The Seattle Project

4 03 2015

Alex is learning about Seattle history in his third grade class. It’s been fun as a parent, too. One of his homework assignments was to go to someplace new in Seattle and take notes. We chose a UW Women’s Basketball game, and Alex spent a few minutes after the game learning about UW sports history from the mini-museum inside Hec Ed Pavilion.

Alex learns to make a

Alex learns to make a “W” with his fingers at the basketball game. Yes, the stadium was mostly empty for the game.

Then, last week, I chaperoned on a field trip to the Museum of History and Industry. The kids had an hour to work on a scavenger hunt, answering various questions about Seattle history. After, they worked in groups to identify various historical artifacts. Alex’s team had to identify a sextant. I don’t know how they did it, but they correctly knew that it was from the age of explorers and that we’d use a GPS for the same function today… but of course none of the kids knew how a sextant would be used. But I bet none of the adults in the museum knew that either.

Sextant

Explorer

The age of explorers.

But the most fun Seattle experience happened by accident this past weekend. We decided to go to the Seattle Bike Show by bike. While I’m used to biking everywhere, I’m still a little timid riding with the kids beyond the couple of miles around our house, especially when either kid is riding his own bicycle (as opposed to being pulled by me). The Bike Show was at CenturyLink Field, south of downtown… waay beyond my usual bike-with-kids stomping grounds. I don’t think I would have done it if there hadn’t been an organized family bike ride there. Riding in a big pack with other families showed me that it’s both easy and fun to get to downtown Seattle by bicycle… as long as you have the time to do it at a kid pace.

Exploring Seattle by Bike

Our route to and from downtown. Riding at Alex’s pace, it took two hours each way.

Our bike route wound up being an impromptu tour of Seattle’s industrial history. We went through trainyards and shipyards. We rode by an enormous ship picking up its cargo of grain at Terminal 86. We took the time to stop at Fisherman’s Terminal (“Home of the North Pacific Fishing Fleet”) and look at the memorial to those who lost their lives at sea. It was a way more fun and scenic way to get downtown than just driving on I-5, and I’m so glad we took the time to do it.

Bike trip selfie

Bike trip selfie at the Fisherman’s Terminal. Patrick rode with us to the stadium on our cargo bike, but he phoned in a rescue for the way home: Molly came to pick him up. Alex and I did the return trip alone.





Chilly Hilly 2015

28 02 2015

Patrick and I were speeding downhill on Fletcher Bay Road when I saw it: The Mile 19 shortcut sign. Turn right on Lynwood Center Road and you stay on the main Chilly Hilly route, which gives you 33 miles of biking around Bainbridge Island. Turn left and you cut off ten miles from the route. In other words, the left turn means you’re done. 

I decided to check in with Patrick. I was pulling him along on a tag-along bike. If you haven’t seen one, it’s basically a third wheel that clamps to the seatpost of my bike. Patrick gets his own seat and set of pedals, but I get to help with balance and speed. I called over my shoulder to him. “Patrick, how are you doing?”

“Good.” He sounded chipper.

“Do you think you can finish the ride?”

“Yeah.”

I turn right for the full Chilly Hilly route.

On the ferry

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Let’s Talk about Sweat

21 02 2015

Downton Abbey and air conditioning explain much of our attitudes about sweat. Farmer Drewe sweats because he works. Lord Grantham and Lady Mary don’t sweat unless they want to, as part of a quail hunt or steeplechase or something. And then when they’re done, their valet or ladies’ maid helps them change into their sixth outfit of the day. Aristocrats successfully confine sweat to recreation and keep it out of the everyday. That seems to be what everybody still aspires to. Air conditioned homes, cars, and office buildings make it easy for us to keep sweat in the gym.

 

Sweat? Never.

When I chose to start commuting by bike, I had to give up on that ideal. I know many commuters who wear special bike clothes on their ride and shower as soon as they get to work. I’m not one of those. I wear my normal clothes on my bike, and when I arrive at work I go straight to my desk and start working. I know that by being sweaty around other people, I’m violating one of the Crowley’s taboos, but this decision makes biking to work practical. If the thought of showering and changing every day keeps you from choosing an active commute, you should consider breaking this taboo, too. After all, we like to laugh at Downton Abbey’s outdated standards of clothing, class, and rigid propriety… why don’t we make its views on sweat equally outdated?

Taboo aside: I’ve learned a few things about staying comfortable when sweat is part of everyday life again.

