Xtracycle Stolen and Recovered within 2 hours!


I have some very excellent Karma.  Maybe just really good luck.  Who gets their bike back after being stolen?  Well, I don’t have it back as of yet, but it’s being held in the property room by Roanoke’s finest.  Officer Ramey saw two boys riding a very “unusual-looking” bike down an alley around Patterson Ave near the West End Center.  He approached them, they threw the bike down and fled, he pursued and caught them.  The fourteen year old, a recent juvy release out on parole, and the ten year old, were held, questioned and released to their parents/guardians.  The bike is waiting for me, damaged, to pick up on Monday downtown.  The mother of the 14 year old was livid, Officer Ramey told us.  She definitely wants us to press charges, and I certainly will, as that’s the only way I’ll get my custom child seat back.  The beautiful shocking-red roundabout seat made by Rob Hanson in MD, with the names of my children on each seat, was smashed to pieces.  At least I’ll get the rest of the bike back, though I hope the damage is minimal.  The officer said he thought it could be repaired.  We’ll see.

This is how it happened:  We had come home from a busy day of back-to-school errands exhausted.  I unpacked the xtracycle, but forgot to retrieve it as I got water and icy-pops and went about unpacking groceries and supplies.  Hours passed, and I totally forgot about my child-hauling, load carrying, amazing set of wheels sitting gorgeous near the steps in the front of my house.

Isak came home, asked, “Where’s your bike?”  and the worst was true.  It was stolen, around 5pm. 

That bike was worth something to me.  I’m not so much an objects person; I’m a teacher, and value experiences over things.  But that bike was the symbol of a very emotional hurdle.  I signed up for the carless brit experiment b/c I loved riding my bike.  It makes me feel great!  But I’ve had such a hard time figuring out how to incorporate riding and kids.  They grow quickly, they’re needy, they are tough and fragile all at the same time.  Then there’s the safety issue.  This bike gave me the ability to include my family in something I love, gave me a commitment to riding, and gave me a safe and reliable way to cargo my children.  Having it taken immediately made me realize what it was to me.  I can’t stop shaking my head about my carelessness.

As a teacher, I’m always looking for the lessons learned in the experiences I have.  There are many in this situation.  I am thinking about how I work with kids, love kids, but know they need parents, rules, consequences to be successful.  I am pondering my neighborhood, and how I thought I was more insulated from theft than I am.  I’m amazed at the police in this instance, specifically Officer Ramey for spotting and tracking down my bike, and really want to do something special to thank him.     I really don’t think I would have had such luck if I’d been riding a normal bike, so now I’m  really aware at the fact  that an Xtracycle gets attention.

Xtracycling back to school


The girls and I have been getting ready to get back to school.  We’re fortunate that Elsa has been admitted to the new Fishburn Focus School for the Environmental Sciences, which boasts trail time, gardening, and water conservation as part of the daily curriculum.   Ivy starts  a Pre-K program in our neighborhood, and I am heading back on Monday to teacher week at NMS.

IMG_1356We had to drop some paperwork off at Fishburn, so we braved the busy Colonial traffic (Franklin to Wonju to Colonial) to finally get to the short patch of oddly positioned bike lane that gets me most of the way to the elementary school.  The distance itself was not a problem, though hauling kids in heavy traffic is definitely not fun.  The plus side is that many people saw us and supported us by waving, smiling, giving wide berth, and even recognizing us from Beth’s article earlier in the summer.  The girls loved that part.IMG_1355

After paperwork and a great conversation with the principal, Mrs. Luckay and the secretary, Mrs. Dunn, we headed down to frolic on the wonderfully eco-friendly playground on campus.  The monkey bars, climbing equipment, and goldfish pond were all wonderful, but my personal favorite was the zip-line.  Really fast, good for adults, and I really felt the arm muscles I haven’t used probably since I was 10.  IMG_1358

Next was the trip back.  I got some safe traveling suggestions from Amy M, and checked out some side roads, but nothing connected me to where I needed to go easily.  So I went back up to Overland Dr. and maneuvered with cars, getting back on the odd clip of bike lane on Colonial and riding very much in noon-time traffic.  We headed to Towers Mall, a strip mall that would help me get several errands done and give us a rest from the heat.

