Totcycle | Family Biking

Tots on bikes, kids as cargo, family cycling, and other high-occupancy velo goodness.

Not caring how much our bikes weigh since 2008.

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Tuesday
Jun222010

Bike Fun!

The past two weeks have been all about the bike fun. Last weekend we traveled to Portland for Fiets of Parenthood PDX, which was a HUGE success. Big big thanks to Sarah Gilbert, Clever Cycles, Urbanmamas, and the local crew who put it on. It's been well-written up at Clever Cycles, and at CarFreeDays. Check it out, and don't miss Todd's curated image gallery - this was one of the sweetest collections of family bikes ever assembled. Kudos to Anne and her daughter for winning in style! We are very excitedly planning the Seattle event for this August.

Brompton Bike FunOur Sunday in Portland was lovely as well. Luc decided to grace us with his presence at 5:30am, so we headed out on bikes from 7am until we left after dinner. We visited 6 playgrounds, rode across 4 bridges, joined the Teddy Bear Ride (thanks!), loitered at Clever Cycles, played in a fountain park at the Pearl with our friend Sheri, and finished at a brewpub with 4 free-ranging kids disturbing the peace. Portland is such an effortless city to tour by bike ... I hardly bother to look at a bike map, since bike routes are so well-signed, and bike boulevards (in the SE, at least) are everywhere. I think this might have been the weekend that sold my wife Kim on going by bike.

And this weekend Anne & Tim of CarFreeDays talked me into joining them on the 2nd Annual Nine-to-Five All-night Solstice Bike Scavenger Hunt, organized by Ryan Schuetze and the GoMeansGo crew. I did have my doubts - am I too old for all-night bike events? Do I still have my residency-era all-nighter skillz? Can four parents roll with hipsters on fixies?

Answers: Apparently not, yes (if on a bike), and hell yes. In fact, er, we won. Aided by my sister-in-law and her family's treasure trove of scavenger hunt items (bridal veil, bike store employee badge, sporks, etc), their random tipsy neighbors up the street (god bless their paella-offering hearts, but we politely declined the savory seafood), Tim & Anne's neighbors who came up with two issues of Boy's Life magazine, Dan's long-suffering wife, various bartenders, the bouncer at re-bar, the 3am drunk-in-the-street guy that told Tim he was planning to "f*** his face" (thus inspiring our unofficial team name), and most of all to Ryan and Melissa with bakfiets-transported coffee and snacks through the night, and honest-to-god delicious hot breakfast at 5am.

Boys LifeTim and I shared a special moment at re-bar, which seemed to be the only place in town with an all-night photo booth. Double-points for topless pix? Double-done. But perhaps more embarassing was me giving a big "right-on-my-bikey-bruthas" smile to these other sweaty, fit shirtless dudes coming out of the bar, assuming they were co-scavengers. Which they were, in a way, just not on bikes, and probably not for old copies of Boys Life.

But despite a pretty righteous collection of scavenger hunt items, our winning recipe came down to this: 2 xtracycles + brompton with touring bag + MTB + (96 cans of discount tuna x 2 points each) = victory. While there were many sweet rides to be seen that night, it's a little hard to carry that many cans-for-charity in a messenger bag. Drunk with cargo-carrying capacity, I ended up carrying bricks and cans for most of the night, while Anne lugged a cinderblock on her xtra for about 4 hours. Next year we might strategerize that a bit better. At least we waited until 4:30am to hit up the Safeway for several cases of tuna, which Tim lugged to the finish.

We worried a bit about a beatdown by hip-holster U-lock for exploiting the intentionally-left-open can loophole, but the other teams were lovely, and the whole night was more about shared enjoyment than posturing or competition. It's surreal and surprisingly invigorating to race through near-deserted streets at 3am, and the two meetups were a nice chance to rest and recharge with the other riders, many of whom we'd run across in odd parts of the city. Anne and I kept nudging each other and whispering "we're in an AlleyCat" whenever some fixed-gear freestyle would break out. I threatened to slay some folding-bike freestyle moves. But didn't. It's OK though. Ryan the organizer said we could tell our kids we were in a "full on scavenger-cat".

Thanks to the GoMeansGo crew for making it so fun and so inclusive. They are the future of Seattle bike fun. Here's to working together on a Pedalpalooza-esque week of bike events later this summer or next year, at least.

