Category Archives: rides

Things we’re all too young to know

I wonder why I remember some moments and not others. Obviously, going to Copenhagen made a big impression: without that trip, this blog wouldn’t exist. My memory stutters along, large gaps strung together with brief glimpses between like photographs, and short films that fade on either end into nothingness. I have taken my kids to parks more times than I can count, but I remember “going to the park” as the morning that my son, at less than two years old, wouldn’t sleep, so we walked over to play on the swings at 5am, and he sat on my lap on the big kid swings and laughed as the sun came up. “Going to the park” is also the afternoon my daughter ran off, barefoot, in a crowd at Golden Gate Park, leaving me searching for over half an hour until another mom spotted me looking panicked and carrying her shoes, and came over to ask if I was looking for a little girl. She had wandered over to the carrousel and was on her 10th free ride. She’d told the operator she’d lost her mommy, which was true, although it hadn’t exactly been unintentional. I remember we had ridden the Brompton that day.

I wonder why those particular events stuck in my memory rather than a hundred other times when my kids did more or less the same things. Why do I forget so much? The memories that are left take on the weight of all the other experiences I have forgotten, invested with more than they really contain. On reflection I think that they are times that I felt alive. I spend a lot of my time working in an office or sleeping. These things are not memorable because it feels as if nothing is happening. Time spent watching television blends into a slurry of sameness, and the driving parts of the road trips I’ve taken are largely, and happily, forgotten. I remember more of my bicycle commutes than I do of our old car commutes. I remember going to Disneyland as a child, but nothing of the drive there. The dark side of this forgetting is the expectation that the time drivers lose is truly forgettable, which turned out to be extremely untrue when one of them ran me down. I don’t know how to value the time that was lost, or the time that will be lost.

Four months ago, I learned that a friend from childhood (a lifelong non-smoker) had been diagnosed with Stage 4 metastatic lung cancer. Now that I work in cancer prevention, I know that there are cancers that are unlikely to kill you (endometrial, skin), and cancers that are likely to kill you pretty soon (liver, pancreas). And then there is lung cancer, probably the only cancer that can make people wish they’d been diagnosed with liver cancer instead.

With an old friend, the memories crowd each other even with all the things that I’ve forgotten. We were lab partners in high school chemistry, a subject in which she excelled and in which I definitely did not excel. She showed me how to see the phosphorescence in the bay, we drew cartoons of the ridiculous books we read, and we dated the same boy, sequentially and cheerfully. During summers in college I would come home after long bike rides to read emails she’d written from Costa Rica or Madagascar, and there are bits of knowledge I carry even now from them, like that countries that were once French colonies have less wildlife than their neighbors because the French ate everything. When we sailed in the afternoons in Birch Bay the water was so shallow that the sun baked it all afternoon until the bay became the world’s largest hot tub. In graduate school we hiked through the Berkeley Hills and shopped at the Davis farmers’ market. I visited her in Bodega Bay during the summer that she had to haul buckets of water every day to save the patches of wild strawberries that she studied for her dissertation. When she became a postdoc in the UK I learned that American PhDs were worth more than European doctorates, which turned out to be useful knowledge when I lived in France. She and her husband visited when my children were born, bringing fruit and cheese and crackers before I was even ready to leave the house. Her work changed over time, to tracking the viruses used in bioterrorism, so every few years the FBI would call me with more questions about our past as her security clearance grew more rarified. And so I remember more than I would otherwise, more than I could write about or share. But it never seemed to matter when I remembered and what I forgot, because there was always more time. Until suddenly, there wasn’t.

Even with so many memories there are some that return, again and again. I remember one summer afternoon, when we met at the park by the bay. I rode my bike, the red Nishiki 10-speed mixte that I rode everywhere then, and she rode hers. I locked up while she did aerial cartwheels on the grass. We walked to the beach and looked through the tide pools, dissected some of the dead wildlife, and considered checking out the body of a seal. We decided against it because we hadn’t brought gloves and it was starting to smell. We talked about everything and nothing.

