I am Woman, hear me…SHRIEK!

There are days when I ride Oranje Lightning, with 75+ pounds of kids in tow against gusting winds and uphill that I have to channel Rosie the Riveter to pedal the rest of the way to our destination. In my head, I visualize when I was in labor with my daughter for 36 hours and it pumps me up. I know that if I could push out a 9-pound baby who did not want to greet this cruel sweet world that I CAN DO ANYTHING!

On the days when I overcome the tough rides, I want to pull out my superhero cape and ride with pride. But then I remember that my daughter would get annoyed by the fabric flapping in her face as we ride down the road … it also occurs to me that a cape would be a little much.

But maybe a skirt instead of a cape? The skirt would honor my feminist ancestors who were forced to wear dresses and corsets due to social customs and were encouraged to be passive and demur. But when you bike in a skirt you can turn the notion of passivity and gentleness on its head, and show the world that women can be graceful yet powerful, open-minded yet assertive, and tough as nails. (See the sidebar below for more on my feminist thoughts as well as the awesome documentary, Makers.)

It turns out I’m not the only woman who is proud to bike in a skirt, there is actually a specific ride for women like me called the “Skirts on Bikes!” Now this is a ride I definitely think needs to be recreated in Chicago! However, it looks like the Skirts on Bikes! ride only happened once in 2011 in New York in response to a potentially fictional story of a woman who claimed a police officer threatened to ticket her for wearing too short of a skirt while riding her bike. The woman who claimed to have been ticketed was at this Skirts on Bikes! ride and is quoted as saying, “We felt powerful.” I would tend to agree. If you keep googling “skirts” AND “bikes,” you will also come upon this hilarious video tip about how to bike in a skirt without exposing yourself by MacGyvering skorts out of your skirt using a penny and a hair band.

There are other times when I don’t feel so powerful on the Xtracycle or as a woman in general. The mantra, “I am woman, hear me ROAR!” turns into “I am woman, hear me SHRIEK!” I feel like one of those old ladies riding a tricycle painfully slow to the grocery store. And while I commend them for riding a bike, I hate to see them struggle.

Specifically, I think of two times when I felt helpless and anything but powerful on Oranje Lightning. The first time was just a month into getting the Xtracycle so I was still getting my bearings. My nightmare of falling while on the bike had partially come to life. (I say partially because the bike actually just tipped over slowly … with the kids on board).

Tipping off the Xtracycle

sidewalkThe Xtracycle is extremely stable while you are pedaling and in motion. However, when you are trying to walk the Xtracycle with a significant amount of weight on the back, it takes more muscle and skill to maneuver. There is a stoplight by my house where I often cross on the sidewalk and sometimes need to make a sharp turn at the corner. Because of the sharp angles of the sidewalk corner and the fact that I was off the bike and pulling it on foot, I wasn’t able to keep the bike upright when I attempted to turn this corner and the bike went down. The kids were screaming and pinned between the sidewalk and the bike, and I was sure people were staring at us from their cars in utter disgust at my lack of biking/mothering skills.

Then, my adrenaline kicked in and I found the strength to hoist the bike up and regain its upright position. We pedaled the short distance home while I tried to calm the kids down and convince my overly emotional daughter that her leg was not broken. After that day, I learned that whenever I’m walking the bike, I can’t have much weight on the bike. Thus, my daughter has to be off the bike when we are walking it. For example, when I get the bike out of a parking space, I might load my son first (because he wants to run all over the place) and move the bike to a position where I can take off without having to negotiate any tight turns. At this point, I put my daughter on the bike and take off.

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Although we’ve had a few wavers since that bad fall at the stop light, none have been as bad as the first. And now, my daughter has figured out that she can put her foot out to help push the bike back up if we start to tilt over too far. This feminist mommy is proud of her daughter for finding her own girl power!

Paralyzed by a Broken KickBack

Admittedly, I am not the ideal feminist. While I love the stories of women fighting for an equal position in this world, I do not always walk — or pedal — the talk. Even though I am adept at riding around on the Xtracycle with the kids, I have no idea what to do if something goes wrong with the Xtracycle, short of filling the tires with air. (And thankfully, we have the Schwalbe Big Ben tires Big benthat are puncture resistant!)  I have always let my husband handle the maintenance and cleaning of our bikes and was happy to sashay out the door, hop on my well-maintained Xtracycle, and hum a happy tune of ignorance as I pedaled away.

