14 July 2014

Bike Camping In the City

Metroparks Tacoma started a new program last summer that allows folks to camp overnight at a few city parks on select summer nights. We couldn't make it last year, but this year I made sure to register early for a tent spot at Owen Beach in Point Defiance Park.

The park is only about five miles from our house, so we made this a bike camping trip: I hauled the gear on our cargobike and the girls (6 and 8) rode their own bikes.

With room for one more in the tent, we decided to bring a friend along (8). He rode his own bike, too.

The evening of our campout turned out to be one if the hottest we'll see all year with temps near 90F as I loaded up the EdgeRunner. Our saving grace was a small spray bottle hanging from my handlebars so I could mist the kids with water as we pedaled.

About halfway to the park, I decided to make an impromptu stop at the Sherman Elementary pocket library where my oldest crashed hard into a curb and pinch flatted. Doh!

Luckily the EdgeRunner has a 20" rear wheel, because I hadn't thought to pack any extra tubes for kid bikes. It only took 10 minutes to change the tube and kids rummaged through the library cabinet to find a few books to read later. Onward!

Stopping to see a deer bedded down in someone's yard

Homestretch: the waterfront trail between the Point Defiance marina and Owen Beach
Everyone pitched in to pitch the tent
Room with a view of Vashon Island and the ferry
The kids had a fun time playing along the beach and on the hillside bluffs rising from the shoreline. The park was busy on this hot afternoon and many day-trippers stayed until the park closed at dusk to take full advantage of the complete shade along the waterfront.

We packed some treats, but Metroparks also provided campers with a few individually packaged snacks. There were also board games to borrow. The kids were completely spent by 10pm so we missed the storyteller that presumably started after we were fast asleep.

Supermoon rising over Port of Tacoma.
We rose at 7am the next morning for a light breakfast provided by Metroparks (coffee, juice, milk, fruit, oatmeal.) My oldest said she counted 16 tents. 

 Beachcombing: the first sanddollar I've ever seen at Owen Beach
With another scorcher in the forecast, we set off for home around 8:30am to beat the heat. The ride home is nearly all uphill to some degree and I knew my little riders were only going to get more tired as the day progressed.

Watching the Vashon Island ferry never gets old.
Stopping to watch a raccoon
Our pack mule: Fully loaded Xtracycle EdgeRunner 
We stopped at a playground to stretch our riding legs after the steepest part of the ride home. I had promised the kids a donut stop, but at this point they were already saying that it was too hot for donuts. They wanted something cold for second breakfast.

So we stopped at the grocery store and the three kids split a 6-pack of ice cream sandwiches. This ridiculous pile of bottled water made an excellent make-shift picnic bench. As bicycle guru Kent Peterson says: cyclists are not nutritional role models. After nearly 10 miles of riding in the heat, these kids had earned it.

This was a great opportunity for us to try bike camping and make some memories without ever leaving the city. All of us had a blast. However my oldest pointed out that the camping would not have been as fun if we had driven to the park. There are still two more opportunities for you to Campout with Metroparks this summer. Consider making these bike camping opportunities as well.

19 May 2014

Catching Up

We've been busy. If it's not one thing, it's another. You know how it goes. So here's some cool bike stuff that's happened or been seen in the last month.

Firstly, TBR Junior started riding in a Yepp Mini seat at age 8 months. He LOVES it. "Do you want to go for a bike ride?" nearly always evokes an excited response and he's more than happy to let me squish his face to get the helmet on.

This happened just in time for our Kidical Mass Tacoma kick-off ride in the Junior Daffodil Parade. We had a great turnout and the constant din of our bells ringing for 4 blocks brought tears of joy to my eyes. It also lulled TBR Junior to sleep; his first bike nap!

I attempted 30 Days of Biking in April and ended up with 26 or 27 Days. Not bad. Most of those days were short errands and biking to school, but it motivated me to take a few extra solo rides. I need to make more time for this.

Bike Month rolled in and we kept on riding to school and commuting to work.

