I recently wrote about acquiring a folding bike and my experience taking it on Greyhound. As I mentioned in that post, my motivation is to transport myself to and from public transportation stations (e.g., Greyhound and Amtrak) for car-free intercity travel. Here I’ll briefly describe my experience taking it on Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited line over Labor Day Weekend.
I took the train from South Bend to Erie, PA, but my actual destination was North East, PA (about 15 miles further east). The east-bound Lake Shore Limited goes through South Bend only once per day and departure is scheduled at 12:00 AM. For my after-dark ride to the South Bend Amtrak station, I went all out with a reflective vest and bright head and tail lights. Getting to the Amtrak station was no problem at all; I followed Washington St from downtown and had the road practically to myself.
People were quite friendly at the train station, and I didn’t have any trouble bringing the bike on the train. That said, it was a bit awkward to carry it on and get it in the overhead luggage rack with most people trying to sleep.
Riding the 15 miles from Erie to North East, however, turned out to be an adventure! Trying to pack as light as possible, I decided to play the odds and forgo a pump and patch kit — big mistake! I got my first flat (front tire) just a few miles outside of Erie. I pushed for a couple of miles before deciding to ride on, but with my weight shifted way back to minimize the front wheel’s load (not recommended!). Although inefficient, I managed to get six or seven more miles like this… before getting my second flat (rear tire)! A nail entered the top of the tire and excited the sidewall.
Clearly out of the riding business, I hoofed it the rest of the way. Needless to say, the trip took considerably longer than I expected, and I arrived demoralized regarding my latest attempt at car-free travel.
On the bright side, after repairing both flats in North East (see below for a photo) and spending the next couple of days biking and swimming with my family, my optimism returned. And, I’m pleased to say the ride back to the Erie Amtrak station was excellent! Similar to the east-bound train, there’s only one west-bound train per day. It goes through Erie at 1:30 AM. I left North East around 11:30 PM and had perfect riding conditions: cool air, almost no traffic and an amazingly clear night (I saw two shooting stars while riding!). Most importantly, I didn’t have any technical problems 😉
I slept well on the train, arrived back in South Bend around 9 AM, and had an easy ride back home. Clearly it was foolish to do the east-bound portion without provisions to repair a flat (I already knew better), but overall it was a good experience. I’ll be more prepared next time, and look forward to my next car-free traveling adventure!
Here’s a photo of me repairing the flats with help from my niece. Is it too early to begin the bicycle indoctrination?