What makes that memorable? Why does my mind keep returning to that afternoon? My red bike. A green cable lock. The fractal edge of a rocky beach. The sun in the sky. How does one memory hold so much weight? She says she is not afraid to die. I wish I remembered everything.

 

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Western Addition Sunday Streets 2013

Looking down at City Hall from Alamo Square--Postcard Row is hidden behind the tree on the right.

Looking down at City Hall from Alamo Square–Postcard Row is hidden behind the tree on the right.

We went back to Western Addition Sunday Streets yesterday, mostly, I will admit, so that we could eat pie. Unfortunately for me, my camera was acting up, so here is a list of bikes I photographed but that my camera ate:

(1)    A Zigo (a stroller attachment bike-trike thingy that never hit our radar because my brother-in-law threatened to break into our garage and throw it into Stow Lake if we ever seriously considered buying one)

(2)    A red Bike Friday triple tandem, ridden by a dad and two daughters—ARGH! It was so awesome, I swear.

(3)    A Bay Area Bike Share bike whizzing down the hill from Alamo Square. At least that image would be easy to replicate.

Instead I had to settle for panda shots and some other oddities.

In words of my husband: "Look! It's gimpy on her death machine." Thank you very much.

In words of my husband: “Look! It’s Gimpy on her death machine.” Thank you very much.

Western Addition Sunday Streets is a bit quieter than Mission Sunday Streets. Overall it’s on less commercial streets, although I’m sure that the big hill up and down from Alamo Square helps keep the crowds down too. My leg is still way less than 100% so I didn’t ride the whole route this year, just the western approach and downhill for one block on the eastern side. Then we turned around and headed back. And from there we went to pick up some yogurt (returning the deposit glass jar, natch). I’m not usually a Sunday shopper but evidently all our neighbors are. Hi neighbors!

What's not to like about family bikes?

What’s not to like about family bikes?

Although I didn’t get to keep my photos of the most impressive family bike rigs (curse that camera) there were a lot of traditional family bikes out. Bikes with trailer-bikes, bikes with child seat—all the usual stuff that I tend not to post very often, but that I like seeing, especially en masse. It’s nice to feel like we’re not completely alone out there.

This assisted elliptical bike-thingy was new to me.

This assisted elliptical bike-thingy was new to me.

Per usual, the Bullitt got more than its fair share of attention. It can be weird to be out with it, because the novelty of our bike makes people massively curious even on a day that things aren’t going well. We are not always the role models we would like to be. Luckily for us San Francisco parents seem to be buying Bullitts, so with luck there will be less pressure as time goes on.

First aid by bicycle

First aid by bicycle

Sunday Streets in the Western Addition is not quite as car-free as it is in some other locations. We were stopped by go-carts escorting local drivers occasionally, and some church traffic drove out of a parking lot last year—that was really distressing, because there were little kids playing in the street, which is sort of the point of Sunday Streets. However I was impressed to see that the official presence is more and more in the spirit of the event, including these bicycle-riding EMTs. Nice!

Pie is a good enough reason to hit the streets.

Pie is a good enough reason to hit the streets.

Still coming up this year: Sunday Streets in the Excelsior on September 29th (which is likely to be too much of a haul for us, or at least, for me), and the inaugural Sunday Streets in the Richmond on October 27th which will be linked with the normal Golden Gate Park street closures (wouldn’t miss it for the world!) Richmond Sunday Streets will run along Clement Street. Mmm, dim sum.

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Mission Sunday Streets 2013

We arrive at Sunday Streets. No more cover; it's spring in San Francisco.

We arrive at Sunday Streets. No more cover; it’s spring in San Francisco.

Last weekend we went to Sunday Streets again, and it was even more crowded than last year. Except right at the start, I think that the Mission site is so popular that walking the bike is no longer optional but required. It was still fun, however, with a caveat.

We went planning to meet another Bullitt family. Instead we met two! Even more amazing, although both rode red Bullitts, neither one of them was the one I recently spotted at our son’s after-school program (I asked).

This was the first red Bullitt.

This was the first red Bullitt.

