Ride the Rails by Bike
Okay, if you're like me -- always on the lookout for a new thrill -- then railbiking sounds just loopy enough to demand it be tried. But you're thinking, what about the trains? A good question, because as railbike entrepeneur Michael Rohde acknowledges, "One train can ruin your whole day."
Rohde has handcrafted a fleet of railbikes by buying eight department store mountain bikes and bolting on guidewheels and outriggers. The front wheel rolls securely in place over one rail with the outrigger attached to the other. The safety lecture for newcomers like me is short.
And with that I join several other tourists from Olympia, Washington as we clamber on board our gawky bicycle contraptions and head down the rails.
Supposedly, the attraction of railbiking is the ability to get off the highway and view countryside that's otherwise inaccessible. And indeed, inside 15 minutes we surprise a herd of elk in a secluded hay meadow.
But the biggest thrill of railbiking is yet to come...that being the trestle crossings. Before we pedal across the first of several bridges, Michael tells us to look straight ahead and not look down, should the height make us nervous.
Anyone in reasonably good shape can railbike. My companions on this 14 mile roundtrip through the wooded foothills of Mt. Rainier are in their fifties...Ed Terrazas and Alex Cannon.
Was it so much fun that they or I want to run off and buy our own railbikes? No, not really and it probably wouldn't be a good idea anyway. Railroads are extremely wary of railbiking for obvious safety reasons so there are almost no legal places to ride aside from an organized tour. If you want to try it, the roughly three hour Mt. Rainier tour including equipment costs $30 to 35 a person. Michael Rohde claims to be the only tour guide in the United States operating with railroad permission. Similar tour companies can be found in central France and Sweden.
In Elbe, Washington, I'm Tom Banse for the Savvy Traveler.
|American Public Media Home | Search | How to Listen|