Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Errandonnee Part 1: Going Car-Free (Lite)

Michigan, in the 1960s, was all about the automobile. Gasoline was $0.30 per gallon when I was born. Living in farm country, we actually had a 200-gallon tank on our property and a gas truck would come out periodically and fill it up. No thought was given to burning gasoline - even just for fun! Before I was old enough to drive, I owned five cars. The economy revolved around the automobile. And so I went to General Motors Institute to be an automotive engineer. I only say this to underline how deeply the automobile is ingrained into my being.

After a few years of increasing annual mileage on my bike in the past decade, it dawned on me that it might be possible to eliminate the car from certain aspects of my life. Is it possible to completely eliminate it? Let's examine some of the problems:
  • Commuting - from the suburbs to Silicon Valley, 55 miles round-trip per day
  • Errands - grocery store, dry cleaning, volunteering (the shortest trips, but awkward to carry stuff)
  • Dining Out - ~10 miles, but always with my wife who does not bike
  • Going Places - vacations, day trips, movies (varying degrees of difficulty and luggage)
Enter the Errandonnee Challenge. Mash up "errands" and "randonnee" - meaning long, self-supported bike ride, take a photo and hashtag it. The challenge is 12 errands in 12 days and it's made slightly more challenging by specific categories to enforce some diversity of the errands. Of course, it's possible to do all 12 errands in one day. But what fun would that be‽

March 4, 2016, Errandonnee #1
Multi-Modal Commute (category 7. Work or Volunteering)
Short bike ride to the train station; train ride down to the Valley; five-mile bike ride from the train station to work. Then the opposite back home that afternoon. About 20 miles of actual bike riding.
I've been doing this a couple times a week for a couple years. There are lots of cyclists doing the same thing.
Observation: If it's raining and snails invade the bike path, there will be collateral damage.

March 5, 2016, Errandonnee #2
Haircut (category 1. Personal Care)
About two miles downtown. No big deal. I tried to take it easy to keep my head from sweating.
Observation: They open at 8am! Okay seriously, I noticed that it's so much easier to park a bike - right at the front door - than a car.

March 5, 2016, Errandonnee #3 (same day)
Coffee (category 6. Social Call)
From the barber shop to the coffee shop was less than a mile. The rules allow this, so I did it.
Observation: Kouign-amann (pastry); resistance is futile. 

March 5, 2016, Errandonnee #4 (same day, but I went home first)
Dry cleaning (category 2. Personal Business)
This was a bit of a challenge and has always been a hurdle for going car-free. It's possibly the shortest errand for me, 0.7 miles. How do you transport a few dress shirts on hangers to and from the dry cleaners? I've tried this before. It's rather dangerous to have a shirt on your back. 
Observation: The tip from packing experts is to roll your clothes, so I tried this. I left the shirts on their hangers and precisely rolled them up and put the roll in my backpack. Success!

March 5, 2016, Errandonnee #5 (same day, same shopping center)
Groceries (category 8. Store)
The grocery store is two doors down from the dry cleaners in the same shopping center. I rode my bike but probably didn't pedal more than a couple times - slightly more than zero miles.
Observation: Rolled up dry cleaning is useful padding to keep potato chips from getting crushed.

Then the rains came and I opted to drive across town to my volunteering gig at the SPCA. It's not that I won't ride in the rain. But I need to put more thought into packing. Maybe next week. This is something I need to resolve on my car-free quest.

March 6, 2016, Errandonnee #5
Coffee and CycloMonkey Chaperone (category 6. Social Call)
As I am apt to do on Sundays, being a Devout Coffee drinker, I rode down the canyon to Devout Coffee to drink coffee. After that, I visited my friend to drop off a certain stuffed animal. CycloMonkey has been to two corners of the globe and Andrea is going to take him to a third (New Zealand and Australia). The ride home made the whole trip 31.7 miles.
Observation: The short-cut from Andrea's house, through the sports park, leads right to Rusty's house. (True observation: I can barely recognize my cycling friends without their helmets on.)

Clearly, I can eliminate the car for commuting and most errands. Stay tuned for more Errandonnees and more serious changes in my transportation habits.

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