Monday, August 23, 2010

We just completed an absolutely mammoth grocery run. We stopped by the health food store for a few odds and ends (about half a large grocery bag's worth), and then rode to the discount store about 2.5 - 3km from home. I have been eschewing it this summer in favour of the more expensive but very close neighbourhood store, but today decided we would go and do a large shop.

And oh boy we did! I am not sure what came over me. There was a lot we needed, and a lot of good sales. I did think I was stopping myself from overbuying in favour of remembering we were travelling by bike, not car. But I also thought that the full cart was caused more by my backpack and cloth shopping bags than actual groceries, and I was mistaken about that. We ended up with about $150 of groceries, plus two children and myself, on the Xtracycle. I wasn't sure we would get it on the bike, honestly. We came out with a loaded cart, I looked at the Xtracycle, and suddenly its size seemed dwarfed. It looked like a mini, puny Xtracycle with teeny tiny bags. But we started to load 'er up, and achieved success! M, my 6 year old, managed to leverage herself onto the bike above all the bags, and she carried the box of salad greens in her lap because there was just not any more room for it in the panniers.

For once I got pictures! I will upload pics in a bit, as the camera battery is extremely low. It tried to shut off when I was taking pics, but I willed it to live on a bit, and I think the camera actually sensed my desperation. LOL.

eta - Pics!!!

Z and shopping cart full of groceries when I was thinking, 'Uh oh.'

Who knew that would all fit on the bike?

It was an easy ride home. Definitely helps that it is mostly downhill, I did feel a difference on the uphills (which are all very gradual) but it was still nicely manageable. Balance was also different, as I am not used to carrying so much weight, and I felt M's shifting around to talk to Z a lot more than I usually do.

Here we are outside our apartment building, nicely pleased with ourselves. M had to carry the salad greens as there was just no way they were fitting in the panniers:

We felt truly victorious when we got home. While I was loading, fumbling around looking like a fool and dropping stuff from the panniers in my inexperience, I thought 'Someone must be watching me thinking too bad they don't have a car.' But we had fun the whole time. And M was so proud of her role, bringing back the quarter we'd borrowed from a cashier to get a cart (forgot to bring one) while I loaded the bike, getting on over all the stuff, being in charge of the salad, entertaining her sis to keep her awake, and opening doors once we got to our building. I told her I couldn't have done it without so much help from her, and that I was really proud of our teamwork. She was beaming when we got in.

All told we carried:

- 2 bags diapers (approx 100 diapers)
- 3 refills of wipes in a bulk bag
- 2 L almond milk
- large box salad greens
- baby romaine lettuce
- broccoli
- small bag potatoes
- cherry tomatoes
- 2 regular tomatoes and a cucumber
- 4 cans tomatoes
- 2 jars spaghetti sauce
- box macaroni
- 4 boxes Kraft Dinner (M's current favourite)
- bag frozen french fries
- large tin apple juice
- pancake mix
- maple syrup
- pickles
- loaf raisin bread
- rice crackers x2
- pita bread
- babybel cheeses
- coffee beans
- basil
- bag cornmeal
- shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, deodorant
- bunch of bananas
- ketchup, mustard
- granola bars
- and a new sippy for Z.

Honestly!!!! All of that. I can't believe it.

Great day.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Today we got daisies and beer on the Xtracycle on the way to a friends' house for dinner. I tried to take the bike thru the drive thru at the beer store, but got declined. So I took it right into the store, thru the line up, filled the pannier with the beer I bought and Z and I rode off. I thought that was pretty funny.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

By the way, sometimes it doesn't let me comment here. Abby, several times I have tried to answer your posts, especially the really thoughtful one about Slurpee consolation prizes for the inconveniences that come with being carfree, but sometimes it allows me to enter text into the comment box and sometimes it does not. I am still such a newbie to blogger.
Ahhh we went to a birthday party in the park today, on the park that is along the way to my university. It was drizzling when we set out, and it drizzled through the whole party. We had cake, yoga, and the kids burst a pinata, all in the dry shade of the large trees. M and Z both went in the splash pad and got thoroughly soaked. Then as the party drew to a close the drizzle turned to a downpour, and we found ourselves bicycling home through the pouring rain. It was so invigorating! I truly had such a marvelous time. Most of the way was along the bike path, which was all but deserted, and the lush greenery with rain coming down was so cooling and refreshing, and beautiful. M rode the whole way in her bathing suit. Along the streets, we were riding uphill and water was rushing downhill past us along the side of the bike lane, water pouring down through pathways on roofs and eavestroughs. Wonderful. And I have disc brakes on the bike, which are amazing and it feels as secure to ride in the rain as it does when it is dry. Stopping is no different, thank goodness.

