Saturday, October 9, 2010

Today we we rode bikes to a woody area about 6kms from us, went for a nature walk there and had a picnic. It qualifies as our Thanksgiving celebration. I love riding my bike, haven't spent as much time on it lately as I would like to have. But nevertheless it was really lovely and easy, and we all enjoyed it immensely. It was interesting to take this route as I haven't done it since the first night I got the Xtracycle, and even with my cycle-slacking lately, I am so much faster, stronger, and better at balancing! Hills I had to walk up the first ride are like nothing to ride up now, and the distance (we went about twice as far along the route as we did that first time) was nothing. So interesting to see how far I have come with it!

Some pics:

Tired 2 year old... she is in a carrier here although you can't see it.

Some of the woods...

The Xtracycle waiting for us...

Now-awake 2 year old ready for the ride home...

And off we go...

The 3 of us on the bike...

A great day!

Friday, October 8, 2010

I have taken the plunge and joined a CSA in my town. CSA is Community Supported Agriculture, basically where you pay the farmer at the start of the season and enjoy the fruits of his/her gardens for several weeks or months following. The idea is that the people who eat the food share in the financial risk-taking with the farmer, and provide the capital necessary to purchase supplies and to sustain the farming family while they grow food for us to eat. And if the peppers do badly, we have few peppers, while perhaps the zucchini grew wonderfully this year so we share in an abundance of zucchini. That is my very amateur explanation anyways. It also encourages local eating, so avoiding having your food shipped thousands of miles to your plate, and if the CSA is organic (which mine is and I think most are), it supports organic agriculture.

I have thought about doing it before but never followed through. This year I think the impetus is partially that I feel buoyed by my carfree project, that I can untangle myself somewhat from 'the status quo' and that I have the capacity to follow through. Also I have a professor this term who is into eating only local foods; she is brilliant/totally weird in a fascinating way, and I have learned a lot from her this semester about the food industry. In addition to what I already knew from reading Michael Pollan and Raj Patel on the subject.

Luckily with this CSA, the farmer grows the food and drives it into town, where it is picked up from a house fairly nearby me. Oftentimes you drive out to the farm to pick up the food, which wouldn't work for me for obvious reasons.

So yesterday afternoon Z and I trucked out on an unfamiliar bus route to pick up our share. It comes in a large box, but I left the box there and just filled the basket of the stroller, along with a canvas bag I brought and hung from the stroller's handles, with the food. When I bring the bike I will empty the box into the panniers. The veggies are glorious! Tiny sweet red and yellow peppers, radishes that taste nicely mild, nap choy (I think), daikon (had to ask what this was), butter lettuce, red leaf lettuce, onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, acorn squash, and a pie pumpkin which is now roasting in my oven before becoming pumpkin soup. We also got real free range eggs, no more $6 grocery store eggs thank goodness!

So of course I am afraid that I am going to be a CSA loser, leaving things to rot in the fridge instead of cooking them. I already half froze the red leaf lettuce - apparently my fridge is too cold, so I've turned it down. I've already eaten the butter lettuce tho, and I'm feeling quite proud that I have the pumpkin in the works to be turned into something edible. Thankfully the vegetables look familiar and inspiring. Friends gave me their CSA share last week (different CSA), and I couldn't even identify some of the veggies - green tomato-like things with their own paper-like wrappers, and a knobbly small root vegetable were beyond me. With my own, the only real question mark was the daikon. Everything else I basically know what it is, and I am eager to try it all out, even the daikon.

Perhaps this whole CSA endeavour will even inspire my children to eat more veggies. Ahhh or maybe not. But I'm pretty excited about it.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

We have been carfree for three months now. Just over three months actually. We are pretty much just grooving along in the routine of it, I don't have much excitement to post right now. I have noticed some of my routines have changed, obviously, and there are some things I just don't do anymore. Like I haven't been to Costco for ages. I did get a friend to pick me up some frozen berries when he went, and it will soon be inexpensive car-renting season so we may share a car for a weekend and I may do Costco then. I want to say 'along with other things I need a car for' but I can't think what. Perhaps I will go to Value Village - I love thrift shopping, and that has been a frecuent haunt for me, although I now just go to Goodwill as it is walking/biking/bussing distance. I have gotten many good finds there.

I also feel like having the 'carfree' thing under my belt (so far, winter is still to come) has given me a certain confidence that I am not as tied down to the expectations of the dominant culture as I feared I may be. When I started thinking about how car-dependent I was, I felt really like I'd been duped, I'd bought in and now I was dependent. As I said I think in my first post ever on here, when I got my first car it wasn't intended as a lifelong decision. It was to get around in a rural area and to commute to the city for work. But when I moved to the city, I didn't break the addiction, and it turned into this apparently lifelong dependency. I heard as well that if you lose your insurance for a period of 6 months or more? you start again at a base level like a new driver. I need to investigate how true this is, because if there is validity to it, what a con. This provides a strong disincentive for experimenting with being carfree, because of course if we lack confidence that this can be a longterm decision (as I did/still do to some extent), it is harder to go back. I still pay insurance on my car, $22/month I believe, though I don't think it even covers fire and theft so I am not sure what exactly I am paying for. Perhaps the ability to go back, I should look into that.

Wow apparently I do have a lot to say today!

I do not know what exactly I will do with my car, and this has been nagging at me. It is old, and in semi-disrepair. Too good for the scrap yard, too crappy to feel good about selling. I will keep it at least through the winter until I get more confidence in this new lifestyle. I still fear January and February and fear I am going to wimp out. I did splurge on a down coat though, and the kids have warm snowsuits, so I'm not too sure exactly what I am afraid of. I think the level of permanency that would come with making it through the winter season. If I can do that, I don't need a car. And... yikes. It still feels somewhat temporary, though as the months go by it feels less so and that is so freeing as well as being a  bit scary.

I feel silly saying that I am scared still of being carfree... how lame. But there it is. Partly there is a weird social ostracization - the mothers at my daughter's school have been very curious about where is my car, what happened. I have explained the carfree thing and I can tell they think it's a cover for just simple poverty, that the car broke and I can't afford to fix it or something. Which is ostracizing because they have their vehicles and their salon hair, and if I am poor I am even less 'one of them.' I noticed the questions about my carfree status arose anew and with more sincerity when I showed up at the schoolyard with the shee-shee Valco stroller, and I believe it is because if I can afford that, and the Xtracycle, I must not be broke. So am I crazy? Or, what the hell is going on with me that we are no longer driving? These were the aims of the questioning. So interesting.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

I finally installed my front headlight on the bike! It is very bright. I needed it last night as we were leaving my house after dark for a short trip to M's dad's house, where I am dogsitting for him this weekend as he is away. Love my bike! I can't believe I have used it so little the past two weeks. I am not sure if this is an unusually rainy September or what, but I expect some cool, dry days this weekend and am planning to bike everywhere.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Oh, how I wish I had taken the bike instead of the bus to M's school for Open House night yesterday evening. The bus seemed the easiest, as it looked a bit like rain although the Weather Network didn't project it (but then I've learned I cannot count on them), and the route looked direct and timely for us.

First leg was okay, but then the second bus didn't come when it was supposed to, and an older gentleman told me (in Spanish, I am getting to practice my Spanish so much! Apparently the largest immigrant group to this city is Hispanic, and of course being newcomers, people will be less likely to own vehicles, which means there are a lot of people speaking Spanish on the transit, a wonderful bonus for me in trying to learn the language)... anyway he told me that it had come five minutes before. I pulled out the schedule to confirm, and seemed like it had gone by early. We waited ten minutes and then decided to cross the road to get another bus that would get us closer but still a walk from the school, as the one we wanted wasn't due again for fifteen more minutes. As we were crossing, I saw our bus come, and we ran back and caught it. I don't know if it was 10 minutes late, 15 minutes early, or simply completely out of relation to the printed schedule they distribute. I suspect the latter.

