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A Simple Six: 8/28/11 - 9/4/11

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Daddy Daughter Date: A Vet Visit

Before I get to the daddy daughter date of today, I want to catch everyone up on a few experiences. I posted a Friday Comparison yesterday that showed us having driven 4 miles. I picked up the children and two friends after school in the van yesterday. Six children, one adult is a driving situation. 98 degrees at 3pm, could also reinforce the desire to drive. Three things happened during this short trip, the fuel light came on, there was construction traffic two blocks from school (5 minute wait), and the children had left their bikes at school in the morning and I had to get them home.

The fuel light coming on didn't phase me as it was such a short trip, but I also needed to drive the van today, so I was going to need to fix that issue. Having to sit idol had me moderately concerned, with the fuel light on, but things cleared up quickly. The parking director at school laughed that I was driving and knew about the construction. He commented that I would have made better time on my bike. He's probably right. Bringing the bikes home in the trunk worked well, until I drove the van this morning and forgot they were in there.

Today's To Dos
We were invited to a birthday party today. It was in Lavalette, which is in our neighboring Wayne County (Out Wayne, aka OW, if you are local). I had called the Wayne Express transportation company earlier this week to find out exactly which of their buses went down that road and what times, as their website was very poorly constructed and the information was sparse, but there was a map with a bus line highlighted showing the street I needed. I spoke with a lady in transportation who informed me there is now only one bus that runs five times a day, weekdays only and it would be a $1 for every rider. This bus did not go where I needed. I called our TTA and asked if they provided service to Lavalette, nope. It's not a bikeable road. So minivan it was. This was not a social engagement we wanted to miss, these were good family friends and having an able vehicle in the drive way, was our means.

Coinciding with the party we had a scheduled veterinarian check up for our two cats. This was a divide and conquer situation. Brent and London were going to go to the vet and I was going to take the boys to the party. Seeing that I was driving, Brent took the camera at my request, to document "taking cats to the vet by bike." What I didn't expect was them to turn it into a sight-seeing daddy daughter date.

I mentioned forgetting about the two bikes in the trunk of our van. We left before Brent and London and it never occurred to me they wouldn't have their bikes in the garage. When they arrived home from the vet, Brent said London rode my bike better than she normally rides her Junior Viper. There were no complaints and they had a jolly good time. Glad that worked out well. The worst that could have happened is they missed the appointment, and that's not a terrible thing.

The Date
In my mind's eye, they were going to take the cats in the trailer. Brent decided on his own they would get more fresh air on the rack. He rigged up this cat transport with some ratcheting belts. He was very careful to get them tight and check them for shifting and falling.

Stopping in Ritter Park. Coco and Kit.
 They turned the whole adventure into an opportunity to be a tourist. They stopped often for breaks and actually arrived late to the appointment. Our home thermometer read 104 degrees today, but I doubt it didn't just say that because it was melting.
London and her cats at the Memorial Arch.

They arrived at the vet without issue.
 London has been trying to learn to use the camera. She says she wants to have her photos in the newspaper some day. These next few are from her perspective.


 Everyone made it home, safe and hot. I looked up their route on Google maps and discovered they went about 10 miles round trip. I asked Brent what the vet had to say about his mode of transporting the cats and he reports she had no issues with it what so ever. She seemed to give the impression people usually bike their cats to appointments, but somehow we both doubt this.
Yeah, my garage is on my to-do list for the week. I have been collecting things from around the house all summer for a yard sale. Soon, I keep promising myself, soon.
 I was laughing so hard when he rolled up I was sure PETA would be right behind him. It was something out of a comic book. I chuckled more when we looked up the route he took and compared it to the more direct route suggested by Google. He rode 3.6 extra miles because he couldn't remember how far down 3rd Avenue the office was.

View Larger Map
London had quality time with her dad today. She seem to smile a lot more after they arrived home, I know I was. The boys and I had a great time too. It's always refreshing to laugh with friends and family.

Miles Walked: 6 Biked: 82.9 Bused: 0 Drove: 22.3 This week
43.7 195.8 12.6 422.2 Since August 14, 2011

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Friday, September 2, 2011

What we carry when we ride a bike

In the trunk of our van you might find a collection of plastic bags from the grocer and a first aid kit. There is the usual spare tire and jack set up and sometimes we haul around a battery jump. These are staple car traveling ingredients. The glove box has our insurance info, car manual, some old maps and left over napkins. I think I spotted a couple coins and a CD that need to be brought in. From fender to fender there is a miryad of child stuff; car seats, plastic checker pieces, dried up raisins, eaten lolly pops (I guess that would make them sticks), action figures, shoes, books, empty drink bottles. Then when we get ready to drive somewhere we add to the mix; diaper bag, snacks, water bottles, wallets/purses, and more child stuff.

In Our Bags
How does this compare to what we drag around on our bikes? The first change I had to make was from diaper bag to back-pack. The options with a back pack exceeded those with a shoulder bag, and ours had shorter straps. I didn't like giving up the handmade bag for the bottom of the closet bag, but it's what worked best. Function over fashion. In this bag you find the usual diaper supplies, some sunscreen and my purse with cash, cards (ID, calling, credit, library, Kroger scrip, etc) and all the rest.

