He didn’t say, but I think he took me up on it. And I think he won.

I may or may not have said something like:

I don’t really see how you could possibly top a Kidical Mass that ends in a ride on a giant ferris wheel, but Julian Totcycle, I dare you to try!

So then the Kidical Mass bike camping trip to Fay Bainbridge happened.

It was only my second time camping with kids and I was feeling pretty ambivalently about it the day before. Not for my kids’ sake–they freaking love camping like whoa, and I know it. They go from miniature urban hipsters to blissed-out Lords of the Flies as soon as their unshod feet hit the dirt. By the time we go home, they both have dirt beards and a savage gleam to their eyes. Good for them!

I just don’t like being cold and uncomfortable, which is how I would characterize the first time I camped with the kids (rain! mud! cold! wet!). I very nearly sent Mr. Wizard with the big kid and stayed home since I was getting over a cold anyway.

But my rather predictable burning desire to Have All The Fun won out. I just hate the feeling of second-guessing my decisions and wondering if I’d be having a more awesome time if I’d made the other call. Chances were that camping would be more fun than staying home with the 2yo, so I made the last-minute call to go, still feeling a little unsure as we rolled out. We threw everything on the bikes that morning and headed off to Fremont to meet up with the rest of the Kidical Mass crew, buying foodstuffs at PCC while we waited.

The ride to the ferry was pretty chill. We took a different route than expected due to Hemp Fest; the ride leaders understandably wanted to avoid the shambling hordes of confused stoners on the trail. We ended up on Dexter for a short jaunt, and my mind immediately flashed to the hit-and-run bike-vs.-car accidents that have happened recently at the corner of Denny and Dexter.

One of the nice things about riding in a big freaky group is that we look like some kind of weirdo brigade, what with our unusual bikes and the chorus of ringing bells. There is safety in being so visible, that’s for sure, and that’s a lot of why I love big social rides.

I’ve never ridden the ferry to Bainbridge Island on a bike, but it was pretty sweet. Bicyclists get the VIP treatment: primo parking in the front row, first on the ferry, first off the ferry, dibs on awesome window seating on the ferry, etc.

Waiting to get on the ferry! Total VIPs.

Sweet ferry parking. Nice ferris wheel! Hey, remember when we did a Kidical Mass ride to that wheel and then we rode on it? That was pretty awesome.

We stopped at a lovely coffee shop whose name I cannot remember for lunch when we got off the ferry. Open-faced PBJs! Amazing sweet potato fries! Etc.! The kids loved the funky table.

If only Mr. Wizard would upload the photos he took with his DSLR so I didn’t have to use these crappy camera phone pictures…

After that, we headed off for Fay Bainbridge on the north end of the island. Up to that point, everything had been pretty easy riding. It is probably a good thing I didn’t know how hilly Bainbridge Island is or I might have chickened out.

It’s, um, hilly.

A photo from the Seattle PI of a Chilly Hilly ride on Bainbridge Island. Why is Family Ride trying to convince me to do this?!

The hills are of a different quality than the ones I am used to riding here in urban Seattle: they are feral rollers of the variety that are most at home out in the middle of nowhere on an island. So the uphills definitely kicked my ass, but on the plus side, I worked up some nice momentum on the downhills to compensate. I was going so freaking fast–faster than I have ever ridden on Helga with the kids on board. I felt some flex in the frame from time to time, but it was still a super stable ride. I kept reminding myself that I am strong and my bike is awesome and we are one and it is going to be okay. And it was!

I was behind Family Ride some of the time and was amazed at her stamina. I had to stop three times coming up the first hill that Brad took us up while laughing maniacally (that guy…! Rod love him, but he is a cycling sadist and probably has a BionX installed in his legs). I distinctly remember riding straight toward a bike path that ran along the waterfront when Brad suddenly took us left up a beast of a hill (laughing! Did I mention he was laughing?) while someone exclaimed, “What’s wrong with that perfectly good bike path back there?!”

