Life is always easier if you're in the right gear.

Public Transportation

In Southern Oregon, the summer weather continues. Only just this last week did the weather begin dropping below 50 degrees at night. Today’s temperature seems significantly lower than the heat of the past few weeks. The leaves on the trees are finally beginning to relinquish their green finery of summer for something more dazzling and colorful. It appears we might experience fall here in the Rogue Valley after all.

In anticipation of the wet weather that is bound to come, I have worked on getting my son’s bike and mine ready for winter riding. By worked, I mean that I took both bikes into the shop and let the experts do their magic. The guys at the shop do much great work, but, after looking at those bills, it is clear that I am going to have to learn to wrench my own bikes.
That’s an adventure for another time. Another thing that has created a bit of a challenge for me, of late, is that I have one car, but multiple schedules to consider between me and the three children still living in my home. Our gas consumption easily exceeds $400 in an average month. It isn’t looking to get better now that one of my children is commuting to SOU to attend classes. So, in an effort to reduce our gas consumption (my car is an older model Dodge Durango), and to save money I’ve explored the public transit system in my area. After all, I live right on the bus line and the route passes right by my work. I can’t drive to work any faster than the bus, in the five-minute ride to work. I figured, during really inclement weather, the bus would be a viable alternative to riding my bike.

During the last month, between having a front wheel with a pretty distinct wobble, and then, the bike being in the shop getting said wheel replaced, I have done very little riding. It was a good time to explore public transportation. I purchased an unlimited ride monthly bus pass for $56. The regular adult fare is $2 a ride. You can get a transfer to switch buses if you need one. The transfer is good for 90 minutes. This still means that a round trip ride to Ashland and back, from my home in Central Point is $4. That’s still less expensive than traveling in my Durango. However, the five-minute ride to work is also $4 round trip. Two weeks ago, I began riding the bus to work daily. This took some planning, a great deal of familiarizing myself with bus routes and schedules, a few mornings spent waiting for far too long because I arrived way too early and one morning where I missed the bus and had to pick the next one up 12 minutes later, but going the opposite direction I needed to go. I figured it would be warmer and more comfortable to ride the bus loop than wait for the same bus to come back around 30 minutes later. I was still on time for work. I’ve traveled to after-work meetings on the other side of town. My daughter and I ride to her volleyball games and back. I now know how to get around this valley by bus. In les than two weeks, my pass paid for itself.

After two weeks of that, I was ready for another adventure.

On the weekends, I mentor a young girl who is in the process of writing a book. Her parents have hired me to help her make progress and to keep her working toward completion, because the daughter, my student, requested such help. I happened to be in the right place at the right time, somehow, and this opportunity landed in my lap. I’m grateful it did. It’s been a rewarding experience on so many levels. Today, was the first day I rode the bus to our appointment and it was also the first time I used the bus on Saturday. The Saturday schedule is more limited than the regular weekday schedule. There is no bus service on Sunday. So, now I was having to figure out new schedules, transfer connections, and stops. This was fun for me. We’d decided to meet at a charming little coffee shop in Talent called Crema. The bus ride to Crema this morning was educational to say the least.

From my place, the trip to Talent requires a transfer to another route. These transfers all occur at what is known as the Front Street Station. Since we are a fairly small transit system, and pretty spread out, all routes start and end at this station. I ride from my house to Front Street then pick up the connecting route to Ashland, and stops in Talent are along the way. The wait to transfer was not long, but I did notice a man putting his bike up on the bus bike rack. For a very long time now, I felt that being able to use the Bike on Bus option would be helpful for times when I wanted to go hang out in Ashland but not get there after a 90-minute bike ride, smelling and looking like I just left the gym. I asked the guy if the bike rack was difficult to maneuver. This started a conversation that lasted my entire ride to Talent. He was trying out the Bike on Bus option for the first time himself. He was riding the bus to Ashland and then planning to ride all the way back to Central Point. I wonder if he made it. He was riding a Mongoose.

After tutoring, I hopped the bus back home and studied the Saturday schedules to Ashland the whole way back. By the time I arrived at the transfer station, I’d formulated a plan. When I got home, I had exactly one hour before the last bus making the Ashland connection at Front Street passed my house. That gave me just enough time to change, transfer stuff to a lighter backpack and ride to the bus stop. I’d been warned that Saturdays were busy and sometimes the bus had no room for bikes. (The buses can only accommodate three bikes.) Fortunately, when my bus showed up, it had an empty bike rack. I was nervous as I stepped up to pull the contraption down. Nobody likes looking like a complete noob, and I didn’t want to delay the bus and irritate other passengers. The rack fell down easily into place. I hoisted my bike up into the tire slots, latched the bar onto the front tire and got on the bus. I’d made my first connection. The other connections were just as seamless. By 4:30 this afternoon, I was walking down to Louie’s on the Plaza and feeling pretty pleased with myself.

After dinner, I wanted to wander around Ashland. Were it earlier in the summer, I might have done so, but my Weather Channel app informed me that sunset was slated for 6:43 tonight. I needed to head back. It was already pushing 5:30. I do have lights on my bike, but parts of my route home can be sketchy after dark, so I really needed to hustle if I was going to get past these sections of the greenway before dark.

Let me just conclude by stating one more time how beautiful this valley is, particularly on an autumn evening like tonight. The ride back was exhilarating, and blissful. My bike rode effortlessly and silently the entire way. I sailed along deep in thought, the first time ever that I didn’t have my playlist going. I’m pleased with myself. At a time in life where most people are adamant that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, and most old dogs refuse to try anything new, this old dog has learned several new tricks in a short period of time. I feel really good about that. I feel really good that I did all of this on my own.

The ride home tonight, bathed in the golden hues of an autumn sunset, blessed my soul.

I started this post this morning at Crema, and am concluding it now after arriving home having tackled something I was skittish about for months. Ever had that experience of trying something you were nervous about doing, but then you hit it out of the ballpark, it ends being so easy?


Today was such a fun day.

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Hi, I'm Cat A.Olson, @According2Cat on Twitter, or @TheDigitalCat on Instagram, and I write about my cycling adventures. In 2010, after 25 years off the bike, I decided to get a bike and start riding again. In 2012, I was diagnosed with DCIS, an early and completely curable form of breast cancer. I had five weeks of radiation treatment and I rode my bike to nearly every treatment. In 2013, I decided to get a faster bike. I'm finally getting serious about losing weight, and riding really fast with the cool kids.

I ride every chance I get, as fast as I can, for as long as my body will allow. I'm learning how to embrace challenges like helmet hair, padded pants, clipless shoes, flat tires, bugs in my teeth, and...ugh...hills. I'm learning that both cycling and life are easier and a lot more fun when you're in the right gear.

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