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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 01-26-10, 09:38 AM   #1
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Journeys that changed your life

We have a thread on books that changed your life, but did you ever take a trip that changed you in some way? Tell us about your most important journeys, bike rides, tours, etc....
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Old 01-26-10, 09:42 AM   #2
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Weeklong bike tour with a church youth group in 1974. Turned me on to 10-speed bikes, and utility riding in general. It was on that bike that I first discovered the passion that has driven me -- first, to recapture it after marriage, then to find it after a 2nd! I've held HARD onto the passion, the feeling, the pure joy of it, ever since, to the point where I no longer own a car, and drive ANY car 1x/year.

I wouldn't trade that week for Bill Gates' money....
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Old 01-26-10, 10:48 AM   #3
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A trip around Europe and the U.S. in 1978. It started out to be a solo bicycle tour and I had a great adventure through England, Belgium and the Netherlands, but this pic is the last I ever saw my bicycle. An hour later, I put it on the train in Venice and when I arrived at my destination, my Peugeot U08 didn't show up. I spent a week in a small French hotel room waiting for it, drawing cartoons for a series I had in mind and thinking about the future.

I continued on by train enjoying the Heineken Beer tour in Amsterdam as well as seeing my first Bakfiets cargo bikes, the competitive hash sellers in Christiania, a week at the home of a nice swedish lady that I met in Copenhagen, time in a hostel in Oslo, and then I had to come back to the U.S. to take care of some business, so I spent another month living aboard Greyhound buses and touring the country looking for a place to live.(And I eventually did live for 8 years in one of the places I went through.) It really opened my eyes and was the start of adulthood.

When I got back, I got a job as an optical technician with a company called Information International, Inc. that made the first computer publishing systems that would handle text and images, and six months later got a spot as a technical illustrator so I got to use the equipment instead of build it. They also had one of the first 3D animation departments in the world and that's what got me started on my current career.



Six months after I got home, I got a notice from SCNF informing me that the bike had been delivered to a station 30 miles from my destination and would I like to come pick it up. An ex-girlfriend worked for an import/export company and she spent another six months trying to get it back without success. I attribute this situation to the fact that I had swapped out the Simplex groupo for a Sun Tour groupo and the French were so offended at this that they decided that the French bicycle must remain in France.
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Old 01-26-10, 11:04 AM   #4
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Living for several years in eastern Afghanistan, just made me realize how materialistic we really are, not just as a culture but as a species. Some of the poorest people in the world are just as materialistic and consumeristic as we are, they just buy cheaper stuff.
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Old 01-26-10, 12:12 PM   #5
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The first time I commuted to work by public transport. I hated being stuck on the tube in the heat with loads of other people - way overcrowded. It turned me onto cycling, and I have loved it ever since

Changed my life as I am now much healthier, happier and feel a bit closer to nature!
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Old 01-26-10, 01:40 PM   #6
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We have a thread on books that changed your life, but did you ever take a trip that changed you in some way? Tell us about your most important journeys, bike rides, tours, etc....
Thanks for asking. In 1977 my bride and I moved from Michigan to Boston via a cycling honeymoon, riding from Los Angeles to Washington DC. I divide my life story into before the ride / marriage/ move, and afterwards. We didn't go all the way to Boston because we were time-limited and realized in Colorado that we wouldn’t make it to Boston, so we went to DC and took the train up from there.

I previously posted this about the trip:

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…It was a great way to start married life, since every day we would have to find and set up a homestead for the night in a new environment where we only knew, and could depend on each other. I can remember two distinct times on that trip when either one of us hit low a point, and were bouyed up by the other; me in Kansas and she in Ohio.

BTW, that trip was 31 years ago and we're still together.
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Old 01-26-10, 05:08 PM   #7
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Sometime in early 2000 I met a man, Nadar Khalili, that was working on teaching people to build affordable housing in underdeveloped countries. He was using a combination of dirt, and cement to fill long tubes like sand bags and building homes. They were giving classes that a friend of mine wanted to go to and I agreed to check it out. http://www.architectureweek.com/2000/0517/building_1-1.html