But after that I didn’t have to stop. It was exhilarating! On some of the bigger rollers, I saw Family Ride’s beautiful pink Dummy fishtailing and wobbling under the pressure of her load (both kids aboard, ages 5 and 3, plus so much camping stuff bungeed and stuffed everywhere… amazing!). She was cool and controlled the whole time.

PvE’s floppy sleepyhead makes navigating the rollers of Bainbridge a special challenge.

When we arrived at Fay Bainbridge, the Camping Boss Guy (ranger? I don’t know what to call him) indicated the special bike camping area, which was right on the edge of the water! Amazing and beautiful. We just pulled right up, parked our bikes, and pitched our tents next to them. So easy!

You don’t know it, but the driftwood and sand and water are right on the other side of Helga’s front tire there. Primo bike and tent parking!

Setting up camp!

Camping was predictably awesome. It was chilly, but not overly so. There was a fire and vegan/gluten-free marshmallows were roasted. We let the kids stay up way too late and play with glow sticks. They ran all over the place like a wild pack of roving puppies and it was great!

Who needs toys when you have a bunch of driftwood to play with?

The next day, everyone else set off for Bike for Pie, but we stayed behind to let little PvE have a tent nap after making him nap on the bike the day before, which was fairly miserable for him.

The Totcycles and Family Rides about to embark on the 12-mile family-friendly (ha! ha! ha!) Bike for Pie ride.

We eventually headed back to Seattle, and the hardest hill was once again the first one–the small but mean fellow on the way out of the campground. I had to get off and walk part of the way (shame!). After that, I grumped and wheezed all the way back on the rollers and we were once again VIPing it up on the ferry.

This time it was DPS who fell asleep en route.

And the view from the ferry was not bad:

I have a thing for this skyline.

I thought I had convinced myself and Mr. Wizard that we were taking the longer flat way back along the waterfront and through the ship yards, but I let him talk me out of it at the last minute and we ground up Vine Street downtown. It was at that point that I knew my legs were all but shot and it was a very good thing I didn’t also Bike for Pie.

I stopped every block coming up Meridian. We got home that Sunday afternoon and I lay on the couch where I basically stayed until Tuesday.

I would totally do it again. I think I actually liked bike camping more than car camping with the kids because it limited us to the basic supplies. Rather than packing anything and everything we OMG MIGHT NEED, we only came with what we needed. Food. Tent. Clothes. No toys. And it was much less stressful that way.

I was in the back of the pack most of the time, and I know I was struggling more than a lot of people, but I did it. I did it! I’ve only been riding like this since April, and only on Helga since early summer. Not bad, not bad.

Do you do bike camping? What has your experience been like?

{ 7 comments }

I don’t really see how you could possibly top a Kidical Mass that ends in a ride on a giant ferris wheel, but Julian Totcycle, I dare you to try!

“Mom? Agua!”

The ride started in Ballard, which meant we had to ride there from Wallingford, which takes little more than a half hour.

Ponying up in Ballard for the ride downtown.

It was baby nap time, so I had the pleasure of taking just DPS on the Dummy. The ride down to Olympic Sculpture Park was mostly very easy and took us by lots and lots of trains and a good chunk of gorgeous waterfront. Again, very flat!

At the sculpture park, we stopped for a picnic and a little sightseeing.

Ample ampersand.

Blue on blue.

Don’t worry, it’s totally safe.

After the picnic, I camped out in the Old Spaghetti Factory parking lot to wait for Mr. Wizard to drop off PvE. We collected him and headed down to the ferris wheel, where we got to bunk with the Family Ride crew and the kids were super cute.

Ferris friends. (Don’t mind PvE’s facial road rash–it wasn’t bike-related.)

A carousel ride later, we headed back north and there were more trains and water and a little pocket beach and it was flat and therefore it was good. While following the Family Rides and another friend on her MinUte, we rounded a corner in Magnolia and lost sight of our pals. We pulled over in a parking lot and were quickly rescued. As we were at the end of our stint on the Ship Canal trail, we saw another friend across the water and met up with her for the grind home up the hill.