We splurged first at the Firehouse Subs, the kids’ favorite.  I don’t know why,  really.  A grilled cheese is a grilled cheese, but who could argue with the air conditioning and cheery welcome as we entered.  We drank loads of water from the fountain, ate well, and then embarked on school-stuff-getting.

The highlight of the trip, though, was the stop at a local hair-cuttery with back-to-school specials, and the girls got new do’s.  They were so very excited.  Elsa calls hers the surfer-girl and she looks remarkably teenish for a soon-to-be 7 year old.  Sigh.   Ivy wanted and received bangs and looks a little more grown up too.  Sniff.


We headed back downtown, and the construction on Franklin isn’t pretty.  It definitely made getting out and back more hairy (pardon the pun).  We only had one incident, which was pretty minor, and that involved a mini-van speeding up to get in front of me approaching a narrow lane over the bridge. 

Next,  I barreled through a nice neighborhood on the way downtown, got on the Pedestrian Bridge and climbed up towards the Hotel Roanoke, getting onto the lovely greenway, Lick Run.  The intent was to head Valley-View way by the greenway to get my dead cell phone revived and pick up some teacherly items at Staples, but the heat and the haul got to me.  I turned at Washington Park and headed back to the old familiar downtown Roanoke, realizing that the thru-way street towards the 2nd street bridge/Gainsboro area is a nice way to cross town when needed.  It is a 25 mile/hour road, wide streets with clean-ish shoulders, and it saves me some hills, traffic and 10-15 minutes when trying to get to/from North Roanoke and the Greenway.

I start my school commute officially on Monday, and as ready as I’m not, I’m happy to be continuing my biking life into the school year.

Still wandering…

Since our bikeful wanderings in Damascus, Sparta, and other holy places in southern mountains, we are keeping the move on, eeking out every bit of summer before the school-term kicks up, for me first, then for my gals. (Still haven’t figured out a way to home school and make a living at the same time–maybe I’ll open a ‘wild-school’ for outdoor adventure in the future?)

My girl clan did FloydFest for world music and heavenly vibes, then a mountain lake in Alabama for family high life, then Clifftop in West Virginia for an Appalachian string music festival and camping and visiting with old friends.  We are perched to head out this morning for a week with 4 generations of family women at Smith Mountain Lake. 

I’ll be back in town to get back in the groove soon enough.  Til then, we’re enjoying the gypsy vibe and the outdoor life.

Some Headlines

Hit and Run of Cyclist and Child in San Francisco

Motorist Shoots Bicyclist in Asheville, NC

Firefighter charged with shooting cyclist carrying his 3 year old

These stories are being discussed widely in the child-hauling bike community, and daily I stop to think about my routes and how I can best avoid traffic.  Okay, I have to admit that the aggression and carelessness of drivers is scaring me into getting out less.  I have been more hesitant to take a local trip or two, have restructured some play dates to be at our house, and have asked for help from friends and family more often for rides and pick-ups.  I rethink the grocery trips and go only if I absolutely need to, or early in the am alone.  And I’ve prolonged my summer bike camping trip because I’m nervous about facing Blue Ridge Parkway traffic with kids alone.  The risk is high enough when it’s just me riding, yet I certainly feel more able to stand my ground in traffic as a solo rider commuting to work and back.  But when it’s my children in the thick of it, the worries increase.   Frankly, it’s been debilitating. 

But I’m not giving this up.  I have to get over this fear.

I’m happy about many of the changes in my life because of this choice:  health, community, my kids being bike-crazy.  I also have some figuring to do, and sometimes, I will have to weigh whether it would be better to drive in a given situation, like picking a child up at a high traffic destination in 5 0’clock traffic.  Maybe I will be forced to drive a car when safety is an issue.

The need is there for more riders, more education about cycling, driver education classes that incorporate bike sensitivity, and a general public discussion about how to protect the lives of cyclists and how not to irritate drivers into aggression.  I realize that if cyclists are smart, considerate and careful, we can go a long way towards educating people who do not like or understand cyclists.

On a lighter note:

Alabama bans wine with naked nymph on label   Where can I buy a case of this wine? 🙂cycles_cabernet_centralcoast_2004_sized

Wandering Gypsies

She's excited about riding on her own as much as possible.  Longest ride to date: 25 miles!

