Some great quotes from Lorraine Sommerfield in The Hamilton Spectator, Canada, on walking:
“I watch people drive their children to every sport imaginable, to make sure they’re getting enough exercise. We’re idiots.”
“Start walking to the gym — or perhaps instead of the gym.”
“I don’t need to run out and buy a hybrid car out of guilt. … I can certainly hang up the keys more often and probably achieve the same effect.”
In this spirit, a Sunday or two ago I took the kids to the Diamond Valley Railway, without the car. Out in the boondocks of Melbourne, where the bush meets the city. And it’s not near any (real) train lines, either.
“Right, that’s it”, I can hear you saying. “Bowen’s gone mad. Clearly flipped. This whole clean travel thing has got totally out of hand. Exploring Lower Eltham without a car, with the kids, on a Sunday? He’s crazy.”
But no. It just took some research: figuring out which buses running on Sundays went close to the destination (there’s two of them) and which railway stations they connect to and at what times. With my advocacy hat on, my assessment was that all in all the standard of public transport service out there is pretty damn crap, with each of the two bus routes only running about every two hours. Appalling, really. It may not be a high-density area, but it certainly has heaps of car traffic.
But I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the level of fitness of the kids and myself, and the fact that simply doing more walking can help that a lot. And the continuing quest to teach them how to navigate the city under their own steam. Along with the usual stuff about travelling cleanly (and cheaply). So with my PT-martyr hat on, that’s the plan we went with.
And you know what? Having done the prep work, it all went very smoothly. All combined, the buses were about every half-hour, and not too bad at meeting up with the trains. Everything showed up when expected, we got a bit of walking done, and a lot more talking than when driving, I got to see the scenery on the way rather than watching the road, we got to breathe in the fresh(ish) air out there, and made good use of our cheapie $2.50 Sunday Saver tickets (and my Yearly). Try doing Bentleigh to Eltham and back on $5 of petrol.
And the Diamond Valley Railway itself? It’s the biggest miniature (if that makes sense) railway in Victoria, and I’m guessing probably ranks as one of the biggest in the country. Heaps of people were there (some fighting over parking spaces), but with lots of trains running, the queues moved pretty quickly. $3 a go is pretty good value for such a lengthy ride (15-20 minutes), and the kids were kept thoroughly entertained, with tunnels, bridges, signals, junctions, and of course the trains themselves.
Really, having 20-30 people being hauled along by a miniature steam (or diesel) engine along a 7 1/4 inch gauge track really is a marvel of mechanics.
Thoroughly recommended — no matter how you get there.