Thursday, October 9, 2014

Car2Go: first thoughts

I've finally used my Car2Go membership - twice! First thoughts: man those cars are TINY. And: I wouldn't want to own one of them, as the transmission is pretty rough when shifting. And: the minutes add up pretty quickly! And: it sure is fun to drive and sing along to the radio.

The way it works is pretty slick - you consult an app to see where the closest car is to your location:
You can even choose your car and reserve it for the next 30 minutes, so it doesn't vanish before you get there. Then you walk up and lay your membership card against a reader in the front window - it must be an rfid chip. The reader indicates it's gotten the information it needs, and you wait while it checks your account. You know you're good when the car unlocks for you!


Then you interact with a touch screen to confirm the car is clean and undamaged; then you remove the key from its slot and insert it in the ignition, and you're ready to go! When you're done with the car you have to wait for some data to upload, confirm you didn't damage the car while you had it, and then exit the car and let the reader in the front window read your card again to conclude the transaction.

It takes a little time for each of the steps, but is reasonably slick and intuitive. Yesterday I used a car to drive a mile to a friend's house - mostly I just wanted to finally try this thing. Today I used a car during my lunch break to drive about 3 miles away from home, and then I ran home (exercise!). That little jaunt cost me $4.51, because traffic was a little slow, so I don't know that I'll make a habit of it. But it was nice to have a different route home than the usual places I've been running, so I like it as a concept.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Finally! wheels!

I finally got my Car2Go membership card in the mail. The mailer was very cute:

(cat not included, of course)

I haven't gotten to use it yet, though. Yesterday the closest car was almost a mile away, and today during lunch I used my bike to run an errand to my local bike shop - I'm starting to test-drive bikes for winter weather. After I tried a couple, I realized..I don't really know what I'm looking for. I've been on the same bike for a decade, it was built for me, and I love it. Riding other bikes felt weird, and not very comfortable - my knees were in the wrong place over the pedals, I couldn't reach the handlebars the same way, I felt crowded in the handlebar-to-seat area... I've been offered the chance to borrow a couple of rainy-weather bikes, and perhaps I should do that before I go any further down this shopping path.

Tonight I'm going to walk a couple miles to go to a brewer's dinner with friends, and though there may be a car I can take home, I sincerely doubt I'll feel I should be driving!

Maybe tomorrow.

Saturday I have an early flight, so maybe then.

It'll happen!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Carless continues

I had a friend in town last weekend, so borrowed another friend's car for the weekend. I reallllly appreciated having wheels at my beck and call!

I'm still waiting for my Car2Go card to show up. I'm frustrated that it's been over a week since they said I'd have my card in "a couple of days" - I'm headed to the airport this afternoon and had a carefully crafted Car2Go/transit route worked out, and now I'm reduced to asking for a ride.

What's funny is when I had a car I would likely have asked for a ride too! But now it's coming from a place of neediness, and I really hate that feeling. 

I keep looking at cars on Craigslist, and I've found a few I would definitely consider, but I'm not ready to cough up the money yet. Plus, I'm out of town a lot this month so it feels silly to hurry up and buy something, just to leave it in my garage!

I think this experiment will start to feel more real in November, if I last that long...

In other news, I've resumed running but not regularly enough that I'm in the groove. I went for a run last Saturday, and Tuesday. I walked 6 miles on Sunday and 3 yesterday, so it's not like I'm not using my legs, but it's very different. And, as mentioned I'm headed to the airport and expect to walk a lot but NOT run over the next few days. So, we'll see how next week shapes up! 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Car-less living: Car2Go

Not a lot of car excitement going on at the moment. I did run into a wrinkle earlier this week when I visited the auto body shop where my poor car is temporarily residing. Turns out the guy thinks they can fix it for juuuust about what the car is worth - between $2,000-3,500, though this is just a guess so far. He can also provide pictures of my car to a couple of scrapyards, and see what they will pay me for it. He asked what I'd want to get out of the car and I said $1,000 (a figure pulled almost wholly from the air), and he said that was probably reasonable.

I was really torn on the way home (in a little rain, on my bike). $3,500 to get my car back! My low-mileage rockstar car! For which I only paid 6k to begin with!

But I've slowly come around to the idea that the car is gone. It's not really worth that much money, and I'd be better off holding onto the cash until I'm ready to put it toward a different/newer car.

So, I'm moving forward with my car-less living venture. This week I joined Car2Go but I haven't received my card yet. What's Car2Go? It's an awesome one-way pay-by-the-minute short-term car rental service. You use an app or a web browser to see what cars are near you:
And then you proceed to the most-convenient car (you can reserve it so it doesn't poof away in the time it takes to get to it). These cars are sprinkled all over town:
You scan your membership card to gain access to the car, and then your credit card is billed either 41 cents/minute or $14.99/hour to use the car. You can leave it wherever you want when you're done with it (within a very good-sized boundary) - even at parking meters, without paying the meter, so long as the space allows the car to be there 30 minutes or longer. There's a joining fee, but I found a coupon code so I think I won't be charged that fee.

Since I signed up I've been obsessed with watching the availability of cars in my neighborhood. So far there's always been one around within a ten-minute walk. I will fully grant that isn't perfect, but it's not bad. I can see using a Car2Go in a few scenarios:
 - if I want to go to a movie and have cut it too close (or it's too rainy) to bike or get a ride
 - I might use the service to get to the grocery store, and hope there's another one around when I get out (and I'll shop lightly/make sure I have time to walk the 2 miles home if I have to!).
 - I can definitely see taking a bus or walking TO the theater, and then grabbing a Car2Go to get home.

