Happy Friday!!

He's having fun, making friends, and enjoying unlimited Clif bars.

Well hello, everybody.  We’ve been busy- enjoying pleasant weather and lots of fun rides.  As you can see, my husband is totally digging this “his and hers” cargo bike thing we have going on, and so are the kids.  And so am I.  We’ve covered a lot of miles in the past week.  The pictures might be a bit out of order, but I’ll share what we have here.  We bought a Fuji waterproof camera awhile ago at Costco, and the kids have been my designated photographers, which is cool.

Early in the morning, on our way to the ride.  5:30 early.  Whew!

Early in the morning, on our way to the ride. 5:30 early. Whew!

He's having fun, making friends, and enjoying unlimited Clif bars.

He’s having fun, making friends, and enjoying unlimited Clif bars.

You can see in the picture above that we improvised another seat to go on the deck, and I think it’s sort of genius.  Our Bubblebum booster works GREAT.  I took an old tube and tied it around the deck, then feed it through the side hooks like a seatbelt.  Voila!  And we’re street legal if we need to use a car for some reason.  Yay!


Hey, look at us!  Over four lanes, all for bikes!

Hey, look at us! Over four lanes, all for bikes!

All the above pictures are from Bike the Drive, which was on Sunday- EARLY.  We aren’t an early rising bunch, but it was worth it.  There was bad weather in the forecast until almost the last minute, and my pre-coffee brain totally forgot to throw our raingear in the backpack, so we only did the North segment of the ride this year.  The kids had hoodies, but it was raining and windy for awhile, and they said they were cold, so… We can easily use the Lake Front Path to head South, but the northern section is usually so crowded I thought we should definitely take advantage of the ride to head that way.  If you aren’t from Chicago or familiar with the event, it’s a fundraiser held every year for the Active Transportation Alliance where they close Lakeshore Drive to cars for about five hours in the morning for registered cyclists.  We did about 20 miles, but the whole route is over thirty and you see bikes of all kinds.  A friend of mine is training for a triathlon and said she had a blast.  My friends who carry kids also had fun, and it looked like a lot of people opted for Divvy’s or rentals just to try it out.  Good times for all!  One thing I was grateful for was our fenders, as I saw lots of people ‘striped’ on the ride.

Inflating tires at On the Route the day before Bike the Drive.  And buying another tube!

Inflating tires at On the Route the day before Bike the Drive. And buying another tube!


Changing the tube on the new bike, because I was too lazy to pump the tube up to the suggested pressure before… live and learn.

We’ve ridden both bikes a lot already.  I saw the rear tire was low on the new bike, but only pumped it up a bit with a hand pump and paid the price- a pinch flat.  Keeping your tires in the suggested range of pressure is important, people.  Luckily, it was super easy to fix the flat, even without levers.  I’ve had some bad experiences in the past. (which ended in bruised and raw thumbs, lots of cursing, and ultimately a shameful visit to the bike shop…) I don’t know if it was the 20″ wheel or the fact that it’s really new and not too grippy to the wheel, but it was a breeze to replace the tube, and I was pretty dang proud of myself.

The little guy fell asleep in the middle of Critical Mass.  We stopped in Pilsen and traded riders, because the old Haul-a-Day has lower clearance and seems safer for sleeping.

The little guy fell asleep in the middle of Critical Mass. We stopped in Pilsen and traded riders, because the old Haul-a-Day has lower clearance and seems safer for sleeping.

Haven't removed the sticker from bike the drive yet.  (because it's sticky.)

Haven’t removed the sticker from bike the drive yet. (because it’s sticky.)

There it is!  A great example of the "Chicago Hold-Up" during tonight's mass.  You can see quite a few bikes lifted down in front- I wasn't about to kick my kid off to try it, but I think I could...

