Saturday, September 25, 2010

Stop, in the Name of the Law

Don't forget the new law about STOPPING for pedestrians in the crosswalk.  The new law is supposed to be more clear.  I guess yielding is too confusing for Illinois drivers.  How about we all try not to hit anyone with our death machines, even if the pedestrians or cyclists aren't in the crosswalk?  'Kay?  Lest I sound overly negative toward drivers of motor vehicles.  I chided my cycling husband about this very law less than 24 hours ago.  I just think if we ALL took driving a little more seriously, the roads would be safer and possibly more fun.  Yes, we've all had people walk or bike out in front of us without looking.  Yes, there are people who do silly, dangerous, reckless things, but most people are trying to be as safe as possible and even for the less than stellar peds/cyclists out there, who might need a little more common sense or don't use the best really sucks to hit them.  Let's all be careful out there.

I Have My Thumb Back!

Two weeks ago today, I rode to the gym, worked out, dropped my beloved Xtracycle off at Champaign Cycle (our fave bike shop in town), and walked the couple miles home.  Today I finally walked to the shop and picked my bike up.  I still had my LeMond road bike to use while my Xtracycle was in the shop, but it was like having my thumb cut off, I could still do everything I could before, but not as easily.  Things have been crazy busy and Rob worked a lot of hours so we never were able to take the trailer hitch off his bike and didn't think to take it off mine before I dropped it off at Champaign Cycle .  Thus, the kids and I did more walking in the beautiful weather and even hopped on the bus, which we rarely do this time of year.  Here they are patiently waiting at the bus stop at the beginning of our very busy Thursday (lunch at Common Ground Co-op, shopping at the Art Coop, picking up a yoga mat at Amara Yoga, Parker's yoga class in Urbana (not Amara), shipping a package for my business, three visits to the Urbana Free Library, retracing our steps for a temporarily lost bus pass, two different banks, and soccer practice in SW Champaign).
Rob pulled more than his weight for our Saturday Market at the Square/Common Ground Co-op shopping, the last two Saturdays.  
Here he is pulling Josie in the Chariot with groceries packed in the trailer and his Freeloaders with Dema on the snap deck (well, Dema had just hopped off).  Parker was on his own bike with his soccer gear in the pannier.  I just had my backpack/purse so everyone kept asking me to slow down.  It feels strange to be back in the saddle of my Xtracylce, but I'm so happy to have my SUV back.  It will be easier to take the kids to the gym with me and we won't have a half hour walk to Josie's dance class.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

I Love the Smell of Sweat in the Morning

I finally got off my buttum (as my three year old would say) and biked to the gym for a 5:30 class this morning.  I was a little nervous about my LeMond because I rode over some glass Monday morning and my skinny tires aren't very forgiving.  I really did not want to experience a flat in the dark while my family slept and carry my bike to the gym or home.  Luckily, my tire held out and I forgot how glorious it feels to ride early in the morning with so few motorized vehicles on the road.  The chill of the wind, the freedom, the feeling I could ride on forever...bliss.

I did stop, however, instead of just riding on and worked out for a hour.  The ride home was beautiful with the sun coming up, but the cars that were now on the road were clueless.  At least half a dozen didn't give me close to the legal requirement of three feet passing space (a future post on this, I promise, but suffice it to say, if I can reach out and touch your car with my short little arms - you are waayyy too close).  I mean seri-ass-ly!  It wasn't rush hour, I was going at a pretty fast clip (the speed sign set up near one of the school I pass said I was going 21 mph uphill) and I wasn't taking the entire lane except at the stop light or when turning.  So why or why crowd me?

Deep breath.

I still enjoyed myself and look forward to more early morning rides to the gym.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Bus Haul

We didn't get a chance to shop last Saturday.  We did get to Urbana in the afternoon for one of our favorite twin birthday parties.  I think round trip is about 10 miles.  We stopped for lunch in Campustown before heading to Historic East Urbana.  A lovely Saturday.  We've been busy running here and there since, but I was holding off on grocery shopping.  I wanted to wait until Saturday again, but we are taking care of a friend's two children most of the day tomorrow and I wanted to have things for them to eat.  I also needed to ship a package, go to the library, and stop at the bank so it was a good excuse to head over to Urbana.  It was drizzling so we decided to take the bus.  We haven't been on the bus hardly at all this summer.  It is so much more convenient to bike.  I had heard there are changes to our trusty Orange line* so I wanted to check things out for myself and pick up a new bus schedule.

