In golopomo life, green living, healthy choices, saving money, and overall zest for life often come together like a package deal. I’ve found this to be true especially in my latest efforts to do more errands by walking or biking, saving the car for distance driving. A small adventure from today illustrates:
Our family signed up to give a gift to a child served by our county social services this Christmas. I need to get the gift to my pastor by tomorrow, and tomorrow he just happens to be holding office hours at a coffee shop two blocks from my house, which is a perfect car-free opportunity for me to get the gift to him.
So today I decided to bike over to the local Jax store, which is the store closest to me that I expected to have some of the items our assigned child had asked for. It was a bit brisk (mid-30’s F), but I dressed accordingly and enjoyed the short ride to the store, which takes me past an always-entertaining prairie dog town and treats me to mountain views when I head west on my return trip.
Jax did not have the particular items I was looking for. But I discovered they had the best price on motor oil I have found yet in this town (still not Fleet Farm prices you lucky Minnesotans!), and with a holiday road trip coming up, we’ll need to bring a couple spare quarts in our old oil-burning car. So I bought some oil, threw it in my bike basket, and biked home.
On my return trip, I thought, “it sure is good I found this motor oil; otherwise, this would have been a wasted trip.” And then laughed at myself – a 2.5-mile round-trip bike ride, which along with my jaunt around the inside of the store took me all of 20 minutes, and gave me a little exercise and fresh air, with squeaky prairie dog cuteness and mountain views to boot, was a waste? Silly me.
As I was unlocking my bike to leave Jax, it occurred to me that I was now closer to Wal-Mart, which would definitely have the items I was looking for, and would be another enjoyable bike ride, mostly along the city recreational trail. Our family avoids Wal-Mart for ethical reasons, but maybe this was one of those instances where I needed to choose the lesser of two evils – continue biking east to Wal-Mart so I could finish my shopping car-free, or give up, go home, start up the car, and drive much further east to the nearest Target (a one-way five-mile ride mostly along a busy highway, which my schedule for today and tomorrow would not allow time to do by bicycle).
Then it occurred to me that there is also a K-Mart in this town, which would also have the items I’m looking for, and which is only three miles from my house and a much safer cycling route. Also, the trip I take with the kids every morning to school, either by foot or bike, gets me a mile closer to K-Mart. And the recycling center, which I discovered today will take the worn-out bicycle tire which Nathan just replaced for me, is only a tiny bit out of the way, and allows me to ride home almost completely on the bicycle trail.
Ding-ding-ding! Problem solved. Thankfully, in this mild eastern Colorado climate, good weather is again forecast for tomorrow.
I write all of this not to show off or lay any guilt trips. This is an inside look at how car-light living works in my everyday life. It’s taken me years to get to this point, where I feel confident enough in my abilities to cycle safely, dress appropriately for the weather, pick a good route, estimate the time a ride will take, and carry stuff home on my bike.
It has also taken years to arrange my life in such a way that I can live like this. I have relocated to a bike-friendly town with some good trails and lots of marked bike lanes, in a climate where, maybe 85% of the time, even through the winter, the weather and road conditions are good enough for me to safely ride my bike (without needing snow tires and extra-protective gear!). We bought a house that is within a mile or two of nearly everything we need for day-to-day subsistence – work, school, groceries, credit union, tons of shopping and restaurants, even the public library and a couple parks. I live with a very handy DIY man who is glad to help me keep my bike in good working order. My kids are both in school during the day, and I don’t have a day job, so I have a good chunk of child-free time available each day for errand-running like this.
And I haven’t “arrived” either. It’s been a blast getting more adventurous on my bicycle – pushing myself to become comfortable with busier streets, colder temperatures, and heavier loads – and I am excited to continue pushing my limits!
One of my favorite mantras, which I first heard in the context of exercise, also applies to making sustainable choices – “some is better than none, and more is better than some.” What’s one errand you can do by foot or bike instead of car this week, or maybe combine with other errands so you use your car just a little less? Make it an adventure!
And enjoy the package deal you get with each little choice along the way!
For further (and better!) reading, start here with a classic Mr. Money Mustache post on biking.