We were late to Dynamo Donuts because we got caught in all the street traffic, which is okay, because halfway there we spotted our first red Bullitt. What’s more, it was another Bullitt from Splendid Cycles! (Matt has been complaining that we need a bigger Splendid sticker on our bike because people keep stopping him to ask where we got it. The little sticker under the seat is easy enough to spot if you know where to look, and of course I do, but strangers on the street, not so much.) It was great to meet this family.

I am getting the skinny about Bullitt #2.

I am getting the skinny about Bullitt #2.

When we got to Dynamo we met Jim, as planned, with his red Bullitt, plus an Xtracycle (formerly assisted, before the battery died), a Kona Ute, and eventually a music trike. For all the attention that one Bullitt gets, it pales in comparison to the attention that two Bullitts get. This red Bullitt came from Blue Heron in Berkeley, and to my astonishment he got it back to San Francisco on BART, by standing it on end in the elevators. I’m still impressed by this story.

A Kona Ute set up for kids

A Kona Ute set up for kids

Unfortunately by this time Matt, who had ridden the Bullitt because this trip would be his only riding for two weeks thanks to all his business travel, noticed that the front cranks, which had failed once before, were starting to creak again. By the time we navigated back to Mission, they stopped working almost entirely. Matt had to use the throttle on the BionX to get the bike home. Using the assist this way drains the battery fast, but we were lucky to have it. Now the Bullitt is back in the shop. Sigh. And I have to figure out a way to get both kids to their respective schools without a two-kid bike while Matt is away.

It's an organic cargo bike roll call.

It’s an organic cargo bike roll call.

This left me with two kids to get home solo. I crossed my fingers, loaded my daughter in the front basket (which is not rated for that kind of load, nor is it a comfortable way for her to ride) and rode home with them very, very carefully. The good news is that we made it.

And the other good news is that Mission Sunday Streets is pretty cool. Our kids were completely impressed by all the music, as were we. And the dancing. Check it out!

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Sunday Streeeeeeeets!

People keep asking, so here's proof: you can fit 2 kids side by side in a Bullitt under the canopy. They are four and seven and were discussing Antarctica.

People keep asking, so here’s proof: you can fit 2 kids side by side in a Bullitt under the canopy. They are four and seven and were discussing Antarctica.

We missed the opening bell of Sunday Streets at the Embarcadero this year—and how is this year different from any other year? But thankfully someone—a special someone, specifically another Bullitt family—reminded me that Mission Sunday Streets is this month, so we are heading southeast to the Mission this weekend for Dynamo Donuts and cargo bike spotting. Hope to see many families there! (Learn from our mistakes: we now head out early before the crowds get so insane that we have to walk the bikes.)

This is a big weekend in family biking: in addition to Sunday Streets, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition is holding a Playground to Playground Ride from Duboce Park to Golden Gate Park on Saturday (4/13, 10:30am). I think this is supposed to be kind of a sub rosa Kidical Mass (things that sound like Critical Mass have a mixed reputation among many in the city). I’ve been lobbying our kids to come on this ride as well but they’ve been balking, probably because there are no donuts involved.  But adults who also prefer their rides to involve food might want to check out the simultaneous Western Lands Dumpling Tour (also 4/13, 10:30am), which I would totally do if I were riding solo this weekend, but that never happens. Oh well. Maybe we’ll do our own dumpling not-tour at the local hole in the wall. Or maybe not, at least not until I break myself of the habit of checking restaurants’ health department scores.

OMG! Bullitt meets Bullitt!

OMG! Bullitt meets Bullitt!

The most exciting news for me this week was spotting another Bullitt bike set up for kid-hauling at our son’s after-school program. Which: !!!! The security guards were as excited as I was when I rolled up in a matching bike to the brand-new cargo bike-sized racks that the internet gave us. Thanks again, internet! I don’t know whose bike this is, but between that and the Clockwork Orange kid-hauler my sister keeps spotting downtown, and the two families I have now actually communicated with who have Bullitts, our ranks are growing. That’s without even counting the guy I spotted on the Panhandle hauling his dog in a Milk, and the pink Bullitt I’ve seen parked around the Mission that always seems to be loaded with furniture.

