Thursday, July 31, 2008

But then it got better . . .

Yesterday's mood, that is. In the evening I rode my bike to the hash (that's hash house harriers, btw), ran the hash, then rode into town and picked up the number 8 up to the hill. It was my first time using the bike carrier on the front of the bus and I really wanted to do it at night when I wouldn't feel pressured be quick about it. I checked out the bikes on other buses while I was waiting at the stop, and then I got to see someone putting theirs on, so by the time my bus came I was a little nervous but ready. I warned the deadpan driver it was my first time, and although it did take me a second to figure out the release the rest went smoothly and he congratulated me on a job well done.

Today was my first day riding all the way up the hill instead of taking the tram. It wasn't bad at all, although my bike is not geared for hills and I got passed a couple of times by speedsters on well-geared hybrids. I'll just have to get tougher.

Early yesterday . . . still catching up

30 July 2008, 0900

I'm tired today. I'm tired of working, and I'm tired of riding my bike everywhere. If I had a car today, I'd drive it. It's our second grey, bleary July day in a row, and I wonder how much I'm going to hate this once winter strikes.
I'm also tired of the perpetual helmet head; after a few days on the bike I can't do anything with my hair at all. Today it looks really, really good because I haven't put a helmet on over it in days. I feel a little twinge of despair as I smash down my perfect hair and buckle the strap under my chin.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Random thoughts, part I

Now I see clearly how car ownership encourages mindless consumption. It’s so easy to hop in the car and head out to the mall or wherever to buy stuff, but when I have to think about how to get there, and the effort involved, I find myself wondering if this is really something I need right now. And usually it isn’t.

A very short history of how I became carless in Pdx

About two years ago, I started thinking how nice it would be if I could get rid of my car. Between the car payment, insurance and gas, I could save at least $500 a month. It was impractical, though, because I was a single mom living in Southeast Portland and working the swing shift up on the hill at OHSU. My daughter was going to school in the Pearl, and on the days I worked I had to pick her from school at three, deliver her to her dad and get to work by three-thirty or so; this would have been impossible using public transportation. I sometimes worked until 1:00 a.m., which ruled out taking the bus home after work, and riding my bike at night was something I couldn’t even imagine. And shuttling Isabel and her friends between school, home, soccer and assorted other activities could not be done without a car.

This year, though, things are different. Isabel will be going to school in our neighborhood, and at 10.5, she no longer requires after-school care. I have a part-time day job and work up on the hill much less often, and I’ve discovered that night riding is doable after all. We are ideally situated: Fred Meyer and New Seasons are both less than a mile away, there is a weekly farmer’s market across the street, and a first-run movie theater three blocks away. Also within walking distance are the library, post office, rock gym, OMSI, Eastbank Esplanade, Next Adventure, downtown Portland, my day job and all the stores and restaurants on Belmont and Hawthorne. And of course, gas is now $4 a gallon.

The tipping point for me, though, was finding out how awesome ZipCar is. I had imagined that depending on carsharing would lock me into a structured, pre-planned life, something I could never tolerate. The reality, though, is very different: cars are all around me and are readily available at a moment’s notice.

The day I signed up with ZipCar, I reserved a Mini Cooper convertible named McGann that lives just over the Morrison Bridge at SW Washington and 2nd. I swung by and picked up Isabel and her friend Zoe. Isabel screamed when she saw the Mini, but was crushed to find we only had it for two hours. After puttering through afternoon traffic to the requisite stop at Taco Bell, I wanted to get out somewhere where we could really drive, so I extended our reservation by an hour and headed out to Sauvie Island. It was a beautiful, sunny day and cruising with the top down and a CD in the stereo was the best feeling I’d had in a long, long time. Traffic was light and we had time to stop off at the beach on Sauvie for a while. By the time I turned McGann in and hopped on my bike to head home, I felt refreshed and renewed. I never knew driving could actually relieve stress.

I owned, and loved, my 1997 Subaru for five years, until one week ago, when I sold it to a scooter afficianado who was thrilled to have it for his wife and kids. I placed an ad on Craigslist at midnight on Sunday, and 15 minutes later I had two offers. I could have sold it the next day, but that morning the key broke off in the door lock and my neighbor who had my spare key was out of town. The buyer couldn’t get off work on time Wednesday to handle the transaction, so Thursday we went together to the credit union to pay off my loan and transfer the title. Today I decided to start this blog to document my first year of living without a car of my own since I was 18.