Train Travel with Two Bikes and a Dog

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Please forgive the poor-quality iPhone photos in this post. We lost all of our better photos when our tablet face-planted into the pavement. None of these, except the elevator ride is from the train ride mentioned in this article.

 

Sora on her first European train ride, headed towards Copenhagen.

Sora on her first European train ride, headed towards Copenhagen.

We awoke with a jolt to the sound of a fire alarm going off. Dave hopped out of bed still tangled in his sleeping bag and silenced the noise. The fire alarm was actually our alarm clock indicating that we had exactly one hour to pack, eat breakfast, and make it to the subway station in order to catch our train from Prague to Linz, Austria.

Having already packed the previous night, we had little to do besides eat and get dressed, nevertheless, we were running behind on schedule. After loading our 12 bags, Sora, attaching her trailer, and hefting our load down the few stairs and onto the busy road, we began our ascent to the subway station.

Our host lived in the middle of a rather steep hill, so we pedaled slowly to cover the short distance to the metro stop where we would then navigate our way to the train station.

At the top of the hill, just in front of the subway station, I heard someone call my name. It was our host, holding Sora’s leash, which we had left in a nice bundle on his staircase. Good thing we’re slow.

Small European elevators coupled with two fully loaded bikes, plus a trailer filled with a 22 kg (42lb) canine, don’t exactly mesh well together. When elevators are involved, Dave, Sora, and I turn into the Monty Python Cycling Circus.

Dave pushes the elevator call button, then races to detach the trailer before the elevator arrives. Meanwhile, I struggle find a place nearby to set my bike so that I can help out Dave. As the doors creep open, Dave rights his load and makes his way into the elevator, narrowly missing the doors closing on his rear wheel as he squeezes his way into the small rectangle.

Down he goes. I have no idea what button he pushed.

The elevator doors open with Dave, who whisks Sora and her trailer out of my hands, while yelling to me which button to push.

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As I wait for the third elevator, a line of users had accumulated behind me and I let them go ahead of me while I wait through four elevator cycles. When finally my turn arrived, I made my way downstairs to the platform, while Dave raced back upstairs to purchase our tickets.

On the Prague metro, a designated bike space in the rear car provides ample room for our gear. That is until 10 other passengers fly through the closing doors crowding our space. Dave’s bike sat jackknifed with a man straddling the trailer hitch and his front wheel shoved into the knees of two women seated in front of him. A woman began showing me photos of her own Australian Shepherd, as I ran over her toes in order to adjust my bike to accommodate Dave’s. Meanwhile, I stood with my leg lodged in between my rear pannier and the wheel of the trailer, as I ooh and ahh at this woman’s Aussie all while struggling to remain upright.

We couldn’t move forward or backward and just willed that the doors opened on the side we faced. The other passengers could care less about the confined space in which we traveled together.

Fortunately, the doors opened in our favor and we made it out without a hitch, ready for elevator #2.

Detach the trailer. Dave goes up, remembering to tell me which button to push. I wait for the empty box to arrive, send Sora on her way and then follow with my load in the third trip. We’re pros at this by now.

I emerge into the chaotic train station where Dave has already reattached Sora. Just moments later, we learn that we have the fortune of experiencing yet another elevator trip to reach our train platform.

Detach the trailer. This time, I finagle Dave’s very large bike into the elevator as he is still squatting to detach the trailer when the doors open.

I forget to yell which button to push and my options include 0, -1, -2, -3. Needing to advance up, I have no idea which button to push. The elevator starts on its own and I go along for the ride, pushing all the buttons along the way to determine my stopping point.

First stop: street level (also known as -1). Three others accompanied by luggage squish into the small space with me and then I immediately kick them out to let me past when we drop one floor below when I realize this is my stop.

As I set Dave’s bike aside, I see him below and shout to let him know which button to push.

Remembering that I now have to collect Sora, I barge my way through the smartly dressed folks and their bags as the doors open and Sora’s elevator mate kindly glides her into my grasp. Dave arrives with my bike moments later and reattaches the trailer.

Every time we take a train, it seems we have just seconds to board before departure. Here,  we took a train in the Alps to get us over an unfinished portion of the road.

Every time we take a train, it seems we have just seconds to board before departure. Here, we took a train in the Alps to get us over an unfinished portion of the road.

Our train departure is quickly approaching and we hastily go on our way to find our platform. A gentleman who works for the train tells us to head towards 6J, after Dave and I first confuse him by arguing back and forth between us whether we should head to 2b or B2.

Down the hallway we proceed, where we are met by staircases and escalators. While we ponder how to manage the escalator with our load, we approach platform 6 and see that the escalator does not work. We have the option of very narrow stairs or slightly wider stairs.

We set our gear down and Dave heads back into the main station to inquire once more where to find our train. He determines we need to turn around, and as we do, we spot our helpful friend who tells us, with a magician’s abracadabra hand gesture, to go back out and around where there are elevators to our platform.

Back out we go in search of these supposed elevators.

Elevator found.

Detach the trailer. Dave goes up and I push the call button. A wheelchair pushes its way in front of me and as the door opens, Dave emerges with his bike saying that we have to head to the elevator specifically for platform 6.

Rather than re-attach the trailer to only have to detach it one minute later, Dave rolls his bike with his left hand, while steering Sora’s trailer with his right, wobbling as he guides the awkward set up. After a few near-collisions, we arrive at platform 6 welcomed by this incredible engineering feat called a ramp.

Dave reattaches the trailer and we fly nimbly up the ramp, where we gather with the other cyclists who are also clearly confused about how to navigate the train station with fully loaded bikes.

We take a 30-second breather before our train arrives. As the doors open, we face the challenge of hoisting our two bikes, trailer, and Sora over the gap between the train and the platform, up the stairs into the far-too-narrow vestibule, and turn them into the even more narrow hallway designated for bikes.

As Dave hauls his bike over and up, I take Sora out of her trailer, and hear him yell that I have to take off my rear panniers. I attach Sora around my waist and throw off my panniers while the conductor walks by, knocking on the train car, telling us to hurry up.

We work as quickly as we can. Dave hefts Sora’s trailer into the tiny space, shoving it as best he can through the hallway. The quick release on the wheels hits the sides of the hallway doors repeatedly as he moves it inch by inch to fit it through the tiny space. Meanwhile, the conductor is back, again, telling us to get a move on it.

Dave leaves the trailer haphazardly in the middle of the hallway and tells me to get on with Sora as he retrieves my panniers. I hop on and while coaxing a nervous Sora across the gap, the conductor walks past and gives her a push in the rump.

I had no time to ask him not to touch her, as she often does not receive strangers well, but somehow his assistance works and we’re both on the train, with Dave just behind with my bags. The train doors slam shut behind him.

Our gear is splayed throughout the car, in an explosion of panniers, two bikes, a trailer, two people, and one dog. The conductor tries to help by moving our trailer out of the way, but only manages to pull the stroller attachment out of it’s socket. I tell him not to worry and he goes on our way. Dave asks the fellow cycle tourists if they can make room for our bike, but they indicate that the remaining hooks are too short for their bikes. He hangs mine and leans his against the other bikes, with the hope that it doesn’t fall during the ride.

Dripping with sweat, we find our seats and take off our top layers, releasing eau de cycle tourist into the air, and finally, relax as we head to our next destination.

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