Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Getting Around
By Michael

On foot along Victoria's downtown streets.
I grew up in the Southern California car culture. As a kid I worshiped cars. I couldn’t wait to own my own one day. All I wanted for my 16th birthday was an appointment at the DMV.

I noticed buses on the road only because they blocked my view of cars. I rode a yellow one to school in the mornings. In my high school years, I learned the school bus carried a stigma; it was to be ridden only by the desperate kids who had neither cars nor friends with cars. I’m embarrassed to write that as I grew older, I accepted the idea that public transportation was for the desperate, and certainly not preferable to moving about in your own shiny ride. And it was an idea easy to accept, given that Southern California suburban infrastructure puts public transportation someplace between impractical and impossible.

One of the unexpected benefits of our move to D.C. was learning how awesome public transportation can be. It was magic to realize that a 45-minute commute by bus or light rail could make more sense than the same 20-minute commute via car. That the 45-minute span included a pleasant 10 minute walk and 35 minutes of productive time spent reading, emailing, calling, writing, working, or meditating. The car commute was 20 non-productive minutes spent cajoling a 35-hundred-pound vehicle through a city. Even ignoring the issues of cost and pollution, I was hooked.
Though we did own, drive, and maintain a car during our 12-year span in D.C., it was a single econobox that served our family of four, often sitting idle in the garage. When we transitioned to our cruising lifestyle, we got rid of it. Since then we’ve borrowed the cars of friends and family, rented on occasion, but mostly we simply find a way to get around using the public transportation of the place we are.

Now immersed Victoria city life, but with no car and no car to borrow, we are reaffirming our pleasure of being unencumbered by an automobile. Sure we miss an occasional remote and appealing event, but there is a freedom in arriving someplace without a car. We step out of the bus in front of the grocer, Walmart, or Home Depot and as it drives away, there we are, untethered, free to walk about without finding a place for and securing our four-wheeled companion.
We consolidate trips to save on bus fare (unlike in Mexico where bus fares are so cheap, we’ll ride for the sake of exploring) and never give a whit about filling a gas tank or changing the oil or paying for insurance.

It took going cruising to make us car-less, but it didn't have to. We could have gotten along without a car in D.C. or any other big public transportation-friendly city. But being rooted as we were, I imagine our busy lives would have made the convenience of a car irresistible (getting to work is one thing, getting ten bags of mulch is another). Today it seems we traded the convenience of a car for the freedom of a home that can be where ever we want it to be. And as cruising kids, Frances and Eleanor are growing up familiar with life without an automobile, every bit as comfortable aboard a bus or light rail as I was once uncomfortable.

For my 44th birthday, Windy and the girls surprised me with
this remote controlled helicopter. I pressed my luck flying
it down below, but the weather wasn't cooperating for an
outdoor flight. Fortunately, nothing (and nobody) was damaged.

For the past several weeks, the girls have been enjoying their
gymnastics class. It is a good physical outlet for them and
both seem to enjoy it, boasting to me in the evening about
whatever contortion or stunt they'd learned.


  1. Ah, I can't believe I missed your birthday! Happy birthday old man. We miss you.

  2. And do what we do in Brisbane - rent a cheap car for a day for longer excursions. We're living in a downtown area where we seldom need a car for anything. p.s. Google "Sooke Potholes" - an excellent spring excursion but you'll need a car to get there I think.

  3. Being car-less and without a home built on a foundation may sound insanely weird to some folks, but to me it sounds like total freedom. There's real gratification in arriving somewhere simply by the power of your legs or the will of the wind.


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