Category Archives: living the life

How the Bus Fam celebrates a sunny day

I am not a fair weather bus chick. I love my city (rain, clouds, and late-spring chill included) and my carfree life no matter the season. I’d be lying, though, if I said that I didn’t prefer getting around during time of year when it’s light both early and late and there’s a high probability of sunshine.

During the months between May and October (aka, bus chick high season) life on the ground is lovely–far, far prefarable to life trapped inside an exhaust-spewing metal box stuck in baseball traffic. We walk more than we wait (truth be told, except in extreme weather conditions, I do that year round), worry less about how late we get home (sadly, bedtimes still exist during DST), and spend as much time as we can outdoors.

On a beautiful day, there is plenty of occupy us in our own corner of the city. We are spitting distance from five great parks. We can walk to a city pool. We can take the 27 down to the lake and put our feet in the water. (Almost as often, if we have time, we walk all the way down there–and back.)

But sometimes, much as we love our neighborhood, we get tired of beating the same paths. Sometimes, on a sunny day, we have a hankerin’ for an adventure. Today was one of those times. So, we bus types rose early, threw on some playin-outside-in-the-sunshine gear, and did what we do best.

First, we caught the 27 to 3rd & Yesler, then walked to Pier 50 to catch my beloved Water Taxi.

My city

View from the Water Taxi

 

 

 

 

 

 

Busling love, love, loves the retro paint job on “his” Space Needle.

Busling's Space Needle

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was Chicklet’s job to find the mountain. Hello, Tahoma!

Hello, Tahoma!

 

On the other side:

On the other side

 

At Seacrest, we caught the (free!) Dart shuttle to the Admiral District.

Shuttle to Admiral

We stopped at the church where my mom’s ashes are buried to bring her some early Mother’s Day flowers.

Flowers for Caroline

Then, we played (and had a snack) at the park near Hiawatha Community Center, which is one of Chicklet’s favorites.

Hiawatha

By the time we caught the shuttle down to Alki, it was still early.

Shuttle back to the beach

Gorgeous but still a little chilly

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chillin at Alki

Good name

Castle!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After plenty of good sand and water time–and after a quick stop at the cafe formerly known as Alki Bakery–we caught the 56 downtown.

And, they're spent!

Despite an extra-long wait at 3rd & Yesler (27 was 18 minutes late, and nothing else was coming), we made it home in time for Busling’s nap.

Perfect, perfect day.

2011: The bus year in review

The bus theme for 2011 was “adjustment.” It was a tough year on several fronts.

1) Busing with babies
I started the year grappling with the awkwardness of traveling with a toddler and a preschooler. The challenges increased as the year progressed (and baby #2 grew heavier, squirmier, and more opinionated). We still got around, of course, but I always felt like I had to choose something to sacrifice: convenience, physical comfort, carrying capacity, or sanity. Usually, it was two of the four.

I’ll admit that problem-solving isn’t my strong suit*, but I’m still convinced that most of the challenges I’m dealing with are inherent to our situation** and are just going to have to be endured. I’m hoping that by this time next year, things will have (mostly) worked themselves out.

2) Bus cuts
What’s a little kid-related bus inconvenience compared to no buses? Those of you who live in King County no doubt remember this summer’s terrifying, “we might have to cut 17% of your service” moment. The County Council passed the (temporary) congestion reduction charge, but the problem hasn’t gone away–for KC Metro, or for transit agencies across the state (CT and PT have already implemented drastic cuts) and the country. If the state doesn’t figure out a real solution to the transit revenue problem ASAP, those barely averted cuts will become a reality.

In the meantime, riders (including this one) are already feeling the pinch. Metro is closing stops, reducing hours, eliminating routes, and taking other steps to save money in anticipation of its bleak revenue future.

3) Bus access
2011 was the Bus Fam’s first full year in our new home, which, though only five blocks from our old (and beloved!) one, sometimes seems worlds away. We still ride all the same routes, but instead of being across the street from three major stops (two of them sheltered), we are blocks away from even the closest. Only one of the nearby stops has a shelter—if you can call it that. (No bench? No windows? No thanks!) Being off the busy thoroughfare has plenty of advantages, but I’m just now beginning to realize how spoiled we were, bus-wise, at the old place.

Further complicating my adjustment to our new bus reality is the fact that the stop where we used to catch the 4 and 48 was recently (and rather unceremoniously) closed by Metro. Now we walk close to half a mile to catch those routes–not so fun when traveling with two small people in the rain. Our bad for basing our home selection on the location of bus stops, I guess.

