Thursday, July 30, 2009

One car anniversary

I was going to write an entry on the first anniversary of my venture into one-carredness over the coming weekend, but when I looked at the entry, I actually sold the car at the beginning of July, not the beginning of August as I had thought. Well, happy belated freedom to me...

What have I learned over the last year?

  • biking isn't the easiest way to get around - let's be honest
  • biking can be the fastest way to get around
  • I'm less fat when I bike regularly
  • motivation is still a problem (see Snak's post), especially in the winter
  • I've saved a bunch of money
  • I'm buoyed by a sense of self-righteousness (or, I could be less fat and in better shape)
  • a bus, or a bike/bus multimodal method of movement is a good way to get around in an urban area
  • I don't regret purchasing the Big Dummy one bit. An Xtracycle is really a useful option if you want to go carless or less-car.
  • a Big Dummy doesn't fit on a bus' bike rack

    The biggest gains have been in my overall conditioning, big surprise that, and the money we've saved with only one car. Mrs. Yam has been without steady employment for many months now, so the loss of the extra expense of a second car has been a welcome relief from the financial pressure on the Yam household. Licenses, fuel, insurance and general upkeep are, or were, an unnoticed though steady drain of cash and the loss of the second car gained us some badly needed breathing room. Between the bikes and the rechargeable bus card, there are few places I can't go if I haven't access to a car.

    Summer is here and this one has been quite a bit cooler than our normal summers and this is quite a relief to your humble narrator. I'm still a winter guy, but with days reaching into the mid 80's and nights pleasantly cool, I can live -- and bike -- with this. I just fear that the other shoe will drop and that shoe will be very cold indeed. I have a winter bike and I've been able to get the clothing mostly right, so our second winter with a single car will be possible.

    So, now into my second year of single cardom, what do I expect to see? Hopefully more of the same and perhaps even more time on the bike during the deepest, darkest days of winter. Motivation is difficult to attain when you're biking in the dark most of the time, temps that freeze the water out of the air or snow so thick that walking is faster, but wrapped in my blanket of self-righteousness and donning my cone of smugness, I hope to survive the winter.

    Don't consider this an exhortation to drop a car, but see this missive as an example that you can (possibly) get by better than you think and the benefits, though initially well hidden, are there. I'm not anti-car, I still have one after all, but cutting down is completely possible and you may even improve your life a little without the vehicle.
  • Friday, July 17, 2009

    Empty (in a good way)

    Part of my employment requires me to be On Call -- at the ready should something happen. I have to wear a pager and respond to whatever notifications I receive. That little pager is the heaviest four ounces anyone could ever carry. I swapped on-call shifts with a coworker the week prior to July 4th and that week was similar to the several previous on call weeks I've had (one weekend was destroyed by a non-stop 17 hour shift when one of our data center's power outages borked a sensitive network device) in that again, I was paged on a data center failure. These shifts tend to become a bit nerve-wracking but there was an added annoyance in that our group was short-handed besides.

    All whining aside, dropping of the pager on Friday, July 3 was one of the most glorious feelings of relief I've felt in years. My friends from Chicago were on their way to visit for the weekend and then there was the promise of a week off, all of it spent in Northern Minnesota. My friends arrived, we delved into the the sights and flavors of Saint Paul (they had never seen it), we drank good beer and wine, we cooked and laughed and argued and had a marvelous time.

    Seeing our friends off on Sunday with home made scones (I still can make 'em), we then packed the car and headed up to Cohasset for a short stay with my in-laws in a lake cabin. We played with nieces and nephews, we shared fine meals and cocktails, and generally enjoyed their company.

    But I was still anxious. I was still under my obligations to others. I wanted MY vacation to start.

    Tuesday, we finally made our escape. Mrs Yam and I headed north to hike, camp, do some 'cacheing and generally be away from phones and noise and, most of all, people. I am a people person -- sort of. I was a waiter and bartender, generally difficult employment for the terminally shy and reclusive, so I can handle crowds. But there are times when I need my quiet time. The goal was to hide from everyone at Franz Jevne State Park. It was as advertised, "secluded and peaceful."

    No one was there, save The Intern. The DNR hired a student to live in a trailer there to look after the park and to help with jobs in the area, so he was away most of the time. He was like a roommate that lived with his girlfriend, leaving the place to yourself. We camped in a spot that was next to the sault (where water flows over rocks, a rapids) and the only sound was that set of rapids and the birds. It was precisely what I had hoped it would be.

    We set up camp, fixed dinner and an exhausted Mrs. Yam curled up in the tent and dropped off in no time, leaving me with the fireflies, the river and the eternally setting sun. "Don't just do something, sit there!" was my mantra and I stared out at the water, I stared up at the sky, I followed the flies. I emptied my head and rinsed it in the rushing waters of the Rainy River. This is one evening will be one that will stay with me for a long, long time. I was At Peace.

    It's funny how you can feel tension leave, the way it slowly, almost imperceptively starts like the sands in an hourglass, only to finally rush away down the bottom, leaving nothing.

    I felt the quiet and peace soak into me. I had found A Happy Place.