Two years later some of us joined a group of people that wanted take this technique to Africa and South America. By 2006 I had saved enough to go with a group planning on building an orphanage in Katali Kenya. I learned what it was like to live from day to day. I learned what it was like to live with no cars and in many cases no personal transportation other than your own two feet. I admire how the people have learned to survive when they don’t have any money to repair the roads. But I also learned to appreciate the things we in the US have. I was able to spend a day with a group when I first landed in Nairobi who are working in Kibera and I don’t think I will ever forget it. The following is not the person I met but it is the same type of group.
http://affordablehousinginstitute.org/blogs/us/2005/07/kibera_africas.html
For months after I got home I realized how much we as Americans complain about things rather than try to work through them. I saw firsthand how detrimental plastic bags are in a country that has no services to dispose of them. They simply push all their plastic in a big pile and burn it. If you have ever been around burnt plastic you know what the ash is like.
Living with, eating with, working with and playing with the people in Kenya has changed my outlook on what people can do and on what people want out of life.
As a cycling note I met a man who would give you a ride into town on his bike, Boda Boda, for what amounted to15 cents. I asked him what he wanted to do with the money. He wanted to get a donkey cart to haul heavier things because he could get more for it. Then he wanted to save up for a mini-van, Matatu, which he could use as a small bus and haul people to town. Someday he wanted to buy a real bus to haul people back and forth from Nairobi. In Nairobi the Boda Boda gets through traffic better and cost less but in the small towns with less traffic and greater distances the Matatu is one of the best ways of getting around.
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Old 01-26-10, 11:17 PM   #8
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I notice several posters mentioned event in the 1970s. For me, I lived for a year in Italy in 1976 in the town of Perugia. I arrived pretty much broke but managed to stick around enough to attend school -- Italian language school. It was like an early version of the staycation. I didn't have enough money to visit much of Italy, but hunkered down in a rented room and met people as they arrived from elsewhere. I learned Italian, went to the wonderful Italian movies as much as I could, learned to read Italian books.

I'm not even sure what it is I learned there for the year. I think it's called "dolce, far niente." A little bit of letting life happen and learning to live with very little.
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Old 01-31-10, 02:38 PM   #9
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My first commute by bike, some time in summer 1994. After successfully commuting for a while I started to realize most of my transport needs could probably be met with this cheap, simple, reliable two wheeled contraption.
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Old 01-31-10, 04:26 PM   #10
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My first commute by bike, some time in summer 1994. After successfully commuting for a while I started to realize most of my transport needs could probably be met with this cheap, simple, reliable two wheeled contraption.
I forgot that one. The first commute! That has to be a pretty big trip for most people in this forum. I recall making a number of exploratory rides to try to figure it all out and then suddenly... looming right in front of my front wheel... was the building I worked at. Suddenly, it all dawned on me ... bike to work... reduce petroleum footprint... reduce CO2... stay active ... reduce weight...save money... have a bike ride every day!
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Old 02-03-10, 05:41 PM   #11
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My first walk after a heart attack in 2000 was a short distance, but the start of a long journey. I was nervous about the walk, so I asked my son to go with me. He was nervous also, so he borrowed cell phone in case we had to call an ambulance. It was a beautiful day in late summer. We walked about a quarter-mile along the Grand River in south Lansing. I was immediately hooked on walking. Within a couple months I had sold my car and I was literally walking everywhere.

The first bike ride, about eight months later, was similar. I suddenly realized (cue bright light shining in the middle of the road) that I could cover a lot more ground on a bike. My son was instrumental again. He found me a used (more like abused) Walmart mountain bike for about $20. I was pretty wobbly at first, but didn't do too badly considering that it was my first bike ride in 30 years. I hardly walked again after that first time on a bicycle!

The main moral for me was learning that sometimes the changes that we're forced into turn out to be changes for the best. I can hardly imagine how much poorer my life would be today if a heart attack hadn't forced me into first walking, then riding nearly everywhere I go.
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Old 02-03-10, 07:11 PM   #12
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I have no life changing rides, but I have one route that I always think back on as what got me into cycling for good:

When I was an undergrad in Maine, I decided to go for a long bike ride as the weather was phenomenal and I had a twinge of cabin fever. I hopped online, and mapped out a 20 mile circuit (a long ride for me back then). The ride went away from the hustle of the college town, and dropped off into vast farm fields with small hamlets of houses centered around a quaint church. This was followed by a stretch of dark, cool woods before popping out onto an intersection with a gas station and a few houses. After taking a break and enjoying a snack, letting my mind wander, I hunkered down on the 7 mile homestretch that gradually reintroduces you back to the town and reality.

