Sunday, September 12, 2010

And we did it all by bike....

As soon as it came out of his mouth, I turned my head and looked directly at him. I couldn't stop the huge guffaw from escaping before I asked, "Did you just say what I think you said?"

"Yes," he confirmed, half-laughing himself, half-chagrined.

We have become one of those family. We swore we never would. We had held off pretty well for eight years. We met in the Peace Corps. He was the volunteer traveling with the smallest bag. I was impressed. We've valued simplicity and loved down-time, hanging out together, reading, sitting on porches. We had no car. We had a set of twins. Then one car. But we kept to one car and had a third son join the party. Then we began riding bikes. We took turns being the at-home parent, paid work being necessary but not the main focus. We've tried to be thoughtful and intentional in our parenting. And we never wanted over-scheduled kids and held off on joining outside school activities for a time. We've believed in unscheduled time and running around and riding around on bikes and seeing what adventures we came upon.

But here we were in the kitchen, early yesterday morning, gearing up for our first Saturday morning of the new season, when I heard him say, "So you don't wear the cleats now. First you have your cello lesson and then we'll head off to soccer practice." And so it begins....

Despite the idea of one activity per season sounding quite good and something we stuck to in the past, life has changed around these parts. Thanks to visiting an open house at our local music school four years ago, the boys became intensely interested in playing instruments. We held off for a year but then started with the older two. Music lessons suddenly meant one individual lesson, one group lesson per week... x2. OK, four commitments outside of school. And then the young guy began begging to start playing an instrument. And he and one older brother got really into backyard sports and made a plea to try soccer this fall. Do we tell them at ages eight and five that no, you already play an instrument so that's it for right now? I guess we could have but that wasn't sitting right with us. And so we have signed up for local recreation soccer, thankful that it isn't one of these crazy intense ones gearing toddlers for World Cup Play.

And so this is what our Saturday looked like:

  • 8:30AM: Sara on Xtracycle Radish with F off to soccer practice across town (even though there's simultaneous practice at the park across the street from our house, but it's farther away from the music school). ~4 miles
  • 9:00AM: P on the Yuba with S & C off to the music school. S's individual cello lesson begins. Fifteen minutes later C starts his group lesson ~ 2 miles
  • 10:00AM: S leaves park to ride to the music school. Locks Xtracycle near the Yuba. Transfers S's soccer gear from the Yuba to the Xtracycle. Brings F to the end of C's group music lesson. (Next week, F's group lesson will start right after C's; we had a bit of 'reprieve' this week) ~ 2.5 miles
  • 10:05AM: P leaves music school with S, now riding the Xtracycle, and heads to the site of his soccer game. ~1.5 miles
  • 11:00AM: Sara and F and C ride the Yuba downtown and then head home the next hour. ~ 2.5 miles
  • Sara pulls up the high curb going to our driveway and blows out the back tire on the Yuba. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh. Damn, the front tire we could deal with at home. The back tire is more complicated....
  • 11:30AM: P and S on Xtra, downtown then home. ~ 4 miles
  • 1:00 PM: Sara and F back together on the Xtra, off to a birthday party, again on the other side of town. ~ 4 miles
  • P loads the twins and the Yuba in the minivan and brings it to the bike shop to have the back tire fixed.
  • 3:00 PM: P, now on the Yuba with two functioning tires, rides C & S to a different birthday party, this one at the local natural history museum. ~3 miles
  • 3:15 PM: Sara and F leave birthday party and hit downtown local coffee shop for Sara's much-needed iced coffee. Then they are off on to the Farmington Canal Trail, heading north, in order to get to Old Navy so they can buy a blank t-shirt. Sara needs to make F's "5" birthday shirt that night since F's birthday is the next morning. ~ 7 miles
  • 5:00 PM: Yuba, P, C, and S arrive home from museum. ~3 miles
  • 5:45PM: Xtra, F, and S arrive home from successful bike trail, t-shirt shopping excursion. ~ 5.5 miles
With the exception of bringing the Yuba to the bike shop, we did this all by bike. If my math is correct, P and I rode about 39 miles on cargo bikes with our boys, ferrying them to two soccer practices, two music lessons, two birthday parties, and one shopping excursion . How's that for simple living?


inkandpen said...

Wow. We're impressed.

Shane MacRhodes said...

Wow, very impressive.

If this is our life in a few years I better start practicing my old bike messenger skills again. LOGISTICS.

Jim said...

Some things are universal, and even inescapable it would appear...

Are you faster by bike ? We are. But we live in the town centre.

I am thinking of getting some mudguards (fenders) for the winter, as although it seldom rains here I will eventually get caught out with the kids in the rain.

Keep it up !

Andrea said...

