Category Archives: visiting with family

Car-free Touring with Family

Clawsons visit to Buffalo
Walking through the neighborhood to University Station with family.

Months ago, before we had even left WV, my sister Sara text asking to stay with us in Buffalo and borrow our car, so she could go to her bestie’s destination wedding in Niagara Falls. Sure, why not. Isn’t that convenient? Your best friend is getting married twenty miles from our new home and I benefit from a visit too? Sign me up.

Then that whole selling the car thing happened and she sends me another text, “Do we need to rent a car?” Now come on. If the seven of us can get around, the two of you can too. She’s my sister, I can heckle her a wee bit. I did offer to rent the car for her, but also laid out some alternatives. I wouldn’t be able to pick her up at the airport because she was arriving during school pick up time, so she could take the bus, wait for me to get her, call a cab, or again, rent a car. Come arrival time, she and her husband Micheal surprised me, they took the bus. $10 and about an hour later, they had arrived at University Station and walked down the historic University Avenue to our house. The weather was perfect. 70s, with a brilliant tint of autumn foliage.

Clawsons visit to Buffalo
Yes, we locked our little red wagon at the station.
Clawsons visit to Buffalo
Wings and pizza at the Anchor Bar. I think we counted 25 wing bones on Eiki’s plate at the end of the night.
Clawsons visit to Buffalo
Brent arrived to dinner by bike after work. We took the Mundo in the elevator at the transit station, to board the train.
Clawsons visit to Buffalo
This was our first attempt at getting the long tailed Mundo on the Metro train, and it fit. We were warned that at some stations the opposite doors for unloading, and it was our luck/lack of planning that is what happened. Yet, we get it out without incident. Had the train been fuller, we wouldn’t have made any friends that evening.

We started the sight seeing with a request from them to get wings. We obliged, walking with the trusty Radio Flyer back to the station, boarding the train (using the day passes they purchased to get to our house), and going to the Anchor Bar. The next day, while the children were in school, I took them sight seeing. We covered 18+ miles (map linked), down to the lake, and back again, taking in the tastes, smells, sounds and views Buffalo had to offer us. I wore them out. We started with breakfast at Sweetness 7, then headed to City Hall for a one of a kind view. We rolled out to the Erie Basin Marina, Canalside, and then looped around First Niagara Center and the construction to find ourselves out front of Coca-Cola Field. We worked our way through the city to Allentown, then walked the southern portion of Elmwood Village before stopping for lunch. We wrapped up our tour in the bike lane and on the sharrows of Elmwood Avenue, turning off at Bidwell Avenue to catch the path through Delaware park, our preferred route home.

Clawsons visit to Buffalo
Preparing for our first full day of adventures. Wheels for almost everyone.
Clawsons visit to Buffalo
Cinnamon roll at Sweetness 7.
Clawsons visit to Buffalo
Hug circle outside of the cafe.
Clawsons visit to Buffalo
A “far to the right” bike lane on Delaware Avenue heading to city center.
Clawsons visit to Buffalo
There is an inside and outside view from the top of City Hall, and it’s free during business hours.
Clawsons visit to Buffalo
Atop of the world.
Clawsons visit to Buffalo
I didn’t set out taking photos for the purpose of the blog…and I should have. There would have been some great snaps. This is the view looking south east toward the marina and Canalside.
Clawsons visit to Buffalo
Then we were at the marina!
Clawsons visit to Buffalo
I am feeling a bit like Family Ride here, gawking at boats.
Clawsons visit to Buffalo
Several water vessels at Canalside are open as museums.

The following day I promised less time in the saddle. We stayed in the Parkside and North Buffalo neighborhoods, covering about a quarter of the miles (map linked). We rode by the Darwin-Martin house, spent a couple hours at the zoo, then lunched on Hertle Avenue at The Global Market. We picked the boys up at school then headed home. That evening Sara and Michael walked the kids to the library and made a stop at the grocery. My sister thought she wouldn’t get any exercise on vacation, as it often is, and she later text me to say she lost a couple pounds. I didn’t starve her, but active transportation has many benefits.

Clawsons visit to Buffalo
Day two started with a ride by of the Darwin Martin house, a wonderful gem designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Clawsons visit to Buffalo
Zoo trip! A visit to the indoor replica of Angle Falls.
Clawsons visit to Buffalo
Global Market on Hertle Avenue. One of many food options for the afternoon. We were exceptionally happy we chose this one.
Clawsons visit to Buffalo
I was tempted to take this table home with my on the cargo bike. And the window, and the wall panels….
Clawsons visit to Buffalo
Micheal was checking out the old theatre marquee and fascade, next to Global.

