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Reactions

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

I get some interesting reactions to my riding to work in the cold.

There’s a guy who works part time where I work, and part time at the public library with Sarah. This affords us opportunities to swap stories and in particular allows me to call him by his nickname “B Money” (or B$, as I’m told it’s written) at my workplace, which is a less casual environment than the library. I think it makes him a little nervous, but I make sure only he hears me. Anyway, apparently Sarah was talking to B$ yesterday and he made a comment that I ride to work “NO MATTER WHAT!” I’ve talked about bikes with him a few times, and he uses a skateboard as transportation at least some of the time. I don’t know if he ever got his bike back from where it was being stored in Maine.

Of course, true to form, I rode this morning. It was about 15 degrees, with a windchill of around five degrees and a thin layer of snow covering everything. I was pretty comfortable and found a new trick that worked well for me. I wore wool socks over my work socks, so I just had to remove the extra layer and didn’t have to fiddle around trying to put on different socks. I’ve started getting some predictable comments as I walk in, particularly “Brisk ride today?” The funny thing is, I get that comment even when it’s in the upper 20s, which is really a pretty comfortable temperature range, at least for my brief 15-20 minute ride.

At an office meeting last week, we were talking about the fact that there’s insufficient parking here, and my boss jokingly said, “If only Michael would ride to work again.” I told him I’m still riding and he and my other coworkers seemed pretty befuddled.

So, a lot of people around here seem to think I’m crazy, but truth be told, I’m having fun. I don’t mind the cold nearly as much as I mind rain. In the rare case I drive to work, it always reinforces how much better it is to ride. I didn’t even start my car yesterday, and it felt good.

I hate cars.

Thursday, December 13th, 2007

I hate cars. There, I’ve said it.

However, I don’t hate them because of pollution, or because of increased oil dependency. OK, those are factors. But the real reason I hate cars is that they’re a liability (read: expensive).

I am lucky in the situation with my car. I inherited it from my grandfather, which means I own it outright, no payments to make. It also means that this car, while it’s 11 years old, has spent most of its life in garages and being driven very cautiously by an old man. It’s been mine a little under two years now, and while I am also a pretty cautious driver and I don’t drive aggressively, I have caused a lot more wear than my grandfather would have in that time. I don’t have a garage, and I put a lot more miles on it.

Recently, my “service engine soon” light came on. It took me probably a couple of weeks to take it into the shop, whereupon they charged me $90 to inspect it, and another $235 or so to fix the things that caused the light to come on. So I spent $325 on the car yesterday and they recommended another $350 worth of work or so that it needs.

Last night, I picked Sarah up from the Indianapolis bus station, and we got dinner and went to buy a six-pack of beer. When I started the car, my parking brake light was on solid even though the parking brake was not engaged. My brakes still worked, but not as well as they should have, and I had to push pretty hard on the brake pedal to get anything to happen.

Today, I took the car back to the shop and they discovered I blew a wheel cylinder. Apparently this happened and brake fluid leaked all over the brake drum and shoe on that wheel. They estimated another $327 to fix it.

I’m probably going to get a second opinion, but I’m starting to wonder if it’s worth it. If I did everything the car needs at this point I’d be pushing $1200 in repairs this week. All this for a 1996 Ford Taurus. It’s been a good car, and it’s approaching 90,000 miles on it and is bound to need some maintenance. Maybe if I spent all this money it wouldn’t have any problems for a while and would go back to being the reliable car I’ve known it to be. Maybe 10 other things would break and it’d be either spend another $1200 or call it a total loss. There’s no way to know, and I really can’t afford to gamble with those stakes.

So right now, the question is: is it even worth it? If not, that means we’ll be car free and while on some levels that sounds appealing, I’m not sure if winter is the best time to be adjusting to that. And it would severely impact the things Sarah and I can do together. I can go pretty much anywhere on my bike, but I don’t think she wants to be riding a bike around town, especially during the winter. She can take the bus to class and work, so maybe we could take the bus together to get to most places.

What I may do is get a second opinion and just take my sweet time getting the thing fixed as I can afford it. But I’m still trying to figure out if it’s worth it. I sure wouldn’t mind not having to pay for gas, maintenance, insurance, license plates, etc. But I’m not sure I’m ready to give up the car just yet.

Am I a fraud?

Friday, December 7th, 2007

I’m not very fond of Christmas. The pervasive sense of materialism combined with obnoxious Christmas carols for a good month leading up to the holiday leave me with a foul taste in my mouth. Fortunately, the materialistic part doesn’t really apply to my family, but it’s especially unavoidable this time of year overall. And I’m an atheist, so the religious aspect of Christmas doesn’t apply or appeal to me, either.

However, I put some Christmas lights on my old mountain bike. Does this make me a fraud? Sarah says no, but I’m not so sure.

Bike with xmas lights
My old mountain bike, repurposed as a commuter, with Christmas lights

I feel a little weird riding around with the lights turned on. So far, they’ve attracted nothing but positive attention in the form of a few people shouting, “I like your lights!” as I ride past. And truth be told, I don’t completely hate Christmas. I like the time with family. That’s what it’s about to me. I like the lights downtown by the square and tastefully-done lights on people’s houses.
Basically, when you get down to it, I like things that light up, and I like putting things on my bike. So I put the lights on my bike. Does this make me a fraud?

Side note: one nice side-effect of the lights is that they make me much more visible on the road. I like to think of them as a safety feature.

Action shot of bike with xmas lights
Action shot with the Christmas lights

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