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Living Car Free Do you live car free or car light? Do you prefer to use alternative transportation (bicycles, walking, other human-powered or public transportation) for everyday activities whenever possible? Discuss your lifestyle here.

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Old 10-05-07, 06:00 PM   #1
bmclaughlin807
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My Car free history

I'm posting this because of someone else's comment about what makes us become car free... I figure it's long, it should be in it's own thread... Feel free to add your own stories! Should be interesting.

I've ridden bikes since I was young... I realized that my bike could take me a lot further than my feet could. Even as a teen I stayed on the bike... I'm pretty independent and I didn't like to ask people for ANYTHING. I can't remember a time when my family had fewer than three working vehicles, and that even with only ONE licensed driver.

When I got my first job, I rode my bike to work every day, and when I got my first paycheck, I went down and bought my first ever NEW bike. The entire rest of the summer I took home $20 a week while working full time at a pretty good pay rate... the rest went into a savings account through my work. At the end of the summer I bought a computer for $1,300 cash. (Through the company I was working for... they were getting a pretty sizable discount... about a $500 discount on that computer over what I saw similar computers going for.)

I did get my driver's license when I was 16... but only because there was only one licensed driver in my family and I wanted it just in case something bad happened. I don't think I drove any of the family cars more than a dozen times, and even then, it was because someone ELSE needed to go somewhere.

When I turned 18 I went into the Navy... Guess what? Everyone else is car free in boot camp, too! And the majority of them are car free during schooling.

I did buy a car then, which I drove for around 2 years before it's engine blew... and I promptly bought another, and got ripped off pretty severely by the sales company. (They stole $3,600 from me. Essentially twice: My down payment, plus what I paid to pay off my old car... I was stranded in Boise, Idaho, and in a hurry to be on my way... I didn't pay NEARLY enough attention to the paperwork... turns out they rolled what I owed on the old car into the new car loan and never gave me credit for the money I paid them... I got f#$#ed.)

A year and a half later I got fed up with dealing with the bank and told them to come get their damn car... and went back to being car free for the next several years.

Being in the military is a fairly easy place to be car free... especially if you're living on a ship or in the barracks. Everything you absolutely NEED is easily within walking distance, there's always mass transit close by, plus you've always got friends that have cars.

When I was stationed in Bremerton, Washington I met my future wife. We were both stationed at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. We moved into a place that was less than a half block from one of the gates... it actually took me about a third of the time to WALK to the ship that it would take for someone to drive me there. And driving myself to work??? The parking lot was further from the pier than my house! Can't ask for much better than that!

We got a car, which we had for about 9 months... in that time it was stolen twice (by supposed 'friends') and had several minor issues. The last issue happened while I was out to sea, and she had a shop 'fix' it... well they did a lousy job, it broke down, and was left in a parking lot, where it was towed in less than 3 hours.... by the time my wife found out where it was, they were claiming over $800 in towing and storage fees... so she let them keep it.

After about a year and a half of car free, we bought a jeep... it was fine until the head gasket blew after about a year... then we got a Ford Escort.... which served us very well until some lady demolished it making an illegal left turn. So we went back to car free for a year. then bought the most recent vehicle, a full-size Chevy Blazer... Which was always breaking down, or needing replacement parts. Finally, when the transmission went out on it, I just didn't fix it... I left it there and just rode my bike (I'd been doing that on and off, anyway, as the 4x4 lifted blazer with 31" tires doesn't get very economical gas mileage! )

So... I've been without a personal vehicle since February 2006, and I'm in NO hurry to change that!
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Old 10-05-07, 07:56 PM   #2
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My car-free story starts in 2nd grade when I persuaded my folks to let me ride my bike to school. Pretty soon I was riding well beyond the bounds that they set for me. Down Highway 41 to friends, past the hobby shop to Sears because they had different models, across the bridge to Siesta Key to visit friends.

In 6th grade we moved to St. Pete. I quickly found myself going all the way downtown. By 9th grade we were in Tampa and I pretty much pedaled all over the town from Temple Terrace to McDill AFB. Then I moved to L.A. and was soon doing trips between the Baldwin Hills and Palos Verdes Peninsula and back. I graduated and went to UC Santa Barbara where I discovered all the lovely bike paths and the joy of living among thousands of bicyclists. I was corrupted.

I ended up moving back to L.A. and moving in with my parents. I commuted by bike to my job and college and did a lot of riding. I had use of my Dad's van and a great girlfriend. But when I became 21, the parental gravy train ended and I moved out.