When the wedding day arrived they decided to rent a car. I borrowed car share to take them to the airport for their car pick up, as the bus wasn’t timely, and then they had quick, convenient access for their 6AM flight the following morning.

All in all, we had a great time and I was able to take them places I had never been in Buffalo by bike. I really like to explore, and having company with me was empowering and fun. I hope they felt the same.


Our Summer Excursion: Days 21-25 Providence and Connecticut

Welcome everyone! Our 2012 Summer Excursion series recaps our experiences from June 3-August 3 by time and location, and should follow up with more detailed topics about finances, family and finesse. Please let me know if you would like more details about anything and I will do my best to work them in or reply personally.

D21: Many, many years ago I drove through Rhode Island on my way back from Boston to NYC, and I regretted not stopping, at least for a moment. Being the smallest state in the union is pretty special. This time through, it coincided with lunch, which turned into a need for ice cream, and so we found ourselves at the Three Sisters, adjacent a craft and farmers market for a couple of scoops as we went from Boston to Deep River, CT on June 23rd.

Our hosts' home in East Boston. Goodbye fabulous strangers and friends!
Three Sisters. The whole state was visiting. While I don't care for large crowds, this was a tight crowd in a small space, that I can enjoy.
Three Sisters. The whole state was visiting. While I don't care for large crowds, this was a tight crowd in a small space, that I can enjoy.
We appreciate an interesting menu. Bright colors help too.
Pedicab trailer for the farmers market?
A market that surrounded the playground. Good for grown ups and good for balls of energy.

My aunt wasn’t scheduled to arrive on the train until bedtime, so we made our first beach stop at Eskers in Groton, CT. The remainder of the evening was spent at the elementary school in Deep River, enjoying dinner, playgrounds and sunsets.

Esker's Beach, CT. A stop to steal a bit more time, just the six of us. Oliver's first beach.

Deep River, CT school play area. We lounged around here for dinner waiting on my aunt. The skies were dramatic.
Dinner. We ate from the grocery often. With out a cooler or cooking method, we ate a lot of dump-trail-mixes, canned fruit, beans, veggies, fresh fruit and vegetables, and the always popular peanut butter sandwiches or tortillas.

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D22: Sunday June 24, we drove to New Haven, CT to meet the Full Hands blog family. They were planning to attend the Arts and Ideas Festival ride to the neighborhood gardens, and we were excited to join them. Once again, the adage of “people are good” remains, and we had a very welcoming stay and wished it could have carried on longer.

I also had the pleasure of riding a most unusual bike, the Bakfiets. Even after nearly five miles (maybe it was more?) to pick up pizza for dinner, I was yet to get very comfortable. It was probably the most fun bicycle I have pedaled, but not the most intuitive. Prepare yourself for the million photos and captions (click for larger images, not sure if this works in a reader/feed)!

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{Link to the Endomondo map of the New Haven bicycle tour, part A. The pizza pick up did not get recorded.}

There is a bit I would like to say about bicycling in New Haven specifically. It was my first encounter with consistently unfriendly traffic while riding. After this day I had a new feeling about why some people do not ride with their children independently and some do not ride at all. There are certainly different attitudes and styles of driving and riding in different regions/cities. It also explains why there is such a need for bicycling infrastructure. It shouldn’t fall on cyclists to continue the fight for such features. Adjustments to streets and bikeways would also help with auto traffic. Drivers should be aiding in the advocacy of integration too.

This isn’t to say that New Haven was dangerous and flippant, it was just different and surprised me. I felt it was a very valuable perspective to gain and had we had more time to adjust we might have found our groove. This varied greatly to the ease I felt in Columbus, a city I was familiar with. New Haven was an all around new experience.

I look forward to another visit.

D23: We didn’t stay over in New Haven, opting to return to my aunt’s in Deep River. Monday turned into a very lazy, watch the rain fall down, sort of day. When the clouds parted we walked a bit through the old town before driving to Clinton to meet up with my uncle and cousin for dinner. Twelve years is a very long time to go without seeing someone, but when it’s family and good friends, it’s all hugs and a good laugh.

