Saturday, January 29, 2011

winter biking with kids

Despite being a self proclaimed expert in the realm of "biking with little ones," the one chink in my armor is that I've managed to log almost all of my miles in the sunny streets of Southern California. When we moved to Montana we were graced with two months of absolutely dreamy weather. Where I'm lacking real expertise is staying active and busy as a bikey-family in the winter.

It's honestly hasn't been that hard, being a full time commuter in Montana. I've biked in negative teens (Fahrenheit), blizzards, heavy snow and ice. Those conditions don't intimidate me anymore.

But - I'm still not quite sure the best path for getting the little man out. We do have a Burley Bee -which I suppose I could insulate the heck out of and load him up with a hot drink in a sippy cup.  Maybe I'm over thinking it.  I don't want the winter to beat us completely.  I'll get serious about getting out as family in the winter - but I wanted to throw it out there to you guys.  Have you seen any clever ways to get the little ones out on a bike in the winter?

Friday morning I saw a parent with her little one (probably 5-6) on a trail-a-bike, on their way to school.  The little gal looked pretty content, and was just in normal winter garb.  My guess though is that if kids aren't helping with the pedaling, they are more prone to getting chilly.

How do you deal with winter time if you are interested in getting your family out on a bike?  Have you seen any creative solutions?  In the meantime, I'll have to focus on solutions that don't involve me adding another bike to the fleet... for now.  Check out the Shuttle Bug from Joe Bike below.  Awesome.

Friday, January 28, 2011

ice cream wars

Whether you knew about it or not, there is a war being waged in the aisles of your local grocery store. The war for ice cream supremacy. If you are passionate about ice cream, then I'm sure you have your allegiances. Perhaps you are a Breyer's fan? Or maybe you're a big personality and you like Ben & Jerry's. I'd posit that these are some of the "nicer" ice creams out there, when it comes to quality and taste. But over the course of the past few years we have solidly been a Private Selection family. Private Selection is the house brand for the Kroger family Groceries (Smiths, Ralphs, King Soopers).  It may just be a Western US thing. I'm not sure.

This was really no contest.  Private Selection (PS) flavor rivaled even the poshest of brands, but it's real secret weapon was its price.  As a member of the exclusive, highly selective "My Rewards" class of shopper, two half gallons of PS could be purchased for $5.00.  This became particularly attractive in light of Breyer's being nearly that much for one half gallon, and Ben & Jerry's being close to $5 for like a thimble full of ice cream.  No thanks.

Due to their unsurpassed quality and price, it really was no contest.  They were killing it in the ice cream wars.  They were kind of like the hot girl that didn't know she was hot.  A highly unscientific, irregular, informal survey on my part noted at least 75% of ice cream being purchased at these family of grocers was PS.  They were killing it.

But then PS found out how awesome it was, and really upped the ante.  They've gone and fancied themselves up, undergoing a complete rebrand offering an ice cream that is more "refined, refreshed, and reimagined."

In addition to changing their packaging, they are giving you flavors like sea salt, ganache, and a host of other things that sound like you could find them on the floor of the meditteranian.

The other thing they've gone and done (and simultaneously broke our hearts), is jacked their price up to $3.99 a gallon!  PS, how could you?

What happened to those years of faithful patronage?  We became so accustomed to your humble $2.50 a piece price - I honestly can't bare the thought to spend that much on ice cream.  It seems like other ice creams out there are following suit, and most ice cream companies are jacking up their prices.  We can't even get the poor man's Breyer's for $2.50 any more...

With strict ideas on what a half gallon of ice cream should cost, we have been cast into the ice cream goulags of cheap, cheap ice cream.  Meadow Gold, and other unmentionable brands.

I turn to you - internet community.  What's a frugal ice cream fan to do in such trying times?  Bite the bullet and follow PS into the upper class where it rightfully belongs?  Switch brands?  What's your preference when it comes to ice cream?  Maybe I should just start buying that frozen-swill they sell by the gallon - that'll teach them.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

the power of fear

Just this past week we've been introduced to a new emotion to George.  Fear. Multiple times, we've seen him run away from dark parts of our house shouting "monkeys, monkeys!" Of course it's cute and we kind of laugh, but it's also kind of sad to think that his imagination has developed to the point where he can be afraid of something that his brain created. The only other time I've really seen George scared was when I was making different "funny" faces at him, and I made one where I pull my eyes down, nose up, and the corners of my mouth out.  I remember learning this face from my friend Jeff in 2nd grade.  It's been a stunner ever since.

George was not a fan. He showed visible signs of distress and started to cry.  Not sure It was the face, I did it again and BINGO - we have a scary face.  Other than that - I really haven't seen George that scared of things.  Not that he won't be, I just don't think the fear instinct has really matured in his little brain yet.

This experience also is in the line with a snippet I caught on Neatorama today. The article describes a practice of Japanese parents using a traditional monster to startle their children into obedience. It sounds totally horrifying - but of course as a parent I can relate to the sentiment of being willing to do almost anything to get your kid to listen to you.  We (Americans) don't really have a traditional folk monster like the Namahage - so maybe I'd have to dress up like Jason or Freddy.  I can't imagine doing that when I put it in that context.

All this talk of fear reminds me a lot of the book I've been reading (thanks Dawn!), Free Range Kids, which goes into great depths to discuss the culture of fear we're living in, and that is pushed on us so we'll consume, or feel guilt for not/doing a, b, or c.  I haven't finished it yet, but I plan on talking about it at length later.

Which brings me to you - reader.  What are your experiences with your child's fear?  When did you first notice that they were becoming afraid of things?  What were they?  Do you think there are positive aspects of fear that you can teach your children with out causing them to be too timid?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

winter warrior

A couple of weeks ago I went to a winter bicycling clinic, put on by the Bozeman Bike Kitchen.  Volunteers discussed the many issues facing bicyclists in the winter, including gear, clothing, and bicycle choice.  Most of the information was fairly common sense, but the biggest endorsement of the night came on behalf of studded tires.

Previously, I have just been using normal mountain bike knobby tires, which seemed to be working relatively fine until I got on ice or hard packed snow.  After a few "close calls" I decided to use my company's annual bike-reimbursement and splurge on some studded snow tires.  After much research I ended up with the Schwalbe Winter Marathons.

When you are looking for a specific item, I highly recommend the shopping link on google. It searches for all of the places where your desired product is listed, and then tells you price and what not.  Because these tires typically retail between $75-77 a piece, I was definitely on the hunt for a bargain.

With the help of google, I found a retailer called Bike Tires Direct that were selling them for a smashing deal of $61.99 a tire.  Awesome savings.

So far, they have performed outstandingly. They are a little bit narrower (1.75") than I'd like - wider tires would provide more float and better traction when running lower PSI.  Other than the narrow width, they really grip the road and the studs aren't too bad on rolling resistance.  As one commenter noted, on dry pavement they sound like "cooking bacon" which is definitely accurate.

Having these on my bike for the winter has greatly increased my confidence in riding in snow.  Stay tuned for next time when I'll discuss some simple steps you can take to making your bike more visible in winter/dark conditions.

Ride Safe