We Won’t Wait Bike Rally

 

Last Tuesday was R’s first experience of political activism (but hopefully not her last!). We went down for a rally in support of improving bike infrastructure in the city at City Hall. It was a really inspiring experience and although R may not remember it I hope the energy and collective willpower sticks with her.

First, some background. Last year the people of Seattle passed a levy in support of transportation improvements – transit, bike infrastructure, Safe Routes to School, etc. (called Move Seattle, and no the lack of comma is not a typo so it’s a bit silly). The biking community was a huge chunk of supporters and the local bike advocacy organizations put significant effort into passing it, partly because of promises from the Seattle Department of Transportation to work on the Bike Master Plan that was created a few years ago. I voted for it in part because of that and in part to improve transit. (Though I’m a little sick of Metro running out of money and needing tax increases to run – but that’s another story.)

However, in a big slap in the face to one of the communities that worked so hard to pass the levy, the DOT decided to drastically cut the number of bike projects they promised. Worse, there is now no plan for improving the most dangerous part of the city to bike in for at least five years, if not more. One of my friends did the math and at the rate SDOT has decided to move the Bike Master Plan will not be complete until R is 28. Even if it is on schedule she will be 20 before it’s finished. So much for the cities promises to work on Vision Zero.

So, in light of all that, Cascade Bicycle Club organized a rally at City Hall. There were two parts – one a sit-in on the steps. Bikers filled the foyer with their bikes and we sat and listened to speakers while holding signs and eventually chanting “We won’t wait”. The energy in the room was palpable. I haven’t been part of a rally in a number of years and it felt good. I’m wary of the big ones here since the local anarchists have a tendency to disrupt them and damage property, but if the Longshoremen go on strike again R and I will definitely be bringing cookies to the picket line. (I was an ILWU member for a couple of years and have a lot of goodwill towards the union.) For that matter I’ll be looking for other picketers to support. I’m sorry I never made it to support the teachers last fall, but I’ll be better about it in the future.

The second part of the rally was testifying at the Transportation Committee meeting. I was on the fence, but decided that it was important for me to testify, especially since I was one of only a few people who were able to bring their children. I thought putting a face to family bikers was important. My testimony was brief and touched on my fear of biking downtown and in the Rainer Valley (I flat out refuse to bike either place) as well as the problems with my local neighborhood, mainly that the intersections have no visibility and people regularly charge into the bike lane causing close calls.

R hadn’t napped and got fussy while the meeting was going, so I had to leave after hearing only a handful of the 30+ people signed up to testify. I did get to hear some other family bikers and that was nice, but I was curious what else would come up. Apparently even the people who came to testify about a bus program for low-income Capitol Hill residents ended up mentioning their feelings about biking. I hope the City Council members took it to heart and will help enact change to SDOT’s plans.

So, here are a couple pictures and a video.

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Cyclocross training

I’m officially starting my training. Lurline’s cousin is a certified endurance coach and she’s helping me make a plan for building endurance and getting set for the races. I’ll be running 3 days a week and cross training on a fourth, eventually building up to some 2 hour runs — definitely the longest runs I’ve ever done.

Here’s a video of what cyclocross is in case you don’t know:

I’m starting a bootcamp at the end of summer that runs for four weeks right before the season starts. I’m hoping to have upped my endurance and lost a few pounds by then so I have the stamina to do this competitively. While I know I likely won’t do well in my first few races while I get everything down, there’s still a competitive part of me that wants to. I’ve only ever won a competitive solo sporting event once, but man did that feel good (I fenced for five years in college). My third place finishes were nice, too, so my dream goal for this is to get a third place at some point in the season. Again, I’ll be realistic and not beat myself up if it doesn’t happen, but still…

Grandparents

We had four of Roz’s five grandparents visit last month (my parents divorced and my dad is remarried) and although it has been hectic and occasionally stressful, she and they have really enjoyed it. It’s fun to see how happy her grandparents get around her. They smile and laugh and talk lovingly to her and it’s beautiful to watch. And she does the same! It’s clear she loves all of them, and though I occasionally hear the comment that she doesn’t remember them, it is really clear to me she does.

