I realized today that the Bullitt box is exactly the size of a shopping cart at Trader Joes. Handy to know. Hopefully we're set for the week, now.
Speaking of hauling, we ran into our friend, Jarrod, yesterday. Check out his newest upgrades:
Yesterday was pretty exciting with our Kidical Mass ride success! Today was more nerve-wracking as it was my first attempt at public speaking in a conference setting. I felt so "official" with my SPEAKER ribbon and getting to hang out with the real advocacy and program leaders like Jessica Roberts and Shane MacRhodes. Our panel was called Family Bicycling: Empowering Tomorrow's Leaders.
You can’t get kids of out of the car and into sneakers or onto bikes without convincing parents that it is safe, healthy, and useful. In this panel, leaders on the front lines of creating family bicycling culture will discuss tips and tricks to use in your community. Started in Eugene, Oregon in 2008 and now spread to over a dozen communities, Kidical Mass has been transforming family travel habits, helping families network and advocate, and raising the next generation of bicycle advocates. Families turned out in Santa Monica, California by the hundreds for the first-ever Kidical Mass ride, and a Family Bike Festival, which allowed parents to test-ride family-oriented bicycle gear, while children practiced bicycle handling skills and decorated helmets. Complementing encouragement activities, in-school bicycle skills training allowed elementary and middle school students to become confident cyclists, earn independence in their day-to-day lives, and experience riding on community streets.
I was really excited to be a part of this great group and after the breakout sessions I attended yesterday, I was feeling pretty okay about the whole thing. I even had powerpoint slides to help my along. If all else failed, pictures of my adorable kids would help distract them from my blabbering. I tried doing a run-through with my mom and bumbled the entire thing so I decided to take some notes with me.
After listening to Shane and Peter talk about their successful Kidical Mass and Bike Fest programs, I got up and talked about our own family journey to car-freedom. There was only one guy in the audience who was obviously flabbergasted about the idea of NOT having a car (although he also treated the presentations as his own personal conversation). It was great to have some friendly and familiar faces in the crowd, too. Afterwards, a couple from Arcata asked to take a photo of me with my website slide behind us so they could post it on their Kidical Mass page.
Overall, I think it went well. We all had fun topics to talk about and cute pictures of kids on bikes. The conference was a blast. I got to meet so many wonderful people doing incredible things to help the walkability and bikeability of their local communities. One woman, Elizabeth, from Turlock was there on her own to learn about the best ways to implement Safe Routes curriculum and practices. Her family is the only car-free family in their town! Another guy from San Fran was excited to start planning how he could continue being car-free when he and his fiancee start having kids. I had to point him on to Hum Of The City, of course. I hope to be able to continue learning from these folks and sharing our experience. This is the future of transportation, whether you know it or not (you all know it, of course). I feel so lucky to be a part of this greater movement.
I finally got to spend some real time at the 4th annual Safe Routes To School conference today. I was a bit nervous about leading the Kidical Mass ride with real people in the industry. I always feel like such an impostor. I just ride a bike, I don't make policy changes or anything important. However, finally meeting Shane MacRhodes of Eugene Kidical Mass, helped put me at ease. Having an expert help organize the ride was fantastic. He even brought unique spokecards for everyone!
I had already ridden my planned route multiple times in the last couple of days and made a few changes here and there. There was heavier traffic than I would normally plan for a Kidical Mass ride but because the conference is at the Sheraton Grand, we didn't have much choice other than Downtown Sacramento. We already had about 30 people signed up for the ride so I knew that we'd be big enough to have a presence on the larger roads which were mostly multi-lane one-way. The areas that didn't have bike lanes still had sharrows and bicycles were pretty common vehicles on these routes. Our riders were almost all adults and the few kids were all riding on their big buddy's bike (in various forms).
Our route was 13th st. to T st. (which is usually lovely but it was garbage day...), 10th street led us by the Capitol--where the bike lane disappears and is replaced by sharrows. J street was the biggest and busiest road we were on and the bike lane is pretty useless but it was just for a couple of blocks and we were fine.
We ended up with about 30 riders total, including some locals and a few kidicals. We had a great variety of cargo bikes including my Bullitt, Shane's longtail Bike Friday, Mina's Madsen, Jen's Yuba, a homemade bakfiets, a demo Yuba Lux with Monkey Bars, a couple Boda Bodas, and Grandpa Greg with his grandson on the trail-a-bike (4th grandkid to pedal that ride!). There were also a few "regular" Bike Fridays, a Brompton, and a handful of Practical Cycles's rental fleet that had been donated to the conference this week.
