Alternative transportation. What does that make you think of? Riding a bus? Light rail? For me it was living without a personal car. 8 months in, I learned a lot. I think the biggest one is I lost my love of cars I had when I was young.
The story started here:
In the end of August I was T-boned and my van (The Princess) was totaled. The good news is everyone walked away. That’s modern cars for you. We were heading out that afternoon to go camping. Instead I spent the evening with a lot of sore body parts.
In the waning days of summer, while I waited to see what would happen with my van, I just started walking everywhere. It was the first time in 20 some years where I had no vehicle. Well, I could have driven Kirk’s rig (and I do at times), but rather I suddenly had no car of just mine. And oddly, I didn’t find myself missing it. In the end, our insurance totaled the van, and for a while I looked at cars to replace it. But every time I had to deal with a salesperson, and I sat in a driver’s seat, a nagging question came up to me:
Why was I looking at cars? Did I really need my own personal vehicle that only I drove? That I only drove around 15 miles a week, yet paid insurance on? For someone who walked a lot, could I go farther? In most trips I take, I can walk. Often it is faster, no strapping in the kids to seats, no unloading. Just walking. We live in the middle of town, and for everything besides the post office, it is easily walked to. Yes, I can walk to the post office. Laziness comes into play though, as it is the farthest away. So I drive once a week to get there. But I don’t need my own personal vehicle to get there. That is about the opposite of green, and is a luxury that reeks. It is however, not something everyone can do. If you have to travel for work, a car is a necessity.
Realities of trying be be greener?
#1: You can cram a lot into a bike trailer with a stroller attachment. Even with a kid. One week I brought home a stack of mason jars with a kid on one side. I have hauled potting soil this year as well. It was my original grocery hauler. As Spring came closer, we started using our Gorilla Carts to haul farm supplies from the nearby hardware store (these carts are amazing haulers). Ford can drag about 8 cubic feet of potting mix. I try to keep it under 300 pounds of weight.
#2: It sucks when it’s raining. And more so when it is also howling wind. I am learning to embrace it. Don’t think I’ll “love” it though ever. I have one piece of gear to always have when rain is iffy: a Costco golf umbrella. The large ones are designed to shed wind, and won’t blow back. We kept going in the snow. Good boots.
#3: You really have to plan your trips. For example, in winter it is dark by 4 pm. I don’t want to be crossing the highways that go through town that late, so I run my errands when my kids are in school. My youngest only goes 4 days a week, in the afternoon. He often goes with me though, for morning trips to local shops, I try to keep his trips with me under 4 miles round trip, unless I bring along the trailer to push him in. Ironically I have heard parents who complain a 5-year-old can’t walk a mile to school. It can help them a lot to walk. His asthma has gotten so much better with daily walking.
#4: When it’s frozen outside, you suddenly find those “pressing” errands are not so important. I have stayed home a lot more, without a toasty warm car to sit in. Is this a bad thing? I don’t think so.
#5: This is something that is very hard to do if you have an actual full-time job, or need to pick up kids at school. I have the luxury of school buses. And of being self-employed.
#6: It led to my birthday gift, The Trolley Dolly. I can carry home 4 bags of groceries easily now. We use it all the time.
But it led to another thing. I am pressed for time if I want to do longer trips, such as the library. It’s 4 miles round trip there. If I walk I am also limited in what I can carry. So I did something crazy. I dusted off a hulk of metal in the garage. It allowed me to get to the library in 15 to 20 minutes, and I can haul books. Where as walking (with kids) can be 45 minutes each way.
December bike riding is challenging. At least it doesn’t snow a lot here. The liquid rain gets tiring however.
And so I learned to bike again. Alistaire (our youngest) loves it when I bike and pick him up from his school, a 4 mile round trip for me, on trail. I ended up selling that bike above and moved up to a more technical bike that I haven’t been able to love yet. Maybe I will. Biking is definitely not my first love. It might be faster than walking, but it isn’t enjoyable to me. I try though.
And then….suddenly this past week, I saw a car posted for sale that caught my eyes. It was what I was looking for. A TDI diesel. Small. A great trailhead car – old enough I wouldn’t worry about it parked in the wilds. Long time readers will remember I used to have a diesel Benz we ran on bio fuel. I’ve missed that. And I realized as I drove it, that was the missing key – bio fuel for the few drives I do.
The funny part is…I am so used to walking that even though I have a car now, so suddenly, I find myself walking. Because why not?
But….summer is coming, the passes in the mountains are opening in rapid succession, and having a car means we can go hiking now. It’s been a great learning experience the past 8½ months.