Category Archives: Family Rides

Roadside Attractions: Little Free Libraries

When you travel down a street at 10 mph in the open air instead of boxed inside a car moving 30 mph, you’re bound to notice more. Last week I was rolling through Palo Alto’s Professorville neighborhood on my way to meet a girlfriend for dinner downtown, and out of the corner of my eye I saw something jutting above a picket fence. Mounted on a post with a steep A-line roof, it was too large to be a mailbox.

I pulled over to investigate. The sign said “Little Free Library.” Inside was a small collection of books protected behind a glass door and instructions that simply said to take a book and return it when you’re done.

Palo Alto Little Free Library

Little did I know that know that Little Free Libraries are found worldwide, on every continent except Antarctica. The first little free library was built in 2009 by Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisconsin as a tribute to his mother, a former schoolteacher who loved reading. He placed on a post in his front yard with a sign “Free Books.”

It was so popular he built more and gave them away for other locations. The concept took off. In three years they met their initial goal of 2500 Little Free Libraries and by January 2014, they expect to pass 10,000.

San Jose Little Free Library

I checked their map for ones near me and found two that weren’t far out of the way of my daily commute: one in front of an Victorian in downtown San Jose and one in front of a suburban ranch-style home in Mountain View.

Mountain View

Now I want one. Given I live in a managed neighborhood, I don’t know where I can put it and be in compliance with the association rules. But I have a father who’s really handy in the woodworking shop and is always looking for new projects. And what design? Would I go with a red British phone booth? A Scandinavian cottage? Or maybe a Cajun shack made of reclaimed materials like my cousin’s chicken coop?

Would you like a Little Free Library in your yard? What style would you choose? What kinds of books? Is there a Little Free Library in your neighborhood?

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Posted by on October 10, 2013 in Around Town, Family Rides


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A True-Blue, All-American Fourth of July

Parades, picnics and fireworks, and everything decked out in red, white and blue. Those are the all-American traditions for celebrating Independence Day, even if it’s not what Dick and I usually do. But this year, after researching local Fourth of July activities for my Bike Fun blog for the Mountain View Voice, I jumped headfirst into the holiday like never before. Truth is, I was curious whether the events I recommended were worth it.

Was the Rose, White and Blue parade worth buying silk flowers and carefully zip tying them to my bike? Was it worth rolling out of bed early to hop on a bus to San Jose? Even more important: was it worth convincing my friend Cindy to get up early, decorate her bike and ride in the parade with me? For all I knew, we could be the only adults riding our bikes in a sea of cute little kids under the watchful eyes of suspicious parents.

Tissue Paper Wheels

As usual, my fears were unfounded. Cindy and I had a blast decorating her bike, showing it off to her friends next door, and then riding over to the parade start in the nearby Rose Garden neighborhood. There we found fire trucks, marching bands, classic automobiles and families on elaborately decorated bikes. Most importantly, we met a welcoming trio of flamboyant friends: Raymond, Ken and Diamond Mike. We had found our bike gang.

Cindy and the Boys

Fortunately, neither the parade nor our ride to downtown San Jose for lunch afterward was too taxing (despite the heat) because Dick and I had plans for the evening. Based once again on my research for the Voice, I had picked up residents-only discounted tickets for the San Francisco Symphony and Fireworks Show at the Shoreline Amphitheatre back in Mountain View. We had ridden out to the adjacent Shoreline Park to see the fireworks display before, but never had the pleasure of hearing musical accompaniment to the fireworks.

Like the Rose, White & Blue Parade, the symphony was worth it. Unlike the Rose, White & Blue Parade, we’ll definitely be going back next year and inviting some of friends. Then again, if some of y’all want to do the parade with me, it won’t take much to convince me. I’m always game for decorating my bike.

What are your Fourth of July traditions? Do you ride to a traditional event? Or perhaps do an epic ride?

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Posted by on July 8, 2013 in Around Town, Family Rides


My Father, My Hero on Two Wheels

Last night I called my dad to wish him a happy Father’s Day. He’s a big talker in person, but on the phone? Not so much. But this time he had a very important question: his bike saddle isn’t comfortable anymore, what kind do I recommend? I don’t think he was satisfied with my answer, which was to take the bike in to his local shop, show them his current saddle and how he sits on it and ask for a recommendation. Some bike expert I am.

But who am I to say what’s best for an 82 year old man on a 20 year old mountain bike?

