Saturday, August 13, 2016

Family Bike Camping: Manchester State Park



What a boring title to an otherwise epic journey. I chronicled a test ride with just gear and no toddler or bike friends. It went well and fast but that's because I have electric assist, little did I know what would happen when you mix toddlers, tween and Team Mama Bears.

The collective bike team we call Team Mama Bears set off to bike with 9 kids and 5 Mama Bears. Three of those are toddlers and one a tween. Oh, fun!

Our bike set up consisted of

-2 Metrofiets Bikes (1 stokemoney assist, 1 mega monster ezee hub)
-1 Madsen Bike (BionX assist)
-2 Haul-A-day Bikes (NO ASSIST)
-1 Public Bike (Tween's official ride)
-1 child on Goodwill bike (3 workable gears)

Since we were all biking from different locations we decided to meet at the Seattle Water Taxi downtown. Several of the Mama Bears were starting an epic journey so by the time they got to the dock they had biked approximately 15 miles. Since I wanted a happy tween I let the tween take the light rail in the morning with her dad to meet me downtown. Otherwise she would have had to bike about 11 miles.
Waiting for the tween at International Station. Toddler is asleep

I was hoping for the toddler to nap for a long time or at least until we got on the ferry but he was on to something.


If you have ever seen me off the bike with toddler you know that he is a running machine. I let him out and was was all over the place. He tried hard to stick his fingers in stuff and run as far as he could. Good thing the ferry dock is good for toddler running.

I wasn't sure if we would get on the same ferry as the rest of Team Mama Bears but they made it in time. I mean, they were cutting it close but made it. I was curious how the Water Taxi staff would react to our many many cargo bikes. I was told that they were the stars biking along. People took pictures of the crew of bikes, kids and gear. Can you see them?

If anything, I think when you work on some kind of boat it makes you a mellow human. The Water Taxi staff were unfazed by this. We took up the whole deck. Although they did comment that if could please make room for other bikes, HAH! Of course, of course!

Once we got to West Seattle we regrouped but here is where we should have expressed our unsaid rule. We don't stop for stuff thrown off the bike unless it's really important. What ended up happening is that we stopped so many times because of stuff thrown, probably mostly or only my toddler but OMG! Before we took this trip I went to the Goodwill and bought hotwheels cars my toddler can entertain himself with. He is an expert thrower. I didn't want to feel so much loss if he threw a car at someone. When we got across to West Seattle this was the beginning of the trip, don't make me stop multiple times!
Mostly trail until it's not and it gets tricky. It's so interesting how impatient many many drivers are, even with visible signs of people biking with small kids. You don't care about anyone but yourself right!

Go go
The little girl riding in front of me is one competent rider. It didn't matter she was on a Goodwill bike with THREE workable gears. By the time we got to the park she will have ridden 27 miles in that one day. She was excellent at following bike directions from all the adults. Kid following bike directions is a skill and some parents don't know how to do this but she was trained well.

We encountered Eric who followed us with his camera. It was a little alarming coming across him because it took me a little while to process who the guy with camera was. Was it some crazy? Nope, another fellow bicyclist. Wait, aren't people on bikes crazy to begin with?

We made it to the Fauntleroy ferry dock. The ferry staff was impressed but not shocked by our arrival. They had never seen this level of bike camping. They had seen tandems but not this.  They asked if we were an organization because we can get a discount. 

My kids
The tween would have worn her official Mama Bears shirt but she outgrew it and settled for a stylist matching green skirt.


Someone managed to end up without shorts at this point. I hope he keeps his clothes on for the rest of the ride. 

No rest meant I got to walk around the ferry and prevent him from trying to throw his sippy cup overboard or into this hole.

The ferry holds many many cars and our large cargo bikes were nothing and I'm sure we had more stuff. 

I promised not a lot of hills or ones not as severe as in parts of Seattle. I told the tween that we would ride her pace so I made sure she stayed up front but at some point she said it was too stressful being the leader. 

Little known fact, I brought an extra BionX battery for the Madsen Mama. The toddler used it as a food stool and was not even bothered by it. It didn't even make a dent in my already bulky load so we can do this again!

Possibly the most hilarious sight, this painted sidewalk. Yes, it's a painted sidewalk. Much of our ride was on the shoulder which the tween didn't complain too much about. The difference was that despite people not really slowing down they did give us plenty of room when passing. Island people are generous like that. At the end of this paint is that cat cafe.  I think I heard, "don't stop" but this is the nice detour on a road with no cars and I wanted us to enjoy biking without almost running over Pokemon Go players.


The tween keeping the pace. She carried all her own gear.
In order to avoid traffic I thought it best we take Yukon Gold Rd but it turns out it was the longest most miserable climb for the everyone, including the assisted riders. When you have assist you try to conserve so you don't run out of battery. I know I brought and extra battery for the Madsen but was still concerned even thought I knew I was fine. 

