Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Rough Driver and Rain

Three things from Tuesday:

1. The morning driver was very rough. Fast starts and faster stops. I was trying to be relaxed and read and I just about fell over at one point. I put down the tripod and braced myself for the rest of the ride.

2. I got off at my coffee shop and rode the couple blocks to work. There’s one more sacrifice that I won’t have to make.

3. I was pouring rain at the end of the day. My wife called and offered me a ride home. That’s a new option for getting home, we work in similar parts of town. I was able to get the empty water bottle home too.


I joined AudioScrobbler. You can see what I’m listening to here. I’m digitizing my CD collection at home so the results will be skewed a little toward that project, but it’s still true that I’m listening to what’s showing there…unless The Boy 3 makes something play…like he did Blues Traveler.

At work I’m going through my Bob Dylan collection alphabetically by title. It’s fun to hear the different versions of the songs all right in a row like that.

Statistics - Week 1 (four days)

Car - 7.2 miles
Bike errands/commuting – 9 miles
Bike training – 1 hour

Bike errands/commuting will differ from training when the purpose of the ride is simply to connect two points as directly as possible for the purpose of transportation. Bike training, will differ from commuting when an extended route is used two connect two points, even if the two points involved errands or transportation.

My habit of logging training minutes pre-dates the MinusCar Project, and I’m not going to change that.

KT - He Lives Here Now

My friend Kevin used to live here. He’s been gone for 9 years. My friend Kevin moved back here this weekend. My friend Kevin has been my friend Kevin for roughly 25 years. My friend Kevin lives here now. These are very happy days for me.

Because of my friend Kevin moving here I became one car in a three single occupant vehicle caravan to MLPS. The leader was KT in a truck that wouldn’t rent one-way. They drove that here Saturday and needed to return it Sunday. The truck wasn’t big enough for everything, so they borrowed a truck from a friend and needed to return it Sunday too. Because they couldn’t fit everything in the vehicles they had, it was necessary to load the remaining items in two vehicles and return home. After 17 hours the adventure was complete. We knew it was going to be a long day after we stopped for breakfast at McDonalds on the way out of town and ended up with Burger King breakfast 45 minutes later.

My vehicle was a Honda Pilot with 18,000 miles on it. I don’t drive cars that new, and I don’t drive SUV’s either. Nice car. Much faster than I would have guessed. And it’s got a nice stereo.

Road trip Soundtrack: Autopilot Off, Pop Will Eat Itself, (hed) pe, Hoobastank, Ratt, Simple Plan, Snoop Dogg, Something Corporate, Ying Yang Twins.

A highlight of the trip: the guy riding a bicycle on Highway 169 between Mankato and the cities, a place I’d never ride. Full camouflage.

I didn’t mention that part of the happiness of these days, is that their house is about 1 mile away. That’s about 5 minutes on the single speed bicycle. I made the trip by bicycle twice this weekend. I’ve never arrived at a place and had people say, “oh, drove the car over today, eh?” ‘Nuff said…and to KT and his extended family, if you read this, Dos Dedos Mi Amigos.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Weekends Will Be Hard

Saturday’s transportation needs were heavy and family oriented. Our first trip we turned into four stops. One of the stops included the purchase of two new pairs of shoes for me. These shoes I will leave in a box at work so that I can avoid carrying them back and forth. Shoes suck to carry, they weigh a lot, and take up lots of space in the backpack.

The second trip was 90 miles south of here for a wedding. We made some efforts into combining the trip with other family members but in the end we didn’t.

I was able to take some time Saturday to attach the trail-a-bike to my bike, and the trailer to the trail-a-bike. If you don’t know what these things are it’s easier if you think of a truck pulling a camper pulling a boat. I’d seen this done before but haven’t ever been very comfortable with the concept. We all took an uneventful ride around the block. This will be the way I transport the boys to and/or from daycare when necessary. Maybe by the end of the summer The Boy will ride his own bike to/from daycare accompanied by me, but we’ve got a lot of road practicing to do before then.

The road trip soundtrack was: Third Floor Project – Chapter One and Wallflowers – Bleach.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Water: In a Jug & From the Sky

Friday’s transportation needs included picking up the boys at daycare. I’m hoping to figure out how to do this without using a car, but for this Friday, so early on in the project, I needed the car. I was able to put the car in the park and ride the bus to work. I got an hour of bike time in on the way home, which included dropping the heavy back pack off downtown in the wife’s car.

I mentioned earlier that I supply water to my team at work. I took advantage of the car trip to the park by transporting a 5-gallon jug of water to my stop; I don’t think there’s any way to do this by bicycle. This is a big problem. I hate to start my car just for water…after all there are taps at work. I hate to stop bringing water to work…after part of the team’s aura is the whole bean coffee and the bottled water. Vanity, vanity, all is vanity, but I’m not telling that to the two VP’s that drink our coffee. Time will tell what happens, but bringing water on Friday delayed the problem for a few days at least.