We walked to the "cool" tree bus stop several blocks from our house, enjoying the gentle much needed rain.  The kids were happy to ride on the cute hybrid bus and the little ones (6 and almost 3, but they are still my little ones) even took a quick nap on the ride over.  People often ask how we get groceries without a car.  Then I show them our Xtracycles and they wonder how one could get food without a bike.  Well, often after the farmers' markets are over, I take over the shopping and do it during the week on the bus.  I really need to buy one of those grocery carts, but I just usually kill my back, I mean get a good workout, carrying the bags on my shoulders and sometimes Josie too.  I am not above bringing the boys' backpacks and filling them with groceries as well or at least have them carry their own library haul, but this time I gave them a break.
One very full bag of books, CDs, and DVDs, we could barely close the zipper.  It was almost as full when we left so it wasn't much of a change and Parker did help carry it part of the way to the bus stop on the ride home since I had the three bags of groceries, which Parker deemed even heavier than the library bag which is why he chose that one to carry.  Way too many canned/jarred goods this time and not much produce (I'm usually the one on the bus everyone stares at because I have leafy greens bursting out of my bags, it has provoked questions more than a few times) because I had to take advantage of the sales on artichoke hearts and the like.  I was going mainly to stock up on sandwich bread since Strawberry Fields has the best sandwich bread in town and bread is pretty light, but I can't help myself, so three loaded bags later, and a crick in my back**, we were home with food.  

*The Orange has changed its route a bit and no longer goes through campus which is unfortunate for those in my neighborhood (and there are quite a few, I know) who commute to campus.  They can still ride the Orange downtown and transfer, but it was oh so much nicer to be able to stay on one bus all the way there.  On the positive side, the new Orange goes to Chrystal Lake Park (not the intent, it goes behind Carle hospital now which I'm sure was the point) which we might take advantage of in the future.    The old route went pretty close, but we had to cross University (four lanes at that point).  There is an Orange Hopper which runs more often and just goes between the two downtowns.  I haven't decided how helpful this is yet for us.  I'll have to check how late it runs.

**The crick in my neck may also be from working out.  I've joined a gym which is about two miles from my house.  I'm getting into the swing of exercise outside our daily comings and goings.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Hauling Solo

I can't believe it is Thursday and I'm just now posting about Saturday, but that is how it goes sometimes.  Our grocery day was lovely, as usual.  I wish all the construction was done so we could take our normal route to Urbana, but I'm sure things will be finished eventually.  The kids had a birthday party at Sholem pool to attend after our shopping so Rob went one way with the three kids/pool necessities/snacks in tow (Parker on his own bike, Dema on the Xtracycle snapdeck, and Josie in the Chariot trailer) and I took the grocery haul home alone on my Xtracycle.  I can not tell you how happy having an SUB (sport's utility bike) makes me.  I love that we can rearrange things and split off without much effort.  Josie is old enough to ride on the snapdeck now if she had to so even without the Chariot we could get things done.
As you can see above, I made use of Josie's seat.  I didn't want to smash the produce so the last bag was strapped into the Peapod.  I don't think Josie was too happy about this, but she soon cheered up as she was on the way to the pool.
My wide load parked at home ready to be unloaded.
This week's haul.  I know you never tire of looking at our food since this is a car free blog.  Teehee.  It is what fuels the bike.  I found that laying it all out before putting it away makes for a much more organized refrigerator.  Some people ask me about perishables.  We do have a few items which need to stay cool.  Unless it is a really hot day, I find things are fine just in the bags, but we do have a couple coolers just the right size for the FreeLoaders (see Xtracycle info here).  I'll show the coolers in action in another post.

I barely had all the groceries put away when I received a call from Rob.  Bathing suit emergency.  In our rush to get out the door, the bottoms to Josie's bathing suit (which in her defense she kept saying we didn't pack) were not packed, and Parker had grabbed a suit which was too big for his cut little cycling self.  Sigh, I was more than a little disappointed.  I had already planned everything I was going to get done while the house was quite and now I had to run out again.  It was only a little over four miles round trip, but I was put out with myself for not being more together.  Once I was a couple blocks from home, I was happy to be on my "fast bike" (LeMond road bike).  We homeschool so the kids (or at least a subset of the kids) are with me 95% of the time 24/7.  I realized after I dropped off the swimming essentials that I could run a couple errands in that part of town.  I picked up some much needed (and on sale) goggles and joined a gym (I have been debating about the gym for a while, I rather get my fitness from everyday life, but I figured it would be nice to get some cardio work in which is hard to do with the kids).  We tend to be more organized since going car free, but there are times when we leave things behind.  So far, it has never really been a big deal.

