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…

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:

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.