In the meantime, I was running Strava on my phone–so low on battery power!–and just hoping it would make it all the way home because I really wanted to see the map. It died somewhere around 40th and Meridian.

A premature finish.

That was also the time when the Sibling Peace Treaty died. Luckily, Family Ride had the great idea of doing a kid switcheroo, and so I ended up with FR’s oldest. DPS landed on our friend’s trail-a-bike, and our friend’s 5yo daughter ended up on the Family Ride mobile. Once we split off from the FRs, I ended up with my friend’s daughter while DPS pedaled furiously and propelled my friend all the way to the park, at which point we reassembled on Helga and made it home with minimal bloodshed.

Peace is restored! (Photo via FR’s phone and a generous stranger.)

Coming up soon: The 2012 Cargo Bike Roll Call!

{ 0 comments }

I’ve only been riding consistently for transportation since April, although I was a recreational family cyclist before then. What strikes me is how long it feels like I’ve been doing this already (ages!) and how relatively quickly I’ve improved. One of the benefits of commuting by bike is that you have the chance to perfect your route and take it over and over, observing your incremental improvements. I may not look different, but I’m definitely stronger and I’ve got more stamina in the saddle.

Smart phone apps like Strava make it easy to gauge your progress, but it’s also just something I sensed in myself. One day I was grinding up a familiar battle axe of a hill when I realized I hadn’t stopped to rest for two blocks. Fist pump! It’s the little things.

When I started out doing this four-ish months ago, I remember my sense of complete amazement that I did preschool drop-off one morning (7 miles!). I huffed and puffed on my Frankenbike and thought I would die coming up Meridian. And I clearly remember the day I did both drop-off AND pick-up. I felt like Tom Cruise in that rock-and-roll musical-movie thingie, but without all the weird connotations. I was, in short, totally amazing.

Now I average about 14-21 miles a day, just getting around town. It feels good–not too much, not too little. Then I’m browsing the Seattle Family Biking Facebook group and I see a more experienced family rider describe a short ride as “anything under 40 miles.” Ha, ha, ha!

So I still have pleeeeenty of room for progress, but plenty of room to acknowledge what’s behind me, too. So if you’re just starting out, believe that in a short time your bike will feel like a part of you and you’ll be able to see so much progress. Truly!

Also, this is how I picture myself while I’m riding a bike, and I’m always surprised when I catch our reflection in a store window:

The Biking Viking, or: How I See Myself When I’m Riding a Bike.

{ 4 comments }

Good to see the Weehoo coming out of retirement again.This week it felt good to loan out our Weehoo to a friend so she could get pedaling with her five-year-old daughter–a classmate at DPS’s preschool. We don’t use it anymore because I refuse to get back on the Frankenbike after having taken ownership of Helga (Helga and I are still possessive of each other, what can I say). It was contagious to behold their bikeyfaces! I can’t wait to ride with them again.

As an aside, my experience with Weehoo has been great–there’s a Facebook page and the owner of the company regularly posts there to help troubleshoot and the like. He even gave me his personal cell number (on a public wall post!) and told me to call any time, since I was having some trouble getting the bushing installed on my seat post (nothing a little packing tape couldn’t fix–don’t worry, it’s legit). I love it when that happens.

Plus, it’s such a practical trail-a-bike: comfy, padded, recumbent seat with a three-point harness; velcro foot straps; drink and snack holders; built-in panniers; a maximum weight of 65 lbs. (holy crap!); and it breaks down easily to fit in the trunk of a car. A kid can pedal or sleep or rest or snack or whatever–it’s a great trail-a-bike. My only wish is that it attached like the Burley Piccolo to a custom rack instead of the seat post, as there is a teeny bit of wobble sometimes.

Putting DaveyOil and Little Oil right to work.

Davey and Little Oil show Family Ride how her fancy new pump works while PvE supervises.

