The Silver Back Gorilla (SBG) came into our life mid January 2014 and its been a hoot to put some miles on it during the winter. The Virginia weather has been a bit of a downer on outdoor activity, however the SBG has forced me to suck it up and get on the saddle. The Dummy is already proving to be an awesome addition to our growing stable of bikes, but like many other toys, this one CRAVES upgrades and aftermarket goodies!
The primary reason for purchasing the SBG was to haul our little girl around on the back (at least that is how I justified it to my wife). So the first addition was a Yepp seat. You can see the installation of this seat HERE.
Only change with the seat was moving it more to the center of the deck in order to keep it from hitting my heels when I peddled. The platform as a whole is very stable, proving to be very easy to haul a toddler, groceries, workout gear, large awkward objects and enough beer for all your friends in one trip if you so desire.
The next thing I swapped out was the saddle. I added a black Brooks spring seat to the mix. We have Brooks saddles on multiple bikes, but this is the first one with springs and I really dig it. The springs add a nice shock absorber to the rig and I believe some style points for sure.
The last thing we’ve added up to this point is a set of Jones Loop H bars (710 version). I chose the slightly wider ones in hopes of finding a wide variety of hand positions and so far am very pleased. I slapped on some Ergon GP 1 grips and then wrapped the rear portion of the bars. The front loop will likely receive some bar tape in the near future, providing for additional hand placement. The bars are AWESOME.
I don’t think the SBG will ever be complete. A Dynamo front hub and light setup is on the wish list. Additionally I would like to swap out the tires for something a little more in line with our dirt road touring. At this point I’m trying to choose between the Scwalbe Marathon or the Big Apples. Anybody have experience with either tire and care to pass on some advice?
A few years ago (pre-baby) we discovered an area in Virginia where the wineries were close enough together that we could easily bike from winery to winery. One winery even said there was a “bike and wine taste tour”. We have been trying to find this area since we moved back and low and behold, this weekend we did!
It was about 50 degrees outside so we loaded the bikes in the UAV and headed northwest to an area near Middleburg, VA. The hour and a half drive took us on the backroads passing an awesome craft brew shop called Crafted. It shares a parking lot with the only diesel gas station in a 15 mile stretch so we were in luck by finding both of them. Crafted wasn’t open yet so we made a point to stop on our way home.
Just outside Middleburg lies the very small town of Aldie, VA. The Aldie Mill Historic District had a nice quaint feel. Although, if you blinked you would totally miss the town. While driving along, we noticed the all to familiar smell of a smoker, bellowing out the smell of the BBQ Master’s latest offerings at the Aldie Country Store. Varun Parti is definitely a BBQ Master! We feasted on two massive plates of BBQ smoked ribs and 2 pints of mash potatoes and macaroni and cheese. With an amazing lunch in our bellies we were sure to get a long ride in.
We first stopped at Chrysalis Vineyards which sits 1.5 miles off hwy 50 on a rutted single lane dirt road. We pulled into a picturesque setting with a pond, rolling hills and plenty of seating. There is a nice place for families to corral the kids while the parents can sip on a glass of wine, play bean bag toss or have a picnic.
From Chrysalis Vineyards we drove a few miles down 50 to Greenhill Winery & Vineyard (although you could bike this portion, the road is a little rough at times). Sitting directly off hwy 50 on a 1/4 mile long driveway, The Greenhill Winery and Vineyard was where we decided to start our cycling trip. While Donald unloaded the bikes I got us a nice glass of Syrah for sampling and pre-ride motivation.
This winery loop is a relatively easy 7 mile bike loop, with the primary difficulty being not tasting to many glasses of wine to continue on with the adventure. You can start this loop by heading out of Greenhill Winery and turning left on US 50 for approximately 1/2 mile until you come to your first dirt road on the left named Parsons Road. Parsons Road is a quiet dirt road with limited to no traffic, perfect for a mountain bike, hybrid or cyclocross bike.
At the “T”in the road turn right on Halfway Road and start up a gradual hill. Before you know it, you will be at Boxwood Estate Winery and it is time to taste some more wine. Boxwood has a very modern layout with a wine cave, a picnic area and a circular tasting room. Skylights and white paint fill the rooms with immense lighting and the wine cave is gorgeous. Boxwood has great wine with a pristine layout.
