Cars, minivans, and bikes

On this segment of our trip, we’ve been renting a minivan. This has been a good experience, in that we’re learning from it. So, here’s Travel Lesson No. 1 (wherein the lessons I blog about are presented in no particular order.)

There is just no way around the fact that minivans are big. They’re huge. No matter how “car-like” the drive, they are not cars. We may wind up owning one at some point, but I see small cars on the road and think wistfully of a Honda Fit. We thought that might be our next car, until we decided to have another baby. And then, as anyone reading this blog knows, the second baby became babies two and three, and the Honda Fit was rendered not a possibility for us for some years to come. It will never fit our whole family.

It was great to be able to take ourselves and two friends off to the Butterfly Pavilion today in the Toyota Sienna we’re renting. And the big suitcase we brought to contain the twin nursing pillow can’t share space in the trunk of a full-sized sedan with our tandem stroller. These are the factors that drive families toward minivans. Some people, in their desire to avoid them, go for SUV’s instead. But they’re no better at being cars than are minivans. Then, instead of driving a van, you’re driving a truck. Not an improvement, in my book.

One part of the answer, of course, is to be in the car less; to walk, to ride a bike, to take the bus. We’ve thought for a long time that we might wind up having two cars, one bigger for when we need to pile ourselves and a couple of friends into it for a trip, and one smaller for every day. But a lot of our everyday short trips can be done without motorized wheels. Since having kids I’ve found I walk more than I did before, which is good. We definitely value getting ourselves and our children outside every day, at least once. So, Ted and I have a goal for the summer, which is to get our bikes out and get riding, to get used to being on the bike.

So what about the kids? If they’re going to ride around with us, we need to have at least one bike trailer, such as a Burley or Croozer. Hazel obviously isn’t big enough to ride a regular bike yet. The twins really need to be able to wear helmets in order to ride safely in a trailer. And trailers are expensive. This is the main thing that’s stopped us before. We don’t want to spend a bunch of money on something we’re not 100% sure we’re going to use.

Here are (some of) our partial answers. 1) Neither of us is going to take all three kids out via bike by ourselves. We can’t let that stop us, however. We often split up and take Hazel one place and the twins another. We could use the bike+ for one set. 2) Through Craigslist and used stores, we can most likely get a very good trailer for cheaper than buying one new. 3) Starting small is entirely legit. If we get a trailer and only use it to bike with the kid(s) somewhere flat and easy for the first six months or year, that’s fine. Ultimately, it’d be nice to be able to do a run to the grocery store (only 1.5 or 2 miles away), to the gym (3 miles, give or take), or just out for a longer ride. 4) If we’re doing more of our regular to-ing and fro-ing on the bike, we won’t feel as bad about also owning a big honking minivan with which to do the rest of it.

And finally, just to state the obvious for the nth time, twins are wonderful, but sure do create some interesting logistical challenges!! We were closer to doing this when we had only one child. We are feeling quite intimidated by it now. In the meantime, there is always the option of using feet for walking (as opposed to Calvin’s answer – that we have feet to work the gas pedal).

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