Then on the way home, after staying late so the kids could play at the playground, I figured we'd just gamble, walk to our stop and wait a bit, since we could have taken either of two routes that come along that line. We waited, and waited. It got dark, mosquitoes came out. I checked my schedule (kept handily in the stroller) for the one route we wanted, and it wasn't due for half an hour, as we had missed it by minutes. No matter, as I expected the other one any minute! It didn't materialize, and I called the transit's route information line, which has recently become automated and completely ridiculous to try to navigate. If Z talks at all while I'm on the phone, it thinks I am speaking and does all sorts of weird maneouvers. Which of course is exactly what happened, and it took a full five minutes to deduce that the other route does not run past 7pm. Lovely! So we waited, in the dark, with the mosquitoes, for almost 30 minutes for the stupid bus, as first parents, and then teachers and admin I am sure (tho I couldn't see them in the dark) drove out of the schoolyard one by one in their vans. Then the trickle of vehicles stopped and we were waiting alone. Lonely.

I have a 'sweet spot' for our daily commute on transit, but this served as a reminder that our system can be extremely useless and frustrating. I longed for my bicycle, with the flashing backlight, and in my imagination I had gotten around to installing the nice bright headlight too. I longed to head out of there on my own schedule, like the other parents, and to have been at home before that damn first bus showed up. And of course despite the winds and grey skies, I felt maybe one drop of rain, no more. We could have cycled.

I also long for rapid transit. If the lines are populated, they run them more, I know this just from the ease of getting to the university, where there is a high percentage of transit users. Just get downtown, and a bus will be along in the blink of an eye to get you to campus. This morning as we waited at the bus stop along a busy road, I imagined all those drivers populating the busses, which like the busses to campus, would arrive with such frequency that it would be impossible to look at a bus schedule and tell 'which one' it is, what time it was due. Because they would come every five minutes, so whether it's the 930 bus 3 minutes late, or the 935 bus 2 minutes early, would be a toss up. No more having to plan exactly for when you want to be at the stop, getting there early and preparing to wait in case the bus is late. No navigating the stupid robotic infoline from your cellphone. It would be great to have a critical mass of people on busses and bikes, so that the busses are always coming, and their main competition for the roadspace is bicycles.

I think that would be very nice for just about everyone. Being in the car is so isolating, such a heavy responsibility, so boring, and the financial aspect such a burden. People do it to a large extent out of an absence of other convenient options. But because we do it, the demand for those options does not exist. In Toronto, where I lived for ten years, it is very common to not own a car. In fact I never got my license until we decided to move to the country. Cars are a burden, cycling, walking, and using public transit is easy and ever-present as a feasible option for getting around. I would love for that to happen here. It's a smaller city, yes, but we do have the critical mass for it. That is evident by the traffic jams on the city streets at rush hour.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

And of course it rained like crazy yesterday morning, but for once I was prepared! I had an umbrella, M had a raincoat, and Z was in the new stroller with its uber protective hood and the rain canopy. Score! We are getting the hang of all this.

I haven't been bicycling as much as I would like for our commute to school(s). Either it rains, or I feel sick (this week I have had a cold), and if I take the bus I can leave ten minutes later. This is kind of nagging on me, but I also think oh well, it's about making this as easy and liveable as possible. I do miss using my bicycle daily tho, or almost, as I was doing in the summer. I hope to re-incorporate it more again, perhaps I could cycle part way, then grab the bus down to M's school, then take the bus back up to the bicycle. This would eliminate one of the busses I have to take, and would let me ride the bus for the roughest part of the commute. Currently all told, if I cycle I spend 1.5 hours on the bike each way. This is a lot! And as I don't go home during the day I am quite committed to either the bus or the bike for the day. It still makes all the difference to being carfree for me to have it, for grocery runs, adventures around the neighbourhood and around town. Although our daily route happens to be very convenient by bus, many of the other places we go are not, and I love that I am still independent and able to get around on my own schedule, by my own route, and under my own steam. I would not like the feeling of being entirely dependent on public transit. I like that I can use it when I want to, and avoid it if I don't want to.

Interestingly, tho M's school is only less than 4km from my house, and the university is 7km, I far prefer going to the university on the bicycle. The ride to her school is quite uphill in parts and also through some not so pleasant, high traffic areas. And frankly the bus is so convenient, a 3 minute transfer wait halfway, and really door to door, from my house to the school. I guess if my main complaint is that the bus is too convenient, I'm not suffering too much. I love biking to the university though because I can take bike trails most of the way, it is quite flat, and then I have my bicycle to get around campus easily. This feels very luxurious, that I don't have to walk between different parts of the campus, but can jump on the bike and be wherever I want to very quickly.

Another great thing about taking the bus for our daily commute is that a few of the other mothers at M's school take it too, so I've gotten to meet a few people. In particular there is a mother from Colombia, who doesn't speak much English, and is very friendly. I am taking Spanish at university, and am desperate for opportunities to practice the language as I want to become fluent. She is thrilled that I know some Spanish, and is very patient about helping me find words and conjugate verbs to say what I need to say. And although I know she simplifies for me, it is really helpful for me to just hear her speak pretty naturally, I am learning a lot. She is very nice and has a great sense of humour. We are becoming friends and we talk at the bus stop after dropping off the kids, and then the whole way downtown. I am enjoying this immensely.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I have a schmancy new stroller suddenly, a fairly impulse purchase after I decided I need to get something with big, inflatable tires for the snow (which won't be here for 3 mos yet). Well actually what happened was I asked people if my stroller, an Eddie Bauer Sport, with the small non-inflated tires would be okay in the snow. Because although I've had it for over 2 years, I had no idea, since I drove everywhere. (And also used baby carriers pretty much exclusively for the first year). Friends recommended Valco brand, and lo and behold someone posted one on kijiji the next morning. I jumped on it, and now it is mine. It is the Valco Tri Mode EX, in black:

I got it for just a little more than half the full cost in the store price, and for far more than I ever dreamed I would spend on a stroller. My justification is that if I am not driving, suddenly my bicycle and my stroller become my 'wheels' and I need them to function as well as possible. Pretty good justification right? I am revelling in the materialistic gluttony of it, all the funky things it can do, how I can walk along pushing it with one hand and it glides along. It also has a very full coverage hood which will be my saving grace the next time we find ourselves unprepared in a downpour. Which knowing me will happen before too long.

I have decided that car culture is too rich for my blood, but man can I afford to cycle, walk, and take public transit with aplomb! It is actually pretty hilarious to go from driving a piece of crap, always falling apart car, to riding the Hummer of bicycles and pushing the Cadillac of strollers. I feel like I've moved up in the world! Shallow yes, but I think worth sharing because I didn't think my move to carfree status would be a step up in luxury. It totally feels like it is.

I will post a review of the stroller for anyone who is interested in that sort of thing, either today or tomorrow. But wanted to share the ooh lala factor.

Friday, September 17, 2010

I love being a pedestrian/transit user/cyclist. I do not miss my car.

I am inspired to post this right now because I just emerged (on foot, with stroller) from the neighbourhood coffee shop, coffee in one hand, and got stuck momentarily inside, unable to easily open the door as I had the stroller wedged in the way. Before I could move the stroller back to come forward again to grab the doorhandle, a young woman walking by outside, yoga mat in her bag after being at the local studio I am sure, saw my predicament and helped me. She had to actually enter the coffee shop as I backed up the stroller, to hold the door for me, and I went through it. I said things like, 'Oh thank you! Usually I am a lot smoother than this,' and 'Have a wonderful day.' She laughed and said no problem. We both felt good from the interaction.

