Category Archives: commuting to school

From Stagnate to Ecstatic

Left you all hanging with a Bah Humbug post and all these other great winter holiday things have been going on. We have been trying to host weekly friend dinners or outings, there has been tinseling and lighting of my Yuba, scheming of birthday parties eminent, planning of ‘cards,’ and a last minute review of the gifting budget. We do a daily snow dance, that has yet to work. I have certainly been more active on quick social media (go ahead, follow or like) than on the blog, and it’s the blogging I miss most. It’s also the blogging that requires more time, which some how, I have plenty of, but not in the right places. Which would be the perfect segue into a review of Stealing Time magazine…but I loaned it out to a friend before I could finish reading it (I was very excited to share!), and again, with that time thing…it’s been all over the place.

We have been doing our general bicycle riding, and still commuting to school by bike more often than by car. Brent always bikes to work. There have been Plan2025 meetings, Kyova transportation meetings, Friends of PATH creation, a little bit of arts fartsy stamp and print making for The Wild Ramp, typical avoidance of household chores, cuddling of children, and fixing of flats. Oh so many bicycle tire flats.

We keep rolling.

The check arrived from the Cafe award and it’s in a pile, in a bag, in my closet, and written on a list of things to work on, somewhere in a drawer, in my room. The interviews we set out to cover for the Less Car, More Go documentary over Thanksgiving break didn’t so much as get talked about. There’s an excuse for that as well.

My frustration with the daily grind continues. My yearning for adventure wages on. The ability to do anything about either is stagnating. I try really hard to be happy with the here and now, and I am thankful for what I have, but I have this personality of dissatisfaction and a need for constant change. I’d say there was something wrong with me, but I know their is not. I am your average crazy in a town of content. If there is something going on in town that I’d like to attend, I have championed excuses for avoiding it. If it’s at a set time, I dread it (i.e. school). That’s if a child isn’t sick, dragging their feet, not doing their homework, etc. Classic depression that I feed and allow to grow. (Feed me, Seymour!)

This muscle in my skull seem defunct. I type things then minutes later read them to find I left out entire words and misspelled the rest. My comprehension to what others are writing or saying is nearly neanderthal. Incredibly slow. Almost fitting to call it, simple minded. There have been some really crazy, awkward and sometimes rude things coming from my mouth when I do have a chance to interact with others. My self absorption is growing. I feel like I annoy everyone I come across in person or in the web.

Then something happens. Make sense of this if you will.

I must pick up the children from school. My ride-share friend moved to Hawaii (I know…the nerve!), and my husband has to teach. The thought of letting them figure out how to come home on their own, does cross my mind. I dread getting Oliver and I ready. Gathering the things, leaving the warmth of whatever we have collapsed into (nap, reading, noshing on chocolates…), and climbing those hills. I am a codependent, introvert. It’s true. Except when I am not, then I am really not.

Then we do it. We settle our helmets. He buckles up, wraps on a blanket when necessary, opens the garage door and we breath deep.

Deeper. Solid breaths. We leave the insulation of home and regain consciousness and intention. A mindful moment.

The excitement of pedaling floods through my entire body. It doesn’t matter what the weather might be, or how the traffic is behaving. It feels amazing. After those four miles are through, I come alive. All those things I put off are suddenly desirable and completed. There is dancing. Sometimes I turn on music. The chaos that always happens when three children simultaneously bombard this house with their days adventures and their afternoon must-dos becomes rewarding. My mind is clear and focused, on them. I make plans for the future, tackle projects, return calls, seek out excuses to leave yet again, for another ride. Some days the opportunity occurs in the form of violin practice or art walk. Most days, there is just too much homework, diner making, uniform finding, lunch packing, and child prodding to be done. Those four miles of bliss get tucked into a special place in my heart and the brooding and longing begins again, until next time.

I might not have the motivational memory I need, but I have the perspective and understanding to appreciate the ride. Everytime.