AND THEN serendipity struck! After parting ways with my newly Weehoo-enabled pal, I got to unexpectedly meet DaveyOil! He was meeting up with Family Ride so they could do a Critical Mass ride together, so we played and grazed a bit at Seattle Center before they had to jet. I needed to adjust my new Ergon grips, and because I remain totally clueless about most mechanical bikestuffs, I thought for sure I was going to have to take Helga in to see Edward at Ride Bicycles before he took off for a long trip to China.

I mentioned it and Davey handed me his multitool and told me to figure out which doodad (my term, not his) fit the job. At first I tried to cram pointy things under the grip itself because that’s what I had seen my mechanics doing, but Davey–without laughing at me even a little!–mentioned that actually I could easily adjust them myself with the turn of a screwdriverthingie (again, my term). And in 30 seconds or fewer, the problem was solved and my ride got 200% sweeter. Thanks, Davey!

O Parking Squid, how do we climb thee? Let me count the ways.

The Parking Squid remains a hit, but a nice security officer informed us that the nearby foliage may look like “woods,” but actually harbors a lot of junkies who leave behind dirty needles in the mulch and such. Charming! So we herded our kids back out to the pavement and into the (now so-called) Armory for foodstuffs.

Another action shot courtesy of Family Ride

I also just found out that Davey will likely be teaching the ABCs of Biking class at Bike Works in August–this is a class I have really been wanting to take, though I’m intimidated by the course content and by finding childcare. But if Davey’s teaching, that’s all the more incentive. I can tell I won’t feel totally embarrassed and/or stupid the entire time, which is a plus. I do often wonder if I did something foolish by buying such an expensive bike without really understanding how it works, but I’m ready to learn.

I’m still getting my cargo/bike legs, it seems. After a few consecutive 20+ mile days in the saddle, I had to take yesterday (mostly) off from riding. Sore and low on power, I was. I read taking time off is good, but it’s hard to give up the bike when the sun is out in Seattle.

{ 2 comments }

Get off the road, get on the road, which is it?

July 23, 2012

Early in my family-biking-as-transportation career when DPS was riding his own little bike next to me and I had not-even-2-years-old-yet PvE in the iBert on my handlebars, we were riding down a wide sidewalk on our way to get back on the trail. As we carefully made our way and I coached DPS (who had […]

Read the full article →

How a bike garter prevented me from flashing all of Seattle and having to replace my summer wardrobe

July 10, 2012

It seems Junuary has finally been vanquished and summer has at long last arrived here in Seattle. YESSSS. But this summer has meant that I have needed to revisit my warm-weather wardrobe now that I am spending so much time on a big bike with the kids. See, I’m not a shorts person. I just […]

Read the full article →

Biking with kids: tips on getting started, part 2

July 3, 2012

This post is part of an ongoing series on getting started at family biking. You should start with: Biking with kids: tips on getting started, part 1 Now that we’ve talked about obstacles to getting on a bike, let’s assume you’ve gotten yourself at least semi-mobile and you’re ready to contemplate Actually Going Somewhere. Obstacle: […]

Read the full article →

Biking with kids: tips on getting started, part 1

July 2, 2012

This post is part of an ongoing series on getting started at family biking. Follow the link at the end of the post to go to Part 2. We’ve been biking with DPS since he was old enough to sit in the iBert, but it was mostly for recreation. Since I started riding for transportation […]

Read the full article →

Thank you for holding

June 24, 2012

This week my mom has been visiting, which has meant no time for blogging. I thought her stay would have provided juicy writing fodder, since we were planning on renting her a bike so she could pedal with us. Just before she left, though, she fell and banged up her knee and I knew when […]

Read the full article →

First Seattle Family Biking Meet-Up! Also: ch-ch-changes.

June 15, 2012

Wednesday is the Farmers’ Market in my neighborhood and we try to go every week. It’s a great chance for DPS to ride his own bike and for us to hang out with friends at the park/community center. So I decided that it might be a good situation for a recurring Seattle Family Biking meet-up. […]

Read the full article →