I love it when family visits. Any family – aunts, uncles, grandparents, whomever. Although some of my family has never visited me here I hope that changes over the next years. I really miss the big family gatherings of my childhood, gatherings that still happen, but generally require us to devote a week and 11+ hours of driving to attend. Worth it, but tiring. Someday I’d love to host one here. We did Thanksgiving with the grandparents and Lurline’s aunt one year and that was a ton of fun. I’d love to get my mom’s brothers and my cousins on that side up for a holiday one year, and my dad’s siblings and my cousins there up another. Or maybe everyone at once. We wouldn’t have room to walk, but it would be great anyway!

Last week I took R to visit MY grandparents. Her great-grandparents love her so much and it’s so apparent in the way they interact with her. My grandpa had the greatest smile on his face when he fed her breakfast and my grandma just loved talking and singing with her.

Grandpa George feeding R breakfast
Grandpa George feeding R breakfast
Grandma Mary Helen with R
Grandma Mary Helen with R

We also got to see “Grandpa John”. John was my neighbor growing up. His sons are about my age and my sister and I spent a lot of time with their family when we still lived at home. John has remained a good friend for over twenty years now, so it seems fitting he be an honorary grandpa to R. I had the realization last week that John and his family are my oldest friends at this point. I’ve been friends with them since I was 11 or 12, and I’m not in touch with anyone I’ve known longer outside of family members. It’s nice to have some twenty year friends in my life. John is the baby whisperer and R took to him right away.

"Grandpa" John with R
“Grandpa” John with R

R also finally got to meet my uncle Mike. That was pretty great. Mike doesn’t always warm up to kids right away, but before he left he was bouncing her in his lap with a big grin on his face. She clearly loved him, too.

I love seeing R around family and it’s my goal to see all of them more this year. I’m sad it took over a year for her to meet my uncles and I hope to visit them more often in the coming years.

I’ll leave you with a photo of R wearing a hat from John’s Great Dalmuti silly hat collection. (Great Dalmuti is one of the best card games out there and I highly recommend you try it, with or without silly hats.)

R in John's silly hat
R in John’s silly hat

My dad’s struggles

I posted on Facebook a couple weeks ago that I had just had one of the roughest weeks of my life. I’m ready to talk about it now. My dad has struggled with depression and PTSD for his entire life. He grew up in a family with an abusive father and has dealt with the repercussions of that childhood trauma ever since. This includes severe, debilitating depression, anxiety, anger, poor sleep, and the difficulties of facing triggers for his PTSD. It has effected not only him but our entire family.

I have known about his struggles for most of my life – I saw him struggle when he and my mom divorced, I visited him when he went to a short-term inpatient program at Oregon Health Sciences University for electroconvulsive therapy, I watched him struggle to get off the couch some days. However, it was not until this recent episode that I realized how truly debilitating his depression could be. On March 28th, R and I flew him to the East Coast to help with the intake process for an inpatient program in Massachusetts.

The program he started on the 30th specializes in just the kind of trauma and depression he struggles with. The average patient reports significant improvement at the end of their stay and my family and I are incredibly hopeful that this will be the key to improving his mental health. I will admit it may not be a complete fix. This kind of struggle remains, even with high quality treatment, but I hope this will get him to a point where it is no longer debilitation and is something he has the tools to deal with when it gets bad.

However, this program is costly. The average stay is five months and the total bill will be in the neighborhood of $160,000. His insurance has rejected his initial claim and without help it will be difficult, if not impossible for him to afford anything beyond the initial six week intensive program. The best results come from doing both the intensive initial program and a step-down program that lasts from 1-9 months. My dad really wants to stay for the five months to get the best and most thorough help he can. You can read more about everything in the crowd funding campaign I started, “Help Tim With His Act of Courage”.

To help him I have started the campaign on Generosity by Indiegogo. This is a no-fee platform (aside from the processing fee for credit cards), so you know that 97% of your donation goes directly to supporting his care. It is run by donations from campaign donors, but that is optional – you can just change the donation to $0.

I’m asking now for help for him. Kind words (I’ll forward any emails sent to mcs@murr.cc), shares of this campaign, and financial support are all so helpful. Open discussions of mental health are so important and I hope this not only helps my dad, but helps normalize mental health as a health problem to be dealt with in the same way as physical illness.