Go figure.

Ok. Done brooding. Going to tuck the boys back into bed and make cake. Avery turns 6 tomorrow. If no one is vomiting in the morning (two were today), then we shall have a party after school! I will certainly post something on one of those quick social media outlets, tune in, there will be flashlights and camo.


Fair Weather Riding

Last week we drove more often than we rode, or it felt like it any how. There were illnesses, cold days, and rainy afternoons. I did call a friend, and it took two cars (Pilot and Odyssey) to transport two bikes and my two children in addition to their five offspring combined to get everyone/thing home. It was greatly appreciated that day, as we had two with fevers and one vomiting. I wouldn’t have driven them anywhere, and Brent couldn’t do pick up because of class (also prior to the second Yuba.) I posted a photo on Facebook one day, of Oliver tucked into his car seat, napping under a flannel blanket, rain streaming down the window.

There was guilt in that photo. 53F sure felt cold that day. And I was remembering how my jeans feel glued to my upper legs with rain water. I just wasn’t ready for this weather. Pants aside, I didn’t have the mind to deal with it. Any of it. This day preceded the double episode of hand, foot and mouth disease and the vomiting, so maybe we both just needed to rest. Rest our bodies and our minds.

I am stubborn. That’s being nice about it. I like my commute. I love the challenge of it. I enjoy feeling alive each and every day and accomplishing those climbs and breathing in the season. When I manage to convince myself not to ride, or circumstances prevent it, I feel cheated and a bit lost. When it started raining today, at 60F, and no end in sight, I gathered every rain jacket in the house.

Oliver and I rode, wrapped up in polyvinyl chloride, nylon and polyester, up to school in the rain. 60F is a great temperature for rain. I was sweating lightly but didn’t unzip. My camera was around my neck. The wind was light and my glasses stayed clear under the brim of my Yakkay helmet. Oliver slept.

Yes he did. He felt asleep before we left the garage. Not a nod or a wink from him till we returned. No comments from passersby either. They know this tot can sleep through anything. He just doesn’t sleep at night (he’s still up now!). I put him in his slicker and then wrapped London’s long rain coat around his legs, securing the wrists at the back of the iBert with a hair tie.

I was most impressed with my own giddup. I wore Brent’s over-sized rain coat with the hood down and then tied my Columbia jacket around my waist, backwards. The back of the coat covered my lap like a skirt, keeping my pants dry! The iBert shields my knees and lower legs fairly well. It was impromptu, and made me a happy stoker. Of course, no photo. Let’s just say it aids in my argument of our mobile circus.

We learned last year that we should check our brakes in the rain. First thing. The children do this without a reminder now. Elliot was finding that he was fish tailing in the parking lot. I theorized his rear tread was low, and decided, for safety, I would just carry him and the bike back home. This made for a happy Elliot, and yet another reason e-assist feels like the right choice for our family. The two little boys are a combined 85lbs now. Elliot is near 60 and add in the two back packs and diapers bag and it’s a full load on a hill. I couldn’t even use the full momentum of the downhills to go up the other end, as we were riding slower in the rain. Fresh fallen leaves, wet asphalt, and a heavy bike equates to caution.

He didn’t ride home on his own saddle. He just wanted to see if he could. We might try to secure the bike and let him take a spin around the block one day. Just for fun. It has the potential of a makeshift Follow-me-tandem.

We arrived home safely. I lost my rain coat skirt on the way back, using it instead as a seat pad for Elliot. Every other rain coat was covering a backpack or a body. We pulled into the garage and draped the wet gear on the drying rack I set up before leaving. Best to keep the mess contained. This way, they can grab them on their way to school tomorrow.

We have the makings for being fair-weather cyclists, but we try hard to solve our challenges creatively and compromise between my persistence and Brent’s concerns. Rain pants are on my list, and have been (holding out for used or extreme discounts). We wore snow pants in the cold last year, but Brent thinks they hinder mobility for the older two and then they have to change upon arrival/departure.