Lots of things around Portland are about a 15-minute drive, which works out to a little over $6 - not an amount to splash out carelessly, but definitely a good option to have on hand.

I think my paid-for car cost me about $90/month when you factor in insurance, one tank of gas every five weeks, and the extremely occasional oil change, so I'll see if I can come in  under that for my ongoing transportation costs. I'm excited to get to use a Car2Go for the first time!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Car-less living, days 1-4

It's early days in my car-less living experiment - I'm not calling it car-free since a) I'll borrow/rent/ride in cars as needed, and b) it's not exactly something I set out to do on purpose!

The first few days were normal - on Saturday I was doing a hike with a friend, and she was going to drive anyway; that night I met up with some friends and got a ride with my sister, but I also could've biked it.

Sunday, I had plans to meet friends in SE Portland so I biked the 7 miles each way. Last night, I made plans to hang out with my sister and biked that, 2.5 miles each way. In both cases I would have driven, even knowing full well I could totally bike it.

Today I am going to ride my bike 10ish miles round-trip to the auto shop to sign some papers regarding my car - apparently they won't really look at it or anything until I've done that, but I bet I'll be able to get their gut on whether it's totaled. I might also swing by the DMV on my way home  A friend pointed out that it does still have some value in its air bags, undented doors, etc. so I'll see if I can get anything for it from the body shop or a junkyard.

So, that's about 25 miles in three days that I would not ordinarily have ridden, but that don't cause me undue hardship (unless it rains today... stay tuned). I'm going to have a car this weekend and am going to make a list of errands that will be easier with a car (namely: a fedex and a goodwill run, maybe groceries as well).

I also signed up for Car2Go today, but can't use it until I get my card in the mail.

I'm scoping out how best to get to the airport, which in the old days was a 15-minute drive - turns out it's a half-hour bike ride from my house, and there is a bike path that brings you directly to the long-term bike locking area. I think it'll depend how lightly I pack, whether that will work. I may also try using Car2Go + transit to get there in about the same amount of time, but for a bit more money. In the past I might well have gotten a ride, but assuming I go with alternate transportation options, I'll take notes and share!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Totally totaled!

WELL. I am pretty sure I totaled my car on Friday night. I'm fine, but my car is not at all.... I rear-ended a pickup truck going something around 10-15mph (I had the brakes on hard but couldn't stop in time; the airbags didn't deploy though). I'm happy to say there was no phone distraction involved in the accident, but it was totally my inattention that caused it. Sigh.

My car didn't have a high value (probably $1500-2000 or so), and I didn't have collision insurance because of that, so I won't be getting a payout at all. It was ten years old and only had 65k miles and would have gone another decade though.. boo!

Right now it's at a randomly-selected garage, and I guess I'll have to call them to get an update. Then I have to dig out my title and notify the DMV of this unhappy turn of affairs.

Then, I have to figure out: what now?

I'm definitely not willing to take on a car payment. That means that whatever I buy has to be paid for out of my savings. I also don't want to deplete my savings account! Lastly, I don't really want to give up much of my current lifestyle. I looked at my savings balances and I'm up $5000 from this time last year - but none of that was earmarked for a car purchase! The extra money in the bank is all for house prepayment and for a deck. I don't want to give up either of those plans.

So, I'm thinking about not replacing the car at all for a while - I'll be out of town a fair amount the rest of this year, and I don't have to have a car to maintain my day-to-day life. A couple of friends have offered to lend me their cars as needed, and I can bike to lots of destinations.

I've been crunching the numbers: additional bicycle (more suited for winter riding) vs. getting a new-to-me car... they're pretty compelling!
I know I'll get another car, more likely sooner than later, but ... I might try doing without for a while too.

Monday, September 15, 2014

done and done!

I survived Cycle Oregon! I even had fun along the way, though the ride itself was brutal. On day three or four, my friend and I agreed it might be our last CO. But by day seven we were already getting nostalgic, so no promises that this is the last. It's definitely the last for quite a while, though!

The route was tough - 400 miles and 30,000 feet of climbing if you did the basics, no extra legs:

My friend and I sagged after 33 miles on day four (i.e. quit early and caught a ride on one of the support vehicles) - we could've gone longer, but it's unlikely we could have finished the day, so we quit early in order to get a ride before the sag wagons got totally swamped. It was a good call.

Also, on day 6, we "only" biked 70  miles and then went white water rafting for 8 miles and were driven the rest of the way to camp. It seemed like a good idea, but we wound up waiting about 90 minutes to get started and FROZE on the river in our bike gear. So it wasn't all that much fun, but it was different!

In total I figure we rode 350 miles and climbed 27,000 feet - that is plenty for me!

The scenery was amazing:



And we were really happy to be done.
Really, really, really happy. 

I'm also happy to say I think my training was at least adequate. I may have been able to finish day four - almost definitely, if crawling into camp in tears counts as finishing. But I felt pretty good, overall, and like my endurance was decent. The hardest day for me, mentally, was day 3 - at the beginning I just did not see HOW we could do it, but we did! And now it's over! We'll see what fitness I do this fall.