Thursday, July 24, 2014

I♥Biking: Stopping to Smell the Roses (well, books, actually)

When we drive anywhere, we're using a Modo car, which means we have a booking for a specific window of time. Most of the time we can extend our booking, but even so, we're generally trying to get home at a specific time to return the car. These car trips are direct, to the point, and don't involve much spontanaeity. Even when we owned our own car, we still mostly just went from point A to point B, without looking around us much or stopping at the drop of a hat to check something out.

Cycling, on the other hand, is much less scheduled. We may have somewhere to be at a specific time, but there's usually a little wiggle room to pause for a moment if something catches our eye while we're passing. It's also much easier to pull to a stop & hop onto the sidewalk or turn into a park when biking. Because we're travelling slower than in a car (though not much slower in the city, actually) without windows & steel around us, we can see, hear and smell the world much better.

I snapped a picture of one of those "stopping to smell the roses" moments recently, on a trip back from New Brighton outdoor pool. There are quite a few of these tiny little neighbourhood book exchanges in East Vancouver. Our route passed three of them, so we stopped to peruse the selection.

What was your last spontaneous stop on a bike? Do you find that you are less likely to stop when driving than you would if you were biking or walking?

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Review: Flameless Candles

Okay, you're probably wondering what the heck I mean by flameless candles, right? (if you're already in the know, skip this paragraph & head straight to the linked review below). If they're not bits of cotton string on fire in a stick of molten wax, how can they be candles? Well, they're technically LED lights, but they really do look like candles, honest! I got the chance to try some out for free and report back to One Smiley Monkey.

I highly recommend them if you love the cozy flickering of candlelight but are afraid your children will light their hair (or your home) on fire. See my full review on One Smiley Monkey here: Grand Outdoors Flameless Pillar Candles. Bonus: my review even includes a short video so you can see the flameless-yet-flame-like flicker for yourself.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Testing out the limits of the Yuba's cargo capacity

"Grr! Og strong!" Unloading after paver run #3.
A few days ago, Oliver was perusing the local community email list and found that someone was getting rid of about a hundred concrete pavers. We've been planning to extend the walkway around the back of our house into a patio for the ground level suite--these would be perfect for the job!

So we strapped a couple of carboard boxes onto the Yuba sideloaders--I considered using the GoGetter bags, but didn't want to risk tearing them or getting them filthy from used paving stones. The address was only about three blocks away and Oliver quickly came back with the first load of 38 pavers, plus almost-four-year-old who'd gone along for the ride. I weighed one of the paving stones to estimate how much the load was: including the kid, around 345 pounds. Probably 350 if you take into account the boxes, straps and two child seats as well.

The maximum cargo capacity of the Yuba is 440 pounds; the load of pavers was well under that limit. Oliver described the first load as quite wobbly, probably because the boxes were shifting. The bike was a little more top-heavy because of Linnaeus in his seat and the Bread Basket on the front having about 48 pounds of pavers. When he went back for a second load, he didn't take the kid & only brought back 34 pavers, about 270 pounds. That run was much smoother, not wobbly.

After four runs, he'd collected all 100 of the pavers. I'm pretty sure we've got enough to finish off our little patio, except for the sand, of course. This short run was probably doable on foot with a wagon, though I wouldn't trust our plastic one to hold 350 pounds, so it likely would have taken several more trips and at least twice as much time. Our other alternative would have been to book a Modo truck for an hour--then we could have done it all in one run, but it would have cost about $7 or so. Free, plus a little exercise to boot, is always a good thing, no?

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Monday, July 21, 2014

I♥Biking: First Costco Run with the Yuba Mundo

Parked the Yuba, strapped the kids into a cart
Something I'd been itching to do with our new cargo bike as soon as we picked it up from The Bike Doctor was going on a Costco run. Our local Costco is only about 4km away and most of the route is bike path or traffic-calmed bikeways. Despite it being easy to ride to, it's not that easy to fit our typical haul on one regular bike--we usually booked a Modo vehicle for our previous shopping trips.

