What with minimalism being the new new thing, and our house starting to feel like an audition for that reality show about hoarders, Kim asked me to take the kids anywhere but here for the weekend so she could spend the weekend putting our house on a radical diet.
So we went to Portland, impromptu style. Which meant driving, as the Amtrak pricing and schedule wasn't looking so hot. Plus, there was that last time ... The drive down was well-timed for naps, and we stopped by a river to run around and get muddy. And there might have been a "Happy" meal. I'm not proud. Overall, with stops and traffic, it took about the same time as the train.
We planned (if you can call day-of requests to borrow a house "planning") to stay at our PDX friends' house, as they were traveling too, but the people with the key were out of town, yadda yadda. Enter Hotwire, and a cheap hotel room near the Convention Center (the Crown Plaza often has killer rates on hotwire). Drew was giddy about her own bed, TV, and pool, and became very conflicted about whether it was OK to turn back the sheets on her bed. And after a prolonged second- and third-wind bedtime, I fell asleep lulled by the sounds of my two kids breathing - a sweet and novel feeling.
I brought the Brompton and trailer, but forgot the front ITchair for Drew, so she elected to surf the main tube in front of me, which worked well on quiet side-streets. Also forgot the bike map, but the thing about Portland is that if you ride a few blocks you'll intersect a bike boulevard (AKA "neighborhood greenway" AKA "what is wrong with SDOT that they don't realize that these are relatively cheap and win-win for cars and bikes") or other bike facility, and their bike route signage is reliable enough to steer you right.
On our way to Laurelhurst Park (great playground for 1 and 3yos), we stopped off at Splendid Cycles. They opened in May, and focus exclusively on cargo bikes, serving as a showroom for local Metrofiets and Ahearne Cycle Trucks, as well as the Larry vs. Harry Bullitt and Kona Ute. Luc was asleep in the trailer, and the shop's owner Joel welcomed us inside with sleeping son, and let us stash the napmobile in the back.
Having worked as the buyer at Portland's Bike Gallery, and brought in the first MADSEN's and Bullitt's, Joel knows bikes, and is passionate about cargo bikes. And was relaxed, tolerant, and just plain sweet with my kids, as was his wife Barb, who drew tigers on the sidewalk with Drew the next day. Big warm and fuzzy thank you, Spendid Cycles. Portland - your cup runneth over with family-friendly bike shops.
Tried a Portland-built artisanal (that's a bit redundant; even the kettle korn karts are bike-powered by popcorn artisans in this town) unique dual 24" Metrofiets with Drew, and quite liked the handling. These are some seriously fine-looking, well-built bikes. Joel described the ride as more "Old World" than the Bullitt or MADSEN, and it does indeed ride much like the European bakfietsen (cargo bikes) that inspired it. But it did feel sprightlier somehow, not sure if it was the weight, larger front wheel, or just how dapper it was.
And then decided to give the Bullitt another try. I rode one unloaded around the block at the Family Bike Expo this winter and had an embarrassing amount of trouble with the wobbles (like the dynamic bike blogging duo of Dottie and Miss Sarah this week). Worried that it was too "sporty" of a bike for me. But our neighbor Daniel and his righteous blue Bullitt at the recent Tour de Fat and Fiets of Parenthood convinced me to try again.
And we loved it. Lurved it. Review to follow, for those who need their bike lust not to be touching their travelogue on the plate.
In fact, we borrowed it for the weekend! We hit up Laurelhurst Park for play & picnic. Met up with Travis and his sweet, engaging trio of rapscallions at the Alberta Street Fair. Drew was a bit crushed out, although you wouldn't have known it from all the frowning. Kael singing the theme song from Phineas & Ferb (her new show from the hotel) sealed it. Luc caressed the chain of an especially fine xtracycle parked next to a cool Dutch kids' bike. Note the crochet on-street bike parking cozy. Yeah, rub it in, Portland. We couldn't even find a business on Capitol freaking Hill (our epicenter of smug cycling) to accept an on-street bike corral (I'm looking at you, Caffe Vita).
Dinner at Burgerville (of bicycles in the drive-through controversy and fame), the easiest bedtime EVER, and up again for pool, superhero antics at the North Park Blocks, scrumptious baked goods at Pearl Bakery (mmm, tastes ... artisany), and then picnic and free-ranging it at the Sunday Market. Here's Luc hydrating himself in the fountains - who needs a Camelbak? I'm pretty sure that water was portaged from pristine artesian wells by NAHBS bicycles in leather-coddled mason jars. Right?
We (well, I) wanted to demo a ShuttleBug and Clever Cycles' latest import, Christiania trikes. But instead we just mosied back to the car and drove home to an unrecognizably decluttered home. THANK YOU miss Kim and Catherine (our beloved interventionist)! MWAH!!! The effect on our kids was instantaneous. They discovered and engaged in toys and books that had been lost in the thrift-shopped plethora of it all. For some of what inspired us, read the Simplicity Parenting book, and blogs like Rowdy Kittens. It's like a Glade Plug-In full of Ritalin, but without the weight loss and insomnia.
And please, don't get me wrong. We're not exactly trying to live in a hard drive with only a Moleskine notebook for shelter or whatever else the latest NYT style section definition of minimalism is. And I do acknowledge the fact that consumer-culture-conditioned lust for shiny pretty bike objets is part of what motivates me, and trips like these. Or that my stable of bikes could hardly be described as "minimal," even after a Craigslist selling binge. But we had ourselves a grand adventure in Portland on a pretty tight budget, the first time I didn't come home from Portland with a new bike bauble. We'll see how long that lasts. Damn that Bullitt was nice.