Sunday, September 21, 2008

The big 0-3

Assuming I don't give in to temptation this week and buy that '84 Pontiac Firebird of my dreams, next Sunday will mark 3 years of carless Broaches. Among other things, that's more than half of our married years and about 10 percent of my life to date. Since my one and two-year anniversary posts died in the draft folder, I think I'll try a quick hitter of thoughts on the 3 years--as quick as I hit, anyway.

1) It's getting harder and harder to compare life without a car to life with one. That's mainly because we've moved to a new city where we've never had a car. I mean, I imagine we'd be cruising MLK and Grand in our lowered Japanese street racer with 6-inch pipes, blasting the tunes, and yelling at peds and cyclists on side streets. But, really, that's just a guess. Who's to know for sure? When we weren't cruising, though, I'm pretty sure we'd visit our friends who live out a ways a lot more, make regular trips to the Cascades and the coast to hike/camp, and almost certainly make it to more dancing spots.

2) It turns out that all the practical things we thought would be problems really aren't. Shopping, commuting, and "emergencies" have been non-issues. These are easy to adapt to (depending on the city?).

3) It was easier in Missoula than Portland. From our experience, I brashly generalize that small cities are easier than middling big ones. Missoula was compact enough that we really could get everywhere in town reasonably by bike. In Portland, especially with friends/events we just can't get to in an evening, it's more apparent that our choice is limiting in some ways. Some things that were/are important to us like flyfishing, hiking, camping, and dancing would be tougher here in any case, but they're near impossible for us without a car.

4) That's not to say there aren't advantages. We couldn't live in such a great neighborhood with the added expense of a car. We'd also have missed some great rides and adventures together when weather or circumstances would have wimped us into driving. Our amazing neighbors and two little girls bought a fleet of bikes and now pedal everywhere, too, and that's been really fun to watch. I'm not sure they would have been convinced if we weren't doing everything by bike.

5) We have an embarrasing number of bikes (7 single bikes and the tandem!), but that probably would have happened anyway. Still, it definitely goes against my desire for a simple existence. Wasn't I down to one bike once? Bikes are so simple and noble and cheap that they seem to slide in under my stuff radar.

6) In all honesty, it feels as though we've learned about all we can from our kidless-in-bike-friendly-cities carfree experiment. For the first time in three years, I think we'd probably own a car if we had piles of money laying around. Given our near-term financial prospects, I don't think I'll be staying up nights working on a new tag line. We still plan to be carfree when we have kids, too, and we look forward to all the new adventures that will bring.