Thanks for taking the time to read this and for helping not only my dad but my entire family.

Repaired bike and a new seat

After G&O closed (temporarily – they are back now!) due to the explosion in Greenwood my family bike had to go and get a flat. A flat? you ask. What’s so big about a flat? Just pull the wheel off and replace it. For any of my other bikes I’d say yes, I can totally fix my own flat, but unfortunately on the Yuba it’s just not that simple.

First of all, the wheel is bolted on. No biggie there, but at the time I didn’t own a socket set with long sockets to reach in there and undo the bolts. Second, there is an adapter in the dropouts to make the axel on the wheel fit. That’s the hangup right there.

So, since G&O was closed, I aired up the tire (thankfully it was a slow leak), and rode down to the shop I use all the time for my non-cargo-e-bikes. They are great and I highly recommend them, even though this story may make you question that opinion. But really, I trust them with all the rest of my bikes. They do good work. Still, I might not mention there name here just in case.

First, it took maybe half an hour for the mechanic to get the wheel off, replace the tube, and put the wheel back on. Okay, I thought, I guess it’s involved with this bike. I purchased a new tube and off I went. I got home, though, and heard that telltale sound of a brake rubbing. Every single time I’ve had a brake start rubbing suddenly on a bike it’s been because the axel wasn’t seated quite right. So I inspected the axel and noticed that yes, it wasn’t quite seated in the dropout properly. No big deal, I though, I can fix that. (At that point I didn’t know about the adapter.) I ordered some longer sockets (I need them anyway for other things) and managed to qualify for next day shipping from Amazon (Tacoma Screw was closed already and I didn’t want to drive to Home Depot). They arrived the next day and I went to work.

First I tried flipping the bike over to get better access to the wheel. Not a good idea – it tipped over. I guess what works for my Surly doesn’t work for a Yuba. Not too surprising in retrospect. So instead I did it right side up. I loosened the nut and began wiggling the wheel. I am not super mechanically minded, and it seems whenever I do something like this I just make things worse. It held true this time. I can replace a light switch in 10 minutes, install my own light fixtures, and build things out of wood, but as soon as I start working on anything mechanical I get stuck. When am I going to learn?

I posted to the local family biking group asking for advice. I got a ton of advice, but none of it was helpful. So I was still stuck with an unrideable bike. This is made worse by the fact that I have no way to transport said bike when I can’t ride it.

Thankfully two things came together. G&O let me bring it by a couple days before they were actually open, and my friend Mark offered his truck to haul it there. It still took me a week for the stars to line up and get there, but I was saved! Once I got it there, Donald was able to re-set the wheel in about 10 minutes. He showed me what had happened and that’s when I learned about the adapter. So, now I definitely am not replacing my own tire.

Unfortunately, this leaves me with the rather worrisome question of what to do if I get a flat halfway between home and Red Hook. I still haven’t figured that out. My best idea is to buy one of the air canisters with the patching goo in them and hope that keeps it inflated long enough to get home. I’m open to suggestions. I would love to learn how to take the wheel on and off, but then I’d have to haul around my socket wrench everywhere just in case. And I can’t do it at home anyway because my bike stand won’t hold the Yuba. I’m thinking the air canister is the bet bet, and certainly the quickest fix.

Of course, that wasn’t the end of it. I am beginning to think I have a gremlin infestation because it feels like things always come in twos or threes with this bike. When I left G&O the motor wouldn’t go. I turned around and with some jiggling of the throttle wire connector it was back up and running. I got home without incident. However, the next day it wasn’t working again. I jiggled everything I could find with no luck. So, I was bikeless until I could get up to G&O again for a repair.

I forget why, but I couldn’t get in on the weekend and they are closed Monday and Tuesday, and then on Wednesday we were so busy I couldn’t make it then either. Finally yesterday I was able to get up there. Even better I had a babysitter so I could drop the roughly 25 pounds my daughter adds to what is already a pretty heavy bike. By zig-zagging through the neighborhood I was able to get up to the top of the ridge without trouble. I only had to stop once. I feel like I should really do that once a week for strength purposes. I’ve decided to race cyclocross this year and I need to get used to climbing. Quad strength here I come!

