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Archive for the ‘Bicycling’ Category

When our kids got invited on a sailing trip with another family, and we needed to pick them up in Egmont, Canada on the British Columbia coast, we started thinking about how we could fit in a little parent adventure as well.

We settled on a bike tour circumnavigating the area they would sail. So we drove to Egmont, took our bikes down off the car, and headed for the ferry to the next section of northward coast. We bicycled the curving coastal road and camped in Powell River, then the next morning took another ferry to Vancouver Island and headed south. Camping on Vancouver Island, we remembered our own previous bicycle adventures as we met German, Canadian, and American cyclists who were on the road for weeks or months.

We sorted our loonies and twonies (Canadian $1 and $2 coins) and enjoyed being in another country: the accents, the signage in French, the expensive groceries. Two more ferries later, we were again on the road to Egmont.

We arrived at the marina ahead of the sailors, and lazed in the sunshine until they arrived. It was amazing to see that little boat with four teenagers and our friends (the parents of the other two teens) aboard.

Two very different journeys – by boat and by bike – and one nice Canadian rendezvous. Our thanks to the Johannessens and their boat Mandalay.

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The car-free Ski to Sea relay race was so much fun last May, that I think we’ve moved into car-free eventing any time the race start is in our county. So this weekend, that meant my husband and brother-in-law teamed up for a car-free Bellingham Traverse. The multi-sport adventure race involves a 5.5 mile Run, 6 mile Mountain Bike, 18 mile Road Ride, 3 mile Trail Run, 4 mile Paddle, and finishes with a .5 mile Team Trek (a jog/run to the finish line).

Thus there are a number of start lines, one of which the kayak must be towed to by bicycle, for example. The logistics become an entertaining pre-race planning aspect, and make for more community involvement too. That is, non-racing community members seemed entertained by Tom riding his mountain bike to Lake Padden while one-handedly pushing the road bike that Ben would use when he arrived from running the first leg. Or community members smiled to see me tandem bicycling my brother-in-law to the race start. Fun stuff, and outdoor adventure even for those of us not racing.

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Previously, we divided our adventures into his, hers, and ours (the whole family). As the kids get older, and now that one set of grandparents has moved to town, we can parent adventure as well. The kids can stay home for swim team or cross country practice if they choose, and we can grab a little window of outdoor time.

We had two nights and 3 days to work with, so headed out on our bicycles early, were in Anacortes 3 hours later, and on the state ferry soon after. We rode on San Juan Island to our favorite hiker-biker site at the San Juan County Park, from which you get amazing sunsets and almost always see whales.

Except we saw no whales that evening. But then we spent the next day at Lime Kiln State Park, and there we were lucky enough to see thirty-some whales slowly passing by for almost four hours. I love hearing people ooh and ahh like they’re watching fireworks each time an orca’s huge dorsal fin breaks the surface.

We bicycled on Lopez Island on our third day and wandered some roads we hadn’t traveled on previous trips. We were lucky to have a simple parent bicycle venture with great weather, spectacular whale watching, and a personalized ferry pick-up from my parents. Pretty decadent to now have that option.

We loaded our bicycles onto the back of their boat, padded them with a couple towels, and bungied them in place. Then we watched little clear jellyfish by the hundreds as we made our way across the water towards home.

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Our beloved tandem bicycles have carried us on thousands of miles of family adventures. We’ve loaned them out for a few hours to various other families to try (resulting in three of those families getting tandems of their own), but this coming week friends from Colorado will arrive to head out on our tandems for a 5-day tour.

The adults are active, outdoorsy, and up for adventure, but have never bike toured with their first and third grade sons. It looks like they’ll have a good weather window, and we’ll help them with their itinerary and outfit them with our gear. I think they will love bicycle touring together, and I’m excited for them to try it.

But we’ll start them with a short ride to the Farmer’s Market on Saturday. Here’s to the start of summer adventures, ours and others’.

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Our community’s Memorial Day Ski to Sea event has been raced by my husband and I for many years. Eight-person relay teams start on Mt. Baker with cross-country skiing and downhill skiing, head down the mountain running and bicycling, take to the river canoeing, mountain bike into town and then cross the bay kayaking. The kids variously come along and cheer, or stay in town with friends and meet us at the finish.

This year, we’re doing it all car-free. That means the folks who have mountain starts will bicycle 50 miles the day before and camp out, before getting up early Sunday to bike the remaining 10 miles to their starting positions. Tom’s our cross-country skier, and will be using our bike trailer to tow skis up and the runner’s bike down to her finish. There are lots of entertaining logistics – like bicycling the canoe 25 miles to their start – but we’re going to have fun with this.

I’m mountain biking this year. That means 14 miles to the start on race day, 14 miles of racing, then a few more to the kayak finish. And on Saturday, I’ll be helping get the kayak into position which will include walking 3/4 mile from my house down to the water, and retrieving our kayaker by tandem bike after she paddles it to the start.

