I decided to take my bike with me to the Worldcon. Having my bike solved several problems: How do I get from my home to Dulles Airport and back? How do I get from the Glasgow airport to the SECC and back? How do I get between the SECC and the outlying hotels? How do I explore Glasgow and its surroundings? How do I get enough exercise during the con that I don't feel compelled to leave interesting panels to walk up and down the stairs all day? (Exercise withdrawal is quite unpleasant.)
I knew that British Air would accept it as checked luggage at no extra charge, but that they would require a box. I obtained the box for free from a local bike shop. I then spent nearly an hour in the bike shop's parking lot struggling with the box before finding a way I could carry it -- flattened then folded double, longest direction forwards, horizontal, on top of my front basket, held in place with a bungee cord.
It worked out quite well. I left home at 5:30 pm for the 9:30 pm flight on Tuesday the 22nd. It's only about 15 miles, but the travel agent, Pat Morgan, had suggested I arrive at Dulles three hours (!) before the flight, due to increased airport security. Plus, I wanted to allow time to disassemble and pack the bike.
It was just as well I gave myself the extra time. I initially found the bike very hard to control, with the large cardboard box and my suitcase both strapped to the front basket with bungee cords. It felt something like I imagine it would feel to drive a large truck (ObBritish: articulated lorry) backwards.
Fortunately, the W&OD bike trail runs near my home, and heads in the general direction of Dulles airport, so I used that. By the time the W&OD started to head away from the airport, I had the knack of riding the thing, so I was then comfortable getting onto local roads, then Route 28, then the Dulles Access Highway (yes, bikes *are* allowed on it, if they enter on the final exit -- otherwise Dulles would only be accessable to licensed motorists, which would be a violation of common law).
I rode right up to the front of the British Air terminal, and walked my bike inside. Against the far wall, out of everyone's way, I then got out my tools, and a pair of rubber gloves to keep my hands clean, and took off the pedals, removed the handlebars, dismounted the front wheel and the seat, and partially deflated the tires. I put a brace in the front fork in place of the front wheel.
The front basket itself would not fit into the long but narrow box. But I knew what to do, since I had rehearsed all of this. I dumped everything out of my suitcase onto the floor, put the basket into the (small, flexible) suitcase (it just barely fit), then put everything back into the suitcase.
(Also, during the first at-home rehearsal, I discovered I couldn't get the left pedal off. I then took the bike to a bike shop, and three mechanics struggled with it for a half hour before finally getting it loose. It turns out nobody had greased the threads when installing it a year ago.)
The 6mm allen wrench, and the bungee cords, I had found lying in the road in past years. The only thing I had to buy for the trip was the 15mm (ObBritish -- oops, that's already metric!) wrench for removing the pedals.
Last of all, after cutting the duct tape with which I sealed the box, I slipped the scissors into a small hole in the box, since I figured the airline wouldn't want me bringing them in my carry-on suitcase. (The tape peels off, so I don't need the scissors for re-opening the box.)
I had been warned by Glasgow locals on the net that a map of that city is essential, but that it's only available at the *departure* area of the airport, not at the arrival area. Fortunately, I had to change planes at Heathrow (London), at which I was able to buy a map of Glasgow in the departure area. Unfortunately, the map didn't extend all the way to the Glasgow airport.
In Glasgow, I picked up my bike in the luggage office, after a long wait for it at the luggage carousels, on which they later told me it wouldn't fit. I unpacked and reassembled it in the luggage carousel room. By the time I was done, the customs people had left, so I got to skip customs.
I was told there was a place at the airport where I could leave the empty box until I needed it for my return flight a week later. But it turned out there was a very high charge for this dubious service, so I kept the box with me.
I followed the directions I had been given for getting to downtown Glasgow on the A8 highway, riding on the left, of course. However, I soon lost my way, and it was three hours before I found a pedestrian bridge to cross from the south of the Clyde river where the aiport is, to the north where the hotels and convention center are, and another hour after that before I found the Stakis Ingram hotel.
The hotel was much more bike friendly than American hotels, which would act like I had brought a UFO into the lobby. The hotel held my box, bike, and suitcase for me in a ground-floor closet, even after I checked out in the morning.
Also, traffic is much bike-friendlier in Glasgow than in Virginia. But then, it's hard to imagine anything worse than the traffic in the Tysons Corner area, though a nest full of angry hornets comes close.
I had walked to the SECC after checking in on Wednesday, not realizing how far it was. If I hadn't had the map with me, I would have thought I had lost my way. On Thursday, after checking out of the hotel, I rode to the SECC. Since it was raining, and I didn't want my bike to be parked in the rain, I parked it inside the SECC, locked to one of the support columns.
