This year, since we have the Bullitt, I'm ordering a rain cover from Blaq design. They make incredibly beautiful weather covers. This will give us just a bit more flexibility and comfort on the really cold and/or rainy days.
You might think that Californians don't know how to dress for Winter. You're probably right.
In fact, you can tell that rain is in the forecast by the number of college students wearing Uggs with their jeans. People here think hoodies are appropriate rain jackets.
I always feel silly when we start complaining about Sacramento Winters. I know it's nothing like the real Winters that actually snow and people have to worry about their brake cables freezing and whether the bike lanes have been plowed. Still, it's pretty darn cold for us. This week marks the first real cold spell and it's quite a drop from what we've been dealing with so far. I keep worrying that we're not adequately prepared for the weather but I have to keep reminding myself that we managed to live through last year, our first winter without a car.
To be honest, it wasn't even that bad. The mornings and evenings were cold and foggy, the wind sucked, and the rain was sparse. As long as we had lots of layers and lots of lights, we were fine. The boys did have snowsuits that I made them wear once or twice but they hated them. I'm hoping that the suits still fit but I haven't made them try them on, yet.
This year, since we have the Bullitt, I'm ordering a rain cover from Blaq design. They make incredibly beautiful weather covers. This will give us just a bit more flexibility and comfort on the really cold and/or rainy days.
When they boys are in the Bullitt, it's pretty easy to just cover them with blankets. In the rain, we cover the blankets with ponchos (at least until we can get the cover). On the Mundo, lots of layers for cold and rain gear for rain. Yep, it's that simple.
One added change this year is Big Brother's solo biking. I want to let him ride on his own as much as possible and so far, it's working well. We ordered his Isla bike with fenders so he could splash through puddles. For added visibility, he now has a great set of Planet Bike lights front and rear as well as a new spiffy Ikea reflective vest ($2.99!).
For myself, it's a little trickier. I'm trying to Portlandize by wardrobe by adding wool for warmth and rain protection. My SmartWool tights failed at the seams after a couple weeks of riding, they just didn't have enough give. The Muk Luks were 50-50, literally--one pair arrived almost unraveled but the other pair has held strong and is super soft. I have one other pair of fleece-lined Xhilaration tights which are also great even though I got a size too small. They are really thick, very stretchy, and super warm. I tend to over-layer myself so it's a good thing I ride a big bike and can peel things off as I warm up. I usually go with two sets of gloves and socks, thermals under my pants, and many layers of tops. I wish I had more sweaters to replace the 5-6 shirts I end up wearing so I'll probably need to visit the thrift shop soon. The only other thing I make sure to bring is a long scarf that I can wrap around my face, cover my ears, and warm my neck.
Finally, we finish our Winter-biking prep by decking the bikes with lots of lights. Last year, we go a couple of battery powered strands of outdoor holiday lights. I broke them eventually, of course, so I plan to get another set and take better care of them.
I feel better about going into Winter having experienced one car-free already. I assume that we'll learn new tricks, have some miserable rides, enjoy the crisp air, and suddenly be surprised that Spring shows up again. You couldn't pay me to put away our bikes for three whole months!
Here we go!!!
Continuing with our monthly Kidical Mass rides, November was our cargo bike food bank run to support Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services. We got a few bins to place around the downtown area and asked participants to bring a donation. Unfortunately, the bins didn't get much attention, however, our riders certainly made up for it!
We met up in front of Practical Cycle and took advantage of their great big grassy area across the street. Our friend, Jarrod of 8legs2wheels.com, showed up with coffee that had been donated from Old Soul. People started trickling over, meeting one another, and checking out some of the awesome rigs.
Monica, of Carsick Designs, got some great photos of some of the individual cargo bikes and the ride that you can view here.
Just before we headed off, I climbed up my Mundo and did our guideline rundown:
Our ride was an easy 2.7 miles through downtown to Edible Pedal, where the Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services' truck would come pick up the donations. We stopped a couple of times to gather everyone back up after getting spaced out between red lights, but everything went smoothly.
