Friday, October 15, 2010

My Low-Car Challenge is Over! Upon Reflection...

Hi y'all, I did it!  My one month Low-Car Diet ended this past Tuesday.  Woo Hoo!!  I'm proud to say that I managed without driving my car for a month.  No cheating!

I want to take a moment to reflect on my experience for the past month.  First off, let's examine the numbers here.

During my one month challenge, I:
1) spent $159 on transportation.  This includes the cost of my weekend trip to Orcas Island.  My average cost of owning a car is about $378 per month.  If you do a simple math, you could see that I had saved $219 this month!!
2) made 56 trips on public transit!
3) traveled 10 miles on my bike.  I'm a bit disappointed that I didn't bike more... But this is more than I would've biked if I were driving every time I went to the grocery store.
4) walked 20 miles.  Now I'm impressed by this number.  Normally, I would walk down the short stairs from my apartment to my car, then the office parking lot to my office...  I say this is an upgrade!

Upon reflection, I feel one month went by very quickly.  This is funny because going places by public transit usually takes longer.  I also find it more relaxing to ride a bus or light rail than driving myself.  I notice a lot of folks texting or be doing something on their smart phones while riding, but I just usually zone out or close my eyes and rest. 

My biggest pet peeve about riding a bus has always been their being behind schedule on a regular basis.  Not even a few minutes late, but sometimes 10 plus minutes.  One time, my bus just didn't show up (I don't know what causes this...).  As a result, I have missed my connecting buses and was late to meetings a couple of times.  Although it's really annoying, this repeated lateness of transit has also taught me to just let go.  I have no control over this, don't fight it, just be ok with what's going on.  How Zen!!

Another effect that I didn't expect to have was I became keenly aware of how seasons change.  I always thought I was very much in touch with that sort of thing, but it really helped me to see, smell, feel it during this past month.  I remember one morning when the air felt extra crisp.  I notice more dried leaves on the ground as I hear them crunch.  Leaves on the trees along the city streets are turning colors.  Even on a beautiful sunny day, it no longer feels warm. 

I also feel very grateful.  For being able to live and work in a place where public transit provides services.  For being able to walk and ride my bike.  For having people around me who encourage me and support me to try different things (and not think I'm weird for wanting to try different things). 

"What are you going to do now?" Some of you may wonder.  My plan is to keep going Low-Car for as long as it makes sense.  When I say that, what I mean by that is I will keep riding public transit and avoid driving my car as much as possible.  I am going to look into changing my auto insurance policy so I could get the lower rate: when I hardly ever drive, it does not make sense to keep my current policy.  I'm not ready to sell my car at this point.  I want to see how Low-Car works for me for the next year or so.  At that point, I want to reassess and make a plan for the next step. 

With that, I'm ending my last blog post.  Thanks for taking the time to read my rambling thoughts for the past month!!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Weekend Getaway Low-Car Style

One of the questions I had when I started my Low-Car Life was: "How the heck do I get up to Orcas Island to visit my sweetie?"  That's right my sweet boyfriend lives about 3 hours away from Seattle, and we visit each other once a month or so.

When I go up there for a visit, it usually takes me about 2 hours drive from Seattle to Anacortes, then I park my car at the ferry terminal, and the ferry ride is about 1 hour from there to Orcas Island.  Yes it is kind of far away, and we've been "commuting" to see each other for the last, oh, almost 4 years.  Challenges and successes of the long distance relationship - well that is for another blog!!

I thought to myself - "would it be so bad if I don't visit him this month?  I will be free to drive after this Low-Car challenge is over...!"  Then I thought to myself again - "if I wanted to continue having this life style, I have to figure out the ways to accomplish things that cannot be put off forever i.e. visiting your boyfriend."

It was his birthday this past Thursday, and they were having a bowling party for him.  Birthdays and bowling are two of my favorite things.  I had to be there.

There are several different options to get to Orcas Island without your own vehicle.  You could ride public transit, hitch a ride with someone, fly Kenmore Air from Seattle to Orcas Island, ride your bicycle if you're totally tough, use an airport shuttle or a combination of any of these options.

Riding on public buses all the way from Seattle to Anacortes was out for me.  It just takes toooooo long.  I'm wary of hitch-hiking i.e. riding a car with a total stranger.   Call me second-hand-traumatized and internally-oppressed, but I just don't feel comfortable doing that.  Flying seems a bit too pricey and involved.  Riding my bicycle with my back-pack on, I wouldn't last 5 miles!! Using the Zipcar for the weekend is also an option, but it seemed silly for me to use it when the car would just sit in the parking lot for two days.

A good news came my way when my sweet boyfriend told me that someone from Seattle is coming up to visit the Bullock's Permaculture Homestead, where he lives, on Thursday and they can give me a ride.  Yes!

 On Thursday, Michael and Gena picked me up at my apartment.  Michael took the 3-week design course at the Bullock's this summer and Gena is one of the interns at the farm.  On our way up to Anacortes, we chatted about many things - our jobs, family, plan for the winter, good food... I was also able to just sit back and enjoy the scenery, which was hard to do when I was driving.
Gena is one cool woman

Michael keeping his eyes on the road
We had a close call when we arrived at the ferry terminal - first of all, we were barely on time, and second of all, Michael had locked himself out with his car still running!  When all this was happening, I was at the pay stall taking care of the parking fee - they later told me the heroic tale of Michael folding down the back seat from the trunk (luckily, they had popped the trunk open to get their stuff out before locking themselves out), and sliding through there to the front seat to get the key out of the ignition.  We made it onto the ferry!!  Phew!  And we did make it to the bowling party!!!

The bowling party was a blast.  My sweet boyfriend had a great time surrounded by friends and loved ones.  The rest of my stay on the island was really nice too.  I feel so privileged to be able to come and stay on this farm whenever I want to and feel welcomed.  It was rainy for the most part, so I stayed in the cabin with fire going in the wood stove, working on my homework, reading or taking a nap.  What a treat to just be!

On Saturday night, I said good bye to my sweet boyfriend and the island to return to my life on the main land.  I had made a reservation for the Bellair Airport Shuttle ride.  It is $32 one way, which is not cheap, but I decided to try this for the experience. 

Lucky for me, the time line had worked out just fine, so the ride I was going to catch would stop in downtown Seattle (many of their shuttles would go straight to Sea-Tac airport).  I was picturing a big, greyhound like bus full of people, but their bus was more like a van and was quite comfortable.   It wasn't a full load either, so I got to stretch out and relax. 

After arriving in downtown Seattle, I rode the light rail home.  Four hours after leaving the ferry, I was home at last.  Although I was exhausted after being on transit for many hours, I appreciated the experience of going out of town without driving my car.  Yes it is totally doable!