Sunday, November 6, 2011

Bike adventure with my girls

I'd been feeling like my girls and I needed some quality time together, so I set yesterday aside for us to do something special. We spent the previous few days trying to decide what to do, but never came up with anything more than "go out to lunch" and "ride bikes somewhere". With those vague ideas, we set off yesterday on our bikes a little bit before lunch. Here are my happy girls all ready to go:

We pedaled toward the Stevens Creek Trail-- a multi-use walking/biking trail that leads to the marshy southwest edge of the San Francisco bay. The weather was perfect (in my opinion) for biking. It was in the low 60s and overcast. A few layers of clothing and we were set. Nathaniel (the little nursling who always comes with me) was snug and warm in his carseat in the bakfiets under the rain/wind cover. He (making up for poor sleeping the night before?) slept nearly the whole trip.

After several miles down the trail, we went down a major street for a few blocks to find lunch. We decided on a sushi restaurant, but it was-- unfortunately-- not open until dinnertime, so we opted for Subway instead, which we brought to a playground by the trail. Here are my lovely girls at the playground:

As I watched them play, I thought about my fifth grader and how in just a few years (or less?) playgrounds may no longer hold much appeal for her. I thought about how I felt at age 11 or 12-- sort of a kid, but sort of an adult. I remember very much wanting to play on playgrounds, but sometimes holding back because I felt clambering around on play structures was "babyish".

After our lunch break, we rode the trail (or rather one of the many trails in the marshy area) far out into the bay where it dead-ended . It was peaceful, but not totally silent. We could still hear some very distant traffic, a few gunshots from waterfowl hunters, and an occasional plane landing at Moffett Field. That far out though, there weren't too many people and we stood alone for a bit watching birds. Here are photos of the area:
Something about the lighting and the contrast of the orange bike and brown surroundings really struck me here; the photo, unfortunately, didn't quite capture what I wanted.
A llittle while later, we backtracked a little inland and took the Bay Trail south-- still going through the marshy area. These trails in the marshes were unpaved, but were firm dirt or gravel that was easy  to ride on at our slow pace. The only trouble we ran into was on a short (maybe 10 feet or less) but very steep uphill. I couldn't make it up with the bakfiets, so got off to push, but couldn't get a good enough grip on the loose gravel with my feet in order to get the bike up. I planted myself at a standstill on the hill and then asked Gabriella to help by pushing on the back of the bike and we made it up easily.

One of the highlights of our time by the bay, was looking through these binoculars:

Next to the binoculars were a few signs showing the different types of birds living in the surrounding area. One interesting thing I learned was that the ponds weren't natural, but were old salt evaporation ponds that are now part of a wildlife refuge. A little googling brought up the site, which explains the recent (starting in 2003) project to restore the ponds to a wildlife habitat. Not all salt ponds in the bay are being restored, though. You can see lots of them flying into the San Francisco airport, brightly colored because (according to Wikipedia) of various types of algae.

After some bird watching (I think we all liked the big cormorants), we went to another playground-- quite deserted because it had started drizzling. The girls thought it was super-cool because the spring riders were super boingy and they could rock them hard enough to touch the ground. This was for them a highlight of our trip; it was the first thing they told their brothers about when we got home. It was also here that Daniella went to the bathroom and walked out wanting help getting foamy soap out of her eyes. I had to restrain my laughter as I helped her wash it out. I still don't quite understand how soap that was difficult to dispense (her reason for the soap disaster) got on her face, but oh well... Here are a few pictures from the park (not spring riders or soapy eyes, though):

Snug in the bakfiets (and fleecy frog costume!)
After this stop, I decided it was time to head the 7 or so miles home. At Jeremy's suggestion (he's biked the area more than I have), we headed over a couple new pedestrian bridges, stopping just once at a playground to fill our water bottles (and climb the play structure for a minute, of course, too). We got home about 5:30. Jeremy was cooking dinner (a real treat!), and I was happy to see the rest of my family and chat. We had the usual dinner craziness of spilled food, yelling, eating with hands, standing on chairs, but also some nice family time, including a talk about math. Joshua (recently interested in division, but still learning) asked about dividing π. Daniella had a cute sassy answer about how the answer "depends on how thin you slice it." Jeremy-- in his random way-- then started to explain how to calculate the area of a circle and eventually explained that the r in πr2 is a spoke on a bicycle wheel. The kids understood. And so ends our wonderful adventure...

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