Old Folks Reprazent / Dads vs Grads / Love my white pants

Monday
Jun072010

Fiets of Parenthood PDX

Calling all bike families! Totcycle and friends, CarFreeDays, and, with any luck, the Wallyhood crew will be heading south this weekend to represent the Emerald City in the upcoming Fiets of Parenthood, Portland edition. Read all about it on the Mamabikeorama site, and Clever Cycles.

In the "we should have such problems" category, the Fiets of Parenthood is in close conflict with the Cirque du Cycling Family Bike Parade, the Family Cycle Picnic, the Girly Bike Ride, Stumptown Joustdown, and the "Sunny Nekkid Ride I". Since the totcycle family regularly parades around on girly bikes in various states of inappropriate dress/undress with picnic in one hand and a stick in the other, I'm hoping to heal the divisions within the Portland biking community by combining all of the above rides in one.

And I'm pretty sure we can incorporate the Pretty Panty ride (a point of pride for my daughter), Donuts Curb Hunger, Brompton Tea Ride, and Gayest Day of the Year Ride (Kim's always been active in Pride, and I ride in chaps). But we can't yet represent the "No Babies Ride", AKA the Vasectomy Ride, even if "myths will be debunked!". 

For those of you in Seattle that can't make it, fear not, we'll be hosting our own Fiets of Parenthood in August. For further away bike families, or those that live in towns where bike ride conflicts are of the more mundane bike vs car variety, please send us a photo or video clip of your own fiets of family cycling. We'll have an International Fiets of Parenthood photo/video showdown this summer that embraces all of our far-flung tribe. Tricks, dressage, cycle chic, mood shots, or celebration welcome. Just getting the kids out the door and onto the bike is feat enough for me, so worry not, the bar is set quite low. Details and prizes TBA. Inspiration:

Thursday
May132010

Happy Birthday Kidical Mass Seattle!

Grandpa's Birthday Cake by Rachelskirts, on Flickr

Our fun, safe, and courteous family bike rides turn 1 year old this month, and our anniversary ride will again coincide with the Bike to School/Work Day After-Party in Ballard on Friday, May 21.

Last year's Kidical Mass kick-off ride was a hoot, and I don't expect such a mind-blowing turnout this year, but hey, the weather is gorgeous, and I'd like to kick off the summer biking season in style. Spread the word!

We'll meet at the bell (Ballard Ave and 22nd) at 5:45pm, depart at 6pm, parade through the after-party, turn left past the library on 57th to use quiet streets most of the way to the bike trail at the Locks, and continue on a relatively short ride to "the secret beach" (opposite Paseo) for a seaside dinner picnic. Bring food or get delicious Paseo take-out, we'll have dessert.

Come early to enjoy the After-Party and street closure in Ballard - they kick-off at 4pm. And don't miss the Alki Summer Streets closure on Sunday, May 23. 

As for June, I'm looking for some Team Seattle folks to travel down with us to Portland on June 12th for Pedalpalooza and Fiets of Parenthood PDX! Check out my previous post for more on this concept ... we'll be doing a Fiets of Parenthood Seattle later this summer. We'll also have a local KM ride in June, details TBA. For email updates on KM rides, please use our signup form.

UPDATE: Weather is a hmmm ... Rain cancels (but I'll be there), drizzle changes destination (Tacos Guaymas?), bring cash for Paseo if beach weather.

Wednesday
May122010

Bike Helmets for Littler Children

Finding appealing bike helmets for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers can be challenging. Here are some of the Totcycle favorites so far:

Lazer Infant Helmet

Hands off my bikeFitting helmets on infants or smaller-headed toddlers is very hard to do with commonly available helmets. Sure, the models most mainstream shops stock have an adjustable fit dial in the back, but the helmets themselves are quite large on my 1yo son, and protrude enough in the back that trailer riding becomes an exercise in frustration, with the helmet getting pushed down onto his face.

Enter the Lazer infant helmet ($25), via Longleaf Bicycles. It fits heads as small as 46cm, doesn't look horrible, and was easy to adjust. Luc and I liked it, and were so sad that it got lost in the great Amtrak cargo bike debacle of 2010. Now he's stuck with some pink Strawberry Shortcake sister hand-me-down.

Bern Helmets

Tweed Ride finaleBern helmets are the Totcycle family favorite. Mom, dad, and daughter are currently sporting lovely Bern helmets with built-in fabric visors. Poor visor-less & emasculated son. A new helmet would probably be cheaper than all that therapy he'll need.