Screenshot 2015-09-01 21.50.03I came to the harsh realization that I need to know more about how to take care of the Xtracycle when the spring on the KickBack Kickstand broke about a mile away from our house. Who knew that a non-functioning kickstand would be so debilitating! (For those who are unfamiliar with the KickBack Kickstand: there is a long spring that allows the KickBack Kickstand to swing up into the bottom of the bike and out of your way while you are riding the Xtracycle. Otherwise, the KickBack Kickstand would obnoxiously drag on the ground while you ride and would probably get damaged.)
KickbackOur KickBack Kickstand has broken before, but of course I let my husband fix it and chose to remain oblivious as to how to fix it. When the KickBack Kickstand broke for me, I was with the kids in a Walgreens parking lot and I took the Xtracycle from the sidewalk to the pavement, which was at most a 3-inch drop. You’re not supposed to jump curbs with the Xtracycle, but I didn’t think this was much of a curb. Unfortunately, the curb must of cut the string that holds the spring to the kickstand in place so the kickstand fell down and stayed down. Such a pain!

FullSizeRenderThe kids were miserable on this warm summer day, sitting on the hot black pavement of the parking lot. And they weren’t afraid to show it! We were supposed to have a picnic in the park and instead I was frantically giving them food from their picnic lunch while I called my husband and googled how to fix a broken KickBack Kickstand.

After about 30 minutes of effort, I was able to fix the broken string and hook it onto a screw behind the saddlebags so that the kickstand didn’t drag while we biked but the kickstand could still be brought down so I could unload the kids from the bike when we got home. It’s nearly impossible to unload the kids from the bike if you don’t have the double kickstand!

Kickback - behind the scenesThe next day my husband and I looked at the KickBack Kickstand together. I didn’t fix it properly – I was supposed to stretch the spring much farther back closer to the hub of the wheel (see picture). To do that, you really need to pull back some of the saddlebag. But now I know how to fix it if it should break again. Now, I am empowered to fix my bike!

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Teaching my daughter how to fill the tires with air.

Life is really busy. I love the Xtracycle because it gets my family outdoors and allows me to work out while transporting my kids to the places we need to go. I’m working on my master’s degree so the days of jogging on the treadmill are few and far between. But because life is busy I don’t have the time to learn how to take care of my bike. My vow from this day forward is to be more involved in taking care of our bikes. And even though the Xtracycle has the Big Ben tires, I need to learn how toElle pumping air into tires 2 patch a flat tire and grease up the gears — or whatever else you do to maintain your bike! Finally, I’m going to involve my kids in bike maintenance so they know how to take care of their bikes and don’t have to enter adulthood as ignorant as myself.


Makers logoSIDEBAR FOR MAKERS: I don’t think I really understood my true feminist feelings until I saw the PBS documentary, Makers: Women Make America. I was mesmerized by this documentary. I bought it and gave it to my family as Christmas gifts. It made me realize how far women have come elegance on a bikeand also how far women still need to go. Most of all, Makers made me love being a woman and love our history of fighting for our rights. Although we are still fighting for our rights, I also think we are learning how to embrace and leverage our differences from men instead of trying to shed those differences.


Thirty-One Pedal-Pushing Party

Thirty-One Pedal-Pushing Party

IMG_2621 2My sister sells for Thirty-One, which makes bags to use when traveling by bike or car, cool items to help you organize, insulated bags for grocery shopping, and so on. The bags and organizational items come in a variety of awesome designs to suit your fancy. You can monogram most anything with initial, a last name, or pictures (such, as a bike). They also sell cute purses and jewelry.

We realized the other day that there are a lot of uses for Thirty-One products for biking. When I’m riding on Oranje Lightning, I use the picnic thermal for to keep picnic lunches cold, a picnic blanket (now the bleacher blanket), and the all-day organizing tote.

IMG_3508So we wanted to throw a Thirty-One party to show off these great bags and organizational goodies that you can use on and off your bike. For example, some people attach the oh-snap pocket to the front  handle bars to carry the things you need at your finger tips like keys, cell phone, gum, and chapstick. I need to upgrade to the oh-snap pocket because the bag I have on Oranje Lightning’s front handle bars is not easy to access (at stop lights, of course).

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There are many more ideas for using thirty-one products to organize your biking gear or make it easier to transport gear on your bike (check out my Facebook album). Or you can just go crazy and monogram bikes on anything you want to get! If you use Thirty-One items or anything else to help you stay organized on and off your bike, please post pictures to the comments.

Feel free to go to  the Thirty-One Pedal Pushing party to browse through the items – the party is open until Monday, August 31st.