There it is! A great example of the “Chicago Hold-Up” during tonight’s mass. You can see quite a few bikes lifted down in front- I wasn’t about to kick my kid off to try it, but I think I could…

At Daley Plaza, getting ready for Critical Mass

At Daley Plaza, getting ready for Critical Mass

It's like a date night, but with kids.  And tons of other people. :)

It’s like a date night, but with kids. And tons of other people. :)

Okay, one more change I made- my husband loves the straight bars, I love the cargo bars.  So I switched them out.  It takes hardly any mechanical inclination to do this, I promise.  I just took photos of how my shifters looked before with my phone so I could check my work.  The toughest part, I swear, was getting the darned grips off without scratching or gouging anything- but a measuring spoon and a bit of water did the trick.  I’ve learned to like the new shifting/gearing on the new bike, and I especially appreciate that it’s quieter.  Without the foot plates and with a new kickstand that doesn’t bang, I’m feeling kinda ninja when we ride.  I really don’t prefer one bike to another, but the larger bar in the back of the most recent model means more room for kids, and since I’m most likely to carry two, we switched things up.

wpid-20150519_205430.jpgI have big plans.  One involves using a product called “sugru” to dampen some of the noisier parts of the old bike- funny I never even noticed this until I started riding the new one- and another is a themed Kidical Mass ride we have coming up in early June.

The bike business is also underway.  I’ll tease with the logo, but will fill you in with another post- soon!

Not committing to one or the other quite yet- but there will soon be a "working Haul-a-Day" in Chicago!

Not committing to one or the other quite yet- but there will soon be a “working Haul-a-Day” in Chicago!

Have a great weekend, everybody!


Haul-a-Day Assembly, Part 2!

It came!  Once again, the box was smallish, and the bike was pretty much built for us.  You don’t need too much expertise to put together this bike, the toughest part is threading the chain (and that’s pretty easy.)  I did have my fork on backwards, and a little trouble lining up my cables, but I rode off to the bike shop for a second opinion on a few things just 90 minutes after we opened the box.  (And again, 20 minutes of that was carefully removing bubble wrap!)

Unboxing time!

Unboxing time!

Dual disc breaks this time, and sleek black wheels.

Dual disc breaks this time, and sleek black wheels.

Even the bags were set up for us!

Even the bags were set up for us!

I sent the kids to the park with dad, promising to meet him in under two hours.  I made good on my promise.  They’re just dying to help, but I needed my parts to not run away.

The paperclip trick is AMAZING.  All chained up in no time.

The paperclip trick is AMAZING. All chained up in no time.

I’m contacting Bike Friday about one issue that made it a bit tough- the main bolts that hold the frame together were an odd size this time, and I had trouble getting them tight with my (awful, stubby, multitool) wrench.  The guy at the bike shop commented on it too, but was able to get more traction than I was.

Again I used my paperclip trick to get the chain on, it helps a lot.  I hook one end near the crank set while I pull down the rear derailleur and then pull them together to put in the link pin.  Done!  The brakes were perfectly adjusted this time, but I’m still messing with the front gears a bit.  I got totally spoiled with the other bike, after the spa day it’s riding perfectly.

Off to the park! The kids insisted I get the hoop and seats on immediately so they could sit on the new bike.  Actually, my girl wants to ride it in a bad way, and I’ll definitely let her try sometime soon.  I commented a few weeks ago that I squeezed onto my first HaD at the Women Bike Chicago Event, and though it handled my weight just fine, my thighs barely fit under the hoop.  This time there’s more clearance and length, I fit on comfortably even with my four year old in front of me.

The new hoop and deck are roomier.  I climbed on with no problem.

The new hoop and deck are roomier. I climbed on with no problem.

So here’s the really exciting part:  my husband still loves his Bianchi fixed-gear bike.  He warned me not to pressure him into riding the new one when it came, and explained that he rarely gets free time to ride and wants to have time with his beloved Bianchi.  I think I talked him into trying out the Yuba only once or twice, and he didn’t care for it at all, saying it felt “dangerous.”  He rode my Haul-a-Day briefly one time, saying it was better, but that he just didn’t like the cargo bikes.  Well- this new one is much more to his taste.  I was surprised that he volunteered to take it for a second and third ride over the weekend, and the kids were over the moon.  I think the main factor is the different bars- mine are the Bike Friday ‘cargo bars’ with an H shape, and I love them.  In fact, I called BF right away after riding the new bike on Saturday asking if I could trade in the straight bars (standard on HaD) for cargos, and they quickly created the order.  By Monday morning, I was calling back canceling because I realized the straight bars were his preference.

Dad said okay!  He'd try the bike!

Dad said okay! He’d try the bike!