I walked for lunch. It was lightly raining when I left…but I left anyway. It was not so lightly raining when I returned. I got embarrassingly wet. I’ll make a better choice next time.

There were a few glitches that need ironing out. I carried a water bottle in the backpack for the bike ride home. At ride time I realized the bike didn’t have a cage for the bottle. I dropped the heavy backpack off in my wife’s car downtown. In that pack was my purse/man bag/clutch that I had to leave behind because I forgot to bring other means to carry it. Also in the backpack I left my car rack keys and my house keys which should have been disastrous except for my/our penchant for leaving things unlocked.

Some More The Boy

He and I went for our first road ride today. I introduced him to the imaginary line that runs four feet from the curb. I explained how we're going around the block making only right turns. I explained how we're going to look to the left at each corner, and around the block we went. This is a good day.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Check This Kid Out

In other news...summer has arrived and as he promised The Boy had me remove the training wheels today. YES!

Emission Free Since 5/27

I brought the bike along today. Putting the bike on and off all went pretty smoothly. The racks are new for the drivers too so some silent negotiations were involved. My driver in the morning had already carried one bike; I was the first for my afternoon driver. I told them both it was my intent to use them heavily.

Today was going to be complex, but it rained. It turned into a simple commute; bike to bus, bus to work, bus from work, bike to home. It was raining at the end of the day and that changed everything. I was prepared for the complexity of the day so I brought more gear than I usually will. I bet my backpack weighed 30 pounds, especially after I filled two water bottles with Gatorade in anticipation of a long bike ride after work.

I’m thinking about having a storage box at work with a pair of brown and a pair of black shoes so I don’t have to lug those around. A storage box will look inconspicuous on the shelf at work too…until someone opens it and likely finds a spare pair of underwear. Icky.

I was way early for the catch to work. I think I waited half an hour. I wonder how close I was to catching the earlier bus. That would have been nice. The wait for the catch on the way home was a few minutes longer than ideal, but it wasn’t unreasonable, especially after the troubles I had Tuesday catching (or not) that one.

Today’s activities included reading this article: “Doubt: The Tides of Faith” by Brian McLaren. It’s beside the point, but the most interesting thing to me was that the Young Earth Theory is a very old theory. I’d previously thought it was very new.

I also meticulously marked timings to better help me judge future catch points.

Prospects are good to have an emission free day again tomorrow. Prospects for the weekend are very, very bleak, but emission free wasn’t the goal, eliminating my single occupancy auto trips is.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Big Day Tomorrow

It begins tomorrow.

Today my bus passport arrived in the mail. It’s good for the month of June. I guess I pay manually ‘till then. That’s expensive. Tuesday cost me $4. I need to remember to ask for transfers.

The passport came without any means to pay the required $25. Maybe first time passport purchasers get the first month free. Maybe an invoice will follow. It’s odd though, I have product that I haven’t paid for.

I keep telling my wife, and they keep reinforcing the idea; the transit people aren’t the most polished bunch of people.

I gassed up my car tonight and zeroed the mileage. Here’s hoping to filling the tank this time next month.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The Passport

I ordered up a monthly bus passport today. $25 monthly gives me unlimited bus usage. I have solid documentation indicating I fill my car with gas twice a month for $30-ish. So I break even if I end up filling once a month. I'm not convinced I can do that but time will tell.

It turns out I've joined a select group. The nice woman in charge of shipping monthly passports to subscribers kindly answered my question...she mails 15 passports a month to riders like me. That's roughly 1/100th of a percent of our population. She also mails a fair number for state programs like disability which agrees nicely with my previously stated perceptions.


At the downtown depot I saw my first bus with a bike attached. I was surprised to see one so soon, but then the depot is probably the most likely place for that. A better test will be to see one away from bus home base.

The Crashed Car

It was on the street coming up the parking lane making a strange clicking sound as I waited for the bus after work. It quickly veered into a parking lot and smacked a building at probably 15-20 mph. Apparently its brakes had failed. I had a strong feeling the bench I was sitting on had been their first choice.

Dress Rehearsal Today! So Far So Good.

Both boys wanted mom to take them today. She agreed, and it was time to test the plan. It was too late to bike to catch the bus, and it was nice not to have to deal with the additional complexity of bringing the bike along for my first ride ever. I wonder if I’ll ever get off the bus and leave my bike attached; sort of like leaving a purse, eh? I’m at work, my car sits across town in a park, and I’ve completed my first bus ride.

Some observations:

It was the driver and I to the end of the line. I was attentively marking time points as we proceeded along the route. I felt like she was my trainee and I was evaluating her timing. I felt stupid for much of the time, thank you very much.

It was hot; like the air conditioner wasn’t on…or maybe I was nervous and/or uncomfortable.

The bus was 10 minutes behind my estimates. I had all but given up on taking the bus figuring I was late and missed the catch. I was returning to my car just as it came into view up the road. Then I was a bit worried I’d be late for my downtown transfer. As we were approaching downtown the driver put me at ease by well, speaking to me, and then by asking if I was catching another bus. It turned out the bus I was on would be the one I’d be catching.