After Boxwood, you jump back on US 50 and bike through the town of Middleburg. We had been here before years ago on a motorcycle and remembered the plethora of restaurants and cool shops in the downtown area. This area is a go to weekend stop for washingtonians. From antique stores to a conglomerate of restaurants and coffee shops, Middleburg is a great place to poke around on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
When we got back to Greenhill we pulled the bikes up to a table at the edge of the field and shared a glass of red wine. The little lady of ours scooted around on her Strider in the field and stomped through the very small snow pile that was rapidly melting. We ran in the field chasing puppies and tried to catch the horseback rider on the horizon.
After a day of biking, we loaded up the UAV and started the drive home making sure to stop at Crafted on the way back. The quaint shop was loaded with tons of craft beers, wines and ciders. The owners and their cheerful dog greeted us with a friendly smile and a nice chat about ciders and the awesome assortment of beers available! The owners have an extensive knowledge about the 100s of beers stocking the shelfs and are more than willing to explain the differences of them all. After purchasing a good amount of cider and beer for future samplings, we were on our way home wrapping up another awesome adventure.
We spent the say touring St Simons Island, GA. It is a must stop if you are driving 95 through Georgia. It sits 30 miles north of the Florida boarder. Only about 5 miles off the freeway and down a 2-mile causeway, this slow paced historic island is a great stop!
The Village is more of the historic downtown area with eclectic shops, great food and a beautiful pier. There are two great parks for the kids and to top it off the dolphins love to play near the pier! The island looks like ancient times with the Spanish moss. Take note, the moss is beautiful in the trees but once it falls on the ground, it becomes infested with chiggers, DO NOT WALK IN IT!
We spent a full Saturday riding our bikes around St Simmons Island and checking out all the sites. We parked the Adventure Van at the beginning of the causeway and road the bike path to the island. The fog was dense and visibility was only about a mile or less.
Our first stop on the island was SSI SUPS. The owner has extensive knowledge of SUPs, the island and originally comes from California where SUPs are huge. The walls are full of beautiful photography and the counter was packed with local jewelry.
Stop number two was at the Monkeywrench Bike Shop. A great shop which mainly featured rental bikes and beach cruisers, but the mechanics were a wealth of knowledge. This shop has grown extensively in the past few years. They had a Surly Pugsley on the showroom floor just begging for someone to purchase it and start knocking out some serious miles on the beach.
We took a right out of the parking lot and headed down the bike path alongside the road, passing the golf course, beautiful homes and small shopping centers. We biked to Fort Frederica, which was 5 miles from SSI SUP. A nice ride although the path was pretty bumpy and at times only wide enough for one bike.
We turned around at Fort Frederica and took the paths back. We stopped at The Growler Factory, because who can pass up the opportunity to sample craft beers. For $5 you can buy a growler and for another $5 you have it filled (depending on size and style of beer). There are over 40 kinds of craft brews to choose from.
After The Growler Factory we had lunch at Southern Soul BBQ, which sits at the corner of a busy roundabout in an old gas station. Sounds eclectic right, because it is! There is very limited seating inside, but long picnic tables outside that you can share with 10 of your new BFFs. A huge smoker sits on the outskirts smoking the days BBQ. The menu consists of a variety of options, along with many beers on tap. There is a reason this place has been featured on the Food Network channel; it’s GOOD!
St Simons Island is a great weekend get-away with lots of things for the family to do. The views are great, plenty of places to bike. Maybe rent a SUP from SSI SUPs and spend some time out in the water. St Simons Island is an awesome place to relax via an active vacation.
Have you ever eaten at Southern Soul BBQ? When was your last stop at St. Simons Island?
On a whim we decided to take a quick weekend trip to the historic triangle of Williamsburg, Yorktown and Jamestown Virginia. The 2-hour drive from our house took us down 95 through Richmond, VA. The lack of snow was a nice change from the 2 feet we received the day before Valentines Day.
We drove through historic Williamsburg first traveling on the Colonial Parkway. This 23 mile 3-lane scenic byway starts at Yorktown and ends in Jamestown. Completed in 1957, it is a National Park Service success story.