And we are outclassed again.

And we are outclassed again.

Last but not least, Matt reminded me why we often ride the Panhandle, still, instead of taking Page: because the bikes on the Panhandle are awesome. Why not haul your boat with your bike? Why not indeed?

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You can’t win them all: 2012 Holiday Lights Ride

Last night we headed out on for the 2012 San Francisco Bicycle Coalition Holiday Lights Ride. We loved this ride in 2011. And we were feeling pretty good, as we were lighted up like Christmas trees. Literally. We’d picked up some light strings at Ikea on the way back from a Hanukkah party for $2 apiece. We’re hard to miss these days.

Light strings, dynamo front and tail lights, reflective sidewall tires and jackets: we like visibility.

Light strings, dynamo front and tail lights, reflective sidewall tires and jackets: we like visibility.

For the first time, we also set up the Bullitt with the Roland add+bike trailer bike. We may be one less minivan, but with that setup we’re almost as long as a minivan. But our son was really excited that he’d get to pedal on this ride without risking falling behind. He has complained about boredom when he’s riding as a passenger.  Our daughter was thrilled that she’d have room as the sole occupant of the box to stretch out and take a nap.

Even with our efforts to pack her in under a rain skirt, our preschooler was not enjoying this ride on the Bullitt.

Even with our efforts to pack her in under a rain skirt, our preschooler was not enjoying this ride on the Bullitt.

When we rolled outside, however, we realized that in the time it took to set up the kids and the bikes, it had started raining hard. Even with excellent rain gear, having rain driving into our faces was making us and the kids miserable. We headed over to the Panhandle statue anyway, figuring that we’d at least get a brief trip on the trailer-bike in for fun. Astonishingly, the ride was not called for rain. However instead of the hundreds of riders who’d showed up last year, there were maybe a dozen people.

The bedraggled riders slosh home.

American Gothic, in which the bedraggled riders decide discretion is the better part of valor and slosh home.

We didn’t make it far on that ride. Our son had rain pants, but had decided against boots, and although he was really enjoying pedaling he complained that his shoes were filled with water. We weren’t doing much better. When the ride headed into Golden Gate Park, we headed back up the hill toward home. We dried them off and took them out for udon noodles across the street as an apology. By then it had mostly stopped raining. Better luck next year.

Our son was actually so thrilled to be on the Roland trailer-bike he was willing to gut it out longer than anyone.

Our son was actually so thrilled to be on the Roland trailer-bike he was willing to gut it out longer than anyone.

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Upcoming: SFBC 9th Annual Holiday Lights Ride

Yeah, we're ready.

Yeah, we’re ready.

I just saw the posting: the 2012 San Francisco Bicycle Coalition Holiday Lights Ride will be on December 16, 2012. We loved this ride last year, even though we had to peel off early with dozing kids. This year with the Bullitt in our stable I’m hoping our daughter can pass out on the bike if necessary and we can make it the whole way through. Meet at the Panhandle statue at 6:30pm–details copied below from the Chain of Events. Hope to see you there!

9th Annual Holiday Lights Ride (and Potluck)*

Sun., Dec. 16 | 6:30 | Meet at the Panhandle Statue, Fell and Baker Sts.

Get festive on our lively, annual two-wheelin’ pilgrimage to visit some of the city’s most stellar light displays. Summon your creative holiday spirit and ring your silver bells, caroling all the way. Bring potluck treats to share at a super special secret endpoint.

*Approx 11 miles, with moderate hills. Heavy rain cancels.

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Not another “hills of San Francisco” post!

Happily, we don’t live on any of the hills featured in this movie short. But I definitely recognize them (and avoid them). “Russian Hill Roulette” is now several years old, and since it was made, people have identified many steeper streets. Now, nothing in it would make the top six list of steepest hills in San Francisco.

Welcome to San Francisco, and remember: going up can be difficult, but going down can be dangerous, so always maintain those brakes.

If watching this seems like a dream come true to you, head to San Francisco next July for the Seven Hells of San Francisco ride. I won’t be there.

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