Cash was also a new addition to our travel entourage. We were pretty much a card carrying family. I wrote checks when I needed too, but carrying cash wasn't needed. It is now. I haven't made it downtown to get a bus pass card (which are not reloadable), so bus fare is exact change only. Having cash has been handy, but really difficult for us to track. Dollar bills are a big temptation for Brent, then he forgets where they went. I guess I am a bit guilty of the same, but I try to keep my receipts and come home and enter things into
Junk in the Trailer Trunk
In the trailer we carry a reusable bag with bike supplies; tire pump and gauge, manual, locks, allen wrench set, wrench, first aid kit, bug spray, misc tools, and extra helmet padding. When the whole family goes out we carry an old plastic ice cream bucket full of water bottles. Bottles also fit on the adult bike frames and sometimes we just stuff them on the sides of the diaper back-pack. The inside pockets of the trailer, where the boys sit, have small toys.

It took some time to get our "kits" together. We were constantly leaving without something, but soon developed a system to get out the door much quicker. There are of course variation to our load depending on our destination. School days, school bags. Grocery trip, grocery bags. Work commute, laptop back pack and lunch box. Parks and play dates, extra snacks.

We know that we should probably carry more things in our bike bag. We are working on a "must have" list and hoping to stock the bags soon. We are also working on having a small kit that Brent and I can carry when we don't have the trailer. Here are a few lists and suggestions I have found on line:

  • HubPages: Best Things to Carry on a Bike/Bicycle Ride--This article recommend we carry a patch kit, tire lever and a torch. I agree with the patch kit, we probably won't invest in the torch quite yet.
  • Bike198: 14 Must Have Items for Every Ride--It seems this is for more competitive or trail riding, but some things overlap. I like the note about always carrying your ID. I am not a huge safety hound in our family, but I always carry my ID (in my pocket if I have any). I think it's a sense of morbidity that lingers in my mind.
  • Adult Bicycling: Biking with the Family--There is a small diddy about what to pack, especially when traveling with children. It mentions being prepared for weather changes. Light jackets and rain coats went in our trailer yesterday when I saw the potential for rain. This is the second article here that lists bringing a map or GPS device. We don't have much of either, but we don't go far and most of the city is on a grid.
  • Kids Can Travel: Family Cycling--More from above and the mention of sunglasses  and camera. Recently Brent was talking about his eyes hurting more after biking to work. We think this is because of the dust and air and also the sun light. There is no UV treated windshield on the bike.
  • Chicargobike: What's in the family panniers for sweltering summer days?--Here's a fun blog about a set of parents and their four(?) children in Chicago, living car free. This is specific to summer and includes the good stuff, like swim suits and towels.
Helmets and Child Seats
Least I not forget to mention how important our helmets and the child seats are to us. Everyone wears a helmet, no exceptions, even those in the trailer. We have been getting by on our thift store and freebie helmets from community events for the three older children, but we are saving for upgrades. Oliver currently sports a Specialized helmet with a flat back and adjustable straps and knob in the rear. I wish I knew the proper names for some of these things, but I am learning! We selected the flat back because he sits most often in a child seat or trailer where the pointier racer backs would cause his head to tip forward uncomfortably and awkward. We also choose a regular child's helmet for longevity. They (the retail world) do sell a smaller toddler helmet, but our children have big heads and this wouldn't have been worth our investment.

We wouldn't be able to transport our children by bike without child seats. I currently use either the iBert or the Yakima trailer. The iBert has not be great for naps, but wonderful just carrying Oliver, as the center of gravity is better and he enjoys talking to me while we ride. Avery only travels in the trailer and Oliver rides with him often. There are over the shoulder harness straps in the trailer, as well mesh and rain covers. These are just a couple of the options available for carrying children on bikes, and the only ones available to us at this time.

Here are a couple links to other options  for family bike transport as described by people with a lot more experience than I:

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Friday Comparison: September 2

Our trip meter last week August 21-26:

Miles Walked: 12.5 Biked: 50.9 Bused: 2.1 Drove: 0 This week

Today, August 28-September 2:

Miles Walked: 6 Biked: 70.4 Bused: 0 Drove: 4 This week
43.7 183.3 12.6 403.9 Since August 14, 2011
We walked half as many miles this week and biked about twenty more. Most of those biking miles were Brent's. As a reminder, this tally is a total account of our joint family miles. If we bike or walk together, like we do for errands, they only count once, but if Brent's biking to work and I am biking to school, those are separate miles. I was not too sure what to do if London biked home from school but the boys and I walked with her, so I counted them separately because they were different modes.

Not included are the carpool miles. We were not driving, but the children were riding with someone else. Should those be included? Would they be a separate column or just under "drove?"