First Ever Family Night Ride

A few weeScreen Shot 2015-06-14 at 11.48.40 PMks ago, a friend from Chicago Kidical Mass asked me to come to a Family Biking Education workshop to talk (with several other panelists) about my experiences riding a long tail cargo bike with my two crazy kids on the back. (Trust me – if you live in the neighborhoods we bike through and hear my kids sing/scream their version of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, which undoubtedly involves some form of bodily excrement, at the top of their lungs, you would agree to the description of crazy.) Sponsored by the Active Transport Alliance and Chicago Kidical Mass, the workshop was intended to help parents figure out how to bike with small children (using a bike seat, trailer, or special bike). It was held at Heritage Littles, a bike shop for kids that serves milk and cookies at a miniature bar. There’s one last seminar on June 24th on biking with independent riders!

FullSizeRender-33I jumped at this chance to attend one of these education workshops because I love talking about Oranje Lightning and how awesome a cargo bike has been for our family, but I also love talking to other people who love biking too. Unfortunately, it was scheduled for a night my husband had to work and I have never biked to Lakeview  from our house and don’t have the muscles to lift the Xtracycle onto our car’s bike rack. So I figured I would just have to drive my car to talk about my awesome bike.

But awesome weather was predicted for the day of the education workshop, so my husband surprised me by taking the day off and suggesting an all-day bike excursion with the kids, ending with the bike seminar so that I could bring my bike! It was going to be a lot of riding (about three hours of biking round trip), it would probably test the kids, and it would require some night riding, but we were excited!

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Because we had to bike about 12-13 miles one way and we’ve never biked this route before, we took main roads. We usually prefer finding residential streetsl, but to be direct and expeditious, we road with the cars. The traffic didn’t seem to bother my son as he fell asleep about 15 minutes into the ride. (I’m still loving the repurposed neck pillow to hold up my son’s head when he falls asleep on the bike!)

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We stopped at Green Machine Cycles in Ravenswood (AKA Oranje Lightning’s birth place) and checked out the 2016 Xtracycles – my daughter and I had our eye on the magenta Xtracycle 11i. This Edgerunner has an internal, sealed-from-the-elements gear system, which Xtracycle says “allows you to wear what you’d like, from baggy pants to a flowing dress.” It’s supposed to be maintenance free, too! I’m sold. Just got to find a dress that I can bike in now…

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Our main purpose was to ask the bike mechanics at Green Machine Cycles about the possibility of getting a hooptie for my husband’s Big Dummy. (Our son has wanted to ride on the Big Dummy and it doesn’t have the hooptie to protect him. He’s so damn cute on the Big Dummy that we’re trying accommodate.)

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Then we were off to Mariano’s in Ravenswood for some donuts. Thereafter, we park-hopped until it was time for the family biking education workshop!

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The education workshop was great despite a diaper emergency on my son’s behalf and poor planning on his parents’ behalf that sent my husband and son riding off into the sunset in search of diapers and wipes. (New Mantra: Must potty train three-year-old son!)

Bakfiet bike

Rebecca Resman owns this beautiful bike and she secures her baby’s carseat into the box so that her 8-week-old baby can ride with her! (Sadly, this picture does not portray the 8-week old baby!)

At the family biking workshop, I became more familiar with the Active Transport Alliance (and became a member) and I learned a few things about family biking too! Now, I know that you should ask your pediatrician about having your child ride in a bike seat or bike trailer because you have to make sure the child’s neck strength is sufficient to hold their head up with a bike helmet attached (this is usually around 10 months to a year). But you can bypass all that waiting time by getting a bakfiet bike (see picture at left).

 

 


Are We All Lit?

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Then, we were on our way home on a 90-minute trek that started at dusk and would surely end in darkness. OUR. FIRST. EVER. FAMILY. RIDE. AT. NIGHT. It was kind of cool to ride at night, but also a little stressful. Thankfully, my husband had the foresight to attach every blinking light we own to our bikes so that we would be lit up like Christmas trees as the sun went down. (My husband frequently rides at night on his way home from work in an awesome reflective vest to boot.)

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My poor daughter was riding home at bed time and could not fall asleep or else she’d likely fall off the Big Dummy. I was so nervous she would fall asleep that I kept screaming her name and asking her to sing songs with me. She was such a trouper. Near the end of the ride, my husband was coaching her along and said, “It’s okay, honey, we can drive the car everywhere tomorrow!”

 

 

 

IMG_0444My son didn’t mind this trip home too much because he was asleep through most of the ride. In the picture at right, my husband’s arm is reaching in to make sure his son is breathing.

Overall,  I think we were pretty safe and we made it home in one piece at 9:30pm. In the future, I would avoid some of our familiar residential streets because there were no street lights and I couldn’t see any potholes until I was right over them – SON OF A — @#$%!

