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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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…

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.