Reducing our driving miles combined with giving away the car meant I got to call our insurance agent today and change our policy. We were paying roughly $1300 a year, or more precisely $117 a month to insure two vehicles, one with full coverage. Reducing the van to liability dropped the rates to $935/yr or $78/m. When I looked over the declaration I noticed we were listed as driving more than 8000miles annually for the van. Talking to the agent today we noted the change in our driving habits. Combining this mileage reduction with the removal of the car our annual rate is now $520 or $44/m. This savings is equivalent to two dinners out with the family, or a light week of groceries, every single month. While I hope we get to enjoy some of these things with our savings, it will also give us more to put toward our second mortgage, more for bike safety equipment and a bike purchase, more for sharing with our friends, more breathing room in general.  

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Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Great Bike Debate

Nothing quite like a frustrating situation to propel a change. My anger and worry over our finances was the impetus for lightening our car burden and plowing into a bicycling life style. I have not had a regret since. It's been a very rewarding and exciting change for me and our family, despite my husband's worries over us biking to and from school.  He admits he worries when we drive there as well. Worry and anxiety is his nature, especially when children are involved.

I don't want to give up on my current life style choice. I set out to do one month because I like finite self imposed limits. If I has said "as long as I can," I might have given up at anytime. Anything longer than one month might have pushed my husband to the edge of his patience with my process and he too found he liked knowing that "if he could just wait it out till September..."

Interestingly, he didn't know that today was September first and as our friends who take our children to school were out of town, he biked the three children to school himself. He came home to leave me the trailer and reported the ride was relatively easy and fun, although he still thinks crossing onto Washington and Norway are very dangerous (I agree). I didn't ask him how he handled Washington, but he did ride the children on the side walk on Norway. No complaints from anyone till the very last steep hill just two blocks from school. It took them 30 minutes, and because we didn't leave enough time this morning to debate with London, they were about two minutes late.

School Commuting Troubles Continue
What I was getting at, was how frustration begets change. I have had several frustrating commutes home from school with the children. It is usually because one of them is very, very tired and I don't have enough room to transport more than two with the trailer/stroller/bike combos I have been using. The closest I came was yesterday when London rode my bike, towing Avery and Oliver in the trailer. Yet it was Elliot who was exhausted to tears for the first half of the walk. I offered him space in the trailer and putting Avery on the bike seat we could continue walking the bike home, but he declined. We actually jogged home together for the last quarter.
London towing Avery and Oliver and all the back packs, Elliot and I jogging home down Wiltshire Blvd.

Coming home from another 95 degree, 90 minute bike-walk-jog, exhausted and frustrated was yet another prompt for change. The research for a new bike has been in progress for a couple months. The past couple weeks it kicked up a notch as I test rode two bikes in Columbus last weekend and I have been in touch with two other bloggers, Car Free with Kids and Family Ride, who have been tremendous about helping me hash out different scenarios. I thought all I needed to know was on the internet, but between the forums, reviews, flicker pools, blogs, business sites, my lack of knowledge, lack of diverse bikes in the area, and our unique situation (location and family size), it's been daunting, and that is an understatement. The experience of someone who has "been there and done that" is invaluable. I can't thank these women enough for what they have done for me. The email exchanges with Car Free with Kids are continuing as I parse out options and considerations.

The Debate
The research process has led me to two bikes I feel will best, but not perfectly, meet our needs. I know that neither the Madsen kg271 or the Yuba Mundo will roll out of the box just as I need them. There will need to be some adjustments with seating and towing options and the consideration of an electric assist. Neither will fit on the bus bike rack. I looked at several different options that would allow us to continue using the bus but they were outside our price range at this time, but something to consider later when the children are older (as the scenario and cost would change). Despite some of these barriers, both of these cargo bikes are better than what we have now and would make the commute more pleasant for us all. I don't want our methods of transportation to be the only thing we think, talk and blog about, I want it to be a solution and means, enjoyable and safe, empowering and inspiring.
The Madsen contender (older model)

Yuba Mundo option.

While I will be purchasing one of these bikes soon, the possibility of purchasing them both has entered the equation. I displayed this option to Brent last night as I knew it would be one of the two and I couldn't decide. I asked him to sell his brand new bike and then consider getting both the Madsen and the Yuba, as having a team of bikes like this would certainly meet all our needs. His argument was that neither would fit in the elevator at work, like his current bike does.

How would you solve our problem? Pros/cons comparison to the Madsen and the Yuba? Do you have another option?

*As I finish up this post it has started to rain and has the potential for rain the remainder of the day. This will add a little spice to our home from school commute today and I will let you know what becomes of it.

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Our Vehicle History: Together

Continuing the story of our transportation past, this is where Brent and I began shared car ownership. You can go back and read about my history or Brent's. We began our relationship in 2001 with one car, his Eagle Talon. Shortly there after he was in a collision, without any injuries, that totaled out the value. The insurance company issued a small check and the scrap yard kept the car. I borrowed a Cavalier from my father and we started looking for a new car.

