Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Tri-Rail and Short Bicycle Road Trips

We are bicycle tourists at heart. We love bicycle road trips. But why wait to do some grand bicycle tour when you can do a short bicycle road trip? Out and back home in 48 hours or less. Why load your bike with panniers and gear when a small backpack or a big rear seat bag will be enough for a quick overnight trip?

We do credit card bicycle touring. That simply means we roll our bikes into a motel and check in. You carry only what you absolutely need to have. (For heaven's sake, in Florida you can get away with beach clothes and a toothbrush.) It's an easy and comfortable way to do bicycle travel. The secret to doing bicycle road trips when you live in a city is leapfrogging out of the city using available transit systems. After all, the city is where you ride all the time. Why spend part of your fun bicycle tour riding one of your regular routes?

Tri-Rail is a commuter railroad that runs between West Palm Beach and Miami. It connects to Miami-Dade's MetroRail rapid transit system. Bicycles are welcome. Just bring a bungee cord to secure your bike in the bicycle area of the passenger car while you ride nearby in air-conditioned comfort.

We use Miami-Dade's MetroRail all the time. But Tri-Rail was new to us. We decided to change that. Recently we took the MetroRail green line up to Tri-Rail station. This, if you can't guess from its name, is the station that's the transfer point from the MetroRail system to the Tri-Rail system. At the ticket office there we purchased Tri-Rail cards. These cost just $2, are the size of a credit card, and are emblazoned with your picture. (And, yes, like driver's license pictures these photos are always humiliatingly ugly.) You can just buy paper tickets to ride Tri-Rail, of course, but we're big believers in the convenience of using little plastic cards. No worrying about having the right money on you. Just load the money amount you'll need onto the cards with a phone call a few days before your trip, and you're set to travel. Then you simply go to the little machine on the platform of your starting point and tap your card on it. When you get off the train you tap your card again on the machine on that platform. What could be easier? Need more money on the card for another trip? Just call and add put more money on the card.

We've used the Tri-Rail once now with our bikes. It was great. Points north of West Palm Beach are now in reach for a short overnight bike tour!