Now that we've got the Yuba Mundo cargo bike, there's no excuse. We don't have to book Modo cars just to go shopping there, we can do it by bike. By my calculations, this will save us about $200 a year--that's about what we'd spend on monthly car sharing bookings to Costco. Our first trip was about a week ago, Oliver on my cruiser/hybrid, me and both kids on the Yuba. I decided not to go too crazy so we left a few things off the list that weren't essential. Oliver also carried quite a few of the heavier things in his panniers on the way home, like a large watermelon and a few kilos of peanut butter and coconut oil.

The Yuba, loaded up & ready to ride
I'm not sure what the total weight of the groceries was, but the total amount we spent was about the same as we usually would with a car. A notable weighty item that we wouldn't normally get was a case of nine packs of baby wipes. We use cloth ones, along with cloth diapers, but picked up a case of the disposable ones for our friends' newborn. It fit well in the Bread Basket as you can see in the photo, held secure with the Yuba ratcheting cargo strap.

The rest of my load went into the GoGetter panniers, which work fine as open bucket-like bags under the Peanut Shell seats. This does mean they splay out quite wide, however, which is something to be aware of if riding between bollards or other barriers along the route home.

Oliver offered to ride the Yuba home, but I wanted to see how it handled & if my legs could take it all the way up the hill home. It's a bit of a slog, getting up that hill. According to Google, it's around a 50m elevation gain, most of which is in about one kilometre of the route. I geared down as low as I could, just kept pedaling and I made it. It isn't for the faint of heart, but I honestly think I've worked harder in spinning class.

Unloading the kids & Costco cargo
All in all, a successful trip! I'll definitely do it again. It would probably be a fairly easy ride without the 60 pounds of kid on the seats--maybe next time I'll just go alone.

Just in case you were wondering, here's the google map info on most of our route plus elevation. Did you know the bicycling routes show your elevation gain on a handy chart when you click 'get directions'? It's a neat newish Google Maps feature for bike route planning if you want to figure out the flattest route.

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Case of the Missing Laptop Key

I'm sure you're well aware, as I should be, that laptops & small children don't mix well. The thing is, we don't have a TV, so our only source of video or movie entertainment is our laptop. It generally sits on a small adjustable laptop table in the living room, where Linnaeus has mostly ignored it (except when he wants to watch "Click Clack Moo" for the umpteenth time) for years.

Lately, however, both children have taken to popping the keys off when I'm not looking. When Linnaeus does this, it's annoying, because he likes to completely disassemble the keys. When Bronte does this, it's nerve-wracking, because of her penchant for eating everything she gets her hands on.

I decided the solution for this is to put the laptop out of reach when it's not in use, with an adult right there. I thought an Ikea Lack wall shelf would do the trick & sourced a 6' one for free on Craigslist. I hauled it home on the bike (photo evidence here). Then it sat in a corner, waiting to be mounted to the wall.

Why are these so easy to pull off?!?
A few days later, I came into the living room--I forget what I was doing--to find three keys ripped off the laptop & a certain ten-month-old looking pretty pleased with herself. Sigh. One of the keys was all in one piece & I popped it back on again without too much trouble. One was in four pieces, so I put it out of both kids' reach to reassemble later. Now where was the third one?

I looked under the laptop, on the floor, in Linnaeus' pockets, down Bronte's loose romper, in the couch cushions, under all the furniture in the living room... I think I did at least two mouth sweeps, vainly hoping Bronte had been keeping the key in her cheek like a baseball player with his chaw. Nowhere to be seen.

I started to panic. I freaked out just a little & started to wonder if we should take her to Children's Hospital. Plastic doesn't show up on X-rays, does it? I thought through how the key might go through her tiny little digestive tract. I Googled. I learned what signs to look for that the object is stuck in the child's throat. Nope. That didn't seem to be the case. I Googled some more. According to one source I found, anything under 18mm wide will probably pass through just fine. I Googled again, reading message boards of parents whose children had swallowed all kinds of things. Apparently I might have to wait for 4-5 days to see the laptop key after its big journey.