We may even have the kids help with the logistics, biking between the in town legs with support gear. And in a few more years we can think about entering the family division. Or maybe they’ll have a car-free division by then.

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The third Friday in May we celebrate national Bike to Work and School Day – even though the kids bike to school everyday. On Bike to School day they get a true celebration when they arrive. Music and food, cheers and congratulations, and as my son reported, “a hundred kids on the lawn playing around.”

I’m glad they and the other kids who bicycled in are getting some positive feedback for their fitness and environmental commitment. Maybe even more kids will think bike riding is fun, and all of them will get more active.

My husband ran the Bike to School station at the elementary school where he works, and I put together the one at the high school where I work. Actually, I recruited some Earth Club members to work the food table, since I was bicycling the 22 miles to work with two colleagues. We made it in good time and then helped cheer new arrivals until the bell rang for the start of first period. Wish I could get a hundred kids playing around outside my school after bicycling in. Maybe someday.

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We’ll be presenting our Go Local Bike Tour at the Bellingham REI on Thursday, February 25 at 6:30pm. Also being presented that evening is a bike tour from Bellingham to San Francisco.

Last summer we pedaled away from our house, and focusing on using bike trails and ferry links, two parents and two pre-teens pedaled 400 miles in a circle tour from Bellingham, Washington to the Olympic Peninsula to Vancouver Island and back home.

While we have a few tips for thinking local, and a couple funny stories to relate, mostly we want to encourage other families to cycle tour. It is an amazing way to travel an area, meet interesting people, and spend time together as a family. We find bicycle touring to be incredible do-it-yourself family adventuring. Hope you’ll try it!

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Inspired by Others

Sometimes you read about other folks’ adventures and you feel pretty darn inspired. Being of a family who often travels by tandem bicycle, I am drawn to couples and families traveling similarly. We’ve been following Family on Bikes as mom, dad, and twin eleven-year-old boys pedal Alaska to Argentina (they’re past Panama now), and today I read about a European couple who rode for several years from Germany east. They bicycled Iran, India, Indonesia – wow.

Now they’re back in Germany with their baby daughter, and like adventurous parents everywhere, starting to think about family adventuring someday. The article that got me thinking is on the Times Live, out of Johannesburg, South Africa. I could relate to what the he said about really living while on the road, and how they felt welcomed by so many people as they traveled. It’s an amazing world out there. And important to share that and show that to our kids.

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P9130797While Noah and I camped out on Table Mountain (see previous post), his sister and dad slept 24.5 miles down the road. On Sunday morning, they lined up on their tandem bicycle with hundreds of other folks who were generally not on tandems. For a race. Uphill. 4500 feet of elevation gain.

While Noah read a book at the finish line, I scrambled down a trail and intercepted the road. Then I walked it chalk in hand, writing messages. Some directly for Tom and Dana, some for other friends riding, some general you-can-do-it type messages for everyone, and a few comments on others’ messages. “Podium girls ahead!” someone wrote. So I added, “Podium boys too!”

Two switchbacks from the top, I heard my name. I turned to find Tom & Dana cranking up to me, she smiling, he sweating hard. I ran alongside for a bit, but then they went on. By the time I got to them at the finish, they were accepting congratulations from people and fruit from the snack table.P9130807

My favorite tandem team finished in two and a half hours (faster than Tom had thought they’d be) and as far as I saw, Dana was the only girl involved in the event.

It was a beautiful day, an impressive challenge, another incredible Mount Baker Hill Climb. And I was just a little tempted to try it next year.

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Family Book Club

PC260401Books have been on my mind. In the last few weeks I was lucky enough to win Jane in Bloom by Deborah Lytton through Cindy Hudson’s Mother-Daughter Book Club site and two writer books from Christina Katz’ Writer Mama site. Thanks gals!

I also got my copy of Cindy’s Book by Book: The Complete Guide to Creating Mother-Daughter Book Clubs. And in thinking about her perspective on sharing books with daughters, I reflected on our family’s book sharing.

On our bicycling trips, each person gets to take one book in their pannier. So after someone finishes their book, we often trade. Then we can operate as a family book club, discussing what we’ve read in the tent at night or over peanut butter sandwiches at lunch. I like reading the young adult literature my kids have read – I get to know more about what they’re experiencing, I read books I would not have ordinarily picked up, and we have interesting discussions.

When we lived in Mexico we shared even more books, because English language books were hard to come by. We packed 40 books along with us, then shared many of them. My son even made a calendar and filled in when he would read each book, so as to make them last the length of the trip (didn’t work, he sped through the books and we had to start trading with other families).

How often do families read the same book at home? For us, the Harry Potter books, but not too many others. But on a trip where space and weight dictate condensing our book possibilities? Family book club happens.

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