She's excited about riding on her own as much as possible. Longest ride to date: 25 miles!She's put in some hard miles too, and has yet to fall asleep on the back.carlite, escaping to the woods to ride bikes and enjoy being outside

 Xtracycle Ivyhappy camper

My two daughters and I packed up a car and escaped our town looking for adventure.  We found it 150 miles away on a week-long camping/biking trek that took us from Roanoke to Damascus, then through Grayson Highlands, to Sparta, then to Doughton Park, North Carolina near Boone.   We biked, played, swam, ate, talked, biked, ate, biked, ate, and camped in some of the most beautiful forests in Southern Virginia and NC.  Elsa got her first real taste of single track on the Lum trail and Ivy put in long but happy hours on the xtracycle.   I’ll have mountain biking children yet!

 The three of us met some fun families:  John, with 5 of his 11 children, camped nearby and entertained us for hours with stories, great food time and time again, and conversation.  Later we met Bettina and her two children.  They are from Germany, staying in the US for 3 years (in hot Mobile, AL).  She is on a summer getaway, and like me, is traveling by herself with her children.  However, she’s staying out in the wild hitting campgrounds all over the East for 6 weeks–she has 3 more weeks to go.  She became my traveling companion later in the trip when we headed East, then South.   

John graciously shuttled us to the lake for sun and swimming
John graciously shuttled us to the lake for sun and swimming (Joanne, Annika, Elsa, Ivy, Naomi, Joseph, Josiah, Lief, and Victoria)

Bettina holding Lief, and John at the lakealways feasting


One of the greatest adventures of this trip was leading 8 kids down the Virginia Creeper trail.  John was shuttle man again, and this was our second Creeper day, so the girls and I felt happy about not paying for shuttles or biking all the way up to come down.  He took just below the top at Green Cove and dropped the me and the crew off for a pleasant 16 mile journey into Damascus.  Amazingly, we had no malfunctions, major crashes, or technical difficulties.  The kids’ only disagreement was who was going to be in front.  We enjoyed the lush copses, the easy trail, the beautiful pools, and the exploration in the creeks.    I enjoyed the life of an outdoor bike adventure guide and wondered if that was my true calling.  It’s easy to think that when you have such an easy time of it.  Still, kids are happiest in the wild, evident by the wonder, excitement, and joy in the faces of the gang of 8.

Thanks, John!  The Xtracycle sits proudly strapped for a trip up the mountain
Thanks, John! The Xtracycle sits proudly strapped for a trip up the mountain

shuttling up

Couldn’t get that helmet off of her

happy crew, ready for the trail

 kids on rock, best bikers ever!

beautiful poolMama PelotonInto the wild

We had a grand adventure in Damascus: We made it through good weather and bad, braved thunderstorms and torrential rain, increased bike mileage and hill climbing, and general toughness.  But we’d hiked, biked, swam, and camped in the same place, and my wandering spirit was pressing me to move on.  Bettina was heading  southeast and asked if we were interested in traveling together for awhile as the kids were getting on well.  We agreed.   After a wonder-filled ride through Grayson-Highlands, we spilled out into Sparta, NC.  There was a music festival happening this weekend and it seemed a good place to refuel, re-supply, and hear some music.  We ended up camping at the festival, a fiddler’s convention, at the fairground site in lovely downtown Sparta.  We heard some familiar tunes, listened to amazing musicians, and met more great folks who were happy to share their passion for music.  The children were occupied by an enormous dirt pile where they pretended to be gold miners, then they rolled about on the steep ridge that looked onto the music, and played happily.  My husband, an old time musician himself, would have loved being here, and it was here that the three of us started really missing daddy. We took notes on the festival, and promised to bring him back next year.

