We’ve gone south to Portland four times with the cargo bike on BoltBus now, but this was our first time north to Vancouver, Canada! Lots of pictures below, but all the pictures on Flickr here.
Our day started with an 8:15 a.m. departure on Friday:
I didn’t realize our 10:00 a.m. BoltBus had started its journey down in Portland, Oregon, so it was already half full. Remember, if there’s not enough room for the bike, it doesn’t get to go…which means I’d either need to very quickly find somewhere safe for it and leave it behind or not get on the bus at all. Fortunately the driver saw my bike and instructed me to put it in the cargo hold before any of the bags went in. Phew! I’ve never had my bike turned away, but the possibility always makes me very nervous. Meanwhile, Amtrak Cascades only allows roll-on service to normal bikes, and boxed bikes must weigh 50 pounds or less so I’d need to separate my 76-pound bike into two boxes (assuming I knew how to take apart a bike and then put it back together). So once again, hooray for BoltBus making travel with a longtail possible!
The bus was full, but I was able to seat the kids next to one another and me right behind them. That ended up working very well–probably better than had I sat across the aisle from them. They happily chatted and drew and I just had to pass pencils and pens of the requested color forward every 10 seconds. And my seatmate had seven nieces and nephews and was happy to interact with the kids and chat with me. I was in the back row and at our 15-minutes stop in Bellingham, the kids had fun sitting in the way-back alcove:
I think I’ve noticed people sitting up there for the moving parts of the trip, and that would probably be pretty fun for kids. At ages eight and six the bus was a lot easier than our first time, but it’s still not as easy as the train.
Amtrak Cascade pros for travel with kids (and everyone?)
- A dozen cars to walk through and get wiggles out!
- Dining car with food for purchase (and seating for change of scenery).
- So many potties! Including two very large handicapped stalls if you need to squeeze the whole family in at once.
- Soap and water in the potties (versus just hand sanitizer on the bus).
- Potable water in the dining car–our trip up was very hot and we drank all our water quickly (though this was my fault for not noticing the overhead vents! On the way home we put the air on and didn’t dehydrate, plus we found water fountains while crossing the border to refill–but there weren’t water fountains in the border-crossing room on our way up).
- Fast customs clearing at the border crossing.
Our BoltBus was ahead of schedule on the way up (and only 10 minutes late on the way down), and the border crossing was a breeze–we drove through the smaller Blaine border crossing so although we didn’t get a view of the Peach Arch, we passengers unloaded with all our luggage (bikes got to stay in the cargo hold) and clear customs in a private room. A train will always generate a much longer line of passengers than a full bus.
And the bus arrives next to the train station so that’s convenient!
We stayed with my friend Tonya, who also has a Surly Big Dummy (so we’re basically family!), who met us at the train station and guided us home. But before that, getting off the train we watched a guy pull a folding bike out of the cargo hold and he realized we’d met on a group ride in Portland in December. He was able to navigate using his smart phone without having to pay for an international data plan thanks to the Maplets app (which I’ve just now installed).
I was so excited to show the kids the Trans Am Totem on our way from the train station (they loved it, too):
We stopped at Terra Breads and met up with Lisa of Spokesmama because we family bikers like to flock together. My kids became fast friends with the rest of the flock and I was intrigued by the variety of bikes as we hung out in Olympic Village Square: lots of road bikes, fast tandems and slow upright tandems, a BMX crew, little kids on bikes, and clunky old commuters.
I packed pretty light for the weekend, but realized something: my kids are getting heavy!
I think it’s partly due to the fact that we don’t bike daily right now. School is two blocks from home and we walk (it would take longer to bike!), and we generally don’t leave home after school…though now that the time has changed and it’s light later, we’ll start to do so. And I only have the kids every other weekend and don’t choose to carry a bunch of dead weight on my cargo bike on my non-parenting weekends. But also: they’re getting heavy!
Tonya offered to carry a kid at the train station and they both said no because they’re shy little ornery things, but after cookies at Terra Breads, my six-year old acquiesced. Yay! (Of course then the eight-year old said yes, too, and it nearly turned into an all-out brawl, but I got them to agree to take turns).
Then we biked to the MOST AMAZING STORE: Landyachtz. I thought Tonya was making a joke about cars, but they’re a Vancouver-based longboard brand! Tons of demo longboards, indoor skate park, bike repair, fancy coffee, oodles of pinball machines (including The Addams Family, my fave!!!!), and outdoor patio with lots of seating.
Landyachtz is on the Adanac Bikeway (Adanac = Canada backwards) so there were few cars and lots of bikes, making it was easy to test ride as many longboards as we wanted to.
Saturday was sunny! And cool. Big kid in the winter jacket was probably overly bundled and little kid in short sleeves runs weirdly warm, but I was just right in wool sweater and awesome new Canada v Mexico soccer scarf.
My big kid soon demanded his turn on Tonya’s bike and I was able to keep up with her and her son as we traveled along a terrific bike-friendly route across town. I visited alone 11 months ago and got to bike the excellent downtown Vancouver protected bike lanes with Tonya and Lisa so it was OK that we skipped any downtown action this visit. The traffic calming is amazing!
We soon arrived at Tandem Bike Cafe for my Urban Cycling book reading. The event was fun, and Tandem now has a copy of Urban Cycling in their library, or Vancouverites can purchase their own copies at Raincoast Books and MEC. And keep an eye on Spokesmama for a future giveaway.
Tonya secured a projector and screen for my presentation so of course we argued over who got to carry it home afterwards. She won and took the big screen, but at least I got the projector. (This is what cargo bikers do, we stubbornly fight over carrying all the stuff.)
We dropped the gear at home, did some kid- and bike-swapping and made for Plateau Park.
I got to see this park 11 months ago, but it was 99% done and surrounded by a fence. It was so great to share it with the kids this time.
Sunday started grey and drizzly, but 42 people gathered for the Vancouver Family Biking Easter Bonnet Ride! Read Lisa’s #YVRFamilyBiking Easter Bonnet Ride Recap on Spokesmama.
The clouds blew away and left us with gorgeous blue skies, but it stayed windy along the water. Our route was amazingly pleasant with multi-use paths, bike trails, separated bike lanes, and quiet streets.
Our destination was the Wild rabbits of Jericho Beach because Easter! We only saw a couple bunnies, possibly because they sensed the eagle watching us all from a nearby tree.
After the ride we hit Granville Island. We visited the island five summers ago (by car), but the kids didn’t remember it. The spray park was open our previous visit and I think the play structure was different and bigger. Still awesome, though!
And then back to the bus. For travel away from Vancouver, one gets to BoltBus through the train station which is nicer than standing out on the street like in Seattle and Portland. Our border crossing was quick again, but our driver reminded us several times to have our papers filled out and worried aloud it might take a long time, so maybe it’s not always fast. There was also a border control agent who pre-checked all our stuff while we were waiting in line, looking for problems. It’s interesting how differently things work on one side of the border than the other. When driving in years past, I’ve been impressed by the signs to turn off engines and the convenient holding areas to move cars efficiently towards the crossing on the Canadian side versus the inching-forward traffic jam on the U.S. side. But it’s been a while so maybe it’s better now.
The 5:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. bus ride home was not as easy for the kids as the 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. ride up, but we made it! Pulled in at 9:10-ish, loaded up at 9:18 and home a bit over an hour later.
All in all, an awesome time! We’ll visit again in the summer. But it’s tempting to travel by city bus to the train and borrow or rent a bike or bikes in Vancouver. We’ll see.