Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Independence Day

July 4th was a perfect riding day but I didn't ride much. It was, for the first time in, what, months?, a day on which nobody had any obligations whatsoever. No work, no school, no church, no camps, no Minnesota Boychoir, no Bel Canto Voices, no guests, no nothin'! I didn't get up until 9:30 and was the first up.

Karla decided to make French toast to use up some bread we had lying around preparing to rot. I realized we were out of maple syrup, even the fake stuff, so took my first ride of the day, a 1.1 mile round-trip to Rainbow. Yep, I know, you're all just so impressed you can hardly speak.

The day wore on as we did other things. After tea, we realized we didn't really have anything planned for dinner. I proposed that we all, including Karla, ride our bikes up to Byerly's to go grocery shopping. To my surprise, she said yes. I bellowed upstairs for the kids and they came tumbling down upon hearing that Mom was coming too. We mounted up as a few scattered raindrops spattered down (curse you!) but they stopped right away and we set off at a stately pace to Byerly's looking like a flock of ducks, only in this case the ducklings led the way in desperate sprints then waited around for Karla and I to catch up.

We negotiated the last little bit to Byerly's through the road construction, parked the bikes and went shopping. Half an hour, 90 bucks and three grocery bags later we came out and loaded up. Henry had a rear rack trunk on, and all the meat went in there, to keep it cool. Karla got the two bags of Kettle Chips, lightweight but bulky, in her handlebar basket. The rest went in my two grocery panniers on the Marin.

I have big feet, size 14s, so I mount the pannier back quite a way. Load them up with a lot of weight (including half a gallon of milk, two litres of Root Beer and an elegant tall bottle of French Orangeade, plus lots of fruit and vegetables) and the front wheel become very lightly weighted, at least while walking the bike. I have been thinking about an Xtracycle, where in this case I could carry more groceries and where they would also be ahead of the rear axle, and it would be good for this. I also should break out our old bike trailer, the one I used to haul the kids in, as I bet it would hold six bags and then I could ride my bike through the Byerly's Pick-Up lane and have the stuff loaded into the back. I'll have to try that.

Anyway, we made our stately way home. Traffic was very quiet, which is good, as Karla's a nervous cyclist at the best of times. The kids once again bubbled along, full of life and confidence. I picked my way carefully along to avoid bruising fruit or breaking bottles and we made our way home, where I lit up the barbeque while the kids zoomed around firing off smoke bombs and lighting off sparklers. Two rides down.

Once dinner was over, pleas came from the children to go watch fireworks. Bicycles are great for this, but I didn't want to ride to downtown Saint Paul or Minneapolis at this point, but said we could go up to the Roseville fireworks. Karla the nervous rider had no interest in this, but I quickly fitted the three bikes with blinky taillights (my Marin always has one mounted in any case) and an assortment of headlights, zip-tied a basket onto the rear rack and put in a 10X12 foot painting dropcloth and a Mexican blanket, and we rode off north to Roseville's Central Park. Bikes are great, there's no parking hassles, we rode straight out to the outfield of a baseball diamond, parked the bikes (two of them had the ever-handy kickstands!) and spread out. Henry was soon off playing on the monkey bars with some kids from school; Geneva and I lay in the settling dews applying bug spray and watching the clouds roll by. The drop cloth worked great--it's canvas, but rubberized on one side to keep paint spills from seeping through, and that also keeps the damp of the grass from coming up.

The fireworks started, Henry came zooming back over and we all admired the show. When it was over, we packed up in about two minutes and rode back out of the ballpark and along with the pedestrians up the street. Cars were jammed, all trying to leave at once of course, but we slipped past them and then home through the dark.

I rode 12.5 miles for the day at a pace that rarely had me breathing any faster than normal. For those who race, or train for brevets, or commute big distances, it was as nothing. Still, it was three trips which are easy to take by car out of habit. If we're going to make a difference in this world, it's going to start with small trips like these, one at a time. I'm not ready to renounce the automobile, we've grown too used to its convenience, but I am trying to reduce my use of the car when it's not necessary.

As a side note, when I was in Freewheel Bikes on Saturday I parked my Atlantis inside using (of course) the kickstand because the inside bike rack was full. My bike and gear elicited some comment, but the most hopeful was from a couple of ladies sitting there on a bench as I prepared to leave. I snapped my exceptionally-useful-but-of-course-no-longer-made pannier onto the rack and one of the ladies asked how it had attached. I took it back off and showed her; it's a standard steel-ring on elastic for the bottom, two hooks on top, nothing fancy like the Ortlieb or Carradice mountings. One lady asked, doesn't that make the bike unbalanced? No, I said, the weight is close in and low and in fact this morning (that was Saturday) I'd gone to the grocery store and brought back a gallon of milk, among other things. She asked how that fit in the bag; I pointed out that I used a grocery bag-sized pannier (I have both a Jandd and a Breezer model) and that they probably had them there at Freewheel. It's very useful for small loads, I said. They were talking to themselves as I left, "we should go back and have a look". I don't know if they looked or bought or not, but it felt good to evangelize just a little to a receptive audience.


Anonymous said...

I agree with you that the automobile is a convenience, but that it often isn't necessary. I gave up my pickup (though my wife has a car) and I'm glad I did. I never want to go back to driving as a primary means of locomotion. However, I think the fact that I am so committed to bicycling hurts my evangelism to a degree. I have so many people tell me "I wish I could do what you do [bike everywhere] but I just can't bike during the winter." So instead of just biking sometimes, they don't bike at all. I guess that's probably not my fault though.

Matt said...

There is an deeply appealing purity to doing bike-only, but frankly, I don't think it would work for us. I think of cold Tuesday nights in February when my 13-year-old is at choir practice five miles away until 9PM; am I going to make him ride home through the cold and the snow and on a school night? No, I'm not.

On the other hand, he is having some tutoring this summer and is riding to the library himself and likes going on rides. Maybe that'll persist, maybe it won't, but he sees me ride to work and the store and places like that and perhaps that'll take. We can work to reduce the stupid trips, cut out a lot of the thoughtless mileage and maybe that'll be an example others can buy into. There are many paths to righteousness, and that goes for bikes, too. Plus, they're a lot of fun, aren't they?

Anonymous said...

Glad to hear of another family enjoying the convenience of biking to the fireworks. My wife and I also rode up to Roseville's Central Park (from near Hoyt and Snelling). The bikes really cut down on the hassle factor of leaving. We were back home by 10:45 and able to get a reasonable amount of sleep to be ready for work the next day.

Serge said...

Your entire family must have enjoyed the fireworks display in Roseville! Even I wished that you would take some pictures of those fireworks to share in this blog!