And speaking of…

Choosing a home based on access to particular routes is also probably not the best plan. Metro’s proposed service revisions include the elimination of the 4 and the drastic reduction/alteration of the 27.

Apparently, “transfer” will be my bus theme for 2012.

***
*I almost always prefer continuing to do what I’ve been doing to actually putting in time (and research!) to figure out a new way to approach a problem. By the time I figure out a good way to handle a situation, there’s a new problem to deal with.
**My situation:
– An almost two-year old who doesn’t do well in a carrier anymore but isn’t quite ready to consistently walk the kinds of distances we cover
– A reasonably mature four-year old with a tendency to dawdle without a firm hand grip + a mom who is way(!) too paranoid about cars to let said four-year old walk near busy streets without holding a hand
– A transit system with few low-floor buses, a difficult stroller policy, and mediocre stops
– Frequently crowded buses
– Frequently rainy weather

On traveling and time, part II

For going on four years now, Chicklet and I have had a standing Friday date with my friend Kelley and her daughter, Evan. (For almost two of those years, sweet Busling has tagged along, too.) When the girls were infants, we met at Green Lake for grown-up walking and talking, but as they grew older and our get-togethers became more about them, we started to branch out. Common meeting places these days: parks (Green Lake included), the Children’s Museum, Central Library, Aquarium, Zoo, and et cetera.

Most of the time, it takes my crew longer to travel to a meeting location than it takes our friends.* This is because our travels include walks and waits, and because it (usually) takes a bus longer to get from one place to another than it takes a car. On the other hand, we never have to spend 10 minutes driving around the GLCC parking lot (or the block) waiting for someone else to leave. And since, as bus people, we pretty much always have to be out of the house on time, we regularly find ourselves at the meeting location ahead of our friends, enjoying a few extra minutes of playtime while we wait.**

The most recent example of this was last Friday, when the five of us decided to meet at the holiday carousel at Westlake. We bus types opted to take the 27 because, well, we always do. Kelley drove. Since (as of July) Kelley and her family live about a mile southeast of us, she took the same route that the 27 takes to get downtown. While I was waiting at the stop with my kids, Kelley and her kid passed by in their car–mere seconds before our chariot pulled up. By the time we boarded, they were a couple of lights ahead.

I’ll let you guess who was waiting for whom at the carousel entrance.

Score one for the bus moms.***

***
*It’s sometimes hard to compare, since, until recently, they were coming from a different part of town.
**This is not to say that the bus is always the preferable way to travel. Early arrival or no, there are times (like, say, when it’s pouring, the bus is late, and it’s past naptime) when even a bus chick envies the comfort (and corralling and carrying capacity) of her friend’s fashionable (and warm!) black mom-mobile.
***Of course, Kelley’s child actually rode the dang thing–twice–while my two stood at the front of the line screaming in terror, but hey. You win some, you lose some.

See also, On traveling and time

Seven uses for a plastic bag

1. Impromptu rain bonnet: Sometimes, after 45 minutes with the flat iron, an umbrella simply isn’t enough insurance.

2. Pants protector: There are those occasions when something should come between you and that bus stop bench.

3. Trash receptacle: You’d be surprised how many stops don’t have cans.

4. Laundry bag: See here for a recent example. (Related use: as a “wet bag” for cloth diapers. Sorry. TMI?)

5. Umbrella cover: No wet umbrellas on the floor means no more lost umbrellas. No wet umbrellas on the seat means no more rain-related bus fouls.

6. Shopping bag: Seasoned bus chicks carry running shopping lists (on paper, on mobile devices, or in their heads) and purchase needed items when they’re nearby.

7. PT version of an airplane “sick sack”: Useful for busing while pregnant and other, related scenarios (see above).

Do note: A single plastic bag cannot be used in all of the previously described scenarios. Several are single-use use cases and require the bag to be thrown away and replaced. If you find yourself replacing your bag often, you should consider carrying more than one.

On busing and biohazards

biohazard

This morning, Bus Nerd and I realized that our entire Saturday was wide open—no birthday parties, family events, volunteer commitments, or pressing chores (OK, some pressing chores)—so we decided to take our nerds-in-training to the Science Center for a few hours. It had been a while since we’d gone (last time was November), and I’ve had four free passes burning a hole in my bus bag since last spring.

The morning started off well enough. The whole fam was packed and ready to go slightly early, so we got to spend a few minutes playing at the park while we waited for the 8. The bus was full but not crowded, and we were able to find three seats together in the front section. Nerd and I shared reading duties until somewhere around Miller CC, when a little old lady offered Chicklet a small bouquet of daisies.