Friday, August 20, 2010

So Far So Good?

After whining about Parker's soccer practices being in pretty much the most inconvenient park in town (seriously, it would be easier to sign him up for Urbana soccer), I have decided to embrase the location (somewhat) for Parker's sake.  Both Rob and I had our say and it is clear that Champaign Park District is not interested in listening.  I will say that I'm disappointed with CPD and think they should be supporting neighborhood communities by creating teams and locating practices at neighborhood parks.  How cool would that be?  Kids playing soccer with other children from their neighborhood.  Talk about team building.  It could also help some of our underused parks and give older kids a productive purpose for being there.  Alas, even our schools are not neighborhood schools anymore so this is a hard sell.  We have created neighborhoods (such as the one Parker has to go to for practice) which are so economically and in some cases racially homogeneous, that equality is not found in our schools and I'm sure some would call foul at the idea of neighborhood soccer teams.  Would the "rich" kids from SW Champaign always win?  Is winning the point?  Would money make a difference?  Soccer is supposed to be the universal sport of the every(wo)man.  Income shouldn't be an issue.

We intentionally live in a diverse part of town, but unfortunately, neighborhoods like ours are harder and harder to come by.  It isn't just our twin cities, this is an issue all over the country.  This trend makes life for everyone more motor vehicle centered.  When we move everything out of our neighborhoods, we end up with neighborhoods which aren't bike/pedestrian friendly.  It isn't a priority.  No one bikes/walks anyway because everything they need is farther away.  Restaurants, stores, etc. then become located across busy four-lane roads and the idea of using anything besides a car seems ridiculous.  The more we drive, the less connected to our neighbors, we tend to be.  We drive all over town, drive into our garage attached to our house, and are safely inside before we see anyone outside our secure little bubble.  Sigh.  I have hopes this trend might be ending, but it literally makes me sick to my stomach to cycling in the neighborhood with its wide streets which encourage cars to drive faster so they have to make the streets winding and circle drives so it is like a rat maze to find the park.  On these big wide streets, I have cars zipping me closer than they do in town.

The worst part of my cycling trip to SW soccerville is Windsor Rd.  I find the bike lane quite scary on this section (near The Crossing), especially with children.  The bike lane is narrow with a pretty deep ditch to the right and cars buzzing on the left.  It is quite busy, cars go far faster than the speed limit and taking the lane to turn left is terrifying.  Even with the bike lane, it is clear people don't expect to see cyclists there.  Okay, so I guess I still have a ways to go as far as embracing the location.  On the plus side, I see more visits to my father's house since we go through his neighborhood.  Parker is definitely tired after the ride there, soccer practice, ride home.  He has a congenital heart defect, but doesn't have any physical restrictions, but I still worry a bit on 90 degree days.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Lazy Sunday

We just hung out most of the day and played (the kids and I), or worked from home (Rob) . I leisurely biked to my radio show and back (a little under 3 miles round trip). It is a pleasant easy ride where I can think of what I'm going to talk about and get centered. Downtown is pretty slow traffic-wise Sunday mid-afternoons and it is one of my favorite trips of the week.

Tonight I will make some food for tomorrow's dinner/snacks. Since we are cycling to soccer practice (4.5 miles one way) around dinner time, I need to take snacks for the younger two, a light dinner for Parker since he'll be hungry after cycling, but won't want anything heavy before practice, and a snack for him after practice before he bikes home. The weather will be mid-80s so I need to think of things which travel easily and don't need to be kept cool.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Weekly Grocery Run

I am going to try to post more often on this blog since I've had a lot of interest from people to "see" how we (especially me with the three kids) live car free on a day to day basis.  I haven't really posted pictures on this blog before.  I'm not sure why I avoided it so long, but I think they might be helpful to some.  So here goes.

