Sunday, July 19, 2009

Got the Garden In (Car Free)

One of our big family projects is a 200 Foot Commuter Garden a few blocks from our house. Today was planting day, and we managed to get everything over there using backpacks, wagons, and a big adult-sized tricycle (which belongs to our neighbor). One of our volunteers did use her car to bring bags of compost and lime, which was pretty handy. I'm especially glad to have a garden so close to home now. I even had enough energy (barely) left when planting was over, to ride to an afternoon writing workshop.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Weekend Update: No Driving

(by Pat)

Unlike last weekend, we didn't need to use Zipcar or any other cars this weekend. Instead, we got around by bike, foot, T, and boat. We took bike trips to our garden, to Arnold Arboretum (where we caught tadpoles and frogs and fed kettle corn to catfish), Haymarket, and grocery stores. Tracy took the T to the mall to buy luggage for our upcoming vacation (and had to return it via T for a replacement, when we learned it was broken). Noah and I traveled by T to the Boston Waterfront, where we met up with an old high school friend and his four-year-old daughter, who were here on a long airline layover. We jumped on the ferry out to the Harbor Islands to eat hot dogs and collect beach glass and catch up. Perfect day for it.

It felt good to be all over town, so many different times, and not need (or want) a car.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Tiny Touch of Old Car

Got a call from the people who bought our old car. Turns out that both Tracy and I were supposed to sign the title when we completed the sale, since the car was in both of our names. This was unclear, since there was only one line for signatures for both parties, so we just thought it would be fine for one of us to sign it. And nothing had come up around this when it was time for us to turn our paperwork in.

So the buyers came by this afternoon, for all of the ten seconds it took for Tracy to sign the title (they'd gone to register the car and they got turned down because of the missing signature). (While typing this, I realize that we should have photocopied the newly signed version. Oh, well.)

I guess it's been about a full two weeks without the car. There have been a few times lately where it would have been really handy to have it, but even so, I haven't missed it.

Zipcar rocks

(by Pat)

Had my first real Zipcar experience yesterday. We rented a Honda Civic Hybrid for 8 hours (so about $56), from 1pm - 9pm. We needed to pick up our son from the beach (where he'd been hanging out with big sister and Grandma) in Rhode Island, but first we figured we should use the car to get some heavy items--dog food, kitty litter, and potting soil, and then we needed to drop off a friend at a garage in Natick where his car was being repaired. Initially, we weren't sure we'd need the whole 8 hours, but with rain, traffic, and a little bit of time spent being lost (my fault), we got home with just half an hour to spare.

Zipcar rocks. It was easy to use the card to unlock the car. The garage pass was where it was supposed to be. We even needed to fill up with gas, and the gas card was there, ready to go. Very simple.

We did a lot of driving over the past week, it seems, but we also walked and biked many, many miles, all over Boston, Brookline, and Cambridge. Today, we biked to the movies and also for grocery shopping. Feels great.

a weekend of driving

(by Tracy)

Despite having no car, I put on a lot of car miles this past weekend.

It started on Friday. I reserved a zipcar to go to my bookclub in Worcester. Worcester??? you might be wondering... why would I go to a bookclub in Worcester? I've been going for about six years to this group and we read books (fiction and non-fiction) from different cultures and experiences than our own. We all come from multi-racial families and I really like all the women in the group. I reserved the zipcar for four hours for a total cost of $43.05 (includes the tolls). While driving I started thinking about the cost of the trip and the value I get out of going to visit with this group. I asked myself if the bookclub is worth the resources I was expending to get there and back. For instance, could I recreate this experience closer to home? Am I missing out on an opportunity to build local community around the exploration of multi-cultural issues? This is exactly the sort of thing Pat and I thought would happen - we would start becoming more conscious of our choices and perhaps seek ways to align them more closely with our values. I haven't yet worked through all the choices with the bookclub yet. I think I'll investigate bus options to get to and from Worcester (I already know the commuter rail is not a good choice - the timing is terrible!). Stay tuned on this one. It will be a few months before I figure it out. Next month I'll be out of town, and the following month everyone is coming to my place.

I got home at about 1:15 or so and at 1:45 we got a phone call from our good friend Jessica. On their way to come to stay with us for the weekend and bringing along another friend, her husband and 4-year-old son, their car broke down in Natick and she wanted to let me know that they were going to take a cab the rest of the way. I couldn't have that, so I quickly went on to zipcar and found I could get another car within a half hour. I was able to find a car to fit all of us about a quarter mile away and was quickly on my way. I guarantee that this was a less expensive option than having a cab drive them all in (about 20 miles or so). It was a nice discovery that it was possible to help out friends in a pinch even though we don't own a car.

Yay zipcar!

On Saturday, I drove my kids to Rhode Island, for their vacation with my mother at the beach. I used our friend's rental car for the trip - it was a Mercedes and one of the fanciest cars I've ever driven. It was a nice ride, but it was challenging to figure out all the buttons. I had a moment of chagrin at the gas station when I couldn't close the gas tank. Luckily a guy on a motorcycle clued me in that locking the car was the reason for it. I sort of missed my very simple car at that moment.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Payback (gradually)

We saw our first actual savings from getting rid of the car yesterday. Our condo dues went down $60, because we no longer have to pay for parking. It's not a huge amount, but it's all going to add up ($60 a month is $720 a year, which is real money to me).

I did the paperwork to get our car insurance refund, a refund on some of the car registration fee, and some of our excise tax back. I'm hoping to use some of the money coming back to us to enroll in a basic bike repair course (and make buy a bike stand to make doing those repairs easier).

Still waiting for my cool new biking rain gear to arrive--I sure could use it, given the weather we've been having in Boston lately.