We collected 3 big bins of food and warm clothing! I think this is going to become a regular event and we already have begun figuring out ways to increase and improve the ride. I realized too late that it would be good to bring a bin to our local food co-op to gather donations and hand out flyers. We would also continue the ride all the way to the food bank next time. More advertising and outreach is needed to fill the bins ahead of time, as well.
After the ride, Little Brother hitched a ride home in Neil's Nihola and we learned that a trike with reachable wheels is not a good idea for children as curious as him. He did have a blast and only minimally terrorized his little friend.
It was a beautiful day for a ride and so much fun to meet so many new family bikers and catch up with our friends. If anything, the huge increase in ridership from these last two rides shows that Sacramento is a prime location for family biking and these rides are both needed and wanted. As long as we can grow comfortably and in control, our Kidical Mass rides are going to be quickly established into Sacramento biking culture (which will hopefully lead to Sacramento general culture, too).
My last post was a photo journal of the quick trip I took to Quebec. While it is an amazing place, I certainly didn't have nearly enough time to thoroughly check it out. The weather was surprisingly lovely--crisp and mostly clear, although the rain picked up on our last evening in town. I walked around a fair amount but since we only had one free day during the conference, I was pretty limited. I did manage to reach a fellow cargo biker (car-free, in fact!) through the (R)evolutions Per Minute FaceBook page but because he was farther out of town than my schedule would allow for, I wasn't able to meet up with him and his locally built bakfiets. I did manage to find the bike shop that people had recommended, Velos Roy-O, but alas, it was closed on Sundays! I had to settle for watching longingly at all the riders going by.
Now that I'm back home and almost back to the land of the living with all the illnesses that have been raging around the family, I'm ready to get back to my bike(s)!
Today, there was a forecast of about 70-90% chance of rain and in typical Sacramento fashion, nothing materialized except a few tiny sprinkles. The boys were waiting for rain with their raincoats that proved to be totally useless today. At least we're ready when it finally happens (hopefully...). We still don't have a rain cover for the Bullitt and I think I'm just trying to see how long we can go without it. I know that I'll be kicking myself in a month or two, though. However, last year, we did just fine with the boys on the Mundo in rain gear.
The little guys each rode their own bikes to Big Brother's school while I jogged and walked alongside them on the sidewalk. I was so proud of Big Brother when he stopped before a driveway and waited for me because the truck parked in it was idling. Little Brother, being Little Brother and only 2.5 years old, is more of a challenge to keep in control. It's great when they ride together because Big Brother is a great teacher and really helps to set a good example.
An update on the Tour de Whine & Chocolate: we changed cell phone carriers to Credo, a company known for progressive activism and happens to offer unlimited data for on-the-go website updates. Also, a hugely exciting development, we got two new sleeping bags for the kiddos! Deuter offers two amazing kids' sleeping bags: Little Star for Little Brother-sized children and Starlight for Big Brother-sized ones. These bags are each over a pound lighter than the adult-sized bags we've been packing for the kids and much, much smaller when rolled up. The bags both have an extra panel that extends as the children grow but for now, provides extra toe warmth. The boys are thrilled to each have their own special bag and I am really excited about giving the bags their first test run soon. Since the weather has finally shifted and although it's staying relatively warm during the day, nighttime falls to about 35-40 degrees. I'm wondering if a cabin or KOA would be a good way to go. Also necessary for winter will be a sleeping pad for extra insulation. In the warmer months, we got by with just letting the boys sleep on the ground since they're small and don't wake up stiff like us old folks.
I need to start thinking about our next bike overnight as it's been too long since our last one. My goal is to start hitting some of the hills around town (ha!) with the bike loaded down to start getting the strength needed for longer days with real hills. Good thing we have a few days off next week! As long as we stay healthy, I think we'll be on the road.
If you've been reading lately, you'll know how excited I've been about our custom Carsick Designs panniers for the Mundo. I've been struggling with the Yuba bags for quite awhile because the Peanut Shell on the back keeps us from using the Go-Getters and the Baguettes have never quite fit for us, either (plus we had to warranty the first set due to problems with the seams, buckles, and pockets). My new set have been sitting in the shed since I got them because I didn't want to break them again.
