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The Witch is Gone.

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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.

The Witch is Gone.

Old 11-19-19, 03:39 AM
  #1  
sjanzeir
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The Witch is Gone.

Last week I went on my first true, out-of-necessity yet completely-by-choice, human-powered grocery-getting errand. On my wife’s trike.

Because I finally – and to the surprise of many of my loved ones – got rid of the Old Witch.

Equally surprising is that it’s been about a couple of weeks since my lovingly hated old Benz left the household, and yet I feel totally okay with not owning a motor vehicle.

I never thought that a day would ever come when I – the designated “Car Guy” in the family and pretty much everywhere I had ever worked – would totally lose interest in automobiles.

In fact, I’ve grown to find the very idea of buying me another car slightly depressing, if not outright appalling. I feel done with automobiles. Done with the very prospect of what it actually takes to own a vehicle. All the upkeep. The oil changes. The never-ending hunt for spare parts. The dealerships. The independent mechanics. The lack of space and time to do my own repairs. The car washes. The parts vendors. Brick-and-mortar vs. online. OEM. Aftermarket. Tires. The breakdowns. The scratches. The leaks.

It’s all been just too much. And has been overwhelming for too long. Owning a car – this car – took its toll, both on my financial and mental health. I was just done. Done being overwhelmed. Done staying up nights looking for parts online, reading and watching how-tos, and thinking what issues to repair next. It all felt relentlessly, mercilessly futile. It would be nice if all of this was someone else’s problem for a change, even if only for a while.

*

Inevitably, just a few days into having resolved the live car-free, reality started to set in. The household needs stuff. We needed bottled water. The cats needed fresh litter. Food. Dishwashing soap. The everyday items, the ones that I had always just picked up from any of the stores around the neighborhood with little thought or trouble, now needed planning.

Call a ride-share? No. It would be a little too expensive and probably slightly embarrassing (I’m a proud, card-carrying introvert.)

Borrow one of my in-laws’ vehicles? Terrible idea.

Just let my wife and our housekeeper get whatever we need the next time they go shopping? Now that’s just downright cruel.

*

Amid this whole cacophony of inner demons all clamoring to eat my brain, I suddenly realized that I had completely forgotten about my wife’s trike, even though I had made many, many grocery-getting runs on it before.

But all those other times had been about enjoying the ride than anything else, given that I had immediate access to my own motor vehicle at all times. They were about the leisurely, satisfying feel of the heavy, springy steel tubes and three supple, bump-busting balloon tires. About the muscles worked out, the heads turned, and the conversations started.

But this time was different: The trike was my only – and very welcome – option.

I made five short trips to the nearby store – the one nearest to the house. The loaded trike creaked under the loads on the way back. Even though each of those five runs was less than a mile long, I felt a special kind of excitement, of exhilaration, a sense of pride and accomplishment that I had never experienced since my poverty-stricken, road bike-commuting college days. The euphoria of being able to do without, in lieu of the luxury of being able to do with, was fascinating.

*

In the two weeks or so that I've been without hydrocarbon-powered wheels, a lot of things were put into perspective. Some things fell into place. Other things now seemed out of place. Plenty of things now needed to be reset. Forum threads needed to be unsubscribed from. Browser bookmarks needed to be deleted.

As I started to clean out my stash of new and used spare parts scattered around the house, I realized just how staggering the actual cost of owning the thing had been over the years. It dawned on me - for the millionth, billionth, zillionth time - that there were so many other, far more sensible, useful things that I could’ve done with the money spent. I could’ve studied for a masters. I could’ve saved up for a house. I could’ve traveled more.

And yet I keep coming back to the notion that there are some lessons that could only be learned one way. That it’s all somehow meant to be, and that it all just doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. What matters right now is that I’m feeling freshly challenged, with a whole lot of time and energy freed up to focus more on my job, my other little-explored capabilities and talents, my family, and other, more rewarding projects. And riding more.

