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.