darkemeralds: Naked woman on a bike, caption "I don't care, I'm still free" (Bike Freedom)
It's been five years since I got the sudden wild idea to buy a bike. Since then I've lost 65 pounds, sold my car, reduced my transportation expenses to $75 a month, let my driver's license lapse, and, in a not-entirely-unrelated development, retired1.

Five Years By Bike, in lists )


Jan. 16th, 2014 08:27 pm
darkemeralds: Old French poster of bicycle with naked flame-haired woman. (Bike)
I've never been able to stick to an "exercise program," (bleh) so changing my transportation mode from passive to active was perhaps the greatest stroke of genius I've ever had.1

For the last four and half years, my daily eight-mile bike commute to and from work has been what gets me off my ass--the only thing. I was a little worried that retirement, in removing my biggest transportation need, would find me slowly melding with my armchair, never to budge again.

Instead, I've discovered that I'm riding my bike more than ever.

First of all, I have time to bike to destinations that, when I was working full time, would have taken too long. I have time to figure out a safe route to a new place, to get a little lost2, to go in daylight, to choose my weather.

And second of all, I don't have to get everything done in one go on Sunday. I can make multiple trips, any day of the week. Whoops, forgot toilet paper? Four miles round trip to Fred Meyer. Return a book? Branch library across town. That fabric store that's out in the semi-urbs? Worth a shot.

Today I rode clear out past the ring of freeways to an acupuncture appointment that has always previously been a train trip. From there, since I was in the neighborhood, I stopped by my sister's--the one I don't see as much of because she lives "out there"--and pedaled home again in the gathering dark, for a 19-mile day.

View Bike to Lynne's in a larger map

1 Selling my car was an important part of everything. Side note: my driver's license has expired and I should probably do something about that. I could ride my bike to the DMV. :D

2 Sometime since I first starting biking, Google has added voice navigation to the bike layer of its maps, and it's awesome! Now I just need an app that has Paul Bettany's voice saying, "In six hundred feet, turn left onto the I-205 Bike Path. No, left, madam. The other left. That's it..."
darkemeralds: Heart-shaped raindrop on the lens, captioned with "Raining in my heart" (Rain)
...it is only a test. If this were the actual end of the world, I would be worried about other things than getting a bag of sugar home without it dissolving in the rain.

It feels a bit world-endy, though. I committed to a car-free way of life on the grounds that Portland's famous bad weather is really just mild, damp and gray--not All-Summer-In-A-Day-levels of unbroken heavy rainfall for weeks on end.

Still, that's what we've got. Monsoons of rain. Typhoons of rain. Buffoons, spittoons, doubloons and poltroons of rain. Looney Toons of rain. It is, in a word, wet. In two words: very wet.

Wet wet wet wet wet wet wet )

Ah well. The stock pot is simmering, Hungarian mushroom soup is in the works, and hey, so far, the power's still on, so there's that.
darkemeralds: Baby picture of DarkEm with title 'Interstellar Losers Club' and caption 'Proud Member' (Geekery)
...that I love the internet?

Recent studies show that young Americans are losing interest in driving, and are actually preferring mass transit and active transportation over car ownership.* Of the many reasons suggested for this decline in driving, my favorite is that when you take transit you can amuse yourself with your mobile device the whole way.**

Eleanor O being in the shop overnight, I was riding the #8 downtown this morning, enjoying this very benefit. I was reading the many emails flying among [personal profile] vampirefan, [personal profile] sffan, [personal profile] llaras and me speculating about what the hell is going on in Teen Wolf, when [personal profile] ravurian pinged me from the end of his workday in London. I ended up chatting with him all the way to work. (Swype works quite well as an input method on a bouncy bus).

Is it just me, or does that still feel like magic? Sometimes--seriously, at least once per day hour--I am simply awestruck with delight at the global brain and what it has wrought.

* This shockingly un-American trend has sent a panicked auto industry into an advertising blitz, some of which targets the uncoolness of riding the bus, riding a bike, or walking. You know it's real when they're that desperate.

** Yes, you can do this while driving, but please, please don't.


Jul. 9th, 2013 04:57 pm
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
Driving is a very weird thing.

It's one of the most dangerous things we do, and when I rented a car yesterday for a short beach break, I was a little worried about doing it again. It's been at least six months since I was behind the wheel.

I was worried about traffic, navigation, and operating an unfamiliar vehicle. I was concerned that my driving skills--never above average, frankly--would have vanished. The magnitude of what driving a car really is--piloting a ton and a half of fossil-fueled metal cocoon at deadly speeds among thousands of other idiots doing the same thing--has become more vivid to me the longer I've stayed away from it.

So I was nervous. But as soon as I turned the key in the ignition and took the car out of park, I found the controls. Downtown traffic was what downtown traffic has always been. Getting on the freeway was...you know, getting on the freeway, same as usual.

It really is just like riding a bike.

Nevertheless, I was cautious heading down the road. No music, full attention, phone off, hands at ten and two, absolute adherence to speed limits, etc.