We camped near the top of the bleachers with a great view and ear of the stage.  We avoided the bowels of the RVs this way, and were lulled to sleep with tunes into the wee hours of the night.
We camped near the top of the bleachers with a great view and ear of the stage. We avoided the bowels of the RVs this way, and were lulled to sleep with tunes into the wee hours of the night.

tiny tent city on the ridge in Spartahappy campers, Elsa and Annika


After Sparta, we headed down into North Carolina via the parkway, and came upon a terrific camp spot at Doughton Park.  A women’s work day was going on at the Brinegar cabin, exhibiting the toil that women went through on a daily basis.  We avoided that exhibit like the plague, feeling firsthand that we were working hard enough at the moment.   The kids played well enough, but signs of fatigue were showing.  We stayed for a night, but on Sunday, we knew it was time to go home.  We were missing Daddy something fierce, and we could all use a bath and a night’s rest in a bed.  We loaded up and headed home on the parkway, for a gorgeous 130 mile cruise home.  After a rest, we plan to go back out again, Bettina-style, possibly back-packing, though I’m feeling like a bike-packing trip may be due us soon.

Bettina is a Waldorf kindergarten teacher in Germany, and we had wonderful conversations about the raising of children, the differences in schools here and there, and the simplicity in living a life where kids are outside and moving, imagining, dancing, and negotiating with each other within nature.  I’m struck again by how complicated things seem in our winter life, particularly when school is in session, and am thankful for summer wanderings.  Our purpose then is to make it last and be as purposeful and meaningful as we can, to take it with us into the winter, and to always get outside.

Sad News

I am always distraught at the news of fellow cyclists’ deaths.  This one hits very close to home.  While I don’t know James well, and have only dealt with him briefly at the Share Bike shop in Roanoke, I wish him greatest condolences for the loss of his brother, Bruce Rosar, killed yesterday by a car in North Carolina.  http://www.cyclingnews.com/editions/first-edition-cycling-news-sunday-july-12-2009 

It was only 10 days ago that we lost a cyclist in Blacksburg.  Ride safely, everyone.

Tomorrow, I meet with James’ colleague Ron McCorkle to discuss possible sharebike/bikes not bombs efforts in our locale.  Afterwards, mijas and I are traveling south to Damascus to get away from the commuter-life in Roanoke.  Yes, we are driving a car down there (cars for escapes are in my rules), but will park, camp, and bike commute to and fro, 40+ miles in trail time in a couple of days with kids, camp, swim, and generally love summer vacation.  Updates to follow.

Bikes Not Bombs in Roanoke?

Bikes Not Bombs  (<-cool youtube video) promotes bicycle technology as a concrete alternative to war and environmental destruction. For 25 years, BNB has been a nexus of bike recycling and community empowerment both in lower income neighborhoods of Boston and in the nations of the Global South. BNB’s programs involve young people and adults in mutually respectful leadership development and environmental stewardship, while recycling thousands of bicycles.  From Website Bikes Not Bombs.org

I was impressed with the Xtracycle company for many reasons, but one was that they created the cargo utility bike after doing service work in Senegal, Nicaragua and other countries with Bikes Not Bombs, “which promotes bikes as an alternative to war and environmental destruction”, helping people get to work and back and carry out basic functions of day-to-day living.  Our country is under stress in numerous ways, and the people hardest hit are always the ones with fewer means.  The people who rely on mass transit, walking, and proximity to shopping are the ones who could benefit from a “Bikes Not Bombs” style bicycle drive.

Today, Randolph Walker of Clarke Avenue made an excellent point in today’s Roanoke Times Letters section.  He asks, why are the folks who walk from their apartments everyday in his neighborhood, who take the bus to work and to the store everyday, not the ones who are covered in the news for being green, for sacrificing something, for doing something brave.  I agree.  These are forgotten soldiers, average folks who plan their days without the benefit of a car sitting in the parking lot, who have to scrounge the $3 to make it to work and back and in time to pick up children from daycare.  These are people who have it way harder than I have it, and they are the ones who deserve the attention for persevering, for making ends meet, and for being way ahead of the green trend by sheer fact of finance.  I agree, more should be done to celebrate these folks who, without choice,  lessen their footprint on the resources of our world every day.  I want to find a way to give them a bike.  If communities in cities like Boston and Phoenix can get Bikes Not Bombs local grassroots efforts off the ground to help young people and adults in low economic neighborhoods, maybe we can here too.  I’m especially attracted to the Girls In Action effort, teaching young girls bike safety, bike handling, and comradery.  Let me know your ideas.