Before I knew it, I was doing this circuit at least once every weekend, often times listening to opera and getting so lost in the music several miles would pass by and I'd have no recollection of having ridden them. I'd also started sprinting the 7 mile homestretch, reveling in the raw speed of a bicycle, culminating in finishing the whole route in under and hour (a long standing goal of mine).

I still think fondly back on those days, the smell of fresh tilled soil, the way the snow was always last to melt in the cool, dark woods, losing myself in a day dream of music not having a care in the world, racing breathlessly in those last 7 miles trying to stay above some arbitrarily set speed up one of the hills, finally rolling back into campus and resting on the stoop of the dorm feeling the euphoria that follows an all-out exertion. I've done lots of rides since, but nothing like that 20-mile loop, and I often think I should take a short vacation and ride it one more time.
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Old 02-04-10, 11:20 AM   #13
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Three hitch-hiking trips, all back roads:

1. Connecticut to the northern tip of Maine and Canada for a three day concert,

2. Calais to Mt. Ste. Michel in France (the northwest coast-- sleeping on top of nazi bunkers that were slowly deterioratinga nd in a slow-motion tumble down the dunes into the English Channel sunset is an image that stays with me), and

3. Delaware to Idaho (one ride was with a friend to the front range of Colorado, so really just CO, UT, ID).

What a great way to travel.
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Old 02-04-10, 12:10 PM   #14
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I wish I had such good stories to tell! I guess moving from Winnipeg to Toronto at age 24 and living downtown close to work and school and the bar where my roommate and I and sometimes other friends hung out watching folk music, and finding I hardly used my car, was a somewhat shaping experience. Thirty plus years later I still live not too far from downtown Toronto and hardly use my car.
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Old 02-04-10, 12:39 PM   #15
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Three hitch-hiking trips, all back roads:

1. Connecticut to the northern tip of Maine and Canada for a three day concert,

2. Calais to Mt. Ste. Michel in France (the northwest coast-- sleeping on top of nazi bunkers that were slowly deterioratinga nd in a slow-motion tumble down the dunes into the English Channel sunset is an image that stays with me), and

3. Delaware to Idaho (one ride was with a friend to the front range of Colorado, so really just CO, UT, ID).

What a great way to travel.
When did you do most of your hitchhiking? I found that it petered out in the late 1970s, when people suddenly seemed to develop a mass hysterical fear of each other.

I did a lot of hitching in both N. America and Canada, but that was back in the early 1970s. A trip that especially influenced me was a solo hitchike from Tobermory, Ontario to Detroit when I was only 15 or 16. I was in that beautiful location on vacation with my family. Like many snotty teenagers, I wanted to be with my friends, so I told my parents I was leaving, and I left. The trip back to Detroit was knd of lonely at times, but i did enjoy it.

I learned two contradictory things. One lesson was that I could be self-reliant, and that it was time to start becoming more independant of my parents. The other lesson had to do with the realization that I was in some ways wrong to disrupt the family trip, and that it's usually better to bear with it when you're not having fun, so that you don't ruin everybody else's good time.
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Old 02-04-10, 12:44 PM   #16
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I did my hitch hiking in 1998 - 1999
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Old 02-04-10, 12:51 PM   #17
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I visited Beijing for a little over a week in 1991. Half the time I was forehead-smacking astonished. The rest of the time I was facepalm flabbergasted. I'm guessing that Chinese visiting the U.S. for the first time have a basically similar reaction.

I also learned to fear crossing streets in front of a solid wall of oncoming bicycle commuters. There'd be very little left of a person after being run over by a Beijing bicycle stampede. I haven't been back, so I don't know if that's changed in the last 20 years.
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Old 02-04-10, 01:09 PM   #18
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I sooo want to do a cross county trip some time, even just a good like 350- 500 miles would be soooo much fun. I could only imagine the things i would learn through making such a trip especially for the most part i have been in the same part of cali all my life besides some trips to a lot of other states but never stayed long enough to notice a lot of differences as well as only being 20 i wasn't old enough on a lot of those trips for it to effect me at all.

As far as any life changes bicycling has brought to me(so far), when i talk to the ladies i get to show off my lean horse legs LOL
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Old 02-04-10, 05:24 PM   #19
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I've only been on one journey I'd call life-changing.