Having no car turned out to be a blessing. From the start I was able to pay all my bills and rent. I got to work and school and rode out to the beach on weekends. My first vacation was a bicycle trip up to a campground near Magic Mountain and then down the Santa Clarita Valley and on to my Mom's in Santa Barbara.

My Dad came through with a lead to a job at Hughes Aircraft, where he worked. The job was carrying boxes, but it was a start and the pay was good. I discovered that I was able to use my bike to carry computer chips between sites. The union truckers hated me because it would take them a day and I could do it in 20 minutes. I soon saved up enough for a Honda CB400F, a sweet little rice rocket. But working on military contracts was getting to me and a while later I decided to take some time off to reevaluate my situation. I had read "The Drifters" by James A. Michner and "Between My Legs" by Chaim Sil and I decided that the thing to do was go to Europe on a bicycle tour.

I flew into Gatwick, pedaled to Brighton and then to Dover and took a ferry to Oostend. From there I pedaled to Amsterdam. I was getting restless and hopped onto the train to Venice. There I realized that Venice was bike-hostile as there were no roads, just canals and winding pedestrian sidewalks. So I hopped on the train again, bound for Calais. As luck would have it, my bike didn't arrive in Calais. I waited for a week, checking every day. I'm convinced that the SCNF pirated it because I had put a japanese grupo on my Peugeot. So I gave up and took the train to Amsterdam and then Copenhagen where I met a Swedish lady who invited me up to her place in Stockholm for a week.

I had some business to take care of back in the states, so I flew back, took care of the business and then went touring around the U.S. for a month via a Greyhound Ameripass.

After I returned, I found a job with a company called Information International and as I walked in the door, I knew I was in the right place for me. My best friend and I found a place near by and moved in. Since I had lost two bikes in the past year, one in France, one in Hawaii where my girlfriend had gone and gotten involved with Scientologists, I needed a bike and traded him some wood left over from when my girlfriend dropped me for an American Eagle/Nishiki. Great trade. I still have the bike. It was a great bike for my needs. I rode it to work, then to college at night and then back, about 20 miles a day. One time I was waiting at a light and a Mustang ran me over, throwing me to the pavement. I was lucky though, only my rear wheel was crushed.

But soon I got restless and bought myself a Centurion Pro Tour. It disappeared within a month as two different gangs targeted me at the same time. Last I saw, the bike was up in the air between the gangs as I ran towards the police station nearby. The police refused to look, despite the grand theft, assault and the fact that a witness called in the crime as I was standing in the police station. The next night I was back on the American Eagle and dropped 10 minutes off my 10 mile commute time in a single night. The power of paranoia.

That event and my sister's new daughter born in Santa Barbara helped persuade me that it was time to go back to UC Santa Barbara to finish my degree. For Santa Barbara, I convinced a friend to give me his Pegasus 10 speed. It had a wonderful laid-back frame. So relaxed that it could not be convinced to pop a wheelie. And it tracked so straight that it was perfect for UCSB parties. I lived farther from campus now, and it was a good 20 minute ride to campus.

The American Eagle needed work so I saved money by only riding the Pegasus. But, just before graduation the Pegasus was needing work and I was out of money. I had been sharing the apartment with my brother and he had left an old Montgomery Ward 10-speed out on the porch when he moved out. I inflated its tires and they held, so I rode it.

Two weeks later, the frame of the Montgomery Ward fell apart. I was able to cinch it back together with turnbuckles and baling wire and what do you know, it worked. Sadly, a week later or so, some kind soul on campus undid all the turnbuckles while I was in class. I walked it back to the apartment and tried to redo my wiring. I think the fellow also kicked on the bike because it would go back together quite. But I did get it close and it lasted till 3 days after graduation.

By next January, I had managed to get a job creating computer graphics in downtown L.A. I stayed with my grandmother while I found an apartment and got my American Eagle back up and running. The job was swing shift, so I would ride into downtown in the afternoon and maybe stop at the downtown L.A. library before it got burned, and then back out at night. If I was still restless, then I'd go out cruising to Hollywood.

My apartment was about 3 hilly miles from downtown, but the neighborhoods were dicey. One day, I was pedaling up a hill on 3rd when a teen on a Stingray passed me and then rolled over my front wheel with his back wheel, crashing me to the ground. I got back up and pursued him, passing him just before a truck parked on the street. When he realized that he had to stop for the truck, he stiff-armed me instead of slowing down. That pushed both of us out into traffic and my rear wheel tacoed as I went sideways.