I first saw Carsick Designs' work years ago at a bike swap and have ever since drooled over their bags but never made the leap into customer-dom. Once I finally got to know Brian and Monica as people, I wanted the bags even more because they're so awesome. To top it all off, my friend Jen has had a beautiful set of hot pink panniers that she got from her hubby for Mother's Day over a year ago and every time we ride together, she has to rub them in my face (totally kidding because she's super nice and would never do that but really, you can't miss those suckers, they're bright!).
My frustration with the Mundo's actual cargo caring ability finally reached a head when I was trying to figure out how we would go touring on the Mundo without a good way to carry gear AND the kiddos. I emailed Brian and Monica to ask about making a Freeloader-style sling bag set.
We met up at a local coffee shop a few days later, Monica took notes of what I was looking for and Brian mapped it all out using a piece of yellow plastic fabric. I picked my fabric color--safety orange, of course!
Just a few days later, I got a message saying that they'd finished a prototype and wanted to see how it fit. We met back up at the coffee shop. Brian got the prototype on, made a few markings and notes here and there, it was already almost perfect!
Then, they had to torture me a little more by posting photos of the whole process online.
However, about a week later (yesterday), I got the final message: "They're ready, when can you get them?"
I wrote back: Tomorrow!
So without further ado, here they are!
Seriously, I could not be any happier! The bags are well made, incredibly sturdy. The buckles and straps are strong. The long pocket inside has a high-quality, smooth zipper with an overhang of fabric to keep water out of it. Brian also made sure that the zipper started on the side closest to the seatpost so that the Peanut Shell's legs don't get in the way. I would have never thought of that little detail but it shows how much these guys know what they're doing. The bags attach to the deck really well, I loosened the deck a little to slide some of the straps underneath and that will help hold the bags on even better. The side panels are strong mesh with a bungee tie so things don't fall out the sides. There are two grommets in the bottom so water can drain, especially good because I opted to not get any sort of cover (which wouldn't have fit anyway because of the kid seat. The straps can be criss-crossed to hold down really large items (or lap blankets as Stacy does). To top it all off, there is a huge panel of Iluminite fabric (in orange!) to increase our visibility even more.
I am in love with these Mondo Slings!
By the way, I also got a couple of Carsick Designs's Goodie Bags to keep me fed on our rides (Yeah right, those boys of mine always eat all my food). The only problem is that Jose wants one and I don't want to share.
The Mondo Slings cost about $175 for the set and are made by two super nice people here in Sacramento. You can customize the color and fabric, add pockets, and really make them exactly what you're looking for. You can find Brian and Monica by clicking here or on Facebook.
I'll keep you posted on all the fun things I can shove in them--like camping gear, shopping bags, small animals, etc.
I was on Twitter this evening and saw an article @Cyclelicious had posted regarding a 90-year old driver who "accidentally" pushed the gas pedal instead of the brake, drove up the sidewalk and pinned two 6-year-old children, at least one of whom is in critical condition. I used the word "accidentally" in quotations, not because I think he injured the children maliciously but because I feel that when you take the wheel of a 2000-pound+ killing machine, you are fully responsible for your actions and any resulting destruction. I truly, truly hate to see any crash described with the words "driver lost control of the car" as an explanation for deaths and injuries the driver caused. There are no car accidents, this is the carnage that happens daily because we live in a car-centric culture that puts these vehicles' value over the lives of children. It disgusts me.
Sadly, these stories are often brushed aside without a second glance. However, right after I was on Twitter, I quickly popped over to FaceBook and the very first photo I see is a friend who had driven passed the scene of the very same crime, complete with SUV still parked against the storefront. She captioned it with this:
"Omg...Apparently a elderly man drove forward & hit two kids! As I make my way to buy some cupcakes. — at SusieCakes."
The hard part was the following comments to the photos.
"well at least you have cupcakes? Cupcakes make everything better."
