Monday, December 10, 2012

Two Months, Two Wheels

On the evening of October 9, I drove my 1996 Buick Regal to East Hartford, handed over the title and keys and left with my registration and a small handful of cash money. The next morning, I rode my bike to the DMV in Wethersfield to turn in my plates and became officially car-free. Today marks two months.

Not long before that day, on a late September Sunday evening, I drove the Regal to the Mansfield Drive-In with Schleppi for their last show of the season. We saw Premium Rush and Finding Nemo. The bike movie was a fitting choice. Beyond that, there was something particularly satisfying about sitting at a drive-in theater in an American car with a bench seat, a dying breed of machinery standing proud in its vanishing natural habitat. It was a fond and fitting farewell to the car I had inherited from my father in 2009. The Buick's residual sentimental value was sky-high, but that only goes so far. It was time to let go.

I liked my car. It was smooth and comfy, but I have little use for sedans and I drove it very rarely. Eventually, the battery died and wouldn't hold a charge. The car sat through the spring and summer as I prioritized paying the mortgage and other bills with my then part-time wages over resurrecting a car I didn't seem to need. It was vandalized in my driveway. When the insurance lapsed, Geico ratted me out to the DMV and I was fined $200 for failing to insure an undriveable car as it accumulated dust and pigeon droppings. It had become a compounding burden in my life.

A new full-time job at the end of August was the final push I needed. I bought and installed a new battery, repaired the damage wrought by vandals and others, changed fluids, touched-up, buffed, waxed, and detailed the paint until it shone and looked half its age. I insured the now-operable car for road use. I knew I wasn't going to profit from this final investment of time and money in a modest, 16-year-old sedan, but I had to feel like I was doing right by the thing. I needed to allay the guilt I felt about giving up that which I never stopped calling "Dad's car." The sale itself was unsatisfying, but it was done. The Yuba was my car now.

On that October 10 morning, It rained. A shard of glass on Wethersfield Avenue penetrated my flat-resistant rear tire AND the flat-resistant tire liner within it, popping the tire in the middle of the busy Airport Road intersection.

The tire change made me late for the DMV and subsequently late for work. The rain soaked through my jacket. My first official day as car-free transportation bicyclist was a cluster of setbacks, irritations and discomforts.
And it was fine.
Good, even.

Everything worked out. An empty strip mall portico provided shelter from the rain for me to change my tire. A previously forgotten energy bar in my pannier provided me with a timely snack and a wrapper-boot for my breached tire. The DMV visit took less than ten minutes. My tardy, dampened arrival at work was met with sympathy and hot coffee. I called Geico at lunchtime and saved hundreds on my car insurance with one immensely satisfying cancellation (though I still have the lapse fine to pay, eff you very much). The modest proceeds from the sale of the Buick covered the month's mortgage payment, a practical and necessary use of funds that would have likely met my pragmatic father's approval. It was the right thing to do, and I don't regret it.

A few days later, I rode out to Trader Joe's for an evening grocery run. My own procrastination meant I was running out of everything, so I ended up piling two bags of dog food, a cooler full of perishables and a couple of bags of canned and boxed goods into the Yuba's bulging panniers. The bike looked a bit ridiculous, and probably outweighed me at this point. I pointed close to 300 pounds of bike+rider northward and began the 5.5 mile return trip.

I rode home, unburdened.


Tony C said...

Huzzah car free brethern. Unburdened indeed!

Anonymous said...

"I called Geico at lunchtime and saved hundreds on my car insurance with one immensely satisfying cancellation [.]" Dig it, hombre. T, this is a brilliant contribution to The Science. MAybe submit for subsequent compensated publication. You tell a great story greatly. Ride On. GY

Rental Van Services said...

Congratulations on the car enhancements you did. But the best part of your post are actually the bike rides you had. Good to know you were able to go home safely.

Aaron said...

^ most posi spame ever?