Night riding is definitely not something I would do all the time, but it was an interesting  experience. Ironically, some of the parents at the family biking education workshop had given advice not to bike with their kids at night, and here we were biking out into the darkness after the workshop! I agree with them completely, however, because you are increasing your risks with little ones in tow. But sometimes the best laid plans go wrong and you inadvertently end up riding the last stretch of your trip at dusk or in the dark, so it’s always important to be prepared and keep your bike well lit.

What Do You Love Most about Biking?

I’m not sure if some of you know, but I love biking. LOVE IT! I’m frustrated on days that I cannot ride my bike due to cold or rainy weather or various time constraints. And as I’ve said many times on this blog before, every time I get on the Dulce or Oranje Lightning, a new adventure is sure to begin.

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But when you get to take a ride on a beautiful spring day with the flowers blooming and the clear blue skies as your backdrop, there’s almost nothing that can compare. Two weeks ago, there was a beautiful spring day when the kids and I road the Xtracycle for both trips to school, an errand, and t-ball practice. (I think I logged 25 miles or so on the Xtracycle!) The kids were as happy as clams and every time I looked back at them, I saw faces that were as happy as mine. (I implore you to leave a comment if you actually know a clam that is happy.)

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Inspired like Henry David Thoreau might have been if he witnessed this beautiful day while riding a bike, I wrote the following:

It’s an idyllic day. The sun is shining and mother nature is cheery and vibrant. The smells of spring are intoxicating and luscious — from the scent of freshly cut grass as we bike through Oriole Park to the sweet and fruity perfume coming from the blossoms now bursting from the once-thin tree branches. These blossoms permeate the air. The air is delectable. The air is my dessert.

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The clouds are fluffy, capturing imaginations from toddlers to adults. “I see an alligator! There’s an elephant’s tail!” We biked past trees that had just flowered white, marshmallow blossoms. A gust of wind blew past and rained tiny white pedals from the trees down onto our helmets. Nature is magical.

 

Now I want to know what YOU love most about biking. Is it inspirational, calming, exciting, transcendental, adventurous, or something else entirely?  Email me or reply in the comments and I will add your love story with your bike to this post…

 

 

First Warm Day in Chicago

I can remember some winters where we had a random 60-degree day in January, and I had hoped this would happen this winter so we could take the Xtracycle out for at least one day. Of course, we ended up with seemingly endless freezing temperatures this winter. Fortunately, this weekend and Monday made me ready to forgive the winter for its harshness.

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If you check the comments, you’ll see that my sister solved the mystery – this show was called ‘My Boys.”

On these warm days, I always remember but continue to forget the name of this short-lived comedy sitcom that was set in Chicago about some twenty-somethings trying to get their lives together (it was prior to Happy Endings). There was one particularly hilarious episode about that amazing random warm day where everyone is in such a good mood and then goes out and makes bad choices. I think someone gets a convertible or jeep and another person gets a dog. These all seem like great ideas when the weather is perfect, but the next day it’s windy and cold (kind of like today!) and you still have to take that dog for walk no matter what weather you’re presented with.

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My son fell asleep from the nice fresh air on the ride to my daughter’s school.

Everyone wants to get outside on the first warm days of spring because we’ve been so cooped up over the winter (except for those awesome people that bike year-round). The parks are jam packed with big and small kids, adults are dusting off bicycles, people are out on their motorcycles and the doors come off Jeep Wranglers. If you don’t have the time or don’t have access to these awesome activities for perfect spring days, you are immediately jealous.

I picked my daughter up from school on the Xtracycle Edgerunner on Friday. All the kids were being let out at noon for a half day of school so it was crazy crowded. I was glad I road my bike because I didn’t have to worry about where to park my car, but I didn’t realize how many people would be gawking at us on the bike. Cars in the parking lot were driving by so incredibly slowly with kids staring out their windows at us. Being that it was a gorgeous day, their windows were rolled down and I could hear the parents in the car exclaim, “What a cool bike!”

One benefit to riding around town on a bike is that you are more keyed into your surroundings than when you drive in a car. Because the bike mandates a slower pace, you have more time to soak in what’s going on around you. I had packed a lunch and told the kids we would head over to the “spaceship park” in Norridge, but then we saw two of my daughter’s friends from school get out of their parked car and start walking over to Oriole Park. The girls shouted my daughter’s name (they couldn’t miss us on Oranje Lightning), and we immediately changed course and joined them at Oriole Park. Had we been in the car, we may not have seen them because we don’t take that same route when we’re in the car.