I lost the Pegasus at the last L.A. Street Scene. It was a giant concert venue. I say Jackson Browne, El Rayo X and others for free. It was wild. Midnight Oil was singing the chorus of the Power and the Passion, a song about government repression when the LAPD calvary charged the stage on horseback. I came away from the concert to discover that only my chain and lock were left, on corner with no fewer than 4 cops on it at any time. That night was chaos and riots. I walked back with the lock and chain for protection.

And I GOT A CAR! The real reason was that I had decided that women in L.A. wouldn't date a guy without one. It was a cherry 1962 VW van. I also got a new job and a few months later it caused me to move to San Diego.

San Diego was the best bike commute ever. It was about 7 miles in distance, with the middle 5 miles going down the center of the Los Penasquitos Nature Preserve. I bought myself a Diamondback Ascent to make the trip. In the dawn, I could race the coyotes down the main trail.

I was not car-free, but definitely car lite. But the car had done its job and I got married. As I moved out of where I was living to move in with my bride, I discovered my American Eagle was missing. One of my roommates nicked it. After a lot of yelling and visits and threats of the police. I got most of the bike back.

Work was farther away now. So I also used the bus. My route also required riding my bike on the freeway for a short distance. I found it fun to have the Highway Patrol officer pull me over. I'd explain how bicycles were allowed on that section of the freeway and promise that they would see a sign ordering bikes to exit at the next offramp. They would escort me down, I'd point to the sign and wave goodbye to them as I left the freeway.
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Old 10-05-07, 07:56 PM   #3
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I had a couple of other jobs and other commutes. One was 17 miles each way. It was down Texas Canyon and back up the other side of Mission Valley and then a long flat stretch past the Miramar Air Station, then home to Top Gun school. I treated myself to a Bianchi Eros. Oh, what a lovely bike. But then one day I was returning home from shopping and saw a fellow riding a bike just like mine. He was much too small for the bike. I was a block from home and I realized that I had to get home immediately to protect my wife's stuff that was also in the garage. I saw a fellow making off with my tools, and at least managed to get him to drop them. We moved away a while after that. The neighborhood was going downhill. A year later a neighbor of ours lost his life trying to get a local tough to give back his wife's bike.

Soon I was living out in the desert, trying to run a business. I had a car for business trips, but otherwise I pedaled. It was probably my car-heaviest period. But the business had problems and I ended up getting a job. The commute was nice. Wide shoulders and flat well paved roads. The only problem was that it was up to 120 degrees in the summer. But I took that as a challenge. I also took the opportunity to run a sag stop for the Tour De Palm Springs at the 70th mile. I'm proud to say that people raved about the stop. The tour management found it odd though that I used my bicycle to do it. I'd ride from work into the Tour headquarters to load and pick up the truck, and throw my bike in the back and drive it back to the sag stop that was fortunately about 6 blocks from my home. Then after the Tour, I'd drive the truck back and pedal the 20 miles back afterwards.

Out of work once again, I looked for a job for 10 months before accepting an offer in Arkansas. My wife had been given a Specialized Hard Rock and a Sears Free Spirit. While I had used the Free Spirit as a beater, the Specialized had sat in the garage unused. The American Eagle was tired from 3 years of commuting in the desert and as I did research on what the roads of Little Rock were like, I wondered if I needed a tougher bike. I had bought my wife a nice large seat for the Specialized and now I put it on. She tried to ride the bike and suddenly discovered that the bike was too big for her. So I asked her to let me take it.

After I arrived in Little Rock, I added fenders, a rack and lights and it proved to be a durable commuter, well suited to the rough streets and steep hills of Little Rock. Several months after arriving here, I did buy a car, but have not used it much, in fact after two years, it's on the same tank of gas I put in it the day I bought it.

My dismay at riding conditions soon led me to join the Bicycle Advocacy of Central Arkansas. It turned out to be a great way to meet cyclists and not have to ride with them. But my marriage was breaking up and I celebrated the divorce by buying myself my first toy bike, a Giant Stiletto chopper. It was fun but frivelous. But christmas was coming and I ended up entering the Bicycle Advocacy into the local holiday parade so I had a good reason to ride my chopper.

For the most part, Little Rock has been okay. The corner of Markham and Shackleford seems like a negative power spot for me though. Near there, I have been pulled over by a cop and ordered to ride on the sidewalk. She would not give me her badge number, but I got her license plate and called the department and discovered that what she ordered me to do was specifically illegal. She got chewed out by a Sergeant.
Near there, I had a passenger of a car grab my elbow and try and drag me down and the next night in the same location I was shot by a passenger of a truck with a pellet gun. Near there last week, I was left-hooked by a motorist while riding my recumbent. I managed to miss hitting him by 1 foot, but only by using my shoes as additional braking surfaces.