After a quick informative intro and ride briefing from Shane, we pulled out into traffic. We followed all traffic laws with me as leader and Shane as sweeper. Every so often, I'd hear on the walkie-talkie "hold up ahead" from Shane and we'd pull over where it was safe to allow the rest of the group to catch up. No one gets left behind on a Kidical Mass ride!
It was an easy but thorough 3 miles around downtown. We made one longer stop at the Capitol for a quick photo op and fortune cookie (thanks, Elena!) snack. As we got back to the hotel, some of the riders broke off to the Farmer's Market a few blocks away. The rest of us closed the ride with a visit to POPcycle (I had garden mint chip--amazing! Thanks, dad!). Rachel had pedaled the POPcycle down to peddle her homemade gourmet ice cream pops. Yummy! It was the best way to close out a fun but warm afternoon ride.
After the ride, I sat in on one of the breakout sessions--Fleets and Geeks--to learn about bike education and bike fleet options. It really helped me get more excited about the breakout session that I get to be a part of tomorrow morning--Family Bicycling: Empowering Tomorrow's Leaders. I'm having a great time absorbing all the expertise from these folks who are very involved in all the planning and implementing of these great programs to get safer streets for all. I am so inspired to bring some of these wonderful ideas into our future Kidical Mass rides.
I was disappointed to end July without having accomplished a bike overnight. I had been planning on doing one each month for the year but knew that July was going to be tricky. This is my busiest month with the exchange student program. I had been hoping I could still squeeze in a very short ride but never got to it. The exchange students are wonderful and although it's a crazy time with little downtime, I love it all the same. While I wanted to reach my goal, I'm not about to sacrifice the small amount of sanity I'm retaining. August will put me right back on track.
Instead of dwelling on the lost month, I decided to recap what we've done so far this year.
Even though I am dying for another overnight, it's been a blast running around with all these awesome kiddos. Big Brother and I just spent 4 days in Southern California with them, going to Hollywood, Disneyland, Universal Studios, and Santa Barbara. It was almost an entire week without a single bike ride!
I'm sure we'll make up for it in August. Where shall we go next?
I feel so American these days--rushed, busy, frantic, lazy, tired. I've been able to ride a few days during the program but I gave up a bit these last few days. We were hosting one of the students for a couple of nights and it's difficult to transport an extra person that you don't know very well. He would have actually like riding bikes, especially since he has been getting really carsick, but it was one extra thing that I just couldn't manage right now. Then, as soon as I dropped him off to his real host family, my phone was overloaded with calls about a sick student in the hospital. More driving needed to get to him quickly and deal with that situation. Then today was a driving day because I needed to run a bunch of errands on opposite sides of town. Tomorrow, I'll finally get to ditch the car for a bit but it's only temporary right now.
Today, I realized that I'm so normal right now. I "don't have time to ride." It's an excuse I hear every where I go. "I would ride, but..." Then they go off and list a bunch of things: too far to go, not enough time, too much stuff to carry, too tired, too many people depending on me, there could be an emergency, etc. I realized that I'm ticking off every one of those excuses. Because of that realization, I made myself take the Bullitt to pick up the kids from daycare. It was only a 4 mile trip but I decided to extend our time out by bringing dinner with me to the park. Yes, dinner was only yogurt, blueberries, and graham crackers but it was the best I could do today. We all needed it.
I did end up doing the cardinal sin of biking with children by clicking Little Brother's chin with the helmet buckle. A few too many of those and you risk losing your child's trust completely.
This little ride gave me the perfect amount of time to slow down and remember the journey. I'm lucky to have a job where this schedule is a very small fraction of my life. I can put up with 2-3 weeks of disruption to my usual biking routines. It's not always about doing it all, sometimes it's just about doing what you can.
I have to remind myself not to look at all the reasons I can't ride and instead look for all the excuses that I can.