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My daughter knows that when we go out on the Xtracycle – even for mundane errands – it can be an adventure. Last Friday, she got an impromptu play date with her friends from school but other times she’s picked up a cute stuffed animal at a garage sale that we wouldn’t have seen or stopped at if we had been in the car. And that’s one of the great things about riding your bike everywhere – adventures are just around the corner.

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Not to mention, I have my favorite mode of exercise back after it’s been on hiatus since the cold temperatures of December set in. And my husband bought me an awesome, handmade hat and scarf set from Kozie Prery to help me through the colder days! This is absolutely fantastic for me because my helmet fits perfectly over the hat and it completely covers my ears, which get painful when cold wind hits them. (I’m such a wuss in the cold.)

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What to Do When Your Child Falls Asleep on the Bike?

Our 2-year-old still naps after lunch everyday. Sometimes we’re in the middle of a bike ride when he decides to take his nap. When he falls asleep, the head control he once had while awake, is completely gone. Plus, there’s not much of a recline on the Yepp child seat we use so that does’t help things either.

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This. Freaks. My. Husband. Out.

He worries that when he sleeps hunched over with his neck all twisted, that he can’t possibly be breathing. He will make us stop multiple times for pulse and breathing checks as well as frequent pokes to try to wake him up. But when kids fall asleep like this, they are overtired and there’s not a lot you can do to wake them up in the first 15-20 minutes of the nap.

However, I come from the mindset of never wake a sleeping baby – no matter what! Both of our kids were never great sleepers, especially our daughter. She would fall a sleep in the carseat and have similar head positions as our son does on the bike and I never moved her because I was afraid she would wake up and start screaming. Their little necks are flexible and they can still breath no matter what position they find themselves in – provided nothing is obstructing the actual airway. I couldn’t find a good carseat picture where either one of the kids’ necks were in misalignment, so you get this one of my son asleep at the wheel…

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So I’m wondering what people do when their kids fall asleep on the bike. Do they have a different seat that has more of a recline and then don’t have this problem? Do they just let it happen and not worry about it?

We’ve tried a couple of things. One is to tie the back of his helmet to the back of the Yepp seat.

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This seems like it would be a great solution, but then we worry when his head is positioned where all the pressure is on the chin straps holding the head up and then what if it cuts off his circulation? It just doesn’t seem very natural – I keep thinking that we’re missing something here and someone is going to walk by and say something really obvious, like “You shouldn’t do that because…”

Plus, when he finally wakes up from his nap, he is furious to find out that he can’t really move his head!

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In a pinch (when we don’t have much further to get to our destination), we ask our daughter to hold her brother’s head up.

IMG_2762 IMG_2760This goes just about as good as it looks. My daughter either has a hard time keeping his head up or she loses interest in her job. Plus, just look at her expression in the picture on the left, like “Come on guys, don’t you think you could do better than this? I mean, you are our parents after all. Why do I have to be the one holding his head up?”

So I’m open for comments and suggestions. Any ideas of how we can make our nap-rides less anxiety-prone would be great!

Addendum – May 20, 2015

I think we have solved the child-sleeping-on-the-Xtracycle-with-an-intensely-crooked-neck problem! My husband bought this travel pillow with a strap a few weeks ago and I have been waiting (WAITING!) for my son to fall asleep on the Yepp seat so that I could try it out. And today was the day!

My son fell asleep about 10 minutes into the ride to my daughter’s school and I pulled over with much excitement at this opportunity. I put the travel pillow on upside down just under his chin and clipped the strap around the back of the Yepp seat. It was a soft, little table for his chin but it wasn’t too tight and he had ample room around his neck underneath the neck pillow.

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TextsIt works perfectly! He looked so comfortable. Even when we went over bumps in the road, his head didn’t slip down into the travel pillow. I stopped a few minutes after putting the contraption on to make sure he was breathing and to snap a picture. I sent the picture to my husband and the text conversation ensues just as I predicted (see picture at left).

Yes.

He. Can.

Breathe!

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When I arrive at my daughter’s school, the other moms are just as excited because they have witnessed my son sleeping in the most uncomfortable positions on the bike for the last few weeks. We all stare at him in awe of his serenity. And then suddenly, he wakes up and smiles. This is a great travel pillow.

Biking Rain or Shine in Sleeping Bear Dunes

We recently took a vacation to Sleeping Bear Dunes, Michigan with our two kids and two cargo bikes. My husband and I had camped at the D. H. Day Campground and biked around Sleeping Bear in July 2008, and it was one of our best vacations ever. We would take long bike rides and then come back to our campsite, and we would rinse off right in Lake Michigan, which is steps from the campground and then go two miles down the road to Glen Arbor to have a nice meal.