Our forecasts have been way off all week, and they were calling for thunderstorms, so we packed in quite a bit of riding.  We’re still tweaking the front gears, though I plan to swap out the bars on the bikes anyways, so it’ll wait.  Here are the things that I think are much improved, and I’ll follow up with more info as I think about it, for those of you researching Haul-a-Days…

-the kickstand has been improved on the new model, with bumpers that prevent the “SLAM” sound when you fold it up and keep it silent over bumps.  It’s also a bit easier to find with my foot, it’s like a luxury kickstand now.

-the front part of the frame has braze-ons for a mounted basket, something I haven’t purchased yet but suspect will be a purchase in the near future and add even more cargo room.

-the whoopie bar is longer and wider, with higher clearance.  I actually haven’t had both kids on the back of the new bike yet, but I think they’re going to appreciate the extra room!  This was a big one for us.  The previous bike was big enough, but just a bit cramped for longer rides.  The bike doesn’t seem bigger overall with the larger hoop, so win/win.

– the frame seems subtly different, but both bikes are feeling solid.  Any flex I felt in the first one has been gone since I found my sweet spot as far as fit goes.  I’ll comment on this more as I get used to it.

– Bike Friday included some cork tape for the rear bars this time, which I hadn’t even thought of, but will definitely add to my kids’ comfort!  I picked up some red sport tape at my LBS to put on the other bike.

– I went with the rear rails/ running boards without the foot plates this time, because I’m still trying to figure out how to tow my daughter’s bike occasionally.  It’s a lot quieter without the metal foot plates (or maybe it goes back to that kickstand issue…)

There's still bubble wrap on the bike, it's that new. :)

There’s still bubble wrap on the bike, it’s that new. :)

We rode just a few blocks to a nearby playground and were approached by several people in the first ten minutes- and I passed along my referral cards and Spinlister promo codes.  I have to update our Spinlister account now, but I’m happy to report it’s now possible to rent one or TWO of these amazing bikes.  I’m also working on getting a Yepp seat to mount to one for those with smaller kiddos.  Definitely contact me if you’re thinking of a trip to the Windy City, and I’ll help you out. 😉

Here we are!  Can't wait to do some more exploring this summer!

Here we are! Can’t wait to do some more exploring this summer!

Chicago Winter Sanity Savers (but sadly, barely any biking.)


1) The Haul-a-Day made it out for a quick trip to the grocery store. 2) Chicagoans don’t let a little Winter stop them! 3) That sky? That’s COLD. 4) Clarke house looking quiet on our walk home from the park.

Gross. Gross. Gross.  It’s warmed up since this morning, but with a ‘RealFeel’ of -11, our family is looking at another day indoors.  This is a really tough time of year, and the poor Haul-a-Day is languishing in the garage.  It’s a heated garage, and I’m still determined to fix up the big-girl bike (HotRock) with fenders, but it’s even too chilly for that…

So I thought maybe I’d share a few ways the kids and I spend time in the winter here.  I was hoping for a milder season, since last year was horrendously cold as well.  But nope!  So are a few of our sanity savers.

#1- Museum of Science and Industry.


I loved this exhibit. The kids were impatient to go see the baby chicks. My mom and dad were along and he was digging the vintage bikes and telling me all about the coolest bikes on the block when he was a kid, which was fun. The velocipede is the yellow wheeled-one. My son was super excited to see a ‘balance bike’ like his on display, and still insists he doesn’t ever need pedals. :)

Where to go if you’d like to see a velocipede. (Don’t worry, they don’t bite.) Chicago museum admissions are not cheap- we take advantage of discount days (free basic admission for Illinois families) and passes from the library when possible.  Lately there have been some great deals on Groupon for museum memberships though, and we were able to get MSI for under $90!  That’s amazing, considering it includes parking and Omnimax movies, plus reduced prices on special exhibits.  Homeschooling families can get free basic admission to the museum any day, but the lines can be long and you’ll pay full price on special programs and exhibits.  This Winter we’ve gone with a friend who drives a few times and took my parents (and their car.)  But we’ve also taken the bus to the museum and have plans to take the Metra at some point. We especially love the chicks, the bike decor in the member lounge, and- this awesome new exhibit.  You can spend a whole day here and not see everything- it’s like the Walt Disney World of Chicago museums…  my kids like the Idea Factory and we are able to catch live Science demonstrations much of the time.  The building is the only one remaining from the Columbian Exposition, which makes it worth a look from the outside, as well. (If it’s nice enough outside, which it isn’t.)


