The Southern grandparents agreed to take Everett overnight last Saturday, so we loosely planned a date night. We had been wanting to try a new restaurant out on Huff Road and just looked at some homes for sale on the opposite side of town earlier in the day, so our East Side/West Side adventure took shape. Non-conventional? Yes. Crazy awesome? Absolutely!

First Leg: Bring Everett to Lindbergh
Mode of transport: Walking (0.5), Bus (2), Train (7)
Distance: 9.5 miles

This was not impossible, but it was difficult. And frustrating. It was both difficult and frustrating…

We brought our two bikes and Everett’s gear, including a cooler filled with food and a half gallon of soymilk. We had to walk a bit to the bus stop with all of this and we managed to make it, but we had to modify some things. We strapped the cooler to the rear rack of one bike and I walked both (now top-heavy) bikes up the street while Rebecca carried Everett and his overnight bag. It was awkward and I swear, the heat index must have 400 degrees (Read: cookies in the oven.) At the bus stop, we took the cooler off, set the bikes to the side and entertained Everett until we saw the bus in the distance. Only after I saw the bus did I remember there is only space for two bikes on the rack…

Now, had there been one bike on the rack as the bus approached, I’m pretty sure I would have just ran toward the bus and stepped out in front of it while it still had some speed behind it (at least that’s how it plays out in my mind in an imaginary cutaway scene similar to those in Scrubs.) But thankfully both our levels of dwindling sanity remained intact and an empty bike rack was waiting for our two bikes on the #71. We made it to the West End station, offloaded the bikes and caught our northbound train just in time.

Oh, sure... NOW he naps!

At Lindbergh station, grandpa arrived just as we walked across the street to our meet up spot. We were almost there! A night of freedom with the wind blowing through our (Rebecca’s) hair! But no. Everett did not nap in the afternoon like he normally does (see above picture), so enter the car tantrum.

Everett likes car seats about half of the time. The rest of the time he’s crying, kicking, talking in tongues, slapping and just general all-around good times. It’s nearly impossible to get him into the seat and once in he has to be driven around a bit before returning to his normal state. He never does that in his bike trailer though. He used to once in a while, but now he loves it. Anyhow, a trip around the station in the car with his momma calmed him down and they were off.

We sat and gathered our wits again with some cold coffee at Sip – The Experience, our old BeltLine (t)Rail Runners Club haunt, and then hit the bike rack. Let the adventures begin again! Just like old times!

Second Leg: Get to Urban Pl8
Mode of transport: Train (3), Bicycle (2.6)
Distance: 5.6 miles

With bikes in hand, we jumped back on the train and headed south to Arts Center. From there, we rode to 17th street and headed out to the Westside to start our night and try out a new restaurant – Urban Pl8.

Oh, Atlantic Station… Where Bus Only lanes become jam-packed with car traffic and the bike lane becomes a parking lane. You whisper softly to nearby commuters stuck on the highway, “Drive to me! Buy nice things! This place is yours, Dear Automobiles – yours and yours alone.” Its one saving grace (to me, anyway) is our old friend Ikea.
Here’s a pic Rebecca snapped while we waited at a light. Notice the Yukon parked in the bike lane…

Atlantic Station - 17th Street Bike Lane

After passing through Carmageddon, we rode the remaining mile or two to Urban Pl8.
Very cool place! Family seating, a great menu, decent drink selections, nice atmosphere and a few veg*n items to choose from as well. We’re going to have to return soon and try their brunch, which looks awesome.

And off we went…

Third Leg: Urban Pl8 to Kirkwood
Mode of Transport: Bicycle (8.4), Train (3.3)
Distance: 11.7 miles

Earlier in the day, we were looking at homes with our real estate agent in Kirkwood. Since neither of us had spent any time over there before, we thought it would be a great idea to go hang out, ride around and see how it felt. We rode back into town on Marietta Street, hopped the train at Five Points and headed east.

