Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Getting from A to B

I'm not sure when getting from Point A to Point B got so arduous, but somewhere in my mid-twenty's it did.  I remember when I first got my drivers licence, I could hardly wait for an opportunity to drive the car.  It was new, fun, and exciting, but that wore off with traffic and busyness and just life.  Driving became a part of life, not because I wanted to do it, but because I had to do it to get from Point A to Point B and C and D...

The other day I was out of eggs (Gahhh!) because I had forgotten to buy them the day before when I was grocery shopping with a car.  And I needed them because, well, I bake...a lot...and I was on a deadline to bake somethings for friends as gifts.   So, I dropped off the Big Guy at school,  left the Little Guy with The Artist and set off for the grocery the fog.

Then something happened.  I don't think I have ever enjoyed the fog as much as I did that day.  It was quiet and still and cold and wet and I was a part of it.  And it got me to thinking about how rushed I am and though the day before I had been warm in a car, I did not really enjoy being in that car.  It was just a means to an end.  And there I was cold and wet and loving every moment of the whole experience.   It was like being a kid again when you had moments of your life where time stood still.  I must say it was pretty addicting.

Enjoying the journey.  Huh, what a concept.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


After 6 weeks (yes, we have been doing this for six weeks) of frustration and failure, I made my first successful solo grocery trip on a bike.  Figuring out how to do this has been the hardest part of this transition.  I've had apples crushed between the front fork and the wheel of the bike causing a very abrupt stop. (Thankfully I wasn't going very fast or it could have been ugly.)   I've had five bright yellow toy plastic bats for the Big Guy's birthday party scatter all over the street in front of a group of strangers that had just come out of their house after dinner.  (They did help me tie those bats back in the numerous bags hanging from my handle bars while all the while shaking their heads in disbelief.)  I've lost control and almost hit a car because the milk that I was carrying in my front basket upset the balance of my bike.  (I have dreaded getting milk which when you have a family with little children is not an optional purchase, but a necessity of life.)

The way that I've made this work is to borrow a car for a few hours a week and drive around like a mad woman trying to anticipate and get everything that I need for the coming week.  I come out of these shopping trips exhausted and inevitably having forgotten something (often times that thing was milk, my weight nemesis.)

But that is all in the past.  On Friday, The Artist went down to our local bike shop (who have been truly great to us even if they do think what we are doing is a bit bizarre) and had a double pannier installed over my back tire.  It has changed my life.

On Saturday, eager to try out my newest accoutrement, I headed down to my favorite grocery store (which I had been avoiding because it was just a little too far to carry groceries on my back and over my handle bars) and bought $40 worth of groceries.  Two gallons of milk, a couple pounds of apples, a big box of corn flakes, a pound of carrots... Well, you get the picture.  All in all, we estimated that I brought home about 16 pounds of groceries on my little bike without any incident or loss of items.  I am thrilled.  (I still plan on using a car for picking up the really large things like one can only get at Costco , but I'm hoping to limit that to once or twice a month at the most.)
                                                           My bike loaded up with groceries

The biggest drawback to this newest development is now I'm sore again.  All that extra weight means I have to work that much harder to get home.  Is it worth it?  No question.  I am empowered.

So, is anyone moving?  I've got a bike with panniers and can carry sixteen pounds.

Monday, September 27, 2010


I've had a great blog post floating around in my head for the past few days, but currently I am too hot to write it. It is hard to write about biking and enjoying the outdoors and being inconvenienced by everyday tasks such as buying milk when you are sweltering in the shade at the end of September.  I'm o.k. with hot until August 31st, but I have little tolerance for it after that.  Not sure why that is since September can sometimes be the hottest month of the year where I live.  It is not logical and certainly doesn't change the weather, but that is the way I feel.

Now, I say that, knowing that there are some of you who live in parts of the world that would love for it to be hot right now.  You are thinking, "Boy, it is getting cold already, and I'm not quite ready for the snow and the dark and the multiple layers of clothing that one must put on just to survive 5 seconds outside."  You are right.  Sun is good, and I'm going to stop complaining about it and show you our rides.

This is the Artist's bike.  We found it in the back of our garage and best we can tell it is a late 1950s - early 1960s Raleigh made in England. This bike was my grandfather's, and when we bought our home from my grandma, it was left in the back of the garage.  It has become ours on the basis that we have lived here seven years, and no one else in the family has claimed it.  (Cousins, you had your chance.)  Plus we needed a bike since the Artist gave me his at the beginning of this adventure.  It is way cool to ride some history (so the Artist says) though has some quirks such as the breaks don't really function, and since they are rod breaks we haven't found anyone who knows how to fix them.  I don't know much about bikes, but apparently these are unique.   The Artist just coasts into stops.  (He is a much better cyclist then me.)

Here is my bike, an automatic with coaster breaks.  It is very steady, since I am a jittery biker at best.  I love my coaster breaks since I have trouble controlling both my arms and my legs at the same time while riding a two wheeled balancing act that requires a lot of leg motion.  Stepping back to stop just makes sense.

I'll show you the kid's bikes later when it has cooled down.  Until then, I'm drinking lots of water and thinking of warm woolens and cool nights.  Heat is all in the mind, right?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Still Us

It has been an interesting experience seeing people's reactions to our life choice to live without a car.  Here are two of the most common reactions.