Today we ran around a ton. We started off at coffee to fuel the day and locked up at the new bike rack they installed at Old Soul 40 acres. Jose and I trucked that bike rack over from our house, about a 1/2 mile away. Since it wouldn't fit on my bike, and almost squished Little Brother in my attempt to get it on the bike, we decided to push it down the sidewalk on two skateboards, with the boys in tow...literally. It was rough. We only managed to totally mess up as we were crossing the busy street in full view of everyone in the coffee shop. Fun. I was so excited to see it up this week and even more excited that it directly benefits our family and caffeine habit.
Both Big and Little Brothers rode their respective bikes for this ride. At home, Little Brother went down for a nap while Big Brother couldn't sleep so Jose took him out for another ride, about 4 miles round trip, to go play baseball. Mama got a nice little nap in and Little Brother was out like a light.
Later, we made plans to have dinner at One Speed with my folks and our friends. Big Brother decided, again, to ride there. I took the Bullitt with Little Brother and Jose rode his skateboard.
Dinner was wonderful but the place was busy and it was too slow for the boys. They melted down. It was quite a mess. We managed to get through dinner (and dessert, yum!) but we were sure that Big Brother wouldn't make the ride home.
He proved us wrong! Out of nowhere, he found some energy to go another 2.5 miles home. Towards the end, we could tell he was starting to bonk, he couldn't hold his line anymore, but he kept calling himself Mark Cavendish and cranking down on his tiny pedals. This kid is a beast! I count 9 miles of riding for the day! At 4.5, I think that's pretty awesome! Part of the rides were on the street and part on the sidewalk, depending on the location and who was with him. He's starting to understand the rules of the road, obeying stop signs, and looking out for obstacles. I'm really curious to see how he does on a single long ride. We'll have to test it out on the bike trail one day soon.
Here's a video of our morning ride: The boys battle it out in a ride to the death! Big on the cupcake bike and Little on his Strider. Watch until the end for a nail-biter finish! Enjoy!
The blog will be a little quiet for the next month as I will be neck-deep in exchange students (although not literally). They arrive on Thursday and I am busy running around trying to get everything in order (or at least as much as it can be). Sadly, I've been driving more than I'd like, but at the same time, this job only requires a moderate amount of driving 1 month out of the year. While it is still 1 month more than I'd like, I can handle it.
Some funny things happened recently to make this crazy time just that much more crazy:
Now the next four weeks are going to be a blur but I am still hoping to get some riding in each day. The cargo bikes are really going to help with all the hauling of stuff that I always seem to have to do, whereas previous programs ALWAYS depended on car trips. As you now know, cargo bikes are the "new station wagon," I guess that means we're becoming mainstream! Super exciting!
It's hot! The first week of unbearable heat is always the hardest. It's when people hide in their air conditioned boxes (whatever they may be) and try not to exert too much energy. Believe me, I want to do the same! However, we don't have a/c at home and no car to duck into and drive to the coast. I had actually forgotten what air conditioning felt like until I popped into a Target yesterday. Then there's the random parking garage with it's obscenely cold air cooling the street around. I hate to admit it but I love it (although I also hate it and believe that maybe it'd be a good thing to stop doing for energy conservation, expenses, and global climate change...). We also like to make detours to ride through sprinklers for a little on-the-go pick-me-up.
We do leave the house as little as possible on these kinds of days. The air quality is always especially grimy, too. If we don't have to leave, we don't. If we can, we do our errands in the early morning or once the Delta breezes pick up.
When we do have to leave, it's nice to have the cargo bikes so the boys aren't working, they're just getting the cool air. Biking is never too hot when you're moving, it's when you stop that it becomes suffocating. I try to stop in the shade, finding a tiny patch at stoplights.
I've been enjoying wearing skirts with shorts under while I pedal. A light top is helpful to minimize the sweating (which tends to pick up about 5 minutes after I stop riding so watch out!).
Some of my thoughts on riding in summer (and please add your own in the comments below!):
Now, what do you have to add to the list?
What's your cut-off point for biking in Summer?
It's a good thing the Delta breeze has finally picked up or else the post I'm about to write might have been a bit more grumpy sounding.
June is my final month before all crazy breaks loose with my exchange student program. Amazingly, this is the first year that we are done BEFORE our deadline! Our incredible Sacramento team kicked butt and pulled it together beautifully! I am so impressed! To celebrate, I decided to flit off on my June overnight (barely squeezing one in at all...). Something close was the necessary criteria and I realized that I haven't done Beal's Point this year (yes, we went to Negro Bar which is close but it's not the same). Since I decided Beal's would be too easy of an overnight, I decided to add a little challenge--two little challenges, in fact!
