Friday, October 24, 2014

Car browsing

This weekend I have a friend's Chevy Aveo on loan. She and her husband are openly scornful of it, but there are lots of them for sale on Craigslist, so I'm glad to borrow it and see what I think for myself. So far I don't know why they don't like it - the radio speakers are kinda crappy, and the engine is a little sluggish, but visibility is good and it's got a billion times more features than my car had!

In a way, I was proud of the minimalism of my car - no clock, no power windows, no power or remote locks, no a/c (okay, that was a bummer). It got great mileage and I could fit my bike in the trunk (when I put the back seat down and popped off the bike's front wheel), and I never worried about it being stolen!

I did always swear that my next car would be a 4-door, so I'm trying to limit myself to those as I browse the internet. I also don't want to have a car payment, and I don't want to spend every cent I have, so I'd like to buy something for under $8,000. BUT I also don't want a ton of miles on my next car. It's unlikely I'll get everything I want (low price, few miles, good quality car, four doors, air conditioning, recent model year) so I have to figure out what's most important and go from there!

At the same time I keep thinking about buying a winter/commuter bike. I visited a bike shop and tried out a couple, but they didn't seem like what I wanted. I think I want a hybrid with disc brakes and a rack... probably I should hit a bike shop this weekend and see what I can buy used.

I'd really rather have some serious couch time, so I may well make it into November without having added to my garage at all!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Seeing the light

Last week I worked remotely from my brother's house in Hawaii. It was so great to spend time with him and my sister-in-law (which is such a funny concept! but she's great so it never feels weird), and it was good to work from there instead of burning vacation time on a place I'd already visited. Plus, that way they could work too, and then we either went out to dinner or cooked at home. Very low-key and nice visit.

Their rental house is high up on a hill with mountains behind them and the ocean in the distance - amazing view! Since I worked 5am-2pm every day (so I could stay on the same time zone as my colleagues), I watched daylight arrive and took pictures when I could.

Best contrast: early in the week picture:

vs later in the week when a hurricane was in the area: 

And most striking:

Now all that rain has followed me home to Oregon. Thank goodness for friends willing to give me a ride or I might not ever get out of the house again. I have a feeling this car-less thing isn't going to outlast the winter!

Fortunately yesterday was nice (and I knew the rain was coming) so I did a bike-errand to the library and grocery store. My backpack weighed over 25 pounds when I was done getting everything (you better believe I weighed it) - that should count as an extra workout!

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!