Sorry for the big gap between posts. I've been working up in Natomas teaching Project Ride Smart to a fun group of 5th graders. It's made life a little extra crazy these days but is so worth it. I love that job. During this three week contract, I also somehow managed to book up my weekends--last weekend I volunteered to assist at an LCI seminar. This weekend was our first official Sac Kidical Mass campout at Gibson Ranch Park.
Last year, we threw together a longer trip up to Negro Bar in Folsom but because of the distance and hills, the trip was less accessible for new bike campers and families. This trip was a flat 13 miles that mostly followed bike path until the last few miles of rural roads. We had 20 people for our adventure, many of whom had never been bike camping, yet.
We managed to get to Gibson Ranch in about 3 hours, just above the 4 mph average we accounted for. It was a lovely, quiet route that was mostly free of traffic and road bikers. Perfect for our heavily-ladened riders and the solo kiddos who kept trucking along.
We had a beautiful shady spot and could spread out all over the lawn. The central tables were immediately covered in food and the adults rested and refueled while the children ran around.
One of my favorite parts of bike camping with a group is checking out all the different and awesome set-ups people have.
As the sun went down, the neighboring wedding party cranked up the music and the large Boy Scout group turned on a movie, something about going to space camp. It was noisy but I fell right to sleep. We were rained on a bit throughout the night. Good thing we had such a sturdy group of campers! Even though we were relatively close to home, no one called for back up in the middle of the night. I consider that a success!
There were more sprinkles on the way home but I didn't hear any complaints, not even from the adults! We bypassed the playground and lunch stop to get home quicker (although we lost a couple to Thrift Town at the end of the journey). Our riders peeled away toward their own homes as we rolled off the bike trail.
We had a great group of riders and a very successful trip. A huge thank you goes out to Keith, Melissa, and Jarrod for all their planning and preparations! I can't wait for the next Sac Kidical Mass Campout!
I love my kids. The drive me crazy but I still think they're pretty dang awesome. Yesterday, I wanted to go for a bike ride and the weather was going to be manageable at just 90 degrees so I decided we'd make our usual trip to Hagan Park. The ride is 13 miles each direction, mostly on the bike trail. As I was pulling out the Haul-a-Day, Big Brother asked if he could ride his own bike. We had plenty of time and since he did so well with the rides to the zoo last week, I decided we could give it a go. Worst case, I would just figure out how to tow his bike on the HaD and throw him on board.
The first four miles are urban riding with a couple of big streets to cross, including one with no infrastructure and really fast drivers. Almost all riders end up crossing the street and riding on the sidewalk facing traffic--two of the most dangerous things you can do as a biker and yet, there's not much of an alternative. When I'm on my bike, I usually just take the lane but with Big Brother on his own, I didn't feel that that was a viable option for his skill level. We ended up crossing at the crosswalk and riding together very slowly on the sidewalk. Once we were on the bike trail, it was a piece of cake.
We made a snack stop along the way, with Little Brother devouring just as much as his Big Brother. The American River Parkway was packed and I was unnerved by the number of very fast riders passing us so quickly and often much too closely. While I'm sure that they're competent riders, I'd bet that they have no understanding as to how unpredictable children can be, even when they're on the back of a bike. Little Brother will often lean over, causing the bike to swerve a bit and Big Brother, although a great rider for his age, still has sporadic speed bursts and can drift when he loses focus. This doesn't mean that kids shouldn't be allowed to ride on the Parkway just because some bigger riders want to use it as a training route! Luckily, just about everyone was considerate and often broke out in giant smiles to see BB trucking away or LB face-down on the deck.
We made it the entire 13 miles to the park! I had packed our lunch for the park but hadn't taken into consideration the fact that Big Brother would be riding on his own and incredibly hungry, or the fact that Little Brother can pack it away just as much as the Big. I was working hard to make sure I was rationing our food appropriately and dolling it out in small but tasty amounts.