Bern helmets are sleek, light, comfortable, have excellent coverage, and are refreshingly lacking in extraneous vents for vents sake. Why look like a roadie if you don't have to? They come in summer and winter versions (warm earflaps), many have removable visors, and the colors & shapes are appealing. Drew LOVES her pink Bern helmet, and likes that she has the same helmet as mom and dad. And that Luc doesn't.

Giro Helmets

Giro helmets are the ones you're most likely to find at your Local Bike Shop. They're cute, and work well for toddlers and preschoolers. Here one is looking a bit big on Luc. The adjustable fit dial is handy, but please note that it only connects by velcro to the "money" part of the helmet, so it will not hold the helmet in place in any sort of "why we wear helmets" scenario. Make sure the straps are properly adjusted (see below, not my beret-style photo to the left).

Nutcase Helmets

These multisport helmets from our bikey neighbors to the south win on graphic appeal, and have a more durable shell, for older kids that like to skateboard or throw their helmets around. They are heavier and look a bit bulbous, IMHO. But if they fit your kid's head, and the durability/weight tradeoff makes sense, or they love the graphics, go nutty with these.

Helmet Tips

I'm going to bypass any helmet debate here and just assume that if you're putting a helmet on your child then you're doing so wanting it to be effective, rather than to satisfy the letter of the local law. If so, please please please snug up those straps! There are SO many kids out there with dangling helmet straps. That leaves the helmet next-to-useless in a crash, where it will slip off the part of the body you're hoping to protect, and possibly harmful, if the helmet were to catch on something and get pulled behind your child's head.

  • Before adjusting the straps, make sure the helmet fits - ideally you should be able to adjust the snugness so it doesn't fall off with straps unbuckled.
  • Next, get the angle right - the front of the helmet should be low on the forehead, not jauntily at the hairline or down in their eyes. Your child should see the brim of the helmet when he/she looks up with their eyes.
  • The straps should be even, and each make a "V" with the bottoms just below their ears.
  • Finally, and this is the hard part, snug up the straps so that only 1-2 fingers can fit, and so that your child can feel the straps tighten when opening their mouth fully. 
  • That last part is hard for kids with sensory issues, who are resistant to helmets in general, who are used to loose straps, or who have been pinched in the past. Oh, the guilt I have about the times I've pinched Drew buckling her helmet. She won't let me forget it. Be very cautious when buckling, have them look up and close their mouth, and use your own finger as a "pinchguard". Then gradually snug up the straps a bit more with each ride.
  • Need a quick 1-2-3 helmet fit test? Just remember the eyes, ears, and mouth part.
  • When it's cold out, the models with ear flaps are great, but you can also use a hoodie top or thin wool cap to keep little heads and ears warm. Bulky hats and hoods interfere with helmet fit, though.
  • In the category of "safety advice based on ultra-rare occurences", the safety people would like me to warn you that bike helmets are not for general play, especially on playground equipment, where a handful of children have snagged their helmet dropping through narrow spaces.
  • Starting young, letting your child help pick the helmet, modeling helmet wearing yourself, and being consistent about their usage may reduce helmet battles. In your house, that is, not online.

What helmets have worked for you and yours? Any tips on getting them on kids, fitting them, and avoiding the dreaded "pinch"?

Thursday
May062010

Bike (to School) Across America

Well, it's Bike to Work and School month again. And while a snobbish part of me reacts with "every month is bike to ___ month," it's nice to see creative approaches to getting kids and grownups using bikes as everyday transportation.

I just read about a nice program in England where schools "bike around the world", inspired by Alistair Humphreys' Round the World by Bike adventure. Cumulative student & staff bike to school mileage is plotted on a world map, and schools compete against one another.

This would make a nice bike to school project here in the colonies. Lacking any convenient Alistairs, it might work as a Race Across America between local schools, with students choosing the route, and learning about states they're "passing through."

As in the British Sustrans Bike It version, teacher/staff mileage could count double, so that adults set an example, and get harassed to ride by eager kid competitiors.

The Pedouin Clan, soon to reach SeattleA Bike to School program could use Bicycle Dreams, the documentary about the real RAAM (3,000 mile ultra-marathon bike race across America), as inspiration. But I'm not sure that a portrayal of cycling as grueling extreme sport is the smartest way to encourage everyday cycling for the sheer pleasure of it. Maybe the Pedouins (a family on a five person tandem biking 7,000 miles to from Kentucky to Alaska) would be a better choice.