Reaction #1:  "That is the coolest thing I've heard in a long time...(slight pause)...but what are you going to do when it rains?"
I really like talking to these people about this.  They seem really open to different experiences, and though they are not making the same choices as our family, don't make me feel like some crazy lady who says that she likes to eat worms for breakfast.  They are often curious and want to know what motivated us and how we get to the grocery store and just our general experience riding bikes for transportation.  It is refreshing and fun to tell them about our journey.  But inevitably the question comes up, "What are you going to do when it rains?"

Now we are not in the rainy season in our part of the country yet so I really don't know how it is going to work. But lets suffice it to say that in our little neck of the woods, it does not rain that much, and it never snows.  Our weather is nothing like Portland, Oregon, the biking for transportation capital of the country.  Or anything like the person I was reading about today who doesn't own a car in, get this, Minneapolis, Minnesota.  The Artist (my husband) estimates that if we owned a car for the rain we would only need to dive it about 30 days a year.  I can not answer people about the rain, because I have not lived it yet.  But I think as in all the challenges that we have been faced with so far, we will figure it out when we have to.  Do you think a bright orange poncho would look good with my hair?

Reaction #2 -- Stun silence followed by a stammered question like, "But you still want a car, don't you?"
This reaction is the hardest for me.  It is not that I am trying to shock people by not having a car, nor are we as a family, opposed to owning a car, nor am I going to start chanting on street corners that the end of the world is near and everyone needs to give up their cars.

Our choice, and it is very much a choice, to not have a car was made because it allowed us to remain who we have always been as a family.  Sure, we are adjusting to the lack of convenience and luxury that a car gave us.  Sure, there are times when I'm tired and really don't want to get back on my bike to go to get milk for dinner.  But, at the essence of who we are as a family, choosing this life choice has given us the freedom to continue doing the things we love and being who we are.   I still get to knit and teach and help my kids at school.  The Artist still gets to paint and draw and create.  The Big Guy and Little Guy still get to be with us a large part of their days.  Much of who we are as a family would have had to change if we had chosen to get a nicer car (which is what we plan to do, since the Artist is done with cars that he has to worry about every time we go on the freeway.  Our last car had this annoying tendency to decelerate as you were pushing down on the accelerator while trying to merge into traffic on the highway.)  And so, I am not going back to work, and we are riding our bikes for a time, and thanks for asking, but we are not looking for a car right now.

On a side note: Thanks to all who have asked about the pain in my legs.  I am feeling much better in the legs, but now I feel like I have a bruised bottom.  Really looking forward to that going away.  

Sunday, September 12, 2010


So, I'm in pain.  We have been riding our bikes exclusively for one week, and I hurt.  I've not hurt like this since...well, let's face it, I've never hurt like this.  It is not the pain of a stubbed toe or a broken arm.  It is the ongoing muscle pain of those muscles that you learned about in anatomy class in college, but really truly didn't believe were there.  It hurts when I walk.  It hurts when I sit.  It hurts when I stand.  Pain is my new reality.

Once upon a time, I was an athlete.  I ran cross county and track and could even brag about running a 5:25 mile.  I ran through pain, and I even liked it (because it never lasted very long.)  But since I'm coming up on my 20 year high school reunion, I can't really claim that I am an athlete anymore.  Not that I stopped cold turkey after high school.  For years, I would run on and off when ever the mood stuck me or when it was convenient.  I never went more then a few months without going for a run (except when I was pregnant, which I believe is a time when one is exempt of all expectations.)

And then I had a freak accident two years ago where my toe was crushed and it took over 6 months to heal.  After that I didn't exercise hardly at all.  I did not run, not even once.  I did not played tennis or ride a bike or swim for exercise, and though I still walked quite a bit, I got into the worse shape of my life.

So, when we started riding everywhere a week ago, I quickly realized that maybe two years was a bit long to not exercise.  About day 3 the pain come and stayed.  Pain became my closest companion, and reminded me with every step, "You idiot.  What did you think would happen if you didn't exercise for two years?"

I'm trying to remind myself that it will go away, and I'll be better for it.  That I need to work through the pain so I can be stronger.  But let's be honest, pain sucks no matter how good it is for you.

And you want to know the irony of all this?  The only time I don't feel the pain is when I'm riding my bike.  How's that for a slap in the face?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Four Bikes and a Trailer

And so the day has come that I've been anticipating and dreading.  We gave the car that we have been borrowing back to my parents-in-law,  and we are officially without a car.  

When we decided that we were going to try this very crazy idea 3 weeks ago, it seemed very exciting.  The preparation of getting our lives scaled down to "bike-able" segments seemed like a challenge.  I went shopping and stocked up on all those necessities of life like Trader Joe's Dried Apricots and 30 pounds of bread flour. I was ready.  But as the day drew closer, a fog of dread descended.  Can we really do this?

Now as we looked at our empty driveway, the reality of what we had decided to do hit me full force.  If I want to get somewhere I have to either walk or ride a bike or find someone with a car.  No more quick trips to the grocery store or to get an ice-cream cone. Gone are the days of "running to the bank."  No one in my circle of friends lives without a car.  Heck, I haven't lived without a car since I was a sophomore in college and let's face it, that was awhile ago.  In fact, I've always put a car as necessities up there with things like refrigeration and a flush toilet.  And yet this is our new reality, and I am a bit excited about it, because for the first time in a long time I'm walking in an adventure that I'm not sure how it is going to end.  

As the old adage says, "It's sink or swim."  I'm hopping in.  I hope the water's warm.