Saturday, June 18, 2011

7 Questions About Being Carless

Week 4 of the "Jennie-only-has-a-bike-while-Mike-is-in-another-part-of-the-state" saga has closed.

Instead of having only a week left (as originally planned), we just learned that Mike is being held in Des Moines into the month of July.  All signs indicate he will be there for another 3-6 weeks.

To give you a proper update, I'm going to answer some questions I've received through Facebook and from friends and coworkers: 

What's your biking routine?
Because I'm terribly out of shape, biking has been more challenging than I expected.  In 3 weeks, I have biked to work 12 times.

I ride on a bike trail that follows the Cedar River, which keeps me out of traffic and goes right behind my office.  On average, it takes me 30-35 minutes to get to work and 40-50 minutes to get home.

The trail is very hilly. I'm sure it's not challenging for hardcore bikers, but I am a sweaty mess at the end of each ride.

What has been the hardest thing?
For the first two weeks, I experienced daily headaches and shoulder pain.  I was also extremely tired, all leading to a great amount of frustration.

I learned 3 things about my body during this time:
  • My shoulder pain was caused from wearing a backpack.  Since college, I've had mild shoulder problems (I suspect years of marching band might be a factor ...), but even a light weight resting on them can inflame a nerve.  Now I strap my backpack to my handlebars.
  • To ease tiredness, I have to be in bed around 9pm and get around 9+ hours of sleep. 
  • My headaches were from dehydration.  On normal days, I drink over 100 oz of water.  When I bike, I have to push that to 250 oz, including a liter (4 cups) before I head out in the morning.  I just have to honor what my body needs, even though that's a ridiculous amount of water.
I drink 4 times this a day  (source)
What has been your greatest success?
Biking has one goal - get to Point A.  It's easy to feel successful at the end of each and every ride.  You can always say, "Yay!  I made it!"

My biggest success is that I rode into work all 5 days for the first time last week.  It was 6.5 hours, or 400 minutes.  I had been working my way up to this goal for several weeks and now I know I can do it.

I also have been shaving time off of my ride to work.  When we first got our bikes, it took around 40 minutes to ride in.  Now, I can get there in 30-33 minutes.    

Do you feel healthier?
This is a hard one.  Weight-wise, the scale indicates I've lost 3 pounds.  I look in the mirror and see a little slimming, but not enough for anyone else to notice.

Clearly I've been getting faster, so that means I'm building muscle and getting more efficient.

However, I'm still dead tired at the end of each day.  That rush of endorphins you're supposed to get after exercising?  I've yet to experience that. 

I do know, as I've been tracking calories in a food diary, that I need to eat much much healthier to sustain this level of activity. 
Have you thought about buying a car or getting a rental?
Mike and I are really proud that we've made our one-car situation work since last October.  However, him being on orders has thrown a wrench into everything.

We cannot afford a second car at this time.  Sure, we could get a loan, but that would be completely irresponsible because of our current debt load.  We simply cannot add another monthly payment to our long list.  Hence why we got the bikes, so it would be a little easier to share one car.

We're also resistant to the idea of buying a clunker.  There's nothing worse than unexpected and frequent car repairs.  We don't want to put ourselves in a situation where we've willingly taken on a budget drain.

No more lemons!
Rental cars are expensive.  I got one last weekend to attend a friend's bachelorette party.  So as not to concern her, I won't disclose how much it was, but it was waaay more than necessary.  Of course, it was worth every penny to have two days of independence and freedom.

To our best knowledge, a rental car (in our area) will cost about $900 a month - that's $700 for the actual car and $200 in fees and taxes.  Cute.

In two weeks though, I will have to get a rental.  After July 4th, I start teaching again - one night in Waterloo, the next in Cedar Rapids.  I must have a set of wheels to not only travel an hour, but get back home in time to show up for class not looking like a mess.  I'm also in a wedding and would have to spend 3 days biking there, lol.

Renting a car isn't ideal, but we're down to limited options. No one said being fiscally responsible is easy. 

Is it hard being away from each other?
Not entirely.

We're a very independent and self-sufficient couple.  Out of the 10 years we've been together, 5 have been long distance.  It's not exactly routine, but it's also not a shock either when orders/deployments happen.

And unlike a deployment, Mike is stateside, has access to the internet, is not in a war zone, and can text/call.  It's more like he's on an extended business trip than anything.

Not us, but they're adorable! (source)

That doesn't mean that we don't miss each other and such, but separation is just an accepted part of our relationship.  Our life is set up so it can easily switch gears when Mike needs to do his thing.

How has the situation affected your finances?
In short, it's thrown everything out of wack.

It's very difficult to determine how much money we're saving.  Though I'm not using a car, Mike is driving through several quadrants of Des Moines for work.  He is also paying $18 a day for lodging.  Then there are his food needs, and he only has a microwave.

I have to make a huge effort to get anywhere to spend money, so in many ways that's good.  Eating out has virtually been banished, though Casey's pizza is hard to resist some nights.  On the other hand, I try to stock up for several weeks of groceries at a time, making some trips larger than others.

Now, Mike is getting paid for being on orders.  And while there's info out there on how much that should be, it's the military.  His pay has been delay, part of it has been shorted, and some expenses (like lodging) will be reimbursed after his orders are through.

So we're using any and all income with extreme hesitation.  I just killed off the leftover loan we took out for rent back in February ($500) and paid off a credit card ($400).  The rest is going directly into savings.  

Loading up savings will be important as Mike will not be taking classes the next school term.  Oddly enough, it's the same term I'll start teaching and my pay from that will make up for his GI Bill being on hold.

However, it looks like there will be a gap in our incomes in August between when his orders pay stops and his GI Bill payments start back up.  So the more we squirrel away to savings, the better we'll be able to handle that.

And that's where we're sitting!  We've appreciated all of the support.  Let me know if you have other questions!

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