Thanks for the interest and the replies so far. Like becnal says, it's not insurmountable, and there are many solutions. But I like seeing a good discussion of some options, maybe I'll get some ideas, and maybe it will help others.
Originally Posted by Platy
Attercoppt, first, I'd have to say it's amazing to me that you've managed to be car-lite in an isolated small town. Can you say more about how you've been able to do it?
Is a motorcycle an option?
Second question first, yes, a motorcycle is an option. It's out of my price range at the moment, but then if I can get a good price for my current vehicle, that could go towards buying a motorcycle. Of course I wouldn't be in the market for a new Harley anyway - just something smallish and dependable. This probably isn't the forum for recommendations on that; I have some from elsewhere anyway.
How I do it (Hopefully I can make this brief, I have a tendency to ramble):
First a little background:
I moved here towards the end of August, having lived in various suburbs and satellites of St Louis for three years. Though I had once been car-free for a year, and car-lite for another three (back in my hometown), living car-free wasn't something that even ever occurred to me while there. Some of the jobs I had in the city I couldn't have done without a car.
My Blazer broke down about two hours away from the town I moved to. I bought a used van where I was and made the rest of the trip. (And that
is a whole other story.) Once here, I stayed at an RV park for a few days until I found a job and a place to live. My license plates expired at the end of August and weren't registered to the van anyway, so I quit driving it "until I got new plates". I also let my auto insurance lapse, since it was from another state and on another vehicle anyway.
I brought my bike with me, even though in the year and a half or so that I had had it, I had hardly ever ridden it. Even on the few occasions I didn't drive, I walked. When I got here, though, it was easier to ride anywhere in town - it was all close. It was also cheaper than gas, and legal - no plates necessary. I rediscovered cycling and found I really enjoyed it once I was out of the oppressive heat and humidity of Missouri summers and the biting cold of Missouri winters.
I work part-time at a restaurant. It's not something I want to do forever, but it pays the bills with a little left over, and it leaves me lots of free time to do whatever I want.
Now, how do I do it?
As I said, it's a small town. Anywhere in the city limits is probably no more than a 5-minute ride. Even the recycling bins out south of town are only 2 miles away, and that's the farthest I typically go on utility rides. We have one major grocery store, and one mini-department store, with a few groceries and a good selection of everything else (it's sometimes described as being like a mini-Wal-Mart). There's a great thrift store, a chain hardware store, an LBS, a good library, etc. etc.
My commute is literally a walk in the park. I live off the NW corner of the main town park, my work is near the SE corner. It really sees too short to bike, so I nearly always just walk - takes about 5 minutes if I dawdle. The post office is about the same distance the opposite direction. My bank is just north of the LBS, which is about a 10-minute walk/5-minute ride from my apartment. The grocery store is maybe a 10-minute ride. the library is currently about 5, but is moving closer to my place.
My neighbor will often knock on my door as he's heading to the store to see if I want a ride there. Lately, I've been taking him up on it if it's really cold or there's a lot of snow on the ground. I figure he's going anyway, might as well carpool. The husband of a woman I work with picked me up on the way back from the store yesterday (I was walking) - he was headed past my place, so I was polite and rode with him for like six blocks. He and his wife also ran me up to Denver to catch the train when I visited my parents for Christmas, and took me back as well (they brought their son up to the airport, so I stayed with a friend in Boulder two nights, then rode back with them).
Looks like I have rambled a bit, but what it boils down to is:
I began out of economic necessity, and learned that it was pretty easy as well as enjoyable;
Everything I need is in town (as long as I don't mind not having big box stores and chain restaurants, and I don't);
The town is pretty small in size, so everything's close;
I take occasional car rides, both within (even when not strictly necessary) and out of town.
Honestly, another major impediment to immediately selling the van is the fact that I have a bunch of stuff stashed in it - mostly dumpster-dived lumber for a project that's currently on hold.