February 2010


The dogs were barking at me.  Everett was crying and holding an empty bottle.  I think the refrigerator flipped me off…  It was time to stop messing around with pannier shopping and hook up the trailer for a heavy load.

I thought I had a great grocery-getting system figured out.  I bought a large plastic tote that fit inside the trailer.  Once I arrived and locked up at the store, the tote was going into a shopping cart and all my groceries would go into that.  Then they would all come out at checkout, go back into the tote again and then I would put the whole thing in to the trailer and ride away.  But the tote didn’t quite fit in properly.  It bounced around and tipped over because of the lowered foot area of the floor.   I wasn’t ready for a 30 – 40 pound container to spill groceries everywhere.  So I turned to my old friend the Ikea Bag…

I brought two with me to Kroger.  I had a pretty long list and wasn’t sure if two bags would cut it, but in the end everything worked out great.  After emptying my cart at the checkout, I opened up both bags and placed them in the cart, telling the cashier to put everything in those and not to use any plastic bags.  Note:  Bringing your own shopping bags hasn’t quite caught on yet at our Kroger.  I’ve given my bags to the baggers many times and turned away to pay only to find that they bagged the groceries in plastic first (heavy items double-bagged) and then put them in the cloth bags.
Once outside, it was super easy loading everything up.  Here’s what it looked like:

My cargo weighed in around 85 pounds – about half of the trailer’s weight-carrying capacity.  The ride was obviously a bit slower than usual, but the braking and maneuvering of my Bianchi Volpe remained excellent.

The Ikea bags had a very useful advantage over the tote – they’re flexible and shape themselves to utilize the maximum space inside the trailer (and also keep items from shifting too much.)

Before I partook this bike-trailer grocery-quest, I had built up this idea in my over-thinking head that I really needed to figure out how to lock everything up once at the store.  Should I bring two U-locks?  One U-lock and a cable lock?  One giant chain?  Should I just bring my dog and leave her tied up next to it? I researched this a bit beforehand, but the interwebs didn’t have much information when I googled .  In the end, I locked up to the front door shopping cart corral – Bike with U-lock and trailer with cable lock.  I think this is sufficient, though I will probably use two U-locks in the future (just in case.)

So finally, the dogs are quiet, the baby’s asleep and the refrigerator and I are back on good terms…

Yesterday we decided to ride over to check out the Capitol View after hearing how great the elementary school was from the woman who runs metro Atlanta’s Safe Routes to School program.  We have several friends who live in the neighborhood as well as adjacent Adair Park, and have a little history with Perkerson Park – it’s where Josh won me over, although I didn’t know it at the time!

It was Hands on Atlanta Day, 2006.  While the rest of the rag-tag band of volunteers were using their fingernails to scrape paint off an old railing (I’m almost not exaggerating here – I’ve been to many Hands On Atlanta Days, and if you get a bad volunteer coordinator, you are in for some ditzy DIY not-so-much-improvements.) our group was asked to build a picnic table, but we weren’t provided any tools, just the kit.  Luckily Josh had come prepared with a well-stocked and organized tool box.  He stayed late with me to finish after everyone else but the organizer had given up.

Back to yesterday.  It was a gorgeous spring-like day, so riding bikes there was a no-brainer.  It does take a little longer to get packed and ready with a kiddo and bike trailer, but since we were setting out for a longer trip the extra preparation paid off.  Everett only needed the Freak-Out Bag TM once, but once is enough!  Waving the snack pack at him usually does the trick.

Josh is a big proponent of neon reflective vests, and E’s at the mimic stage, so he decided he needed one too.

We took the same route I normally use to take Everett to daycare in Adair Park, so the video below shows the West End streets we bike daily.

The house was stunning.  An open house was being set up, so we got to see the inside even though we hadn’t brought our realtor.  The neighborhood was very diverse – lots of young professional looking types, lots of teens and kids, and some older folks.   As we were wandering around trying to find the house, a sketchy looking dude stopped suddenly when he saw us and yelled out, “I love your baby cart!”  I need to be less judge-y.

It may have been the aforementioned gorgeous spring-like weather, but people were so nice yesterday it was ridiculous.

That was the theme for the ride – hardened looking guys wearing gang colors breaking into huge grins when they saw the bike trailer.  Teenage girls and cooing over how adorable Everett was.  Older ladies we expected to wag fingers slowing down to exclaim over our little family bike trip.  Toddler girls at the park telling me, “I LOVE your baby!”  White dude in a pickup truck who hollered  out “crazy bikers!” turning out to be Tim, who runs BeltLine Bikes in Adair Park (and for whom Josh was mistaken earlier in our ride when we ran into some kids on bikes in Adair Park.  After a brief hesitation, “Hey Mr. Tim!”)  Josh can’t hear well so he just said Hey back and we rolled on home.