At this time we were living in Columbus, OH, the Grandview neighborhood actually. There was a Kroger grocery across the street, plenty of bus lines, a lot of fun shops and restaurants and it was very flat. Brent's full time work was north, in Hilliard, about 7 miles. He worked nights and had classes during the day. Driving was really the only consideration we had. Nothing else even occurred to us. We shared the car usage, I walked about town to appointments and the grocery but got rides to school and work.

We left that apartment shortly there after for a townhouse near the outer belt of Columbus. This put us further away from work and school, but in a larger space with some amenities we desired at a rent we could afford. We ended up purchasing a brand new two door Volkswagon Golf before the move. I gave the Cavalier back to my dad and we shared the Golf. Same situation. Nothing else occurred to us. No one we knew was doing anything different than we were, or we didn't notice.

We lived a single car life style with the birth of our daughter in Columbus and continued it when we moved to Pullman, WA in 2002. We lived in family housing on campus at Washington State University for the first year. I drove the car to work in Moscow, ID (about 8 miles), even though there was a bike trail I could see from our parking lot that went straight into Moscow. I had left my only bike in Denver when I moved to Georgia and never bought a new one. Having London seemed to make biking less appealing. Brent working and going to graduate school seemed to make efficient use of our travel time a necessity.

Brent walked to classes and to work. When we did anything on campus we would walk. It was a town covered in hills and I took it upon myself to find the flattest, stair less routes I could. We had a stroller to push and while I didn't mind some hills, others were just too steep. I imagine that a lot of what we did then was out of ignorance. We didn't know backpack carriers existed. We didn't realize people put children on bikes because we had never seen any, or rather, noticed any. Ignorance was bliss. We got along just fine and didn't pine for anything different.

Well almost. Everyone in Washington drove a Subaru, so it was easy to find a used one for a decent price when we decide to add Elliot to our family and found ourselves wanting four doors on our car. We traded the Golf in and sported the forest green station wagon that all the "cool" people drove.

We also moved, again, into Pullman and away from campus. It was a hard decision. I had switched jobs from Idaho to Pullman and Brent was still working and studying on campus. I typically drove the car with the two children and Brent took the bus or walked. I have a faint memory of Brent having a bike around this time and using it to get about as well. The memory actually consists of him selling it at the yard sale we hosted just before moving from Washington to West Virginia. We must not have used it all that much.

Just before the move to WV we also acquired a Kelty backpack carrier for London from a friend. Our arsenal of transportation became the front pack for the baby, double stroller for them both, back pack for London/stroller for the baby, or car. We lived another two years with this set up in Buckhannon, WV, where Brent worked and I stayed home with the children, before moving to our current home in Huntington, WV.

In 2006 we owned a fully paid off 1999 Subaru Outback. We had two children, London (4.5yo) and Elliot (2.5yo) and I was pregnant. For Brent's first semester of work at Marshall University he would take the bus, carpool or walk. I was pretty much the sole driver and I only went to playgroups. When Avery was born that December I stayed home, a lot. Brent drove to campus and did most of the errands and taking of London to preschool. In the spring of 2007 my dad gifted us a 2000 Cavalier. And just like that, we became a two car family.

In February of 2008 we traded the Subaru in for the 2005 Honda Odyssey, thus assuming a car payment. The van and car have been our staples of transportation. We added Oliver to our family in the winter of 2009 and have been a six person, two car family since. Well, until Sunday, when we gifted the Cavalier to another family, making us a simple six with one vehicle.

If you have been following the blog, you know that now we are reducing our dependency on the van and walking, busing and biking as much as we can. I would love to hear how you and your family get about town. What has been the motivation and decision making process for your choices?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

After School Enrichment & Some After August Plans

Oliver and I biked to pick up the children from school today. The trailer was already in trailer mode and I didn't feel the need to put it back in stroller form. I had no idea it was 90 degrees and humid outside. The windows were open and the cool morning air had maintained a decent 77 degrees in our house all day. With this heat, the ride up was rough. I had to stop about five times to let my muscles breath and just to catch my breath. I still partially blame the bike, as the last time I took Oliver up (on Brent's bike) I only stopped once for a short breather on the last hill.

When we walk home, sometimes the children (mostly London) complain. Mid week I know they are tired so we have tried to take the bus most of the way home and then walk a flatter shadier route. Last week I had the idea to give them something to look forward to each day to motivate them home, instead of threatening to leave them at school if they didn't continue forward. Before you get images of me cracking whips and forcing them up hills like mules, we do go at Avery's pace, stop many, many times for water and shade breaks and have only made it home once before 430PM, and we leave about 315 for the two mile trek. I think we certainly take our good sweet time. Yet I have raised a daughter not unlike myself, and she finds a lot to grumble about.

The Bribe
Mondays and Wednesdays we have to get home straight away for an early dinner with Brent. He has to return to campus for night classes so there is no time for any treats as we walk, just the usual breaks. Tuesdays we have decided, are library days. Gallaher Village library is on our walk home. There is a crosswalk at the corner and a lot of visibility get us over Norway. The library is also a very strong motivator for London. She's our bookworm. The deal is, no complaining on Monday or Tuesday and then we go to the library. So far it's working.