We stopped in Yorktown for lunch at Water Street Grille on Water Street. It was nearly freezing rain outside as we jetted in trying to stay dry. We got a great window seat in the front allowing us to watch the rain and snow mix fall on the square. The grille has beautiful views of the river near the boardwalk. A large circular bar sits in the middle of the restaurant. A large menu selection along with a bigger beer selection and 3 preselected tasting beer flights, this was as great stop for lunch. On Sundays they offer a “Make-Your-Own Bloody Mary” bar!
After lunch we thought we would drive to a nice park to let the baby take a nap, listen to the rain and read our books. We found a nice park on Queens Lake called New Quarter Park. The park has over 10 miles of paths, 5 miles of single-track mountain bike trails, in addition to fire roads that lead to views of the York River; along with 545 acres of forests, meadows, ravines and tidal wetlands. 10 picnic shelters, 9 hiking tails, paved paths, and an 18-hole disc golf course secure this awesome park with plenty of outdoor activities and all ages! We hit a jackpot here!
We only stayed at New Quarter Park for about 45 minutes our first visit. We listened to the rain and the baby watched a kids show. We read a book and ate a few snacks. We drove to Jamestown traveling again down the Colonial Parkway. We got there at 5:05pm right when the park closed so we weren’t able to go into Jamestown proper.
Jamestown lies close enough to Williamsburg that we decided to stop at a grocery store for a few things, grabbed the baby a balloon and let her run for a bit. Then we drove to Williamsburg Marketplace. The streets are lined with old homes and businesses. Since it was dark and after business hours we just let the baby run up and down the blocked off gravel streets. There were a handful of eclectic restaurants, shops, and the Kimball theater featuring live performances and Independent movies. There is even a Cheese Shop!
The town itself is now a collage town, so there is a great bookstore called the Williamsburg Booksellers. We stopped in here to warm up and the little lady played in the kid’s section with overstuffed miniature chairs and a pile of teddy bears.
After we explored the marketplace we drove back to the colonial parkway to a scenic pull-off where we parked the UAV for the night. We boiled some water and made a dehydrated beef stroganoff for dinner. Our stealth camping location was perfect; if only the baby had slept well. She was up and down for a good part of the night which made sleeping for mom, a bear.
The next morning we went back to Williamsburg Marketplace and rode the bikes around the town, which didn’t officially open until 11. We had French toast and coffee at Aromas Coffeehouse & Café.
After breakfast, we road our bikes through the Revolutionary City. During the day actors dressed in traditional 1775 clothing, speak in British accents and line the streets putting the audience back into the revolutionary time. From businesses to crafters to blacksmiths to an armory, the spectators are flung back into time.
After a 45-minute ride around the gravel streets, we were pretty chilled and decided to load up the UAV. We had a great weekend on a whim to the Historical Triangle of Virginia. We stopped in Richmond on the way home and had dinner at Capital Ale House! Nothing like a great beer and huge pretzel to top off the weekend!
Have you visited theRevolutionary City or Historic Triangle? Share you photos with us! We’d love to see them!
In November we had the opportunity to knock out a few miles on the incredible Virginia Creeper trail in the western part of Virginia. The Creeper trail is a two-track gravel path built on an old railway (rail to trail) and is fast becoming one of the more popular trails in the United States. Our short trip on the trail helped us quickly realize why.
We chose to bike the trail in the autumn timeframe in order to take advantage of the falling leaves and changing colors of the surrounding forest. I don’t mind biking up hill, however when I’m offered the opportunity I would prefer to bike down hill (who doesn’t).
With the Creeper trail, this is not only an option, but is the “normal” method. So on our first night in the town of Damascus VA, we stopped in at The Bike Stationto secure our ticket up the hill the next morning. The great people at The Bike Station locked us in a spot on the morning shuttle and also allowed us to park the Urban Adventure Van (UAV) in their parking lot for an overnight stay.
With both a shuttle for the morning trip secured and a place to park our home on wheels, we started searching for other intriguing places to check out. It did not take us long to stumble into (and out of) the Damascus Brewery. We ran through a full tasting of the beers they had on tap and additionally sampled the cider they had recently whipped up. All incredible beers, making it difficult to choose just one, so I chose multiple. The Damascus Brewery is yet another cool story of someone putting their mind to coming up with a dream and going for it! We will be going back for future samplings.
