January 2010


Has it been one full week now or two?  I’m not sure – it’s already become routine (as in, the new normal, not as in boring).

I take Everett to daycare by bike every morning and Josh brings him home by bus each afternoon and we all feel pretty good about it, at least those of us who can talk do, and E has other ways of making his displeasure known, so I feel confident he’s enjoying it.  He still screams when the helmet goes on, but the second we’re in motion he’s humming happily along, and is usually in a deep sleep by the time we pull in to daycare 15 minutes later.

We take mostly neighborhood streets with very low traffic.  On average, 3-5 cars pass us on each trip, and so far everyone gives us an exaggerated passing distance.

Yesterday a woman crossing Beecher as we were stopped at a red light stopped to say “Neat – I love what you’re doing.”  Then, a beat later, “Wait – there’s a baby in there!”

What could I say?  You’re gonna get some hop-ons

Josh captured us taking off Friday morning:

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The helmet was strapped down properly and the cover placed over the trailer before leaving.

For those interested in the trailer, click here for info.

We recently noticed that zipcar has a little southside anxiety, as in, there’s not one on the southside of town!  Not southeast nor southwest.  It’ll go soPo but not south of I-20.

All of which means any time we want to check one out, it’s a trek.  In nice weather, no big deal, but tonight’s forecast included tornadoes, floods, and hail.  Yeah us.

I emailed the general manager last week to request a car at the West End MARTA station.  If you live on the southerly end of our fair town you should email him too.  They have a formula that includes being close to a university (AUC – check), transit (West End MARTA – check), activity centers (West End, Castleberry Hill, Turner Field – kind of check), and a mall (West End Mall – never mind).

Tomorrow we are totally counting on hearing about the house we bid on in the historic West End.  I’ve lived in the “greater West End” (really more like the lesser) for almost ten years now, and Josh has lived here for 4 of those years, and we are ready for a little change.

Walk Score for our current house: 35 out of 100 — Car-Dependent

Walk Score for our West End Victorian: 85 out of 100 — Very Walkable
Get your walk score here.

That said, the more we walk around here, even with our low score, the more we know.  Can’t beat walking for interactions. I’ll let Josh post later about his first walk from the bus stop with Everett on their way home.

But I digress.  Here’s the count for our bike-zipcar-bike trip tonight:

I biked to zipcar at corner of Edgewood and Courtland because the Prius there is only $7/hr as opposed to the $9.50/hr Prius on Forsyth a block from the ABC office.  40 minutes in rain and wind.

After figuring out how to turn on the Prius, which only takes me five minutes, I drive back to our house, where we load the car with food for dinner, our new folding carseat (4.5/5 stars with a half star off for weighing in at 100 pounds.  Okay, not really.) We wake Everett up from his nap, wrestle him into a new rain jacket from his Uma, and pop him into the car.  Dinner with the fam was great, with Tio Jose back in town from Army and lots of everyone staring at Everett, waiting for him to breakdance or at least do a little Bill Cosby.

We leave at 9 pm on the dot, having extended the reservation to 10 pm with a simple text (I love that part of the system).  By the time we get home Josh has to rush around getting ready so he can drop the zipcar off, pick up my bike (locked up in the ARC’s covered parking deck) and ride back home.

At 9:58 pm he calls me in what passes in Josh for a panic.  “Well, I got here just in time, parked the car, got out, and the doors locked. With your keys inside.”

Lesson here folks – never, EVER attach the zipcar key to YOUR keychain. It will come back to bite you.

Luckily he still had one minute left so he was able to card back in and get the key to the bike lock.  I’m not really sure what he would have done if that hadn’t worked – maybe a little customer service call would have handled it, but it was a dicey moment (although apparently not as dicey as hanging out at the corner of Courtland and Edgewood at 10 pm on a rainy Sunday night…)

I can’t wait for zipcar to come over to the south side.  Don’t think we’ll be making that slog again anytime soon, at least not in the rain.