Today we spent about thirty minutes soaking up the A/C, refilling waters, snacking (outside), checking out books, reading magazines, changing diapers, and chatting with the staff. One of the gals said they were starting a Tuesday after school reading/activity group. I think this is something to consider. We might be able to get everyone there, get some homework done, have a snack and then enjoy an hour long library led session. I will let you know if we decide to participate. Tuesdays after school twice a month, we have Girl Scouts to contend with as well. So maybe the other weeks we could hang at Gallaher.
Snacking at the bike rack right out side the front doors of Gallaher Village Library

With Monday, Tuesday and Wednesdays filled in, what were we going to do the other two? Thursdays we are going to use as our litter-gitter days. We are all appalled at the trash we pass on our way to and from Our Lady of Fatima. Avery always tries to bring some home. If I bring empty bags and hand sanitizer we can pick up what we deem to be "safe" to handle. I have been doing some of this, but the amount was just overwhelming to stop for every time I passed something, I wouldn't have gotten anywhere on time. If you have children, you probably realize that picking up garbage is not a motivator, but paying them for each bag they fill is. I offered them up a dollar each for every bag they stuff full. I think initially I might be out $3-$9, then maybe just $3, as we do have to carry it all home to dispose of. I highly suspect they will bore with this idea and I won't owe them anything, but I can continue my clean up efforts without them.

Fridays I am offering them play dates. Elliot is begging for friends to come home with us. This boy needs a jam packed social calendar. Every moment of everyday.  Provided they arrange them ahead of time and I can plan our transportation, they are each welcome to invite a friend over on Fridays. I think this will get them home quicker. The anti-complaint rule is also in effect. They can't complain Thursday when we are pick up trash or Wednesday when we just have to get home.

It's a good idea, but I don't know how much of it will work. The library seems to be having a positive effect so far, and we will see about the rest.

The Car-free Month is Ending, Won't We Just Drive the Children Home?
Brent and I have been in negotiations over our anticipated van usage after August is over. I am of the mindset that it's worked so far, why quit just because the month changed? Brent's more practical (thankfully) and he wants us to make a decision about using the car on an event by event basis, keeping in mind the comfort, safety, time and conveniences for our available modes of transport to each commitment.
We tried the other side of Norway today so we didn't have to cross back over at the intersection as well as making our cross back over to Woodland a more visible one. These poles are one excellent reason why we don't use this side of the street.

We don't fit. Thanks to a very observant and kind pick up truck driver, who stopped at Berry Hill Nursery (now closed), we were able to safely cross Norway to the other side and continue on our way home. The driver came down to us and stopped the car traffic in both directions to get us across.

The school commute has been the most dangerous and time consuming process this entire month. I have not given up on finding a better way to handle this situation, but as it stands we will most likely continue to carpool with friends, taking our turn to do some of the driving.

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Breakfasty bike date: Recycling, CSA & River and Rail Bakery

When we set out to reduce our driving I made a chart of the places we go and the alternate ways we could get there. One of our driving issues was the recycling drop off. We typically would take our items to the stream recycling bins in South Point, OH, which we would have to drive to. We then discovered a recycling bin on 6th Avenue downtown that was located in the parking lot were we pick up our CSA. During my reduced driving phase, I would take out recycling on Tuesdays and pick up my produce at the same time. When we decided to park the cars I signed up for curbside pick up but discovered the service did not accept glass or cardboard.
Running up to a porch requires someone to hold the bike steady with Oliver in it, or take him out.

Dropping off our cardboard and glass.

During the month of August we have been asking a friend and our share partner to pick up the CSA and we have been holding our glass and cardboard in the basement till I could muster the organization to get it to the bin on 6th. Today was the day. With the three older children in school I knew Oliver and I could take out recycling and pick up CSA using the iBert for Oliver and the trailer for all our cargo. Brent came along for company on his way to work so we turned the whole affair into a date.
Locking up at First Presbyterian for CSA pick up.
Lewis, the farmer who provides all the CSA produce, was bagging and unloading when we arrived. He said the heat shriveled his entire fall crop of cabbage (5000 plants) and cauliflower (2500)! We certainly thanked our farmers!

Heritage Station

Brent hauled his gear and the trailer and I took Oliver in the front seat carrier. This was a good use of our physical strengths and bike abilities. His bike is better suited to haul. Something I need desperately to fix, as I am the one who has more time for errands.

This morning was very chill and foggy. Fleece for Oliver and jeans for me. I think some of that fog seeped into my brain because a mile or so after we left home I realized I forgot my helmet.  I used Brent's and left his head unprotected (we joked it was because the life insurance was higher for him). Later we discovered I forgot to put the flag on the trailer when I converted it from stroller to trailer this morning. Some days are like that.

Recycling dropped off and the CSA picked up, we took advantage of our downtown location, reduced child accompaniment and smidgen of extra time Brent could spare, and headed to River and Rail Bakery at Heritage Station. Perfect breakfast date for us. Cinnamon roll for the boys, mocha for the parents, both shared unequally on the outdoor patio. Tonight River and Rail is hosting the CAFE dinner, something we won't attend this time, but wanted to let you all know about.
Inside River and Rail Bakery

A lending library

Brent got a hold of my camera.