Monster #1 and #2 joined me! It was just the three of us. We left around 2 pm on Thursday--a nice midweek getaway and I was still able to run around and get a bunch of work squared away . You'll see by the above photo that Little Brother didn't make it very far before the already long day got to him.
We packed our Hubba Hubba 2-person tent, two sleeping bags, two sleeping mats, some extra blankets because these guys won't tolerate being zipped into a bag, a spare set of clothes for the boys, warm sleeping clothes, socks and a new shirt for me, tooth brushes, sunblock, hippy bug spray, a couple toys and a couple books, Big Brother's baseball gear, three bottles of water, and some food.
I realized pretty quickly that I was totally insane (actually there were some warning signs earlier on...) but decided to just move slowly and patiently and see what happened. By Hagan Park, we were all pretty exhausted and it was hot. The boys got some of their yayas out and it was still fairly easy to convince them to get back on the bike.
However, after that, the hills increased and Big Brother was telling me that he needed a nap. Unfortunately, he doesn't get a nap when he's on the Mundo (we may need the Monkey Bars for longer trips). I was trying to keep him engaged and talking but it was getting difficult for me, too. I hadn't eaten very well and I was lugging about 100 lbs of gear (including kids), 80 lbs of bike, and myself (which is more than you need to know). A couple of times I got pretty dizzy so I finally decided to make a quick stop in the shade for some food.
It was actually pretty nerve-wracking because the area we stopped had a huge, steep cliff down to the river. Taking care of both kids on one's own is exhausting--especially when one of those kiddos is Little Brother. I got them back on the bike and was ready to roll again.
Once I got to Folsom, I knew there were few extra turns to get over the bridge. I stopped and asked a couple of different people at each intersection to make sure I was headed in the right direction. Every one of them looked at me and said "You realize that it's ALL UPHILL?" I told them that I did realize that and thanked them for the directions (while muttering under my breath about their wimpy 20-pound bikes and chiseled calves).
And then the uphill really started. And kept going. And going. In reality, it's about a 600' elevation gain over 3 miles. Nothing super crazy but we don't have hills in Sacramento so this is big for us. I used up every gear the Mundo had and just kept spinning and spinning and spinning. A jogger lapped us. So we stopped to pick some blackberries.
Somehow, we just kept moving in the right direction--up. We finally had the end in sight and it was still uphill. I walked the bike the last 500' with Big Brother walking next to me and Little Brother screaming to be "buckled" (he means unbuckled). We were all done. 30 miles in just under 7 hours, that may be a record...
Now the real work started--corralling two uncooped children. I managed to set up camp while the kids ran around. Little Brother is my bolter and managed to run down the road pretty far before I could catch him. Big Bother just kept bugging me to play baseball with him. We then walked over to the lake as a last-ditch effort in hopes that the concession stand was still open. My meal planning skills are lacking and we had run out of edible food pretty quickly (the more I ride, the more they eat). Again, it was like herding fireflies. Luckily for us, we were able to find snow cones!
Neither one actually wanted to eat the ice so I got that job while they sucked down the red dye and corn syrup (or whatever horrible things snow cones are made with). Brilliant parenting skills! By the time we got back to our tent, I locked us all in for the night and a mere 2 hours and 5-6 pee breaks later, the boys were fast asleep.
By 6:45 am, it was sweltering outside and we were all awake (I'd like to point out that this is "sleeping in" for us). Big Brother woke everyone up with a gleeful shout of "A bunny!!!" I didn't have any breakfast for the boys because we had eaten everything the day before. I packed up camp in about 1.5 hours (record time) and we set off for Karen's Bakery. The downhill was a beautiful way to start the day but anytime the road started back up, I could feel every muscle in my body screaming. We'd go from 20+mph down to 4 mph. What took us an hour to do last night was over in just 20 minutes or so.
It was hard to get the boys to eat because they wanted to play so much but I packed up what was left, grateful that we now had lunch.
Today was super hot and slow moving. Little Brother fell asleep and Big Brother eventually started complaining again. I pulled over to let him "rest" but the minute he was off the bike, he was running around.