But it's really been a renaissance of bicycling here. I like working with the Bicycle Advocacy group, going to shows to help explain to people how they can commute by bicycle. I've been taking a series of rides around a local lake on my recumbent. The road winds through farmlands and forests and lakeside and is really beautiful. With the recumbent, I keep my head up and can watch the hawks circling overhead when going uphill and I speed like a sports car going downhill.

I've helped at the opening ceremonies of the Big Dam Bridge, the longest bicycle/pedestrian bridge in the world, and helped at a sag stop for the first Big Dam Bridge 100 ride. I didn't have to do a century that weekend. With all the riding around, I covered 120 miles in 3 days. But this year, with the recumbent I've gotten bold enough to be trying for my first official century in a week at the Arky 100.

I realize there is danger, but I'm a 24/7 cyclist. I've been riding at night since 6th grade. I hope I have many years left. At my death, maybe I'll have my ashes put into the American Eagle and we'll both be thrown into the sea.
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Old 10-05-07, 09:20 PM   #4
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I grew up in rural Indiana so a car was necessary during my childhood. Biking and walking were for fun more than transportation.

I went to college in a smallish town in Minnesota. The college was fairly strict about not allowing students to have cars. I mostly walked because I liked walking. I didn't own a bike, but borrowed friends' when I needed to bike somewhere. This is where I met my future husband. I spent a couple summers back home in jobs that required driving. I carpooled with mom part of the time.

After graduation, my husband and I moved to Portland, OR. It seemed really pointless to get a car. We needed to save money, public transit was really good, and we had a bike to share. This was when we made to choice to not buy a car.

The next year, I dragged us to Salt Lake City, UT for grad school. We had a nasty hill to climb to get to the university. The change in altitude made it all that much harder to bike at first. So we took to walking and busing. That suited me fine since walking is my favorite mode of transportation. And it was only a 15-20 minute walk to work/class. Our first child was born while we were in SLC. As a grad student and an aspiring writer, we decided it was still financially better to be car free with a baby. Besides she screamed like a banshee in a car.

I gave up on my degree and we moved to Madison. The bike got left behind in Utah. But we lived in a string of apartments that were on bus routes to our place of employment. Working at the same place greatly simplified our transportation and childcare issues. We even added another child to the mix. I work mornings while he does the hands on parenting. Then we switch midday.

After a few years, we payed off student loans and bought a house near the bike path. We decided that bicycles would be a great addition to our transportation options. Since our oldest is getting competent at riding and the youngest is getting started, we've been gradually adding more bike trips to our routine. Bicycles are fairly popular here for commuting and recreation which makes it a pleasant experience.

We do drive some, using either a car share or rental cars. But we've worked to make sure that driving isn't a part of our daily or weekly routine.
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Old 10-06-07, 03:05 PM   #5
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30 years old, no license, never had a car, never missed one, likely will never have one, i prefer freedom and money to burn. The Netherlands is small and flat anyway, everything is pretty close on bike, the public transport is good. On those rare occasions (about once a year at most) i truly need a (maybe moving large belongings) car and driver i can always get one.
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Old 10-06-07, 08:41 PM   #6
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Great stories so far. I'm glad bmclaughlin had the great idea to start this thread.

I was born in 1955. By the time I was a teenager, I was into the counterculture pretty heavy. I decided not to get a car at the traditional age because I was concerned about pollution and the greenhouse problem. Also, I was heavily influenced by Thoreau and believed that cars were basically a form of slavery and reliance on the industrial system. I hitchhiked all over the US and Canada--great trips (in every sense of the word ). I also spent time in Europe, traveling by bike, train and thumb. More great trips!

I finally settled down in Jackson, MI and remained basically carfree, although I did own cars from time to time. I worked hard and saved enough money to continue traveling every year, including a few cross-country driving trips. I drove 80 miles round-trip to college, my only super-long commute ever. After college I went to grad school in East Lansing and eventually settled down in nearby Lansing, where I still live 20 years later. I've had a car for less than half the time I've lived in Lansing, and was carfree the rest of the time. Usually I walked, bused and used taxis and friends' cars. I've worked on inpatient psychiatric units for most of my career, and still do.

In 2000 I had a heart attack and made a good recovery. I lost over 100 pounds and began exercising seriously. My first exercise was walking. I commuted on foot, about 7 miles round trip at the time. I still enjoy walking as a respite for my muscles from riding so much.