Amazingly, I passed another cyclist on my way home.  Lots of people were walking in the West End, too.

When you need coffee, beer, and toothbrushes, it doesn’t matter much what the weather outside is like .

Speaking of which, I could NOT get that song out of my head tonight:

Oh the weather outside is frightful, but inside it’s so delightful.  As long as you love me so, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

One problem I’ve never had on my  Miyata 1000LT

is Sudden Unintended Acceleration.  Nope, never been an issue!  More like extremely tepid, very intentional, mild acceleration.  That’s more like it.

Even when I do have a breakdown, as I did just this week, I have a back-up bike (or two…) in the garage.

Monday morning was a real Monday this week.  I heard a timid squeaking sound coming from my chain, but chose to ignore it.  Bad move.  Nearing the top of the hill on Donnelly, it snapped. Pow!  Everett seemed impressed with the pop as we coasted to a slow stop in the driveway of a house that has been in various stages of remodeling for months.

Immediately a car pulled over.  Wow, I thought – people are so helpful around here!  Two older men stepped out, and walked deliberately around us to get a closer look at the phone number on the dumpster behind the house. “Is that an 818 or 810?”  “I think it’s an 818.”   “Oh, hi.” And that was the extent of that.

I fiddled with my chain for a few minutes, on the off chance I could somehow bend the link back again with my bare hands.  Superwoman though I am, that proved impossible (must have been the light chill in the air…yeah, that’s it).

But then another bike rider pulled up.  “You got a chain tool?” I asked, hoping, hoping.  “No, but let me see what I can do.”  Five minutes later, we both gave up.  Everett was miraculously quiet and chill the entire time (thanks, kid!)

“They say you should always carry a spare chain and a chain tool,” he noted.  (Here’s Mike at Intown on what to carry.)   I gave our new acquaintance a set of lights, and he took off for the library (after offering to walk us home – I demurred).

It didn’t take long to get back to the house since we we were just about a mile away.  We coasted down hills and pushed back up (well, I pushed – Everett just continued to be cooperative, but heavy).  Home before we knew it, I rolled my bike into the shed and picked out another bike from our collection.

That’s another nice thing about bikes – you can afford to own a backup (or two)!

Thursday afternoon, one of Atlanta’s few remaining bike messengers came in through the open door at ABC.  He came bearing a gift – a rusty but very functional multitool…with a chain attachment.

In case you’re interested, here’s how to fix a broken bicycle chain.  (Your chain is pretty sure to break if you don’t click on the link, and unlikely to snap if you do.)

Ah, the naysayers.  Not only can they not live without a car, they don’t think anyone else can do it either.  So many reasons.  We say, if you don’t want to do it, that’s probably why you can’t.

Among the reasons:

  • It’s too dangerous [Is it?]
  • It’s too far to bike/walk/transit [Is it?]
  • I have to pick up / drop off my kids / dog / mother-in-law [We do too!]
  • MARTA doesn’t go where I need it to go [Look harder in a 2 mile radius]
  • There are no bike lanes in my community [Neither in ours…]
  • I hate getting wet / cold / sweaty [I do too – but you get used to it]
  • My husband / wife / baby daddy/mama would never go for it [Everyone is capable of change…if they want to]

I’ll post more on each of the Nays later.

For now, a quick highlights reel of why I’m loving this car-free thing right now!

  • Guilt free cartons of ice cream
  • More quality time with my kid and husband (on the bus/train/bike – as opposed to feeling stressed in a car, or with Everett facing backwards in the back sleep)
  • Running into friends on my commute, and being able to truly interact with them, even riding along for  a ways
  • No worries about being car-jacked (hey, if it can happen to the city council president, it can happen to you)
  • No impulsive shopping trips to Target where we spend too much money, waste too much time, and have too little to show for it
  • Realization that I could have been shopping online all along, saving time and money!
  • Creative juices flowing as we plan new adventures together
  • No $$$ spent on gasoline, oil changes, major or minor repairs, impulsive gas station buys, or car accessories.  All those little thing really added up.
  • (We’re still shopping non-owner car insurance so we have coverage if we borrow a friend or family member’s car from time to time, so still paying that for now.)
  • Our nice empty driveway means we never worry about having our car stolen!  Ooops, did I already mention that?  Turned out to be one of those worries I only noticed after it was lifted.
  • More control over our lives.
  • Guilt-free travel – previously I would sometimes agonize over the “right” way versus the easy way to get somewhere.  I would want to bike or take MARTA but let time get away until it was too late to do anything but drive, or I would drive to the grocery store (one sheepish mile away) because it would have been too difficult, in my mind, to lug all those groceries home.  Turns out I was just wrong, and I’m loving it!
  • Knowing our healthful travel modes will not only benefit our own health and financial well-being, but are good for everyone around us by contributing to cleaner air, greater sense of community, and less wear and tear on the roads.

