride home towing the two kid bikes and two big pumpkins (a 25-pounder and a nine-and-a-half-pounder).

I wrote about various local pumpkin patches in my weekly BikePortland column: Family Biking: It’s bike-to-pumpkins season! Here’s where to go and the comments section yield some good new ideas if you’re in the market for various places around Portland. I think Fazio Farms is closer to us than Liepold Farms, but it’s not as flat and simple to reach…but I hope to visit it next year if the weather cooperates.

Mount Rainier’s Westside Road

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

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

Map of Westside Road (starting from Nisqually Lodge)

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

Here’s a bit from Visit Rainier:

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

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

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

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

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

View from the top, Klapatche Point

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

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

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

The trail that continues when the road ends at Klapatche Point

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

Happy Walk + Roll to School Day!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Family multimodal bike camping at Stub Stewart State Park

We took our first family bike camping trip from Portland — to LL Stub Stewart State Park — and it was amazing! It’s farther away than we’re used to going for camping, even with taking the MAX light rail train, but at least it was much less hilly than any of the camping in the Seattle area. Also, it was all GORGEOUS!

The nitty gritty:

The MAX light rail part of the trip
Taking the blue line to the end of the line in Hillsboro allows one to avoid the west hills, lots of not-fit-for-family-biking roads, and saves 25 miles. Initially I wanted to bike to the blue line station closest to us (six miles to Gateway on the I-205 bike path with only minor ups and downs), but in the end I decided less tired kids was worth the hassle of putting bikes on and off two trains. We biked two flat miles to our closest MAX station and caught a train for nine minutes/five stops to Gateway.

Now I know we can get off the left-facing doors and not even need to cross the tracks to catch the blue line, which we rode for 1:14/34 stops. We haven’t taken such a long MAX trip before and it was nice to have time to settle in and hang up all the bikes. I learned from the comments of my Family Biking: Taking kids and bikes on MAX light rail article on BikePortland that people bring big S-hooks along with them to hang extra bikes. Our local hardware store didn’t have one large enough, but a cargo strap did the trick! I hung the kids’ bikes on one side and mine on the other.

My regular bike
Cargo bikes aren’t allowed on the MAX so I had to take a regular bike. As luck would have it, I recently made some changes to my “me” bike, a Surly Straggler. (Me in quotes because its rear rack is a Burley Moose Rack to which I can attach a Burley Piccolo trailer bike. I don’t do this often, though, since that only carries one kid and they tend to both want to be carried or neither be carried.) I swapped out the slick tires and fenders for knobbier gravel-friendly tires (the old tires were gravel friendly, too, but these ones are more gravel friendly) and I added a front rack so now I can carry two panniers in the front in addition to the two panniers in the back. I’ve taken this bike camping once before, the second time we went to Manchester State Park so I could more easily fit in the elevator between the big ferry and the foot ferry, but that was before the front rack so I had to wear Pixie in her backpack and use the front basket for gear. This time I was able to leave Pixie in the basket and put all our gear into the four panniers. I added a fifth bag wedged in between the rear panniers full of our snacks, and rested Pixie’s backpack atop that. We didn’t end up needing to use the backpack for Pixie at all, but it worked well to discard our layers into and to put the speaker inside, facing the kids behind me through the mesh so they could hear their music more loudly than I had to.

Riding through Hillsboro
My family biking friend (my first family biking friend!), Andy, gave me the route to take from the MAX station to the trailhead, 12 miles of the most family-friendly route from Hillsboro to Banks. Here’s my Ride with GPS Hillsboro to Banks route with some added notes and points of interest. Our trip was on the 4th of July and we noticed the tail end of a parade through the windows of the MAX as we approached the end of the line. That made for busier-than-normal streets in town, but everyone was driving slowly. It also meant free hot dogs and cookies thanks to the American Legion a block from the MAX station!

Fueled by free hot dogs, the kids we able to bike 12 miles without stopping. We left home at 9:30 (I had hoped to leave at 9) and departed the hot dog stand at noon with the temperature still nice.

We soon got into the lovely farmland. Our camping near Seattle is just so different than this! I’ve biked through areas like this once, when I biked down to Portland with a friend a couple years ago (photo album here), but seeing it with the kids was so fun! They probably got bored of me shouting, “Isn’t this just so pretty?” but I couldn’t help myself.

There was a quarter mile of a fast-moving highway with a wide shoulder, but we had no trouble turning onto and off of it and traffic was moderate on that road and minimal everywhere else. It’s hard to know if the light traffic we saw on the country roads was normal given the holiday, but it wasn’t too much busier the following day as we headed home.