#2- Instacart.

Serial sicknesses, freezing rain, wind chills below -10, yeah, even if I bundled up and went out, my kids would be in tears.  They have a pretty firm 30 degree cut-off, so Instacart it is.  Prices are marked up considerably for Costco and Whole Foods, but Mariano’s, our local chain, is pretty decent.  Plus, minimum order for free delivery is $35 (we have an annual subscription) so that means our food is fresher.  I’m able to order for 2-3 days at a time, which means fewer bags of salad in the trash.  When we used Peapod we had a minimum order of $100, which meant in many cases a lot of waste.  I totally justify our grocery delivery by not having a car. :)  Plus, depending on the weather, I can often get delivery within a few hours, which is good news when I need that one thing to make dinner and realize we’re out.wpid-screenshot_2015-02-21-16-23-18.png#3 Uber


Our Valentine’s Day/Anniversary night out- at a Vegas themed fundraiser. My daughter loves heels- oh boy. I am not one to gamble- but with fake money it was a blast! And I came out waaaay ahead. (except it all went to KICS Soccer in the end!)

I’ve blogged about Lyft before, and while I still use it, I now use Uber almost as frequently.  I don’t always want to wait for a Lyft to find me, so the Uber Taxi service is a great alternative.  So is Uber X, ride sharing based on the Lyft model (drivers use their own cars.)  We need to walk about three blocks to catch a bus, and some days that short jaunt plus the wait seem, well, hellish. On Valentine’s day, we went to a Vegas night fundraiser just a few blocks from home, but there was no way I was walking in a cocktail dress.  We took Uber- at a premium cost, thanks to the surge pricing.  When the weather is bad, demand increases, and so do the prices.  You won’t often see me in full makeup and heels, this was a very (very) rare instance- getting there warm and with my tailbone intact was well worth it!


#4: Um, the Internet.  But especially these sites…


1) At, set up accounts for your kids then accept challenges in lots of different categories- it’s like virtual scouts. 2) Bikabout is a pretty comprehensive directory for a decent amount of cities, with curated routes, analysis of bike culture, and tips on shops, lodging, and destinations. 3) Bike Winter! I love this! I know a lot of families who embrace their car-free lifestyle year round- read tips here. 4) Tom Skilling is THE MAN. The blog is really imformative and entertaining, I just wish he had better news for us.


I’m missing being outside.  Missing the lake, and being on our bike, and picnics.  First virtual stop:  I’m planning several trips in my head, even though I’m not sure we’ll be traveling anywhere soon.  It’s nice to live vicariously through these curated routes- my favorite right now is maybe Athens, GA.  Or Vancouver.  Or Portland.  But I’d love to go to Colorado… Did I mention I have a route published?  You can read the Chicago Green Space one here, but I’d hold off until at least April. :)

Also, I feel ironically warm and fuzzy when I read the website- a good place for getting neck gaiter patterns, browsing a gallery of winter commuters bundled in their best, and looking over the very entertaining sticker design submissions.  Sadly I didn’t get a sticker this year, we missed critical mass.  We vote for the designs every Fall on the Chainlink.

I learned about DIY from a fellow Kidical Mass organizer, and it’s amazing.  As a homeschooling mom, I’m sometimes racking my brain for things to do and there are so many ideas to choose from.  Great layout, and very educational.  (I want to do some of the challenges myself.)  My daughter is lately obsessed with Minecraft, and I like knowing she’s working toward a goal.

Finally, I’m checking Tom Skilling’s weather report daily, and hoping there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

#4 Warm clothes and outerwear.

You can’t beat some soft long underwear for warmth on the legs, and they make great pajamas.  I love my coat this year.  It’s a Columbia Microlight hooded coat, and it is PERFECT.  Also loving my Hunter wellies for slush, though I’m not able to find the fleece liners that would make them perfect.  Neck gaiters are the key- keep your neck and nose covered, and it’s much more tolerable in the wind.  Here’s a collection of photos of us in our outerwear.  :)


This week looks a lot more promising- so if we can get well I hope to be out more!  I think everyone is on the mend- one last photo that tells the story of the past week or more:

Stay warm and well, everybody!!