Next trip over the river and through the woods will be on MARTA, which will likely be so utterly dull and routine it will leave me with nothing to blog about.  A girl can dream.

When you become a parent, you activate a stringy glob of fears embedded in the genetic code.  The what-ifs keep me up at night more often than my strapped sleep budget can really afford.  And every life decision you make as a parent trips over those anxieties.

Going car-free was no exception.

What if he gets hurt and we have to take him to the hospital?  What if he gets sick at school and we have to meet him at the hospital?  What if…well, mostly just more worries about going to the hospital.

A friend sent me this post written by a mom with the same fears, except they have come true for her kid: “Car-free parenting: Emergency room adventures” written by a woman in Seattle.  In it she describes three separate E-room trips made without a personal car.

Even though we’d talked through the various scenarios before making our decision and realized our fears were based on illogical fears, not practical considerations, it was still a relief to read about the experiences of someone who’d been through it:

At 2 AM Saturday morning, Chicklet woke up with a fever of over 104. After calling our insurance hotline and talking with an on-call nurse and doctor, we decided to take her to the emergency room. Even if the bus had been running at that hour, walking and waiting were out of the question (for me, anyway–Nerd was down), and there were no Zipcars available in our neighborhood. So, we settled for option three–a cab–and were sitting in the Swedish ER within 15 minutes of the call.

Like us, Bus Chick and her family live with a few miles of several hospitals and a few blocks from her pediatrician.  Like us, she can probably get to medical care faster than most folks living in the exurbs with multiple cars. And like us, she was scared anyway, because she’s a mom.

You know what though?  Most the best things I’ve done in my life have been incredibly frightening when I was first getting started.  Running cross-country in high school, moving to Colombia for a year, getting re-married, having a kid, biking to work for the first time – all very scary for this slightly neurotic writer.    But all very good things – all utterly necessary for my happiness and wellbeing, at least in hindsight.

For our worried parents (and ourselves as worried parents), here’s our health/emergency plan, set down in hopes of never having to use it:

1. Slightly ill – a 1. 5 mile bus ride on the 71 Cascade west to Kaiser.

2. Emergency room – call Cascade Jack, our neighborhood cabbie.

3. True emergency – call 911. This one should have been a d’oh – who tries to put their kid into a carseat and drive to the hospital if they are truly injured?  No one!  You call 911 and do what you can while you wait a few minutes for trained EMTs to arrive, right? And as Josh has pointed out, luckily we live in a crime-ridden neighborhood and the ambulance is generally parked at the Kroger or Dunkin Donuts 1 mile from our house (yes, he’s always this reassuring).

I hate thinking about this.

We ordered a Sunshine Kids Radian folding car seat and a carrying backpack, available separately, for cabs, zipcars, or friend rides.  The folding angle is for maximum portability if the trip includes MARTA.  I may have outsmarted myself with this one – the thing is heavy as the dickens.  It is steel though, and an Atlanta woman noted it survived with nary a scratch the recent parking deck collapse near Georgia Tech, although the rest of her car had caved in.  Pretty good recommendation.  The old car seat goes to my folks in case they want to pick us up at MARTA.

So there we have it  – what to do if the what ifs strike.

Stats

Distance to Kroger – 0.9 miles

Weather – 55 degrees, raining

Time – 8:00pm

Grocery List – Diet Coke, Beer, Soy Creamer, Frozen Meals, Veggie Burgers, Pretzels, Veggie Stix, Ginger

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After we decided to ditch the car, we planned out a “big shop”, where we would buy all of our large items in bulk ahead of time so we wouldn’t have to worry about it for a while.  What are our large items you say?  Diapers, toilet paper, dog food, etc.  Speaking of dog food…

We have three large dogs – the lightest one is about 70 pounds.  Here are Maya and Osa:

Not pictured is Cejas (he was probably in the waybackyard barking at vines at the time.)   We go through at least one big bag of dog food weekly and Maya gets an additional two cans of wet food a day, so we freaked and bought a bunch to get us by.