Big Brother was ready to hitch a ride when we started packing up at the park but I encouraged him to ride just a bit and see how far he could get. He loves numbers and counting so the idea of riding longer distances and increasing his mileage was appealing to him, even though he was pretty tired already. We only had a couple moments where he was ready to give up but we talked through them and with a little distracting and the promise of more snack stops along the way, he continued until the got his second (and third) wind. As long as he was still having fun and was able to ride safely while listening to my instructions, I was willing to let him go as far as he wanted.
We had one more playground stop and I had saved half a cookie for the final three miles in traffic. Little Brother got more riding practice in and the boys stayed in happy spirits.
Once home, Big Brother started to melt down but I was able to head it off with a hearty lunch and lots of water. He was so proud of himself for riding the entire 26 mile trip. I am so excited about his riding abilities--he's a great listener and follows instructions, he's understanding how to stay focused and what to look out for, how to react to dangers, as well as maintaining his endurance and appreciation of biking. If we hadn't turned around at Hagan Park, he could have ridden all the way to Folsom. Maybe for our next camping trip, he can ride his own bike up to Beal's Point. I'm sure he could make it if we took all day and had a huge amount of food with us. Once he's able to get to the next sized Isla Bike (which based on his brother's being able to ride the 16" with the seat up 4", it won't be much longer), he'll be able to have gears and a rack for better transportation and touring rides. My big baby is growing up!
As a side note, I convinced my mom to ride on the back of the HaD to go out to lunch. She's such a great sport! I just took the sides off the Hooptie. The lower deck made her feel a lot more secure and was easier for her to get on and off the back. The ride felt great and stable and she even remarked that it was "less scary than a motorcycle."
As we got ready to head out on the Crazy Train this morning, I was surprised when Little Brother announced that he wanted to ride "his" bike, the little 12" loaner that I picked up from friends a couple weeks ago with the idea that it's time for Little Brother to learn how to pedal. He's gotten on it a couple of times, usually makes me hold him up for a few tries around the yard as he pedals forward a couple times then sends me jerking to a halt as he hits the coaster brake. It hasn't ended very prettily, me with a backache and him announcing that "his" bike (the Strider) was better. So today, although we were in a hurry, I wanted to encourage his enthusiasm for pedaling. I held onto him as he set his feet on the pedals and instead of running along side, I just let go. Off he went, about 30 feet before he crashed into the shed. We were all so excited that I forgot we had someplace to be and turned him around again. Another 30 feet of pedaling and then another! It wasn't a fluke! He was riding on his own!
I didn't get any video of his first couple attempts but after we got home, Little Brother gave it another go. By golly, we've got a house full of pedalers now! There is no fear in this kid at all and he's riding a full year earlier than Big Brother's first tries. There's still much work to be done--power pedal starts, braking, proper lane positioning, etc. but I am so excited!
Here is a short compilation of his afternoon progression. Forgive the crappy editing (by which I mean total lack of editing) and out-of-focus video. My kid can ride a bike!
We had another wonderful Kidical Mass ride, a park-to-park jaunt with about 20 of us. While I was a bit nervous that no one else would show up, suddenly, a hoard of awesome looking bikes pulled up. It was a great group of mostly regulars and a new father-son duo with an awesome Weehoo. We got to check out Melissa's new Follow-Me-Tandem and test out our Bullitt-train. Somer's son also had his zippy Isla Bike that he's been tearing up--in fact, he just learned how to skid. As we rode the 2 miles, Jarrod and his family showed up and tagged along.
Have I mentioned too many times that this month has been flying by? I managed to squeak out my May Is Bike Month goal by hitting my (personally) modest goal of 250. The boys are nowhere near their pledges of 100, though. We're doing our best and riding when we can so that's good enough for me.
I've been thinking lately about how lucky I am to have children who love to ride. Big Brother's biking skills have progressed so incredibly. He's scanning over his shoulder like a pro and working on using his hand signals as he rides. Today, I made the mistake of offering lemonade when we got home and he got so excited that he started to lose control. Amazingly, he was able to hop off the bike and keep it upright enough to come to a stop without biffing it. This is probably at least 75% of what we teach our 5th grade classes in the bicycle education programs (minus the attempted biffings).