More shops at Heritage Station

Riding home we came across the PATH mural project on 10th Street at the via-duct. A dozen volunteers were busy painting a scene to reflect the people of PATH in Huntington. I don't know how long folks will be painting, but they need more volunteers.
10th Street via-duct heading south. It was blocked to traffic, but we meandered through on our bikes to thank everyone and snap a few pictures.

Brent did accompany us home as well. He lugged Oliver and the produce back just so he could get his helmet and see us safely in. I am very happy he did. I love his company and that's what makes every time we spend together a great date.

Miles Walked: 2 Biked: 23.9 Bused: 0 Drove: 0 This week
39.7 136.8 12.6 399.9 Since August 14, 2011

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Monday, August 29, 2011

Living Car-Lite in Huntington: The Klover/Kittinger's

When we first started cutting back on our driving we didn't talk about it much. When I got down to driving one day a week, we just let be what would be. This past month it's been the center of conversation. Most everyone has been very supportive and encouraging. It has helped to know that I have many friends who live car-lite lives, whether they know it or not. I contacted a handful of these people about writing down their experiences, especially those related to living in the TriState region.

I am very excited to post my first interviewee and her experience living with fewer cars than adults here in Huntington, WV. 

Klover/Kittinger Clan, photo by Raine Klover

Raine Klover and Chris Kittinger: Huntington, WV
Could you please introduce yourself and your family? How many adults and how many vehicles?  
We are the Klover/Kittinger clan - parents - Raine Klover and Chris Kittinger and kids William (7) and Katie (5). We currently own two cars as we recently bought a used Toyota Corolla to replace our minivan. The minivan is for sale. Only Chris drives as I have never had a driver’s license.

How long have you been car-lite in Huntington (and before living here)? How did you come to the decision to have fewer automobiles than adults? 

We have lived in Huntington just over a year. Prior to that we lived in Albuquerque, NM for six years. I have also lived carless in Dayton, New Orleans, Dallas, and Seattle prior to meeting Chris. I chose to not obtain my license while in high school (for no good reason) and after graduation moved to Seattle where a car seemed like more a hindrance than a help. Living in Seattle for nine years solidified my view that driving was not for me. Walking and public transportation made so much more sense in a large city where you had to pay extra to have a parking spot at your apartment, pay for a parking spot at work if you worked downtown, and paying meters everywhere else. Add in car payments, insurance, gas and maintenance and not having a car seemed the way to go. As I’ve moved around the country I’ve made sure to do as much research as possible to move to neighborhoods that are walkable, have good access to public transportation, and are easily accessible to my work situation.
What's your current transportation situation?

Chris used to work in downtown Huntington but recently took a job in Charleston and commutes there Monday through Friday. We have decided to move from a minivan to a car in search of better gas mileage as Chris now has a long commute. I am a stay-at-home mom and I also have a dog nanny job and work in an administrative position with my church (I mostly work from home, but it does require some errands). I am a walker. I walk to my dog nanny  job and also walk my kids to school and walk for most errands. I use the bus occasionally. 
What makes this work for your family?

We were very intentional when finding a home in Huntington. As soon as we decided to move to Huntington I hopped on the internet and looked up information on the Tri-State Transportation Authority and scanned Google and Bing maps to get the lay of the land. I quickly identified the South Side neighborhood as the one for us. A neighborhood school, walkable to downtown, a small local grocer, Ritter Park, and multiple bus routes running through it made it an easy choice.

What have the challenges been? Does anything change with the seasons? 

As I have lived as a non-driver my entire adult life and have moved around the country I’m pretty good at identifying areas that will work with my lifestyle. We have not had many extra challenges in Huntington. Bus service could definitely be improved, I have had to use cabs a few times to places busses just don’t go or weren’t convenient within the timeframe I needed them. The Huntington downtown core and South Side neighborhood are extremely walkable. I can walk to church, school, doctors, library, shopping, restaurants and Ritter Park. Moving from New Mexico, weather has been an issue for us - we’ve had to buy raincoats, umbrellas, and boots!

What have been the responses of your peers/colleagues been when they find out you live a car-lite life? 

I am definitely the oddball in my social circles. I also cook entirely vegan so I think most people just chalk up my idiosyncrasies to being a hippie chick from Seattle. Many people have had a hard time believing I’ve chosen to live this way and actually enjoy it. For me being carless or car-lite has never been a burden - owning a car seemed like more of a burden.

Were there any unforeseen benefits to living with the decision to have one car? Or if you foresaw them all, what have been those benefits? 

