This is what I told the owner of my bike shop a couple months back: I’m no longer a bicyclist who sometimes drives a car; I’m now a motorist who sometimes rides a bike.
Hands-down, the hardest part of moving to this house for me has been the alteration of my modes of transportation. Most of the time, when I complain about my “commute,” I get laughed at. A friend in D.C. informed me the road outside Riverwalk hardly constitutes a “highway,” while one of our neighbors in Riverwalk started to laugh and said her husband used to drive clear across some big city for his commute.
I get all of that: my sister Tia’s current commute is four hours one way, even if it’s only once or twice a month. Her husband’s commute can be anywhere in the world as he flies to film sports events.
But I don’t feel like people who scorn my new commute are listening to me. They don’t have to feel sorry for me, although my co-workers are kind enough to be sympathetic, because Lynn and I consciously chose this location, but my commute has been a fundamental change in my lifestyle, the one I grapple with most.
The distance, which I feel reasonably certain I’ve clocked at 2.5 miles from work, is not insurmountable, but logistics and most importantly time become factors that have put all of my walking and most of my biking to work out of reach.
Now, if we planned just a little better (and I blogged just a little less), Oz and I could walk in to work each morning, but we would use up our already extensive lunch hour walking home. We could bring a lunch, but Oz generally spends his afternoons at home, and sometimes after a day at work I’m not very pumped to walk. I’d much rather ride my bike.
Lynn could come pick us up, but what then have we really accomplished? I didn’t drive my car, but now Lynn is driving hers, which uses gas, and we haven’t negated any trip totals.
Cathie Elliott, the realtor who assisted us with our land purchase, tried to warn me. Her office, from which she is now retired, sits directly across Main Street from Pat’s, so she’s had plenty of years to watch dogs and me coming and going. Early on she said it might alter my transportation modes.
What I said to her, and what I intended, was that I figured Oz and I could drive in each morning and out at lunch, but I could ride my bike back in the afternoon. And I could, but it isn’t working out as well as I had planned.
Time, again, is a big factor. Living in town, even on the northern edge, meant there really was very little difference in the time it took me to get from home to work whether I drove and located a parking space or rode my bike and parked immediately in front of wherever I was going.
One very early morning I got a call from Dispatch, telling me the police had discovered an unlocked door at Pat’s Screen Printing. It turned out that two employees together had not managed to lock up correctly, but none of us knew that at 3 a.m., and the police were waiting for me to come make sure nothing was amiss. I started to get in my car (gas at that time), but realized the windshield was completely frozen over, and it was going to take far longer to defrost than it would to ride my bike.
Now it would be far more expedient to drive, because my bike ride seems to sometimes be a 25-minute proposition. That’s where the logistics come in.
My old commute was conducted on a series of zig zags, along streets and through alleys. My favorite part was cutting across the parking lot for the school administration, where Tia’s office now is, because sometimes I would see my friend Linda. And if it was around the 20th of the month and I was on my way home, she would be there working on payroll and I would stop, knock on her window and keep her from her work.
Now my ride is a dreary straight shot along the highway that becomes Main Street just at the edge of town. So there’s a lot of traffic and noise, and always in the back of my head are two things: the garage along the bike path (which parallels the highway) that got hit not once but twice last year by cars leaving the road on a benign straightaway, and Debby Phelps, a real bike rider who was on the highway shortly after it becomes Main Street who was mowed over by someone in a huge hurry to get to the liquor store. (She lived to tell the tale; not so much for Dale Thomas, who was farther up the highway when an unlicensed 16-year-old ran him over while turning.)
I have a bicyclist friend who got hit by a car in town, so I know that’s a possibility as well, but it seems much more ominous as cars are driving in an area marked 55 mph despite a multitude of turns off the highway. I keep waiting for someone who is trying not to be run over by the impatient driver behind them to plow into me as they escape the highway.
And there’s the wind. One house along my new route is the Marine House because it proudly flies the U.S. and Marine Corps flags. One day I was riding riding riding and not getting much of anywhere, and when I got to the Marine House the reason became clear: I was heading straight into a wind that had those flags flying as snappily as they could. Of course, the wind switches before I go home, so I get to ride into it both ways. Don’t believe me? Check the Marine House flags for yourself.
We haven’t even made it to the True Value-Walmart Interchange, and I am completely out of time and mostly out of word count. This subject is clearly bigger than all of us, and will require more words another day. I’m sure you can hardly wait.