Here’s a couple of pictures from that trip. First, I like to see how young Chris and I looked before kids – we look so well rested.🙂 Then, I like seeing The Dolce, my road bike, and how much easier it was to transport bikes when it was just two road bikes and not two cargo bikes!                                                                                  \MichiganDSC03665

We have always wanted to go back to Sleeping Bear Dunes, but after having young kids we just didn’t make it. Plus, we had always envisioned camping again and didn’t know if we could camp with our two year old. Rather than camp in September, we decided to rent a small cottage on Lime Lake in Maple City.

As I mentioned, loading two cargo bikes is a little more involved. Each time Chris put the bikes on the car it took about 45 minutes!

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When we finally got to our cottage just before dusk, it was a beautiful sight. Plus, this was the only day we had on our trip without rain!

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View of Lime Lake from the Cottage in Maple City

When we woke up the next morning it was pouring rain, so we decided to take a day trip to Traverse City, which is about 45 minutes away from Sleeping Bear. It’s a very bike friendly city – I took some pictures of bikes locked up all over town, including a cargo bike! IMG_1454IMG_1460 IMG_1485

When it’s raining, we find libraries to be a great free place to take our kids on trips. The Traverse City Library has beautiful children’s garden nearby and tons of bikes parked out front!

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The next day it was still raining, but we were determined take a bike ride – even if it was a quick one. Sleeping Bear Dunes has created the Heritage Bike Trail from Empire to Glen Arbor, with plans to expand the route through 2016.

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We road on this bike trail for two days of our trip – this first time for the 4.5-mile segment from the Sleeping Bear Dune Climb to Glen Arbor for hot chocolate and then back 4.5 miles to the Dune Climb. Starting at the Dune Climb was good for us because it has an abundant amount of parking and the dunes were something fun for the kids play on while Chris took 45 minutes to take down or put up the bikes from the car rack. (There is a fee to go to Sleeping Bear Dunes – I think it is about $10 per carload for a 7-day pass.)

You’ll notice from the picture on the right below that the kids are wearing socks on their hands. It was cold – even colder when you’re riding on the bike – and I did not think to pack mittens! Socks will do!

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The 4.5-mile segment from the Dune Climb to Glen Arbor was enjoyable and not too hilly. We had a great ride. This part of the bike trail goes directly through the  D. H. Day Campground, which brought back fun memories of our 2008 camping trip.

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The only unnerving part of this bike trail was the signs that said, “Hunting Now in Season. Wear Bright Colors.” What if you didn’t happen to pack bright colors?? I was grateful that I had just bought my daughter a bright pink fleece!

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The next day, we decided to park at the Dune Climb again and ride to Empire (about 6.5 miles with many, many more hills).

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Riding to Empire was not too bad, with the exception of one very large hill near the beginning of the ride. This hill is was 11% grade – I never really knew what grades were in terms of measuring the steepness of hills, but now I know 11% is tough!

Just to give you an idea of how steep this hill was – they strategically placed benches up the top of the incline for people to sit and rest or to die peacefully from their heart attack. An old couple was sitting on the first bench as I slowly pedaled by and they asked if they should cheer me on. I said yes, thinking any bit of positive thinking could help me. Awkwardly, they didn’t really cheer me on so I pedaled a little further past them and then just had to give up about ⅔ up the hill. I got off Oranje Lightning and walked the bike the rest of the way up the hill with my son chiming in behind me, “Mommy, what happened? Why you walking?” Chris made it all the way up the hill but said he felt like he was going to pass out once he reached the top. Our daughter was annoyed at the jerking movements of the bike as he got out of the saddle to pedal the rest of the incline and she asked him to “bike regular.” Thankfully, the rest of the hills on this trail were much more manageable!

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On the rest of the ride to Empire, much of it was down hill, but I couldn’t enjoy any of those hills because I knew I was just going to have to go up those same hills on the way back! It was sad that I couldn’t really enjoy soaring down those hills and just be in the moment – but what can you do!

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We started on the 9-mile trip back through the Dune Climb and over to Glen Arbor for lunch. When we got back to that super steep 11% grade hill on the way back, I was totally in the moment for that downhill coast. My son and I screamed with excitement the whole way down!

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By the time we made it to Glen Arbor, Chris and I was exhausted and the kids were freezing! We headed in for some lunch and hot chocolate at one of the local restaurants. While riding through town, we noticed some cool bike racks.