It just hurts my heart to know how desensitized we have become. I know that these are good people and I have nothing against them. It's just that this is exactly how our society sees car-carnage, it's just a part of our lives. Nothing to see here, move along, go get cupcakes--I hear they fix everything. This is why nothing is going to get better, we don't even see a problem. Children are killed every single day by car drivers (not the cars themselves, they don't magically run into people on their own, mind you). More children die at the hands of someone at the wheel than guns, cancer, murder, disease, and yet nothing makes the front page of the news. Nothing shocks us enough to realize that we need to get these things off the roads. Even the AAP doctor's ridiculous rant against carrying children on bikes acknowledges that a car is the MOST DANGEROUS place to have your infant (even restrained). Even this misguided woman hits right to the point with her very last word: “Get everybody to walk to school, get traffic-free streets — they’ve done that in some communities, ‘no cars on this street.’”
While I try to keep my postings fairly positive, today this hit me harder than I was expecting. The good thing is that as soon as I needed uplifting, I reread Dorie from Hum Of The City's latest post about fear. Dorie is a car-free mama as well who was run over by a driver months ago. She has been painfully and slowly recovering but explains perfectly why she is still getting around by bike. Read it, she is incredible. (You have no excuse, I've linked to it four times. And you can find it here: http://humofthecity.com/2013/10/16/the-only-thing-we-have-to-fear/).
I have a plan! Next summer is going to be the first summer in 5 years that we didn't have anything scheduled so I've now made something up--the Tour De Whine And Chocolate. I promise that it will involved lots and lots of whining and chocolate.
Bike touring is my passion. I haven't had much experience with it, yet, but I dream of pedaling off one day and seeing where I end up a long time later. So far, I've been able to squeeze in an overnight every so often and the longest trip I've taken was when Big Brother was just 10-months-old, 600 miles around Oregon. I decided that this summer was going to involve dragging my children along on an epic bike journey. While trying to figure out where we were going to go, I started thinking about places I've been wanting to visit and people I've been wanting to see. Since I've been doing a few little trips here and there with the kiddos, I've realized that it really helps to have lots of people to help manage them after a long day of riding. After talking (twittering) with some folks, I think we have a general route set up that involves lots of stops at places we want to hang out and meeting other folks who will hopefully join us for sections along the way.
The plan: Jose will help us get up to the Eugene-ish area of Oregon. He only has a few days off so he'll probably just ride a little ways and take the train home. We'll head North, just as we did on our trip with Big Brother, stopping in Portland for a few days. Then, we'll be on our way to Seattle to hang out a couple of days and pick up some other mama-bikers (papas are welcome, too!) and heading North again. I'd like to reach Vancouver, just to say we biked to Canada (and also to explore the area and meet some other folks along the way). I have family in Victoria, BC that I'd love to stay with and get a chance to thoroughly indulge in their biking infrastructure. We'll take the ferry back to Seattle and catch Amtrak home. It sounds like we can fit *most* of the Mundo in an Amtrak bike box. We have about two months to do it all.
My idea is that we'll keep the number of miles fairly low--30-50 per day so that I can still be a functional parent after we've finished riding. On the trip I did with Big Brother to Chico, we learned that it's not a good idea to push ourselves. No one has fun when we're all exhausted. I'd like the boys to have a good time, too, so playgrounds, campsites, and other great off-the-bike activities will be incorporated each day. Having other people to hang out with after riding will be a big help, as well. Our trips staying with warmshowers hosts have been fantastic experiences.
I'm really excited about planning and training. Since I'll be lugging around two children as well as our gear, I really want to plan efficiently. We have most of the things we'll need already but I'd like to upgrade our sleeping bags for something smaller and lighter. I need to learn how to prepare wholesome meals on the bike so we don't lose steam. The hills will be the hardest, of course, so I need to start working on my strength and stamina.
If you have any suggestions on route options or gear, please let me know. I'm glad we have quite some time to get ready! I feel that if we can accomplish an epic adventure like this, we'll be able to do anything!
I finally got around to popping back into Practical Cycle today. I've missed the place and those guys! Little Brother and I dropped Big Brother off at school. BB rode his Fire Bike again today but it had been having problems with chain slippage and the grips had basically melted off. Also, the Mundo's rear brake had stopped working. I bundled it all up and rode down to Old Sac.
Little Brother and I got to hang out with Tim and Cassidy while Tim took a few minutes to tighten our bikes back up and get them in good shape again. Big Brother's bike got spiffy new grips and the wheel was adjusted to take up the slack of the chain. Tim even pumped up the Fire Bike's tires as they had gotten a bit low...
