The space between destinations is no longer a space, it is an event.

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This is not a picture of me and my son, but if we were riding along the coast, we would look pretty much like this. (photo courtesy of trail-a-bike.com)
Our no car family took two bikes, one with a trail-a-bike attached, to early morning soccer practice for the six year old. How much better was it than a ride in the car? Delightfully better. Although the shoulder on the road is in bad shape, pocked with holes and badly patched tar bumps, there wasn’t much traffic, and I felt a real safety in our numbers, with me riding in the rear on my road bike. We feared a rainy day. The overcast and misty morning was a big relief. Lenny hummed and sang as he trailed his dad for four miles of rolling hills; leaning far to the left to see past dad to the road ahead. He would twist his head back to check on me, us sharing stuck out tongues and funny faces. My job riding in the rear: to remind Lenny to help dad pedal up the hills and to be the first and only victim of a texting asshole not watching where he is driving.  I loved watching Lenny on the downhills, buzzing the pedals backwards as the wind whipped by.

 

Riding bikes turned a boring commute into quality family time and took only ten extra minutes than if we had driven a car.
The following Saturday,  Lenny and I rode the trail-a-bike by ourselves to soccer practice those same four miles away. Dad stayed home. Before we left the house, my husband argued that we needed to leave early,with me at the helm, so we would not be late. We arrived in twenty minutes—only five minutes slower than when he does the heavy pedaling. In our text exchange he wrote, “awesome, you are fast.”  The encouragement felt great. This is a family project and working together to make it a success feels amazing. During our ride, pedaling hard up one of the hills Lenny said, “I wish we had a car.” Five minutes later shooting down a big hill, he was humming happily.

After riding to soccer practice, I had this weird sense of existential goodness. Seriously. Like when you eat well and you manage to treat people nicely all day. Driving in a car now makes me feel bad about myself; which is leading to some mighty righteous feelings. Yesterday at the intersection between the school drive and the main road, a deputy was directing traffic due to the recent high volume of cars. By my conservative estimate, more than 75% of “walking distance” families (those not eligible to catch the school bus) drive their kids the one mile to school. I was always a little disgusted by this, especially on the days with beautiful weather. Now I am more so. Feeling morally superior could have a serious impact on who will stay friends with me.

 

Dude. This is Our Life Now.

A local dad is trying to recruit my 6-year-old to play in a local traveling soccer league.  This type of commitment is difficult, but as the dad gives me the details, including likely locations of games and practices, I am pleased to realize that we can probably manage it without an excessive amount of carpooling requests. Weekly practice is likely to be held one town over at the recreation center, where our son currently attends after-school one day a week. I brush off the dad’s concerns about us getting to that location which is six miles away by suggesting that we will take the train to Garrison and hike the back trail to the facility. He balks, ‘you’re not going to walk there?” I push back with an unexpected, “dude,” yeah, I said dude, “I know it’s hard for some people to wrap their heads around our lifestyle choice, but we will pretty much be walking and biking everywhere.” 

I apologize for calling him dude. He says, “at least you didn’t call me ‘asshole’.”

 

Buying cars might just be a bad habit.

Are we all acting on auto-pilot? Owning the best car you can afford is the American way.

We went from a one-car to zero-car family for both financial and lifestyle reasons. We had been casually following the advice blog of Mr. Money Moustache and liked how his philosophy aligns nicely with how we want to live our lives: consciously and deliberately.
In making this big decision, to get rid of our one and only car, I was struck by how many of my big life choices are made on autopilot.  It’s like we work toward end goals mindlessly–based only on how people have always done things.

 

I am guilty of thoughtlessly making decisions about how we spend our money or our time that don’t necessarily align with my personal values. Owning a car, I recently discovered, is one of those choices.

Owning the nicest car you can afford is part of American culture. It’s expected. It’s a rite of passage: I did it three times without even thinking twice about it. And as much as I enjoy driving a zippy five-speed,  I hate what I am doing to the planet and who my gas money supports.
We calculated the cost of driving our new car for the next four years of the loan at $25K.  This total included upcoming principle and interest payments (we were 10 payments in on a 60 month loan with a current balance of $14.5K at 2.9% ), gas (we already barely drive it—using less than two tanks per month), insurance ($770 year), and a conservative maintenance estimate of $1000 year (it isa VW).  Twenty-five grand is pretty much what I owe on my remaining student loans (two graduate degrees from expensive schools in NYC. I’ve already paid off more than $75K).

 

This may sound anti-American, but I am downright giddy at the thought of using that money to pay off my loans rather than own a car.

We told my mother-in law and she argued that we were lucky to live in a city with great public transportation. Clearly, she has never visited Cold Spring.  She seems to think we still live in Brooklyn where not having a car would be a lot easier.

Sick, Tired and Car-Less.

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On Tuesday, I was feeling sick. On Friday, I had to ride my bike or borrow a car to get to a meeting two towns away and across this bridge.
I admit, I  have had a few moments of wishing for a car. Feeling sick at the beginning of the week, I did not want to walk anywhere, let alone walk everywhere! And I certainly did not want to ride my bike on Friday to a meeting in a city fifteen miles away.

 

If I ask to borrow a car this soon after selling, it will be a sign of weakness; with glares that suggest “I knew you were crazy, who can live without a car?”
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This beautiful bicycle was built for me by my husband-to-be about ten years ago at a custom shop in New Paltz, NY. When not pulling my kid behind me or making a quick trip to the grocery, this is my longer distance commuting bike.

Happily I recovered from my cold sufficiently enough to ride my “butterfly bike” to my Friday morning meeting in Newburgh. This required a train ride to Beacon before heading off to cross the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge. I felt fully badass ! When I arrived, my colleague was stunned, in that exuberant way that I love for people to be simultaneously in awe and dumbstruck. “You rode your bike here?!” she asked incredulously. As we talked, it hit her, “you made this choice intentionally.”  She, like so many people, first assume the decision was made in desperation or because the car is in the shop. Yes. I sold my car and rode my bike. It was 100% intentional.

“You have grit,” she remarked. I beamed. I guess so, but really, the commute was lovely and only took 35 minutes and I got my workout in for the day. It feels like a sham to accept her adulation.

Life is definitely a little harder without a car. Not having a car imposes limitations on the choices we make for social and professional engagements.  This is the point, of course. You can’t take a job many miles away from your home if you have no car or public transportation.

Having no car forces us to live with geographic limitations. We must work locally, play locally, and buy locally.

We are learning that we have to be creative to work within these new parameters. We have to prioritize what is important if we are going to use a car just once every two months. Time wasted on impulse shopping disappears. One ‘car day’ for a trip to the big box store twelve miles away every few months requires planning.

What would I have done if I had still been feeling sickly on Friday? I probably would have cancelled or Skyped with my colleague. I am pretty sure, I would not have asked to borrow a car. It was just too soon. I have my pride.