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Seven years as a car-free commuter

Posted Jul 28 2009 11:20pm
Seven years ago this month I took the big leap and sold my truck. I loved that truck. Of all the vehicles I owned, it had been my favorite....and it was paid for and in great condition. It was incredibly hard to let it go. This was the way it looked the day I sold it in mid-July 2002: Later the blue Toyota truck would be replaced with the...
...Blue Truck/ Xtracycle for all my hauling needs.


It had been a long road to get to the point where I felt I could live without a fossil fuel powered vehicle. I hadn't bicycled at all in the 80's. In the early 90's I had started to ride a few times a year. And then in 1992 I was living alone in North St Paul after having moved to the Twin Cities from the Chicago area. I was working a full time job M-F and a 22 hour per weekend security job in downtown Minneapolis. My beater car had broken down and I had no way to get to my weekend job. There was no mass transportation available that could get me from North St Paul to Minneapolis for a 7 am start on a weekend. I looked at the used mountain bike sitting in the corner of my apartment that my brother had donated to me a few years earlier. I thought why not. I was totally out of shape, but I rode that mountain bike with a duffel bag over my shoulder the 24 mile round trip four times over the next two weekends. I was exhausted....but it was the start of something new.

I found I loved riding a bike for transportation and did it on and off until I moved to Duluth in 2001. I did it on that old mountain bike, which later became the donor bike for my Xtracycle conversion.

In 1993 I ended up on workers comp for six months, from May 21st to November 20 th. I had nothing to do, no money, but I could still ride a bike. Or at least, nobody had told me I couldn't. I ended up averaging 50 miles a day for that six months. It was all road riding on that old mountain bike. It had flat bars and knobby tires. I would just go out and spend all day on the bike. I felt like I was completely free with no worries when I was on the bike.

In 2001 the truck sat idle at my parents lake home in Michigan for almost 7 months while Susan and I backpacked the Appalachian Trail. After the trail we relocated to Duluth. After 6 months of trail life where we didn't ride in vehicles for 6 months, except for an occasional hitch hike into town or a shuttle, I never returned to a motorized vehicle lifestyle. To this day, I don't enjoy riding in cars.

Although I loved my truck, it sat parked in the driveway most of the time. I learned the local bus routes, would walk to anything that was less than 5 miles away, and eventually got the old mountain bike out and started commuting on it again.

The idea that I could live without a car was really starting to move into the forefront of my thoughts. The hardest part was letting go of that car lifestyle. Even though I didn't drive much, having a vehicle sitting there, just in case I needed it, provided my mind with a feeling of security. It provided a mode of transportation that was convenient, easy, and available all the time. Peace of mind.

Then in early July of 2002, I took the truck in for some preventative maintenance. It cost me $400. At the time I wasn't fully employed yet. Four hundred dollars was half my monthly take home pay at the time. It hurt, specially when I realized it was spent on a vehicle I didn't use. That was it, I put it up for sale. Sold it a few weeks later and have never looked back.

There was a short period of adjustment, but since I was already living a car-free life, for the most part, it was an easy change.

The first couple of years I bicycled to work on nice days. Took the bus on rainy days and during the winter. I was the most happy when riding my bike and the least happy sitting on a bus. So I started to learn how to dress for rain. And then 30 and 40 degree weather. I conquered all those challenges. And then the past 4 years I've learned to dress for the most extreme winter conditions that Northern Minnesota can dish out. Prior to breaking my arm in November, I rode a bicycle to work everyday work day for 13.5 months. Since getting the okay to ride again back in March, I continued riding to work every single day. Haven't missed a day since I started riding on March 17 th. I cant' imagine ever driving a vehicle to work again.
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