Ha Ha. My commute is longer than yours.

img_4044
I ride Metro North for 70-minutes three-days a week. This is where I get out and start my morning exercise regime.

I spend a lot of time not driving a car. On the days I go to work in Brooklyn, I spend nearly four hours not driving a car to get there and back.

My commute to work:

  • 10 minute walk to train
  • 70 minutes on train
  • 30 minutes on Citibike from Grand Central Station to Brooklyn
  • 10 minutes walking
    = 2 hours of commuting

Another way to look at it:

  • 10 minutes of warm up exercise
  • 70 minutes of focused work, reading, and writing time.
  • 30 minutes of cardio
  • 10 minute cool-down
    = 50 minutes of exercise and 70 minutes getting work done

    img_4048
    This is where my cardio begins after the train ride: 30-minutes, three times a week for only $155/year.  This is my “gym” membership. Can’t beat it.

What would you do with an extra two hours per day?  Screen-free advocates frequently use data on how many hours a day the average person watches TV or uses a device. What if we did the same with cars? How many hours a week do you spend in your car? Could you swap out any of those hours for a walk instead? Could you eliminate a scheduled activity that forces you to lose yet another hour in driving purgatory?

pokemon-fish
Maybe our screens have become the scapegoats for our lost time.

Maybe we should be setting a budget for how we spend our time, like we do with our money. This includes not spending our “disposable time” sitting in traffic, looking for parking, or attending children’s birthday parties.

In this opinion piece in the New York Times from May 2016, the author tracked for one year how she spent her time as mom with four kids. Her experiment was in response to a “Gallup poll that found that 61 percent of working Americans said they did not have enough time to do the things they wanted to do.” It will come as no surprise, but I really liked that story. Her follow-up analysis is also worth a read. 

For my personal time budget I consider all the hours I have in my day. It happens to be fifteen (15) hours. I go to bed between 9:30-10:30 and am awakened by a second grader pleading for his mother’s companionship at 7:00 am.  I know people who don’t love sleep the way I do. You people probably squeeze out an extra three hours by staying up until 1:00am. You get THREE more hours of AWAKE TIME than I do! Although if you were riding you bike as much as I am, you’d might be too pooped to stay up that late.

When I look at my 15 hours of awake time each day, I calculate if I am “spending” any of my “time fund” doing things I don’t want to do? We often assume that our time is wasted on our devices, but maybe much more of our time is wasted getting to and from places in cars.

“The price of anything is the amount of life that you exchange for it,” is how someone on the internet paraphrased Henry David Thoreau. What he really said was, “The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.”

Now that I rarely spend any time in a car, I fully appreciate how much that time feels like lost time.

Car Talk with two second graders

My husband clicked the door lock on the “loaner Prius” to get something he left inside. We had used the car for a weekend away— four hours from our house in upstate New York. One of Lenny’s friends saw the car:

Friend: You guys got a car?

Lenny: No, it’s a car we borrow sometimes.

Friend: So, are you going to drive to soccer practice now?

Lenny:  No.

Friend: Why not?

Lenny: Because we want to get strong.

Walking a few yards in front of them, I turn around when Lenny says this. I am so proud and happy. He gives me a shy smile.

 

 

Aw, shucks, it was nothing.

screen-shot-2016-10-13-at-11-34-51-amThis is kind of embarrassing. I prepared for Tuesdays’s ride to pick up our weekly CSA share like it was going to require incredible athletic fortitude. I prepared a healthy, energy-rich lunch that would not sit in my gut and slow me down. I drank my three-shot, home-brewed iced latte for optimal performance—one hour in advance. I mentally prepared with my pre-ride blog and a healthy dose of anticipatory anxiety. I planned my wardrobe for the cool day; wearing layers so I would not overheat on the strenuous ride up hill, yet could bundle up for the cold, fast downhill.  In my head it was going to be incredibly challenging. Just a few months ago I did not even consider it as a possibility. So, how did it go? It was easy. Really easy. Maybe too easy. I admit I was a little disappointed in how easy it was. One of my friends pointed out that a zillion trips on my bike day-in and day-out adds up to “superpowers.”

fullsizerender

 My body was much more prepared for this ride than my brain. How could my body get so strong without me noticing?
Another reason the trip was easy was because I made it easier by pacing myself and enjoying the ride. The ride was incredibly beautiful and I was less stressed or physically taxed than when I ride and tow my son behind me on a mostly flat road, with only two tough, short hills. My road bike is an incredibly efficient machine, and my body, apparently, is becoming one too. The weather was perfect, making the forty-five minute uphill trip downright magical. The total round trip ride was about 90-minutes.

 

img_4217
My favorite bike, my “butterfly” bike, built for me 9-1/2 years ago, by my amazing husband. Here it is resting against the fence near the Glynwood farm stand—elev.979 feet.

When I arrived at the farm, I puffed up (I admit it) and strutted in hoping for some of the fanfare that my husband has told me that he gets when he shows up. The woman checking-in CSA members did not recognize me, because I am usually on the trail-a-bike taking Lenny to soccer practice. I told her that my husband ordinarily does the pick-up. I gave our last name and she brightened, “Oh, he’s your husband, the one who rides his bike here!”