Dad on Bike

In the tradition of Father’s Day stories, I could write about what a great dad he was growing up: how he pushed me to stretch my limits by bribing me to jump off the diving board with popsicles, and by slowly backing up as I anxiously swam into his open arms. I’m sure that helped make me who I am today and certainly came in handy the day I swam from Alcatraz to San Francisco. And I didn’t even get a popsicle that time.

But it’s what he does today that fills me with pride. Like how every time I go back to Louisiana he wants to go for a bike ride, whether it’s the heat of summer or chill of winter. Next time I visit he wants me to take him to a mountain bike park he read about in the newspaper. Apparently someone at church said it has easy trails.

While Dad rocks the pasture trail, I’m not so sure about the roots, ruts and mud found on dirt trails back home, much less the snakes, gators and biting insects. Not that Dad was ever afraid of wildlife. He’s no city slicker.

Dad on Grass Summer

They say a girl chooses a husband who is the same kind of man as her father. If I look at my husband Dick, the resemblance is not immediate. Where my Dad is quick to act and impatient, Dick thinks before he acts and is methodical. What they have in common is their teasing sense of humor and their zest for an active life. And the way they both treat me with love and respect. That’s the most important lesson from my dad: that I deserve it.

They also share a love for riding with their daughters. Dick’s daughter Jana prefers running to bicycling, but she invited Dick out for a ride in Golden Gate Park last week. It had been years since they’d ridden together, but the smiles were still the same, even after 12 windy and somewhat hilly miles. Some things you never outgrow.

Dick & Jana

Jana was on the East Coast for wedding on Father’s Day, so Dick and I went out for a trail ride at a park that’s popular with families. That meant lots of “Happy Father’s Day!” greetings for all the dads out riding with their children of all ages, from toddlers to adults. Seeing a son in full mountain bike gear with his seventy-something dad toodling down the fire road made me miss my dad, and wonder where we’ll ride together next time.

Do you still bike with your dad? If so, what’s your favorite place to ride together? If not, where would you take him if you could?

P.S. To my bike expert friends: does anyone have a saddle suggestion for my dad? As you can see in the pictures, he tends to sit forward on his saddle, which is on the wide side. Would narrower be better?

Dad & Dick Race


Posted by on June 17, 2013 in Family Rides


When Mom’s Taxi is a Bike

When I speak up at public meetings for improving bicycling in my city, I regularly hear the naysayers: “You can’t carry groceries on a bike,” “You can’t ride in the rain,” “You can’t ride a bike in professional clothes,” “It’s too cold and dark in the winter.” I can speak from personal experience to handily dispel all these myths.

But for “Mothers need cars to take their kids all over town” I have to rely on stories from my friends. Like Karin, my former housemate who bought a bike trailer and started taking her son Anthony to day care on her way to work as soon as he could hold up his head. The 10 mile round trip gave Karin regular exercise that fit within a tight mommy schedule. And trust me, Karin isn’t a happy camper without regular exercise.

Now Karin has another job that doesn’t work for a bike commute with a day care drop off, but she and Anthony regularly ride around town: to the park, the farmer’s market, the swimming pool and even Baskin Robbins.

Karin and I met Elly through Girl Scouts where we formed a group we called the “leaders without daughters” because we didn’t have kids. Like Karin, Elly now has a son who rides with her to day care and around town. Elly says: “He sings to me while we ride (and makes up songs). I think he enjoys it because everything is closer and more immediate. He can say hello to people we pass, point out dogs and interesting sights.”

When Karin starting riding baby Anthony to day care on her work commute, she was the only parent I knew who did it. Now, I’m seeing more and more riding parents their kids to day care or to school. I rarely get the opportunity to snap a shot. They’re rushing to get to school while I’m rushing to catch the train.

But at the Energizer Station on Bike to Work Day last week I met this family. The mom and baby were riding to work and day care at Stanford University. The dad and sibling were along for the ride. All were perfectly content.

Mom & Dad at Caltrain

Karin told me a long time ago I should write about balance bikes. She said that Anthony learned to ride a two-wheel pedal bike in less than an hour because he had ridden a balance bike first. Since I only write about what I experience directly, I wish I had been there to see it. I can only imagine the smile on Anthony’s face.

But I did meet this two-year-old girl rocking a balance bike as she and her parents rode through our cul-de-sac. They had come from the grocery store almost 1/2 mile away and had another 1/2 mile to go before the reached home. That little girl has both endurance and some mad downhill skillz as you’ll see below.

Do you use a bike to take your kid to day care, to school or just around town? What were your biggest challenges? What tips do you have for parents who are curious to try it?

Photos of Karin and Elly in this post are courtesy of them and are used with their permission.


Posted by on May 12, 2013 in Family Rides

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