We got off at Edgewood/Candler park station, since this is the closest station to some homes we had seen. A nearby MARTA station is important. We’re looking for an affordable place in which it’s fairly easy to be car-free. Kirkwood now tops our list. It was an easy, short ride to Hosea Williams and the Kirkwood commercial area from the Edgewood station. The area had a good feel to it. There is a coffee shop, pizza place, a couple of bars and a nearby library. Hosea Williams has a bike lane and the Trolley Line Trail runs through the north side of the neighborhood to Agnes Scott College from King Memorial Station.

We finished off with a visit to the Kirkwood Public House and listened to some live music. Back to the horses!

Safety First!

Fourth Leg: Kirkwood to House
Mode of Transport: Bicycle (7.9), Train (3.3)
Distance: 11.2 ­miles

We went back through the neighborhood and waited for the elevator to open at Edgewood station. We got in and immediately noticed a giant moth flapping its wings while hanging on to the top of the elevator. Luna moths only live 1 week as adults and it was probably getting really bored riding the elevator up and down, so we rescued it and let it go outside.

Edgewood Luna Moth

We got back on the elevator, took the train to Five Points and then rode the remaining way home. It was an excellent adventure indeed. And, one we’ll do again soon…

Total Mileage: 38 miles (18.9 by bike, 16.6 by train, 2.0 by bus, 0.5 by walking)

Everyone needed a break after Streets Alive!, so we decided to take a trip the following weekend and relax. I’m not sure how we came across this fact on the interwebs, but Asheville, NC is the most vegetarian-friendly small city in the United States. Being vegan and eating while travelling has always been a bit tough for us, so this sounded like the perfect getaway.

Rebecca found that Enterprise Rent-A-Car has a few Toyota Prius at their ATL airport location that rent for around $30 per day on the weekend, so we booked one for Friday through Sunday. Picking the car up was kind of fun. I planned on taking the bus to the West End MARTA station, but while walking up our street, a neighbor drove by and asked if I was going there and wanted a ride, so I hopped in. We talked the whole way about the economy, her two jobs and our neighborhood (always a big topic.)

This is one of those things that happen to us a lot more now – we interact more often with the people around us. Before our interaction was mainly waving from our vehicle at people as we passed them. Now when I run in to work nearly every person I pass – homeless men, women out taking their morning walks, people waiting at bus stops, kids on the way to school – says “good morning” or “hello.” They were all blurs outside of the driver’s side window six months ago. Anyhow…

Asheville was pretty cool. The trip there wasn’t as quick as we expected, but we were riding with an 18-month-old who is not used to sitting still for very long, let alone four hours. Thank goodness for Elmo videos on a smartphone! We stayed at a little cabin on a river and ventured out sightseeing in between Everett naps.

The restaurants were cool; we really liked the variety of healthy vegan food available at Rosetta’s Kitchen. The downtown area was great and very walkable (until we were almost run over in a crosswalk by a cop) and we managed to be there at exactly the same time as a local beer festival was taking place. Rebecca took some time to chat up the great people of Asheville on Bikes, who were running a bike valet for the event and Everett found a fountain to play in. The next day we packed up and headed home.

We made it back late Sunday afternoon and I had to bring the car back to the airport. I didn’t want to spend a lot of time waiting for a bus, so I just put my bike in the car and took off. I dropped off the car, pushed my bike through the building to board the new skytrain, linked up with the MARTA at the airport and finally biked home from the West End. What sounds like a two-hour ordeal only took about 45 minutes. And this is on a Sunday night…riding MARTA.

On a future weekend trip, we’re going to try Amtrack. Stay tuned…

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Rebecca, Kathleen, Everett, and I went to West Fest yesterday. First Kathleen and Rebecca stopped at the Dunkin Donuts drive-through window with Everett in tow. He’s a big fan of sprinkles. Then we all locked our bikes up at Gordon White park and walked down to Rose Circle park for a dog parade. Fun times!

The dogs were barking at me.  Everett was crying and holding an empty bottle.  I think the refrigerator flipped me off…  It was time to stop messing around with pannier shopping and hook up the trailer for a heavy load.