When I was 7 years old my mother bundled up my brother and I in the blankets we each were sleeping under. It was some time in the middle of the night. We all got into the back of a large truck and headed to the waterfront where we were quickly lead into the bowels of a cargo ship just before it set off. Several months and a bunch of south pacific islands later we were accepted into Australia as political refugees.

The reason for our hasty departure was because at that time my father was leading a resistance cell against a brutal military dictatorship (this was in South America). His cell's specialty was smuggling weapons in from neighboring countries to arm the resistance. We found out that our cell had been compromised and soldiers were on their way to our house so our cell used their smuggling network to get us out. We later found out that they missed us by about 40 minutes. Some didn't fare so well and many of our friends were killed the next day.

I still have that blanket.
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Old 02-04-10, 06:06 PM   #20
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I've only been on one journey I'd call life-changing.
Wow. Was your father with you?
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Old 02-04-10, 08:23 PM   #21
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I've only been on one journey I'd call life-changing.

When I was 7 years old my mother bundled up my brother and I in the blankets we each were sleeping under. It was some time in the middle of the night. We all got into the back of a large truck and headed to the waterfront where we were quickly lead into the bowels of a cargo ship just before it set off. Several months and a bunch of south pacific islands later we were accepted into Australia as political refugees.

The reason for our hasty departure was because at that time my father was leading a resistance cell against a brutal military dictatorship (this was in South America). His cell's specialty was smuggling weapons in from neighboring countries to arm the resistance. We found out that our cell had been compromised and soldiers were on their way to our house so our cell used their smuggling network to get us out. We later found out that they missed us by about 40 minutes. Some didn't fare so well and many of our friends were killed the next day.

I still have that blanket.
Amazing story... a question: how was your entry as a refugee? Did it take a long time to adjust to life in Australia?
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Old 02-04-10, 10:35 PM   #22
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I've had a couple of life-changing journeys. At age 9 months, I poured a cup of hot tea on myself in a remote alaskan village. I was taken by airplane, in dangerous low-visibility weather, to a town with a small hospital and then (on another plane) to a major hospital in Anchorage, AK. Apparently I was in the hospital recovering from burns for several months after that. Don't remember the journey, but it saved my life.

The other life-changing journey was my trip to Haiti just weeks ago, where my sister was badly hurt. For the first moments after the quake, I was surprised to be alive. Then I saw that my sister was trapped in rubble, and then that her right leg had been crushed. It didn't look like we could save her.
She was fully conscious and without pain medication, (can't really imagine what that was like) for 24 hours. With the help of a lot of people, Haitian and non-Haitian, we got her safely back to the USA where she got the surgery she needed to survive.
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Old 02-05-10, 02:38 AM   #23
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Wow. Was your father with you?
Yes, we all traveled together.

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Amazing story... a question: how was your entry as a refugee? Did it take a long time to adjust to life in Australia?
We were in a refugee facility for about 6 months. Not imprisoned, we were free to come and go. It was tough at first as I didn't know anyone or spoke a word of English, and we came up against a fair bit of prejudice as Australia had only recently revoked its 'white Australia' racist immigration policy at that stage but culturally it hadn't really moved too far beyond the prejudice. Still, being called a few names or getting spat on by the other kids wasn't as bad as getting shot, and it's not like we just laid down and rolled over for it, I was sent home from school quite often for blooding other kid's noses... once I understood what the heck they were saying.

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Old 02-05-10, 07:54 PM   #24
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These are some awesome and amazing stories. Keep them coming...
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Old 02-06-10, 03:11 PM   #25
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My journeys so far cannot compare to anything like the powerful stories that have been posted. I did go to Iceland alone when I was 21 and for six days traveled the icelandic wilderness in a sub compact. I did a fair amount of partying with the locals too, so I sort of look back at that week as my transistion from childhood to adulthood. I would say though, the most profound journey I have taken was in July of 2006. I foraged for food by bike for one weekend. To test my self-sufficiency skills, I only allowed myself to eat plants that I had prepared from wild. I was also allowed to use provisions from my food storage program which consists of rice, beans, ramen soup and dried milk. That day, my bike became my horse, and together we galloped all over my county gathering roots, tubers, berries and leaves to turn into rice pudding with wineberries, cattail - garlic mustard soup, and sauteed noodles with lambquarter. That is when my bicycle officially transformed itself from a fitness machine to a serious form of transportation. Commuting by bicycle to work for the first time happened soon after that and now I am proudly car-free.
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