Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Across the Dumbarton Bridge

Yesterday, we took a "biking adventure" to the extreme. We've all been thinking about riding the 120 or so miles from the bay area to the Sacramento area to visit Jeremy's parents. Jeremy was hesitant that we could actually make it. So, he struck a deal with the kids: If we could make it across the Dumbarton Bridge to the start of the Alameda Creek Trail (about 25 miles from home) by noon, then he'd be game to continue onward-- riding about 50 miles a day (staying nights in hotels) and arriving at his parents' Wednesday afternoon or evening, in time for Thanksgiving.

Getting ready to head out.
All packed up and with the girls raring to go, we aimed to get out by 7 AM or so, but ended up leaving a bit after 8. We took a slight detour to the library to return some materials, then hopped onto the Stevens Creek Trail and booked it out toward the Bay Trail and then to IKEA in East Palo Alto to enjoy their Monday free breakfast. (We love free food!). After a somewhat rushed breakfast (Gabi was especially insistent that we get moving so we could make it the 25 miles by noon), we rode our bikes through East Palo Alto. We saw steers at a farm (or farm-like area?) and then got barked at by a very angry little dog (ringing my bell made it stop running at me and also brought out a kid from the home it belonged to).

Beautiful bay. (Thanks, Joey in the bakfiets, for this photo and many others.)

On the Bay Trail.
Breakfast at IKEA

Farm in East Palo Alto?

The dog that barked and ran at us. (Joey took the photo; I was ringing my bike bell.)
My favorite part of the whole trip was crossing the Dumbarton bridge. I've been over it many times in a car, but never by bike or foot. It was exhilarating. You are up high with great views of the ocean and (at least when we rode, but I imagine always) a refreshing crosswind. The cars are separated from the pedestrian/bike area by a concrete wall, so you don't have to worry about them. The approach to the bridge on both sides is long, but separated from all but a few cars going to the fishing pier (sections of the old Dumbarton bridge). It was just fun!
Western approach to Dumbarton Bridge.
On the bridge.
After we crossed the bridge, we rode into the Coyote Hills Regional Park area and it was noon... According to Daniella's bike computer (the only one who currently has a bike computer... ), we'd ridden 23.9 miles, about 1 mile short of the 25 miles we'd agreed on, but actually about 3 miles from the Alameda Creek Trail (since we'd taken a detour in the morning to the library). We rode some rather hilly, not-paved trails to a picnic/group campground area and had a lunch of cinnamon rolls (from IKEA; Jeremy bought them) and carrots and hummus (Mommy brought them). The girls (and me too, honestly) were rather bummed we hadn't made the agreed-upon spot by noon, but Jeremy stuck to his guns and after lunch we began to head home. At this point, both Joshua and I were rather tired and grumpy. (He'd pedaled the whole way on his 20" wheels and I was wiped out from all the little hills and trudging along on the bakfiets). After some exploring of the marsh areas, I demanded real food and we rode into Newark and stopped at Subway. From there we headed back across the Dumbarton Bridge, enjoying the sunset from there, rushed through East Palo Alto (weren't so sure about biking through there at night) and then stopped for a snack in Palo Alto near a bike shop I was curious about (Street Bike Named Desire) and then meandered on home along familiar routes (at least for Jeremy, who used to work in Palo Alto).
Lunch at Coyote Hills Regional Park.