The half mile of gravel about 3.5 miles into the trip normally would have been fun for the kids, but my younger son had to stop and scratch at itchy palms a couple times. He wants bike gloves for next time. Letting some air out of his tires on the way back helped, but then he had to endure me fretting aloud about pinch flats.

Banks, OR
The road into Banks was a fast one, but again it wasn’t very busy this day. We immediately passed a Thriftway grocery store tucked behind a gas station, which we’d stop at the following day. Our waters were low (I brought five water bottles) so we kept our eyes peeled for parks with drinking fountains. Having the dog along means we don’t plan on stopping at stores or restaurants. I saw a drinking fountain by the Sunset Park baseball fields to our left so we pulled into there, only to discover the drinking fountain was broken and the park doesn’t allow dogs (per a sign, not per getting kicked out). However the restrooms were some of the nicest park restrooms I’ve ever seen so it wasn’t all bad.

We continued along and discovered a working drinking fountain at cute, little Log Cabin Park where we stopped for a long snack and rest break. The kids said the play structure was too small for them and there was no restroom (there was a locked portapotty) so it’s not an end all be all park, but between the two stops we covered our bases. From the City of Banks Parks, Recreation, and Trees webpage I see there’s one other park, Greenville City Park, but in Google Street View and Google Satellite View it doesn’t appear to have a restroom either.

Next time we might stop at a kid-friendly restaurant with outside seating. Bike-themed Trailhead Cafe looks like it would be perfect, though it’s closed on Sundays.

Had we not found water and restrooms on our way through Banks, the trailhead had it all! Drinking fountain, restrooms, bike repair station! But also lots of people arriving from two parking lots so it was nice to have hung out in the shady playground by ourselves beforehand. Just next to the trailhead is Banks Bicycle Repair and Rentals which I think was affiliated with a sign I saw advertising pie. That would be worth investigating!

Banks-Vernonia State Trail
The Banks-Vernonia State Trail is AMAZING! We took the trail for 10 miles, but it continues another 10 after we got off. It starts out flat and forested (we even saw a couple bunnies on our way back!) and opens up to flat and farmlandish (we saw a hawk intently circling prey in a wheat field). There are several small wooden bridges with slight bumps to get on and off — all marked with orange spray paint, as are any other bumps in the road. Halfway into our ride the trail started climbing, but it’s a gentle “railroad grade” so the kids didn’t mind. And I was happy knowing we’d have a downhill ride back the next morning. We mostly saw people on bikes, but there were also some runners. One of the parking lots along the way was for people with horses and we saw evidence of horses having been on the trail, but no horses in the flesh.

Our 10 miles had one big gorgeous wooden bridge, the Buxton Trestle. It reminded me a bit of the trestle bridges along the John Wayne Pioneer Trail out of Seattle.

Stub Stewart State Park
A sign soon alerted us we had entered the park, even sooner than we expected to! But we still had a bit of a ride before the turn-off to camping.

We also biked by a sign pointing towards mountain biking. That might be fun to incorporate into a multi-day visit, assuming there’s some beginner stuff.

Right around the horse parking lot we bumped into a friend who warned us about the switchbacks leading into the hike-in camp area. That proved helpful because despite the sign indicating the dirt trail turn-off from the main Banks-Vernonia State Trail, I would have worried “bikes don’t belong here!” and possibly backtracked looking for a different entrance (which does indeed exist, though it’s not any better). The first switchback was too steep for me to bike up and also too steep for me to push my bike up alone so one of the kids parked his bike and helped shove from the back. The second switchback and last switchback were also too steep for me to bike up, but I could push alone. The dirt devolved into fairly big rocks (big compared to gravel, that is) embedded in the ground with grass growing around them. It made for a bumpy but doable ride. It also made us want to compare the other entrance so we rode to that the following morning.

We biked (without gear, yay!) to the visitors center to see the entrance the drive-then-hike-in campers used. The gravel was more straightforward, but it was a big downhill and then a big uphill. I was glad not to test it with a loaded bike, but that means I can’t accurately compare the two. I think I would have had trouble pushing my bike up this hill and we’ll stick to using the switchbacks. Wheelbarrows are available for people to bring gear from their cars, which reminded me of Ruckle Park on Salt Spring Island, but this was better since we didn’t need to bike through the parking lot and hadn’t been near cars for hours.

There are car camping spots, but those were $22 and the hike-in was $11. I also heard there was better tree coverage for shade at the hike-in sites. Turns out those trees were also good for rain coverage. It started drizzling as we hit the switchbacks, which felt great, but didn’t touch us much thanks to the trees. We also stayed dry at our site when the rain got a bit heavier. There are also cabins that seem very popular, but those probably fill up more quickly and cost even more. I have no idea where the cabins and car sites were in relation to our hike-in area.