I told Oliver of my findings & we grimly agreed to carefully inspect every poopy diaper for the tiny, square black key. The second or third day into this assignment (I can't remember exactly, I think I'm repressing it), the kids were in the tub. Linnaeus was having a meltdown & required extra attention for a minute or two. Once he was out & drying off, we turned our attention back to Bronte. Oh dear. Code brown! In my haste to minimize the poop I'd have to scoop out of the bathtub, I grabbed her  & held her over the toilet. I've tried this before & she hated it, but this time she just sat there happily & finished off her poop. I was quite pleased that she'd actually used the toilet & I'd have one less dirty diaper to deal with. Then I realized... we still needed to look for that damn arrow key!

Oliver gallantly offered to look, but I gritted my teeth & plunged my hand into the toilet. Shudder. My sense of humour was still intact, however, & I was laughing about it immediately (while scrubbing my hands like Lady MacBeth). The things we do for our kids, hey?

The next day when the kids were both occupied, I decided to reassemble that key & put it back on the laptop. After much fiddling, it was back on & working fine. When checking that the arrow keys were on right, I noticed that the SHIFT key was a bit stiff. I pried a corner of it up & guess what I found?

Sigh. That instant, I got out the drill, tape measure, level & screws & marked off with tape the place where the wall shelf was going to go. I installed it in under half an hour & now the laptop sits up there, far out of reach of Bronte. Well, at least for a while. Thankfully, she's kinda short.

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Monday, July 14, 2014

Multi-modal to Richmond: Bike, Train, Bike

One elevator down, three to go...
Saturday we loaded the kids & associated gear & headed out to Richmond for a bike ride along the dykes with friends. We decided to take the Canada Line to Richmond, which takes us quite close to our friends' place. After we met up, we all biked past the Richmond Olympic Oval, over to the riverfront to continue along the West Dyke Trail to Garry Point Park, where we had fish & chips for dinner.

The mixed-use West Dyke Trail wasn't terribly busy on such a warm day, so during our brief stops along the way--to breastfeed the baby & water the preschoolers--we had the place to ourselves. It's a beautiful place to go: expansive views across the Sturgeon Banks estuary to the blue Coastal Mountains in the distance & lots of  'rest stops' with benches to enjoy the view dotting the route.

If you haven't been to Garry Point, it's a great park for kite flyers, with a usually windy open area just for the purpose. There's a small beach, a Pajo's fish & chips stand & a (pricey) ice cream place, a few picnic tables (not quite as many as there's demand for) as well as washrooms. It's just a block or two away from the touristy boardwalk area of Steveston.

Breastfeeding break along the West Dyke Trail
From the Canada Line to the dyke to Garry Point & back again (we took the road to the Skytrain on our way home) was about 20km. If that seems like a long way to bike, it was very doable over the four or five hours we did it, including snack breaks, dinner & a little time on the beach. I rode the Yuba Mundo with both kids on it, Oliver rode his cyclocross & our friend rode her cruiser with her almost-five-year-old on a trailabike.

It was a lovely day, really, with only some minor hiccups. Getting our Yuba Mundo into the elevators at all the stations we used (City Hall, Lansdowne, then Brighouse & King Edward) is possible, but requires a lot of finessing with two child seats on the back (this extends the length a couple inches or so) & the wide Bread Basket on the front. The only place we couldn't make it work was King Edward station, where the elevators are the same size, but you enter one door & exit another, so it's not possible get out once you're in. We had to unload the kids & bring the bike up the escalator. Next time we won't use King Edward station.

Over the summer, I hope to try the Yuba in as many skytrain station elevators as possible. I'll figure out a way to publish that info so other cargo bike riders can access it--maybe reviews on Google or something. If you've been to other stations with a longtail cargo bike, how did you manage the elevators? Do other stations have the double-door style elevators? Please let me know in the comments!

Here are some useful links for planning a bike ride along the dykes in Richmond:

basic map of the West Dyke Trail
Info about Garry Point Park
Richmond Cycling map

Happy cycling!

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