Likewise on the bus this morning I rang the bell before M's school, the bus driver forgot to stop, I said 'Oh!', he apologized and stopped. Right in the Kiss n' Ride, where cars usually idle momentarily while waiting teachers help kids get out. But the waiting teacher helped us off the bus, and me, her, M and our driver all got a kick out of the idea of a bus coming through the Kiss n' Ride.

I would not interact with these people from my vehicle. I would be in my own world, and they would simply be obstacles. My human interaction quotient has gone way up. As my one friend said, 'In a car we are defining ourselves by the kind of metal box with which we surround ourselves.' I love that. I feel much more *in* the world. M is learning to put her transfer or change in the metred box on the bus and take and guard her transfer. We have the same drivers many days and are starting to know them.

I also get more exercise, by far, even when taking transit. Just the walking between places is far more activity than I usually must execute to get myself through the world. And the bicycle is amazing exercise. I love seeing my body get stronger and have an easier time as I get more practiced, and I love the feeling of cycling. It is the only exercise I have ever truly enjoyed.

I realize I am only a few weeks in to 'the grind.' I realize it is not winter yet. Perhaps I will eat my words when it is -30. But as of right now I do not miss my car one bit. When it has rained on us (twice now), I have longed for an umbrella and decent rainwear. Not for my metal box.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Yep yep got soaked this morning we did. I had raincoats on the kids, and I grabbed our two Mexican rebozos (woven cotton shawls, that are pretty thick and can be used as baby slings or long scarves). One kept Z's legs dry in the stroller, the other kept my head, shoulders and arms dry. We stood under trees a lot and two kind fellow bus-goers shielded us with their umbrellas at an unsheltered stop. I bought an umbrella on campus, so I am now the proud owner of a loudly coloured umbrella advertising our university's sports team. Great.

I am not used to dealing with the weather, having been a full time driver for ten years. I know a lot of people drive and still plan for weather, but apparently I am not one of them.
The week has gone great so far! We have taken the bus some days, bike some days, it's all good. Today it is pouring rain. I have basic rain gear, some of which I bought this week, but not, like, FULL rain gear. I don't think I ever have had full rain gear for any of us. We are bussing of course, but even so I wonder if we will make it to our respective schools not-soaked. Here's hoping!

I think having appropriate weather gear is going to be important now, far more than it has been in the past when we would hop in the car and hop out.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The moms on the school playground are horrified that I am not driving my car anymore, I can tell. They make 'oh no' type faces and ask what my plans are, what happened to it. I say it's still there, I'm just not driving it, I'd rather get around on the bus/bike. They look at me like I've lost my mind, and I start to believe that maybe I have.

I am glad for the context of the university, which also has 80 billion cars but at least in my program, people 'get' why you might want to ditch the gas guzzler and don't look at you like maybe you've fallen on hard financial times or something and are justifying.

We pulled up to the schoolyard on the Xtracycle this morning though and attracted a HUGE crowd of kids. That was awesome. We took it the first day but the focus was on 'first day,' and since then we've bussed due to threatened rain (that hasn't materialized til later both days, oy). The Xtracycle is a more impressive way to be carfree than the bus, that's for sure.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Well, so far so good. My own classes have not started, but both kids have started their respective schools/daycares. We biked up one day this week, and bussed twice because it looked like rain, and after being drenched last week I have rain-paranoia. We also don't have proper raingear for cycling and arriving dry yet. I should do something about that.

Cons first:

- Damn it's a long ride. Especially to M's school, it is a lot of gradual uphill which I find tiring. Feel like a superhero on the way back down though!

- We are more vulnerable to weather. This is probably a good thing, because it encourages me to dress them well as we leave the house. Both kids spend periods of time outside each day unless t he weather is truly inclement. In the car I would often arrive somewhere and not have the proper clothes for them, because I hadn't noticed how cold (or whatever) it was since we were driving.

- I can't meet M for lunch easily, though I wouldn't anyway as my classes this year are scheduled during her lunchtime. Can't come home during the day easily either, kind of committed to staying on campus until it's time to pick up both kids, or I would spend the whole day travelling. Which I did on M's first day, so I know this to be fact!


- It takes barely any more time to bus in the morning compared to driving. I leave my house at 8:30 rather than 8:40, and arrive on campus by 9:35 rather than 9:20. That is no big deal! On the way home it takes a little longer, have to leave campus with Z on the 2:30 bus to get to M on time (I think - there may be a later option but I haven't found it). We get home at 4:30 rather than 3:50, because the bus doesn't come right after her school lets out. This is fine mostly because she likes to stay and play anyway, but in winter this may be a PITA.

- I feel a LOT lighter not having the 'weight' of the car during the day, the responsibility or stress of it.

- I interact with people a lot more, and I am already noticing that drivers seem to experience people as a nuisance more than anything - both other drivers and cyclists/pedestrians. Out of the car there is a much more personal interaction, and people become human again rather than an object obstructing the way.

- The bus is relatively convenient and easy. The bike is fun!!! Both are physical - the bike much moreso, obviously, but even riding the bus requires actually moving - walking, running sometimes, hefting the stroller, balancing myself and the stroller while standing during the ride. In the car I sit like a log.

- Much more interaction with my children when both bussing and bicycling than while driving.

I can't wait to bicycle up to campus when classes start next week, and park my awesome Xtracycle at the bike rack rather than driving my piece of crap car into the parking lot. I will swagger, I will!

Monday, September 6, 2010

MacLeans article about the upsurgence of cargo bicycles, interesting!
6 year old's school starts tomorrow. Yikes! This is the beginning of seeing how I hack the routine without the car.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Also this week we took the Via Rail train to visit my parents who live about 2 hours/200 km's away. It was lovely! I have a fear of dying on the highway, which I know is a fairly remote danger but still car accidents are the leading cause of death for children I believe. So not so remote compared to other risks in our lives. Add in that I drive an old car (1995 Chrysler Intrepid), that my mechanical skill is non-existent and therefore it is easy for me to miss problems with the car, and that when my insurance renewed this year it increased greatly, and when I called to ask why the response was that there had been a large number of claims in the death and injury area relating to my specific make and model of vehicle. Not exactly confidence inspiring.

Anyway it was absolutely delightful to not have the stress of knowing we were about to embark on the highway for the day before my trip, and also to not be thinking of the drive home while we were there. I wasn't aware of the degree to which the driving has previously stressed me out.

Unfortunately taking the train cost $130 for myself and the littles, and this included a 'Super Saver' $89 fare for me, and a summer companion discount that made their fare each only $10 each way. Gas to my parents' and back costs $30-40. However my father pointed out that mileage for driving a car, including capital costs, fuel, insurance, vehicle depreciation/repairs, is usually estimated in the neighbourhood of $0.50/km. So a 400km round trip would cost $200 by that mathematics, which makes the train look like a deal. Even to half the per km cost to $0.25/km still puts the train tickets in the cost ballpark of driving.

That was an interesting reframe of the cost issue. And taking the train worry-free about safety, hooking the kids up with snacks and a DVD, and being able to attend to them during the trip without stopping, was luxurious.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Riding in the rain to daycare sucks, as we found out today! The Weather Network called for a 40% chance of 1mm of rain, and it had rained and the sun was out. So I thought: Let's go! The three of us hop on the bike and we set off. All through the parks and bike trails were fine, but as we turned onto a main road about 10 mins from the daycare, it started to rain, then downpour. We were caught in it, and got pretty soaked before stopping under a tunnel bridge to see if we could wait it out. But it kept coming, the kids got bored, and M started nagging. When it eased off a bit we took off again, and then it poured some more and we arrived literally sopping, dripping wet, with both kids freezing. Nice.

