(Photos by Elly Blue)
I’m beginning to realize a few things about traveling with a folding bike.
First of all, it’s definitely a passport to general goodwill and friendliness. I had a great time chatting with a homeless guy and a college student on the L’s blue line last night at 1am. It’s hard to imagine the three of us in that circumstance getting into a friendly conversation without the Brompton.
It’s also because of the Brompton that I met Marc and Sheri, Portlanders headed out on a month and a half long east coast train trip of their own. We soon found we had friends in common (Sheri worked with Sara Stout on the Share the Road mural that Jonathan covered back in 2006). They were excellent train companions.
I met them before leaving Portland, when Marc was gawking at the Brompton as I discussed my options with the baggage clerk. Due to poor planning on my part I needed to check something, and with some trepidation I chose the bike. I was given a regular sized bike box, a box cutter, and some tape, and Marc kindly stepped up to lend a very welcome hand to the project.
Three days later, our train arrived in Chicago at midnight instead of 3am, and I undertook a voyage into the bowels of Chicago Union Station to reclaim my steed. My appointed guide, Rick, was thoroughly wowed by the bike with a true engineering geekery that enabled him to give me pointers as I awkwardly unfolded it. After posing for a photo, he gave me directions to the blue line, a fare card, and a kiss on the hand.
Since then I’ve realized that the Brompton is my lightest and smallest piece of luggage, and I’m going to repack my bags today so that I can carry it onto the train with me.
I also realized that since the bike was in a non-bike shaped box, there was no reason to charge me $5 to check it — except that the baggage handler happened to know it was a bike. Go figure. I’ve heard of this happening before on Amtrak.
My suspicion that the Brompton might smooth my way on the road was right on the mark. Generally when traveling I’ve met up with generous, interesting strangers — but having a bright green folding bike definitely helps.
— Follow more of Elly’s East Coast Tour adventures here.