In the morning we loaded the wife’s Salsa Vaya, my Surly Crosscheck and our daughter’s ThuleChariot stroller on a trailer pulled behind a van by The Bike Station team for a 30-minute drive up the hill to the White Top Station drop point. The weather was great and the trip up the mountain was beautiful. When we arrived, it took about 5 minutes to unload the bikes and we were off! We bombed down the trail with our daughter behind in her Chariot stroller singing and laughing all the way. Our bikes performed incredibly and the miles zipped by. We stopped multiple times for pictures and to take in the scenery, however the 17 mile downhill trip back to Damascus only took about an hour an a half total.
The Creeper trail continues on past Damascus for another 17 or so miles, however during this trip we just didn’t have the time to bike the remaining miles, not to mention it was a little cold during this time of year. The fall trip was nice to see the changing colors, but the trip could also be done during the spring or summer months providing a little warmth and less chance of rain and snow. The Bike Station can rent you all the equipment you need for this family friendly bike adventure and Damascus Brewery can help assure you have a solid frosty adult beverage to enjoy after your ride.
Last March we made it our family mission to escape endless winter in our home town of Bend, Oregon and emerge into warmer climates. Of course, our goal was to bike with our tiny toddler, while she’s still willing and has no choice. Bonus to baby Iris for still being in diapers. At not-quite 2, our barely 20 lb. offspring was an intrepid traveler by Chariot trailer, with her custom green-with-pink-grips-and-saddle Strider strapped on the back.
We had been riding around Bend with her for a good year on short trips when we decided to take our show on the road. Our first overnight bike-with-baby adventure was to be a guided tour by a mom, blogger and twitter socialite named Elle. That’s pretty much all we knew about the trip when we took off for Sacramento from Bend, a good 8 – 10 hours driving. We knew we were going to be loaded with tents, sleeping bags and other camping gear, but we didn’t know how it would shake down, since we had really never done this before. We knew the sun would shine, and it would be warm and we would make new friends. And that’s really all we needed to know.
The route was a well-worn one for Elle and her own 2 boys at 2 and 4, and her parents and hubs Jose. Sacramento has a brilliant bike path that connects two towns. The American River Trail is long and flat, and winds along the sub-urban edge of California’s Capital, providing a hum of activity and a route for every flavor of cyclist. We visited Practical Cycles to buy Iris a new helmet for the trip. We spent the night in a hotel in Folsom, had breakfast at Karens Bakery and drove to our departure point to park our Honda Element at a park marked by urban blight, some unsettling features such as sleeping drunks and graffiti bathrooms all locked up. We worried about whether we’d ride away from our car and never see it again, and we wondered where everyone was.
And then we had a yard sale. Everything needed unloading and re-loading to balance, squeeze and rationalize our load to make lunch, diapers and such necessities accessible, and to bury all the unmentionables. I thought we’d never be packed, or each of us would surely have at least one conniption each before it all became mobile. My husband had it more under control than I suspected, though, pulling the baby’s rig behind a well-loaded ExtraCycle, complete with cooler, while I towed only my loaded panniers. When we did start to see people rolling in, they were in a huge flock, kids and bikes and flags and bells. The party had arrived! We said hi, met about 6 families, and Elle got her first look at the crazy family she had invited via Twitter, and did not expect to ever seriously join. Soon we set off in a parade of 20+ souls, winding along the trail and regrouping occasionally. Dads had kids on platforms, moms had Mundos, some kind of dog-trailer contained a pet, and we had Iris, who passed out before mile 2 was underway.
A playground picnic, a potty break, a group broke up and I broke away, for a solo mom spin at about mile 20. It was shaping up to be a longer ride than expected, since stopping and chatting and running around happened about every 7 miles. 30 miles was easily going to turn into a 3 hour tour. Miles of smiles, though, as weather was breezy and mild, sun was abundant, and all was right with our band of merry pedalers.
As we broke into small groups at the end, our destination came into in sight at the trail’s end. The river winds to a narrow channel at Negro Bar, and that’s where we crossed over on a bridge at Folsom, and wound down steeply to a sweet little campsite. We were the first group to arrive, and our reserved campsite had been taken over by a large boyscout troop, who had spread a dozen scouts into our space! We had to tussle with them for our rightfully reserved spot, but they eventually retreated and our site became free. It was shady and well-appointed with tables and a firepit, and we cozied in to a nice flat spot to pitch our tent. Everything was right there, dry and handy. No hiking to and from the car, we just unrolled. As we spread a tarp and made our home for the night, Iris made herself popular with Elle’s kids by sharing her new Strider, which she had not started to truly glide on yet. The kids ran and screamed and whooped at the freedom of arriving by bike. The adults unwound and chatted, and we mused about how we vanquished the boyscouts. We have so much in common and many great stories about our travels and challenges as biking families.
