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Meet the Rebels by Bus

Masters of public transportation, Mary Williams and Gail Johnson share their wisdom with Olympia

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When I think about public transportation (or even taking the airport shuttle), I think about smelly drunk guys. I think about being squeezed in next to people I don't want to be that close to. I think about taking the bus in Chicago one time and going really far before I realized I was going in the wrong direction - the very, very wrong direction.

Olympia's own Rebels by Bus, Mary Williams and Gail Johnson, have a brighter view.

"It's a great adventure," Johnson says. "It's really fun. It's something different."

The women take the bus for leisure travel, venturing around Seattle, to Port Townsend, etc., and sharing their journeys on their blog (, subtitled "Slow Travel With Low Carbon Footprint." They'll be talking about what they do and why Thursday at the Olympia Timberland Library.

They point out that riding the bus is good not only for the planet but for the budget - especially with soaring gas prices.

"The biggest trip we've taken was to the Olympic Peninsula," Johnson says. "We did it in three days. We stayed overnight in Forks and we stayed overnight in Port Townsend. "The bus fares totaled $13. You couldn't possibly do that trip in a car for $13."

Riding the bus also reduces stress quite a bit - just like the advertising says. In fact, Williams fell for the bus when as a commuter she took it to meetings in Seattle so she wouldn't have to drive on I-5.

But even for people who love it, public transportation can have its challenges. It usually takes longer, it requires some planning and, with some destinations, the Rebels end up deciding that they just can't get there from here.

For the most part, though, making connections is all part of the adventure.

"You have to figure out how the buses connect," Johnson says. "We went to Gig Harbor. We went to Vashon Island. The first time you go, you know that a bus connects to the ferry and there's supposed to be a bus that picks you up from the ferry on the other side, but you're not really sure what's going to happen.

"When you drive your car, you have a tremendous amount of control. When you are no longer behind the wheel, you are not in control."

And part of the adventure can also be the people on the bus - although neither of these cheerful riders had any negative experiences to share.

"If you're going to a Mariners game, there are usually other Mariners fans on board, so there's some chatter," Williams said. "And on rural trips, especially the Olympic loop, we really caught local flavors. We got tips on canning; there were school kids getting on and off. There was definitely a sense of community on the bus."

And, oh yes, at least one time, there was a drunk guy.

"I went to visit a friend up north," she says. "I was coming back and there was a rather intoxicated and happy guy, and he was singing Cat Stevens songs all the way from Everett to Seattle.

"At least he was entertaining."


Another bus blog

Bus Chick ( is written by Seattle's Carla Saulter, who's been living car-free since 2003. It includes posts on such topics as what a bus-riding mom carries in her purse and how to play the public-transit game "Follow the Rabbit," which encourages riders to interact with one another.

Why ride?

In a video for Ignite, Portland's April Venable tells why she rides the bus. One reason: "It's cheap entertainment. At 1 o'clock in the morning, you can talk to transsexual prostitutes while eating Doritos."

Meet the Rebels by Bus

Thursday, April 21, 7 p.m.; free

Olympia Timberland Library, 313 Eighth Ave. SE, Olympia,

360.352.0595 or or

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