Speaking of bicycle education programs, this is the result of the hard work and dedication that the NNTMA has put into their Ride Smart programs and May Is Bike Month encouragement. More bicycles and trailers showed up at the end of the day as parents came to pick up their children. Put some money into an alternative transportation management association and look at all the rewards a community gets! I love teaching the bicycle and pedestrian classes!
And then speaking of teaching, last week, I made a major decision to pull back away from working part-time at Practical Cycle and invest my time and energy in the classroom and on the bike. Although I love being apart of the wonderful team at PC, I wanted to be on a more flexible schedule that allows me to be doing what I feel I'm best at: riding a bike and teaching others to do the same.
And I get to spend more time with this awesome kiddo, too.
We decided to go big this month for Kidical Mass and attempt one each weekend. It's so helpful to have such a great board of Kidical Mass parents who are willing to plan and organize these rides with me. Today, we branched into South Land Park territory for a ride to Fairytale Town. The part that I was most excited about for going to FTT was how much they wanted to be a part of our group. David, their grounds manager, had contacted me months ago to find out if we would want to head over there and test out their new bike parking at the front entrance. Of course we did! He even passed along discount coupons for us to use.
Sadly there were more conflicts and other activities going on this weekend than we had realized so the turnout was a bit smaller than usual. We weren't even able to stay at FTT because Big Brother had a t-ball game this afternoon. It was still great to get out in the fresh (and extremely pollen-filled) air and get a good bike ride in with some wonderful folks.
Today was also the opening day for the Oak Park Farmer's Market--the best farmer's market in Sacramento. To make it even better, they just installed a new bike rack that was filled with three cargo bikes in the first half hour. I was very impressed at its lockability and how many bikes it fit while still being a pretty cool design.
The boys and I all got more miles to log for May Is Bike Month and our Tiny Helmets team. This year, I went easy on myself by only pledging 250 miles for myself and 100 each for the boys.
It's also been busy in the bike education arena for me lately. Last week, I had an awesome day working at one of the local schools during their bike rodeo. We had kids from 1st grade up to 5th grade riding bikes, scooters, and skateboards. There was an obstacle course for them to practice stopping, weaving, scanning, and merging. I was so impressed at how well they all did, even with such a short amount of time. I'm really looking forward to the next month because I have bike and pedestrian classes every week until mid-June!
While last week was a blast, I had some time to sort out my summer ideas and I realized that I'd be able to more fully immerse ourselves in the Whine & Chocolate Epic Bike Tour, it would be better if we had some extra time to prepare. I have a lot on my plate right now and instead of trying to fit the trip into my life, I'm going to slow things down and make sure I can make this trip as epic as possible. It's a big bummer to not have six weeks of bike adventure to look forward in a few months to but I know that it's the right decision. This summer, we'll be staying closer to home with a few adventures thrown in, of course, and next year, we'll be ready to go! Maybe I can even get Big Brother pedaling on his own to help!
In the meantime, I have some fun bicycle education jobs coming up and my station at my favorite bike shop,
Practical Cycle. We also have Sac Kidical Mass tomorrow starting at the Sacramento Bicycle Kitchen, 9am. We'll be checking out their facilities then moseying on down to the Midtown Farmer's Market and McKinley Playground--something for everyone. In May, the Sacramento Kidical Massers will get to have a ride each weekend for May Is Bike Month (by the way, make sure to join Tiny Helmet's team and log your miles!). The goal is to try to incorporate new neighborhoods, families, and activities--starting with Land Park ride from Belle Cooledge to Fairytale Town on May 3rd. The great folks at Fairytale town, especially their grounds manager, David, have been really excited about our visit since they are incredibly bike-friendly and want to know what we think of their new bike racks at the front entrance. If only all businesses could be as forward-thinking as these guys.
So now, for the first time in at least five years, I'll have a casual summer at home. I'm sure we'll be able to figure out something exciting to do. Any suggestions?