What says you? Where have you invested in rain/snow gear to make the ride safe, quasi-comfortable, and quick to transition?


The Private Life of a Family Cyclist

Do you love how you pull your bike out of the garage, haul a heavy tot into their seat, get them all buckled in, arrange the helmet, load your bags, throw up the kickstand and sail down the drive, only to realize the neighbors were on their front steps watching, more like a befuddled stare. Then you start clicking through gears trying to find the right one to climb up the hill without seeing the gears at your thumb because the toddler brought along his large stuffed dog. You are weaving up the street as you search and because of all the potholes and broken asphalt, and you are slow, you swerve, a lot. Of course there is a very quiet Prius coming up behind you and you wonder exactly how long they had been watching this scene and decide they don’t look like the type to report you for reckless riding.

After you ascend a couple of hills and you have found your gear changing groove the toddler begins to cry, just as you pass the group of parents waiting on the school bus drop off, some idling in their vehicles, windows down. He’s not feeling well, fever of about 101 and you just woke him up from a nap to make it to the school on time. The whole neighborhood can hear him wailing about you going too fast, yes, he said too fast, as we jiggle our way up those hills. It’s a nice early fall day, so you try to point out the colors on the leaves, but you also notice everyone has their windows open. Great, more cries, more tears, a bit of thrashing around as more cars pass you. They make it look so easy, with their foot on the accelerator purring up and onward. Did they look back in their mirror to see what sort of torture you were inflicting on your son?

You notice they did. Was it really all that crying or was it the sort of cyclist-image you were trying to pull off? Was it the other 26″ bicycle you had stuffed into the side bag? Or the other three helmets and diaper bag strapped opposite the bike? Couldn’t be the helmet you are wearing that everyone always thinks is a “great hat.” Or that one pants leg is rolled over your knee and a camera is slung around your neck. Beet red face, sweat dripping, sloppy pony tail. Naw, you don’t look like a circus on two wheels. That’s how you look when you are returning home with the other three children.

The fourth child is crying about how much she hates that you towed her bicycle up to the school and not her brother’s bike-it’s so unfair. Her baskets are off balance so she dismounts and thinks walking the bike would be easier. A circus-on-wheels-look happens when she throws the bike on the ground, resigning to never bike again and you ask if she knows how to get home because you are leaving with her three brothers, all their gear and trying to stay ahead of the weather. Go ahead and do it with a smile because every teacher and parent is pulling out of the school right now too. The bright orange bike, the fire engine red bags and lime green seat do nothing to let everyone else know you are not a mobile clown unit.

Riding up hills with all that weight and a very concentrated look on your face because you are risking everyone’s life to go up the wrong side of the sidewalk that butts up against a lot of traffic. You love your commute, you love your family and you love your bicycle, but right now you feel like showing up unannounced at city hall and tossing the planning director on your deck and toting him back up this hill and see how good he feels and find out exactly where he might be concerned about cyclist safety. You want to give him an ear-full of the benefits of providing safe routes to schools and better access to cycling and pedestrian routes and discuss traffic calming, while huffing and puffing and maneuvering through the areas where trash bins were left out and cars and trucks take up parking on the sidewalk that is your preferred safe spot for this portion of your ride.

Then you see a little happy. Yes, happy. Two bicycles are rounding the bend toward you, on the street you don’t feel safe to pedal with your children, and one of them has their toddler in a rear seat. They wave profusely at you and your crew and you remember that the life of a cyclist is a private one. No driver could possibly know what is going on on those two little wheels of yours. They haven’t a clue why your contraption looks the way it does or why your children are behaving the way they are. You can’t really see any of the drivers anyway thanks to the sun and constant glare on their front windshield. They try to wave you through at four way stops but you can’t make eye contact to know what’s going on. Those cyclists know, because they are huge part of your private life. They see you and your trials and tribulations. They have had their own. You see them and are encouraged.