View from Darcy's studio lower level.
Post rain creek flow.
The Piano Works is a converted piano factory. This is where my aunt lives! It was such a great place to stay. Both the building and the town of Deep River, CT. They had those brick sidewalks laid throughout town recently. Another great detail.
Walked to the library. I bought a couple of new used books for our travels ($2 cash). Library book sales are hidden treasures.
Family dinner. Cousin Rory on the far left, uncle Michel beside him. Darcy on the far right. The joy of family!

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D24: My cousin Rory is quite the Renaissance man. Tuesday, June 26, I drove our van for the first time (Brent had been doing all the driving), and took the children and Rory to the skate park. Rory gave them all some simple lessons, then we headed back to his and his dad’s place for a pasta lunch, glass blowing demonstration and to check out all the interesting hobbies he has developed (bonsai trees, driftwood art, jewelry making, guitar and drums!!). We had a wonderful day catching up on life and interests, while Brent and Darcy stayed behind to work.

That evening we took my aunt to her aikido class on an old working horse farm several miles from town, then drove out to Chester for a snack and carried onto Gillette castle for sunset over the Connecticut River. (again, click for the larger images)

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D25: Wednesday we drove down to Essex, where I was fascinated by the dates on the homes and businesses. We had drink in a shop that was originally built as a home in 1720. 1720!

Darcy treated us to the River Museum, which was more fascinating than I initially expected. So much history happened on the Connecticut River, and I feel I am finally at a point in my life were I can appreciate the past, while dragging my own children through it.

After we returned Darcy to her studio, we drove to Mystic to meet up with another childhood friend, Matt Manning and his wife Dorothy and daughter Lily. We began our visit with scoops of ice cream next to a very active draw bridge and then snuck into the book shop, record store (go ahead and try to explain records to your children who grew up on a digital system), and finished with play time at the park. Once again, far too few minutes with great people.

The bell was tolling and we headed back to Deep River to enjoy dinner with uncle Michel, Rory, Bess (Rory’s girlfriend), and Darcy on the eve of our departure.

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We never rode our bicycles while in Deep River. The town was so quaint, it was more conducive to walking. It would have been quicker to ride, but everything was worth the time to see and breath in while strolling along. Drivers in this area we also different. Most of the posted speed limits in rural CT were 25-45mph. It was a slower pace of life overall.`

It was such a great pleasure to stay with my aunt. She has given me so many of my first experiences and has had the most influence in my life outside of my parents. Sharing my children with her was a joy. She hasn’t lost touch with the patience and nurturing she showed me as a little girl. Darcy currently lives a car-free life in that tiny town. She rides her bicycle out to the farm for meditation and enjoys the company of good friends who offer her a ride to the train station so she can frequent NYC. She’s built a fabulous community with her family in Deep River.

Starting with Spoils

We made it out of the house Sunday by 12:30pm. Between driving just under 200mile to Cincinnati, a full day at Kings Island, and a full day at Great Wolf Lodge, then biking 10 miles to our first campsite, and then 30 miles today, we haven’t had a moment to post. We have barely been able put anything on Facebook.

It will probably be as such until the weekend.

In photo-journal style, here’s been our week. Will try to caption them later, when I have a proper keyboard.










London stayed with my sister while the boys and I hit the rails to trails segment. 20 miles was where my quads began tearing away from my femur today. Ibuprofen fixed it enough for me to put in 10 more and walk to get groceries and ice cream tonight. I still loath a hill. We encountered two today when we left the trail. 350lbs on a bike going anywhere, is difficult, but heading up, is painful.

We are all having a really great time, until we need to sleep. Oliver wants to go home every night. Making the rest of us sleep deprived.

We will be in the Xenia, Dayton, Tipp City, OH area tomorrow, should anyone wish to meet up.

Looking forward to sharing more soon, including the “how much does this cost?” post.

535 Miles in Ohio

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Friday night last week we packed up and drove north-west to my hometown, Troy, OH. We intended to make this trip in June when the children were out of school and we could spend a week bouncing around the family farm and fishing with grandpa. We got a call on Monday afternoon that my cousin died in a car accident that morning. We patiently waited for details and made plans to visit family during the weekend.

Friday after school we cleaned the house to a show-able condition, as it is on the market, packed our bags lightly and managed to drive away at 5:30pm. We stopped in Ashland, KY for a pizza dinner at Bella Fonte near 6pm and then in Ironton an auto parts store for a headlight at 7:15pm. At this point, the sense of going no where fast was setting in and I was feeling like we should turn around and head home.