In the final stretch of the ride, baby Busling, who had spent the early minutes hollering, “Daddy, read dat boot!” at Bus Nerd, became unusually subdued. He leaned his head back against me like he was about to go to sleep, but his eyes remained wide open. Somewhere on Denny, he burped.

I think you know what came next.

Folks, I’m no stranger to bus vomit (ahem), but today was the first time I become intimately acquainted with it.

I turned Busling’s body inward just in time to ensure that any of the regurgitation I wasn’t able to catch in my hands (oatmeal, take II–ew!) landed on my lap (and unfortunately, Chicklet’s) instead of the aisle and several of our fellow passengers’ knees. Then, Bus Nerd and I took advantage of our well-stocked-yet-lightly packed bus bag and ready-for-anything bus parenting skills and sprang into action. Here’s what we did:

1. Bus Nerd got out the baby wipes and used several to scoop Busling’s breakfast out of my hands.
2. I found the plastic bag I always carry with me* and dumped the foul wipes—as well as the jackets of the three of us who were vomited upon—in there.
3. Bus Nerd used more wipes to clean off the kids as best he could (and do a quick once-over on the seat, just in case), before it was time for us to get off.
4. At the Science Center, I took the kids into the bathroom and used (perhaps for the first time ever) both of their changes of clothes. (It had been so long since I packed them, Chicklet barely fit the pants that were in there for her.) I then threw away the icky wipes and added their dirty clothes to the (now quite foul) plastic bag.
5. Since I don’t carry a change of clothes for myself (after today, I might start), I washed off my jeans with a soapy paper towel. Then we all washed our hands.

As it turns out, Busling is not sick; he just suffered a bout of motion sickness. All of us managed to have a great time at the Science Center, foul plastic bag and all. We even enjoyed a spontaneous picnic lunch and some live music at the Bastille Day celebration near the fountain.

I’m hoping that the incident was just a fluke. As someone who suffered from motion sickness well into early adulthood, I wouldn’t wish that on my kid. And, as someone who is not particularly fond of being vomited upon, I wouldn’t wish it on myself. But, just in case, we made a point not to sit in the side-facing seats on the way home–and I kept a new plastic bag at the ready for the entire ride.

***
*I don’t think I’ve discussed this enough. I couldn’t find a post–or even a paragraph–devoted to the plastic bag’s many uses. It’s coming soon, I promise.

Bus Chick’s heavyweight

Not too many years ago, the bus I took most often was the 48, also known as “Forty-late,” “Dr. 48” and “the Tiger Woods* of the system.” I rode it south to Judkins Park (NAAM), Columbia City (dentist/homegirl), and Rainier Beach (friend visits), north to 23rd & Union (church, beauty shop), Montlake (545 transfer), the U District (pseudo-intellectual/artistic coffee joints, various readings and events), and Green Lake (Friday play dates).

They don’t call it Metro’s heavyweight for nothin’.

Of course, a few things have changed since then. The two biggest: the 48 stopped running south of Mount Baker Transit Center when Link opened, and I stopped commuting to the Eastside. A few other minor (but relevant) changes: my beautician moved to a shop near 15th & John, and we changed health insurance providers.

And then there’s the fact that the route I’ve had a crush on for years, the amazing 8, (finally!) started running on evenings and weekends in my neighborhood. I am not exaggerating when I say that this seemingly minor service addition has changed my life.

These days, 7 out of 10 of my bus trips are on the 8. Unlike the 48, it still goes all the way to Rainier Beach, so I can take it for southbound trips (and avoid the inconvenient transfer to Link at Mount Baker Transit Center). I also take it to Madison Valley for various errands (mostly kiddie resale shopping and home and garden stuff); to Miller Community Center for toddler playtime; to 15th & John for doctor visits, haircuts, trips to the framer, and a few of my favored (as in, “August Wilson drank here”) coffee shops; to Broadway(ish) & John for Dick’s fixes, Elliott Bay Book Co., Value Village, and Cal Anderson Park. We take it to Seattle Center for visits to PSC, PNB, the Children’s Museum, Children’s Theater, The Rep, etc., etc, etc.

And I’m not finished.

We recently hired a part-time babysitter who I’m absolutely thrilled about—and not just because her help will mean I can actually complete work during normal business hours. She’s a talented musician and performer/generally cool person who also happens to be a bus chick (coincidence? I think not!). Guess which route she’ll be riding for her rendezvous with Chicklet and Busling? Uh huh.

If it weren’t for somewhat spotty performance–it’s common for one bus to be several minutes early (!) and the next to be 15 minutes late–I’d be in love.

Now all I need is a good nickname.

***

* These days, the nickname has slightly different connotations, but I think it still applies.