So, my main reason for heading to the grocery store last night, was to make sure we had something for Everett’s grandpa to eat and drink while he watched him the following day.  We didn’t have a pressing “need” for some of the other things <cough> all non-beer items <cough>, but they are nice to have around anyway.  So I threw on my rain jacket, grabbed my helmet and two grocery-getter panniers and headed out to the shed to get the bike ready.

Grocery Getters

The trip to Kroger is so short, you hardly notice it.  Once there, I dismounted and locked up on the grocery cart corral, removed the panniers and headed inside.

First things first – Diet Coke.  It either comes in a 12-pack or some odd little 3 1/2 pack of weirdly-shaped cans that cost twice as much.  12-pack it is.  One aisle over – the beer.  What I thought would be a dilemma was not…  I must buy a 12-pack…for balance, you see… 10 minutes later I was ready to go.

I love the U-Scan.  Our Kroger normally has two normal lines open, with 750 people waiting in each line.   The U-Scan will have 3 or 4 people in line, usually tech-savvy teenyboppers or old ladies who don’t realize where they are (I guess I would be classified as a mix – tech-savvy old lady?)  If you know what you are doing, it’s almost faster than a cashier and bagger combo.  There is no wasted time asking about the Plus Card or if you found everything today.  Anyhow, the U-Scan really can be confusing – especially when I put my panniers on the bag side and it alerted security that a burglary was in progress (I guess the machine only recognizes cloth bags?)  “Soooo, the cavity check won’t be necessary officer – panniers on the ground it is. Whoa! Easy!  I said panniers…”

I left the store with two equally-balanced bags, hooked them up and pedaled home through the night, feeling very successful.  However, I’m not crazy about the panniers.  I mounted them all the way back on my rack and my heels still hit them damn near every time I pedaled.  Any advice on how to fix that?

Last night, on the way home, a minivan slowed, then stopped next to me at a red light. “What’s that contraption behind you called…and where did you get it?” the woman behind the wheel wanted to know.  “Would my daughter fit in one?  She’s four.”

People want to know – what is that?  What’s in that?  And how far am I pulling that?  Answers: a trailer; either a) a baby if it’s in the morning and I’m riding on neighborhood streets or b) my bag and stuff if it’s in the afternoon or evening and I’m lugging it down Cascade; and everywhere I go!

I’m on day two of keeping the trailer attached to my old steel bike everywhere I go, and I’m loving it.

I’ve counted zero honks, zero buzzings, and zero close calls while pulling the trailer.  Two cars letting me pull out from driveways in front, four people wanting to know more about my “contraption,”  and too many grins and slow head shakes to count.

For everyone wondering what kind of trailer I’m pulling, it was a gift from the ABC Board (thanks guys!) – the Baby TransIT rumble seat.  Any trailer is a big improvement over the old bike seat my dad rode us kids around in – much safer and much easier to maneuver and balance. And it’s a huge improvement over tying your kid’s Red Radio Flyer wagon by the handle with rope to your seat post and hoping for the best (true story – I still bear the scars and my mom still brings that story up whenever my father has a harebrained idea…)

Anyway…Consumer Reports has an article about trailers and reviews here.

Bottom line – in a town like Atlanta where not everyone is bike friendly (yet), pulling a trailer that could be concealing a baby is not a bad move.  It does weigh 20 pounds and Everett adds another 28, and I’m not a light packer, but I had been meaning to lose the baby weight anyway, I mean eventually, not by dieting or exercising, or anything extreme like that.  More in a roundabout, if it just happens, kind of way.

But now I’m hoping that a few months of pulling double duty I’ll be able to shake “So when are you due again?”  (no joke!  happened to me three times on one day a year after the baby was born) and move on to, “So where do you work out?” without ever having to set foot inside a gym.