What say you, school parents? Are your schools doing anything cool this month? Any obstacles you've encountered?

Friday
Mar192010

Take the Day UFF

My wife's been either ill with norovirus or busy with work these past few weekends, so the kids and I have had some days to fill. Naturally, bikes were involved. 

So we've been taking the day UFF. UFF? Urban Family Flâneurs. Flâ-whâh? I warned you I was half-Gallic. A flâneur, in the words of Charles Baudelaire (via wikipedia, not my own erudition) is "someone who walks [bikes] the city in order to experience it." A way to stroll about Seattle by bike, at the speed of discovery, with the freedom to stop and jump out whenever fancy or boredom strike.

For the bike nuts, an UFF day is like Grant Petersen's S24O. But with kids. And cargo bikes. And no overnight. Yet.

After breakfast, I grab diapers, wipes, water bottles, sundry kid snacks (booty, fruit, and whatnot), load up the MADSEN, and off we go. We often have at least one destination in mind, but the rest is improvised. Pass a park? Stop and romp. Discover a pocket beach? Why not. Hungry/thirsty? Stop for a treat. It's like credit card touring, without the touring. Sculpture Park or Aquarium? Disturbing the peace at the Sculpture Park it is:

Inside at the Sculpture Park

Naptime? Seat the kids in sleep mode and off we go. The bike gets them to synchronized sleep like nothing else. Arrive at a picturesque location or favorite cafe, park the bike near an outdoor table or window seat, and enjoy some precious grownup time (just don't get arrested, like this poor Danish mom). Come home by bedtime after a day of bike serendipity

A "Hemingway" at Miro Tea (Rooibos tea, grapefruit, strawberry, mint, ice, seltzer) & Sleeping Children (Sugar, spice, everything nice)
For UFF days with young children, a bike with multiple seating positions and nap capability is really nice to have. On our MADSEN with front Bobike Mini seat, Luc can be up front when awake, telling me about "dat, a-dat, and dat," and in his DIY baby seat when it's nap time, reasonably protected from sun/drizzle. Drew can sit on the back bench when awake, or "get cozy" down in the bucket on cushions when it's her naptime. 

A bakfiets would also work well for UFF days (especially with rain cover), or maybe a bike with trailer and bike-mounted child seats (for varied seating positions). Longtails (xtracycle, Yuba Mundo) could do well for older children that don't nap, or young children that nap well in child seats (mine don't). You'll want a stable centerstand, so you can walk away from the bike during the nap. 

Kidical Mass at the LocksLast weekend, our UFF day started with a trip to Kinko's to laminate some Kidical Mass spoke cards, then a lovely KM ride to the bike expo, via the Locks and trainyard. We saw a bit of Ryan Leech's trials demo, and the German artistic cycling whiz kids (they're youtube-bike-blog-famous). Luc was a particular fan of the latter. Lots of clapping and "so big" gestures. 

Zigo TrikeWe ate and drank our fill of electrolytes and energy bars (Larabars are seriously delicious, "Lance juice" is not), drooled over some folding bikes and Metrofietsen, took a spin in a Zigo trike, and headed off by naptime. OK, a bit late for naptime. Drew had a meltdown in the bike parking lot. Pilot error. 

They both fell asleep in minutes, leaving me with a picturesque ride by the Sound, through the downtown waterfront, over to West Seattle, around Alki Beach to our friends' house for an early St Patrick's day stew. The ride ended with an uphill that put the uff da in UFF day. 

Sculpture Park at SunsetAfter imbibing many green drinks, stew, and cupcakes, it was getting late, so the twin-in-law graciously brought the kids home in her car, and I rode the bike home solo, catching Aaron from Aaron's Bike Repair on his way home from the shop on his Big Dummy, who showed me a killer downhill past the new mixed-income housing "projects", and told me of a stokemonkey install on a customer's MADSEN, in the rear rectangle behind the seatpost (tempting!). Rode back on what is, temporarily at least, a protected cycletrack by the container ship docks, and stopped at the Sculpture Park to enjoy the sunset. 

More epic than typical UFF day (35 miles, which is a cargo bike "century")

So take the day UFF. No plans necessary. You can cover some distance during the naps, or experience your own neighborhood in a new way. See where you wind up, and come home by bedtime (or after). In a similar mode, here's a Dutch "papa day" by bike. How do you st/roll?

