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By Ulrike Rodrigues
Can we share an Oprah moment?
I ask because a hefty issue of O Magazine kept me company on a recent September bike trip, and one of its topics keeps bouncing around in my head.
Someone once asked Oprah, “What do you know for sure?” Oprah thought the question was such a good one that she made it a regular feature.
Now that I’m back from my tour of the Pacific Northwest’s islands by folding bike, bus, ferry, train and automobile; I can tell you there are a few things I know for sure.
Bicycles are Precious
Elsewhere in the world, you can toss a bicycle into a bus, train or oxcart without much fuss or cost. But here in North America, Greyhound considers a bike so precious that they require it be boxed, labeled and charged passage. While my own fare added up to about $30 at the ticket counter, my bagged, folded bicycle commanded $33.
The whole idea of traveling with a folder was to avoid this backwards-thinking ridiculousness. I was choked and told my driver so. “You shouldn’t’a told them it was a bicycle,” he countered.
Pedaling is Meditation
On my trip I visited Cortes Island, which – like other BC islands – is very hilly. It is also home to a wellness center called Hollyhock. I suggest that its visitors spend a couple of days contemplatively pedaling Cortes’s steep inclines in the granny gear of a 20-inch-wheel bike. It’s easy: focus on the pavement at your front wheel, empty your mind and don’t forget to breathe.
Prepare for Spontaneity
VIA Rail runs a historic rail journey up and down Vancouver Island. The rail service is run by the Government of Canada but isn’t well-publicized and – despite the scenic region’s growing popularity as a cycling destination – doesn’t allow bicycles.
Burned by my Greyhound experience, I bought a ticket online without mentioning the folding bike. On departure day, I took a stand on the platform with my bicycle bagged in a clear VIA Rail bicycle bag. Four panniers and a dry-bag of camping gear leaned against it for support.
I waited for the other passengers to load, then passed the conductor my folded Dahon. He carefully placed it at the front of the railcar, positioned the bags around it and actually thanked me for preparing my bike so thoroughly.
Cycling Slows You Down
The Pacific Northwest has a powerful cycling voice in the Cascade Bicycle Club, and this became apparent when I stood in line to board the Black Ball ferry from Victoria, BC, to Port Angeles, WA. Suddenly my lonesome folding bike was joined by a tie-dye tandem, a family of BMXs and a couple of recumbents.
I overheard the two recumbent guys tell the tandem couple that their goal was to cycle to the Mexican border.
“You guys are lightweights,” I joked as I surveyed their pannier-free bikes and shifted the weight of my own laden Dahon.
“Yeah,” they joked back, “we’re packing credit cards. We want to make it to San Diego in 20 days and we don’t want anything to slow us down.”
“You mean, like, scenery?” I asked.
What I know for sure is that I am not myself unless I can explore. The most authentic, efficient and balanced way to do that is with a bicycle. Cycling lets me move, meditate and mingle at the same time. And it’s fun as hell.
I wonder if Oprah has ever given it a try? i
Ulrike Rodrigues writes and rides in Vancouver, BC. She thinks folding bikes are great for multi-modal travel, fer shure.
Mitey Miss is moving online. Follow her adventures at momentumplanet.com