Monday, October 27, 2014

Car-free ≠ easy, but a lot less traffic

So my wife and I have been down to one car for about 5 months now, and I haven't driven myself to work in the same amount of time, and only had to be driven a few times.  We originally went to one car because our ancient Camry with a lot of miles needed more love than it was worth.  Granted my background is in automotive repair, but when it came down to where we were at with my wife being pregnant with our second due at any time, the cost it would have been in a shop, chasing around and ordering parts, and then actually doing the work on a car that was needing another $500 in tires and a windshield.....we decided it was best to sell that car.  So after 180,000 miles we put on it, away he went.

We will miss you Gideon and you'll always have a place in out hearts.....
just no longer our wallets.

I live a little over 4 miles from work (currently, there maybe job changes in the near future), most of my commute is on industrial back roads or a MUP (multi-use path) through a local forest preserve.  The rest is on a well ridden city main street with a marked bike lane, and a split residential and commercial street.  In reality I have more to worry about from wildlife and pot holes then my former fellow "ragin' cagers".  (Side note:  I use that title in jest, simply because I was one at one point)

My trip takes about 18 minutes on average, and I do stop for the lights and stop signs.  If I were to blow either of them I would probably be to work in about 2-3 minutes quicker, really not worth it to me to garner resentment and carry the stigma of a "typical scofflaw cyclist".  I still will filter to the front of most traffic stacks, so I still enjoy that perk.  When I drove my morning drive was anywhere from 15-30 minutes dependent upon NOTHING LOGICAL.  Seriously, it could be dry and sunny, pouring rain, or some mixture of water falling from the heavens and traffic would not be dependent upon that.  An example would be this morning, traffic was backed up about 3/4 of a mile for no logical reason....although I ride right past at about 20 mph, snickering but feeling the former pain.

OK so I fibbed....19.9 mph.  However science has proved that is still faster than "Traffic".

My ride fro the same time as to, but before would take 20 to over an hour.  The hour plus commutes usually came when this rare form of white matter would fall from the skies.  No one could predict it, even though it came EVERY YEAR, we were always surprised (Christmas colors on purpose).  This matter had an effect on anyone who sat behind a wheel operating a vehicle in the form of complete forgetfulness of how to operate said vehicle.  The safest thing was to only let the vehicle idle along at speeds approaching negative.  Granted I haven't ridden this season in the snow, but I'd imagine my commute might extend another 5 minutes.

What I have experienced is pretty awesome.  Mentally I am more clear, I feel happier, have more energy (on most days, I have a 2 year and 5 month old as I sleep is disruptive anyway), and I feel healthier.  Even on really wet days I only lose 1-2 minutes on my commute times mainly because I take turns slower (see the blog about my commuter Trek 3500), but that is probably more because of the tire tread than anything else.  I also look forward to riding to and fro places, and I am enjoying the challenge of riding daily and working out extra (I run and do HIIT).

However it isn't always easier, traveling when going further distances requires more planning.  I have had to ride almost 30 miles for an event very early morning over the summer.  Most of the time it is pretty straight forward, but sometimes travel takes me places I have never been before, i.e. I am looking at my phone or waiting for GPS to catch up to me so I can find myself for that 30 mile trip mentioned just prior.

Although cycling does help one find themselves in an existential kind of way....but that's best for another time.

I now stand here on the edge of everything I've wanted, and I'll find myself....
in wet shoes and a soaked diaper.

The other issue comes in when I have to be somewhere, my wife needs to car to shuttle the boys to things, or there is a time constraint.  Chicago has a great public transportation system, when running on time.  I don't mind taking it since I did a lot as a kid and got around pretty efficiently, so as an adult (term applied loosely) I don't mind it.  I do have more heebie-geebies about locking my bike up than I do about taking the train anywhere, because Chicago.

However we make do; recently our youngest had to go in for some surgery on his skull since he was born with some plates prematurely fused.  We made do by borrowing my parent's car for the weekend, which was a huge blessing.  I did, however, find myself hating traffic once again since I was driving into the downtown area to visit them at the hospital.  My normal auto use during the week is usually to and from church and to the grocery store with my family or my eldest.  Otherwise I don't drive, so I "forgot" about traffic and the frustration that it brings, but I surely don't miss it.

While I can find a ton of reasons we should have kept both cars, I don't regret it.  While I can say my mental energy at times has to go towards how to dress, what to bring, how to pack for a day trip, having to plan for all types of weather, and how much longer I need to build in to get somewhere, it has been a blast and I am very excited for the winter.  I know Chicago is known (at least in Chicago....shut up Alaska) for bad winters, I am very excited to be that nutty cyclist rolling on by.  The only goal is to stay upright and continue on safely.

Oh, and do so sans traffic.

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