Given we were not going up because of the way I was feeling, we soldiered on. We pulled into Tipp City, where we were staying with friends, at 10:30pm. A 200 mile trip that took 5 hours.

Saturday morning was Kwen’s funeral service in Mechanicsburg, OH. We chose not to bring our children to the service and cemetary and spent the morning working our way toward Urbana where the family was hosting a celebration of life at the Champaign County Fair Grounds.

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We stopped in to Tipp Cyclery. The children played with the shop turtle and Brent and I selected an extra patch kit and ankle straps.

Next stop, Troy town square. I wondered into the new Troy Bicycle Shop location, nabbed some photos of the new city wide bike racks, and then into the natural parenting store, Samozrejme, while Brent and the children had lunch at the Bakehouse.

Portion of downtown Troy, OH

Our time with family in Urbana was short and very sad indeed. Our children played with Kwen’s and all the other cousins’ children and we each hugged the other tightly. My aunt, Kwen’s mom, asked me to send this photo to my brother. It is Kwen and Lucus, on our great grandmother’s lap, some 31 years ago.

London, Branson, Blake. My daughter, Kwen's sister's son, Kwen's son. All the same age.

We left the celebration and drover further away, into Mechanicsburg to see another cousin, Heather, and her family. They recently bought a civil war aged house, in her home town, and have begun their adventures with two little children. The time vanished quickly and we were heading down another long road back to Tipp City.

Heather's home, and her art.

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For most of the trip I kept feeling I was distracted. We made little changes in our route that took us out of our way, yet we never turned around, we just went with the 20 mile detours, enjoying the landscapes and conversations within our van-cabin.

The stroll from Springfield to Troy, on the return trip to Tipp City was deliberate. We made the choice to pick up Lee’s Chinese, my hometown treat. Everyone has their something they love about going home. Lee’s is one of mine. It’s silly really, but food has a memory trigger and that lo-mein has a lot of memories.

Sunday we packed up the van and spent a couple of hours at my mom’s house in Troy. She had to leave for another celebration of life, for a friend of theirs who passed away a week before Kwen and we needed to push on toward home.

We didn’t set out with an agenda for our weekend. It was interesting to take all our desires and see if our path would intersect with any of them. It did on many occasions. Elliot managed to find two Game Stops and two other electronic stores to hunt for his Skylanders. They are still sold out everywhere (article link quotes your’s truly, written by a friend). London wanted to walk around a mall, and we made that happen for her on the way home.

Mall area at Fairfield Commons

We met up with our friends from Tipp City in Beavercreek at Half Price Books since it was on their way to visit with their family for the afternoon. We found a little lunch and took up people-watching at the mall while London tried to figure out why she really wanted to be here in the first place. I think she hears that this is what her peers do and she wanted to try, but she didn’t do anything other than walk around and talk to her friend and eat a slice of pizza. Watching children learn is very fascinating.

Bike trail signs all around the shopping center

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We left the mall complex and drove straight for home, stopping in Waverly for groceries and dinner (apple slices, carrot sticks, cheese, and crackers). The children made it to bed on time and Brent and I enjoyed unpacking in our home-sweet-home. Yes, enjoyed.


Overweight on Two Wheels, A First Experience

A while back I asked readers for their perspective on cycling when overweight as a response to some interactions I have had here in Huntington with people who believe they are unable to get on a bicycle. This was in conjunction with the locally infamous declaration of our fair city as the most unhealthy city in America in 2008. What I didn’t let on to was that one of those interactions was with my own sister Shannon.
Thanks to @WomenBikeBlogs and other unknown cyber connections I received a few responses. I have continued correspondence with some of them to help put together a larger post for later. Much of the information these cyclists were introducing me to was forwarded onto Shannon. Here is her story.
Shannon is leading the pack in black as they wait at a traffic light.

As a teenager I received a red mountain bike for my birthday. My father preached the importance of waxing the bike and other necessary maintenance. I remember getting the bike out and trying to get onto it. When I finally found my way onto the saddle and journeyed up the gravel lane and back I was scared to death. I didn’t feel light or free in the way I anticipated. All I heard was the gravel pinging against the metal frame and the crunch of rock as my bike waded through.

I took the bike out a handful of times with similar experiences. Then the contraption took up residence in the family shed. Biking was not my thing. I did however enjoy rollerblading. This did give me a light-as-air-dare-devil feeling. I loved to go to our local park, slap my blades on and listen to the world whistle by. I didn’t stop roller blading until my freshman year of college when I had packed on some pounds and thinking I was still my agile 15-year-old-self, went down a steep hill at night and landed knees first in a ditch. Haven’t been on blades since.