One day, about five years ago, it suddenly occurred to me (a blaze of light in the middle of the road) that cycling would be a quicker way to travel, while still getting exercise and remaining carfree. I bought a terrible old mountain bike for $40 (way more than it was worth, I now know) and just started riding it. I hadn't cycled in about 20 years, but like they say, you never forget how. I fell a lot in my first couple years, including one very serious crash. By now I'm a pretty decent rider and If I fall now, it's kinda on purpose. It took me about four months to get up the courage to commute 7 miles round trip, but I finally did it. I rode that crappy bike for a couple more months, without lights even though I get out of work at 11:30 PM.

The first good bike I bought was an old Specialized Hardrock (like Artkansas) for about $100. That great bike lasted a couple years until it was stolen. I still prefer hardtail MTBs for most of my riding, although I have a couple vintage Fuji road bikes that I ride occasionally. I ride about 100 miles a week, all year round. I love all the seasons on my bike.
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Old 10-06-07, 10:24 PM   #7
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It's very interesting to see how different people arrive at the same place. I wish that I could say I was car-lite before I made the decision to become car free, but that was not the case - in fact quite the opposite.

The decision to get rid of my vehicles (I had three at one point - musclecar, truck and motorcycle) was based on me leaving my job of eleven years, with the intention to go off and explore the world...

I made it as far as Toronto (I was living in Saskatchewan previously). It was supposed to be a short layover (six months) but it turned into six years. I purchased a bicycle while there because it was more practical, more predictable in terms of commuting (time), and well...because I just love two wheels (I rode motorcycles for eleven years up until that point).

I still dabbled on the 'dark side' while in TO though. I got my private pilot's licence in 1998 and was working on my commercial licence up until early 2000. In latter 2001 and continuing into 2002, a lot of things shifted in my world - and the conscious decision to live a life with a lighter environmental footprint was made.

Moving to Vancouver and living amongst more like-minded individuals has helped to further my appreciation and respect for our environment.

Oh my god...I've become a tree hugger.
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Old 10-07-07, 11:45 AM   #8
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@ Roody, great story. Nice one for choosing for yourself/freedom a thoreau ian existence.

Was wondering, how did you drop a 100 pounds?! That is a lot. Just the walking, weights, diet? What do you mean by "serious" exercise?
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Old 10-07-07, 12:44 PM   #9
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Was wondering, how did you drop a 100 pounds?! That is a lot. Just the walking, weights, diet? What do you mean by "serious" exercise?
My wife has dropped over 60 lbs so far with really nothing more than being on the correct meds and going for 2-3 bike rides with me each week. Then, most of her weight gain was due to undiagnosed medical conditions... with the rest attributable to lack of exercise (Which can be blamed on said medical conditions and weight gain)

It can be a pretty bad cycle.
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Old 10-07-07, 01:00 PM   #10
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I have been car free and car light in the past and made a conscious decision this year to try and get back to at least car light in the next few years. I started riding bikes when I was 6 and never really completely stopped. I guess you could say I was carfree starting at age 16 until I turned 20, then bought an MG that would keep me car light for a few more years. Got married had 2 children in the mid 80's remained car light, wife drove, I rode. Only time I drove was if we went home for a weekend or for a vacation trip. Moved back to what passes for my home town, stayed on the bike as a primary form of transportation until I lost my job at a manufacturing plant when they closed. Unable to find any work that paid close to what I had been making I took a job that put me on the road. That was the end of my carlight days, and my marriage. That was in 1997, in the past 10 years I finally figured out why my life was unbalanced...not enough cycling. So after a long talk with my current wife we are going to try and make it so I can get off the road and live car light again in the next couple of years. I think the economy may play a big part in how it comes about. Whether we move into town and both work at our Bridal Shop, or stay on the farm and make our living that way. If the economy tanks I suspect that is what it is going to be. If it stays at least semi stable, it will be the house in town.

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Old 10-07-07, 02:03 PM   #11
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I really like this thread, because it's like the opposite of the carfree teenager thread. It's nice to hear from people who've been carfree/lite for much longer than I have. Sticky this, I say.
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Old 10-07-07, 03:43 PM   #12
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@ Roody, great story. Nice one for choosing for yourself/freedom a thoreau ian existence.

Was wondering, how did you drop a 100 pounds?! That is a lot. Just the walking, weights, diet? What do you mean by "serious" exercise
?
Thanks v1nce. I originally lost weight with a low fat restricted diet and moderate exercise every day. The hard part is keeping it off. I do that by eating a lot of vegetables every day, but otherwise I don't worry much about my diet. I now exercise vigorously for 60 to 90 minutes every day. That means fast riding in my case. In addition to this, I try to incorporate physical movement into my daily life all the time, except when I'm typing at a computer.
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Old 10-08-07, 11:07 PM   #13
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Well my cars always broke and I always had to fix them, I grew up MN, so I was all over ICE bike.