Then, Little Brother woke up just as I was convincing Big Brother to get back on. He had the grossest diaper I'd ever seen and ended up having to ride the rest of the way without his shorts. Since we had taken so long at our pit stop, I didn't want to make many more stops. We sped by Hagan Park while I pointed at the other direction to distract them. The boys noticed but were only minimally fussy about the skipped playground.
When we did finally stop later down the trail, they caught the eye of a friendly Park Ranger who gave them stickers for wearing their helmets. The boys rolled in the dirt a bit more and we filled up our water bottles for the third time of the day.
The rest of the trip involved a lot of sweat, some screaming, and a lot of squealing laughter. It was hard to yell at them for wiggling the bike too much because at least they were happy but it was difficult to ride with Big Brother crashing into my back and the two boys taking turns leaning over to spit. Little Brother had one more breakdown just 7 miles to home. He finally agreed to eat the breakfast he had been refusing so I fed him quinoa cereal with my hands. It was gross but it helped us get home.
Finally, just two miles from home, back on city streets, I suddenly realized that Big Brother wasn't crashing his head into me on purpose, he was falling asleep! I couldn't engage him and his poor little head just kept bobbing uncontrollably. I pulled over and walked the bike in the crosswalk to a frozen yogurt shop that just happened to be across the way.
Back in business! We made it home with Little Brother only eating a minimal amount of styrofoam. Just 6.5 hours to get home, although breakfast took about an hour or so.
As an added bonus to the day, Jose decided that he was unable to get Big Brother to swim practice that started 2 hours after we got home. We took a quick shower to scrape off the layers of grime then Big Brother and I hopped on the Bullitt (I wasn't going to risk him falling asleep again) and sped off. We arrived just in time (it was 9 more miles each way and I will admit that I wasn't thrilled to be doing it). I was drenched in sweat but Big Brother had a fantastic class followed by another class to make up for a session we had missed.
Then, I did what anyone would do in my position--having ridden 39 miles, 9 more to go, Big Brother having just swum for an hour, it was 102+ outside, and dinnertime--we went to Costco! For just under $4 (because that was all the cash I had), we got a giant slice of pizza to share and a HUGE ice cream (which melted almost immediately and turned into the milkshake I had been craving this whole time).
We got lots of great compliments about our bike and in my snarky mind, I giggled that I was probably the only one who had actually burned off the calories we were about to eat. I shut down a guy who asked how much I paid for the bike by replying with "how much did you pay for your car?" I wasn't in the mood. I had heard all the roadies who passed us today exclaim "Wow, that's quite a load you've got there!" and was tired of all the attention.
Turns out that Big Brother was pretty tired of it, too.
He went straight from the box to bed and has only been up once to pee.
Every part of my body hurts when I move, my arms are sunburnt, and the Bullitt's pedal took a chunk out of my heel. Tomorrow, I demand a morning to sleep in.
Our first trip this morning was our usual Saturday trip to coffee and the Farmer's Market.
It was the second trip of our day that made the biggest impact. We needed to get out of the house and the best way to get kids out of the house is by offering ice cream at the end of a bike ride. This time, the boys rode on their own.
It was 4 miles round trip. Little Brother strode along on his Strider, taking a couple breaks to hitch a ride on Jose's skateboard and once in the Bullitt until he asked to get back on his bike. Big Brother, on the other hand, rode the entire way. Most of the time, he was on the sidewalk but occasionally in the street next to me. He's getting more and more steady on the bike and it's just about time to raise the seat even higher. It's still really nerve-wracking having him in the street since he's not clear on his left and rights and it's difficult to communicate directions. Luckily, we've been riding on calm, wide streets. The sidewalk isn't really any safer since every driveway has to be treated as an intersection and drivers aren't always paying attention to people on the sidewalk, even little kiddos. It's a sad world we live in when kids aren't safe riding their bikes in their own neighborhood.
The benefits for the boys riding are well worth my heightened heart rate.
These boys love it and they're on the road to independence. These are skills that will last a lifetime.
You know the best part, these boys never go to sleep easily but after a day on the bike, they never sleep better. These guys were asleep in minutes. Last night, Big Brother was up until 10pm. Biking is amazing and that shows in it's purest form through the tiny bodies of children. Kids and bikes are a natural combination and our culture has denied this wonderful pairing. Let's work together to bring them back together. Quickly! Slow the car drivers down and make them accountable for their actions, teach children to ride safely and predictably and we can all get along.
We need more of this. Pure joy!
This is us. We're fun.