For the last few weeks, I've been back to work at Practical Cycle while the guys have been taking well-earned vacations. Even though they're both back now, I decided to continue working a couple days a week, at least for the next few months until our bike summer trip. This may be a dangerous decision because I always seem to come home with some new bike upgrade or accessory after a day's work. However, Tim's also helping me learn some new bike mechanic skills! I've learned how to put together some of the mostly-assembled bikes that arrive at the shop and now he's teaching me how to fix my own bikes that I drag in for repairs (which is usually at least a bike per week).
On Tuesday, it was Big Brother's Isla Bike that we still couldn't figure out why it kept going flat. We couldn't find a hole and (to be totally honest) hadn't really put that much time looking into it. Big Brother was suffering on the Fire Bike and was not getting to ride as much as he wanted. Tim was able to diagnose the problem almost immediately, it was a leaky valve. I didn't even know you could replace the valve. Now his bike is holding up nicely and the kiddo is thrilled!
We also finally replaced Little Brother's rainsuit. We decided on a Muddy Buddy because many of our bikey friends have them. It seemed like a good way to go, considering we don't get a ton of rain around here and it wouldn't be used too often. It packs up in it's own waterproof case which could also probably fit Big Brother's rain gear, too. Little Brother was really excited when his package showed up!
Jose and I got to enjoy a kid-free night out on the town this week, too, because we had tickets to go see Ani Defranco (thanks, mama!!!)! My folks had the kiddos over for a slumber party and the husband and I rode out for dinner and the show. The concert was just downtown at the Crest Theater, about 3 miles away. We locked our bikes up together with three locks because that part of town can be a little sketchy at night. I was amazed to see how many other bikes were also there and many of them locked with crappy cables. I was glad because they'd be much easier to steal than ours. I couldn't believe how few racks there were, considering the number of bikes that showed up. We found this prime spot:
Our bikes ended up being totally safe that night and the show was incredible! The ride home was lovely and it was great to be able to keep that wonderful feeling after an awesome concert and not have to get stressed driving home. Bikes make everything in life happier, especially date night.
A quick and simple post this evening. One new practice I'm trying to get into practicing is to focus more on the positive aspects of life--from mundane daily chores that finally get done to epically wild experiences. Today was filled with wonderful celebrations--getting out to visit the amazing not-so-new-anymore McKinley playground, surprising Big Brother with a playdate for the afternoon, managing to feed the boys a yummy veggie filled dinner, and somehow getting them both to sleep by 7:30pm. Although today is not a very typical experience, I'm choosing to pat myself on the back for putting away all the clean laundry but not dwell on the fact I still need to wipe down the kitchen counters.
On the bike, it's easy to let that one driver who passed too closely ruin an otherwise wonderful ride. Why not celebrate the fact that hundreds of vehicles passed by in an appropriate manner? I get wrapped up in the terrible stories of bicyclists being hurt and killed and sometimes forget that millions of riders make their journeys safely and that more people are deciding to give biking a try instead of driving every day. While it's not to minimize the wrongs in the world but it is important to keep things in proper perspective.
The ongoing depressing reality of the severity of California's drought has been overwhelming but then I read Dan Allison's insightful piece on the Benefits Of The Drought and it put a slightly brighter perspective on the table. There are many things in life that we cannot control and yet we waste a lot of energy worrying about them. Many people are doing incredible things for themselves, others, and the planet and I would like to be one of those people. I might not be able to make grand, sweeping changes, right now I can ride my bike with a big silly grin on my face (hopefully I'll move up from there).
In the culture we live in, positivity takes work. We are so bombarded with negativity because that is what sells (news, insurance, cars, guns, etc). I'm going to start working on a real pen-and-paper journal that lists all my favorite parts of the day. I know that some days will be easy and other days will be harder but on those difficult days, it will be nice to have life's previous positive experiences to help keep me from spiraling into a pit of a Fox "news" type reality.
So to wrap things up, I'll share my favorite thing of the day today--three boys on a bike! It's impossible to be sad when fart and poop jokes are so plentiful.
This is us. We're fun.