The NOAA facility backs up against the state park so this means we are required to go around it. I have been told that their is some very hard hill in there and the road we were on was much better.

Our EIGHT HOUR journey. I'm not kidding. It was eight hours! Any thought of this being a 24 hour trip with kids should be, I urge you, to do it in more than one day. This way kids can get the wiggles out at parks, sand and the whole thing doesn't have to be rushed. Yes, it felt rushed. Kids are so unpredictable. We managed to get to the park before dark and I was hoping to see a meteor shower but was so tired that I went to sleep.

Some of us managed to walk down to the beach. It was late but we did it anyway. My toddler enjoyed nature and more running.

RUN!

The tween took the opportunity to look for shells. You can see everyone but me and the toddler because he ran this far and I got to run after him. He also tried to go in the goopy water so I was probably taking this picture while holding on to him for dear life. 

Despite his favorite toy on the beach, rocks, the sea weed was the most interesting part. He tore up the beach and threw sea weed everywhere. 


The beach was for DAY use so this means we stayed too long and eventually got kicked off the beach. Apparently we were the trouble makers of the camp or what our camp neighbor wanted the ranger to believe. It turns out we had this wonderful protected space for the kids to play in. I called it nature's pack and play.

Nature's pack and play
The kids had the best time in here until they didn't when the grumpy neighbor thought the kids were too annoying. Apparently some of our parenting choices were called into question. If you take a kid to nature they should be allowed to play on logs. Let them play on the logs!

On the first day the toddlers decided that the dirt and trucks and this unused fire pit was fun. Which do you prefer, a fire pit of soot or nature's pack and play?

The amount of sticks was so overwhelming for my own toddler. Oh, look, he has pants again. Wow!

My toddler also found the entire campground his area to explore which did not please some people because privacy, right!

We all woke up the morning looking tired. I really didn't sleep well. My toddler took forever to fall asleep. He was not happy sleeping between his sister and me. in the night he took away my sleeping bag and helped make letters with his body. We made the letter H, and a pointy B. He also decided that this was the night to talk in his sleep and say, "aye, aye" which came out mostly like a toddler Fonzie. Aye! The level of quiet was probably too much for my kids. Where are the gun shots, screaming, crashing cars on Rainier Ave?

The tween's load. She biked her stuff and didn't complain. I'm so proud of her. FYI: This was a phenomenal spot for a family group. It was right across from the bathroom. WHOOPIE!

Team Mama Bears tried to help me contain the toddler to our camp site by making a cargo bike barricade but he figured it out. We probably could have used one more Metrofiets in this bunch, hah. 

Here we are, leaving the park. The tween turned her head when I took the picture, oh well. 


Good bye Island living and lush beautiful forest. 



We did manage to stop at the cat cafe where we spoke with residents about our journey. For whatever reason they were convinced we weren't from Seattle. 

We missed the Water Taxi to downtown by 3 minutes so we had to wait a whole hour. The kids needed a park and the waiting for the different transportation modes was hard. By this point the toddler had thrown multiple things off the bike and what I didn't notice is that he threw a ziplock bag of diapers. Ugh, WHY!!

Again, water taxi staff very accommodating. They didn't even blink. I thought this ferry was retired and the Doc Maynard was the exclusive water taxi. They let us on board and get this, Bike Works had a group they also let in and park on the deck. It took a lot of mooshing and assisting to get us in there but we did it. The only impatient people were the ones trying to get on the ferry. One woman pushed a bike to try to get past but then realized that that wasn't going to work. 

This is where we part. The group going to North Seattle and I going south. 

ADVICE:
I had a great time with Team Mama Bears. I love Team Mama Bears. I learned so much about everyone. Another trip will work BUT:

-This has to be at least a 2 day trip with kids just so we can enjoy the trip. It felt a little rushed. We missed the meteor shower because most of us were too pooped or stranded under a toddler. Even my tween got worried where I was when I went to the bathroom at 1am.

-The camp site was great but maybe we should consider one with electrical outlets. Most of us had our phones die or in various stages of death. This would also help anyone with electric assist feel better about not running out of juice. I was fine but I have a monster assist and was going slow but still concerned.

-Bring a bottle opener: I know, I brought  a beer but forgot my bottle opener. Luckily Anny opened it with her teeth for me, JUST KIDDING! I think she was slightly shocked I didn't know how as a UC Santa Cruz Alumni. 

-Open up to other families: I think I would be slightly concerned about this. I know the women I was biking with and level of preparedness was excellent. Everyone was on top of bike maintenance of their own bikes. You had to be comfortable with giving your own kid direction. This was not a Kidical Mass ride or even pace. I think the tween kept the pace steady even when going up that monster hill. We biked on a narrow shoulder and sometimes drivers went fast around us. A lot of the shoulder was narrow and could eventually dump you into something nasty.

