Castle Mountain Bike Packin’ Over-Nighter

Last weekend we were feeling a little adventurous and with the absence of our two daughters (off to a family reunion and wedding on the other side of the country) we packed up the mountain touring/commuting rigs and headed for the Castle Mountain range.

The Castle Mountains are a short distance east of White Sulphur Springs and can be quickly accessible from town. We drove the bikes, four panniers, our labrador Hayduke and our son Emmett up a nearby forest service road and started riding.

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The landscape in this range is an excellent example of the rapidly changing environments of the northern rockies, from dense woods, sage meadows, marshlands and alpine meadows. There was plenty of water and due to the rather steep climbs our 10 year old pooch was able to easily keep pace with us.

Emmett gets a ride thanks to our slightly modified Bobike Maxi seat

Emmett gets a ride thanks to our slightly modified Bobike Maxi seat as Hayduke scouts ahead

The attraction we are having with the overnight ride is the simplicity and short time it takes to prepare for such a ride. We were able to cobble a few meals and some snacks together the previous afternoon and we didn’t need much more equipment than our daily commuting rigs. Although we are missing the girls this week we know they’re having fun swimming with their uncle and grandparents and our loads are considerably lighter. Another perk is with the reduced loads multiple beers were a no-brainer.

Dehydrated food and beer were some of our 'carefree' treats

Dehydrated food and beer were some of our ‘carefree’ treats

We did find that Erica's setup with the rear panniers and seat made her bike squirrely on the steepest pitches. We may load her front fork down the road or remove bags altogether and let Dad pack the non-living goods

We did find that Erica’s setup with the rear panniers and seat made her bike squirrely on the steepest pitches. We may load her front fork down the road or remove bags altogether and let Dad pack the non-living goods

We had fun referencing old service roads and features with our Gazetteer as we navigated southeast through the range.

A little treat at the end of the forest service road near an abandoned town called Lennep is the ghost town, Castle Town.

A 'Sporting House' in the background according to the signs

A ‘Sporting House’ in the background according to the signs

Castle Town is privately owned and access is prohibited but the views were neat from the road

Castle Town is privately owned and access is prohibited but the views were neat from the road

There were many abandoned homesteads

There were many abandoned homesteads

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Castle Town was a victim of a Silver Mining bust over a hundred years ago

Castle Town was a victim of a Silver Mining bust over a hundred years ago

I recommend this form of travel for a one or two child family. It would have been much more difficult with a trailer or most biking accessories that would accommodate more children… but then again with enough heart, anything is possible and anything is enjoyable.

I could also see a few willing adults riding an area like this with grade school kids where they could mix some camping and exercise with a little local history. Bike-schooling at its best.

There is no time like the present- get out there and ride this weekend! You will be glad you did.

 

Seeing Red…. Ants that is.

When we were offered the opportunity to help a good friend and participate in the Red Ants Pants Music Festival this coming July we couldn’t resist the thought of changing everything and returning to one of our favorite places; Montana.

An evening near our new home in White Sulphur Springs

An evening near our new home in White Sulphur Springs

The festival is a three day event based just outside of White Sulphur Springs, Montana. It is quite simply a celebration of hard working rural communities, developing leadership roles for women and preserving working family farms and ranches- all to the backdrop of the beautiful Smith River Valley and some premium live country music. If you are within a thousand miles of White Sulphur Springs, I suggest you make the drive. Read more about the festival here and see the foundation that it supports.

Although the festival is not geared to cycling or travel in particular we felt as though we needed to be a part of this wonderful event and share our experiences and adventures during this time on our site, The Family Ride. Will their be bicycling and travel related content? Absolutely. No Montana based music festival would be complete without some nutty guy (or girl) schlepping tools and equipment to the site on a Surly cargo bike.

We relocated our family to White Sulphur Springs, MT and are housed in our recently purchased ‘Silver Streak’ vintage travel trailer. This has also proven to be a new frontier for our family- travel trailer life…. and maintenance and repair. Our middle daughter Clara lovingly named her ‘Rosie’ and we are dedicated to caring and repairing her this summer (and I am certain for years to come). Here’s a photo of her:

Our little home, 'Rosie' the Silver Streak, parked between town and the festival grounds

Our little home, ‘Rosie’ the Silver Streak, parked between town and the festival grounds

As you can see from the photo bicycles are still very much present, and satisfy a large part of our local transportation needs. Our children all have their bicycles and biking into town is easy and fun.

As for the transition into rural Montana life, all I can say is that it has been an epiphany of simplification and solitude combined with the challenges of balancing our modern expectations of life and time alike. The bottom line: we could become very used to this pace of life.

The kids have enjoyed the tree swing at our little campground

The kids have enjoyed the tree swing at our little campground

We will do our best to maintain The Family Ride a little better than we have in recent months, despite our ambitions and responsibilities to make the RedAntsPantsMusicalFestival for 2014 the best it can be. Stay tuned!

 

 

National Bike/Walk to School Day 2014

Thanks to Bevin Campbell who organized this fantastic day at Mountain Sage Community School in Fort Collins. Mountain Sage is a charter school, so children don’t necessarily live nearby. To make it work, Bevin staged 6 ‘stations’ in different locations throughout the city where parents could drop off their children with a parent/bike train leader. We led the train from mid-town.

Our neighborhood crew this morning.

Our neighborhood crew this morning.

A few more riders joined us at Spring Park

With a handshake and a kiss goodbye, a few more riders joined us at Spring Park

Happy kids

Happy kids (and Dads in the back talking bikes and drinking coffee)

Meeting the bike train coming from north Fort Collins. Hi Arpad!