And it turned out Z's favourite teacher, whose last day it was before transferring to another centre, had called in sick. Plus they had chaos with too many kids and too few teachers and were frantically calling around trying to change kids to other rooms. So I decided the heck with it, all the chaos and the missing favourite teacher was going to defeat the purpose of Z getting acclimatized happily, which is the purpose of taking her to daycare this week (we have all been off for the summer). So I decided I would just take her back home with me. M pointed out that this meant it was a useless trip. Uh, yes it was M, thank you!

I piled them back on the bike, this time post-rain, and wrapped Z as well as she would tolerate in a towel for warmth. She was crying, from all the chaos of arriving wet, then going into daycare, then leaving with us. I was thinking all kinds of bitter thoughts about being carfree and about the Weather Network's lack of reliability. We set off, quite a spectacle, as we always are on the Xtracycle but I find if you're going to be a spectacle, you'd better be doing it right. I feel like a sore thumb when I am doing something odd and somewhat eye-catching, and it's going badly.

So I was in quite a bad mood setting out. But Z's crying stopped after a minute, and at the first small decline, I heard her little voice exclaim: 'Wheeeee!!!!'

And the fun was back. We had a lovely ride home. Next time I am bringing rain gear though, or at least towels!

Monday, August 23, 2010

We just completed an absolutely mammoth grocery run. We stopped by the health food store for a few odds and ends (about half a large grocery bag's worth), and then rode to the discount store about 2.5 - 3km from home. I have been eschewing it this summer in favour of the more expensive but very close neighbourhood store, but today decided we would go and do a large shop.

And oh boy we did! I am not sure what came over me. There was a lot we needed, and a lot of good sales. I did think I was stopping myself from overbuying in favour of remembering we were travelling by bike, not car. But I also thought that the full cart was caused more by my backpack and cloth shopping bags than actual groceries, and I was mistaken about that. We ended up with about $150 of groceries, plus two children and myself, on the Xtracycle. I wasn't sure we would get it on the bike, honestly. We came out with a loaded cart, I looked at the Xtracycle, and suddenly its size seemed dwarfed. It looked like a mini, puny Xtracycle with teeny tiny bags. But we started to load 'er up, and achieved success! M, my 6 year old, managed to leverage herself onto the bike above all the bags, and she carried the box of salad greens in her lap because there was just not any more room for it in the panniers.

For once I got pictures! I will upload pics in a bit, as the camera battery is extremely low. It tried to shut off when I was taking pics, but I willed it to live on a bit, and I think the camera actually sensed my desperation. LOL.

eta - Pics!!!

Z and shopping cart full of groceries when I was thinking, 'Uh oh.'

Who knew that would all fit on the bike?

It was an easy ride home. Definitely helps that it is mostly downhill, I did feel a difference on the uphills (which are all very gradual) but it was still nicely manageable. Balance was also different, as I am not used to carrying so much weight, and I felt M's shifting around to talk to Z a lot more than I usually do.

Here we are outside our apartment building, nicely pleased with ourselves. M had to carry the salad greens as there was just no way they were fitting in the panniers:

We felt truly victorious when we got home. While I was loading, fumbling around looking like a fool and dropping stuff from the panniers in my inexperience, I thought 'Someone must be watching me thinking too bad they don't have a car.' But we had fun the whole time. And M was so proud of her role, bringing back the quarter we'd borrowed from a cashier to get a cart (forgot to bring one) while I loaded the bike, getting on over all the stuff, being in charge of the salad, entertaining her sis to keep her awake, and opening doors once we got to our building. I told her I couldn't have done it without so much help from her, and that I was really proud of our teamwork. She was beaming when we got in.

All told we carried:

- 2 bags diapers (approx 100 diapers)
- 3 refills of wipes in a bulk bag
- 2 L almond milk
- large box salad greens
- baby romaine lettuce
- broccoli
- small bag potatoes
- cherry tomatoes
- 2 regular tomatoes and a cucumber
- 4 cans tomatoes
- 2 jars spaghetti sauce
- box macaroni
- 4 boxes Kraft Dinner (M's current favourite)
- bag frozen french fries
- large tin apple juice
- pancake mix
- maple syrup
- pickles
- loaf raisin bread
- rice crackers x2
- pita bread
- babybel cheeses
- coffee beans
- basil
- bag cornmeal
- shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, deodorant
- bunch of bananas
- ketchup, mustard
- granola bars
- and a new sippy for Z.

Honestly!!!! All of that. I can't believe it.

Great day.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Today we got daisies and beer on the Xtracycle on the way to a friends' house for dinner. I tried to take the bike thru the drive thru at the beer store, but got declined. So I took it right into the store, thru the line up, filled the pannier with the beer I bought and Z and I rode off. I thought that was pretty funny.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

By the way, sometimes it doesn't let me comment here. Abby, several times I have tried to answer your posts, especially the really thoughtful one about Slurpee consolation prizes for the inconveniences that come with being carfree, but sometimes it allows me to enter text into the comment box and sometimes it does not. I am still such a newbie to blogger.
Ahhh we went to a birthday party in the park today, on the park that is along the way to my university. It was drizzling when we set out, and it drizzled through the whole party. We had cake, yoga, and the kids burst a pinata, all in the dry shade of the large trees. M and Z both went in the splash pad and got thoroughly soaked. Then as the party drew to a close the drizzle turned to a downpour, and we found ourselves bicycling home through the pouring rain. It was so invigorating! I truly had such a marvelous time. Most of the way was along the bike path, which was all but deserted, and the lush greenery with rain coming down was so cooling and refreshing, and beautiful. M rode the whole way in her bathing suit. Along the streets, we were riding uphill and water was rushing downhill past us along the side of the bike lane, water pouring down through pathways on roofs and eavestroughs. Wonderful. And I have disc brakes on the bike, which are amazing and it feels as secure to ride in the rain as it does when it is dry. Stopping is no different, thank goodness.

I can say this summer that I really feel like I have lived it, I feel that I have thoroughly enjoyed the season and been more in touch with the goings on of the weather than I have in years past. And there is something so magical about being on the bicycle. I notice I write a lot about riding the bike on this blog, moreso than taking transit or walking, which we also do a fair bit of. I was thinking today that bicycling is the only form of exercise that I can truly say I enjoy, I feel so alive and at peace whizzing along through town or the trails on the bicycle, children aboard behind me. And my kids are so happy on the bike. Even if Z is fussy and demanding, strap her in the baby seat and set off, and suddenly she is content and quiet, watching the world go by and enjoying the 'whee' feeling of bicycling.

I also talked with a friend who bicycles year round. She gave me tips about layering and reassured that the bicycle lanes along the streets are usually clear, although she doesn't usually take trails so isn't sure about that. I am in no way sure that we can bike through winter, but I would like to go as late in the season as we possibly can.

After drying us off, I dried the Xtracycle as thoroughly as I could. The baby seat was sopping wet, to the point that I took the seat cushion and wrung it, and tons of water came out. I undid the straps on the longtail bags to let them hang free, and took a towel to all the steel parts and screws of the bike. I read something ominous about how one must dry the Xtracycle when it gets wet, or a certain part of it will rust, but my mechanical knowledge is so limited that I have no idea what part. So I dried it all, and I hope I got whatever part was the important bit.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The other day we bicycled up to meet friends at a park that is directly on the path to my university, very close to campus. It only took me 20-25 minutes to get there! With both kids aboard. And our friends' kids were so into the Xtracycle that they ended up lining up for rides around the park. Even the mamas got in on the action and cycled some of their kiddies around.

