Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Month Without a Car

As some of you may know, we have had only one car since last October.  Long story short, I totaled our car on a concrete overpass after being run off the road by an SUV who didn't stop.  That sounds a lot worse than it was - I was ok minus some whiplash.  Because the car was older and the entire suspension needed to be replaced, it was easy for the repairs to cost more than the car's value.

What ensued was a lengthy discussion about what our options were.  How would we replace the car?  Should we get another loan?  That didn't seem responsible given our current debt load.  Should we get another clunker for cheaper?  Been there, done that, only leads to repair after repair.


So we did something radical.  We decided to not replace it at all. 

In some places of the country, that's not radical.  But in Iowa, that's majorly crazy.  We're not a state set up for good mass transit or biking communities.  Not at least when you compare us to a metropolitan area.

But we made it work.  Since then, it's actually been surprisingly manageable.  With Mike still looking for work, I simply drive to the office every day and am mindful to let him have the truck every once in a while.  If something comes up, he'll either drop me off at work or I can come home lunch and switch.

This was all fine up until last week.  Turns out, Mike was called up on orders to work at the base in Des Moines.

For five weeks.

All of our "we're being awesome and have one car, save the planet!" ideas came to a screeching halt.  A month is a long time to not have a car.  Not at least when a grocery store and Walmart aren't within walking distance. 

So we considered the usual - rides with coworkers, navigating the bus system, or get a rental car.  All had some serious drawbacks financially or compatibility with my hours.

I then took a bold step and suggested that I just use the bike.  After all, one of the reasons we got them was so I could bike to work.  I had already done so a couple of times and was in the process of working my way up to doing every day.  This would just jumpstart that goal.

We agreed that was the most financially attractive option, as well as being good for my health.  We then set up some calls with friends and coworkers so I had backup rides in inclement weather and such.  

Now the problem with last-minute orders and a spouse without transportation for a month is that it generates some unexpected expenses:
  • A month's worth of groceries and supplies for me to minimize carrying any by bike (no saddlebags yet)
  • New/more professional biking gear for me.  Though I change into work clothes, I don't want to show up in the parking lot looking like a hobo.
  • Start-up groceries for Mike, like breakfast, snack items, and toiletries
  • An oil change and a full tank of gas.
  • Accommodations for Mike.  (Yes, they can call you up and not pay for room and board.   Or food for that matter.)
Break out the credit cards.  Sigh.  That's what they're there for, emergencies, but it puts us behind once again on reducing them.  Luckily, Mike gets paid for his time and we're going to be very mindful of making sure the extra income goes right back to the cards.

The week on my end was decent but energy draining.  My ride to work is about 40 minutes one way and on a hilly bike trail.  If it was a flat stretch, it'd be easy.  But my thighs are getting a beating on the inclines. 

I made it in 4 days this week on my own - combating cold weather (48 degrees in May!?), humidity, gnats, rain, and hissing geese.

On Thursday, I just couldn't do it.  I got out of bed and balked at the idea of spending any more time on the bike.  Plus, my body was full of new and old pains.  So I broke down and took a cab.

Physically, I'm glad I gave my body a day off.  Financially, I know calling a cab won't be happening often.  $20 for 12 minutes and 6 miles.  And that was only one way.  I've had cheaper rides in Chicago and DC!  Luckily a coworker was kind enough to give me a lift home.

So Week 1 is officially over for me.  392 minutes or 6.5 hours of biking.  It's definitely a shock to the system and I need to stay on top of stretching and drinking water, but it's doable.  

I'm hoping that after 5 weeks, biking to work will simply become a part of my lifestyle.  I hope my body will soon realize that I'm doing something really good for it and it should start treating me nicely in return.  At any rate, I feel a level of pride committing to this when we could have (albeit irresponsibly) gotten a rental car.  

Here's to the next four weeks!


  1. Wow. You go girl. I don't know that I could do that and still be put-together enough to go in to the office! Hope your bod is less sore, and you can get some R&R over the weekend.

  2. Thanks! It was a rough week, but I planned for it. Early bedtimes and prepackage meals were pretty helpful. Been taking it real easy this weekend and taking everything in stride.