Wednesday
Mar102010

Kidical Mass to the Bike Expo!

This weekend March 13-14 is the Seattle Bike Expo, the largest consumer bicycle show in the US! We had a great time last year, and may be going both days this weekend, to catch some trials riding, Willie Weir and other speakers, and to demo some family bikes (the Zigo, Dutch Bikes, etc).

So March's Kidical Mass will run from Ballard Commons Park to the Bike Expo, across the locks, through the railyard, to Elliott Bay. A lovely route. Time is up to you! I'll post consensus details in the next day or two, but I thought I'd see what time worked for most of you. Saturday mornings seem to have a lot of class/sports conflicts. Let me know in the comments or by email if you'd come Sat late morning, Sat early afternoon, Sun morning, or Sun afternoon.

UPDATE: Sunday it is ... meet at Ballard Commons Park at 10:45am, leave at 11am, should be there in time for the Ryan Leech trails riding extravaganza. Bring food if your kids are finicky, but otherwise I believe there will be food vendors.

Speaking of the route, Google Maps went live last night with bicycle routes and directions, led by a Seattle team of developers. Yay!!! It includes bike trails, bike lanes, and even unofficial preferred bike routes, and takes hills, traffic, and other bikey considerations into account, with reasonable time estimates and route alternatives. Check it out, using our route as a starting point. Note the dark green (separate trails), light green (bike lanes), and dotted green (bike-friendlier streets) bike routes on the map. The little-used terrain (instead of map/satellite) feature is also handy for bikes. Definitely use the feedback button for questionable recommendations, as they will be updating their bike routes based on user feedback. Can't wait for the iPhone map update. 

I leave you with a nice video from the new peopleforbikes.org, a new project from Bikes Belong, which aims to mobilize online and local support for bikes. Check it out!

Tuesday
Feb232010

My First Road Rash

Poor Drewbie. She's been feeling her oats on her run-trike lately (yes, it's still in 3-wheel mode; other bikes are "too tippy, Daddy"). Last week she took off down a deserted alley behind the local P-Patch, caught some speed, lifted her legs behind her into "flying position", and sped ahead of her mom, who yelled "STOP!". And stop she did. Planted her two feet down Fred Flintstone-style, and endo'd right over them. Resulting in this:

Owww. Somehow Kim and the two kids and bikes got home. And then Kim cleaned it. And when I got home, there was still some alley grit left, so I cleaned it some more. Oh Drew. That was the more traumatic part, I think. We're not roadies, what do we know about road rash? Does she need to start shaving?

Fast forward one entire box of Dora bandaids and one week:

Not only are we relieved, but it's delightful that through the alchemy of childhood resilience, this crash has become all about her strength and healing powers. She loves to tell people about her shoulder, that it's all better, and how "I rode my bike so fast, and Mommy said stop, and I stopped. Like this." She's very proud of her stopping ability. She would put her two front brakes up against yours any day. 

Monday
Feb222010

Seattle Tweed Ride

Luc's sporting a fierce urchin look, upper left may be a tweed mating ritual. Photo by Eric Shalit.

Pip pip, huzzah, tally-ho, and whatnot! Yesterday's Seattle Tweed Ride was a smashing success, from the logistics, to the brisk but sunny weather, to the fine company. Over 50 folks turned out (Drew's more conservative estimate was "five"), including our CarFreeDays mates Tim & Anne. The ride up Capitol Hill was a bit of a bother, but tolerable in the Madsen, especially with Tim's power assist.

After tea & lunch & civilized ball-sports at Cal Anderson Park, we rode down to Gasworks Park, where we reclined upon the grass, ate Earl Gray biscuits, rolled down the hill, and got the kids filthy with Superfund soil and high on plumes of benzene.

I did not tempt fate by continuing on to the George & Dragon Pub terminus with two very underage and sleep-deprived companions. Such would have been hubris. We learned from our Portland Tweed Ride adventures not to bike too close to the sun.

Thanks to Nova & Sylvie, who organized the event! More photos from Eric Shalit here. And we were pleased to make the acquaintance of Pablo, the rider of the stylish Velo Orange steed, and future family cargo bike owner. Not to mention the chap starting a seltzer-delivery-by-bike business (for those not on Capitol Hill, carbonate yourself with SodaStream), and the proprietors of the new Hub & Bespoke shop opening soon in Fremont.

Tuesday
Feb022010

Why We Drive

It was, in retrospect, an ill-conceived plan.