I can say this summer that I really feel like I have lived it, I feel that I have thoroughly enjoyed the season and been more in touch with the goings on of the weather than I have in years past. And there is something so magical about being on the bicycle. I notice I write a lot about riding the bike on this blog, moreso than taking transit or walking, which we also do a fair bit of. I was thinking today that bicycling is the only form of exercise that I can truly say I enjoy, I feel so alive and at peace whizzing along through town or the trails on the bicycle, children aboard behind me. And my kids are so happy on the bike. Even if Z is fussy and demanding, strap her in the baby seat and set off, and suddenly she is content and quiet, watching the world go by and enjoying the 'whee' feeling of bicycling.

I also talked with a friend who bicycles year round. She gave me tips about layering and reassured that the bicycle lanes along the streets are usually clear, although she doesn't usually take trails so isn't sure about that. I am in no way sure that we can bike through winter, but I would like to go as late in the season as we possibly can.

After drying us off, I dried the Xtracycle as thoroughly as I could. The baby seat was sopping wet, to the point that I took the seat cushion and wrung it, and tons of water came out. I undid the straps on the longtail bags to let them hang free, and took a towel to all the steel parts and screws of the bike. I read something ominous about how one must dry the Xtracycle when it gets wet, or a certain part of it will rust, but my mechanical knowledge is so limited that I have no idea what part. So I dried it all, and I hope I got whatever part was the important bit.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The other day we bicycled up to meet friends at a park that is directly on the path to my university, very close to campus. It only took me 20-25 minutes to get there! With both kids aboard. And our friends' kids were so into the Xtracycle that they ended up lining up for rides around the park. Even the mamas got in on the action and cycled some of their kiddies around.

It was awesome.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

So, I drove the car again on Sunday, on a planned trip out of town for the day in lieu of getting a rental car. My 2 year old especially was really excited to go in the car, but by the end of the 45 minute trip was bored and crying. She is not used to it after having the summer off of driving.

Sunday at midnight my car insurance was removed from the vehicle (I had called a week or so in advance to have it removed following this trip).


Without the option of driving, I found myself aware of all the things I like to do with the car, and feeling really not so sure about this decision. It is only off for 45 days, until near the end of September, to give me a taste of life in school without the car. But I thought about how I am addicted to veggie burgers from Costco, and I don't even know how to get to Costco on the bus but it is probably hard *whine whine*. It is also right near my school so maybe it's not so hard after all. I also need some new clothes but I am too lazy to take the bus to Value Village. At least, that is my first response. As soon as I type that even I think well it's only two busses, they come frequently, what's the big deal. I want to go visit my Mom and renting a car is more expensive than I realized in the summer. I am going to look into the Greyhound though, and a friend told me I can get 50% off tickets with my student card.

It just freaked me out to suddenly not have the car. I have had it for my entire adult life. I'm skeered. But I am also thinking, this is my chance, man. To break out of the box, to live a little. I don't have a job that requires me to have a vehicle, I don't have a huge commute. I live in one of the best areas of the city to be carfree. I can think of reasons why to not do it, I have kids, I have to run around to places, groceries etc. But I was reading a book about living simply, and the author talked about how we justify all these reasons that *we* are the exception, *we* need this or that while everyone else can make do without. Fact is car culture is not sustainable. I know this. And knowing it, I just feel... kind of dirty or something... relying on it as much as I have in the past. Like, if I go somewhere without the vehicle, I truly feel that I am there. If I drive, I feel like I cheated a little bit, if that makes sense. This is particularly the case with outdoor places, but it is a little bit true anywhere.

Last night I had to take M, my 6 year old, back to urgent care. The situation was not as urgent, but the antibiotics didn't fix her all the way up to feeling well, and I wanted to get her back in before she got sick again. This time I looked up the bus routes, and what do you know, the bus that stops outside my house goes straight to urgent care. En route I even composed a blog post in my mind about how great that is. Except we got down there, and urgent care was closed. How urgent is urgent care if they close at 6pm I ask? But all the same, we ended up walking to a payphone and calling a cab to go to the children's emerg. Ahhhhh!!! Foiled. But we got there, and now I know how to get to urgent care easily, if I have an 'urgent' problem before 6pm.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

So I, uh, drove the car.

My 6 year old had a non-emergent but fairly urgent and upsetting medical situation. I actually consciously thought while getting ready about how if I didn't have the car we would call a cab and it would be fine. But since I have the car, and it is insured for two more days, just getting in it felt like the responsible thing to do, and also the thing that gave me a secure feeling.

So we drove. Took her to the clinic, she was treated, came back home, all is well. The car sure gets you from point A to point B fastest and with little effort. I surprisingly felt less confident driving, less spatially aware, on the way there. By the way back it was old hat again.

Had I needed to take a cab, it would have come within 5 minutes to my front door and would have cost $20 to/from the clinic nearby, or probably $30 to the urgent care, where I prefer the treatment, find shorter wait times, and like to go. It would be doable. I didn't do it this time, but we could and would if we were carfree. Frankly I prefer privacy and not dealing with others or worrying about wrangling carseats into a cab (honestly I would skip the carseats probably, it is legal to go in taxis without them here). But it's a rare situation and we would manage.