Think of all the time you save not going to the gym! (And still it sounds much saner than a guy I overheard complaining he had to drive his kid from Cumberland (S. Maine) to Hampten (near Bangor) then to N. Hampshire in one day for 3 different soccer games!!). And it makes me think we should try biking to school for soccer when we have home games (~5 mi...but the littles are too erratic on their bikes yet).

Jennifer said...


MamaVee said...

Simply awesome

Anne said...

Sounds like a great day! All those naysayers who say "it can't be done" with elementary school kids are just missing out on all of the fun.

I love pedaling by the line of cars that snakes out of the parking lot where weekend soccer games are held. The drivers look so miserable.

Imagine what your day would have been like if you had done it all by car!

Elise said...

Excellent! I find that most logistical issues are about attitude and planning. And I agree with Anne that doing that day in the car would probably suck. On the bike you get exercise and fresh air to add to the fun and no sitting in traffic!

sara said...

Yes, @Anne & @ Elise-- This schedule by car would simply be miserable. I was sharing that my mom (who had 7 kids in 10 years) would often say, "When I die, just bury me next to the Garden State Parkway" because she spent so much time shuttling us in the family van. At least by bike, we get outdoors, exercise, and zippy parking!

I know that I am fortunate that we have more than one cargo bike and more than one parent who is willing to shuttle our guys by bikes to their commitments.

Heather said...

Wow! I thought my 15 miles for school (3 round trips a day) was hardcore. Way to be!

John said...

Great post Sara. I echo the congratulations. Reading your schedule, healthy, fun, and environmentally responsible come to mind, but not really simple!

Lynette said...

Dear Sara - I had to write you a note to let you know how much your blog influenced our family this past summer. We are an American expat family living in Malaysia. We've always been active bikers and when our two girls joined we kept it up using Burley trailers. Our current post allows us to travel quite a bit and we've done bike tours of Australia, New Zealand, Portugal and Spain with the girls behind us in the Burley. Earlier this year we were contemplating returning to the US for 6 weeks and the apartment that we've rented in the past (in a nice big building, with covered parking, and space for loads and loads of bike equipment) was unavailable. We just couldn't find anything until we changed our search for downtown living. We found a nice little loft space that was close to everything we wanted but alas no easy-in, easy-out, safe, big storage spot to break down the burley. I simply couldn't think about spending 6 weeks in the US during the summer in the car. Plus a huge part of us going back was to give our girls a chance to be part of an American community for a bit - and I didn't think the car was going to be hugely helpful on that. We came upon that had a link to your site. We were sold on a long box bakfiets within about 15 minutes. I then scoured your blog for the next few weeks to try and find out what I could to bring me up to speed quickly so that we could enjoy the bakfiets in the time we had.

Long story short, it was a wonderful, magical 6 weeks. We were one of two bakfiets in the metro Denver area and the amount of attention that we enjoyed bordered on obscene. We used the bike daily (...we did it all by bike...) for all of our transport needs only resorting to the car for the 2 hour trip to see my parents and an occasional jaunt to the suburbs to visit my sister. We had the opportunity to ride alongside (seriously) Lance Armstrong during a social ride he did in Denver. We've now returned to Malaysia and unfortunately the bike could not join us due to space limitations but we kept her in storage and hope to meet up again as our posting here will end shortly.

In one of your posts, you spoke of contemplating your role as an advocate for biking. I wanted to write you to let you know that your family and your experiences on bikes speaks so loudly to others (including me) - by your sheer love for family biking you are by default, one of its strongest advocates.

Phew - enough said, sorry to clog up your comments but just had to let you know. Book closed!

sara said...

@Lynette-- I cannot thank you enough for taking the time to write here. SO appreciate hearing your story. We bought the bakfiets & became a cargo biking family in large part to the wonderful role models we found on the web so this is an awesome passing-it-on sort of thing!

On another note, I am really curious to learn more about your life & work in Malaysia. My husband & I met in SEAsia as Peace Corps volunteers in the Philippines. We keep trying to figure out a way to live overseas with our kids as we want them to have that experience as well. Feel free to email me directly if you are up for it at crumstrong at gmail.


Bikejuju said...

All I can say is WOW! Awesome! Actually, I guess I could continue the international theme a bit, here is a post about my friends living in Botswana car-free.

Tabb said...

As a fellow RPCV I share your desire to minimize possessions and simplify. However, my wife and I are embarking on parenthood, and I fear in the next few years the bike commute I enjoy every day will be swallowed by extracurricular activities.

This story is inspiring to see because it gives me hope that I can do it all and be happier.

Thanks for sharing.

Terra said...

Sara, so great to see your biking adventures are continuing. How long did it take you to figure out the logistics of your Saturday?

P.S. we just got back from our bike trip - Portugal this year!