At one point, it did make a bit more sense. I'm always looking for an excuse to spend a weekend in Portland, and their first ever Tweed Ride seemed as good an excuse as any. Our kids in tweed - little street urchins?  Chimney sweeps? Girls at high tea? How cute would that be? Plus the chance to meet up with some other online bikey family friends.

I planned for us to leave on Friday and return Sunday, taking a city bike and the Madsen bucket bike, and going down on Amtrak, because, well, I love the train ride down to PDX, and I thought the kids would be dazzled.

Melissa (my twin-in-law) and Kevin were going to come down too, with Drew's cousins Maddie and Lola. But then they didn't. And Kim and I offered to bring the cousins anyway, because they love Kidical Mass and other bike rides with us. And because we're clinically insane.

Then the Friday departure fell apart, and we already had tickets. But there was a Sat 7:30am train arriving just in time for the Tweed Ride. Why not? Luc gets us up early, what's an hour earlier? Apparently that hour is the difference between our typical fuzzy muddling though life and a violation of the Geneva Conventions.

We left at pre-dawn in a drizzle. We'd added the bike trailer to Kim's bike for more weather protection and kid separation. I'd budgeted an hour for the ride to the station, through the Locks, the railyards, and along the lovely Elliott Bay Trail. Except the Locks open at 7am. Leaving us with the Ballard Bridge. With its precarious, all-too-narrow sidewalk. The Madsen might have worked, but not the trailer. We took a lane, side by side, lit up like the dickens. So sketchy - a 4 lane arterial bridge, short but with a stretch of metal grating at the drawbridge part. Kim said she wasn't nervous, as she trusted me. Mistake. I was freaked out.

Survived the bridge (traffic was light, we were careful on the slippery part), but then ... Kim bonked on the Elliott Bay trail. I hadn't planned for her to be pulling a trailer with child. And she hadn't had much to eat or drink in the hectic, behind schedule departure. And I don't consider myself in great physical shape, but I apparently have "cargo legs".

It could have been worse, relationship-trauma-wise and how-to-make-your-spouse-hate-bikes-wise. We had banana bread and water, blocks from the station. And an arrival 10 minutes before the train left, but not early enough to finesse the Madsen issue. DENIED. With extreme prejudice. We'd have to take a later train. And leave the Madsen behind. FIASCO! And not unpredictably so.

In my defense, Amtrak is inconsistent with large bikes. Technically, they need to hang from their vertical bike racks, or fit in a bike box. In real life, I've heard of xtracycles and other longtails making it. My Dutch bike didn't fit on their rack, and they allowed me to secure it to a rail in the baggage car (with grumbling).  But the baggage supervisor at the Seattle station refused to even consider the Madsen. Even with sturdy centerstand to keep it upright. Even though the baggage car has had plentiful room behind the bike racks every time I've looked. "Yadda yadda 'our policy' yadda yadda 'liability' yadda yadda 'since 9/11' yadda yadda". 9/11?? This bike is not a pipe bomb.

Obligatory Album Cover ShotTo anyone but a bike geek I sound like an entitled idiot, expecting Amtrak to bend their official policy of "no unusual bikes". Perhaps I thought having 4 urchins in tow would tip the scales? Not so much. Anyway, Kevin and I had discussed the possibility of Madsen denial, so he had his helmet. He left his car, and rode the Madsen home. And we got to sit around the station for 3 hours. At which point Kim stated that if we'd taken Melissa's minivan, we'd be there now. In a coping, but pining for automobility sort of way.

The kids and I wandered around Pioneer Square at dawn, posing with statues, as we do. The children fought in public, but that's par for the course down there.

The train ride itself was not as fabulous as I envisioned it. I think that I have a very selective memory when it comes to travel with children. As in, I only remember what it's like to travel without children. On the positive side, they weren't strapped down for 3 hours, and got to move around, swap seats, visit the bistro, and nap on the floor. On the negative side, they weren't strapped down. And we had an audience of non-plussed fellow passengers. It could have been worse, though. They could have been stuck with the drunken bachelor party in the next car.

I put out a Pan-pan to my bike tweeps, and both Clever Cycles and Allan Folz offered long-bike help. In fact, Allan was our savior that day, meeting us on a bakfiets at the station, with a Brompton for himself in the box. We got to borrow his lovely red bakfiets with raincover for the weekend, and met him back at the train station the next day. I felt really bad about that because it was a busman's holiday for Allan; he provides bike concierge and van support to Oregon bike tourists with his business, Portland Sag Wagon. We love Allan.