Saturdays, during the Illinois growing season, often start with at least part of our family cycling to the Market at the Square in downtown Urbana.  About 4 miles one way.  We don't have speedometers or odometers (my husband, Rob, used them years ago when he raced/trained and I had one for a time) on our bikes anymore for various reasons.  There is a lot of construction along our "normal" route to that part of Urbana so it is probably longer than the 3.5 miles google maps comes up with by bike and more like the 4 miles it displays by car.  We rarely just go straight anywhere, either way.  Today we dropped some items off at the Champaign Public Library and stopped at the bank for cash.  Thus, four miles is probably the most accurate even without construction if mileage matters to you.

Some Saturdays include classes for the kids (usually at a location on the way home) in the morning or afternoon, others include soccer games (around 2 more miles after we pass our house).  We are often on a schedule to get the shopping done and get back for something or we split up and one adult goes with a child or two to the market as the other does the classes/games.  Today was a rare Saturday, we all went together and had no pressing engagements.  We took three bikes (Rob and I both rode our Xtracycles with a child each on the back and Parker - 10 years old - rode his own bike).  Some weeks grocery shopping includes the market, Common Ground Co-op, Strawberry Fields (for sandwich bread and other items we didn't find at the market and co-op), El Charro (for avocados or makings for tamales), World Harvest (for olives and specialty items), and Mirsung (for ingredients for Indian food).  Today was just the first two stops which are conveniently located next to each other. Very nice since the cool off from last night's rain was a distant memory by mid-morning and the heat and humidity were back, not quite as fierce as earlier in the week, but we were all dripping with sweat on the ride home.
Here you see my Xtracycle with our almost 3 year old, Josie in the Pea Pod.  Dema, our six year old, is helping unload the Freeloaders (cargo bags) and he rode on Rob's Xtracycle (also pictured) on the snapdeck.  For more information about Xtracycle and a glossary of terms, check out the links.  We bought our Xtracycles (a blanket term I am using for the kits we purchased from the company) several years ago prior to going car free while we still lived in Savoy.  I sold their products through my business at the time, but now, understandably,  Xtracycle deals only with bike shops with mechanics on staff.  They have so many cool new products, I drool when I go to their website.  There are also more and more cargo bikes on the market all the time, but our Xtracycles have served us quite well over the years and will for many years to come.  Parker's bike is not shown, he is meticulous about taking care of and storing his bike.  It is safely in the garage by this point.
Here is our grocery haul (sans a bunch of bananas I found left in my Freeloader after taking this picture, just like a car, our cargo bikes have a way of swallowing up our belongings):  Two pints of blueberries, a broccoli bunch, 4lb. package of tofu, large bag of peaches, a dozen ears of sweet corn, bag of grapes, loaf of bread, bag of okra, reusable grocery bag full of kale bunches, 1lbs. bag of mushrooms, bag of salad mix, two bags of frozen pizza dough, 3lb. bag of carrots, large watermelon, five summer squash, two onions, banana bunch, reusable bag full of nectarines/plums/and more peaches, bag of apples, and a container of miso.  A pretty normal size weekly purchase for us (check out my vegan blog if you are interested in the food).  Last week I went with just Josie and I was able to bring it all home on my Xtracycle.  Several weeks Rob took Josie while I kept the boys.  He doesn't have a Pea Pod so he takes the Chariot.  He will use the back of the Chariot then to haul some of the load.  The main reason we need both Xtracycles on the market trips is to carry the two kids and because one never knows what else we may need to pick up.  It is nice to be prepared.  We could also carry Parker home if something were to happen to his bike or bring a friend back with is.  You might see in the first photo, Rob has a Timbuk2 Bag.  He carries this everywhere.  It is quite heavily laden with I don't know what all (sometimes the awesome rain gear I bought for his birthday this year).  He often just puts groceries in his bag.  He has hauled an amazing amount of beer and all sorts of other things in his bag.  One does not have to have a cargo bike to run errands without a car, but we do love them.

Just Keep Riding

Most of the time, not owning a car is really quite freeing. Once in a while, I let it stress me out. We just heard from the soccer coach for our ten year old. Practice is twice a week in the most inconvenient part of town. This means trekking all three kids during "rush half hour" to suburbia twice a week. This means the younger two kids can't take the classes they planned to take. I hate sprawl!

I know it will all work out and I'm whining for nothing. Last season I thought it would be tough because the boys both had soccer practice at the same day/time at different parts of town, but we made it work. Sigh.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

National Bike Month

Yep, we are still car free and loving it. I just haven't been able to update this blog lately, but I plan on making it a priority.

Celebrate National Bike Month by getting out there on your bikes!