Well actually, the title really should be: how I lived without a car, because what worked for me, and what I had available probably won’t be the same for you.
When I decided not to get my van fixed again, I looked all over for tips on going car-free–articles, ebooks, etc. And what I found is that most of them were written by upper-class yuppies living in the city. They had tips like buy a really expensive road bike, because, after all, think of all the money you aren’t spending on a car!
Seriously?? I’m trying to save money here, not blow it on a thousand dollar bike. Anyway, I already had a bike with a baby seat. I got it for $35 on craigslist….for all the good it did me.
Most of the car-free tippers focus on your bike. That’s how you are going to get around and buy stuff. You were supposed to get saddlebags, maybe a trailer for bigger stuff, wear a backpack, etc. The problem was I LIVE IN WEST VIRGINIA! My street is at a 35 degree angle. Walmart, Goodwill, and most of the other larger stores are less than five miles away, but it’s all uphill on the way there!
I could ride downtown. That was relatively flat. There were still 2 places where I had to get off and push it uphill though. If I didn’t have a 35 pound baby pulling me backward, I could have made it up those places though. But on the whole, I found walking easier even for that. Sure, it took longer, but I could carry more stuff, and frankly I didn’t get as sweaty. So I had a wagon to fill with groceries, gym stuff, library books, and of course, packages. And occasionally we had to make extra room for a tired 4 year old.
But how to get up on the hill? That’s where the Walmart, Goodwill, the large Kroger (the one with organic produce), and the hardware store was. That’s where the bus came in. For $2 a ride, or $40 a month, I could ride the bus, which would pick me up at the corner near my house, and drop me off right at home.
The bus was really my savior. It ran 5 days a week, and a limited amount on Saturdays. Sundays we just had to stay home or walk downtown. I could read my book. My son was generally quiet. We got to know all the bus drivers, who, of course, loved Caleb.
The only problem with the bus is that it only ran in town. You couldn’t get over to the next biggest town where the Lowes was. And Lowes has the best selection of craft woods (thinner and thicker than normal cuts of wood) of any hardware store. Plus I needed a way to get the wood back home. A taxi would have cost $20 or more.
Enter my very, very kind and generous neighbor. She would let me borrow her van to go to Lowes or the other wood place to get wood. Seeing as how I had no friends, and certainly no family in town, I would have been lost without her. I felt bad about asking her though, so when I did, I stocked up on all the wood I would need for a month or so.
Now how to get to NJ where my family was? I had already found that megabus was cheaper than driving, but first I had to get to Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, there was no public transportation from my town to Pittsburgh. So I found a relative of my neighbor, who was at the time, living with her, who worked near the airport. If she dropped me off at the airport, I could then catch a bus from the airport to the downtown, where the bus left from.
So problems solved. I didn’t have a car from one Christmas to the next…
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