When I moved to the east coast in 98 (I planned on going car lite). I went across the pond allot.

I had a 77 t-bird that didn't fit in the towns very well LOL.
Any rate, I had mass, canoe, roller blade, bike, walk /crawl from the bars.

Then moved out west to a desert (like the olden days with a wagon ) to be car free while I go through college the second time. If I stay healthy I will be just fine)

After you start planning your life as if you are going to walk/bus everywhere ( carfree is easy after that.
Personally I would just move if I had to walk in the desert. I plan bus.

For myself I like the simplicity of it all.
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Old 10-08-07, 11:55 PM   #14
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My carfree experience is much more recent than most others on this thread. I had a car for most of my adult life. I never liked cars much, and walked whenever it was possible, but mostly drove, because it never dawned on me that there might be other options. A few years ago, I began to develop a teaching unit on global warming, and when the implications of the whole thing finally dawned on me, I totally freaked out. (I'm still freaked out, but that's another matter.) I started thinking about what I could do, and the most obvious thing was to ditch the car. I walked for a few weeks, which was pleasant but slow, and then, for the first time in years, used a bike for actual transportation. I got tired of walking five miles to my house, ducked into a used bike store on the way, and bought an old hybrid for $75. I rode home in 25 minutes on a route that I used to drive in 20 minutes. Hmm. I replaced the gears on the old hybrid, as well as the tires and the saddle, and added fenders and a rack. It's still the only bike I own, and virtually my only form of transportation besides walking. I do take the bus sometimes, and have rented cars and trucks a few times a year, but I'm more or less totally carfree, and have no intention of ever owning a car again. I like the money I save, and it makes getting enough exercise a no-brainer, especially in a city as hilly as Seattle. And since I try to teach stewardship of the environment to my students, it's very useful to put my money where my mouth is.
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Old 10-09-07, 04:21 AM   #15
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The thing about owning a car, the only way i would ever (rather hypothecally) consider it is if i REALLY needed one, perhaps to share with a few people and to use for specific purposes in which other modes of transport are truly lacking. In such unlikely circumstance i would make absolutely sure i bought a car that:

Had an old Diesel engine that ran easily on Sunflower oil/biodiesel
Was of the bomb proof variety such as a Toyota Pick Up, Hyundai etc.
Had a tow hook.
Make sure the car was older than 20 years. Where i live that qualifies as an old timer and means you are exempt form road tax, hence much cheaper. Also insurance is very low.

Sure it wouldn't be easy to meet al my qualifiers above but not hard at all either. Much easier than selling my life for a silly car at any rate. The true madness in owning certain cars becomes apparent when people by brand new, gallon guzzling abominations that cost them a third of their income or more every month and depreciate in value about 30 procent in year... That just seems like utter madness to me.
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Old 10-11-07, 01:23 AM   #16
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I grew up in a very poor family. We were tobacco farmers in the hills of eastern Kentucky, my entire family (aunts, uncles, cousins, etc) worked and lived on the farm, so I never had a bicycle as a child. But on the positive side, we also never had that many cars to drive to-and-fro. Most of the "automobiles" I was familiar with as a child were farm trucks and implements.
In the mid 80's we leased a large chunk of one of the mountains out to a coal mining outfit that stripped the mountain bare, poisioned the lower water areas, and drove out a majority of the game animals that we would rely on to live. So when our house burned down my parents used part of those funds to move off to "the big city", which was a little town of 5000 people. One of the friends I made there was on the boxing team at school and he taught me how to ride a bike so that I could keep him company while he jogged. Yes, he was a BIG Rocky fan at the time. That was my introduction to the bicycle.
Fast forward to about 5 years ago. I had moved to Michigan and gotten married. I had an early midlife crisis and quit my cushy office job and walked into the first shop I could and begged for a job. They hired me making %30 of the salary I was used to making. I was happy, my wife wasn't, obviously. About 3 years ago I thought to myself how beneficial a bicycle would be. I could lose all this weight I had gained from 16 straight hours of sitting at a computer eating fast food. So I got one and started riding. After a year I was hooked. One day I took note that my car had been sitting in my driveway for close to 8 months. So I sold it and never gave a second thought to it. I've lost 100lbs and am no longer taking medication. I have Tourette's Syndrome and required medication in order to appear "normal" but for some reason now I don't *have* to have that medication all the time.
My wife still owns a car, I don't blame her, she needs it for work. But for me, I don't think I'll be buying another one for some time. Don't get me wrong, I don't hate cars or the auto industry. I work in the auto industry and it puts food on my families table. I just dislike the brainwashing done by the companies hired by the automakers to market their product. And will make damn sure my son understands this.

