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Low Car Challenge

Every September Columbia has a No Car Challenge where participants agree not to drive or ride in motorized transport that is not the bus. I’ve wanted to do it since I got here and this year I was able to do the Low Car version where I still I still got to drive for a weekend. I didn’t think it would be much of an issue as I ‘ve been car-less almost half my adult life, i live a block from my work, and Columbia is a very bikable city.

I didn’t decide to do it until the night of September 30 so I couldn’t stock up on stuff ahead of time. Right off the bat I wanted to get some stuff for my Labor Day trip to Detroit but couldn’t rustle up the energy to ride my bike across town. I put it off once after a hard day at work, was rushed the night before and wanted to mow the lawn before leaving as well. I decided I’d stop by there on my way to pick up Trevor to go to the airport but it wasn’t open yet. Couldn’t lay hands on a 3 oz or less tube of toothpaste and so was forced to throw away a brand new 4 oz tube on the flight back. It really set the stage for the month with a lot more going without, a little bit more of doing things in a wasteful way, and very little actual bike riding.

On the way home from the airport on the final leg of the trip the truck crapped out on me on the highway and I had to leave it a foreign auto repair place in Wentzville and have Dad pick me up. That forced me to later go pick up the truck (the alternative of paying storage for a month seemed ridiculous so i considered it an extension of my original weekend allowed driving). We didn’t deduce what was wrong until me, the mechanic and the truck were all in the same place. Alternator brushes were shot leaving to come and go electrical problems. It was too late for him to fix it so i had to limp home hoping it would make it and driving through dusk with no headlights. it was all good and the mostly inoperable truck would be less of a temptation to drive.

The Challenge got me to break out my bicycle for the first time in 2010. It was good to ride and Sarah rode her bike over for our usual Farmers Market trip. It was fun to ride and we noticed we spent about twice as much time and were much more social because neither of us were eager to  get back on our bikes to ride home. On the bad side I only bought about half as much stuff. No mum this year and I missed the  last two weeks of sweet corn. All of my purchases were made with a lot more consideration for weight and volume since I only had what I could put in my backpack. I also wanted to get a lot of food because I couldn’t easily run by the store. I ended up only getting half as much as normal which was my first clue that not driving might not be an unmitigated good anymore.

I did some bike riding for fun rode to the market and the bank a couple of times. I was getting into it a bit but it was also making my back sore. One of my physical therapists had ID’d long distance bike riding of how I’d bulged my C-6 & 7 in my misspent youth when i was biking 150 miles a week. Mostly I skipped going to the store so there was less groceries. So we started walking to the Country Kitchen a lot and even resorted to eating at Bandanas.

Dad’s truck crapped out and still won’t start (hope its just batteries) so we were without a reliable vehicle. I couldn’t externalize my driving to the popster as I’d hoped he’d pick up the slack on the grocery shopping but instead stopped being able to do it all. I broke out the bike to go to the market and the tire was flat. So no farmers market at all. We needed stuff: food, ensure, booze. So I walked down to Mosers got a back pack and some bags worth and humped it all back. That was cool, nostalgic from when I was living in Berkeley and shopping by back pack.

I was bushed though and couldn’t muster up the energy to walk across town to get to Trevor and Lisa’s potluck. I decided to try to get my rewards card for the free flat tire fix rumored to be on it rather than walk down to Klunks. I also got to skip the bank by using the cash back option at the grocery store.

At this point a bit of a depression set in, short on stuff, dad rationing his ensures cuz he can’t drive and get more. fretting on him on how he’s going to get to walmart when his blood  pressure pills run out. I tried to walk to the PedNet office to get my rewards card after the most difficult morning of my professional career but couldn’t make it down in time on my lunch hour and they close early. I got some taco bell instead and decided, fuck it, I’ll wait until i can drive.

I gutted it out but not with a lot of joy. Mostly I learned my truck is pretty decent. I get good mileage bundle my trips, don’t routinely drive and maybe put on 5K a year these days. I would’ve used it to go camping, build some trails in the Overland Bottoms, perhaps go to the EcoArt Fest down on the river. I would have bought three times as much market products in the month. I would have eaten out less and not at the soulless chains that are by my house. On the plus, it got me riding, it set an example, it focused me on my own locale. It showed me what driving means to me. Next year I expect to do it again.

Categories: environment, friends, health
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