Friday, August 6, 2010

This is lovely and inspiring:

I did the commute to my school today. Did it straight from my house, though usually I will detour to take M, my 6 year old to school first. I did it there and back though with a stop on another part of campus, so figured that was enough.

It is long. 6km one way, which takes me 45 mins or more, sadly enough. I am not fast. There is at least one hill each way that I must walk, I can't bike up them. The commute is very, very pleasant, mostly bike trails, very safe, relaxing, lots of beauty, and Z, the two year old, stays content on the bicycle the whole way (both ways today, including detours) and chats to me about the flowers and everything she sees. She says, 'Let's go fast, Mom! Great idea!' On campus there are lots of bicycle lanes and it is lovely to ride through. I know I *can* do it now, and enjoy it. Question is will I, day in, day out? I guess I will have to see.

Today was about exploring route possibilities. I need to go again and just go from point A to point B (well, should do points A, B, and C - from home to M's school to my school), because that is the reality of what I will be riding. And I should time it.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

My Mom is visiting. She arrived yesterday just before noon and goes home tomorrow afternoon (after 6 year old's swim lesson). I got her on this carfree bug with me while she has been here, her car hasn't left visitors' parking. We biked everywhere! My Mom used my regular bicycle while I used the Xtracycle with the kids. We walked to the pool yesterday for the swim lesson, and then we bicycled over to visit my ex partner, then to downtown to catch the last evening of a local fair, then for pizza and home. We did about 8 km yesterday, and had a fabulous time. Taking the kids to the fair was a surprise, and we were only going to let them on a few rides (well the 2 year old is anti-rides, so I'm talking about the big kid here). We were standing outside the ticket booth deciding how many tickets we needed, when someone came up and handed the kiddo a 'ride all day' pass. Yay!! She was beyond thrilled, even though there were only about 7 rides, she didn't care and we stayed until well after dark. Then we bicycled to Pizza Pizza and got the kids pizza at 10pm. Good times!

Today we cycled to the swim lesson, and then to a city amusement park at the west end of town. One big downside to the Xtracycle with a babe on board, which I learned the other day when I dropped it trying to wrangle it thru my apartment building doors, is that it is VERY precarious to try to move the bike with the weight of a child on it. I don't mean to just walk the bike forward, but to actually lift the back end and set it down in a new position, still upright with baby aboard, is a weight and balance nightmare. So we were cycling along the deserted sidewalk of a very busy road today, when suddenly the sidewalk ended. I decided to get off, get the big kid to jump off, and hop the bike down the curb where I planned to continue riding on the road. Then I changed my mind, noticing a merge lane ahead which we would need to enter that had a huge blind spot for merging traffic. So I decided to hop the bike back on the curb, but couldn't just walk it up as the sidewalk was ending. This is kind of hard to explain, but suffice it to say I am glad my mother was there because it took two of us to physically lift the bicycle up to the last bit of sidewalk with the toddler aboard. Due to weight and balance I could not have safely done it without risking dropping the bicycle. So we had a bad moment where I was spotting and ensuring our presence was known to cars and an oncoming transport truck (who changed lanes to give us space far ahead of where we were - thank goodness I've found drivers so aware in this city, man,)and we lifted the bike successfully, I turned it around towards the path and we were on our way.

I will not do that stretch of road again. If I were alone, in the situation I got myself into I would have had to keep the bike on the road and remove the toddler from the seat, then have her big sis hang on to her on the sidewalk (she is awesomely reliable at that kind of thing), and lift the bike separately. Total crisis moment and I need to remember this characteristic of the bicycle, which I guess is similar to any bicycle with a child in a child seat (I just haven't used one for years), and make choices accordingly.

Once we got through that though we were fine, and most of the trip was lovely through the city's bicycle paths. I made it up a decently steep hill and was extremely proud! My mom didn't make it, had to get off and walk her bicycle, but then she doesn't believe in shifting gears so that is likely why. On the way back I encountered a too-big hill and had to dismount and walk the bike, which ended up being easier to do (getting big kid to hop off, then me off on an uphill incline) than I had thought. Otherwise totally smooth ride, 14 km in extremely hot, humid weather. Thank goodness the park has a fully decked out splash pad.

This is the longest journey I have done with the Xtracycle, and I carried both kids and was mighty proud. Actually it is the longest journey I have biked in recent memory, I did the same one last year on my own bicycle pulling the trailer I believe, with then-5-year-old on her own bicycle. Bodes well for my commuting to school plans. I love that I stowed an umbrella stroller in the Xtracycle panniers and used it to cart the toddler (and at one point, an overtired and overheated big sister) around the park. That is awesome.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

It's August! :) Actually this will probably post as August 2nd, but it's 12:15am on what I still consider August 1st, and we have been carfree for a whole month! I did it! I'm thrilled. Haven't even been in a car this month in fact.

As I mentioned before I plan to continue through August and until the end of September, when mine and the kids' school all starts back up. We shall see how we hack it from here on out.