It was awesome.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

So, I drove the car again on Sunday, on a planned trip out of town for the day in lieu of getting a rental car. My 2 year old especially was really excited to go in the car, but by the end of the 45 minute trip was bored and crying. She is not used to it after having the summer off of driving.

Sunday at midnight my car insurance was removed from the vehicle (I had called a week or so in advance to have it removed following this trip).


Without the option of driving, I found myself aware of all the things I like to do with the car, and feeling really not so sure about this decision. It is only off for 45 days, until near the end of September, to give me a taste of life in school without the car. But I thought about how I am addicted to veggie burgers from Costco, and I don't even know how to get to Costco on the bus but it is probably hard *whine whine*. It is also right near my school so maybe it's not so hard after all. I also need some new clothes but I am too lazy to take the bus to Value Village. At least, that is my first response. As soon as I type that even I think well it's only two busses, they come frequently, what's the big deal. I want to go visit my Mom and renting a car is more expensive than I realized in the summer. I am going to look into the Greyhound though, and a friend told me I can get 50% off tickets with my student card.

It just freaked me out to suddenly not have the car. I have had it for my entire adult life. I'm skeered. But I am also thinking, this is my chance, man. To break out of the box, to live a little. I don't have a job that requires me to have a vehicle, I don't have a huge commute. I live in one of the best areas of the city to be carfree. I can think of reasons why to not do it, I have kids, I have to run around to places, groceries etc. But I was reading a book about living simply, and the author talked about how we justify all these reasons that *we* are the exception, *we* need this or that while everyone else can make do without. Fact is car culture is not sustainable. I know this. And knowing it, I just feel... kind of dirty or something... relying on it as much as I have in the past. Like, if I go somewhere without the vehicle, I truly feel that I am there. If I drive, I feel like I cheated a little bit, if that makes sense. This is particularly the case with outdoor places, but it is a little bit true anywhere.

Last night I had to take M, my 6 year old, back to urgent care. The situation was not as urgent, but the antibiotics didn't fix her all the way up to feeling well, and I wanted to get her back in before she got sick again. This time I looked up the bus routes, and what do you know, the bus that stops outside my house goes straight to urgent care. En route I even composed a blog post in my mind about how great that is. Except we got down there, and urgent care was closed. How urgent is urgent care if they close at 6pm I ask? But all the same, we ended up walking to a payphone and calling a cab to go to the children's emerg. Ahhhhh!!! Foiled. But we got there, and now I know how to get to urgent care easily, if I have an 'urgent' problem before 6pm.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

So I, uh, drove the car.

My 6 year old had a non-emergent but fairly urgent and upsetting medical situation. I actually consciously thought while getting ready about how if I didn't have the car we would call a cab and it would be fine. But since I have the car, and it is insured for two more days, just getting in it felt like the responsible thing to do, and also the thing that gave me a secure feeling.

So we drove. Took her to the clinic, she was treated, came back home, all is well. The car sure gets you from point A to point B fastest and with little effort. I surprisingly felt less confident driving, less spatially aware, on the way there. By the way back it was old hat again.

Had I needed to take a cab, it would have come within 5 minutes to my front door and would have cost $20 to/from the clinic nearby, or probably $30 to the urgent care, where I prefer the treatment, find shorter wait times, and like to go. It would be doable. I didn't do it this time, but we could and would if we were carfree. Frankly I prefer privacy and not dealing with others or worrying about wrangling carseats into a cab (honestly I would skip the carseats probably, it is legal to go in taxis without them here). But it's a rare situation and we would manage.

Friday, August 6, 2010

This is lovely and inspiring:

I did the commute to my school today. Did it straight from my house, though usually I will detour to take M, my 6 year old to school first. I did it there and back though with a stop on another part of campus, so figured that was enough.

It is long. 6km one way, which takes me 45 mins or more, sadly enough. I am not fast. There is at least one hill each way that I must walk, I can't bike up them. The commute is very, very pleasant, mostly bike trails, very safe, relaxing, lots of beauty, and Z, the two year old, stays content on the bicycle the whole way (both ways today, including detours) and chats to me about the flowers and everything she sees. She says, 'Let's go fast, Mom! Great idea!' On campus there are lots of bicycle lanes and it is lovely to ride through. I know I *can* do it now, and enjoy it. Question is will I, day in, day out? I guess I will have to see.

Today was about exploring route possibilities. I need to go again and just go from point A to point B (well, should do points A, B, and C - from home to M's school to my school), because that is the reality of what I will be riding. And I should time it.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

My Mom is visiting. She arrived yesterday just before noon and goes home tomorrow afternoon (after 6 year old's swim lesson). I got her on this carfree bug with me while she has been here, her car hasn't left visitors' parking. We biked everywhere! My Mom used my regular bicycle while I used the Xtracycle with the kids. We walked to the pool yesterday for the swim lesson, and then we bicycled over to visit my ex partner, then to downtown to catch the last evening of a local fair, then for pizza and home. We did about 8 km yesterday, and had a fabulous time. Taking the kids to the fair was a surprise, and we were only going to let them on a few rides (well the 2 year old is anti-rides, so I'm talking about the big kid here). We were standing outside the ticket booth deciding how many tickets we needed, when someone came up and handed the kiddo a 'ride all day' pass. Yay!! She was beyond thrilled, even though there were only about 7 rides, she didn't care and we stayed until well after dark. Then we bicycled to Pizza Pizza and got the kids pizza at 10pm. Good times!

Today we cycled to the swim lesson, and then to a city amusement park at the west end of town. One big downside to the Xtracycle with a babe on board, which I learned the other day when I dropped it trying to wrangle it thru my apartment building doors, is that it is VERY precarious to try to move the bike with the weight of a child on it. I don't mean to just walk the bike forward, but to actually lift the back end and set it down in a new position, still upright with baby aboard, is a weight and balance nightmare. So we were cycling along the deserted sidewalk of a very busy road today, when suddenly the sidewalk ended. I decided to get off, get the big kid to jump off, and hop the bike down the curb where I planned to continue riding on the road. Then I changed my mind, noticing a merge lane ahead which we would need to enter that had a huge blind spot for merging traffic. So I decided to hop the bike back on the curb, but couldn't just walk it up as the sidewalk was ending. This is kind of hard to explain, but suffice it to say I am glad my mother was there because it took two of us to physically lift the bicycle up to the last bit of sidewalk with the toddler aboard. Due to weight and balance I could not have safely done it without risking dropping the bicycle. So we had a bad moment where I was spotting and ensuring our presence was known to cars and an oncoming transport truck (who changed lanes to give us space far ahead of where we were - thank goodness I've found drivers so aware in this city, man,)and we lifted the bike successfully, I turned it around towards the path and we were on our way.

I will not do that stretch of road again. If I were alone, in the situation I got myself into I would have had to keep the bike on the road and remove the toddler from the seat, then have her big sis hang on to her on the sidewalk (she is awesomely reliable at that kind of thing), and lift the bike separately. Total crisis moment and I need to remember this characteristic of the bicycle, which I guess is similar to any bicycle with a child in a child seat (I just haven't used one for years), and make choices accordingly.

Once we got through that though we were fine, and most of the trip was lovely through the city's bicycle paths. I made it up a decently steep hill and was extremely proud! My mom didn't make it, had to get off and walk her bicycle, but then she doesn't believe in shifting gears so that is likely why. On the way back I encountered a too-big hill and had to dismount and walk the bike, which ended up being easier to do (getting big kid to hop off, then me off on an uphill incline) than I had thought. Otherwise totally smooth ride, 14 km in extremely hot, humid weather. Thank goodness the park has a fully decked out splash pad.