At the downtown stop we picked up four passengers. It was apparent that rapport develops between the regular riders and the drivers. One passenger relayed some missed radio instructions while driver was off the bus. A walking cane fell to the floor and the passenger assured driver that the bus wasn’t falling apart, it was just a cane. I think also that some of the passengers had called “same seats” yesterday. There was 5 of us on a bus that seats maybe 40, and one lady sat right next to me. It made me wonder if I was actually in the seat she’d rather be in.

So here it is, I’m jumping into bus culture with both feet. For lunch I’m going to my local bike shop for some items…including a nice lock to aid in the MinusCar Project. I won’t be able to hang out and chat for as long as I usually do because you know, I’ve got a bus to catch. The items are already purchased and behind the counter though so that will simplify things. I’ll probably have the bus drop me at KFC for some Snackers (love the snackers) and then I’ll walk back to work.

And then there’s the ride home. If something goes wrong there I’ll be late to pick up at daycare…stay tuned.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Monday Task Complete

The plan is in place. I've got 3 options to and from work. All options require a "short" ride to the first stop. Options 2 & 3 require "portages" to connect to other routes. Option 1 takes me right to my work door, option 3 requires much more riding so it's unlikely I'll use that one.

I spent 4 to 5 hours today getting creative to come up with the routes. It was difficult work and required quite a lot of knowledge of roads. Dare I say that's a pretty steep entry barrier for most people.

Catching the bus will be nice. I have a 20 minute window at a single intersection to catch a bus for option 1 & 2, whichever comes first. The big danger is I'll forget I have to portage on option 2 and I'll get stuck in the rain some day.

I'm not sure I'll be able to practice tomorrow or not. The catch times are a little too early for dropping a kid off. I have to consult with the wife before I can make a decision.

Two days until my experiment goes live.

The First Task – Work

I drive to work, alone. I drive to lunch, alone. I drive home, alone. This is the low handing fruit, the place to start, the key to the success of this whole experiment. If I can’t get this figured out, then the entire deal is a failure.

But of course, it’s not exactly easy. I drop a child at daycare or school most every day. I supply my work team with water; which means handling a 5 gallon jug of water every 4 days. Often I meet people for lunch. On the way home I pick up one or both kids from daycare and school.

For a couple months I’ve been experimenting with a work related ride. It involved leaving my car at work and riding home at the end of the day. The following morning I’d hitch a ride with my wife to work. That saved me a single trip to work every week. That’s a start, and it’s been good practice for what I’m going to try to do.

School ends Wednesday. Beginning Thursday both kids will go to the same place in the morning. This will simplify a portion of the morning routine, in that it won’t be unreasonable for the wife to drop both kids off in the morning, allowing me the freedom to find my way to work.

Task: Monday – determine bus routes and times, to and from work.
Task: Tuesday – on some level, do it.

The Bike and The Bus

The Bike: I like to ride, a bunch. An ideal week for me would include 7 hours of cycling. Most often these 7 hours happen 1 hour at a time, either in the early morning or during lunch. Once, maybe twice a week I can fit in a 2 to 3 hour ride. The bicycle is an obvious choice then for alternative transportation. Get ready for a lot of talk about riding bicycles.

The Bus: this city has taken a progressive step. For the first time ever, busses will be equipped with bike carriers on the front of the bus. This is one of many inspirations for this summer experiment, and realistically makes the experiment possible at all. Users of these carriers must be trained prior to use. Last Friday, as part of National Bike To Work Day, I took the time to “earn” the card that certifies me as a trained user.

I can’t talk about busses without mentioning two other inspirations for my experiment. TransitLibrarian is a bus driver in Minneapolis who also happens to be a very good friend of mine. KassieChurch is a friend of TransitLibrarian. I began reading her blog while they were in a dating sort of way. She and I share many of the same views, and she also happens to rely on mass transit for most of her transportation needs.

But this isn’t Minneapolis. It isn’t even close to Minneapolis. People here don’t ride their bikes for utility. People here don’t ride the bus either. People here drive. One of the first things I think when I see someone riding to work is “suspended license.” One of the first things I think when I see someone getting off the bus is “disabled, unable to drive.” I’m going to immerse myself into that world and see if it’s true.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

The Idea

I’m tired of driving a car. I want to quit. I have some very simple and some very complex reasons for doing this. Assuming this experiment and blog survive, I might be able to get into some of that.

But for right now, the place to start is here: “I’m going to quit driving.” But it’s really not that simple. The automobile is a convenience and enables some very important activities in my life. I have a wife and two young boys in my life that need to be able to go places and see and do things. There’s no way I could decide that I will never use a car again. So what am I really thinking about doing?

The Idea: maximize the number of times I make use of alternative modes of transportation between May 25 (the final day of school) and September 5th (Labor Day).

The converse of The Idea: minimize the number of times I make use of an automobile alone.