In the end the trip was about 60 miles and that didn't include me stopping at the grocery store to buy food because my husband invited guest for Shabbos, HAHAHA. Not kidding!


Sunday, August 7, 2016

Bike Route Testing: Manchester State Park via West Seattle

I have wanted to go bike camping for a really really long time. I finally found a group of like-minded crazies to go with me, AKA Team Mama Bears. Several of these mamas have been to Brainbridge Island to camp with Familyride as part of a Kidical Mass Family Bike Camping.

First, I think you should all be so glad Madi test these routes. She puts a lot of thought and it's not easy. So, thank you!

In any case, I have had Manchester State Park on my top places to go. The trees and beach are really appealing. Most recently Madi went bike camping with her kids. Her route was to take the Bremerton ferry from downtown Seattle and then hop on the Port Orchard pedestrian ferry and then bike to Manchester. I had followed her journey on Twitter and noticed one thing, an elevator or 8 steps at Port Orchard. While Madi was able to squeeze her Surly Big Dummy in an upright position, I can't do that. My Metrofiets is 9.5 feet long. It's long!

So, the other option was a route that Marley had outlined in her blog. I love her routes and am eager to see if they would work for me and my kids.

After making my way from my house to downtown, let's not even bother with that mess, I was curious to see if I could manage maneuvering my long bike on to the West Seattle Water Taxi

I was the first one in line
Important detail, electric outlets on the Water Taxi, charging my phone
TADA! It fit!
None of the staff blinked when they saw me and my bike. In fact, we have plenty of room for more. I told them about the Team Mama Bear camping trip and all our bikes and they said, NO PROBLEM! You say that now, hahaha. Just wait until you meet us.

I made it up the wacko ramp in West Seattle. In fact, the staff were very nice and tried to help but I've got it covered.


West Seattle is gloriously FLAT (edit: the path is flat the rest is one monster hill) and has this nice multi-use trail.

The trail ends here. Interestingly enough, it's a buffered trail with parking to the side. I wonder if people ever drive here but not today.

The trail ends, sad 

Beautiful views of the beach and if the kids in the group want they can bike on the sidewalk. I am totally okay with that too. 

This says road closed but it is the flattest best way to get to the ferry with the least amount of traffic. 

On Google Maps you see how this ends but goes right into Lincoln Park. It's amazing!

I have always dreamed of biking on a road next to the beach without cars. It's so magical until...

until... you get to the people playing Pokemon Go and zig zaging all over the place like their is no tomorrow. Fine, it makes me happy you are out and about but that game is distracting you from tripping on a rock or crashing into the jogger. 

There is the ferry!

The ferry system is new to me so here is what I learned. You walk your bike to the toll booth. Wait in the bike spot to load you bike. You will tap on with your Orca card. Make sure you have money loaded on that thing. Luckily I had just loaded it and so it was fine. 

I also saw the dead whale. It smelled like death. It was so smelly. 

At some point I made it across to wait with that guy. We were the only two bikes on the ferry. 

Premier bike parking with views


There is my bike loaded with bike gear so I could bike with the gear for practice or just in case I had to camp. 

Bring your own candy. This was too much TOO MUCH!


I took romantic pictures of this couple. She was too cold to reach out and touch his butt but that didn't stop him.


 Possibly the scariest part was watching the people drive off the ferry to Vashon. Please oh please go slow around my bike.
Finally we made it to Southworth where I am to find my way around. I'm excited. 

As you can see, it's a shoulder with gravel but very few people driving passed me. 

Something you don't see on Google Maps. Right where the road goes up some wacko hill you can cut through this path and get instant fun. Nobody is driving here. Sure, people live here but nobody went down this road but me. 

All by myself!! It's so beautiful.

My daughter is going to enjoy this part.

After a bit more biking on the shoulder I made it to the park. Tada! I was too pooped to go in so this is as good as it's going to get. It kinda pissed me off that you can see this great road fenced off but can't ride there because it belongs to some government entity. It's would be way nicer I could go that way! UGHH!

I know, you saw this, beautiful!

This looks like a good pit stop. It was some weird cafe with cat art and lots of stuff for little fingers to touch. 

Can you see that, rolling hills. Up and down, up and down. 

Stuff I learn. If you walk on to the ferry from Southworth it is FREE to Faunteroy. What what? I know, hard to believe. 

Once again, my bike but this time we didn't stop at Vashon to drop off passengers so I got to ride off the ferry. 

Aww, Seattle. You are nothing like an island but I love you!

I made it home without bonking but this is the face I make when I'm really close. Candy helps! So, that was my test ride, hopefully the biking and camping with kids goes well.