Mark and I have not owned a car in over 5 years – a fact that we state, with considerable pride, every once in a while when the topic comes up (i.e. “You rode here on a motorcycle?!?”) . But that doesn’t mean we haven’t had easy access to a car pretty much every time we’ve needed one in Pondicherry or in the Bay Area, the two other places we call “home”. And, that doesn’t mean that we haven’t had access to other motorized personal transportion in these two areas either. Mark owns a motorcycle, which is now parked in Betsy’s garage in Rockridge, Oakland; I own a motor scooter, which is parked in a friend’s garage in San Francisco. And we have access to a motorcycle and a scooter in Pondicherry anytime we want.
For reasons I won’t go into here, we have been without a car for 5 days now in Vancouver. When we first discovered the fact that we would be losing the use of the car for the remainder of our time here (a little over two weeks), we went into crisis mode. “Oh s**t – we’re f***ed!” “We have all these people coming to visit – what are we going to do without a car?” “You look for cheap rental cars while I look for cheap cars to buy.” All of a sudden, the hollowness of our smug, “carfree” status became crystal clear – we had become dependent on the car in Vancouver.
Before we attained our “carless” status in San Francisco, we had acquired four cars that we had to sell: 1) Mark’s first car as an adult – a classic, red, 1967 Alfa Duetto convertible, which we did not operate, 2) a turquoise, 1983 Alfa Spider given to us by Mark’s mom (“you sell it if you don’t want to keep it”), 3) a silver, 1986, 4WD Toyota Landcruiser that we used when we were running Class V river rapids in California, Oregon, and Idaho, and 4) a red, 1990 Toyota Corolla that our friend Rich made us buy from him when he bought his Prius because he wanted us to have a “practical” car. None of the cars we have ever bought was made in the same decade that we purchased the car. (The Landcruiser had over 100,000 miles on it when we bought it, and over 200,000 when we sold it.)
In San Francisco, our two wheeled vehicles served us well (although my butt would get numb during the 45 minute motorcycle rides to Santa Clara). But, I signed up for City Car Share for those rare occasions when we needed a car and couldn’t borrow one from family or friends. I felt pretty virtuous – I love sharing resources (mi casa es su casa). I checked out pods everywhere that we ended up staying and was delighted as new pods sprang up all over the Bay Area. But I only used my fob once or twice. I put my membership on hold the first time we went to India for five months, and have not renewed it since. (I suppose I should return the fob…) I still get their newsletters and am delighted to learn that City Car Share is now putting reusable shopping bags in their cars – “Share the Car, Share the Bag”.
In Rockridge, we can walk or bike for almost anything we need (and we do, mostly for bread), but we generally drive on the rare occasion that we shop for groceries. Half the time we go into San Francisco, we take BART.
Here in Vancouver, our house is a bit far from any commercial area. And, this time of year, the weather isn’t conducive for errands on foot or bike. But, Day 5 into our carless condition, and we are doing fine. I generally walk to the shops, banks, and library on W. Tenth Street, in West Point Grey, and Mark rides to the commercial area on W. Fourth Street, in Kitsalano. After our initial research into used cars on Craigslist, rental cars, and car share companies, I signed Mark up as a Zipcar member (Zipcar worked better for us than Co-operative Auto Network). He got his Zipcard yesterday, but we haven’t felt the need to take one out. We probably won’t use one until we have to pick Betsy and Zing up at the airport on Monday.
I now realize how cavalierly we used to drive to Richmond, BC (the equivalent to driving across the Bay from San Francisco) to have lunch or dinner at one of the thousands of cheap, delicious, Taiwanese or Shanghai restaurants or to shop at the Asian markets. Or hop in the car to get a loaf of bread fresh out of the oven at Transylvania Peasant Bread, which we now do by bicycle. Or drive across town for gelato.
Tomorrow, we check out the bus system.