Now if only all the drivers would get that memo.

When man invented the bicycle he reached the peak of his attainments.  Here was a machine of precision and balance for the convenience of man.  And (unlike subsequent inventions for man’s convenience) the more he used it, the fitter his body became.  Here, for once, was a product of man’s brain that was entirely beneficial to those who used it, and of no harm or irritation to others.  Progress should have stopped when man invented the bicycle.

~Elizabeth West, Hovel in the Hills

June 2011 edit: If you are interested in run commuting, stop by The Run Commuter to learn more including techniques, gear reviews, route planning, personal anecdotes, etc.

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I’m not sure why I started running to work.  I think it was kind of a Forrest Gump thing:

“Now you wouldn’t believe me if I told you, but I could run like the wind blows.  From that day on, if I was ever going somewhere, I was running!”

Don’t let the skinny fool you though – I definitely don’t “run like the wind.”  Who wants to get to work as fast as possible anyway?

So after about two years of bike commuting, I changed my shoes and hoofed it in one day.  Winded and walking after about a mile, I pondered crossing the street and catching that MARTA bus coming up behind me.   The Ole 71.  Ole Smoky.  The Old Man…  But, I had calculated this puppy prior to pushing off.  It takes the same amount of time for me to run to work than it would by taking transit. So, I let it roll by and have let it pass me by pretty much every time since that first run.

The immediate issue when I started run commuting was sweating.  It’s a 3 1/2 mile run in and I start sweating around the end of mile 1 no matter what temperature it is outside.  My office has no showers either.  I decided that my best bet would be to take a shower before I leave home and get a fan to stand in front of once in my office.  This has actually worked fine year-round.  I keep a few extra personal hygiene items in my desk to freshen up once I have cooled down.  Some other run commuters I’ve talked with suggested using baby wipes for a post-run rub down (just like the army days :o)

My second issue was clothing.  My office dress code is business casual and occasionally I’ll have to wear the full suit/tie, lordamercy combo (not a fan.)  I pick out an outfit every morning, iron it and then fold it up and bring it with me.  I also try and keep a jacket and dress pants hanging in my office for those fun days when I have to wear them.

Another suggestion is to drive all your clothes in on Monday, run Tuesday through Thursday and then drive everything back home on Friday.  For me, this solution would make great sense if I had a longer commute (5+ miles each way,) but so far, running the clothes in each day has been great.

My newest issue since being car-free has been stuff for Everett.  When I leave work at the end of the day, I’m either running straight home (if the grandparents are watching him at our place) or to daycare to pick him up.  If I pick Everett up, we take the bus.  On the bus, there is always a chance Everett will flip out, so we have a Flip-Out Bag (mentioned earlier here.)  Contents: Two diapers, wipes, kleenex, something to drink, trail mix and a book.

All of this has to come with me in a nice, waterproof package.

For a backpack I use an Osprey Revo.  It’s lightweight, has a waist strap to keep bouncing down and has good carrying capacity, but it is not waterproof.  Enter the Ikea bag.  Here’s the whole setup:

L to R, top to bottom: Backpack, Ikea Bag, Coffee, Gloves, Sunglasses, Work Clothes, Keys, Small Wet Weather Bag (cellphone, wallet, flash drives), Work ID, Hats, Compass, Bus Schedule, First Aid Kit, Dry Socks, Tazer, Mp3 Player (not shown: Everett's Flip-Out bag)

It weighs between 8 and 15 pounds, depending on what I’m wearing and if I bring a lunch or not.  It took about a week to get used to the extra weight.  After that, I don’t even feel it anymore.

If it rains (like Friday morning – holy crap!), everything goes into the Ikea bag and then in my main compartment.  Best wet weather bag ever.

A compass, you ask?  Yes, it has stayed in there ever since a couple of months ago when Kyle Torok and I started running the Beltline on the weekends.

A tazer?  Yes.  Explained in another post.  Maybe.

But what does it all look like together?

Like I just got attacked by a Goodwill store (which does occasionally happen.)

Whatever.  Everett doesn’t judge me…