Everyone needed a break after Streets Alive!, so we decided to take a trip the following weekend and relax. I’m not sure how we came across this fact on the interwebs, but Asheville, NC is the most vegetarian-friendly small city in the United States. Being vegan and eating while travelling has always been a bit tough for us, so this sounded like the perfect getaway.

Rebecca found that Enterprise Rent-A-Car has a few Toyota Prius at their ATL airport location that rent for around $30 per day on the weekend, so we booked one for Friday through Sunday. Picking the car up was kind of fun. I planned on taking the bus to the West End MARTA station, but while walking up our street, a neighbor drove by and asked if I was going there and wanted a ride, so I hopped in. We talked the whole way about the economy, her two jobs and our neighborhood (always a big topic.)

This is one of those things that happen to us a lot more now – we interact more often with the people around us. Before our interaction was mainly waving from our vehicle at people as we passed them. Now when I run in to work nearly every person I pass – homeless men, women out taking their morning walks, people waiting at bus stops, kids on the way to school – says “good morning” or “hello.” They were all blurs outside of the driver’s side window six months ago. Anyhow…

Asheville was pretty cool. The trip there wasn’t as quick as we expected, but we were riding with an 18-month-old who is not used to sitting still for very long, let alone four hours. Thank goodness for Elmo videos on a smartphone! We stayed at a little cabin on a river and ventured out sightseeing in between Everett naps.

The restaurants were cool; we really liked the variety of healthy vegan food available at Rosetta’s Kitchen. The downtown area was great and very walkable (until we were almost run over in a crosswalk by a cop) and we managed to be there at exactly the same time as a local beer festival was taking place. Rebecca took some time to chat up the great people of Asheville on Bikes, who were running a bike valet for the event and Everett found a fountain to play in. The next day we packed up and headed home.

We made it back late Sunday afternoon and I had to bring the car back to the airport. I didn’t want to spend a lot of time waiting for a bus, so I just put my bike in the car and took off. I dropped off the car, pushed my bike through the building to board the new skytrain, linked up with the MARTA at the airport and finally biked home from the West End. What sounds like a two-hour ordeal only took about 45 minutes. And this is on a Sunday night…riding MARTA.

On a future weekend trip, we’re going to try Amtrack. Stay tuned…

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It’s been two month since we last blogged. Two months!  Occasionally we say to each other, vaguely, we should blog more. So and so asked if we were still blogging.  Are we? We nod sagely – we should blog about something, soon.  But about what?  We ask.  We agree that we don’t know.

Being car-free has turned out to be a fairly ordinary experience, in the best possible of ways.  All the predictions that we’d give up when we found out how hard it was to live in Atlanta without a car have not come to pass.  All our questions and concerns have faded.  All the excuses and fears that kept us from doing it sooner have been quieted by our day to day existence,  crowded out by our happy, boring lives. And we like it that way!

The biggest news I have to share is that we have started buying tall beers in aluminum cans at the gas station, where a kindly old man watches over our bikes.  I gave him a dollar yesterday, which he nearly wouldn’t take but finally did so with great pleasure.  I would have watched it for nothing, you know.  I knew, and that’s why I felt moved to dig around in my purse.

The first time I biked for our beer I rolled into the crowded storefront, insistent that No Way was I leaving my precious bicycle outside.  No bike racks around here. No fence posts, even!  I was taking my mode inside, and there was nothing the gentlemen behind the bullet-proof glass could do about it. I think they realized it would take them longer to kick me out than to ring me up, so I escaped with my six pack.

So there you have it – my big news.  Beer in cans is easier to transport by bike. Unless you have The Perfect Bike Bag, which is a meaty (faux meaty anyway) topic I’ll bravely tackle in a future post!

Til then, ride on, my brave ones.  Ride on.

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.