Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Little Silver Bike a.k.a. Car-Free for Nearly Four Years


Old and new bikes - all well used
You may, or may not, remember that we were serious bike commuters, David and I, in our pre-children days. I biked to Vashon Island each day to work at The Harbor School, while David biked to Bainbridge Island to teach at Hyla Middle School. (Prior to that he bike commuted to The Overlake School in Redmond and later to Lakeside School.) As mentioned in an earlier blog post, I biked to Seattle University every day for grad school during the winter that we were blessed with 100 Days of Rain in a Row. I didn't dry out that year until mid-July. Once we had children, David continued as a bike commuter, but I ended up driving more due to parenting needs and fewer work hours. We bought a used Subaru Ouback, which I loved, just before Hayden was born, and we sold it just before we moved to Saudi Arabia.

David and Logan fixing LSB - December 2012
Since we have been here, we have been a car-free family for three and a half years now. We bike everywhere, though honestly nothing is farther away on our campus from our house than maybe 4-5 kilometers - in the summer months that feels like a much greater distance due to the heat and humidity. We are currently a family with ten bikes at KAUST, plus one collecting dust in our Seattle attic, one in Portland living with friends, another one in Seattle residing with friends, and one in Colorado waiting for Logan's next visit. Virtually all of these bikes were used when purchased, even David's time trialing bike for the South Africa and Hawaii Ironman races was purchased secondhand from a friend who had just competed in Hawaii the preceding year.

In fact of the ten bikes currently on location here, only three were purchased new. One bike was given to David when he was sponsored by Mark Nobilette as a triathlete in 1985. My old commuting bike was purchased from a Seattle police auction after an earlier bike had been stolen from our Ballard backyard. Logan typically ends up with Hayden's hand-me-downs, which suits him just fine. Hayden's bike, which is used every single day, was purchased new but will eventually probably be Logan's. David's mountain bike was purchased from the same friend who sold him the Ironman bike. I purchased a new mountain bike in Switzerland a few years ago but use it nearly every day. David's Cannondale commuting bike, already used when purchased in Boulder right after we were engaged in 1994, has more than 50,000 cycling miles. Privately, we have all sort of decided that the Cannondale may not leave with us when we go, neither will the police auction purchase, or, sadly, the Little Silver Bike that was given to us by friends for our kids to learn to ride bikes, just as theirs had.

Logan learning to ride in Seattle, 2009
The Little Silver Bike (LSB). This bike was the learning-to-ride bike for the two children of friends of ours - son now in college and daughter a junior in high school. (Coincidentally, this is the same friend who later sold David his time trial bike for South Africa and Hawaii!) The LSB was passed on to other friends, whose two children also learned to ride on that bike and are now each in high school. Eventually, it ended up with us, training wheels and all, and Hayden learned to ride on it. I remember when David took him to West Woodland without the training wheels. David steadied the bike, and Hayden kept asking, "Are you holding on? Are you holding on?" David kept saying he was, though Hayden was across the playground, riding well by then. Hayden moved to a bigger yellow bike, also purchased used (and now living with friends in Seattle), and Logan ultimately got the LSB. We brought it to Saudi Arabia, with training wheels, though Logan was riding it without the trainers shortly after it was unpacked. He now has Hayden's older bike, but both boys like to play on the LSB or use it when their regular bikes have flats that David cannot fix immediately before school. Hayden's gangly legs force his knees into the handle bars, but he seems as content as ever.

Building a fort with bike boxes.
I just bought a new road/race bike from a shop in the UK. After a long and convoluted wait in the Jeddah customs office, plus two car trips (for the bike) to KAUST and back to Jeddah for various customs confusions, my bike is now beautifully assembled by my very competent spouse. Many thanks to Mr. Mohammad from Saudi Post, who called from Riyadh and ultimately persuaded customs to release my bike to be delivered to me at KAUST rather than requiring me to go to Jeddah to collect it myself.

Therefore, three Evans' bikes will probably be donated to others here at KAUST. Sadly, the bikes that will be left behind all have sentimental value, but I am doubtful that we can take them all.

I must confess that we do also have an old rickety and loud motorbike that we bought when we were first here and all of the cycling was occasionally too much for five-year-old Logan. It still works, but we rarely use it any longer. When we need to go to Jeddah, the best deal around is the bus that heads to the hospital and malls each day. We take advantage of that when needed. And, of course, we take a taxi to the airport. Most families here have cars, and that suits their needs well. We just have enjoyed our time without one. Plus - bike boxes make such creative toys!

Hayden biking in Seattle on a bike that now lives with friends.
Thanks for reading, Jennifer

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Mountain-biking in Saudi


Life on a compound can get a little tedious. Each weekend, we wonder, Do we play badminton or go swimming? Do we go to the beach or play tennis? Unless you are really into mall shopping in Jeddah - no, thank you - or searching for carpets and antiques in the souks, life can get rather dull at times. This last weekend, however, we participated in a mountain bike trip to Wadi Haqqaq, which was radically different than our usual relaxing weekend. We left in the early morning darkness, driving with about twelve others to a site where we could begin cycling. Because we have had a bit of rain lately - just a bit - there was actually a thin carpet of green grass stretching under the thorn trees, whose 1-2 inch thorns we carefully. We biked through deep sand that made the bikes come to a standstill, we rode up and down rocky hills, and we arrived at Wadi Haqqaq where the pools of water drew several of the group in for a cooling off - until we felt little nibbles on our toes. It was a nature extravaganza.

Hayden and Logan each biked about twenty hard miles. Because the weather is slightly cooler now and the extreme humidity of the summer has somewhat dissipated, we drank more normal quantities of water and snacked on delicious dates. The group was a diverse mix of nationalities, but most people were far stronger mountain bikers than myself. Nonetheless, the leaders kept us all together, and the follow-car was available with extra water, tools, snacks, and seats for anyone too tired to continue. We all made it the entire way to Mushroom Rock and back, with a slight detour to the swimming hole at the Wadi.

Incredibly, the area was remarkably clean. Often when people go into the desert for driving or camping, they return with stories of trash strewn everywhere. We generally found little trash, except around water pumping areas and wells.

The trip was definitely another highlight for our lives in the desert, and we hope to go on more such mountain biking excursions. Thanks for reading! Jennifer