This is the longest journey I have done with the Xtracycle, and I carried both kids and was mighty proud. Actually it is the longest journey I have biked in recent memory, I did the same one last year on my own bicycle pulling the trailer I believe, with then-5-year-old on her own bicycle. Bodes well for my commuting to school plans. I love that I stowed an umbrella stroller in the Xtracycle panniers and used it to cart the toddler (and at one point, an overtired and overheated big sister) around the park. That is awesome.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

It's August! :) Actually this will probably post as August 2nd, but it's 12:15am on what I still consider August 1st, and we have been carfree for a whole month! I did it! I'm thrilled. Haven't even been in a car this month in fact.

As I mentioned before I plan to continue through August and until the end of September, when mine and the kids' school all starts back up. We shall see how we hack it from here on out.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Slow biking - this is the biking for me:

Um, I'm accidentally following my own blog, and I don't know how to unfollow. Can we say blogger incompetent? Oh well nowhere to go from here but up I suppose.
We rode in Critical Mass tonight! And it was so much fun. This is the first time we've ridden this year in it, and of course we took the Xtracycle. I was a bit nervous because everyone there is so much more of a hipster than I, and frankly I look like a dweeb trying to get on and off the bike, plus I don't ride fast. So we went, and starting off we were leaving a crowded park and I felt all shaky and worried. But the blockers encouraged me to go ahead of them, and soon we were riding confidently along the road. It was great. We took some main streets, dinged our bicycle bells, and yelled stuff like 'We like bikes!' and 'We're not causing the traffic, we are the traffic!' (The 'causing' bit is my Japanese friend's interpretation of the slogan, I think it's usually 'blocking.' Love that). The 6 year old was mesmerized by the guy who was awesome at curbhopping and getting good height while doing it, and the guy with no saddle who sat sideways on his bike for a bit. Cool tricks she is determined to try at some point (probably not soon, realistically, but hey who's gonna tell her that).

Awesomely, we did the whole ride, me and both kids and I just came home and plotted the ride up, the Critical Mass ride, and the ride home, on google maps. 13 km. Did not feel hard. Which is awesome because I've been wondering if I can commute to school. It is 4 km from my house to the 6 year old's school, and then 7 km from her school to the university - the first bit I would do with both kids, second bit with just the 2 year old.

I'm thinking I can totally do it. Just go slow and I can go really far.

And I need to start taking more pictures to post on this blog!!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Just took the 2 year old for a spin on the Xtracycle to do some shopping. We went about 8km or so, picked up some tomatoes and corn at the downtown market, some grips for the 6 year old's handlebars (I phoned her at her dad's from the bike shop and she chose white - the colour is uber important dontchaknow), and then headed for the east end market, but turned around a block from it because 2 year old passed out in the PeaPod.

The Xtracycle is very, very easy to ride with just the 2 year old. I feel so light and springy on it with just her that I'm getting really cocky and super enjoying the ride. But managing the bike when I'm not actually on it is another story. I don't have the double kickstand, can't justify the price right now ($135 US I believe), so although the single kickstand is surprisingly sturdy I leave one hand on it at all times with the toddler on it. Which makes for some fun times at the outdoor market buying tomatoes, finding money, and digging my shopping bag out of the panniers to load it up and put back in the pannier, all one handed and ready to support the weight should the bike start to go down. I actually did pretty well with that, but getting the bicycle through doors is hilariously unwieldy. I am sure I looked ridiculous going both into and out of the bike shop downtown for example. My strategy is to support the bike, open the door, get myself and the first part of the bike through the door, and then kind of fling it open and yank the rest of the bicycle through before it bangs shut. Ahhh!!!! This is actually pretty doable with nobody aboard the bicycle, but with the toddler on, her weight makes the back end of the bicycle hard to lift up and move, so it's difficult to get a good angle on the bicycle to go through the door without banging handlebars, stoker bars, the 6 year old's foot pegs, and then whatever is in the panniers.

Coming home, she was asleep so I left her in the seat. To get into my building I have to come up a ramp, turn the bike 90 degrees, walk it a few feet, and then turn it as close to 90 degrees again as possible to get in the door. This is hard enough with an empty bicycle and a 6 year old holding the door. But today I had no 6 year old, and the 2 year old in the seat. It took me so long to get thru the first door that an older woman with a walker came to help me get in the second!! But I turned my key, went to open the second door, and... promptly dropped the bicycle!!! Holy bad mama moment. Thankfully I was able to brace it enough to make it fall slowly, and the 2 year old briefly woke up and then went straight back to sleep, still halfway between the floor and upright! She was well protected between the baby seat and her helmet and didn't seem to care. But I freaked myself out so badly that I took her right out of the seat and put her in the baby carrier to go upstairs in my building. The bike was easier to manoeuver, but the transfer to the carrier woke her up and now I am faced with a napless toddler.

Ahhhh!! I sure appreciate automatic door openers, and wish we had them in my building.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

So, did I mention I spend an average of $400/month on my car? During the school year, that is. Maybe $300 during the summer. Totals:

Insurance - $105
Parking at home - $20
Parking at school - $50
Gas - $150-200 during the school year, probably $50-100 in summer
Repairs/license plate fee/the odd ticket - $100 month roughly

Oh that's actually well over $400/month during the school year. Wow.

I just spent a ton on my Xtracycle, so thus far I'm not exactly down for being carfree. Haha! But it's a one time expense and will pay for itself within a few months of being carfree. I have also insured it lest it be stolen, at a rate of $35/month. And I'm still paying $22 on my car policy (not sure what exactly that buys me, not even fire and theft I don't think). I get a free transit pass in September (should have one now but I lost it last fall and didn't care to replace it since I just drove everywhere).

I do notice I'm far more apt to shop at the expensive grocery store a block away, rather than take the 20ish minute bicycle ride to No Frills. So I'm up a bit on groceries, hard to account for how much, but definitely some.

I bought bus tickets at the beginning of the month for $19 and I still have several left! The beauty of biking/walking everywhere in the summer, most excellent.

We did also take the train to TO at a cost of $60 each (myself and my daughter's father).

So apart from the Xtracycle cost, and notwithstanding the lazy grocery habits, I'm paying $75 this month (tickets, car insurance, bicycle insurance) on transportation. Remarkably lower than the car.

And, at least right now, I really really don't miss it one bit. I haven't even looked at it all month. I really need to go start it, but I'm a procrastinator.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Yesterday we cycled over 10 kms, did two grocery hauls with the Xtracycle (market and grocery store), and stopped at a downtown festival. We cycled home in the rain but the bike has disc brakes and they worked great. I found balance a bit tricky under load, especially the first load because I wasn't overly careful about balancing it. I learned by the second time we went out, and did better bringing a LOT home: 4 litres white milk, 2 litres chocolate milk, 2 litres juice, a bag of sugar, frozen veggie burgers, some garden produce a friend gave me, and several other items. That is a lot to fit on a bicycle along with two kids! Couldn't believe I could get everything in. (Disclaimer: That's the heavy/bulky stuff. I swear I don't only buy junkfood, haha!) The first load included a big bag of flour, big bag of oats, bananas, a few other groceries and an umbrella stroller! Which from now on I know to remove from the bike BEFORE trying to get it on the elevator - oy!

Today we took the train to Toronto for Pedestrian Sunday in Kensington. The guy who organizes it, he owns a restaurant called La Pallette (spelling? I hope that is right), we met up with him while my 6 year old was admiring his rickshaw and he gave her a ride in it. Soon it became obvious he knew everyone on the street, and he told me he hates cars and is able to pick up everything he needs for his restaurant in his rickshaw. He said it weighs 400 lbs and can carry 1000 lbs of weight. Amazing!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Our Xtracycle is here!!! I love it, so so much. It arrived a couple of days ago, and the first night riding was challenging - managing balance with three people on the bike was hard, especially up inclines. But I've gotten so much better since then, and I've decided that for now I will take the streets with their slow inclines rather than the beautiful but hilly bicycle trails. This bike definitely gives that 'Wheeeee!!!!!' feeling. Here we are on it, on our first ride. I know the 2 year old is not strapped in tightly enough - she was so terrified that it was all I could do to get her into the seat. Thankfully within half a block she was a convert and is now thrilled to go in 'red seat.'