I thought I had a great grocery-getting system figured out.  I bought a large plastic tote that fit inside the trailer.  Once I arrived and locked up at the store, the tote was going into a shopping cart and all my groceries would go into that.  Then they would all come out at checkout, go back into the tote again and then I would put the whole thing in to the trailer and ride away.  But the tote didn’t quite fit in properly.  It bounced around and tipped over because of the lowered foot area of the floor.   I wasn’t ready for a 30 – 40 pound container to spill groceries everywhere.  So I turned to my old friend the Ikea Bag…

I brought two with me to Kroger.  I had a pretty long list and wasn’t sure if two bags would cut it, but in the end everything worked out great.  After emptying my cart at the checkout, I opened up both bags and placed them in the cart, telling the cashier to put everything in those and not to use any plastic bags.  Note:  Bringing your own shopping bags hasn’t quite caught on yet at our Kroger.  I’ve given my bags to the baggers many times and turned away to pay only to find that they bagged the groceries in plastic first (heavy items double-bagged) and then put them in the cloth bags.
Once outside, it was super easy loading everything up.  Here’s what it looked like:

My cargo weighed in around 85 pounds – about half of the trailer’s weight-carrying capacity.  The ride was obviously a bit slower than usual, but the braking and maneuvering of my Bianchi Volpe remained excellent.

The Ikea bags had a very useful advantage over the tote – they’re flexible and shape themselves to utilize the maximum space inside the trailer (and also keep items from shifting too much.)

Before I partook this bike-trailer grocery-quest, I had built up this idea in my over-thinking head that I really needed to figure out how to lock everything up once at the store.  Should I bring two U-locks?  One U-lock and a cable lock?  One giant chain?  Should I just bring my dog and leave her tied up next to it? I researched this a bit beforehand, but the interwebs didn’t have much information when I googled .  In the end, I locked up to the front door shopping cart corral – Bike with U-lock and trailer with cable lock.  I think this is sufficient, though I will probably use two U-locks in the future (just in case.)

So finally, the dogs are quiet, the baby’s asleep and the refrigerator and I are back on good terms…

June 2011 edit: If you are interested in run commuting, stop by The Run Commuter to learn more including techniques, gear reviews, route planning, personal anecdotes, etc.

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I’m not sure why I started running to work.  I think it was kind of a Forrest Gump thing:

“Now you wouldn’t believe me if I told you, but I could run like the wind blows.  From that day on, if I was ever going somewhere, I was running!”

Don’t let the skinny fool you though – I definitely don’t “run like the wind.”  Who wants to get to work as fast as possible anyway?

So after about two years of bike commuting, I changed my shoes and hoofed it in one day.  Winded and walking after about a mile, I pondered crossing the street and catching that MARTA bus coming up behind me.   The Ole 71.  Ole Smoky.  The Old Man…  But, I had calculated this puppy prior to pushing off.  It takes the same amount of time for me to run to work than it would by taking transit. So, I let it roll by and have let it pass me by pretty much every time since that first run.

The immediate issue when I started run commuting was sweating.  It’s a 3 1/2 mile run in and I start sweating around the end of mile 1 no matter what temperature it is outside.  My office has no showers either.  I decided that my best bet would be to take a shower before I leave home and get a fan to stand in front of once in my office.  This has actually worked fine year-round.  I keep a few extra personal hygiene items in my desk to freshen up once I have cooled down.  Some other run commuters I’ve talked with suggested using baby wipes for a post-run rub down (just like the army days :o)

My second issue was clothing.  My office dress code is business casual and occasionally I’ll have to wear the full suit/tie, lordamercy combo (not a fan.)  I pick out an outfit every morning, iron it and then fold it up and bring it with me.  I also try and keep a jacket and dress pants hanging in my office for those fun days when I have to wear them.

Another suggestion is to drive all your clothes in on Monday, run Tuesday through Thursday and then drive everything back home on Friday.  For me, this solution would make great sense if I had a longer commute (5+ miles each way,) but so far, running the clothes in each day has been great.

My newest issue since being car-free has been stuff for Everett.  When I leave work at the end of the day, I’m either running straight home (if the grandparents are watching him at our place) or to daycare to pick him up.  If I pick Everett up, we take the bus.  On the bus, there is always a chance Everett will flip out, so we have a Flip-Out Bag (mentioned earlier here.)  Contents: Two diapers, wipes, kleenex, something to drink, trail mix and a book.