At noon I met with the Canadian with whom I was sharing a room in the Hilton that evening. That evening I rode to back to the Stakis, picked up the box and suitcase, tipped the desk clerk (which surprised her!), and rode to the Hilton. I got lost on the way to the Hilton, but this gave rise to a long interesting conversation with a pair of young unemployed local men. Eventually I got there and checked in, and then rode to the evening party hotels.
We were holding a party in the Hilton that evening, but it quickly got shut down even though only two people showed up. We hadn't realized that parties are forbidden in sleeping rooms in hotels in Scotland. The hotel people seemed to be astonished at our ignorance, even after we explained that in the US, if you are paying for a hotel room, it's understood that you can do whatever you want with it, so long as you don't disturb the neighbors, and so long as the room remains usable after you check out.
The next day, I relocated to the Baird Hall of the University of Strathclyde. This felt much friendlier, and it cost far less, even though breakfast was included. The only disadvantages were that the bathrooms were shared, and there were no clocks, phones, radios or TVs provided in the rooms. I didn't miss any of those except the clock. When I woke up in the morning, I had no idea what time it was. But I was on my usual con schedule, and generally got to the SECC around 10 am each day, just in time for the first events.
I remained there until I left Scotland on Tuesday.
Each morning, I rode to the SECC around 10. Each evening I rode to the party hotels. Each night I rode back to the university. My suitcase and box remained at the university.
Unfortunately, I frequently got lost. In retrospect, I think this was partly due to the lack of street signs, partly due to the near-perpetual overcast which removed sun-direction and star-direction cues, partly due to the many one-way streets, partly due to the many traffic circles (ObBritish: roundabouts) and partly due to my reliance on the map within the convention pocket booklet, as that booklet contained a split map, and I didn't notice for the first couple days that the two halves had considerable overlap, so I'd often head west toward a destination to my east or vice-versa.
However, my getting lost led me to see lots of the town I wouldn't otherwise have seen, including a police box ("Tardis") and a real grocery store. Grocery stores look much like they do in the US, but they seem to be much scarcer.
At the gripes session at the end of the con, there were lots of complaints about how spread out the con was, and about how the shuttle buses cost a lot, didn't go everywhere, didn't run often enough, and stopped running too early in the evening. The taxis did a land-office business. I felt fortunate to have been able to rely on my bike. I never did use any motorized transportation during my whole time in Glasgow. Or at any time during my trip (or since!) other than the planes, and mandatory coaches and mobile lounges internal to Heathrow and Dulles airports.
I was lucky that on Monday morning, a guard told me I couldn't park inside the SECC, since that evening I was gaming in the adjacent Moat House hotel until about 11 pm, and when I returned to the SECC, it was locked. I would have had a long walk to the party hotels and to the university if I hadn't been parked outside.
I was unable to find the A8 when returning to the Glasgow aiport on Tueday the 29th. I followed the signs for the Clyde tunnel. After going through the tunnel, the only way I could find to get to the aiport was to follow the signs directing me to the M8. So I rode the M8, even though bikes aren't allowed on it. I know that cycling on major highways is actually quite safe if you know what you're doing, and if you take every exit, and then re-enter rather than trying to cross the exit ramps. By now I was quite comfortable handling the bike with the box and suitcase on the front. Or rather I should say I was able to ride it well. My hands were anything but comfortable, since much of the weight of the box and suitcase (full of books I had bought at the con) was resting on them. Or rather, bouncing up and down on them. But the bruises are now almost entirely healed.
The trip back to Dulles was much like the trip to Glasgow. And after arriving at Dulles, I rode home mostly on the W&OD. This time it was because it was after dark, and British Air had managed to break off my rear light in a way that I couldn't fix with the tools I had with me, so I wanted to avoid major roads as much as posible. But at least that was the only damage done.
I abandoned the box at Dulles. It was pretty beat up, with large holes in it. And I don't anticipate taking my bike with me for any of the next three Worldcons, since I'll be able to fly out of National Airport which is on the subway line (National has no overseas flights, which is why I couldn't fly out of there this year), and since the next three Worldcons will be much more compact than this year's was. And at least the next one will be much further from the closest airport.
Perhaps I will do it again in 1999, when the Worldcon will probably be in Australia.
I had been rained on several times in Glasgow. Ironically, I discovered after my return that Virginia was in what turned out to be a record-breaking drought. It has only rained once here since the con, briefly one evening. Neither had it rained here during the con, or for several weeks prior. And Scotland had had a similar record-breaking drought, which ended just as I arrived there!
Many thanks to the several people who gave me directions and suggestions. And to John Forester, whose book _Effective Cycling_ made me realize this trip was possible (although he did state that it wasn't possible to carry a bike box on a bike, and that airlines would all charge extra to ship bikes).
It occurs to me that, even after flying across the Atlantic twice, that I've still ridden the bike far more miles (ObBritish: kilometres) than it's been flown.
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Last updated September 17th, 1995.