Then playing...
The last stretch from Palo Alto to home I was really wiped out. I had three (at first fighting, and then sleeping) boys in the bakfiets plus was towing Joshua's bike on the Follow Me and we were going uphill. (It looks totally flat, but trust me... it's UPHILL). I was going so slow, I ended up sending the rest of the bikers ahead so they could get home and ready for bed. They decided we needed to eat ice cream and I caught up with them after they'd made a stop at the grocery store. At home, Joshua laid in bed and immediately conked out. The girls claimed they weren't tired or sore at all. After getting every one settled into bed (easy-- since half the kids had fallen asleep on the way home). I crawled into bed and Jeremy brought me a lovely, massive bowl of cookies 'n cream ice cream. Our family rode a total of 53.988 miles (according to Daniella's bike computer) and for 6:55:45 (also according to Daniella's computer). It's by far the longest distance we've ever done as a family.
Jonah and Joey asleep in the bakfiets.
Reflecting on the experience, there were several things we learned. The foremost was that the bakfiets really doesn't work for long distances with any sort of hills (up and down the bridge, tootling around in the Coyote Hills Regional Park). I was almost always the slowest by far... except for sometimes when Joshua was slowest. The idea was that if Joshua got tired, then we would connect his bike to the Follow-Me (attached to the bakfiets), but since I was already dragging we tried to hold off on that as much as possible. Joshua was a trooper, but if we go any such distance again, we need to make sure he gets pulled more of the way. Secondly, we learned (or maybe already knew?-- since she'd done a great job a few weeks ago) that we should have Gabriella pull some of the kid-weight. She was yelling for us to go faster and was clearly not working too hard for much of the ride. If we ride such a distance again, we plan to have me on a (yet to-be-bought) touring or commuter bike just as Jeremy and the girls were riding. We'd likely attach the Follow-Me for Joshua to one of those bikes, bring the Trail-a-Bike for Joey and the trailer for the two littlest.

As for whether covering such a distance or doing multi-day touring is something we might do again... When I got home Monday night, I was rather mad at Jeremy for egging us back on home (instead of just staying in a hotel in the East Bay and making a fun night out of it; the kids think hotels are fun with TVs, little bars of soap, etc.). Jeremy thought it was a success and was excited by the idea that we might possibly be able to cover some real distance while touring. The littles were all asleep and, in talking to them this morning, seemed to be willing to just go along with whatever. Joshua liked it, except for the fact that he got really tired. So, I guess we might try some big and long ride again? Maybe? After I get around to getting a bike that weighs less than the 100-pound-bakfiets? We'll see, we'll see...

Monday, November 5, 2012

Biking to hiking...

Last Saturday, our entire family went on one of our "bike adventures"-- where we take most of a day to ride somewhere far and explore. After much debate, we headed in a general southerly direction with no real destination. We meandered through a flea market and then, after a few random detours up some side streets, we bumped into some hiking trails (not really too far from home) we never knew existed. How fun!

The trail started off flat and shady:

We found a yummy strawberry fruit tree:

 Then we found a very big hill:

There were great views at the top:

After heading back down, the kids got silly on the trail:

We then finished up the hike, stopped at two playgrounds (and two restrooms), and then ended with dinner at a new cafe near our home. They cafe had games (but the food wasn't quite enough for our big appetites):

For the ride, we changed our usual set-up a bit and had Jeremy pulling Joshua on the trail-a-bike and Gabriella pulling Jonah or Joseph (they switched places a few times) and me riding the bakfiets with Nathaniel and Jonah or Joseph (whoever wasn't in the trailer). I lagged behind in the "clean up" position, as we call it, but the trailer was a great set-up for Gabi. Usually she's yelling at us to go faster, but pulling the trailer kept her at the same pace as Jeremy. I'm so proud of how strong she is for being barely 11!

For a chunk of the ride, I let Joseph loose with the camera while he sat in the bakfiets. He had a blast and captured several pictures, some silly, some just different from what I usually take, and some nice shots. Presenting a sampling of the work of Joey the photographer...

All ready to go...

Goodbye garage...

The bakfiets lags behind.

Jeremy and Joshua.

Excellent bike lane.

Pedestrian/bicycle bridge.

Flea Market wares. Joseph loves Legos.

And police cars...

Soccer players at the local community college.

The sun!

Another group of bikers!

Old-school TV antenna.

Little brother... thinking about grabbing the camera.

We had a nice day, though next time we might do better with a little more planning. Right now, some members of the household are plotting all kinds of multi-day bike trips. We'll see. We'll see.