We just returned from a day of family Xtracycling. If you’d asked where we were going when we left the house, we probably would have mentioned something about the Bicycle Music Festival. Sure that’s where we were headed, but in reality we were out for a dose of every day cycling adventure.
In the course of an hour or so on the bikes we picked up the youngest from a play date, helped a friend install a basketball hoop, took some photos, stopped at the library, saw a ton of boats and houseboats, took some more photos, and picked up some excellent free stuff on the road near said houseboats (some BRAND NEW Ikea LED lights plus some high-quality nickel-plated light fixtures with sconces that will go nicely in our bathroom. SCORE!)!
And that was just on the way to the music festival.
On the way home we hit Whole Foods for picnic fixings, gawked at two totally different wedding events at the South Lake Union Park (one a typical slacks/skirt affair, the other boasting big cowboy hats, boots, shiny belt buckles, and some very tight dresses, though not all at once), watched the South Lake Union parade of sea planes, and even came face-to-face with the rudest 7-year-old boy we’ve ever seen.
Seriously. The following is our best memory of the actual exchange:
Boy: I’m really thirsty, give me some of your water.
Us: Um, no, I don’t think so. Maybe you should ask your parents first (thinking that maybe his parents wouldn’t want him asking for and taking food from strangers).
Boy: Nooooo!!! No! You are a meanie. If you don’t give it to me I’m going to punch you in the face!
Us: Yikes! Where are your parents? Go away little boy!
All that, and a Festival, too!
And on top of all those experiences, the festival at Denny Park was a good time, too. The crowd, pulled mostly from the hippy-like biking demographic, came with lots of long hair, beards, and very little spandex (that’s a good thing, in case you must ask). The vibe was very mellow. No surprise there, though we thought more families would show. Maybe they, like Totcycle, chose the morning gig? Still, a bikey crowd is a bikey crowd. No complaints here!
We arrived at Denny Park about half past three yet still managed to be on time. My kind of crowd! We caught the first(?) band, Bend – a tight group with a kind of a Dave Matthews like vibe. They were followed by Nettle Honey, a electric Bluegrass combo complete with Anne’s favorite instruments: fiddles! We enjoyed both, all the while marveling in the human-powered amps, mics, and speakers.
Along the way we did some people watching, the kids threw a Frisbee, we checked out the people-power system up close, observed some hornets, and generally got our groove on, in a mildly distracted ’cause we are watching to see if the kids would chase toys into the Denny Way traffic kind of way.
Unfortunately, as is often the case with whole-family events, we had to be flexible with THE PLAN. We soon realized the kids’ attention spans plus our parenting skills combined for a two-band limit, max. So after about 90 minutes of music (pleasantly scented by aromas from the nearby Hostess Twinkie factory), we hit the bikes again in search of the previously mentioned picnic dinner and ride home
As we we rode, it became clear to me that without the Xtracycles, our day would have been pretty one dimensional. Our fun didn’t come from the music festival alone. It was the whole adventure (the ride, smells, the bands, the jerk, the junk, the food, the picnic, the weddings, all of it) that made our day.
A Musical Festival by Car Instead?
Let’s look at how the day would have gone, had we decided to drive to a music festival. The event was set for 3 pm, so around 2:30 we’d pile into the auto, buckle up and drive. I’m guessing we’d fight traffic for about 30 minutes, maybe flip off a bicyclist or two along the way, and likely listen to the kids beat the crap out of each other in the back seat. Upon arrival downtown, we’d then look for parking for another 10 minutes—it’s gotta be free because I’m cheap as hell —and pile out of the car.
We’d walk to the park and probably experience a lesser quality 90 minutes of festival; I’d be cranky from driving and the kids would be cranky from being cooped up in the car.
Then we’d do it all again: Walk back to the car and drive somewhere for dinner. We probably wouldn’t have gone to Whole Foods to purchase wholesome picnic fixings, because getting in and out of the car with kids is, frankly, a pain (drive-thru is America’s dining choice for good reason. Well, not good reason, but easy reason for sure). Maybe we’d just eat at home since we’d get back there a lot earlier. The speed of the car might give us more free time in the day, but we’d probably just squander it on TV or surfing the Internet.
By car, I’m pretty sure it would have been a day without adventure. That just makes me a little sad because that means lots of folks are going adventureless every day.
Fact: Every Day Adventures are Key to Family Cycling
The title of the Xtracycle blog, Every Day Adventures, has it nailed. That’s exactly what we experience when we ride. Junk on the side of the road, interesting smells, hills, wacky people, cool sights, sweat, rainstorms, shouts of “you rule,*” speed, found money, and of course, our smiling, happy children enjoying fresh air in the city. We feed off this stuff. Our kids enjoy riding. We enjoy riding.
The camping trips, music festivals, ice cream cones and the like are wonderful, but are really just icing on the everyday cycling cake.
Unlike car travel where you are always in a hurry to get somewhere, when we’re on the bike the trip is the adventure. On the bike, the trip is living.
How about you? Will you share some of your every day adventure stories?
*(Anne got that on Friday; I got the middle finger on Tuesday. I think her better legs must tip the odds.)