We ran a kids bike rodeo at the Bike Swap, complete with teeter-totter ramp. I managed to sell a bike in the bike corral, but turned around and acquired bike another within 10 minutes. (N+1...it's a disease.) It's an awesome Dahon folding bike that I've listed for rent through Spinlister

And with spring weather finally springing, we decided to plant a plum tree and a bike rack in our front yard. Both are right out front to share with the neighbors.

We aren't the only folks taking to two wheels in Tacoma either. I've seen more bicycle traffic than ever before, all over town. It's exciting to see people discovering and rediscovering that Tacoma has always been a great town to ride around.

Made in Tacoma boxbike
Every bike is a cargobike
Tacoma 12s ride bikes, too

19 March 2014

Swan Creek Mountain Bike Trails in Tacoma

I was excited to hear that MetroParks Tacoma partnered with the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance to build mountain bike trails in Swan Creek Park, the second largest park in the city.

A Grand Opening celebration is happening on March 29th from 10am-3pm with activities for kids and adults, including a Trek bike demo. If you are unfamiliar with Swan Creek, this would be a great time to check it out.

Lots of riders are already enjoying the trails. My friend Jesse has been out there several times and offered to give me the full tour a few weekends ago.  Jesse rides a full-suspension 29er that can handle everything the park has to offer. I rode my rigid drop-bar 29er, which is more of a monster cross bike, but it worked great. It was an overcast rainy day, so most of my photos turned out like this.

From the park entrance on East T Street near Lister Elementary, we rode south to the main trailheads. The pump track, outer loop and skills sections all start near the same spot. 

The outer loop starts with a few big drops, which I opted to ride around. However, most of that trail seemed like it would be manageable on every thing from an old 26" mtb to your singlespeed cyclocross bike. 

Near the end of the outer loop there's an optional downhill section. Jesse had already figured out my comfort zone and advised me to "stay left, it's a bit less...violent." The violent bit is a steep and fast down/up feature that was happy to avoid.

We rode the full outer loop with a detour onto the Braking Bad inner loop and finished where we started (the trail is one-way.) That first introductory lap took about 30 minutes, but Jesse said he usually rides three laps in an hour. 

There are three skills trails that offer varying degrees of difficulty with jumps, drops and berms and other features. We did multiple runs on the easy and moderatate skills trails, but I was still riding slowly and going around the big drops. It was tons of fun.

The expert skills trail was still under construction, but from what I could see it would have been way out of my league.

Overall, I had a blast and cannot wait to get back to Swan Creek. I think this is going to help make mountain biking more accessible for many local riders and allow seasoned riders to play in the dirt more often.

11 March 2014

Mob Ride this weekend

It's MOB RIDE time! The Great Leprechaun Hunt 2014!

03 March 2014

A Review of RIDE 2: More Short Fiction About Bicycles

I like reading about people riding bikes. And while many bike books contain personal accounts of tours and adventures across countrysides and continents, RIDE 2: More Short Fiction About Bicycles offers readers just a small glimpse into the hearts and minds of more everyday bike riders.

Each story or poem is written by a different author. Sometimes a bike pushes the plot of the story and other times it's just a way for the main character to get from A to B. The characters come through as real, relatable people that you may already know in some way as a friend, relative, or neighbor.

These short stories cover a variety of bicycle cultures, from bike polo to missionary work, and involve an even wider variety of people. I've read RIDE 2 three times over the last year and with each new reading I'm struck by my own intense interest in these stories. A different story has stuck with me each time: first it was the love story, then it was the one set in Oklahoma, and lately I can't get the bike polo grudge match out of my head.

I have since purchased the Kindle ebook version because I like taking these stories with me when I travel. I hope this short fiction series continues with a RIDE 3, because these snapshots of bicycles in everyday life beg to be read again and again.

RIDE 2: More Short Fiction About Bicycles is available on Amazon.

[Full disclosure: I was provided with a print copy of RIDE 2 for review purposes.]