  • I dress like it’s 10 degrees warmer than it actually is: I’m cold when I start biking, but I’m always warm when I’m done climbing Ravenna Boulevard. If I was warm when I started, I’d overheat on the way in to work. 
  • Two shirts are more comfortable than one. Merino t-shirts are awesome because they don’t feel clammy next to my skin, then a cotton shirt over that pulls moisture further away from my skin. 
  • I’ve fallen in love with biking caps. They soak up sweat; when I peel the cap off at the end of the ride, the sweat comes off with it. 
  • Bandannas are awesome. I always have one with me.

The single most important thing I’ve learned: Sweat dries. Try it… you’ll see.





Spring in February

18 02 2015

Our good weather has lasted so long that it no longer feels exceptional. I expect cold mornings, warm afternoons, sunshine, and blossoms everywhere. And we get a long weekend in the middle of this weather! We couldn’t be luckier.

Kite Hill in February

Patrick asked to ride his bike every day this weekend. He got his first scraped knee on Monday. Four-year-old Patrick would have been inconsolable until he’d gotten a Band-Aid, but six-year-old bike-crazy Patrick just got back on his bike and kept pedaling. Hills still challenge him — he walks his bike up and down anything steep — but he rides surprisingly well on the crowded Burke-Gilman trail. He zoomed along the three mile flat stretch from our house to Magnuson Park this weekend, his longest ride to date.

As we rode to Magnuson Park, he told me, “Biking is my favorite thing to do in the world. Sometimes it makes my legs tired, but it’s worth it.”

Bike Ride





A week in the life of Patrick

14 02 2015

Molly and I often tell with each other that all we want is Patrick to learn how to use his powers for good and not evil.

Excited Patrick

On the positive side: Once Patrick is motivated to do something it’s almost impossible to stop him. Recently, his motivation has been about biking (which obviously warms my heart). He really wants to ride his own bike to school, so last weekend we did a practice run to figure out: 1) Is it even possible (he’s only been riding for a few weeks) and 2) how long it will take. He’s a new enough biker that he can’t ride the quarter-mile downhill from our house to the bike trail — he can’t keep his speed under control. No problem! He happily walked his bike. Then, at the end of the flat bike ride along the Burke Gilman trail (where he did very well, by the way), he faced The Hill. It’s a short, steep uphill to his school, and Patrick really wanted to be able to ride the whole way. (After all, his brother can!)

Well, of course a 6-year-old who’s only been biking for a few weeks and who’s riding a bike that weighs half as much as he does can’t ride all the way up that steep hill. Patrick made it about a third of the way up, though, before he couldn’t go any further. He panted a little, looked at me, and then said, “I want to try again.” And he did: He walked his bike back down, turned around, and tried again. He got a little further in his fight with gravity, but gravity won. “I want to try again.” A little bit further the third time. 

The three attempts exhausted him. There was no 4th attempt, and his poor legs barely had enough gas to get him home after that. But I have to admit I’m really proud of his attitude and his effort. He’ll eventually conquer that hill.

On the other hand, we got contacted by the Lower School Director (think “School Principal”) yesterday. Patrick apparently got into a small wrestling match with a Kindergarten student at recess, and he’s going to be spending his recess with the principal one day next week as a consequence.

As I said: We need to teach him to use his powers for good, not evil.





Defy Bags “Vicious” Review

13 02 2015

I’m taking a break from the regular programming of “funny kid stories” to geek out about something most readers won’t care about: Bicycle commuting bags. If this isn’t your thing, come back later.

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It happens in 3rd grade…

6 02 2015

At Villa, classes start at 8:30, but they don’t let the kids into the building before 8:20. If you get there early — and many kids do, including mine — you wait on the patio until the bell rings. They’ve got an efficient system. Each grade has a separate area to wait in, and when the bell rings they have the kids enter one grade at a time to prevent a mad rush for the doors.

Wednesday morning, I volunteered in Patrick’s classroom. It was my first time this year, and I wasn’t sure when his teacher wanted me there. That was an easy problem to solve: Instead of just dropping the kids off, I’d walk them in so I could ask Patrick’s teacher what time I should return. We got there a few minutes before the bell, so I walked with the kids to wait on the patio.

And that’s when it happened.

As we walked, Alex asked me: “Dad, can you wait with Patrick instead?” I’m now officially an embarrassment to my children. (To be frank, I was wearing one of my more comfortable, practical, yet ridiculous-looking bike-to-work outfits. I can’t really blame Alex for not wanting to be seen next to the dude rockin’ the manpris.)

Alex








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