**This was a combination of days rolled into one story to illustrate how exposed we are and how some days just compound themselves, but it’s all worth it. There are a lot of people out there that understand us and what we are doing, but sometimes we feel so incredibly isolated and private in our way of life. “Risking my life” is an exaggeration, though there are days when I do feel it is dangerous. Even on those days, I do feel I am making a good choice as explained in this post: Despite the Dangers of Norway.

Average School Bike Commute

At the end of last week I rode the children up to the school in the morning, leaving the littles at home. Brent’s been doing this commute most mornings, but I wanted to do a little since I wasn’t going to be picking them up (sore hand). The morning ride is much easier than the afternoon one. It’s cooler. There are fewer children to haul. We are not tired from our day, rather, just well rested, well fed and ready.

We have been getting up about 20 minutes earlier to accommodate a 10 minute earlier departure, with an extra 10 minutes to check bikes and gear. The children go downstairs about 7:20AM, leave by 7:30 and we haven’t been late yet. Brent usually gets them there with 10 minutes to spare. I ride slower, and let them have drink breaks, so we have an extra five. This means we get to lock up our bikes together, breath in the morning fog and say hello to our school family.

When we started biking again this year, the children reported there were two other bikes at the school. Sure enough, two sisters have started riding to school. Who knows, there may be a  bike rack there next year. 

It’s a very pleasant way to begin our day. Knowing the sun is up keeps us motivated. Those dark winter mornings were rough to build a desire to get out of bed.

Now that my hand is feeling better, I have taken on the school pick up and Brent has been covering the morning commute. I may need to see if I can reverse the schedule with an excuse other than an injury. Those 10 minutes alone on the way back from school were so peaceful.

Miles Walked: 0 Biked: 31 Bused: 0 Drove: 0 Carpool: 1.7 This week
134.6 2149.2 1176.6 3691.8 287.2 Since August 14, 2011

Toddler Oliver’s Day

Yesterday began earlier than usual. We set out to meet up with Mike and Alex, on their new Yuba, to ride a small leg of both our journeys to school together. It was the first National Bike to School Day, and riding with friends seemed like the best way to celebrate. It wasn’t necessary to bring the whole crew, but it sure was more fun.

I intended to ride half way to work with Brent and Mike, but after climbing back up Norway I was done. This made three days of high miles and many climbs for me and I really was trying hard this morning to not slow down the other two adults. I split off and went home to get ready for the rest of our day and they carried on.

We had about two hours to dink about, gather our things, pack our lunches, then roll out. I knew this was going to be a tricky day, with multiple stops and smack in the middle of nap time.

I made a list of all the things I needed to do and organized them by location. We dropped off our CSA check, picked up Avery’s coat (forgotten at the Earth Day fair), deposited checks at the bank, checked for Skylanders at Game Stop, enjoyed lunch at Pullman Square plaza, walked the bike over to Third & Ninth Deli for a Create Huntington lunch meet-up, rewarded patience with a Tropical Moon, returned to Game Stop for the toddler to check out Skylanders (he was asleep the first time), then went home to unload, reload and ride up to the school for pick up.

Busy train tracks don’t stop traffic, thanks to early considerations. Cars, pedestrians and bikes just go under them. This train was moving and loud. Just what our little boys love. Only Oliver slept through it.

Still sleeping at the bank.

The white stripe on the right is the left line for the incomplete bike lanes. I know every city has this problem (delivery trucks or taxis in bike lanes). I look forward to seeing what enforcement and education will be instituted locally. Since we bike in the car lane, I just went around and made my right hand turn at the light.

Just after this Game Stop stop we had a pee-mergency. Avery really had to go. The nearest restroom I could find on the ground level, was the bookstore who had a sign on the door saying the restroom was for customers only. I also had the issue of the sleeping toddler. I walked over and parked the bike at the door, walked Avery in, asked (yelled over to) the check out lady if he could use the toilet and a stranger who was standing next to me made sure he made it to the back of the store (he had already ran off). I stood between the doors, watching Oliver on the bike (two steps away) and waiting on Avery. It was one of the “testing your parent strategy” moments.