Meeting the bike train coming from north Fort Collins. Hi Arpad!

There were walkers too!

There were walkers too!

Once everyone converged at school, we paraded around the parking lot for a few minutes. Lots of smiles and happy kids.

Bill and some of the participants ready to parade the parking lot

Bill and some of the participants ready to parade the parking lot

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Bike parking is limited today!

On the way home from school, Clara said “This was the best day ever!”. She’s right. Maybe next year we can do convergent bike trains once a week!

 

 

 

Where did we lose the trail? (Part 2)

I owe all of you in our adventuring community a big thanks for your encouraging comments from the original post ‘Where did we lose the trail?’.

I read over the comments many times and have benefited from the insight and perspective. It reminds me that this modern life can often be a puzzling balance of tasks, goals and spontaneous moments for all of us.

We are doing our best to aim our family in the direction that best suits us while quenching the inevitable and constant thirst for a new adventure.

Thank you for sharing your wisdom and relevance… and for the record, I found a different job- which is also helping!

-Mark

Bikepool to school

Despite Mark’s and my lack of success finding bicycle-commute friendly employment in Fort Collins, the kids are riding their bikes more than ever. This is in part due to a “bikepool” or bicycle train that evolved in our neighborhood. What is a bike train? As defined by Safe Routes to School, it’s a variation on the walking school bus where a group of children and adult leaders ride together to school. Here is a great writeup by SRTS offering some general guidelines. We are by no means this official. Essentially, we parents take turns riding all the kids to and from school.Waiting for train to arrive one sunny (but cold) morning

Our train currently consists of two or three families, with a total of up to 7 children (including younger siblings that are sometimes along for the ride). The children either ride their own bikes, or with Mom/Dad on cargo bikes, tandems and/or trailers. The oldest children in our bike train are in the 3rd grade, our youngest is Clara, a kindergartener. All kids seem to understand and adhere to safe cycling practices (many years of parental nagging). Our older kids take turns leading the group, and the parent sweeps (a caboose, in SRTS speak). Our group is still relatively small, so one adult in the rear of the train seems sufficient–as long as you can trust your child leader to set a decent pace. In my limited experience, 3rd grade boys tend to like to speed ahead. Be prepared to shout instructions, it’s often necessary. :)

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The benefits of a bikepool are innumerable, and include:

  • companionship and community of riding with friends
  • daily exercise
  • fun
  • better night sleep
  • consistent practice of safe cycling methods
  • way better than driving in traffic (the worst of which is in the school parking lot)
  • easier than carpooling, no carseats, trying to figure if there are enough seats, etc.
  • sense of independence and self-reliance
  • creates pint-sized bike advocates (Clara now insists we should sell our car and bike everywhere)
Biking and friendship

Biking and friendship

Before the bikepool, I was riding the same stretch of road up to six times a day (morning drop off, kinder pickup, elementary pickup). When we lived with my parents, at 8 miles one way, that was 48 miles per day! Ok, I only did that once. But now that we live closer to the school, my life is easy! On mornings when it is the other mom’s turn to ride all the kids in, I get to enjoy a HOT cup of coffee!

I realize we’re very fortunate, but there were a few choices we made to stack the deck in our favor. They are:

Location, location, location. Our girls attend a charter school, so we could live anywhere within the district. So when choosing where to live, we deliberately moved to a neighborhood that was within reasonable biking distance and had a safe, facilitated route to the school. Our school is near a separated multi-use trail, so we chose a neighborhood also along the trail. Our typical route is a mix of residential streets and bike path, all the way to the school. A few neighborhoods were closer, but the route to school required crossing of a major arterial roadway.

A car free family at our school, we are trying to convince them to move to our neighborhood

A car free family at our school we are trying to convince to move to our neighborhood

Finding like-minded parents. The school our kids attend is progressive and we live in a Platinum bicycling community, so you’d think it be easy to find other bicycling parents. This is true, but there are still a number of factors that make this harder than you’d think. Distance. Time. Siblings going to different schools. Work schedules. After school activities. Fear. There is a lot stacked against this idea. In our case, there was one family in particular who we knew were really committed to riding–so in stalker-like fashion, we found out where they lived. Mom’s official title is Bike Ambassador and she’s heavily involved with SRTS, is an LCI, etc. Now they are our backdoor neighbors. We got lucky, but they chose this neighborhood for some of the same reasons we did. Once we moved to the hood, a bikepool evolved within a week. Come to find out, another family that we’d see riding from time to time also lived nearby. When Dad saw the train, he joined as well. Now our bikepool consists of three families. Not bad for winter commuting! Once the weather warms up, maybe a few more kids will join the ranks and we can turn the bikepool into an actual train.

Hard core biking mama Bevin

Hard core biking mama Bevin

Self-organize. A few well-intentioned moms in our school tried to organize carpooling on behalf of parents, and it was a flop. Eventually, the group just provided all parents with a directory so they could organize on their own–which worked much better. We are currently the only bikepool, but multiple carpools were created as a result of the directory. This type of thing requires a lot of trust, something that many parents don’t have the stomach for. Maybe in idyllic Portland, or but not many other places in the real world. [Note: After I posted, Velo Mom pointed out this great example of a successful (and huge) bike train in Temecula, CA. What an inspiration!]

That’s all I can think of tonight. Please comment if you have questions… Find some buddies, and ride to school together. It’s a lot of fun. IMG_1618