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We road about 4.5-miles back to the Dune Climb, and our daughter made up a song “We’re going on a bike trip,” which ends cutely with “and that means no pollution. Yea!” When we got back, the kids climbed up the Dune for the fourth time while Chris put the bikes back on the car rack…for 45 minutes. I think we need a better way to transport these bikes…

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By the time we got back to the cottage, we were tuckered out and ready to rest!

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But we mustered up the energy to roast some marshmallows over a determined fire that refused to go out despite the persisting drizzling rain. The kids couldn’t care less about the rain – as long as marshmallows, chocolate, and graham crackers were involved!

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The next day we headed back to Chicago, and it was still raining as we packed up the car and left the cottage. By the time we hit St. Joseph, Michigan, the rain had stopped and we decided to stop there for a few hours to enjoy the weather that was starting to warm up. (Just some background – we took a vacation to St. Joseph the previous May, at which time it was also cold and rainy. Notice a pattern? It was so cold that we never even made it to the awesome beach playground. So we submitted our raincheck today for that missed playtime.)

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One of the last pictures I took really encapsulated the entire trip. Everywhere we went, black clouds, rain, and cold followed us, but there always seemed to be blue skies teasing us along the horizon.

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Luckily, we still had a good time! We’re planning to go back next summer (but only in June, July, or August) to camp at the D. H. Day Campground. At $30 a night, you can’t beat the price for lakefront property along a lovely bike trail.

Starting up a Kidical Mass

Last week, our family went to Edison Park’s first kidical mass bike ride on Saturday. We had gotten the name of someone in Edison Park who wanted to start a kidical mass when we went to the Roscoe Village Kidical Mass bike ride (see previous post). I contacted him a week or so before the ride and agreed to help with a little PR for the ride. So I posted information on Facebook and made some flyers. The kids and I put the flyers up around Edison Park, Oriole Park, Norridge, and Park Ridge.

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The day before the ride, the kids and I decorated Oranje Lightning. I think she turned out pretty good!

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The morning of the ride, it poured rain. It did clear up, but the sky didn’t look convincing. If you looked in one direction it was clear skies, but if you looked in the other direction, there were menacing gray clouds.

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But it wasn’t raining – not even drizzling – so we got on our bikes and went down to Ebinger Elementary School. The kids were happy enough to play on the playground while we waited for people to gather.

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By about 10:20 a.m. (ride started at 10:30 a.m.), Chris went around the front of the school to see if people gathered elsewhere and saw David, the organizer of the Edison Park Kidical Mass bike ride, and his two boys.

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So our kids, who are similar ages, played together for about 15 minutes while we waited for any potential stragglers for the bike ride. No one else showed, so we were on our way. But not before a forced photo op by this proud mama!

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Here’s a little comparison between the the Roscoe Village Kidical Mass ride we went to on 8/3/15 and the Edison Park Kidical Mass ride on 8/31/14.

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No matter the number of people, it was still a great ride. My husband reminds me that it is the quality of people that come – not the quantity of people who come on these rides. And he’s right. I’m just glad I did not major in marketing considering my feeble attempt at getting the word out for this ride failed miserably!

First, David showed us this amazing pedestrian tunnel to get us under Northwest Highway without having to deal with the traffic. I had seen this on Google Maps one time, but because I’m spatially challenged I didn’t really understand it. I never knew anything like this existed!

David took us right through this tunnel and we (okay, maybe just me) were all in awe.

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The tunnel comes out right before Olympia Park at a 3-way stop sign. We just had Elleanor’s birthday party at Olympia Park District and I had no idea this little tunnel was right around the corner!

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The only problem with this pedestrian tunnel is all the broken glass everywhere. There’s so much that sometimes you can’t even navigate around it. I suppose if we take the Edison Park Kidical Mass through here next time (on 9/27!!!), we’ll have to clean it out the night before. Or maybe the alderman will take notice and clean it up!

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We continued on our ride to Oriole Park – to the smaller playground. (Good news – both Oriole Park Playgrounds are going to be redone and finished sometime in 2015!)

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While the kids played, Chris, David, and I got a chance to talk. We learned that David had recently taken his kids on a bike ride and overnight camping trip to Blackwell Forest Preserve in Wheaton, Illinois. Chris and I have been eager to take the kids on a bike camping trip but weren’t sure exactly how or where to do it. (Conveniently enough, David also blogs and you can see his posts about his bike camping trips among other things at http://www.kidsbikesdads.blogspot.com.)

We all seemed to be on the same page in terms of bikes – taking your family out for a bike ride turns even the most mundane errands into little adventures!

