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Getting back to car-lite, and how I got there in the first place.

Living Car Free Do you live car free or car light? Do you prefer to use alternative transportation (bicycles, walking, other human-powered or public transportation) for everyday activities whenever possible? Discuss your lifestyle here.

Getting back to car-lite, and how I got there in the first place.

Old 10-17-13, 04:39 PM
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Getting back to car-lite, and how I got there in the first place.

My wife deserves the blame for getting me back into cycling years ago. Her parents couldn't afford to get her a drivers license, so while most of our peers (including me) had ditched their bicycles for cars the instant they could, she never had until we got together in high school. She wasn't a cycling advocate; to her it was just how she got around, and once she had a boyfriend with a car she didn't ride so much anymore. I drove us everywhere. She didn't get rid of her bike, though, and would still ride for fun. I didn't join her.

Fast forward a few years to college. As a teenager I had always relied on my parent's assistance when massive automotive trouble loomed, but I was an adult now and that was no longer an option. My car blew its transmission and I had no way of repairing it. For the first week I bummed rides and borrowed cars, but my girlfriend did something different. We lived on opposite sides of town and I was astonished to see her show up at my house one weekend on her bicycle. I thought she was crazy, riding clear across town like that, but she assured me it was no big deal. Then she did it again the next day, and the day after that. By the end of the week I was forced to admit that if she could do it, I could too. That payday I went down to wal-mart and bought a cheap mountain bike (Yeah, I know...). I just wanted to have a way to get to work on my own; I had no idea how much that decision would change my life.

At first, though, it didn't. The bike was unreliable, slow, and I was not in any kind of shape to be riding it that frequently, but I didn't have a choice so I just pressed on. I was totally motor-vehicle-free for about 6 months, when I saved up enough to buy a cheap motorcycle. I'd gotten used to being out in the open, feeling the wind and just generally being part of the world rather than insulated from it, but I didn't really like the exercise or dealing with constant maintenance issues (that I now realize were due to my poor choice of equipment) so the bike went into the garage. We would still go for a ride every once in a while, but we took the motorcycle almost everywhere. Eventually, my bike got stolen and I didn't bother to replace it.

About six months after that, I got a career and we got married and moved out of our parent's houses. We rode away from the wedding on the motorcycle. My parents, perhaps feeling that a couple starting out with no car would just not do, gave us a pickup truck. We had bills and rent to pay now, so maintaining the vehicles became more difficult than it had been. I've always been a car junkie so I bought an old Beetle to wrench on, but the maintenance easily offset the fuel savings. After a year or so of this my wife said "Why don't you just get another bike and ride to work?" I figured it was worth a try, if only to bring the fuel bill down.

I was pretty wary of wal-mart bikes after my last experience, so I trolled the pawn shops until I found an older American made 10 speed, just like I used to have when I was a teen. Man, that was a breath of fresh air. My legs got used to the exercise and soon I was driving the truck less and less. We moved closer to work and when the motorcycle broke down I just sold it. I gave the truck back to my dad, I just didn't need it anymore. Maintenance/fuel costs on the Beetle dropped to historic lows now that it barely got driven at all. Oddly, giving up my car as a daily driver made it much more affordable as a hobby. Life was good.

I grew to love riding my bike to work every morning. I never missed a day, hot or cold, rain or shine. My wife and I rode together everywhere we went, and the car was relegated to grocery and shopping purposes, with the occasional cruise on the weekend.

Then we decided we weren't getting any younger and we should think about kids. Our first son was born last November. We couldn't ride together anymore. I didn't stop riding to work, but that was the only time I got to go out for a ride. Everything else meant a baby seat, and taking the car. Cycling has become even more important to me, as it's the only time I get to unwind and de-stress. I'd go crazy if I couldn't get on my bike at the end of the work day.

My son's almost a year old now, and the day my wife and I have been looking forward to is nearly at hand. We've gotten him a baby carrier and a little helmet, and soon we can ditch the car for everyday transportation and ride together as a family again. I'm so excited I can barely contain myself. No more huge gas bills, no more worrying about what we will do if the car breaks down, and I get to share my passion with those I love. Things are looking up.
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Old 10-17-13, 10:44 PM
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That's one of the best carfree stories I've read in a long time. I love the way your wife got you into cycling. I bet that kid will grow up to be one hell of a cyclist! Thanks for sharing...

"Think Outside the Cage"
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Old 10-19-13, 11:52 AM
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Awesome!! You rock. And enjoy every moment with your son. They grow up fast.
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Old 10-24-13, 09:05 PM
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Sweet story, dude.

My turn? Okay....

Pretty much always had a bike growing up, but they were all toys, nothing really utilitarian -- no-name 'baby cruiser', Schwinn Stingray, Huffy IGH 3-speed...then things changed.

The summer after 9th grade, I was involved in a weeklong bike trip through the church (shudder!) youth group; the group leader, my old 6th-grade teacher, loaned me his spare bike, a 10-speed Schwinn.

One week later -- a week during which I broke the national 55mph speed limit once, on a downhill! -- I was hooked on riding like never before. Shortly after that week, the group leader offered my mother a deal on the Schwinn; after asking me if I wanted it (HELL, YEAH, MOM!), she bought it for me.

It changed my life.

I went to register for high school when the time came on the bike; I commuted on that bike to my first job a year later. I also reunited with my 'long-lost' Dad, whom Mom had chased out of my life when I was about 12. I made up my mind one day to use my newfound freedom to locate him. (Did I simply consult the phone book? Not until I'd ridden across town to the job he'd had when I last saw him; a co-worker told me he'd retired, and to look him up in the phone book. Teenagers, smh...)

Stealthy and furtive for five years, my time with Dad was golden, and mixed with the bike, irreplaceable. But then I let the first job interfere with the bike. Three months of commuting, sharing the road with cars and hitting 30mph daily somewhere on the ride, I traded it for my first car.

It was 6 years before I felt the tug of riding a bike again, and sporadically tried to recapture that golden time, all to no avail. It took until I was 41.

I took a new job, building Walmart bikes; my trainer was 20 years my junior, but a bike fanatic. He sparked the desire once again, and since I had a decent bike, I figured I'd try it. The commute was about 7 miles one-way, and I oddly looked forward to my first try. And BOY, was it an eye-opener! Easy. . . and JOYFUL! But still a little short of that euphoria I'd had as a teen.

Until the following January. Frozen plowdrifts of snow on the route, a steel 18-sp rigid Huffy MTB BSO under me, and insulated coveralls; I rolled over a drift one morning on the way in, and the down side of the drift had a gift for me...euphoria! I'd discovered it again! And I'm HAPPY to say, I've never lost it again!

Today, I ride MTB exclusively, for all purposes, and have no hesitation in spending major $$ for a good one. I'm 9 years car-free, my teen daughter gets almost as much joy from it as I do, and it's a strange thing I realized: It doesn't matter where i live, what address -- I'm HOME on the bike!
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Old 10-25-13, 08:44 AM
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Mountain bikes are definitely sick man. I need to get mine rolling.
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Old 10-25-13, 06:46 PM
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Originally Posted by plustax View Post
Mountain bikes are definitely sick man. I need to get mine rolling.
This thread is badass.
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