Those of you who know me already know that I'm all eco-geeky. I make my own laundry soap and face wash, and that I dig recyclable stuff out of the trashcan and put it in the recycle bin (you know, the one right next to the trash can).
After I moved to Ohio from Minneapolis in October 2010, just before the birth of my first nephew, Tyler, I read Chris Balish's How to Live Well Without Owning a Car, and I was hooked. This has to be possible. I read Katie Alvord's Divorce Your Car! and in full-on geek fashion, even tried to read John Forester's Handbook for Cycling Transportation Engineers. I read everything I could find online about bicycle commuting, falling in love with the idea that living car-lite or car-free could be a good thing.
I started walking from my sister's house, where I lived that first ten months(God bless Cory and Katie and baby Tyler for letting me be part of the first days of their tiny family's life), to my mom and dad's house 1.5 miles away, and eventually got brave enough to ride my very own bike there, ON THE STREET EVEN. I was thrilled with myself.
And given that I had found no job aside from the hours I spent helping my dad keep books for Chuck's Handyman and Insulation Services, it was right in line with my budget.
Fast forward (almost) three years, and here I am, living and working in the Columbus, Ohio area and still driving. When it came down to it, I was just too cold and tired in the morning (especially in fall, winter or spring) to think of getting on my bike. And quite frankly, since I had to be there, like, five minutes ago, it took too long.
One Thursday in late June, I decided I was done driving. I took my car key off my keyring and decided I was not going to drive for 30 days. If at the end of that thirty days I still enjoyed being car-free, I'd sell my Chevy and start pocketing the $200 a month I spent on insurance and fuel. I needed to know if I could really do it.
During my thirty day challenge I kept a log of what activities I did on two wheels so I could look back and check for patterns, or holes in my plan, my wardrobe, or my IQ. Let's review:
Day 1: Today is my day off. I biked to the pharmacy and the running store. My shoes came in, but they were definitely not the color I wanted. Send 'em back. It was pleasant out, if warm. Only one person yelled at me. Biked to the Transformations service at church and got a ride home from friends who let me push my bike into the back of their SUV.
Day 2: Stayed home all day.
Day 3: Sunday. I biked to work, it was threatening to rain and I had to buy milk for the Cafe on the way. Also, Bible study afterward which felt very far away (6 miles). My roommate gave me a ride to the Bible study and I biked home. Pooped by the time I got home and was super-energized the rest of the night. Talked nonstop. I think the exercise jazzed me up. Whodathunkit?
Day 4: I biked to work and back today. I am noticing all the roadkill...not just groundhogs and raccoons, but their babies. There are mice, chipmunks, turtles, frogs, grass snakes…so many animals die because of cars.
Day 5: Wow, tiring day. After work I had to go pick up our CSA, the pick-up location for which is 8.6 miles away, which is not so bad if you're a car. Which I wasn't. Found a new route using a bike path that avoids the narrow hilly curves of that main road at the beginning of my route. But between picking up the CSA and coming back for small group, I'd be biking 17 miles between 4:30 and 7pm. Next week I also have to make it to a counseling appt in between picking up the CSA and small group. Not sure how I feel about that.
Day 6: Got a ride to work from my roommate, since I left my bike at the church after small group last night. I was just done, couldn't bicycle another inch. I'll ride home tonight after work. Legs are weak today from the long ride yesterday. I have some errands to run for work this weekend, and it looks like I'll need to see if I can pay my roommate to take me. I'm just too tired. How will I run these errands when I no longer HAVE a car?
Day 7: Holiday from work. Just stayed around the house. BBQ at a coworker's house later in the evening, rode there with my roommate.
Day 8: Decided to drive my own car to run work errands. Was all over creation for 2.5 hours. Bought five dozen mason jars for the pastor to use as as sermon illustration, went to Sam's Club, etc. Not sure exactly how I'll handle that car-less. Semi-regular rental?
Day 9: Drove with my roommate an hour and a half to the 60th wedding anniversary celebration of my grandparents on my mom's side, and my dad's side's 4th of July thing at the cabin. Would have rented a car for this. Pleasant.
Day 10: I drove to work so I could drop off the five boxes of mason jars, and after work made sure to park my car at the end of the lot, the way you push the plate of cookies to the other side of the table to keep yourself from eating them. Cleaned everything out of the back seat and the trunk. Bible study was canceled, so I biked to Tim Horton's and read for a bit, then stopped at Aldi for bananas and came home.
Day 11: I biked to work today, and got a lift home with Kristine. Roomie and I stopped at the bike shop Bicycle One in the evening. Tune-up scheduled for early next week. I seriously can't think of exactly when it was that my brother in law gave my bike a once-over for me. It was a long time ago. My bike is now making noises I'm pretty sure it shouldn't.
Day 12: I biked the two miles to work, then after work went across town to let my friend's dog out and go to see my therapist. Rained all the way there and all the way back. Let me just say that riding a poncho on a bike in the rain isn't really that great. I really need a jacket and head covering of some sort. My hair can't do that sweat/rain thing.