Our Dapper Hero!

High Tea TimesAs for the Tweed Ride? Yeah, we pretty much missed it. Most of the bikey families had already peeled off by the time we met the ride at the finish. But we did have the pleasure of meeting Jasper and his Yuba-Mundo-hacking parents at A Most Civilized Conveyance. Not that we could talk much. Have I mentioned that Kim and I were completely freaking outnumbered by children? 2:1 child to adult ratio does not make for grownup conversation. It makes for circular endless discussions about wanting what you don't have. Raising a toddler has been described as "like living with a drunken dwarf". Well, we were traveling with 4. And 2 separate strangers yelled "get an SUV" at us in 5 minutes. In Portland Bikeytown USA. A sign?

And then (the indignity!) I was denied discount beer by the saucy wench (not misogynist, just period dialect, mind you) at the Backspace counter, who said I had to be wearing tweed. Well what would you call this focacta bowler hat, bowtie, tuxedo pants and smoking jacket getup that I carried all the way from Seattle by bike and train?!? Not tweed, apparently. I was going for a dapper waiter to the girls' Madsen tea party look. But without the Madsen, and without the girls, I apparently just looked like an imbecile. It was a low point.

Hotel movie and pizza? We're not proud.Off to the hotel. Ah, the hotel. Embassy Suites at a killer online rate. Every room a suite. And whether from pity or a desire to keep our escaped-from-the-zoo menagerie away from other patrons, we were up high in a huge corner suite. Bliss. Ponyo (great movie) for the girls. Old Town Pizza delivered by bakfiets! A two-hour bedtime calamity, and then Kim and I huddled in the dark with our light sleeper, drinking room service hooch.

A bonanza breakfast buffet and lots of pool & hot tub time the next morning was another highlight for the girls. We weren't left with much time, so we rode bikes around the Pearl cruising for parks and playgrounds, and wound up here, favored by sunshine and a delicious lunch, with Voodoo Doughnuts.

A Rare Peaceful Moment (The Calm Before the Hair Grab)

I'd hoped to make it to Clever to get a thank you gift for Allan, but I thought I'd spare my entourage and the shop from each other that day. We did arrange a gift certificate, thinking his son might like some spiffy grips and fold-out footpegs for the bakfiets stoker seat. And then a ride home on Amtrak again, where this time to our outrage we were not able to check the children as baggage. But three of our crew fell into a coma, and Maddie, Luc, and I had a train bistro date over Mac 'n Cheese. 

Amtrak Coma

Kim drove the cousins home in their car, and I rode Kim's bike home with Drew and Luc, who fell fast asleep in the snuggly trailer while Drew and I discussed how one might deal with "bad guys", and that poking their eyes might not be the best choice. Especially when Drew thinks that any social slight makes you a "bad guy". Even if you're her baby brother.

When we got home, Kim threatened to post a "Why We Drive" ode-to-driving response to our "Why We Ride" slideshow. And I can't say I disagree. Even as the "Slightly Lower Impact Man" in our relationship, I concede we should have borrowed the minivan and rented bikes from Clever Cycles when we got there. Here is my penance:

What have we (I) learned from this cautionary tale?

  • I love riding bikes with my family (still very true)
  • A fully-loaded bakfiets is a dream to ride, especially around a flat city
  • I hate flat handlebars on bikes (Kim's)
  • My clown-ass getup was insufficiently "tweedy" (relevant for the upcoming Seattle Tweed Ride)
  • Hotels are fun with kids. A different kind of fun, however, than one might remember from B.C. times (Before Children).
  • Don't bring an unusual bike on Amtrak if anything depends on it (but do bring folding and standard bikes)
  • There are some inherent disadvantages to mass transit: a fixed schedule, inflexible baggage policies, and a need for at least some decorum. These are a problem for our clan, especially if we've got an event to get to. Even if we could convince Amtrak to allow unusual bikes (and we should), we still would have missed our train, spent hours more in transit, and worried more about our kids' behavior on the trip.
  • Thus and so forth, QED, ipso facto ... if wildly outnumbered by small children and traveling to a bikey town, we will DRIVE and rent bikes. The good lord made church vans for a reason.

How about you, hopefully wiser parents out there? Any cautionary tales or bike/train fiascos of your own?

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