I chose site 20 to be close to one of the two restrooms, but not close to one of the two fire pits. I figured we’d want to go to sleep earlier than the people at the camp fires, but it’d be nice to visit and roast marshmallows earlier in the evening. And it was! We hung out with grownups with two dogs and then with three kids who’d been camping for a few days already and were excited to finally have some kid company. There was even a cat camping!

There were a lot of mosquitoes and the rain didn’t chase them away one bit. I had spray with us, but next time I’m bringing mosquito lotion to better slather on.

Also next time we might brave a site by a fire. The campfire we made our s’mores at was right next to a grassy field, a restroom, and water so it had everything! But the other fire pit has a cute cluster of sites around it…though not being near a restroom doesn’t appeal to me as much.

Our morning bike ride to the Visitor Center brought us by the self registration station and the activities calendar. Full of fun stuff!

The trip back
We hit the road at 9:55 (I had wanted to leave at 9:30) while it was cool and shady. After quickly navigating the switchbacks in the downhill direction, the Banks-Vernonia State Trail was also a quick downhill adventure. My younger son had a very sore loose tooth and I hadn’t thought to bring any sort of medicine (or bandaids even!) so we stopped at the Thriftway for Children’s Advil. Several people bade me “Be careful!” out front of the store so I returned the blessing. It was disconcerting after having been around so many cheerful people walking, jogging, and riding bikes to encounter this worry as soon as we were just a little bit away from the trail. I might try to stick to Main Street in the future.

I don’t think it was hotter than the day before, but we were all tired and needed to stop more for water, snacks, and rests. Some of our stops were in shady spots, but some were exposed. I guess the thing about riding through the countryside is that there aren’t a bunch of playgrounds along the way. But it worked well enough. During one extended snack break in a shady spot at the edge of a field we oohed at numerous little twisters that flung dry grass around and watched a tractor putter by.

Once in Hillsboro we stopped at McKinney playground for a very long play break even though we were almost all the way to the MAX by then. The park has restrooms, drinking fountain, sheltered picnic table, and lots of grass. The kids complained that there weren’t other kids their age there, but they found the play equipment adequate.

It was nice getting on a parked light rail train at the beginning of its line as I had plenty of time to hang the bikes and get us settled into seats. However, getting off in the middle of the line this time was not as fun. The train was pretty crowded and I didn’t realize how short the time after the penultimate stop was so I tossed panniers out the door after the kids before unhooking my own bike. I warned the kids that if the second train was too full for bikes we’d have to bike all six miles home, but there was room for us. Phew! I don’t think any of us would have liked biking six not-perfectly-flat miles. Since this was the nine-minute ride I just stood with all three bikes while the kids sat down.

And soon enough we were home, just about seven hours again from flap to door.

Lessons learned/for next time
* Log into the Trimet Tickets app at home in the morning! I purchased our MAX tickets on my phone the night before our trip and it usually doesn’t ask me to log in, but I discovered I was logged out at the MAX station. So I had to purchase new tickets from the kiosk on the spot. The app tickets are still there for future use, but I was looking forward to not having to dig out my wallet, not having to worry about paper tickets falling out of my pocket, and not having to waste time buying tickets on the spot (though it didn’t make us miss any trains).

* Camp two nights next time! Having a day to play and rest next time will be fun. I don’t know that we’d go mountain biking, but not biking 20 miles two days in a row sounds good. We didn’t see any swimming this trip so that’d be something to look into.

* Leave earlier and/or stop less on the way back so we don’t have to take the MAX during rush hour.

* Bring two tents? We all fit in an REI Halfdome 2+, but only if I put my head by the kids’ feet. This is fine when we’re on flat ground, but when we’re on a slope it means my head is downhill and that’s not so fun. I didn’t sleep very well this time. My older sun got his first bloody nose (a real gusher!) as soon as we lay down to bed (I think brought on by his being too hot?) so we slept without the rain fly on for the first time. Thus my younger son got too cold in the middle of the night. They say you’re always supposed to camp for two nights since no one sleeps well the first night, ensuring great sleep the second night. I know if I had my own tent I’d sleep well both nights. I’m just not so sure the kids would ever go to sleep. And Pixie might have trouble choosing a tent and staying there. But there’s only one way to find out!

* We tried a new brand of just-add-water pancake mix (we usually do oatmeal for camping breakfast) from Birch Benders I got at our local New Seasons Market and the kids both liked them. I measured out the batter and water at home so I wouldn’t have to bring a measuring cup along and that worked well. For two breakfasts I’d probably bring the whole pancake mix container and not pre-measure a small container of water, though. That would save some room there!

We love Stub Stewart and can’t wait to come back!

Another day in the life during summer break

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A day in the life during summer break

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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