Tyler tracked the problem down to a bad throttle and replaced it on the spot. I was back up and running. While I was there I purchased a new seat for the bike. I’d been wanting to move R to the back ever since I saw she can reach the throttle. I had purchased a used Peanut Shell from a woman I met on the Burke-Gilman, but it was plagued with problems. Missing parts, some of which Davey at G&O helped me track down (thankfully I also tracked some down because it turned out neither of us had the full set), only to discover that one of the straps was missing a part making it non-adjustable and completely unsafe. I finally gave up.

Davey helped me pick out a seat and I bought it while I was there for the repair. I opted to install it myself because all it involved was bolting an adapter to the deck of my bike. Since it involved wood instead of mechanical parts I felt pretty confident I could do it myself. That night I spent an hour removing the Peanut and installing the Yepp. It went without incident. I followed good old Norm’s advice about measuring twice and cutting once and got my holes in exactly the right spots.

Today was the first time out riding with R on the back. I was a little nervous she might not like it as well as the front, but she was just fine. I did realize that carrying anything on my back isn’t really great, but luckily my backpack didn’t hit her in the face. Now I’m just hoping there is enough room behind the seat for my panniers… I didn’t even think to measure that! Cross your fingers for me.

The surprising thing about today wasn’t that R was fine, it was that I liked how the bike handles with her weight on the back better than when she’s on the front. The e-assist got us up the hill on the lowest power setting instead of the highest and I felt a little more in control. Best part though? I no longer have to splay my knees out when I pedal. It was necessity with her on the front and had spilled into my non-cargo biking, causing me significant knee pain when biking long distances. Now I can break that habit and hopefully be pain free!

Explosion in Greenwood

Last Wednesday morning there was a massive natural gas explosion up the street from me. It shook our bed and woke my wife up from 1.5 miles away away. Two buildings were destroyed and one more damaged so as to be uninhabitable. This was big news and you may have heard about it on NPR or read about it in the New York Times. In all, four businesses have lost their spaces and are forced now to face a frantic search for a new space or close their doors. It’s tragic and has had me sad ever since.

However, I’m also feeling hopeful. The two neighborhoods in the area, Phinney and Greenwood, often called “Phinneywood”, have really come together. As of last Friday evening over $111,000 had been raised to assist neighborhood businesses and residents affected by the explosion and the count has only gone up from there. 150 people came out on Saturday morning and cleaned and painted the block with the most damage. Businesses all over the area are hosting benefits and donating significant proceeds to the relief fund set up by the neighborhood association. I’m working on arranging a benefit concert put on by my orchestra. I feel really proud of my neighborhoods right now.

Probably the most personal part about this though is the (hopefully temporary) loss of my favorite bike shop, G&O FAMILY CYCLERY. Two years ago my wife and I purchased a cargo bike with the intent of biking our planned family around town rather than driving so much. On the advice of our friend Dave we decided to get it converted to an e-bike. We chose G&O because of their wonderful reputation among and support of the local family biking community. The owners, Davey and Tyler, are not only good at their job, but wonderful human beings.

Because of some idiosyncrasies of our bike the conversion turned out to be more complicated than expected. Despite the difficulties Tyler and the two other mechanics at the shop persevered and got us exactly the bike we needed to successfully traverse hilly Seattle while carrying kids and cargo. You’ve seen it here and seen some of the loads I’ve carried.

Driving in Seattle super stresses me out. The traffic, the unsafe drivers, and the necessity of always going on the freeway is just so different from everywhere I’ve lived. In one two week period a couple months ago I had 6 close calls. Six! Every one could have cause a serious accident and in at least one I was REALLY lucky there wasn’t another driver nearby or there could have been a fatality (their’s or mine or both).

When I switched to biking my whole outlook on life changed. Between the reduction in driving and the physical exercise I became happier, less stressed, and honestly a better husband and father. This was really driven home when I hurt my back again last fall and was pretty much unable to bike for two months. The difference in how I felt and acted was palpable. I was getting frustrated more easily, more angry about politics and the news than usual, and sleeping incredibly poorly. When I started biking again that all began to evaporate. Yesterday I had a rough day and my wife commented on how she remembered that not so long ago I felt like that every day. So, I can literally say that G&O Family Cyclery changed my life for the better. This shop is super special to me and Davey, Tyler, Donald, and Karl have been so good to me and my family that the thought of them closing just breaks my heart.