So my story isn't as heart filled as others, but it's my story and is why I am here, on this forum, posting.
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Old 10-11-07, 05:02 AM   #17
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Hey real good story actually! Nice one for bowing out of the rat race and choosing for health and happiness. I i might be so bold to inquire:

What was the job you were given at the shop? What kind of shop? Do you still make 30% of what you used to or does the-by-the-hour-wage nearly equal the old one.

Did your decisions, returned happiness and health end up strenghtening your marriage or was it detrimental? Thanks.
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Old 10-11-07, 01:54 PM   #18
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I think it's a great story, pj.

I guess I'll take advantage of my sick day to tell mine. I grew up in Detroit. My dad, grandfather, and great grandfather all worked for Ford. My great great grandfather was a carpenter who helped build Henry Ford's first assembly lines. We always had 2 cars. I got a car as soon as I turned 16. There was no public transit to speak of where I lived. I did ride my bike a lot before and after getting a car, especially in college where it was not practical to drive. I moved to Oregon when I was 23 and continued to have a car, though my time on a bike dwindled to almost nothing. Looking back, I'm not sure what that happened. It seems pretty silly to me now.

Everything changed nearly 3 years ago when I got an ear infection. Unlike most adults, mine didn't stop after childhood, so I never thought twice about it. This time was different - my left ear was blocked and I couldn't hear out of it for weeks. Thus began a 2 month on/off cycle of being prescribed prednisone to restore my hearing. It worked but I went back to deafness as soon as I stopped taking it. In addition, I was experiencing vertigo and dizzy spells severe enough that I was very reluctant to drive my car. I was falling often enough because my balance was all messed up - I could not imagine driving the hilly, curvy stretches of I-5 and have a episode of the earth tilting wildly while behind the wheel of a car. Harming others through selfish thoughtlessness is not my cup of tea, so the car stayed parked through all of this. I was finally referred to an ENT surgeon who sent me for a CT scan and discovered I had a tumor in my middle ear that was pushing its way into my inner ear and skull. The very day of the CT scan I woke up to the entire left side of my face collapsed as if I'd had a stroke. Either the tumor or the resulting infection grew and finally affected my facial nerve. To prevent permanent damage to my nerve and face, I was put on the highest dose of prednisone a human can tolerate until the surgery could be scheduled.

Although she had to remove a piece of my skull, the surgery was a complete success. My hearing was preserved, my facial nerve recovered, and my left cornea was undamaged. (had to tape my eyelid shut for it to close completely) I had a lot of health to regain, though. I've always been a big girl, but the prednisone caused a very unhealthy weight gain, elevated blood pressure, high blood sugar - the works. For the first year, my balance was still very poor, which is normal when you have ear/skull base surgery. I could neither drive nor ride a bike. Riding the bus made me so nauseated, I avoided it as much as possible. I walked just about everywhere, and I lost some weight doing that. It wasn't enough, though, and my blood pressure was still too high. In the meantime, my 18 year old car finally required a repair that was far too costly given its value. I got rid of it, so I also had the problem of transportation for places too far to walk and too inconvenient for public transit. My medical bills made purchasing another car impossible for me. What to do?

I loved my bike when I was younger. My brother followed me out to Portland 4 years before and never bothered to buy a car after he got settled in. He used his bike and public transit for everything. My housemate biked to work and school, as did a coworker. Ordinary people that I knew did this, so I was pretty sure I could, too. My balance had improved and I was getting the dizzy spells only about once every 6 weeks or so. That was good enough for me, so I did a lot of research into the type of bike I wanted and found Breezer's website. There was a dealer a mile from my house and relatives willing to send my my birthday presents early, so I got one in April 2006. My housemate and I did a dry run of my work commute route the Saturday after I bought her, I started riding that Monday, and I've never looked back.

A year and a half later, I've lost all the weight I gained from the prednisone, all the weight I had gained previously from my ex-boyfriend's unhealthy cooking habits, my blood pressure is stable at "high normal" (I still have to take medication that keeps it high.), and I have more energy than I remember having even in my 20's. While my medical expenses have not been kind to my financial situation, I at least can afford my rent, food, utilities, and even some new clothing (since I lost all that weight). I know I have my bike to thank for all of this.
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Old 10-11-07, 06:07 PM   #19
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Hey real good story actually! Nice one for bowing out of the rat race and choosing for health and happiness. I i might be so bold to inquire:

What was the job you were given at the shop? What kind of shop? Do you still make 30% of what you used to or does the-by-the-hour-wage nearly equal the old one.

