I went through 2012 without owning my own vehicle, and I would like to celebrate all the ways I got around so that I can double my luck for 2013. My transportation situation has been interesting and inspiring, and at times difficult, but I think I rose up to the challenge quite well. “All the women who independent…!” (In honor of the highly anticipated Destiny’s Child reunion tour.)
In January 2012 I rode a bus daily to and from the northern Highlands to the Cherry Creek neighborhood of Denver. I commuted for over an hour each way and had to transfer buses two times to reach my destination, and it was dumb. That’s when I started writing stories about and sneaking photographs of strangers on the bus, because I was spending too much time commuting and had to keep myself entertained.
For the month of February 2012 I was given custody of my friend Amy’s Toyota Four Runner while she was out of town on business for four weeks. That was awesome, as it was winter and I got to drive to work everyday, and her car helped me get to three Phil and Friends shows at 1st Bank Arts Center in Broomfield. I don’t know if she knows that, but she probably does now. Thanks, Amy. Amy and Phil are my friends.
In March 2012 I bused, but in April began experimenting with a bicycle as a main mode of transportation. My first day biking I decided to go all out and bike from the Highlands to Cherry Creek, a route that covered eight miles, even though I hadn’t trained and rode a shitty ass Wal-mart bike. It was an arduous ride but I made it to my destination, sweaty and fatigued, but hooked on biking. From that day on I tried to incorporate biking into my regular commute. I began to ride from the Highlands to downtown Denver, and then I would put my bike on the bus for the second half of the commute. (I did the same thing on the way home.)
In May 2012 I relocated to a more central part of town, and that’s when I was able to give up the public transit. I replaced the Wal-mart bike with a Schwinn and biked the five mile round-trip commute to work practically every day. The closest grocery store to this residence was over half a mile away, so I had a basket put on my Schwinn and began transporting groceries via bicycle. The basket only held one brown bag of groceries, plus what I could fit in a backpack on my back, so I started to notice that my figure was more slender and my muscles were more toned, and I was always really hungry.
Near the end of May I got whacked by a car door while biking to work one Monday morning, and that set me out of biking commission for a couple weeks.
The Schwinn was totaled and I ended up getting about $1,200 cash out of the car driver’s insurance, so I bought myself a new ride, a Masi hybrid that is lightweight and gets me places with less effort.
I used the rest of my accident money on my trip to Guatemala. Gracias!
From June on I biked full-time. If I had somewhere to be in Denver, I pedaled there. Sometimes I pedaled for fun, like when I would cruise around Wash Park in the evening after biking to and from work, just for “something to do.” As summer turned to fall I biked, and I continued to bike even after I moved to Five Points in October and my daily commute doubled each way. The move meant I was now biking about ten miles per day, five days/week, and it was amazing for me. I started to feel better than I had ever felt before; my energy was through the roof and happiness was exploding from my insides.
Right as November hit I once again found myself with custody of someone else’s car. This time it was a stick shift Subaru Outback (which I fondly grew to call “the Guatemobile” because the owner lives in Guatemala), and I was given lessons on how to operate it. My first real lesson driving stick was on dirt mountain roads in Aspen, and if you think that sounds crazy, you’re right. It went pretty badly and I didn’t get the hang of the clutch on that first endeavor.
My second attempt at learning stick was by myself in my neighborhood in Denver. I watched a Youtube video and printed out “how to” instructions, then got into the car at about 8AM one Sunday morning, buckled my seatbelt and attempted to maneuver the machine around the block. This attempt also went very badly. I stalled multiple times at the stop sign half a block up and freaked out when another car pulled up behind me, waiting for its turn at the intersection. The girl in the car behind me got out and asked if I needed help. I explained to her that I may have made a mistake by trying to teach myself stick, and she offered to park the car for me. I abided, felt like a fool and wondered if she saw the “how to drive manual” print-out lying on the passenger seat.
My third attempt at learning stick was with my new neighbor, who was drunk on mimosas and said she’d love to take me for a drive. She helped me get the basics of starting and stopping, and we made a few turns around the Five Points ‘hood. A few days later a guy friend took me to City Park in Denver and really helped me get the hang of starting and stopping, and after that I was on my own. If you saw a navy blue Subaru with dark tinted windows creeping around the same block 40-50 times one Sunday, that was me, practicing stick and listening to a tape cassette version of Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson’s “Good Hearted Woman” over and over again. I am confident that any time I hear that song again for the duration of my life I will be instantly transported back to the days of the Guatemobile.
Once I was good enough to drive stick shift on real roads I started taking it to work every other day and biking on the off days. I loved having the freedom and convenience of a car, but didn’t want to give up burning fat instead of oil, so I kept on biking through November and all went well until Thanksgiving Eve.
On Thanksgiving Eve, 2012, I biked from work to The Ogden Theater with intentions of seeing Polytoxic perform “The Last Waltz”. Googlemaps suggested I take an alley for the last three blocks of the commute, and even though I had a bad feeling about the alternate route, I took it anyway. As it turned out, one of the biggest potholes I’d ever seen in my life was in the middle of the alley, and I hit it. My bike went down and I went with it, and I flew forward across the pavement in what may be referred to as “Superman fashion.” I got pretty banged up in the fall and was out of biking commission for almost one month. It really worked out I had excelled at driving stick by the time of the accident because I was able to drive the Guatemobile to work every day and avoided hobbling around via public transit with a knee injury.
I drove the Guatemobile with enthusiasm all of December, until it’s owner returned for it on Dec. 30, 2012. It was back to bike or bus for me on Jan 1, 2013, and I actually chose neither option and paid a taxi to drive me to work that day (literally one of a handful of times I have taken a taxi in a non-nightlife situation), because I was bummed the car was gone.
It is now Jan. 13, 2013, and I have been using either my bike or the bus to get to work, and I’ve gotten several rides home at night from my friend/co-worker. I prefer to ride my bike because I feel good and I spend less time commuting, but its winter, and I’m not that hardcore. Plus there’s the entertainment provided by the people of public transit, and just yesterday I was blessed with an amusing show.
First, I got a great photo for my “People of Public Transit” Facebook photo album. It was of an old woman in a neon windbreaker jacket. She had a walker and an oxygen tank. She made me realize how much I hope I have a car, a husband, health insurance and/or government assistance when I’m her age. The bus makes me humble!
Second, when I got on my connecting bus yesterday it was just me and one other female passenger who was sitting in the front and chatting with the driver. When we got to her stop the driver kept the bus in park, wrote his phone number on the back of a transfer ticket, gave it to the woman and told her to “text him.” I wondered how many times in a day the driver does that, or if the woman thought that writing a phone number on a transfer ticket was romantic. Luckily I didn’t have much time to ponder because my stop was next, and I carried on my way, happy about the new stories I had to share.