All of this has to come with me in a nice, waterproof package.

For a backpack I use an Osprey Revo.  It’s lightweight, has a waist strap to keep bouncing down and has good carrying capacity, but it is not waterproof.  Enter the Ikea bag.  Here’s the whole setup:

L to R, top to bottom: Backpack, Ikea Bag, Coffee, Gloves, Sunglasses, Work Clothes, Keys, Small Wet Weather Bag (cellphone, wallet, flash drives), Work ID, Hats, Compass, Bus Schedule, First Aid Kit, Dry Socks, Tazer, Mp3 Player (not shown: Everett's Flip-Out bag)

It weighs between 8 and 15 pounds, depending on what I’m wearing and if I bring a lunch or not.  It took about a week to get used to the extra weight.  After that, I don’t even feel it anymore.

If it rains (like Friday morning – holy crap!), everything goes into the Ikea bag and then in my main compartment.  Best wet weather bag ever.

A compass, you ask?  Yes, it has stayed in there ever since a couple of months ago when Kyle Torok and I started running the Beltline on the weekends.

A tazer?  Yes.  Explained in another post.  Maybe.

But what does it all look like together?

Like I just got attacked by a Goodwill store (which does occasionally happen.)

Whatever.  Everett doesn’t judge me…

The helmet was strapped down properly and the cover placed over the trailer before leaving.

For those interested in the trailer, click here for info.

Stats

Distance to Kroger – 0.9 miles

Weather – 55 degrees, raining

Time – 8:00pm

Grocery List – Diet Coke, Beer, Soy Creamer, Frozen Meals, Veggie Burgers, Pretzels, Veggie Stix, Ginger

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After we decided to ditch the car, we planned out a “big shop”, where we would buy all of our large items in bulk ahead of time so we wouldn’t have to worry about it for a while.  What are our large items you say?  Diapers, toilet paper, dog food, etc.  Speaking of dog food…

We have three large dogs – the lightest one is about 70 pounds.  Here are Maya and Osa:

Not pictured is Cejas (he was probably in the waybackyard barking at vines at the time.)   We go through at least one big bag of dog food weekly and Maya gets an additional two cans of wet food a day, so we freaked and bought a bunch to get us by.

So, my main reason for heading to the grocery store last night, was to make sure we had something for Everett’s grandpa to eat and drink while he watched him the following day.  We didn’t have a pressing “need” for some of the other things <cough> all non-beer items <cough>, but they are nice to have around anyway.  So I threw on my rain jacket, grabbed my helmet and two grocery-getter panniers and headed out to the shed to get the bike ready.

Grocery Getters

The trip to Kroger is so short, you hardly notice it.  Once there, I dismounted and locked up on the grocery cart corral, removed the panniers and headed inside.

First things first – Diet Coke.  It either comes in a 12-pack or some odd little 3 1/2 pack of weirdly-shaped cans that cost twice as much.  12-pack it is.  One aisle over – the beer.  What I thought would be a dilemma was not…  I must buy a 12-pack…for balance, you see… 10 minutes later I was ready to go.

I love the U-Scan.  Our Kroger normally has two normal lines open, with 750 people waiting in each line.   The U-Scan will have 3 or 4 people in line, usually tech-savvy teenyboppers or old ladies who don’t realize where they are (I guess I would be classified as a mix – tech-savvy old lady?)  If you know what you are doing, it’s almost faster than a cashier and bagger combo.  There is no wasted time asking about the Plus Card or if you found everything today.  Anyhow, the U-Scan really can be confusing – especially when I put my panniers on the bag side and it alerted security that a burglary was in progress (I guess the machine only recognizes cloth bags?)  “Soooo, the cavity check won’t be necessary officer – panniers on the ground it is. Whoa! Easy!  I said panniers…”

I left the store with two equally-balanced bags, hooked them up and pedaled home through the night, feeling very successful.  However, I’m not crazy about the panniers.  I mounted them all the way back on my rack and my heels still hit them damn near every time I pedaled.  Any advice on how to fix that?