Looks like a fun time. I have been thinking about our experiences riding our bikes as a family and you put into words what I’ve been thinking about. Our family is car-free but for my husband’s commuting to work 50 miles away. Friday night we rode our bike & trail-a-bike and bike & trailer to a little jazz concert in our small-town park and yesterday we rode to grab some dinner and browse at our local used bookstore. Our outings weren’t just about jazz and used books, we waved to friends, spotted butterflies, found change on the sidewalk and lots of other things that made our outings adventures for us and our kids. Hurray!
Thanks Katie. I’m not sure why this took me so long to figure. It _is_ about the trip, not just the destination.
The “it takes to long” is one of the major excuses people use when they say they can’t ride. Meanwhile they have no problem sitting in traffic going no where, or driving to the gym.
I think my response is now going to be: “what takes to long? Getting exercise? Breathing fresh air? Seeing your neighbors without a wall of glass and steel between you?”
Of course, it will be hard to do that without sounding like a jerk, so maybe I should leave that Anne. She’s much more diplomatic and motivating that I! 😉
Nice post Tim! I’ve been having similar thoughts too … this weekend was kind of a case-control study of the Every Day Adventures concept for us.
Yesterday Drew and Luc & I rode the Madsen to the 10am Bicycle Music Festival Gig … we got to cross the locks before the tourists hit, wave to friendly train guys, startle big flocks of crows, ride by a huge cruise ship and several tugs, and check out the Sculpture Garden en route.
We needed similar flexibility in festival-attending, and also made it through about two bands, with a quick Aquarium hit in between, and some picnic lunch. Spotted Kipchoge Spencer in full-on Joaquin Phoenix leaving-acting-behind-for-his-hiphop-career mode (scruffy), but was too shy/encumbered with kids to say how much I admire his company and ask about their upcoming kid carrier.
Aaron, Army Bike Carl, the nice lady from the “drinking club with a biking problem”, and other cargo ride faves were there. Two other families, one a friend of George’s …
The ride back was delightful as well. While Luc napped, as he is wont to do back there, Drew convinced me to stop for blackberries about five times. It’s just so easy to pull up on the sidewalk, pull the bike up on the centerstand, and eat ourselves silly! I never do that type of thing in the car. In all, it was good cheap fun, and the journey was almost as memorable as the destination.
Today, we had the nieces. Wanting to “go big” and having coupons, we took the clan to Wild Waves. 2 cars were necessary. Got gouged for parking (and everything else inside the park). Did have fun while we were there, probably memorable, but exhausting and trying and over-stimulating and whatnot. Kids were starving as we headed home, so we pulled off the Enchanted Highway for dinner. I think the Enchanted refers to the magical spell automobiles have cast over that landscape. I’d be scared to walk, let alone bike on that strip.
Kim suggested Olive Garden. I acquiesced. The girls wanted breadsticks. I thought it would be cheap ironic eats, but F*&* that place is expensive! And when Kim tried to get something the baby could eat it became clear that they did not possess a kitchen so much as a frozen food assembly room. I got the never-ending pasta bowl but really just wanted a never-ending pint glass. Tears were shed. Children rolled on the floor under the table. There was a barefoot trip to the bathroom. Zeppoli saved the meal.
Back to the cars. Fights over seating. Kim almost gets run off the road by a “hey that’s my exit” driver. Fights over radio. Kids passed out in the backseat.
And that was our yin/yang weekend. Next time we want to “go big” we’ll go by bike, down to the Seattle Center rides before they disappear for good. And splash in the big fountain. Or hit up Pop Mounger pool on the way home. It’ll cost about $100 less. And the bike interludes and impromptu fun? Priceless.
I’m so envious of all the bike festivals up north…but driving up from Tacoma to attend always seems ridiculous to me! We have a bike adventure down here nearly every day, though. Blogged it up for you…
@Julian: My old office used to be just up the road from Wild Waves…I don’t miss biking through that mess!
OK, it’s officially a WA state trend. I blogged it too.
Nice to hear from both of you! Anyone else? Offer up some of your everyday adventures to inspire the community!
I just stumbled upon your blog today, and it is an inspiration! Judging by your pictures, I think that my husband and I were sitting right behind you at Denny Park on Saturday afternoon, and we both ogled your beautiful bikes.
Unfortunately, getting to the Music Festival was a bit of a saga. We also live car-free, and since we moved from Belltown to Redmond, it has been challenging. The short story is that the bus to get downtown had many more bikes on it than we were expecting, and we had to wait 2 1/2 hours to find one that had room for us and our bikes. The bus drivers were not sympathetic, since there were also plenty of passengers on the bus that day, so we couldn’t carry them on board.
After all of that, we should have spent 2 hours biking downtown instead of 2 1/2 hours waiting for the bus, but that is what we are slowly learning!
I look forward to following your adventures on bike, and getting more tips on living car-free!
Yikes, Jenn. That is brutal. I’m glad you made it to the fest after all (and yes, I’m pretty sure we were right in front of you — I think I commented about the nest above your head!)
520 is a HUGE bottleneck. I still don’t know why they can’t just strap a bike path to the side of the bridge. There was a limited campaign for that in the early 90s but I think it was discarded because we were going to have a new bridge in a few years (yeah, right) and because it was too expensive. Meanwhile the price has only gone up and we’re still stuck with the same crappy bridge.
Sounds like fun, gotta love going to see the houseboats in Seattle.
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