And here is our rig on its own:

I was kind of horrified at how much this bike ended up costing. And I lock it with two locks *and* I have theft insurance for it, because otherwise I think I would be too jumpy to really use it to go everywhere I want to. But it is amazing. They say it is a great way to replace a vehicle and I get what they mean now. It is so much fun to ride, and I can carry tons of groceries and all our swim stuff in the panniers.

In related news I called my car insurance company and took my policy down to fire and theft, effective August 9th (I am driving my car in lieu of a rental to an out of town gig on August 8th). I can call and get the car back to driving status with 24 hours notice, but the kicker is that there is a 45 day period during which I am committed to keeping it at fire and theft. So I can't drive my car from August 9 until at least Sept. 24th. Which means I will have two weeks of being back in the swing of school and daycare to see whether I can go without the car entirely. I'm kind of freaked, kind of excited. Two weeks is definitely manageable. I *can* do it. Whether I will enjoy doing it, or be willing to do it for one nanosecond longer than two weeks, remains to be seen.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Still carfree and loving it. It is becoming pretty much routine at this point, uninteresting. The fall will be a challenge though once life's routines start up again.

This weekend we took public transit to a downtown festival, and home. Walked around our neighbourhood, to the local pool, park, etc. for a few days. Today, still waiting on the Xtracycle, we took the bike and trailer loaded with both kids to the post office and grocery store. Unfortunately I overestimated how much stuff would fit in the back of the trailer once loaded with two kids, and ended up balancing a lb of strawberries on top of a bag, thinking the trailer's back flap would hold everything in. Got home, the flap is still closed, but no strawberries! They must have fallen out somewhere along the route, just fell sideways and then snuck out under the closed flap (it only velcroes shut at the sides). Boo! No strawberries for us, as I'm sure they are smashed up somewhere, and I just don't have it in me to go back looking for them with a toddler due for a nap and myself drenched in sweat from riding in the humidity. I will pack better next time.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The last few days I haven't noticed I am carfree very much because we have stuck very closely to our neighbourhood. It has been extremely hot, 31-33ish but with a high humidex, so 'feels like 38-40' kinds of temperatures. Today is another extremely hot day, and I've kind of worn out the swimming/local library combination. 6 year old is with her dad, and I'm considering going downtown to an air conditioned playcentre with the 2 year old. Trying to decide whether to bicycle in this heat or take the bus, which might mean standing in the heat waiting for a transfer for a pretty short distance, but also would permit me to take the stroller, which will be useful if the 2 year old falls asleep, which she well may. With the car I would have let her fall asleep in the carseat and then transferred her to the stroller, which I would keep in the trunk (if I remembered it). So, figuring out new routines.

I am having an Xtracycle built (, and am super excited about it, but the whole ordeal has taken forever. I started looking for parts in May, eventually found an instock Free Radical and longtail kit at a cycle shop in Toronto, and had a friend pick it up for me when she was there. Then it has been about getting a bazillion parts and taking them to the bicycle mechanic who is building the bike. He is using an old Panasonic frame, giving me upright cruiser style bars, and building me a very strong back wheel. It is going to be an awesome bike, it is going to be comfy and (relatively) fast. The other, biggest, glitch has been trying to get my hands on a Pea Pod LT seat, the baby seat that is compatible with Xtracycle, and has been on backorder and then had to be ordered from the States because nobody in Canada could tell me when it would become available here. It is currently being Fed Ex'ed, and should be here within a few days? Maybe a week.

Then I will have my Xtracycle! Which will be amazing for us. Currently I have a bike and trailer, a Chariot trailer which is great and a Trek women's hybrid stepthru bicycle that I found on kijiji and which I love. But there are two problems with this set up:

One, I live in an apartment building and the trailer is too unwieldy to bring in the elevator along with the bike and children. I tried that once and was dripping with sweat by the time I got the rig set up, and it was a relief to get on the bike and ride to have a break from the exertion. Ha! I briefly rented a storage locker in the basement, but it was still about unlocking the trailer and locker, hauling it thru two doors and up a flight of stairs, with the children. Still not fun. Once I knew the Xtracycle was happening I grew more fearless about having the trailer stolen, so have taken to locking it up outside on the bicycle rack. So far so good, it's not stolen and using it is doable, but still a bit of a pain because I bring the bicycle downstairs, must go thru the basement thru 3 doors, down a long hallway and up that flight of stairs to access the trailer locked up at the rear of the building. With the Xtracycle I can just wheel it out my door, into the elevator (it should just fit, especially with a wheel turned, I have measured and now I will pray), out the front door, and go.

Second issue with the trailer is that I have a 6 year old who is good at riding her own bicycle, but obviously I am not comfortable having her ride on busier roads. We are relegated to sidewalks and quiet areas which limits where we can go a lot, in terms of riding for actual transportation and not just for fun. She also loves riding with her little sister so right now I am pulling both in the trailer. The 6 year old barely fits and it's a fair amount of weight (about 80 lbs total) to be lugging. The Xtracycle will permit a spot for her to sit behind me on the bench, which she will prefer I think, and which I think will make for easier hauling with the weight up on the bike instead of lagging behind it.

I will post pictures of our ride when we have it!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Well the 2 year old woke up officially sick this morning, early, despite my confidence yesterday that she was over it. I hope she made no other toddlers sick at the party.

It is 35 degrees here, feels like 41, according to the weather network. Btw that and the sick babe, I am doing approximately nothing. 6 year old went swimming with her daddy at the local pool, and I went for a walk to get a few groceries and bland foods for the toddler. There is a (friendly, with a good selection, but high priced) grocery store, and a health food store, only a 10 minute walk from here. So we just went there with the stroller, which I probably would have done if I had the car anyway. I just moved to this neighbourhood in February and it is so convenient to be so close to amenities.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Another successful bus journey, this one to the north end of town for the b-day party I mentioned yesterday. It took less time than I thought, the bus was air conditioned (super nice as it is 33 degrees out today). Spent $3.80 total on transportation today (I think gas would have been $5 or $6) and got 45 minutes of walking that I would have otherwise avoided. Nice.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Well the trip out to Toys R Us was downright pleasant.

I made some newbie bus mistakes - mistimed on both ends and waited the full 15 minutes each way. Haha! But actually the waiting was alright, as the 2 year old was easily occupied by games on the way there, and was asleep on the way back so I read my new book.

I also accidentally got on a 'B' version of the bus I wanted, which made a funky turn about 3 (long) stops from my destination. But once I got off to walk, I came across the farmers' stand that I've seen a zillion times at an intersection too busy to stop near when I am driving. Got a huge load of strawberries for $6, tasted one and they are the sweetest I've found all year. So that was awesome.

Also just lots of human experiences that I miss in the car - a car full of tourists shouting at me about where is a downtown street, then yelling in gratitude as I waved them the right way. The trees along the street near my house smell nice, and the independent drug store has lots of natural supplements and vitamins. I never notice more than the sign when I'm driving by. In fact I am realizing right now that I've thought there are no pharmacies in my neighbourhood apart from one a few blocks over that always seems to be closed. This one is almost right behind my building, no more than half a block, and it has never occurred to me to go there. Wild.