So, I have an ask: consider donating to G&O. Even just $5. You can read more about it onWWW.SAVEGANDO.COM and you can donate on this GoFundMe page, SAVE G&O FAMILY CYCLERY, set up by Davey’s partner Danielle, or better yet by sending a check made out directly to G&O to their bank, Umpqua bank. I’d appreciate it, the entire family biking community would appreciate it, and especially Davey, Tyler, Donald, and Karl would appreciate it. With the help of the community they can succeed in rebuilding. Here is the info for Umpqua Bank:

Umpqua Bank
7120 Greenwood Ave N.
Seattle, WA 98103

You can also find info about this on the website www.savegando.com and on G&O’s website.

Thanks for reading what is perhaps one of the most personally important posts I’ve put up here.

Urban Cycling reading

 On Saturday Lurline and I packed up R and rode up to G&O Family Cyclery for a book reading. Our local family biking celebrity Madi Carlson just released a book titled Urban Cycling and was giving a reading, so we decided to go show our support and hear about the book. The event was fun. There wasn’t a huge crowd, but the folks who were there were very friendly and the energy was overwhelmingly positive. Madi read a couple passages from her book and chatted with folks. We ended up getting a copy of the book, along with an adorable wool cape for R. I’m looking forward to reading the book and R seems to love her cape, so the night was a success!

R in her new cape.

The last month

I’ve been kind of quiet here lately, partly because I haven’t had anything burning to say and partly because of how busy I’ve been. So here’s a quick recap of the last month (since I see it’s been exactly that since I last posted).

December saw us visiting a lot of family. My in-laws came up for Christmas and we all spent about a week in Portland with my family. It was a nice trip and fun having Christmas with a big group. It’s been several years since I’ve spent Christmas there and with the other side of the family so scattered around the Northwest it’s been a long time since I’ve been at a big family gathering for Christmas.

It was great being around so much family for such an extended period of time. I spent quality time with my cousins, including Rachel who was visiting from out-of-country, and my cousins, aunts, and uncle all enjoyed seeing us and especially Rosamond.

One of the highlights of the week was seeing a chunk of family we don’t see often enough. I arranged for almost all the cousins on that side of the family to be there and it was the first time we’d all been together in quite some time. It was a lot of fun reminiscing and catching up. Soup and pie was the theme for dinner and my aunt and cousin really out did themselves with the menu. Three delicious soups and three delicious pies. Pretty wonderful.

After the holiday Lurline, R, and I got some quality time at home together as a family. We had a quite New Year’s Eve. I was the only one to make it past midnight, though I didn’t tune in to see the ball drop. I was too busy playing video games to notice the time until about 12:30. Even though I missed having the parties we had the first few years we were in the house it was still a nice night. Maybe next year we’ll have a party again, but I don’t regret not having one this year.

January has been very busy. I decided to take two classes in the winemaking program at one of our local colleges and they are pretty time consuming. Between reading and class I’m busy for a fair amount of my free time. It’s fun, but one of the classes is in the evening and it really eats in to my time with the family and that’s a bit of a bummer. I plan to take more next term and hopefully it works out so that any evening class I have to take isn’t butted right up against orchestra practice.

I am, however, really enjoying the class. I am taking Intro to Enology and Wines of the World. The former is a lot of review for me after working in a winery, but I’m still learning some of the “why” behind a lot of the “what” I already know. That’s really helpful. Wines of the World is pretty interesting. I’m not familiar with much of the wine from other countries, so the information and tasting are really interesting. About half the class is lecture about the various regions and the other half is tasting wine from those regions. I’m glad that I’m learning about international regions and wine and also glad for the tasting that will help me develop my palate. (Palate is the term used for the ability to taste wine and discern it’s components and complex flavors.)

After some of my lonely chunks of the last year I’m trying to schedule in more social time with friends, both with and without children. With the friends with kids it’s great for R to get to spend time with the kiddos socializing (as much as a one-year-old socializes) and without the kids it’s easier to have an adult conversation, which is nice in a totally different way. Today we go meet with our friends Jeremey and Sage, which I’m looking forward to. Last time we got together both us adults and the kiddos had a great time.

