Festival of Nations by bike

We spent Sunday morning in Tower Grove Park at the Festival of Nations.  Gabriel is three for three in attending the festival, having made it every summer since he was born (recap of last year’s event here).

We chose Sunday morning to avoid cutting into garden time on Saturday.  Matthew and I debated car vs. bikes for the trip — either way, we planned an early departure, to either get a good [car] parking spot or to have at least one leg of the bicycle trip be in somewhat cooler temps.

We were still debating on Sunday morning, when Gabriel’s new-found obsession with the car decided things for us.

Up until Saturday night, Gabriel’s experience with “driving” a car (i.e., sitting in the driver’s seat of a non-running motor vehicle and turning the steering wheel) had been limited to Baba’s vehicle.  After witnessing a couple of breakdowns when it was time for said activity to end, or when denied the privilege, I decided I would avoid the issue altogether by saying that only Mama and Dada could drive “Mama Dada ca” and limiting access to the front seat of our car.

Sir took this in stride.  Sure, he attempted to circumvent the rule now and then, but a reminder that it was “Mama Dada car” headed off any major issues.  Unfortunately, Dada didn’t know about this precedent.

Saturday night, after a long day at the garden, Matthew arrived home with Gabriel, and, after some tears, agreed to let Sir “drive” the car for five minutes while he unloaded the harvest.

Of course, Sir didn’t want to relinquish the driver’s seat after those five minutes, but he finally relented with out too much fuss.  However, he spent the rest of the evening looking out the window and asking for “ca,” while Mama shot dirty looks at Dada.

Sunday morning dawned, and someone had not forgotten about the “ca.”  Since Sir obviously needed a reminder about the other, more exciting transportation option, our decision was made — go by bike!

We pedaled to the park in pleasant mid-70 temperatures, though the day promised to be hot.  Arriving well ahead of the ten o’clock start time, we visited the playground to kill some time.

I should note that biking in the park ended up being tricky.  The northern road through the park, which is usually closed to motor vehicle traffic, and thus has plenty of room to accommodate two-way bicyclist and pedestrian traffic, was open to festival vendors.  We realized too late that we were in a suboptimal position, traveling the wrong way against the one-way, west bound flow of motor vehicle traffic, on a road made narrow with cars parked on both sides — accidental salmon!

Shortly after ten, we headed over to the Festival area, where we enjoyed almost having the place to ourselves for an hour.  Gabriel made a hat at the kids’ craft station, and we scoped out the food booths.

Before we settled on any food purchases, the sound of Irish dancing drew me to the main stage area.  We staked a quieter, shady spot with a decent view, and Matthew headed back to get some food.

We tried a couple of new items this year, including a flavorful Jamaican rice and vegetable combo and Burmese savory rice and spicy green beans.  The Jamaican won, although the green beans were also quite tasty.

We rounded things out with a veggie combo plate from the Eritrian booth, a favorite in past years that was disappointing this year, plus a couple of desserts, including a nice baklava (though our favorite from past years, the Iranian baklava, seems to be gone for good).

By that point, I was hot and tired, so we beat a rather hasty retreat, aided by our über-convenient bicycle parking.  We sailed down Arsenal and Kingshighway and were home quite quickly.

I’m glad we went, but I’m feeling a little burnt out on this event.  If my count is correct, I’ve been to the Festival seven of the past eight years.  Most of the food vendors offer similar items year-to-year, so between running out of new things to try, and old favorites disappearing or disappointing, the food is less of an attraction.  Add to that the end of August, almost-always really hot weather, and I have some serious temptation to sit this event out next year, or at least not prioritize attendance.

Greening the Festival of Nations

Thanks to our BYO everything (water bottles, utensils, plates) strategy, we produced just one piece of trash on day 1 of the Festival of Nations last weekend.  I spent way too much time debating weather to trash that cardboard serving dish or recycle.  The sign on the recycling said they accepted cardboard, but this was dirty cardboard, despite our best scraping efforts (we don’t lick our plates clean in public), so I reluctantly deposited it in the trashcan.

Props to St. Louis Earth Day’s “Recycling on the Go” program for providing recycling at the event.  And by “providing recycling,” I don’t just mean setting out the bins.  They actually had people (volunteers?) walking around and removing recyclable items from the the trashcans to place in the recycling bins (don’t worry, they were wearing gloves for this activity) — really taking it to the next level!

Although I didn’t attend, the LouFest Music Festival (also last weekend) really pushed the greening theme, and I would love to see Festival of Nations implement a few other key programs, a water station for refilling water bottles being the main one.

Bike parking also makes the wish list, although this item is for Tower Grove Park in general, not specifically the Festival of Nations.  I heard through the grapevine that Tower Grove’s excuse for the lack of bicycle parking is that bike racks “don’t fit the Victorian theme of the park.”  Wha???  Of course, all of their accommodations for motor vehicles are perfectly in keeping with that time period, because there were lots of cars around in the Victorian era. Yeah.

Cycle chic, kind of

So there’s this whole “cycle chic” thing, basically the idea that you should look stylish while riding a bike.  Beautiful people, riding around on bicycles, laid-back and having fun, what’s not to like?

I’ve long been a fan of Girls and Bicycles, a blog that embraces the cycle chic ethos.  I love reading about Sarah’s adventures up in Canada.

The problem?  It’s a lovely idea, in theory, but in practice, it doesn’t really work out for me.

For starters, I do not consider myself particularly stylish, nor is that necessarily an aspiration of mine.  If I don’t wear heels, or other cute, toe-smashing, unsupportive shoes to start with, why would I put them on just to ride my bike?  My footwear is certainly not chic, and the ankles on up aren’t much better.

The cycle chic movement emphasizes “style over speed,” which is another issue for me.  I see my bike as an efficient (and fun) way to get from Point A to Point B.  I like to ride fast.  My cycling shoes help me do that, as does my bicycle style.

The Cycle Chic Manifesto includes the following [ridiculous] guideline:

“I will endeavor to ensure that the total value of my clothes always exceeds that of my bicycle.”

Excuse me?  Perhaps the total value of ALL the clothes in my wardrobe exceeds the value of my bicycle, but a single outfit?  Not close, nor do I ever aspire to wear a $900 ensemble.  (And if I had such a thing, would I really wear it on my bicycle — the thing with dirt and grease on it?  Please.)

But the fact that I’m writing about this indicates that there is at least some tiny part of me that admires these chic cyclists, that wishes I could be one of them.  And so I bring you my attempt at chic cycling from the Festival of Nations this weekend.

Perhaps more Sporty Spice than cycle chic?