I also got a chance to check out the new Monkey Bars for the Yuba Mundo. They look really nice and it seems you can adjust the seat to lower it down enough for the shorter riders. It didn't look like I'd have a problem, though. To be honest, I really think that they're a better design than the Hooptie from Xtracycle. I like the cleaner lines and it felt less wobbly than the Xtracycle that was a few bikes over. Now, I'm totally drooling over them. I think it'd be great for our upcoming summer vacation ride--the Tour De Whine and Chocolate (don't try to google it, I'm making it up as I go).
We packed up the Fire Bike again and rode back to pick up Big Brother. Little Brother squeezed in a nap along the way. It was so nice to have working brakes again! Big Brother immediately noticed the change in his bike and was thrilled! I almost couldn't keep up with him on the way home. I may have to deflate his tires just a bit...
My mini bike commuter is awesome! In just three weeks of riding himself to school (with supervision, of course), his confidence and riding abilities have improved exponentially. He follows direction well and is understanding the instructions I shout out. Starting and stopping can still be a bit of a challenge but I think some of that is because the coaster brake doesn't allow for a strong "power pedal" position. We walk across a busy 4 lane intersection with a light because we wouldn't be able to move quickly enough for the impatient drivers or get across before the light turned red.
One thing that bugs me is that the streets in the UC Davis Med Center are marked at 30 mph. They are so wide that drivers are frequently going faster than that, too. There are very few marked bike lanes and the ones that are marked are door-zones. There is plenty of bike use throughout the campus and I don't know why they wouldn't want to create safer streets for everyone, especially my little biking monsters.
This first video was taken on Big Brother's first ride into school. The second one was today, heading home after his 4th week of classes. He rides about 3 times per week. I can certainly see the difference!
We didn't get much riding today. A quick jaunt to drop Big Brother off at school then to Trader Jose for groceries. Poor TJs is still waiting on city approval to improve their bike rack situation. Until they do, I'll just continue parking my bike inside like I own the place.
Little Brother and I decided to walk to get the Biggun at noon. It was already heating up and the walk involved me carrying a 32 lb toddler for most of it. On the way back, Big Brother loved riding his bike on the sidewalk and did a great job stopping at driveways and intersections and not getting too far ahead. Little Brother was harder to corral and didn't want to be held. needless to say, I needed a nap this afternoon.
After a midday, 100+ degree day, I needed to get out of the house. My aunt had borrowed the Mobic for her niece and I realized that I needed it for class tomorrow. It was the perfect excuse to head out for a quick ride. Even though the sun was setting, it was still warm out. Blech. However, it was still 1000x better than driving!
Today was the first day of a new routine in our lives. Two weeks ago, our daycare provider told me that she was closing on the 28th. My heart sunk as I started researching new daycares and preschools, I realized that we couldn't afford my job at Practical Cycle anymore. Turns out, we had been paying about 1/4 of what standard places charge and there was no way for us to balance out a regular job with the cost of child care. So, as of yesterday, I'm back to being a stay-at-home mom for the first time in a year.
On top of this big transition in our lives, Big Brother's new school make for a crazy juggling schedule, Jose's new evening classes mean I'm in charge of all night-time duties four days a week, and my folks left town for the next month and a half so we've got easy access to a car (and a cat) for that time. It all makes for a whirlwind of emotions and activities. However, great change brings about new opportunities and right now, I feel like there are many out there for me. There will be more time for me to plan bike trips, more time for writing, and most importantly, more time to spend with my family.
While I am really going to miss my Practical Cycle family, I am looking forward to being able to still be a part of the shop in different ways. I've learned so much about bikes and bike shops from these guys, I am so grateful for the experience they've given me this past year.
I also have some contracted days with the Safe Routes To School program in one of the local school districts and Sacramento Kidical Mass is gearing up to be a regularly scheduled ride each 4th Saturday of the month.
Finally, bike overnights are coming back into our lives! We're starting up by squeezing one into August so we don't miss another month. This next one is going to be a doozy! Wish us luck! The boys and I head out tomorrow...
This is us. We're fun.