Monday, November 26, 2012

Car Free?

            I’ve now been car free for about half an hour, having just signed over the title to my 2005 Prius to my 19-year-old daughter. Isn’t it supposed to be the other way around – the young people relying on bikes and public transit and the older generation tied to our cars? But I won’t proclaim car freedom yet, as this is the beginning of an experiment. And my timing of becoming car free is hardly carefree.

            On Thursday I undergo arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff, so I will hardly be going anywhere for several weeks. I wouldn’t be driving anyway, nor will I be biking. That made this morning’s bike commute especially poignant, as it may be the last, or one of the last for the year. So public transit will be my new best friend – at least I hope it will be more friend than foe

            In any case, I still had many fresh-looking bouquets of flowers from my daughter’s pre-Thanksgiving dumpster dive at Trader Joe’s. So I strapped them to the back rack of my bike with 2 bungee cords and had a colorful ride to work. I shared the bounty with my office colleagues and, I hope, brightened the morning commute for others on the bike path and the streets of downtown D.C.

            I noticed that the entrance to the south side of the National Mall is now open, so I rode that nice smooth stretch, which I haven’t done in months – having been riding along the north side. It felt like old times to ride around the WWII Memorial, before heading toward the Pennsylvania Avenue velobahn. The pre-inaugural resurfacing is in progress, so the bike lanes are so much smoother, but a bit scary without lane markings. And they seem to have changed the timing of the lights to prevent zooming down the avenue – or perhaps I was just slow, being mindful of the flowers. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the brisk morning and felt happy to count myself among the balaclava brigade of cold-weather cyclists.

            My daughter plans to spend the next month driving back to the West coast, visiting friends and family along the way. Once she registers the car, she will send back to me my prized YOGINI vanity plates. They won’t go up for grabs for 90 days – giving me that much time to decide whether they will adorn my wall as a reminder of my driving days, or whether I will break down and get a new Prius. I plan to take advantage of my Washington Area Bicyclists Association (WABA) discount on a Zipcar membership, and perhaps join Car2Go, as well, as I saw they have a $10 deal on membership.

            In addition to having constrained transportation options for the next month or so, I will also have keyboard limits, as my right arm will be immobilized in a sling. I can’t say I’m looking forward to the long period of rehab, but I am motivated to get well enough to get back on the bike, to carry it up and down the stairs, to lift it onto and off of the bus rack, and wall rack and, of course, not to experience pain during simple getting-dressed movements.
            In anticipation of going (at least temporarily) carless, I stocked up on heavy items, like dog food, laundry soap, a big jug of olive oil, and pounds of nuts. I took the dogs to the groomer and to the vet. But I really want to take this time as an experiment, not berating myself if I ultimately decide that the car free life is not for me, or at least, not yet.

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