Over the last year or so, I’ve moved from mainly commuting by bike, to mainly commuting by running.  And as Rebecca said earlier, we also gained a family member, so schedules had to be adjusted, routes tweaked, methods of mobility modified and weather watched closely.  Eliminating the car crutch altogether made us excited and meant we were going to have to have to pedal/run harder and farther and plan ahead more.  Luckily, we love us some planning!  Here’s what we came up with:

Morning: Josh runs to work.  Rebecca takes E to daycare by bike.

Afternoon: Josh runs to daycare, picks E up, walks across the tracks to the West End MARTA station, takes the #71 bus home.  Rebecca bikes home.

On any day if the weather is bad, whoever is transporting Everett takes MARTA.

Simple.  Easy.  Relaxing…

Just in case Everett decided he didn’t enjoy the bus ride, his momma very smartly packed a “Flip-Out Bag©” full of snacks, drinks and whirligigs to keep him occupied for the 15-minute ride and brought it to me.  Awesome!

I left work at 4:00pm and started my 2-mile run to daycare.  It was over 60 degrees and sunny when I exited the building; a fantastic change from the snow we had two weeks ago.  Once there and buzzed in, I grabbed Everett and his diaper bag/backpack and went outside.

Problem #1 – How do I carry two backpacks and a 30-pound baby to the station a half-mile away?

Solution #1 – Tie the backpacks together so they stick out 3 feet from your back.  But hey – two hands free again!

A train was moving along the tracks I needed to cross to get to the MARTA station, so Everett and I went across the street to Adair Park and I let him run around while we waited.  After playing for a while (Everett running around pointing at everything saying “dog”,) I realized the train had not only stopped, but had not moved for the last 10 minutes.

Problem #2 – How do we get across the tracks and get to our station?

Observed Solution – Walk up to tracks with baby in stroller.  Remove baby.  Throw stroller between two train cars so it lands on the side of the tracks you want to be on.  Hold onto baby while climbing over the space between the cars.  Replace baby in stroller.  Continue on your merry way.

Not wanting to endanger the little guy – as well as not being too comfortable with trains lately – that solution was entirely off the table.

Solution #2 – Walk down the tracks to the end of the train and then cross the tracks behind it.

Finally, back on the road again, Everett pointed to the train behind us and said, “dog”.  Yes, my son.  Yes…

We arrived at the MARTA station just in time to watch our bus pull away.  Being rush hour however, I was more than happy to see the already overloaded bus depart without us crammed in there.  So we sat on a bench and waited for the next one.

Sometimes being out and about in the city, you’ll catch a brief whiff of some strange smell.  Thankfully it usually passes quickly or you walk through it.  As Everett and I sat there, a funky smell arrived, and I hoped the breeze would change and send it elsewhere.  Unfortunately, this smell came from close by.  Way too close…

Problem #3 – Everett dropped a deuce and I’m at a MARTA station.

Solution #3 – Commence the longest sigh/headshake EVER and then head to the bathroom in the station. Take off both backpacks and dig for the materials needed.  Stand Everett up on the heat register in the bathroom.  Change him while standing.  Wash up, suit up, and head out.

At first I thought this was going to be a giant disaster, but it turned out to be a surprisingly easy task.  The bathroom was not baby-friendly, but we made it work.  Everett was in a good mood and that really helped a lot.  Sometimes his diaper changes look like Greco-Roman wrestling matches.  Thanks for cooperating buddy!

Finally, the #71 bus arrived and we got on and grabbed a seat.  The ride was relaxing and Everett really enjoyed seeing all the people get on and off.  I never even had to break out the Flip-Out Bag©.  We got off at our street and walked home, enjoying the last of the day’s sunshine and looking forward to doing it all over again.

Dad’s Mileage

Running Miles:  5.5

Walking Miles: 0.75

Transit Miles: 1.8

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