I’ve also snuck in some time to work on some house projects. We’ve been pretty frustrated with some of the lighting in the house basically since we moved in, so we finally decided to do something about it. Last weekend I spent probably around 5 hours installing a new light in R’s room. Though it was sometimes frustrating and always tiring I got it done and feel pretty proud. Next up is my office and the living room. I think I learned enough about the old lights I’m replacing and the new lights I’m installing that the next two lights should take nowhere near 5 hours each. Here’s hoping.

New track lighting installed by dad. DIY house project.
The new lights in R’s room.
Canister light replaced by track lighting. DIY house project.
This is the canister light the track lighting replaced. I used a kit to basically convert the canister to a junction box with a brace to hang the light from.

The rest of the month promises to be much of the same, and promises to keep me busy and engaged. This should be a nice change from some of the lonelier parts of the last year and I hope the social time and classes keep up. That’s it for now.

Biking Break is Over

I have, due to my back injury (turns out to be a bulging disc), been largely off my bike since the end of October. It’s been a bummer because driving has really been stressing me out and I really miss the exercise and the fun of taking R out by bicycle. In the last month and a half we have been out just one time together and I’ve been out just one time solo. I’m finding it hard to get over the momentum of not riding, though I know I will. It will just take a couple rides and getting back in the habit of starting to get ready early enough not to be late when we go out.

Our one ride together was down to Fremont to do some Christmas shopping for my mom. I won’t say what we bought here because she may read this, but I think she’ll be pleasantly surprised. It wasn’t a long ride, though it felt good and we also got some walking in. I’ve finally gotten used to getting R on my back with the Ergo so I’m able to carry her without back pain and with less strain on the injury. This is much easier than hauling down the stroller, plus at least one place we went doesn’t have access that I know of except for stairs, so a stroller would have been difficult. The last time I went there with her we took the stroller with the detachable car seat, but that one is even harder to put on the bike so that was out. Carrying turned out to be fine and my back didn’t seem any worse the wear for it.

Last night was my first night out solo, and my first trip with out the e-assist. I rode down to my friend Barry’s new brewery, Lucky Envelope Brewing, and met my friend David to catch up. He’s been deep in an intensive class for the last 15 weeks and we hadn’t had a chance to catch up since about week five. It was great catching up and great finally sampling Barry’s commercial beer. I’d had his homebrew many times and it was always great, so I was not surprised that his commercially produced beer was as good if not better. On my way home I definitely missed the e-assist on the two big hills (although I intentionally didn’t take it so I could see what shape I was in and work on getting my lungs and legs back). I stopped for several minutes after biking up the first hill, and walked the second one, but even though I didn’t bike the whole way it will still help me get back in shape.

So, after the holidays I plan to get back to riding more seriously. Prior to my injury I was biking pretty much everywhere but to orchestra practice and that felt really good. I’m looking forward to doing that again.

Reading Rainbow

Well, I started this post about a month ago, but for whatever reason got distracted and forgot to come back to it. So, here is what was meant to be my most recent post!

Reading Rainbow was a PBS kids show that ran from 1983 to 2006 and hosted by LeVar Burton, known for his role as Kunta Kinte on Roots and Geordi LeForge on Star Trek the Next Generation. Each episode included three parts, an illustrated story read aloud by a guest reader, a video field trip to some exciting location based on a theme related to that episode’s book, and recommendations from kids for books they loved. For me and many of my contemporaries it was a staple of our tv diet.

My sister and I grew up watching LeVar Burton take us on video field trips all around the country. The two that stick with me most are him visiting a recreation of a renaissance village and a behind the scenes look at Star Trek. Books covered the spectrum from glimpses at life in another country to science fiction adventures. It was one of our favorite shows and we watched it all the time.

Needless to say I was saddened when it went off the air – I still watched it occasionally, even in college. My understanding is that the station that produced it decided that they needed to spend more time on the “how’s” of reading than on instilling a love of reading in children. In my opinion a poor choice. But cancelled it was and it was the end of an era for children’s television.

