For a long, long time, I’ve known about CoBreeze, a bus that goes back and forth between Portland and Bend, stopping also at Government Camp and Redmond. It’s never been useful to me, because they’ve had a policy that they’ll only allow bikes on the bus if they’re boxed — which is a ridiculous way to handle bikes, because if you bike to the bus stop, you’re definitely not going to be biking with a giant box to put your bike into when you get there, and you probably won’t have a pedal wrench to take off your pedals to fit the bike in the damn box, either. Boxing a bike typically only works if you put it in a box and then drive it somewhere, or if boxes are available at both ends of where you’re going.
So, I knew about CoBreeze and had basically just written them off as a non-viable option for bike-and-bus travel.
(Smith Rock: super lovely, but — I thought — not super bus-able)
I think I mentioned on this blog not super long ago that I really wanted to go to Smith Rock. Not to climb, even, but just to be and stay and go on some long trail runs and hike around and check in on the eagle nest there (spoiler alert! There were two awkward little grey baby bald eagles!:)
Smith Rock is about 150 miles away, though, and kind of a shitty bike ride from Portland since biking on Highway 26 blows. They may label it as having a 3-foot shoulder on whatever bike maps, but the reality is that with all the crap on the road and the trees and shrubs growing into it, you’re routinely getting sucked into the lane by semis that blow past like 7 inches from your leg. I’ve biked it over the pass once only, and I hated it. So much so that I would 100% rather go down to Eugene and bike over the Cascades down there, even though it adds a a whole new dimension of travel — down to Eugene and back — and doesn’t really save too many miles.
(awwww phlox flower nerdery at Smith Rock too)
So, to get to Smith with a limited amount of free time, I thought of borrowing a car, but the idea of driving myself single-occupancy really bothers me. I know this is a weird feeling for typical American life, but it truly pains me to drive by myself somewhere that I’m going purely for my own enjoyment. It’s bad enough when I have to do it for work, but all I think about is how much gas I’m using and how many emissions I’m creating and it’s all so that I can artificially quickly shuttle myself from one location to another one when I have perfectly good legs that can power me there too. I wish we were taught to think of this more frequently in American society rather than take driving as a default, but maybe that’s fodder for a totally different blog post since clearly I have some strong feelings about it.
Anyway, I thought of borrowing a car, but that reeeeally didn’t sit well with me. And finally, I decided to call CoBreeze.
“Hey!” I said to the gentleman who answered the phone. “I’m trying to get from Portland to Redmond, but I’m traveling by bicycle, and there’s no way for me to box my bike at the bus stop,” I explained. “Is there any reason I can’t just put my bike unboxed under the bus the way Amtrak and basically every other bus I’ve ever been on lets me do?”
He explained that the reason they haven’t taken unboxed bikes is that they don’t actually have below-bus storage, so everything gets crammed into a small compartment in the back, which is likely to damage bike parts (or lead to bike parts damaging other luggage). BUT! He mentioned that CoBreeze had recently purchased one new bus that had a bike rack on the front. There was no guarantee, however, that the bus that came to pick me up would be the one with a bike rack; if it so happened that the bus that showed up didn’t have a rack, it would be up to the bus driver herself to decide what to do with me and my bike.
(ponderosa livin’, courtesy of CoBreeze and my sweet little bikey)
At that point, I figured I’d be fine. If it’s a hard and fast policy not to take bikes that’s one thing, but if it’s left to bus driver discretion, I figured no problem. No bus driver has ever in the moment turned me and my bike away — possibly some day it will happen, but I was willing to take my chances.
Though just to be safe, I emailed CoBreeze after I bought my tickets and mentioned that I would be traveling via bike and was hoping that if there were any leeway in bus scheduling, it would be phenomenally awesome if the buses I was planning to take ended up being the buses that happened to have bike racks. I didn’t hear back (I didn’t expect to hear back), but sure enough, both buses that came to pick me up had bike racks! Both coming and going, I was able to put my bike on the front of the bus, sign a waiver, and enjoy my mass-transit trip.
(all snugged up and ready to travel over the Cascade Mountains!:)
From the transit center in Redmond, it’s a pretty short (maybe 50 minute?) bike ride to Smith Rock, which makes the total transit time under 5 hours. Longer than it would take to drive a car, but not so much longer that it would ever be worth it to drive (and, as I’ve written before, “saving time” like that by doing something morally reprehensible to me is not really a savings at all).
And I was able to have a sweet little Smith Rock adventure with my bike, the way adventure is made to be.
So, moral of the story: Yay! There IS, in fact, a bus option — even if it’s currently a semi-tenuous bus option — between Portland and Bend that will allow bicycles! This opens a whole new realm of travel possibilities: not only to Smith Rock, I mean, but to anywhere in Central Oregon. Being able to get a head start on the travel by skipping the shitty section of biking over Mt Hood is definitely a game-changer.
Thanks, CoBreeze! I hope this kind of bike-friendly transit becomes more and more normal:)