Later I got a message from another Kidical Mass organizer in the South Loop – it seems these things just take time to grow…Screen Shot 2014-09-12 at 9.45.46 PM

We’re pumped for the next Edison Park Kidical Mass bike ride on Saturday, September 27th. Check out the Chicago Kidical Mass Website for more details.

Park Hopping on a Cargo Bike

This summer, our family has been taking rides on the Xtracycle to playgrounds around our house. This way, Chris and I get some exercise and the kids know that after the ride they get to play at a park – as opposed to running an errand on the Xtracycle and then making them go shopping after the ride. It’s something we can fit into our day before we head off to work for the night, but it also let’s us have some high-quailty family time. Sometimes we pack a picnic lunch to eat at the park, too.

One of our first excursions on the Xtracycle with the kids was to the Earl J. Field Memorial Playground in Norridge. (We actually call this park the “Norridge Park” or even “the spaceship park,” but  I never knew the name of this park until I took the picture below, and we have been going there for years.)

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When we got to “Norridge Park,” they happened to be doing some pretty extensive landscaping of the trees right over the park so we just hopped on our bikes and road a mile or so to Oriole Park. I remember thinking: That was so easy! If one park doesn’t work out, you just hop on the bike and ride along to the next park. I know you can “hop” into your car too, but there is something about having to get the kids in and out of their carseats all the time that is frustrating about a car. That’s why all moms love a good drive thru (like a Starbucks or Panera) because it’s such a pain to drag the kids in and out of the car.

To entertain the kids on these rides, they play with some toys – slinkies, harmonicas, or toys from McDonalds.

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We also spot mailboxes, which entails screaming loudly, “MAILBOX!” whenever you see a mailbox. (I never took much notice before, but some of our mailboxes are in need of some sprucing up!)

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This is my favorite mailbox because of the cool bike with wooden panniers next to it.

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Sometimes the kids have adorable moments on the Xtracycle that absolutely make my heart melt and make me so proud to be a parent of these two great kids.

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And other times, the kids fight on the Xtracycle. Someone’s too close, someone’s squishing them, someone’s hitting their helmet, someone took their toy…any parent knows the drill. And then it makes me question my ability to parent. I didn’t take any pictures of those moments because who wants to remember that?

Chris and I take bike rides  at night sometimes to decompress and enjoy some alone time together. During these night rides, we also try to plan out safe routes for our family rides so we have less time on roads like this:

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And more time on roads like this…

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I prefer to spend more time riding through neighborhoods as opposed to busy streets. When the streets are crowded, I’m so nervous that I’m going to swing the hooptie (the cage surrounding the kids) into a parked car or something. But the problem is being able to find these good neighborhood streets that lead to busy intersections with stop lights or 4-way stop signs so that we have a safe trip across the street.

[Warning: Digression Here]

However, my husband has been reading John Forester’s manifesto, titled Effective Cycling, wherein Forester claims that “cyclists fair best whenEffective Cycling they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles.” Meaning that, cyclists should be comfortable and competent at riding on all major streets along with cars while obeying the same traffic laws. Because governments cannot build enough bike paths to get cyclists wherever they need to go, at some point, cyclists will have to use common roadways and should be competent in traveling on these roads.

I think my husband likes Forester because he’s a feisty old man who can’t stand the government, saying that “the motorist-dominated institutions wrote laws that treated cyclists as children, and then designed and built bikeways designed for childish operation.” That’s all well and good for Mr. Forester and my husband, but I still don’t want to get hit by a truck or recreate the scenario that went down in my neighborhood where I ran into a parked car with “the Dolce.”

 

Despite that digression into Forester’s views, our family has been to some great parks…

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And no matter the route, we’re all happy when we get to the park. Especially the kids!

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Over the last few months. it’s been great to see the kids try out new playground equipment and become more adventurous and daring. My soon-to-be five-year-old daughter finally learned to swing this summer! It’s so gratifying to see your kids struggle, keep trying, and then finally accomplish a goal. Her new struggle is figuring out the monkey bars.

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Speaking of overcoming struggles, our family rides have also helped me become more confident in riding the Xtracycle. I usually like to practice a route first so my husband will take the kids on the Xtracycle and I will follow on my road bike. Then, the next time we take the same route, I lead the way on the Xtracycle. I’ve been able to take the kids for longer distances and sometimes all by myself! The other day, I took the kids (by myself) to a park that was a couple miles away from the house. It was a beautiful day to ride a bike, enjoying the birds, butterflies, and cooling winds, as opposed to riding in the hot, stuffy car with the DVD players blaring nonsense.

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