Fast-forward 9 years. I lead a very sedentary life and have gained a lot of weight since my activity filled, high school years. My days are filled with couch sitting or sitting in class or at work. I got this nifty idea that if my husband and I had bikes we will become instantly trim and insanely happy. After a few weeks of pressuring the husband he gives in and we get a mountain bike for him and a Schwinn cruiser hybrid for me–both from Walmart. At this point we are living in an upstairs apartment. My bike weighs a ton (a whopping 40+ pounds–which I feel is a ton).

After purchasing the bike it stay in our living room gathering dust because I’m too lazy to take it back down the stairs to attempt to ride. When we finally get our bikes downstairs I attempt to pedal through our parking lot. I swear all the children are laughing at me –ha, ha, fat girl who can’t ride a bike–. We ride, maybe a block… my body is hurting, I am so out of breath I think I’m going to throw up. I’m sweating and I want to curl into a ball and die. So I walk my bike back home, husband takes it up the stairs where they both remain for the next 2 years.

I finally give up on the bikes and post them on CraigsList. No one wants my bike but my friend makes an offer on my husbands. Around this same time, my oh-so-influential-older-sister (Stacy) has picked up this strange new biking lifestyle. Me, being the baby sister, I love to do whatever I can to look good in my eldest sister’s eyes. I had scheduled a trip down to Huntington to hang out with them in October but canceled because I was afraid she would want me to bike and walk with her (and other reason).

So, my baby nephew’s second birthday is coming up. I am able to get the time off work and am not in school this quarter so I jump on the chance to go to Huntington. I even offer to bring my bike down in hopes my sister can adjust it so it doesn’t feel quite so much like a torture device. Stacy mentions a women’s only group bike ride and asks me if I’ll attend. I want to please her, so I say yes.

With the bicycle adjustments made, I take a ride up and down the street and I am not so optimistic. I’m out of breath due to the Huntington hills and wrestle with the fact that I feel like I should be in a sumo suit to protect me from demise-by-bike.

On the day of the group ride I get up early so I can go out on the bike and play around. I begin by stretching for a good 20 minutes and get dressed up in layers. I make some final adjustments, strap on my helmet and off I go. This isn’t so bad.

My heart pounding and anxiety in my throat.. afraid I’m going to fail… OFF WE GO! The cool breeze feels good in my hair. Slow but steady. Stacy, then me, then London. Anxiety about hand signals but Stacy seems to be doing that for everyone. She calls out directions and words of encouragement. Pedal, breath, pedal.. oh it’s so pretty. Pedal, stop. Pedal, start. Maybe this isn’t so bad.

We get to the park to meet up with everyone. I hang back with London while Stacy plays hostess. About 15 minutes later we are off again, this time with more traffic, stop lights and all. All the women around me call out things like “car behind,” “pedal fast the via-duct is coming,” “bump ahead.” These women I had never met before, we were a team on this ride. Helping and encouraging, never leaving anyone behind. Once we arrived at our destination I wanted to keep riding, but I hung around drinking coffee and looking at shops. The trip back was more wearing and up hill. But at last, I made it!

Soreness was less than expected on the next day. Surprisingly the palms of my hands brought me the most pain and lasted the next two days. When I returned home, I went riding a few blocks one afternoon. Riding by yourself is very intimidating for a newbie. I think if I was more comfortable with biking, solo wouldn’t bother me. Right now I feel a need for extra eyes and words of encouragement.  I never realized before that the roads around here (Mid-western Ohio) do have some incline to them–they aren’t flat. The things you notice on a bike!

Some of the group after the ride, Shannon in black, London to her right.

The day after my short ride the rear tire was flat and it remains this way. I’ve watched the video’s on how to change the tire, purchased the new inner tube but I am waiting for my husband to bring home the right size bolt remover thingy to get the tire off. I hope to add riding to my list of leisure and stress reducing activities. I loved the high I felt the rest of the day after my group ride. “I feel like I could climb a mountain.”

If you have some advice or encouragement for my sister, please leave it in the comments. If you would like her to keep writing about her cycling experiences as they occur, and I know I would, let her know. Anyone who has ever tried to do something new or taken on a health challenge can sympathize with the need for support. It sometimes feels more simple to give up and give in, but the longterm costs of such a choice are insurmountable.


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