Bladder relieved, lunch eaten, toddler wakes up.

Plopped the little guy on the deck and walked the bike across the street to meet up with a few Create Huntington members. This was my first lunch meet up. It’s an open invitation to everyone to gather on Wednesday at noon to talk about the direction of the city casually. Since we packed and ate our lunch before arriving (to save money and to please the children with things they like), I spent the entire hour hearing “we don’t need to be here, we could just walk out!” from Avery, who was “bored.” Hence the next stop, a shameful bribe, that didn’t keep him quiet, but made him happier.

The above photo was taken while I was arriving at Third & Ninth. The man on the right bike was smoking, and hauling a trailer with cargo in it. I had seen this bike the day before at a house on Norway sans-trailer, then spotted during yesterday’s pick up with trailer. I am very curious about what his is doing. The lady on the left is typical of downtown riders, who feel safer on the sidewalks and crossing at pedestrian lights, the one place in the county it’s not legal (downtown streets only). Ironically, to get to any bike rack that you find downtown (there are few), you have to go on the sidewalks, else lock up to street lights, also on sidewalks.

Tropical Moon for fro-yo, then Game Stop again, then onward toward home. We encountered the access to the park (where we cut through) blocked by tree cutters and the road around it closed, so we cut through a brick paved alley and discovered this backyard garden.

After slipping up onto the sidewalk we were able to get on the street next to the park and in between the barricades to mosey toward home. It wasn’t necessary, but this route was a bit more level and the roads smoother. I was growing increasingly tired at this point and couldn’t fathom another four miles I would need to go to pick up the other two children.

The End of the Toddler Mama’s Day

Yet, I did it. There were a lot more stops along the way just to rest. I made it up, gathered my things to set up an after school Scrip, SnackTaxi and reusable bag sales table (my new volunteer position, since I don’t have baby L.). We stayed for the end of year Chess Club party. Brent rode up to the school to ride the Yuba home and I took his mtb. I called him and let him know how worn out I was before leaving home and that I would appreciate an extra set of legs. He’s so wonderful.

Most of our ride home is downhill, but we have three decent size assents and one shallow one. I was taking the ups and downs very slow. I didn’t have my camera around my neck, I didn’t take on any cargo. I knew my limits had passed during the previous 11miles. We made it all the way home and I had this moment in my mind’s eye where I could see myself wrecking, and then I did.

At the bottom of our drive way, making that final turn to pull in, the bike slipped from under me and I lunged forward to catch myself. Everyone else was behind me. Brent likes me to set the pace, since I am the slowest. The bike flipped over, with my legs still entangled, and I just laid there. Bike complete upended. The children stunned into a semi-silent awe (you flipped the bike! so cool! are you ok mom? do you have a boo boo?).

It had started raining about a mile from home. As I said, I was going very slow. Brent had put road tires on his bike Sunday, and the roads around our house are broken, gravely and undulating. All of this, combined with my fatigue, resulted in this.

The bruising and swelling doesn’t show up well. My left hand was in so much pain I felt nauseous. I took a nap immediately, with ice under my hand as I slept. I woke up feeling better, but sore. I took inventory of the bruises on my knees and legs and cleaned my wounds. I haven’t stopped dreaming about biking (during my nap and last night), but I haven’t tried holding the handle bars yet. Today my left hand is weeping and I am sad. Sad because I saw it coming. I feel like I let the thought of it happening bring about the actual event. Knowing that it was just an accident.

Miles Walked: .5 Biked: 55.5 Bused: 0 Drove: 0 Carpool: 0 This week
134.6 2124.2 1176.6 3691.8 287.2 Since August 14, 2011
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