My first day on the Low Car Diet: Everyone loves the trail-a-bike
This morning, I was in a tizzy to get Philly to summer camp on time and in a tizzy to get to the Low Car Diet kick-off on time. We set up the bikes in traditional train formation: my bike, connected to the trail-a-bike/tag-along, connected to the trailer. In a rush, I heaved my way five miles from our N PDX home to NW Portland, to Philly's summer camp.
The problem of the morning: My girls fight over who rides the tag-along. Now that the girls, ages 3.5 and 6.5, are both happiest pedaling on tag-alongs; no one wants to sit in the trailer. Sad, lonely trailer! This morning, our biggest girl, 6.5 year old Philly, "let" her little sister have the privilege of pedaling, so I had the privilege of hauling around 45 pounds of Philly in the trailer the five miles from home to summer camp. Ugh, ugh, ugh. Sure the trailer can handle loads up to 100 pounds, but can ya handle pulling those 100 pounds??
After dropping off one daughter, the younger one and I pedaled the 2+ miles over to Pioneer Courthouse Square. I was panting and sweating. Already, I knew this was going to be tough. But, not to worry - I didn't have to bike each day of the 30 days. I could take transit or walk, right? But, I thought about it. This is the summer time. The girls have a different place to be every day. Our schedule is varied as we romp around and enjoy summer concerts in this neighborhood and that. Having a vehicle, albeit a web of bikes, seems like the way to go.
At the office, I enjoyed the rest afforded to my poor tired legs, after the 8 or so miles of morning pedaling. The 5 o'clock hour approached, and I braced myself for running a few errands, picking up Philly, then heading to Sellwood Park for a friend's birthday celebration.
This afternoon, the configuration was the same as the morning: the bigger girl sittin' pretty and happy in the trailer, the younger girl loving the breeze flapping through her braids as she cruised along with me. Heading down the Springwater Corridor, I thought: maybe we just CANNOT be a biking family if we are riding with just one parent and two children. A double tag-along? They don't seem to make them (too unsafe!). A family tandem with the front sized for a parent and the rear sized for a child? Cha-ching! We're talking $2,000, minimum! Pedal, pedal, pant, pant. "Pedal, Tati!" I yelled back at our little girl. She was so happy, cruising around, riding along, holding on, happy as a clam. Sure, she didn't pedal and she didn't ease the burden one little bit, but she was happy as can be in her little bumble bee helmet.
About 90 minutes and almost 7 miles later, we arrived at Sellwood Park. Still sweaty and sticky from the morning commute, I was stickier and sweatier than ever. The music was fun, the kids ran wild, the shade was forgiving, the wine was tasty. It was all good. I was dreading the dusk hour, when I'd have to haul the kids back, up an incline, about 8.5 miles back home. We all agreed that our older daughter Philly would be the tag-alonger on the way home. "Mama can use my pedal strength!"
Indeed, I sure felt a bit easier of a load on the way home. We pedaled all the way up to OMSI with another mama and her two boys in their trailer. It was good to have some company halfway home. Once we hit the Esplanade, I felt like we were on the home-stretch. We'd be home within the half-hour. The girls were in wonderful spirits; it was a lovely summer evening. Philly was gabbing about how she wanted to get a new road bike. Tati was talking about how her friends were coming over for a playdate tomorrow. I was concentrating on the pedaling, but it was a very sweet ride in the coolish evening air.
Then: CRASH. BAM. BOOM. I felt something slip loose, then I saw my sweet Philly and her tag-along, separated from me and my bike. Her tag-along had come loose, and she had landed on her side, and she was skidding along, her body as the friction to slow. Tati in the trailer was still sitting intact, but was scared out of her wits at the sight of her sister lying on the ground in front of her, wailing. Frantic, I tossed my bike to the side and ran to them. I hugged and comforted. We were a crumpled mess in the middle of the Esplanade, while bikers of all sorts zipped passed us from every direction. Bikers in lycra, bikers in khakis - no one was stopping to help a mother, her bleeding child, and her crying second child. I shouted at the Willamette: "WHY IS NO ONE STOPPING FOR US??!"
I sighed. I checked to see that Philly could still see how many fingers I was holding up, that she could move her hands, her arms, her legs. All seemed intact, physically. Emotionally, I was spent. I had just hauled the girls all around the city, with mileage exceeding 20 miles. I resigned. The configuration wasn't even working for us. The bike + tag-along + trailer mass of wheels wasn't exactly working. I felt guilty for even pushing the family so far into this non-car/biking abyss. Now, the girls were scuffed up like crazy and traumatized from the whole thing.
I called for my husband to come fetch me, and we loaded all the gear into the car. The girls, happy to be buckled in their car seats, went back to gabbing about their summer days, though their tones were now notably somber, dampened.
What went wrong? Well, the pin that holds the tag-along to the adult bike came loose. When we were going down the ramps on the Esplanade, the pin must have jostled loose, and the tag-along ripped off from my bike. Will we bike again with the tag-alongs? For sure. Will we continue traveling with the trifecta of bike, tag-along, and trailer. Of course, until we find a better solution. We've had our share of biking incidents, and I suppose this accident is just part of the process. We've had a bike stolen and now we've had a family incident.
Now, the girls are sleeping soundly in bed. Philly is bandaged, and Tati also has a sympathy bandage or two. Tomorrow, we'll take the bus. We're a bit deflated, however. As a family, we love to bike - all around town and even beyond. We are second-guessing whether family biking can be a reality on a day-to-day basis. This morning at the Low Car Diet kick-off, we had a chat with Jay of the Bike Gallery, to ask for his advice on how one parent can haul two tag-along-ready children, and he says his folks are busy researching it. We hate to turn in the bike, but I think we'll have to give our wheels a rest for a bit.
And, THAT was our eventful first day on the Low Car Diet Challenge 2007.