I've enjoyed nine full months of being car free in CT. It has been some time since the last Car Free article, and there is much to share. The last week has been marked by a rash of flat tires, which aligns with my state of mind these days. Slogging along in a bit of purgatory, dealing with manageable, yet irritating flat tires. I imagine that my active transportation choices help me cope with life's flat tires.
Before we talk about sunburns and swampy shorts, let's take a retrospective look at our friend Winter. The 2010/2011 winter was passed reveling in snowy Connecticut roads more passable to my humble bicycle (with studded Nokians) than the four wheeled tanks that purport to serve rugged utility. Although the CT snow was a welcome challenge, I sorely missed the camaraderie of the hardy winter bikers that swizzled the flat streets of Chambana, IL. The almost negligible bike mode share in CT drops beyond negligible to negative for four lonely months of bicycle hibernation. That said, my first winter car free was a suitable proof test* of car free life.
Spring seemed particularly short, as the 90 degree days started early. Before things warmed up, I snuck down to Pittsburgh to kick off a week long bike trek to Washington DC along the Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal trails. Although the third week of April may not have been the best choice for weather, the ride still took pole position in my limited list of tours. I gush about the ride and route to anyone willing to tolerate my vociferous adulation. If I get inspired, you may see a stand alone article on this memorable ride.
Oh yeah, and my cuddly trail mate Valerie. She was golden on the Pitt to DC ride. The photo of Valerie is on the not quite finished portion between Pittsburgh and McKeesport. In true free riding fashion we connected developed segments with rail corridors, a bit of light trespassing, and only a little bush whacking. Aside from that short 15 mile segment the rest of the ride was on well marked, and relatively smooth trails.
Back to car free in CT, Connecticut is a marvel of beautiful and epic bike rides. Despite the culture, music, bike scene, kick ass bike coop, and generally awesome folks, I always felt like something was missing in Chambana. It was the hills, the forests, and the rivers. Fortunately CT has these natural features in spades, which somewhat makes up for shortfalls in the other categories. I rarely looked forward to recreational rides in Chambana, whereas exploring CT on bike (and foot) gets me all bubbly and excited. I've logged three epic CT rides this summer thus far:
- Salem's Detour de CT
- A solo ride to NYC and back, with a detour to Massachusetts.
- Another solo ride to Boston and back.
All three of these rides could warrant its own article, but I doubt the articles will be written, because I'll be too busy riding. One notable skill that I've been picking up is ' stealth camping' - unofficial camping in a convenient park or roadside wooded area. This handy touring tool saves money while resulting in very memorable camp spots. The photo of the powerlines sunset was a stealth camp on my way back from Boston.
My short two mile commute to P&W is so easy that I occasionally walk to mix things up and get an even more intimate view of the neighborhood. Some coworkers living nearby experience the same door-to-door commute time in their cars.
It appears that rising gas prices and perhaps even rational thought have started to convert more to bike commuting - as you can see in the overloaded bike rack near my office. Several motivated souls also created the P&W Bicycling Club, replete with an intranet website for sharing bike commute tips.
Non-work commuting has also been an elementary exercise. I'm two miles from several groceries and my panniers or baskets hold more than enough. Larger or ackward loads can go in my trailer (shown in photo), which can ferry as much as the trunk of a small car. Passing shiny F150s stuck in traffic with empty truck beds engenders a special smug internal glow. Yes. Bike commuters are smug.
In summary car free life is running just fine. My commute is fun, it keeps me fit without conscious effort, and my cost of living is clearly lower. I even turned down a job offer this Spring, otherwise very attractive, because it would have been unworkable car free. Car free has graduated from a nice to have, to must have in my life.
*In engineering speak a 'proof test' is when a component is stressed beyond all expected operating levels before being put in service.