Did your decisions, returned happiness and health end up strenghtening your marriage or was it detrimental? Thanks.
You're not being too bold at all, I'll gladly answer your questions.
I walked into a laser shop just up the road from my house. Filled out an application and was immediately taken into an office by the VP of the company who was wondering why someone like me would be interested in working there. After giving him my spiel he hired me on the spot as a "button pusher". I'd load parts onto a fixture, hit the button, and let the laser do its work. All the years I had under my belt programming in various computer languages really paid off here as well because I picked up on the very simple cartesian coordinate systems language used in the CNC code and within a few weeks (not really meaning to brag here) knew more about the language than anyone else at the shop. Within a year I was pulled off the shop floor and sent to Florida to learn some new CAD software and spent several years doing CAD work. But I missed being out on the floor and off a computer. Since that company had no need for someone with my skill level on the floor I moved on.
Now I work for a company who shall remain "a mystery to you all" doing laser programming (digitizing) as well as some CAD and a decent ammount of manual labor. They had me trained in metalurgy, CMM, and other metal working skillsets and here I remain today... being one of the few people in the auto industry that is car free totally by choice. I actually LOVE what I do. I am making a very decent wage, I work 4 days, then I am off for 4 days (great work schedule), and have some of the best benefits a non-union member can ask for.
As for how much I make now I'll not go into specifics, but I make enough to provide for me and my family and I still put a majority of it away for retirement, I do plan on retiring earlier than "most" people do. I never lived a life of credit or debt. I purchased my house with cash, not a big house mind you but enough for me and mine - and I only got my first credit card last year just to make booking flights easier. Not having debt I could support my family on as little as 20k a year I'd like to think, but I do make quite a bit more than that, and my wife works full time as well.
My family life is great now. My marriage is strong and my family is expanding. I have lots and lots of time to spend with my maternal son and the two children we are currently caring for.
I am almost as happy now as I was when I was just a poor kid living on that farm, working in the fields, and fighting with my cousins and brothers.
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Old 10-12-07, 01:00 AM   #20
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Old 10-12-07, 02:10 AM   #21
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thbikeguy: Now THAT is a story worth remembering!
I would say something like "If I'm up your way I'll have to stop and see you" but unfortunately your country doesn't allow people like me to enter it all that freely.
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Old 10-12-07, 12:01 PM   #22
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@ PJ & BikeGuy. Both great stories and lifestyles! Good on both of you! a lot of the things you guys do and value i also do to an extent. Very nice to see the parallels at BF.
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Old 10-13-07, 10:59 AM   #23
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Oh my god...I've become a tree hugger.
+1
I've always heard people talk about saving the environment, but it didn't start clicking until a few years ago when I started carpooling with a serious environmentalist. I rolled my eyes at all her talk, but it was sinking in regardless. Then gas prices skyrocketed and I got really angry at what it was doing to my wallet even though I've lived car lite for several years (carpooling, sharing a car, living close to work). Having spent a lot of time thinking about the book Your Money or Your Life, I decided that the cost of a car didn't give me a corresponding amount satisfaction. So I started thinking about commuting by bike which led to lurking on this website which led to a change of heart about the environment.

So I bought a bike this last spring, hated it the few times I made myself ride it, used the bus all summer, and just found out (boy, do I feel stupid) that my rear brakes have been clamped down all my rear tire the entire time. (No, I don't know anything about bikes except where you sit and where you pull the little levers to slow down.) It's getting fixed today. Last week I started riding my friend's bike to work and now it's as fun as I'd hoped it would be. This will be my first winter riding and I'm excited and petrified.

Just a comment, though--I see comments about the riding "season" being over. As far as I'm concerned, it just started. It's been 100 degrees here for too long and I'd much rather ride in 50 degrees.
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Old 10-13-07, 12:55 PM   #24
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Do yourself a favor and go to www.bikeleague.org and find a "road 1" class to take.

I thought I new a lot about biking and had ridden many thousands of miles in traffic before I origionally took the course and I learned a lot.

Did you buy a walmart bike? I would find it odd that a bike shop bikes brake system would do that or be adjusted like that.
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Old 10-14-07, 01:29 PM   #25
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Just a comment, though--I see comments about the riding "season" being over. As far as I'm concerned, it just started. It's been 100 degrees here for too long and I'd much rather ride in 50 degrees.
I bet you saw those comments about the season being over on the other BF subforums. Here on LCF, the bike season for most of us is 52 weeks a year. Good luck on your winter riding. It's mostly a matter of attitude and willingness.
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