Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Biking the Mid-Atlantic

Or “Mr. and Mrs. Guy on a Bermuda Bike”

One of the charming things about Bermuda is the fact that you can’t, and I mean absolutely can not, rent a car. It just isn’t allowed. You, as a foreigner, can’t even buy a car. Only residents can buy a car, and then at only one per household. When you think about how small the island is (something like 22 miles long) and how little roadway there is (I think Mrs. Guy read that the total was around 158 miles), you start to appreciate the limitation. Actually, calling Bermuda an island isn’t correct. It’s an archipelago, or a series of small islands. There are over one hundred, but most of the populated areas are on the seven larger ones that are joined by relatively short bridges.

So, how do you get around? Well, you have a few choices. You can take a taxi, as we did from and to the airport and when moving from one hotel to the other. You can take a bus, and the bus service is pretty decent. You can take a ferry, but you are limited to going from one docking point to another so it’s best to do that for longer hauls and then grab a bus or hoof it to your final destination (we took the ferry once, just to have done it). You can even walk, as long as you stay clear of the main roads. There aren’t many sidewalks, but there is the old Railway Trail (more on that another day).

But the most popular way to get around is by bike, which are available for rent in lots of convenient locations. Now, when I say ‘bike’, I mean the bike as the Bermudians call it, which is to say that it’s a scooter. Bikes like I would normally talk about are called ‘pedal-bikes’ there. Mopeds also exist, but the main ‘bike’ is the scooter.

Mrs. Guy and I did a two-day rental on a scooter. I thought about getting just a ‘pedal bike’ for myself, but Mrs. Guy isn’t comfortable piloting a scooter on her own. Besides, I will say this about Bermuda: Bermuda is a cyclist’s paradise or his/her worst nightmare, and possibly both at the same time. Why? Traffic and narrow roads lean to the nightmarish side of the equation, and the speed limit and the beauty of the place lean toward the paradise side. Traffic is heavy. Traffic doesn’t give way a whole lot. Many tourists aren’t good scooter drivers and might (will) crowd you out. However, the speed limit for the entire country is set at a maximum of 35 kph (approx. 21 mph). Yeah, right. Mostly traffic moved at closer to 50 kph, but that’s only about 30 mph, so that isn’t too bad. And the views....

Anyway, there was a competitively priced rental place right at the hotel, so we rented from there for Thursday and Friday. We had about five hours to go out on Thursday, so we headed west toward the Dockyards. That turned out to be a good choice, because I found out that the traffic is generally lighter on that end. It gave me time to get used to driving the scooter with a passenger and also to driving on the left (a bit of British influence there). We checked out the Gibb’s Hill lighthouse. We checked out the World’s shortest drawbridge (just wide enough to allow for the passage of a sailboat’s mast – seriously, it was less than a foot). We went to the Dockyards to see the shops, but that was a little disappointing for Mrs. Guy since we were just into the off-season. I wasn’t bothered, and besides, we couldn’t carry much on the scooter anyway.

We finished off in Hamilton (the Bermudian Capitol) before heading back to let Mrs. Guy do her part at the conference on Thursday. On Friday we headed east from the start and checked out some of the south beaches, the town of St. George, and tried to find Tucker’s Town (unsuccessfully, though we did find the golf course). We got rained on a little going back to the hotel, but it ended before we got there and we weren’t terribly wet. I went back out for a little while when Mrs. Guy went off to do the conference-thing. I mostly drove along the south beaches trying to find good photography spots, but I only found a few due to the still occasional light showers and the generally bad (i.e., cloudy) lighting conditions.

I personally thoroughly enjoyed my Bermuda biking experience. I think Mrs. Guy also had fun, though the sometimes long periods on the seat and the heavy traffic in Hamilton gave her pause. But we survived it with no injuries to body or psyche, so I guess it’s all gravy.

This post was delayed a bit tonight. I went to vote. What usually takes me five to ten minutes too an hour and a half tonight. Either more people are voting this time or my local precinct has increased in population by about 1200%. Just doing my civic duty, I guess.

And, of course, I voted for Bill and Opus.

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