Then Elle’s friends showed up with a pizza and some PBR, and we readied the firepit for s’mores. An early evening, a great night’s sleep, a walk to the camp facilities and we snuggled together with the baby for a bit of a chilly evening. We love sleeping outdoors, waking to camp-coffee and our oatmeal, rolling out just a bit after sunrise with the ‘early’ crew.
Our roll home was another easy flat 30 miles, and we pushed the pace a bit to be the first ones back again. We like to ‘win’ the bike tour. ☺ Low and behold, the car was safe and sound, right where we’d parked her. We rewarded our accomplishment with a walk around downtown and some gelato, and then we hit the road for home.
The first outing was so great, and so successfully executed, that we tried another bike camping trip a few months later in Eugene, OR. Less miles, more people, and a huge potluck feast, with live music and wading in the water as well as a nature scavenger hunt, dozens of kids to meet and play with. Did I mention the really nice welcoming people? Shane MacRhodes does an amazing job organizing ‘Kidical Mass’ group excursions in Eugene. Jon and I even won the grand prize donated by REI for the raffle, and ended up with a pop-up canopy, which will surely be handy for this year’s adventures. We are giving some thought to inviting all our new friends to ride right here from home to a nearby site in Tumalo or Sisters, OR. Now that we know how to do it right, we welcome and invite anyone to come along.
Biking to camp with our kid has been the best low-cost vacation option as has these added benefits:
We ‘unplug’ for the weekend, letting our kiddo have our full attention
Nice fresh air, great exercise and yummy food
We see people and things we’ve never seen before, such as families just like us, who practically live on our bikes
We show our child a quiet, relaxing mode of transportation that she can actually enjoy, with other kids and families doing the same. We give her that gift of a healthy lifestyle habit.
We see strange birds, animals, people and have remarkable new experiences together, solve problems together, and make decisions together about when to go or stay, when to stop and take a break, to eat and drink and how and where to ride, as a group and a family, teaching coping and social skills that kids need to work together with others all their lives.
If you need tools or ideas on how to organize your first community bike camping trip, get in touch!
Just a little more about Sami: A former League of America Bicyclists Director of Education, and a current League of American Bicyclists Certified Cycling Instructor as well as a former Safe Routes to Schools Coordinator, currently a full-time mom in Bend, OR.
We took the Big Dummy shopping today! It was 35 degrees outside so we all wore a few layers and jumped on the bikes for a quick ride to the local grocery store. The ride was full of soft clouds, high fives and flying geese. Enjoy a look into our afternoon…
We have added another bike to our stable. This rounds the number out at 8 bikes for the wife and I which is a ridiculous amount of bikes to our NON-CYCLING friends… Our cycling style has changed within the last few years based on the birth of our little girl. That takes us to our current addition.
The Silverback Gorilla (Surly Big Dummy) was ordered specifically from our favorite bike store, Carytown Bicycle Co. They have a very well thought out program where you bring your bike in and they clean it up, tune it and list the bike on eBay. The profits (minus eBay fees) are turned into a store credit with Carytown Bicycle Co. The shipping, tune up and listing is all done by the bike shop, you just show up and spend your newfound credit!
We turned a super fast Scott Plasma Pro Tri bike into a steel 50lb cargo bike! You couldn’t have dreamed of 2 different bikes. Honestly, you couldn’t have told me a few years ago (before my beautiful daughter) how much my life would change with her arrival. So the change in cycling platform is not so crazy. I’ve always thought a utilitarian platform like the Big Dummy would be cool; I just needed a reason to have one. Well, now we do.
I’m excited to put a Yepp seat on the back and scoot around with our baby on the back. I’ve already rolled to the grocery store, my CrossFit Workouts and just fun jaunts around the neighborhood. The bike rides great and puts a huge smile on my face. I’m stoked to be able to build this bike into an awesome on/off-road family touring machine. Additions include, Jones loop bars, Dynamo hub, Brooks saddle and a Yepp seat. Stay tuned for future rides and upgrades.