Today I'm making the two-hour return trip. There are 50 miles or so of pretty much nothing--national forest and the long and winding road, right?--and I suddenly realize that I'm doing 80, I don't even feel like I'm moving, I'm perfectly comfortable, and my sense of danger is just a mild background hum in my mind. I had reassimilated into the drive-hive-mind in one trip to the beach.

As I approached Portland city center again, I felt a twinge of obligation to "take advantage of having a car" by, I dunno, buying flatpack furniture at IKEA or the 24-roll toilet paper at Costco.

But no. It was too much trouble. I dropped the car off four hours early, retrieved my bike, and gratefully returned to my little orbit, where 12 miles per hour is the top speed.

Good to know, though, that the car-rental thing isn't as big a hurdle as I'd feared.

Car Gone

Jun. 28th, 2011 05:01 pm
darkemeralds: Naked woman on a bike, caption "I don't care, I'm still free" (Bike Freedom)
Well, I'm now the proud former owner of a car.

I sold it to a rock star! Kind of. This guy, in fact. He drove a hard bargain, but I wanted to be able to say that I sold my car to a rock star, so everyone wins.

I have cancelled my insurance, that necessary evil, that form of institutionalized gambling. I've put my car-trunk blanket, and the just-in-case Ikea bag, and my "Here's Something You Can't Do" Firefly license plate frame (which I never could find a way to attach without obscuring the tags) into the giveaway bag, and as of noon tomorrow I'll officially embark on my Life Without A Car.

I'll buy the guy's album as soon as I see the money order.

Car go

Jun. 26th, 2011 05:19 pm
darkemeralds: Naked woman on a bike, caption "I don't care, I'm still free" (Bike Freedom)
Well, this is it: my car is cleaned, detailed, photographed, and listed on Craigslist. My sister and her "car guy" man are taking charge of selling it for me, since I'm a completely incapable being when it comes to automobiles, money, and selling anything. (They get ten percent.)

Apparently there have been a few inquiries. Cross your fingers for me, because I want that thing gone, and it would be nice to get a few bucks for it.

Where on earth will DarkEm's Train of Life Change stop next?
darkemeralds: Naked woman on a bike, caption "I don't care, I'm still free" (Bike Freedom)
I had my car towed away yesterday to the mechanic. Utter disuse has rendered it inoperative, and I need to get it repaired because, after several months of internal struggle, I'm finally ready to sell it.

The prospect of no longer owning a car... )


Dec. 28th, 2010 11:49 am
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
Well shit.

My car, which I rarely ever drive and have seriously considered getting rid of, has developed the worst possible malfunction a car in the Pacific Northwest can have: the windshield wiper motor has died completely.

Cut for some cussin' )


Aug. 1st, 2010 07:17 pm
darkemeralds: Photo of an empty room with caption "Imagine an Empty Room" (Decluttering)
Until today, I hadn't started my car since February. It's been sitting out on the street in front of my house, gathering cherry-tree detritus and looking sad, while I ride my bike everywhere and test non-car-ownership as a way of life.

Poor car. If my sis hadn't stepped in, it would have sat there till all its value was gone. To me, the deadness of it seemed like an insurmountable obstacle, but she called AAA (on her membership), and they came and poured two gallons of gas into the tank and forced enough juice into the battery to turn the engine over.

Then she went with me for an otherwise-pointless 45-minute freeway drive to solidify the battery's charge and ream out whatever pipelines might have become gummed up.

To my amazement, it was fun. Driving fast on a summer afternoon, going nowhere, enjoying the freedom--it's part of the foundation of my youth. Suddenly, just getting rid of a car that I couldn't easily replace seemed kind of extreme. It's a nice car, it's a pleasure to drive, it runs well, and it's paid for. Part of me really does like driving.

On the other hand, the car needs cleaning, an oil change, some air in the tires, and, sometime in the next year or so, new brakes. And driving somewhere once a week just to keep an unneeded car viable seems silly and wrong.

I don't know. I haven't decided yet, I guess.
darkemeralds: Naked woman on a bike, caption "I don't care, I'm still free" (Bike Freedom)
Here's a quick follow-up on my Zipcar experience yesterday.

I reserved the car online. The one parked in my neighborhood had all sorts of available hours, so when my plans changed, I had no trouble changing my reservation. You can change your reservation right up to three hours before it's scheduled to start.

Zipcar will write your reservation to your Google Calendar. I hadn't yet actually USED my Google Calendar, so that was fun. And probably totally privacy-invading. But hey, convenience.

Zipcar will text you a reminder of your reservation start time, and again when you specify to remind you that you're due back. There's a $50 late return fee, so that extra reminder is nice.

I walked the three blocks or so to my reserved Zipcar, a Toyota Prius, at my appointed time, held my membership card up against the windshield to unlock it, got in and basically drove away. All their cars are hybrids and electrics.

I drove to my friend [personal profile] roseambr's house in the next state, had a nice visit, and drove home, parking the car at its little designated parking spot in front of the neighborhood Starbucks, relocking it with my magic card, and walking away without a care in the world.

The nominal cost for this little luxury was about $38.