Almost two years ago now LeVar Burton decided to make the push to bring Reading Rainbow back. However, with so many changes in technology he saw and opportunity for something new and exciting. This time, rather than doing a television show, Reading Rainbow would be reincarnated as an Internet app. Although somewhat problematic for reasons too lengthy to go into here (feel free to email and ask me) this was an exciting new opportunity to do something I thoroughly believe in – spread the love of reading to kids all over the world.

The vehicle for funding this new project was a Kickstarter campaign and as soon as I saw it I knew I had to back it. As you may know, one of the things about Kickstarter is that when you pledge your money you are rewarded with something from the campaign. This may be something like a personal thank you card, a book or piece of software, or a unique experience. In the case of Reading Rainbow there were many reward options, including all of the above. I looked through them and quickly decided which one: a live event with Patrick Stewart – Captain Picard from Star Trek – reading children’s books live with LeVar Burton. Although it took digging into my savings a bit I felt this one of a kind event was well worth a reduction to the bank account. After all, if there is anything after death it would be our memories we’d take with us, not stuff, so I will always choose exciting events when I can.

So, as you may have guessed, I’m writing about this now because I just attended the event. It was, perhaps, one of the most exciting events of my adult life. Ten years ago I never would have imagined I’d go see some of my favorite actors read books to a small group in an intimate venue. I have been looking forward to this ever since I clicked confirm on my Kickstarter pledge.

Making this even more exciting was, due to the intricacies of scheduling working actors, it worked best for them to to combine the event with Patrick Stewart with the event scheduled with William Shatner. So, I got to see both Star Trek captains at the same time! What an experience!

You may be wondering now what the event was like. Well, it was much like an episode of Reading Rainbow, but with some of the trappings of an event with celebrity speakers. LeVar was introduced by a nine year old girl,Danay Ferguson, who at the age of seven, founded Reading Heart, an organization that provides free books to underprivileged kids. Not only did she get to introduce LeVar, but he made a donation of several thousand copies of his children’s book “The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm” and organized a book drive for members of the audience to donate as well, with every book donated being matched with another copy of his book.

The rest of the event went much like an episode of the tv show. The theme for the afternoon was, predictably, space, so it started out with a video of LeVar visiting Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It gave a brief history of space flight from Sputnik to Orion and ended on an optimistic note about the future of humans in space.

After the video was the main attraction. LeVar gave brief introductions and out came William Shatner (introduced as Bill) and Sir Patrick Stewart. Both got standing ovations. The first book they read was an endearing tale of a second grader convinced his teacher is from “Mars: Mrs. Martin is a Martian”. Told in the form of a diary our hero points out all the reasons his teacher must be from Mars – she  knows he is taking a second pencil from the box of sparkly pencils she handed around (for research on Martian pencils of course) without even looking, so she must be able to read minds; she never goes to the bathroom; and of course she is always at school before them and doesn’t leave when they do so she must live in her spaceship hidden in the teachers’ lounge. There are a number of other indications Calvin finds quite convincing, despite his research partner Bill’s skepticism. It was a very fun book, especially read in turns by the three actors.

Their second book was “Beware of Wolfgang”, a three little pigs tale starring three robot brothers and Wolfgang the Reclaimer, the big bad wolf character. The twist was the story was somewhat the opposite as far as the houses went. The first two brothers had fairly sturdy houses, but were tricked by Wolfgang, and I’ll leave it to you to find out the ending. It was quite a fun book and someday I’ll read it to R. Hopefully she enjoys it as much as I did.

The event ended with a “gameshow” in which random audience members were brought up to play a guessing game with the stars. The MC would hold up a card behind the audience member with the answer, all things from Star Trek, and the actor would give clues, much like the family game Taboo in which one reader has the answer and has to give clues without using the word. It was really fun to watch.

After the event I found out that the little red ticket they had given me when we checked in was an indication that I had been given a gift bag. Inside was a bookmark and a copy of the “Bionic Bunny” episode of Reading Rainbow, which is the one that takes place on the set of Star Trek the Next Generation in which we get to see behind the scenes of the show. Even better, it’s signed by Levar and Bill! How cool is that?

In any case, this was definitely a highlight of my year and I only wish R had been old enough to have memories of it when she grows up. Oh well, I can still tell her about it when I’m showing her all the “retro” Star Trek episodes later in life.