Day 13: Caught a ride to work with My roommate since I left my bike at the church last night after small group. Nasty rain all afternoon. A coworker was nice and gave me a ride home in the afternoon. I am a lazy bones!
Day 14: Biked in. The rain has finally stopped, hallelujah. Biked home at 3:45 feeling crappy (fought something all day). Drudge. My bones don't want to do anything.
Day 15: My day off! I meant to do a bunch of errands, but never got around to it, mostly chores at home.
Day 16: Biked to church for Vacation Bible School training in the AM. Drove in the evening to give a friend a ride to B-dubs since weeks earlier I had committed to doing that, and took advantage of my wheels, going to the store after. I've never done the trivia at Buffalo Wild Wings, we had a good time.
Day 17: VBS starts today, and continues every evening until 8:30. My roommate gave me a ride to work, and home from VBS. My pedometer says I walked 10,500 steps, so that was good exercise.
Day 18: Biked to work. VBS tonight, so am not going home until that's over. Biking home at dusk is beautiful and amazing and poetic and you better keep your mouth shut unless you like eating bugs.
Day 19: Biked to work and back. No appointment with the therapist since it's Day 3 of VBS. Long days but cute kids!
Day 20: Has it really been almost three weeks since I relied on my car to get me everywhere? Think twice, Batman. The heat index was over 100 today. My roommate gave me a ride to work and home after VBS.
Day 21: Rode in with my roommate, the flippin' heat index is still over 100. You can grab handfuls of wet steamy air out of...the...air.
Day 22: Biked to the bike store in the morning for my tune-up, then walked to the house of a friend to take care of their cat while they are out of town. Stopped and had a bubble tea at Koko's Tea Salon and Bakery. Walked back to the bike shop at 5pm, picked up my bike and bought cycling gloves (because sometimes my hands go numb while I ride, and I can't figure out why. They said this might help). Then I went to Second Sole to pick up my shoes, which have FINALLY arrived.. Biked from there to Kohl's to spend my $10 off card (socks!), and went home happy. Probably my favorite day so far.
Day 23: Watched my nephew and niece for my sister and brother in law. Took their vehicle to the church to play with the kids on the playground, then home to watch a show. Drove to the catsitting house later to take care of the cat. Have officially decided to sell my car. Got the thumbs-up from my dad today, since he's the one who sold me this car at such a great deal. And actually, I'm more okay deciding to drive now and then. I know I prefer the bike, but in the interest of time I can choose to take the car whereas before my default was to take the car, and it was the biking I needed to figure out.
Day 24: Biked to church and home, then drove to take care of the cat.
Day 25: Biked to work, beat the rain by about 15 minutes in the morning. It poured for hours! I biked home, then had to go to the cat-sitting house to clean up, then go get Charlie-dog from the kennel and back home for dinner before heading to the dog-sitting house to sleep. So I drove for that. No way to do it on a bike and not die.
Day 26: Drove straight to work from the dog-sitting house. After work going to pick up the CSA, let the dog out, go see my therapist, and go to small group, then home to feed Jada and back to the dog-house for bed. Sorry, bike. I'll have to get you tomorrow.
Day 27: My birthday! Drove most of today since I still had the car at the dog-sitting house from yesterday. Drove to the mall to meet my mom for dinner (lovely!) then home to pack up some clothes for the next day and just be home for a bit. Was about to leave home and head back to the dog-sitting gig on my bike, and my roommate convinced me to drive since it was going to be dark, and a long ride. So I did.
Day 28: Drove home from the dog-sitting house this morning, and biked to work. Biked home. My roommate decided to come spend the night, so we drove together in her car.
Day 29: My day off. Roommate dropped me off at home when she went to work, and I hung out there. Had promised to give a friend a ride to tonight's church event, so after reading for a few hours and napping, I called him, but it turned out he didn't need a ride. By then there wasn't enough time to bike to let the dog out and make it back before the church event started, so I drove, let the dog out, and drove to the church.
Day 30: Didn't go anywhere today. Took care of the dog. Charged my phone.
Looking back over the last thirty days, the times I actually sat in the driver's seat were mostly when I had already made a commitment to do something for someone in a way that could not be accomplished by bicycle. Like pet-sitting two places on the same day (Really??). Or giving someone a ride somewhere. Or picking up the vegetaables AFTER work, BEFORE my therapy appt, and then run to small group.
Seriously? Do I HAVE to live at that pace? Just because it is humanly possible doesn't mean I need to say yes. And I found on those days, that I resented my car just a little bit. Which is silly. But I know that living car-free, I won't try to pack my days full of activities on both sides of town. It's just not sane.
Will you come with me on my ride? I want to keep a record of how this goes so that those who are curious about car-lite or car-free living can get an idea of what is or isn't possible. And for those of you who already get around on two feet or two wheels, please offer tips. I am not an island.