I justified pizza for me and the babe (who refused it), since I was out so long on the transit ya know. But I would have justified Starbucks in the car so whatevs.

Bought 10 bus tickets for less than $20, and was able to use one ticket for there and back on my journey today. A big perk of our transit system is it allows you to use the transfer wherever, for stop overs and anything you want, as long as it is within 90 minutes of starting your journey. And many drivers cut them generously, so today my transfer was good for 2 hours.

2 year old has no appetite so not sure about the party tomorrow, but I'm feeling really good about the longer bus/walking trip if we go. Cool.

A downside of car-free travel: It's weirdly isolating going somewhere on the bus, when virtually everyone else drove. Weird crossing parking lots with the stroller, not heading to a car.

An upside: Exercise. This is huge! So much more exercise just taking public transit, and it's that good feeling exercise, just using the body to get around.

Total $ spent on transportation so far this month: $19 - I've used $1.90 of that so far. :)
Today we are going to get a b-day present for one of my 2 year old's little friends, and tomorrow we are attending his birthday party - hopefully (2 year old was vomiting last night, tho seems fine today, this is assuming no further symptoms and that the little guy's mom is fine with us coming still).

I notice part of me is all resentful, like omg I have to go to the toy store now, this will be a chore without the car. The thing is our city is structured so all the big box stores are on the outskirts of the city. I try not to shop at them, but for something like this I have no creative alternate ideas? So we're heading to Toys R Us. Before I could get too far into the 'poor me' about it though, I looked at the bus schedule and realized that although the TRU feels like it's in the middle of nowhere (super carland with no sidewalks even), there is a bus that comes 10 minutes from here, runs every 15 minutes and goes straight there. Can I complain? No. Other than to say that only a few years ago there was a lovely toy store right in our neighbourhood, walking distance. But it's closed up and gone now, and I can't think of any independent toy stores in the city, nor any toy stores in the city centre at all.

The actual birthday party is at the north end of town, and it's going to be a hike. With the car we'd be there in 20-25 minutes, but on the bus it's going to take well over an hour and will involve 20-25 minutes of walking because there is no route that goes directly there on Sundays. Should be interesting. I feel like things like this are rare in my life, events at the edge of town, but I guess actually living it this month will tell me how accurate that is.

My kids are stoked about the party tho, it's one of my 2 year old's only little friends (they don't really have friends at this age), and the first time she has been invited to a birthday party! Hopefully she will be well and we will make it.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Today was interesting. I had some errands to do and did them by bike with my 2 year old while the 'big kid' was off with her dad. I had to go downtown to pick up protein powder and register for a swim pass at the local pool. Downtown is about a five minute bike ride - did this no problem. Except the actual swim pass had to be picked up at the pool, but the pool near our house was sold out. So I had to go pick up the pass at another pool, they said I could swing by anytime to get it.

No problem. This pool was nearish the grocery store I was going to anyway. Except it was kind of off the track and thru a hilly-ish area, which felt like a lot of work to get to without the car, since I'm so used to just hopping in and going.

Biked there from downtown with the babe, tho it was arduous *for me*, given that I'm a pretty slow biker and kinda out of shape. But I sucked it up, didn't put it off til tomorrow, didn't get the car. I went. Got there, and the pool was closed! Ahhhh. Nobody there at all. Which felt like such a big deal compared to how it would have felt had I driven there, and if I knew I could just drive back tomorrow. I feel like, I trekked all that way! For nothing! Crazy.

Doubled back to the grocery store, and found I can haul 100 dollars worth of groceries as well as a (somewhat squished) two year old in the bike trailer, no problem! And in even better news, from the grocery store to my house is almost all downhill on a soft decline. Which is perfect, because I can bike up with an unloaded trailer, and almost coast the whole way home with groceries. It is not hard at all.

When I say I 'trekked all the way out to' the pool, let me check the distance on google maps, it is probably embarrassingly small... okay yes, it was 4.4 km's from where I was downtown, and 1.8 km's from the grocery store I was going to anyway. So I went 1.8 km out of my way (and back!).

Yes, I'm lazy and not used to exerting physical energy to get around.

All told I biked 12.3 km today, according to google maps. That is a TON for me, wow. I find I can bike longer distances more enjoyably when I am not in a hurry. Hopefully I can get stronger while I'm on summer break and able to go at a super leisurely pace, and get more used to these distances.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Carfree for the month of July

I've decided to ditch my car for the month of July. Starting today.

When I got my car, because my ex partner and I were moving out of Toronto to the country, some 9 years ago, I had no idea how dependent on the darn thing I would become. I didn't think of it as some Permanent Move that I would never undo. I was 24 when I got my license and lived from 16-24 in Toronto without missing a vehicle, using public transit and bicycling to get around. Obviously a car was a necessity in a rural situation, but I didn't realize at the time that I would become so used to it, that I would construct my life around having it, and that it would be so damn scary to try to break the addiction to it.

I live in a mid-size southern Ontario city now. I am a single mama with two kids, ages 6 and 2. My 6 year old just finished grade 1, and will enter grade 2 in September. She is at a special program which permits increased parental involvement, but it is not walking distance (4 km's from my house), and there is no school bus - parents (that would be me) are responsible to transport the children to and from the school. Her Dad picks her up on Thursdays and Fridays, but that means 8 times/week it's me.

My 2 year old goes to daycare. I pull her out for the summers and whether we will get our spot back is always tenuous. Thankfully I already know she has a spot in September at the daycare she was in last year, which is right on my university campus, which streamlines the running around I have to do daily during the school year.

I attend university, and take 3 courses/year instead of the usual 5. I go to campus 4 days/week.

Last year I drove constantly, so much that I began to hate my car. Partly I feel like a hypocrit needing it so much since the degree I am doing is in social justice and global economics. Partly I dislike the isolation factor of driving, the laziness factor, and the ominous responsibility and money pit that the vehicle represents. I want to break loose, man. I also know it gets me around in a very streamlined, time efficient fashion, and that it keeps us warm and dry in crappy weather, and cooled down with air conditioning in the heat. I couldn't get away from it last year because of where I lived in the city (pretty far and not on good bus lines relative to my daughter's school or her dad's house), and when my classes were (3 days/week my morning class started 30 mins after my daughter's school bell rang).

But this year I'm thinking ahead. I've moved so I'm within blocks of my daughter's dad and much closer to her school. Two busses stop outside my door and at least one more a block down. Yet another line or two come down a major road maybe a 10 minute walk from here. This is as good as it is going to get for me in terms of location and access to transit in the city. I've scheduled my classes so I physically can use the busses to get there, although it will take me four busses to drop my daughter to school and get myself to my university. I have a bicycle and I'm getting stronger at riding.

And hey! Right now it's summer. I have no commitments. Nobody to get to school, no school of my own to get to. If ever I can manage carfree, this would be the time. I am going to try it. If I cannot do it, I will hang my head in shame. If I can, I am going to consider continuing carfree for the rest of the summer and into the school year, see if I can hack it when life gets rolling again.

I may drive up to one or two weekends this month. What I am trying to do is approximate what my life will be like if I am carfree. My daughter's dad has no car and he often rents cars on weekends. He pays $35/weekend inclusive, and his Visa card covers insurance. $70/month and two weekends with a car would allow me to still do things like go to the beach, go berry picking, maybe camping or to the fun water park in a nearby town where no transit runs. And it sure beats the heck out of the upwards of $400/month I spend during the school year to run my car (gas, insurance, repairs, parking at school). And it would mean I only use a vehicle for things I actually cannot do without it, not for runs to the grocery store, for example, which is a ten minute bus ride from here and the bus stops outside my door.

I'm stoked! And kinda stupidly freaked out. I hope I can do this!