Car-Free Dude Drives Borrowed Automobile, Doesn’t Die

Yes, you read that correctly: A Dude is driving an infernal combustion pollution-mobile for a while. It wasn’t supposed to be this way, but it’s required for a job, so I’m going with the flow. However, my bicycle mileage is suffering greatly. My wallet on the other hand, which has been starved for quite some time while I wrote and now edit my book, is enjoying the influx of filthy lucre. I haven’t planted any trees to offset my carbon footprint, but my time without a car has earned me a fair bit of good karma. (See 14 Years Not a Slave to Cars.) But it’s still a dilemma, one that my little blog isn’t going to solve.

Transportation Situation

There are very good reasons to not like cars and to choose a bicycle, walking, transit, rideshare, scooters, working remotely, etc. Some people might totally boycott them, or just not use them when you’re able to find a suitable alternative. I’ve never been a car-hater per se, and have used them before. Like to go take care of Buddy the dog, whom I petsit and wrote about in A Dude, A Dog, A Day. For many people, traveling for work is part and parcel of the job. (Especially if you work for United Parcel Service.) So how do you get around it?

Well, the short answer is you can’t, not in our current system, economy, government, etc. Some people believe self-driving vehicles will save the world, but I’m skeptical. Time will tell. In the meantime, how do we move people around quickly, efficiently, and ecologically without cars? In Texas, it’s only fancy-pants (or more like poor) city-dwellers like myself who can manage to get around under their own power. It is liberating to do so. But when you have to go quick and far, you’ve gotta get a car.

Money v. Miles

Return readers know I have a slight mileage goal addiction, and that effort is suffering big-time right now. Especially due to the heat, the long hours, and the paycheck that comes from that. It’s not really a choice. Because of my 19-month sabbatical to write my biking memoir over two years in which I rode a bunch of miles, the whole starving artist thing is not feasible. Austin is a town where monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment goes for $1,000 and up, and that’s considered “affordable.” Whereas stagnant wages come nowhere near the 30% figure that you’re not supposed to spend of your gross income on housing.

So my biking is stinking, but I know this lull is short-lived. The job will end, temperatures will cool, and I’ll be back on the horse a lot more. I’m into the biking lifestyle for the long haul, so to speak, or as long as it makes sense. I’ve never claimed to be superior just because I don’t have a car either; mostly it’s that I never wanted to impoverish myself to get one. And I’ve managed pretty well without one. But..

It’s a Big World Out There

Living a car-free life does have many limits. And I’ve been reminded of this by driving in places that are really quite beautiful. The Hill Country is what we call the non-flat parts of Austin west of the Balcones Escarpment, a natural geographic feature. There’s a lake, various communities and neighborhoods, as well as plenty of green space. Much of that has been or is being developed for suburban sprawl, y’all. And that’s not good. With the constant large influx of people to Central Texas, though, they have to live somewhere. Point is, it’s good for me to see beyond my usual little bubble.

In fact, bike riders make better car drivers, a British insurance study found. And I rather enjoy it, though of course it’s harrowing with the traffic. But if you’d like to see me stop driving, just send me a new bike and a year’s salary so I can stop this job and finish editing and polishing my book. That way I can try to get it published, go on speaking and book signing tours, and get rich. Nah, that’s not likely. I didn’t think so. But it was worth a try.

In the end, I’m doing my best. If that means I get some demerits from the eco-police, so be it. But if you’re out there being all judgy, how about this: You do you, and I’ll do me. I mean, I could find another job and soon I will, but this one pays well. And Sophie the Fairdale needs a tune-up and new parts. Sometimes we gotta do what we gotta do to survive. Meanwhile, someone really ought to figure out teleportation. Yeah, that’s the ticket to ride I’d love to see. Live and let drive. Vive le diference. And whether you bike, drive, or otherwise travel, as they say, your mileage may vary.

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