“Yes,” I reply. “Today, I rode mine.”

 

She must not have heard me since she did not acknowledge my equivalent cycling feat, instead she said, “He’s amazing! He sometimes comes riding in at the very last minute. I keep the stand open for him.”  I guess my husband is popular for other reasons. I’ll be sure to appreciate him a little more when I get home.

 

I headed home feeling strong and proud.  That’s a feeling I most certainly have never had driving a car.
img_4221
My CSA bounty. It all fit into the gigantic back-pack that my son was required to get for soccer. After all that riding, I am starving.
I took the long way home, since I was not at all worn out; to pick up some fresh parmesan at Vera’s farm stand. The store was closed (ugh, Tuesdays in this town) so I headed home adding on a few extra few miles, just because I could.

Just what makes that little old ant, think she can move a rubber tree plant? Everyone knows, she can’t…

csa-elevation
My husband is the one who usually  bikes to Glynwood Farm to pick up our CSA. When I shared my plan to do the trip this week, he reality checked me with this: his Strava ride stats showing the elevation.

When did we start telling ourselves that we can’t do things? Tomorrow I plan to ride my road bike to pick up our CSA share at Glynwood farm. It’s 5.7 miles straight uphill. I’ve been telling myself for months that I can’t do it. I admit, I am nervous, but I am ready to give it a try. Here’s how I talked myself into it:

I have to go all the way back to 1993, when I was but a wee college grad working my dream job in a Los Angeles advertising agency.  The agency owner frequently brought in personal development trainers who instilled in me ideas that would eventually turn me into Zero Car Mom (among other things). In one memorable training, our work team was given a simple task: List five things you “have” to do in your daily life and five things you “need” to do. (Take a minute and give this exercise a try for yourself before you read the spoiler ahead). 
img_4204
Try this exercise yourself. It changed my life. Admittedly, I was only 24-years-0ld when it happened, so I am not sure if that is a big deal or not.
After our lists were complete, we were asked to swap the word  “have” with “choose” and replace “need” with “want.” For example: “I have to spend four hours a day commuting to my job” becomes, “I choose to spend four hours a day commuting to my job.” (As a meaningful point of interest,  Zero Car Mom does in fact commute four hours a day to NYC a few days a week: Ha Ha. My Commute is Longer Than Yours
img_4206
Change a few words and you might actually change the wiring in your brain. 

As a newcomer to the world of adult decision making, this activity was a semantic epiphany. I loved it. Talk about not letting yourself feel trapped by your circumstances; this was some slick cognitive trickery. There was, however, a woman named Randy who balked hard at this exercise. As our agency’s full-time production manager and a mom to two kids, she lived many L.A. traffic miles away from the office.

“No way!” There was no way Randy’s have’s or need’s could be replaced with personal agency or desire. She lived a mild to moderately miserable middle-class life in the San Fernando Valley and she was determined to keep it that way.

As a a super absorbent twenty-four year old, Randy’s reaction made a deep impression on me; something along the lines of  “please don’t let me ever feel like Randy.”

Fast forward twenty-five years. When my zero car husband and I ride our bicycles to take care of everyday tasks, we get big reactions from the Randy’s of the world. Hopping off our bikes, hot with sweat and red in the face we hear their murmurs of surprise. We witness laments of “I could never do that.” Certainly a lot of people also think, “I would never WANT TO do that. That’s nutty.” (Fair enough.) The chatter is less about the absence of the car than our ability, and willingness, to do what we just did; ride our bikes to do something relatively unremarkable, like go to soccer practice.
You might be saying, “I could never ride three miles on a bicycle.” You might be right, but I bet you can ride half a mile.
Because we don’t have a car, I have choose to ride my bike (or walk) pretty much everywhere. It is not unreasonable to think that I could hate this situation with a burning Randy-like rage if it had been forced upon me due to some unfortunate circumstance. But you have to remember, we wanted to be car free. Interestingly, over the past five months, I have discovered that I actually want to ride my bike places I would never have considered before—like six miles uphill. I can’t quite believe it myself.
screen-shot-2016-10-10-at-10-21-51-pm
In the past five months, I have discovered that I want to ride my bike to places I never would have considered before—like this six mile uphill trip.
As parents to a six-year-old, our no car lifestyle serves to model grit and a willingness to stretch ourselves to do things that seem at first glance too exhausting  difficult.  Often those limits are only in our heads. In the spirit of this strategy, I realized that my brain has been holding me back and I needed to stretch a bit. My husband gets the bigger response when he bikes up to the Farm to pick up our veggies. I’ve been telling myself that that ride is too much for me. A few months ago, before we sold the car, I was also telling myself that I would never ride the treacherous stretch between Beacon and Cold Spring on 9D.  But I did it.  I still do it.  And I will do it again.
And, tomorrow, I will pedal up to the farm. Wish me luck. (And please don’t text and drive while driving your car up Route 301 between 2:30 – 4:30.)