Last edited by sjanzeir; 11-19-19 at 05:01 AM.
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Old 11-19-19, 04:46 PM
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Congrats! My car felt like an albatross around my neck, so it went in February. I've done quite fine with my bike(s) and my Burley Travoy trailer. Even Costco runs can happen with a bit of planning. And when the insurance and registration renewals dates come along, I just laugh.
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Old 11-20-19, 06:16 PM
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Congratulations! I'm a bit envious and am having similar thoughts. (Although the grocery store is about 12 miles away along not-so-bike-friendly roads. It also snows here nearly half the year). I've also been a "car guy" since childhood but am increasingly aware of and bothered by the cost of ownership and problems they create. And I am looking more toward how much I could possibly get around on a bike or other means of transportation.

I guess my thought process has been going this way for a few years now. For instance, in 2012 I needed a new car and could finally afford the kind I once pined for (and seemed to be expected of me at that point). I test drove a few, some were fun, others disappointing, and I realized I rather liked how much my aging, rusting, modest car stood out amidst the grey luxury in the office's parking garage. I test drove another modest car (with a manual), liked it, and thought of all the things I could justify buying by not buying a fancy car. Long-lasting things, too, like an acoustic guitar and books. And perhaps most-importantly, no car payment pushing me to remain in a job I found spirit-crushing.

So I'm jealous you're able to break free of cars altogether.
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Old 11-20-19, 09:53 PM
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There are bikes that would work for you. I think you have to decide that it's okay to spend some money on the right bike(s) to make it work. Once you accept that the bike is your "car" and you can spend the kind of money on a bike that you would on a car (not as much, really, of course) you are then free to find the perfect solutions regardless of cost. In the end it still costs less than a car and saves even more over time. You would probably love a fat tire/snow tire cargo style bike for those long treks to the grocery store, maybe even with a nice electric assist. Then something lighter and faster for your other situations. And, of course, you need the proper clothing as well to make it comfortable in inclement weather - it can be, really, just look at the folks in Copenhagen.
I did it in stages. Got the first bike and used it whenever I could and found the situations that still needed solutions. Got the second bike and the trailer and went a few months with no more issues, then I sold the car. I wanted to be pretty sure it would work out without regrets. And I don't have any. Of course, I live in an area with fairly good public transit and also milder winter. Ymmv.
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Old 11-21-19, 01:47 AM
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I would counsel the o.p. to give it two more weeks before they pronounce themselves 'car free'. As I understand it it takes 7 years to be completely free of an addiction. Just in case anyone thought I was harsh for suggesting four weeks for the o.p.
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Old 11-22-19, 01:11 AM
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I was never out to declare myself "car-free." I still drive a rental three days of each week. It's what's involved in owning an automobile that I've grown averse to.

I can't see myself swearing off automobiles entirely, either. In fact, I've always believed, and still do believe that the automobile is the single greatest invention of our modern times, given the billions of people that benefited and the innumerable utility that it fostered.

Will I ever buy me an automobile again? I might, but the next automobile I intend to pay for isn't even for me; my mom wants me to help her replace her good old 1991 Mirage that's getting long in the tooth - which is largely my mom's fault: she's the "Hey, as long as it starts and drives, there's nothing wrong with it" type of driver. Besides, she crashed the poor thing so many times it's not even funny anymore.

As for me, if I'm in the market anytime soon, id be out for something new, cheap, and basic. I really like the minimalist, playful nature and nonchalant, honest-to-God attitude of the rental I drive each week, so I just might get me one of those. No lease, no installment plans, just outright cash.

And even if for not much else, it does have room for a folding bike.
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Old 11-22-19, 09:25 AM
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I have similar grocery run needs as you, including buying bottled water every week and often carrying up to 30L of other liquids. I do this on ip to two grocery runs using a standard cargo trailer. We soon will be a family and have chosen to upgrade our bike rather than covering to car ownership. Now, I have virtually unlimited grocery capacity (cargo bike plus trailer) while being able to also transport future kid soon.
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