Saturday, April 27, 2013

A Bike Blog About Driving

Five months ago, I gave my car to my daughter, thinking I’d have a short experiment in car-free living. Because I was embarking on shoulder surgery, I knew I wouldn’t be able to drive for up to two months anyway. I figured that, by the time I was recovered, she would have registered the car, sent back my coveted YOGINI vanity plates, and I’d shop for a new Prius. It didn’t work out that way.

For a plethora of reasons, daughter is still wandering the country, too rootless to establish a residence, and I’m still paying the insurance. But I’ve adapted to my car-free life. As I watch my friends and family growing older (and, of course, as I watch myself doing the same), I’m more convinced than ever that remaining physically active is the key to successful aging. Not having a car forces me to be active, even when I don’t feel like it. And it’s easier now than it was during the long winter. The nice weather and the April “30 days of biking” challenge (27 down…3 to go) have given me plenty of motivation to ride.

But the time had come when I had to borrow a car. My dogs were in desperate need of grooming, and the mobile dog groomer who comes to your home charges almost twice what I’ve been paying. Borrowing a car seemed like a better option.

So I drove today for the first time in five months. If I’m going to drive, even occasionally, I shouldn’t wait so long. It was a bit terrifying and I felt like a novice driver. I got used to it fairly quickly, but having the car took me back to how I used to often spend a Saturday: driving around through congested areas to shop at crowded stores, and carry heavy packages. And – ugh – how unpleasant…especially on one a lovely Spring day.

But I wanted to take advantage of the car to pick up some heavy things at Costco [3-liter olive oil, gigantic white vinegar (my cleaning product of choice), canned tomatoes, multi-pack of tissues]. Since I was at the Costco mall, I stopped in to Marshalls for a new dog bed and cushions for my screened porch furniture. I then drove to Trader Joe’s and stocked up on dog food and to Ayers – the local hardware store – for potting soil. It took the better part of the day, and then I spent what felt like an hour hauling all the big bags into the house. Wouldn’t you know: the ONE day I had a car, my neighbors were having a party and I had to park way down the street.

After I picked up the dogs, I was half way to Great Falls and thought I’d drive them out there for a nice walk. The line of cars waiting to get into the park was so long I gave up and just came home – a total waste of about 40 minutes.

The dogs do look cute, and my new cushions (and fresh paint job) make the screened porch especially inviting.

So here’s what I learned. I can buy one bag of dog food at a time, and get my olive oil by the single liter at TJ’s. When I use my bike, I shop closer to home, in areas that aren’t horribly congested. I might not bike as far as Great Falls, but – if I had – I could have zipped right past the line of idling cars. Who knows, maybe I’ll invest in a dog trailer for the bike!

I don’t always like being without a car but, as I rediscovered today, I don’t always like being with one either.

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