May. 13th, 2010 01:15 pm
darkemeralds: Photo of an empty room with caption "Imagine an Empty Room" (Empty Room)
I joined Zipcar today.

Zipcar is the car-share business that lets members reserve and use cars for a few hours at a time. Their cars, rather than all being at the airport or in a central garage, are parked throughout the city. Once you're a member, you reserve online, you go borrow the car, you drive, and you park it back where you found it--easy peasy.

There's a Zipcar parked a couple of blocks from my house. It's not that my own car isn't working--it is, I think, though I haven't started it months, and last time I did the fuel tank was near empty. That's the point. I don't really need to own a car. I haven't needed to own a car for a while now.

So I'm gonna try out ZipCar for a few months. It cost me $25 to join, and the hourly rental fees (which include fuel and insurance) wouldn't amount to a hill of beans at my rate of car-usage.

Then, at the end of the summer, if it's been viable, I'll probably sell my car. It's just sitting there.
darkemeralds: Hellfire and tormented faces with caption Yay Hell (Yay)
This is weird and frustrating--and it's probably going to be expensive.

1. My (almost brand new) Dell Studio laptop went on the fritz today when I was trying to back some large files up to my external hard drive. It locked up COMPLETELY in Vista--the push-the-button-till-it-turns-off kind of locked up, and when I restarted I got a message saying no operating system found.

(Notes to my technical friends: diagnostics show no problem with the hard drive. I can boot into Ubuntu off a DVD, and Ubuntu can read the whole hard drive, including the Vista sector.)

2. I drove my car today for the first time in weeks, and it started up sweet as pie, but I could not shift it out of Park. Fiddle-fiddle-fiddle, off-and-back-on again, and it worked. I drove to coffee destination. Repeat. Drove to IKEA. Repeat. Drove my sister home. Repeat, only there, NOTHING I did could get it to shift out of Park.

Turns out it was the starter key (one of those infrared ones). As soon as I tried the newer of my two keys, the car shifted out of Park, no problem.

Weird, though, huh? Both my car and my computer are to all appearances working fine, but I can't make either of them go.


This Place

Aug. 5th, 2008 06:32 pm
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
It crossed my mind that yesterday's outburst of hysterical haiku could be one of those indicators that I need some time away from work.

So I took some.

When I stand upright in the wind, my bones turn to dark emeralds. )

There is this cave
In the air behind my body
That nobody is going to touch:
A cloister, a silence,
Closing around a blossom of fire.
When I stand upright in the wind
My bones turn to dark emeralds.

--James Wright, "The Jewel"
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
Nothing in my spendidly leisurely day yesterday prompted me to run any practical errands. Today, I looked around the kitchen and consulted my stomach, and realized that I needed some food.

So my experiment today was running errands without a car on Sunday afternoon.

A surprising success. Thank you, Tri-Met. )
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
I'm seriously considering giving up car ownership, so yesterday I decided to find out what that might really mean: I ran all my Saturday errands without my car. I left the house on foot at about 1:30, and came home three and half hours later, at 5:00.

In the interim, walking about three miles and riding four buses, I shopped for clothes, visited my mom, got groceries at Trader Joe's and picked up some housewares at Fred Meyer, all in Northeast Portland.

Simplification, sustainability, and Stumptown. Go, Stumptown. )

I couldn't go no-car if I didn't live and work in the heart of Portland. Things I need are close by, and if they're not, our transit system is fantastic. There's full support for bicyclists and pedestrians. Portland's own New Seasons Market delivers groceries. And there are ZipCars everywhere, for those times when I just need a car.

The climate may call for a rainhat but almost never for actual gear. And it's pretty here. Lots of trees. Nice gardens. Friendly people in the streets. Decent air quality most of the time. Good place to be out and about in.

So...know anybody who needs a nice used car? 'Cause I think I can really do this.
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
I was just in my friendly Seattle's Best A Wholly-Owned Subsidiary of Starbucks and, over the music on my MP3 player, heard a woman saying to her companion as she accepted her large coffee drink from the barista:

I mean, three dollars a gallon! What do we have to do to get the government to knock these prices down? Maybe three bucks a gallon is all right for people like Bill Gates, but it's to a point now where I have to decide between eating and filling up my tank. I know I'm not the only person in this boat. It's a great big cruise ship.

Several things went through my mind, the principal of which were:
  • it's more like six bucks a gallon in the rest of the world
  • I filled up my tank yesterday and it shocked the hell outta me
  • yeah, I'm buying a latte too, but at least I see the irony clearly enough to keep my mouth shut

I know that we have a great big country whose entire infrastructure is woven around cheap fuel; I know that people have innocently built their own lives on the same premise and are now in trouble because they can't just suddenly quit driving to work. I know it's not as simple as, "Get over it."

But I have a problem with the (apparent) expectation that Our Way of Life is an entitlement. It's not. It's a huge luxury that we in no way "deserve," but merely happen to have been born into. Looks like our turn is just about over. As a first course of action, we might want to consider giving up that daily sixteen-dollar-a-gallon coffee drink.

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