Mary Williams came to public transportation later in life, while Gail Johnson came to it early.
Today, the two Olympia friends have teamed up to sing the praises of ditching the car in favor of the bus or train for day trips and short vacations.
They started a blog in February (www.rebels-by-bus.net) that is dedicated to inspiring people to use public transportation in the greater Puget Sound area, whether it’s a trip to the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma or a three-day venture around the Olympic Peninsula using four transit systems.
Their message and motivation is multi-pronged. For instance, neither misses the white-knuckle stress of freeway driving, ever on alert for an accident waiting to happen.
“I hate the Interstate 5 drive to Seattle, especially on a workday,” Williams said, citing a National Safety Council study that concluded bus travel is 25 times safer than car travel.
Become a passenger and suddenly the world slows down around you, Johnson said.
“The bus is surprisingly relaxing,” Johnson said. “For me anyway, it’s a Zen-like quality; I’m just there.”
“Traveling on the bus is also a bit of a rebellion – as if by getting out of our cars, we are declaring our independence from oil and the culture that says we must rush, rush, rush around,” Williams said.
And then there’s the money saved. Williams and Johnson regale in stories of traveling nonstop from Lakewood to downtown Seattle one way for $3 or making it around the Olympic Peninsula by bus for a mere $13 each.
Williams describes herself as a product of the car culture. She was born in Seattle, moved to Bellevue as a young girl and knew next to nothing about public transportation growing up.
“The only bus I recall is a school bus,” the retired state worker said.
Gail Johnson was born in the Bronx, remembers traveling around New York City on the subways at an early age and spent much of her life commuting to work on the East Coast by bus and rail.
“Public transportation has always been familiar to me,” said Johnson, who moved to Olympia in 2001 to teach in the master’s program in public administration at The Evergreen State College.
Both say it helps to be adventuresome. Bus transfers can be tricky at times, especially when switching from one transit system to another on remote, rural routes.
“Be sure to tell the bus drivers what you’re up to,” Johnson said. “And be sure you have the latest trip information.”
Check out their blog and read about their adventures. And if you’ve been thinking about giving the bus a try – either for work or recreation – Williams and Johnson are willing to have one or two people tag along with them on their trips to get the hang of it.
“In two weeks, we’re doing a day trip to Woodinville,” Williams said. “It should be a fun destination to explore.”
A NEW LEAF
In the pre-dawn hour of a recent Friday morning, a grounds crew from the state Department of General Administration dug up a dead tree on the Capitol Campus.
It was the Bush butternut tree, planted in 2009 to honor both Tumwater pioneer George Bush and Martin Luther King Jr.
The ceremony last April was moving; black Americans active in the civil rights movement and there to honor King learned for the first time about another notable black leader who was among the first Americans to settle north of the Columbia River in 1845.
Bush and his family brought a butternut tree seedling with them by wagon train from Missouri and planted it at their Bush Prairie homestead 165 years ago. The original tree still stands there, and the tree that died on the Capitol Campus was an offshoot of the original tree.
The tree probably was doomed from the start. It was late in the year to be transplanting trees, and it was not properly root-pruned before it was rushed off to the Capitol Campus in time for the Arbor Day ceremony. Already stressed, the tree apparently succumbed to the droughty summer.
Since the tree was transplanted, the former owners of the Bush property, Tony and Marilyn Sexton, have sold the home, property and legacy tree to Mark and Kathleen Clark.
The new owners are tuned in to the historical significance of the property and butternut tree.
“Our intent is to do whatever we can to keep the historic butternut tree alive,” said Clark, a Tumwater native and the executive director of the Washington Conservation Commission.
In addition, the Clarks are more than willing to donate another scion of the Bush butternut tree to the state as a replacement tree for the Capitol Campus.
This time, the Department of General Administration needs to make sure to do it right.
John Dodge: 360-754-5444 firstname.lastname@example.org www.theolympian.com/soundings