There are so many benefits to living a car-free or car-lite life. We spend less money on transportation than just about everyone we know. Our car is paid for, we only have to pay insurance for one driver, and our driving errands are grouped together which help saves on gas. The health benefits are great - I walk on average 4 miles a day during the week. There is no need to go to the gym to run on a treadmill when you walk that much. Our kids have walked/bussed since they were babies. One bonus of being car-lite is more time with our kids. Walking the kids to school is a treat for both the kids and me. We don’t spend a lot of time running to multiple acitivities and that allows them to focus on the things they’re really interested in. Swimming at the Y, acting camp at the Renaissance Center, cub scouts at First United Methodist all are within easy walking distance. One benefit of walking that most people probably wouldn’t think of is the community factor. Traveling in cars keeps us isolated from others. I’ve had so many great conversations on the bus and sidewalk and made friends with other regular commuters when I bussed to work in Seattle and Dallas.

How could Huntington, as a government or it's citizens, improve or change to make your situation more beneficial, safer, convenient, etc.? What resources or advocacy would you like to see? 

Huntington definitely needs some infrastructure improvements. Sidewalks, or lack thereof, really need a lot of improving.Bus service that is more often and with more extended service hours would be great. As far as advocacy I believe more “walking tours” of different neighborhoods would be a great way to show people that Huntington is walkable, and that there are so many things things you miss in a car that you notice when walking. I think P.A.T.H. is a great thing for Huntington as are the monthly Critical Mass rides.

Do you have any advice for other families similar to your own who may want to reduce the automobiles in their lives? 

Do your research! Take a critical eye to all of the places you currently go by car. Are there similar options that are closer to home? Simple things like changing your grocery store, bank, or dentist can make going car-lite seem much more manageable. Is their a busline a few blocks from you that you never even noticed. Do you have coworkers or neighbors you can carpool with? And just try it. Pretend one of your cars is dead for a week and see how you get by just using one. If you’re really adventurous try using none.

Anything else you might like to add? 

I occasionally toy with the idea of learning drive and getting a car. Usually after conversations with “car” people. If I had a car would I go more places? Probably. Is that a good thing? Probably not. All of our needs are being met, and we have a very full life. Adding another car would add more expense but not improve our quality of life. I think we’re good to go as is.

You can read more about Raine where she blogs, and 

Thank you Raine for taking the extra time to highlight Huntington, your family and your choice to live a car-lite lifestyle.

*Do you live car free or car lite in the Tri-State area? I would love to hear your story. Please contact me, asimplesix[at]

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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Officially car-lite

We signed over the title to our Cavalier to a new owner yesterday. No sale, just gave her away, as she was given to us. We feel great about our decision. I can't wait to call the insurance company and knock down that bill even further. Brent is happy the car will see a good life with someone new.

One car, now what?
Now that we have just one vehicle, I still want to sell it, to be replaced at a later time. Brent's pretty steadfast in keeping it. Most folks we talk to about the car situation tell us to keep it, it's paid for, you are going to need it. I have no doubts that we will need a car, that we want a car, I just don't want one right now. I have a hunger to eat up more debt and getting $10,000 from that van will certainly serve as a catalyst.

Entertaining the idea that we keep the van comes with straining to put together another way to pay down the second mortgage. We owe $23,000. I think if we could pay it down to with in $5K we would be in a great position to refinance. We need to come up with $18,000. We can do that, I just don't know how quite yet.

I am toying with the idea of some sort of debt ticker on the side bar, sort of how I track our mileage for our modes of transportation. The ticker is not going to help us earn or save any cash, but it might be a good point of visual accountability every time I visit, which is often, apparently. Don't I have laundry to wash or toys to put away? Probably, but this is more enjoyable.

Thank you all for reading, and coming back to read more.

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Grocery shopping, again

My meal co-op group is meeting in the morning and I needed to get the foods I was scheduled to prepare. I had said before that the only thing we do altogether is go to the grocery store, and it's true. Before we dropped the car usage we would go to the store as a family. I genuinely thought this would change when didn't have a large vehicle to strap everyone into and load our provisions into the rear of. It hasn't. I managed to stroll off to the store last Tuesday by my lonesome but we barely had enough to get through till today. I have seen barer cabinets and far more empty shelves on my refrigerator, but there was no fruit or milk. Between school and work and the meal exchange, we decided not to wait.

Our neighbor's were hosting Elliot and Avery for some playtime and kept them till we returned from Kroger. Brent hauled the empty trailer, I had Oliver on the iBert and London rode alongside. We took our usual route along the PATH then up 1st Street. Uneventful if not a bit whimsy with the wind and crunchy leaves that are starting to drop.

View Larger Map

We got just what we needed, very few general wants, no ice cream and the minimal milk to get us through half the week (three gallons). Without listing it all out this time (as I did the first, second and third large trips) we totaled near 105lbs of food today. It exceeds the trailer weight limit marginally. If we had just tossed in any old thing we felt like eating we may have broken the axle. Thankfully we stuck to the list and only nudged some chocolate chips into the cart.
Loaded and ready to go. There were two other bikes in the back near the entrance. This is a very convenient Kroger to bike to.

If Avery had been with us in the trailer we may have had to reduce our purchases. We should get those panniers for Brent's rack, which could have taken two bags of weight from the trailer, and Avery would have fit, but might have still tipped the scale. That Yuba Mundo is looking very appealing right now. We could have hauled three children, four pannier bags and a trailer behind, if we were strong enough. Sounds like a fun challenge to me. Wonder if I could pull off something like that?

In the mean time, we will work with what we have and shop more frequently with a few extra stops at Julian's market as needed. I don't think we will give up on family grocery shopping just yet. It's still fun and it's good for us all. Although I do find myself reminiscing about the milk-man I had in Denver. At 8lbs a gallon, having fresh milk delivered is something worth daydreaming about.

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Test Riding Bikes in Columbus, OH

Miles Walked: 13.9 Biked: 56.9 Bused: 2.1 Drove: 396.3 This week
37.7 112.9 12.6 399.9 Since August 14, 2011

Downtown Mechanicsburg, OH

Flat fields of Champaign county Ohio
 Grandma got settled at home in Mechanicsburg,OH  at about 1:30PM yesterday and I set off in my empty mini van for Columbus. I was meeting my dad at Handy Bikes in Grandview to check out a cargo style bike. I had only looked at their website and found they carried the Madsen brand, but I know now I should have called first. The ladies at the counter didn't know anything about a Madsen and said there were none in the shop, but the owner came out and said he happened to have a used one in the back that he was trying to sell. It was the older model, powder blue and ready to ride.

I do believe there's a hint of fall color here.
I took it for a couple of spins around block, checking out the gears and breaking. I wasn't able to add any weight into it, as all my precious cargo was at home. Over all it was a fun ride. It didn't have some of the features of the newest model, like front cargo rack, front disc brakes and parking brake-lock, but what it did have was good enough. It rode smooth and easy and more upright than my box-store bike or Brent's GT. I am not experienced enough with bikes to give any sort of review, but I did have a great time riding this box bike around Grandview. The owner said he would sell it to me for $1000, and seeing that a new bike retails for $1500 with shipping, it sounded decent, but it was the older model and it was used, AND I hadn't ridden anything else to compare it with.
I was testing out the Madsen

The Madsen in front of Handy's Bikes

When driving to Handy's Bikes, I had some extra time before my dad was to arrive so I went to WholeFoods on Lane Avenue looking for a lunch and ended up a little backwards going from the store to the bike shop. I am glad I got a smidgen turned around because I drove past a shop called Roll:, also on Lane. After Handy's, dad and I went to Roll: to see what they might carry. The shop didn't have anything I was looking to test ride, but was stocked with some beautiful bikes. They also sold the Yepp Mini front style child seat I considered before we bought the iBert. I think the Yepp Mini seat is worth a second look. It had a higher back which might allow for napping. There was a higher cushioned front bar for both comfort and sleeping as well as the seat itself was made from a very dense but modestly pliable foam.
Chocolate cherry trail mix from WholeFoods, aka lunch.


The salesman at Roll: told me about a shop in the Short North that sold cargo style bikes so dad and I headed downtown. Paradise Garage had an electric assist Kona Ute bike in the window. The sales-guy gave me a run down on the specs, since I was completely unfamiliar with this long-tail style. Then he mentioned having a Yuba Mundo, something I had been researching. The Yuba Mundo long-tail cargo bike was one of two I had been considering, the other being an Xtracycle.

This Yuba was ready to be fitted with disc-brakes, something that dad, the salesman and I discussed and decided would be most beneficial to my riding situation. Two child seats could fit on the rear and one could fit on the front as well as two extra-large pannier bags for groceries. This bike was ready to haul 600 lbs. I took it for a couple of loops around the block and loved how smooth the gear transitions were. It was more of an upright seating position, something I am realizing is more comfortable for me. It was overall a very well built bike. The deflating moment came when I returned from my ride, had a conversation with my dad about how I might be able to talk the sales-guy into selling me the floor model and was ready to give my pitch. Before I could even make an offer he told me the owner would not sell this bike. He was keeping it around for test rides and as the company "truck" for events. Maybe in the spring, when the new model was released, I might be able to purchases it. Huge disappointment, but it held me accountable to my "I am only shopping, not buying" creed for the day.
Yuba Mundo at Paradise Garage

I came away from these two test rides knowing what a better quality bike looks and feels like. I learned a lot about what I need for my situation, how far my money might go and how long a bike will last post-children. There are a few more bike styles and brands I am looking to ride, so if you have something and are willing to let me give it a spin, I would be most grateful.

Dad and I had an early dinner at the Short North Tavern then we parted ways. He went home and I met up with a great friend who was in Columbus, coincidentally, for the day as well. We met at the Raisin Rack in Westerville and then she drove us to old downtown for some live music and espresso drinks at Java Central. Near 10pm we said goodnight and I drove home to collapse contentedly into bed at 12:45AM this morning.
Jockey style post bike racks were embedded all along High Street Columbus.

Beer bike! in the Short North

We didn't wait in line for Graeter's but I love this Ohio based ice cream

Java Central, Westerville

We stayed till the sun had long since set

Downtown Westerville, OH

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