In my first blog post I provided some background information about myself and a little bit about my interest in sustainable transportation. In my third post I explained the project. What I realize now is that you, the reader, have no idea where I stand starting this project. You don’t know whether driving or bicycling or walking will be especially difficult for me. I figure now would be a good time to explain my personal transportation history.

I suppose it would be reasonable to start all the way at the beginning, but I don’t know how old I was when I started walking. When I was four years old, my mom, my three brothers and I moved up to Anacortes, Washington from Richmond, California. My mom would pull us young kids around town in a black plastic wagon that attached to the back of her bicycle.

I got my first bicycle when I was five or six. From the time I was in first grade I almost always rode my bike or walked to school. I also bicycled to get around town with my family. This pattern was maintained until I was a freshman in high school. That year the bicycle that was given to me when I was in third grade got a flat tire and I decided the bike was too small to warrant replacing the tire. I begged and wined for my mom to get me a new bicycle, but she wouldn’t. She told me I had to get a job and save up my money.

I resisted this idea for a long time. I walked to school while my friends got their driver’s licenses and cars given to them by parents. I didn’t particularly want a car despite my interest in the car industry and car culture. If a bicycle was going to be expensive, a car was going to cost fortunes. I liked my freedom from earning fortunes to pay for an automotive habit. I also liked having time to think while I walked home from school in the afternoon.

I first learned to drive during the summer after my sophomore year of high school. I got my driver’s permit to help my mom with the driving during a cross-country drive. I don’t think I drove much during my junior year and my senior year I spent with my dad in Berkeley, California. In Berkeley I could walk downtown and take the BART to get to San Francisco, if that’s what I wanted to do. I don’t remember taking buses much, however.

After graduation I returned to Washington where I got a job as a waiter and pretty quickly earned enough money to get that bicycle I had been wanting since my freshman year of high school. I got a Giant OCR3 which is a relatively cheap road bike.

Almost a year after I graduated from high school I finally took the plunge and got my driver’s license. The only reason I did it then was because a friend of mine and I had planned a roadtrip up and down the West Coast and I needed to be able to drive. So I got my license and I got a car. Oh what a beautiful car! It was a white 1970 Mazda 1800, a sedan that had been designed by the great Giorgio Giugiaro. Well, unfortunately we weren’t able to take my Mazda on the roadtrip because the starter motor burned out and had to be sent away to be rebuilt because the part no longer existed. That cost me $500 which at the time seemed like a mountain of money, but now that I know how much new cars cost to repair, $500 sounds pretty affordable. 

My friend and I instead drove a 1980 Honda Civic station wagon my mom had acquired a couple months earlier to take camping in the mountains. That car was very reliable and everything we could want in a roadtrip vehicle right up until about sixty miles short of returning home. That was when we melted the engine because we failed to understand the importance of checking the oil. If that wasn’t embarrassing enough, a week later as I was taking my friend to the airport, the same thing happened to my dear sweet Mazda.

The next six months I didn’t own a running car. I refused to sell my Mazda because it was so pretty. I bought a running car when I decided I really needed to be able to get to Skagit Valley College, twenty miles away in Mount Vernon. I got a 1993 Volkswagen Fox, which also had been designed by Giorgio Giugiaro, but this was during his angular era, and not his sexy swoopy sixties one.

The Fox served me well for a year but when I left Washington to attend Marlboro College in Vermont I decided to get rid of my cars. I found a guy in Arizona who wanted my Mazda badly enough to send a flatbed truck to my mom’s house in Anacortes to pick it up. The Mazda was that beautiful! I was satisfied knowing that someone who would go through that trouble to get the car was going to take better care of it than I could.

When I came back from Marlboro six months later my mom encouraged me to buy a 1992 Honda Civic station wagon from my older brother. I did and that’s the car I had until two years later when I decided to take the plunge and go car free after my first year at Evergreen.

I sold the Honda during the summer of 2006. That fall I moved to downtown Olympia where all my basic needs could be met. I also started dating my girlfriend at that time. She has a 2003 Volkswagen Jetta and now we live together. As long as she’s not using her car, I have access to it if I want. What I wanted was not to have the temptation of a car lying around.

You see, the problem is that my area of interest has been Urban and Regional Planning. My plan was to live in downtown Olympia so there would be grocery stores nearby and I would be able to walk home from bars if I wanted to meet friends for a drink. Evergreen’s campus is a twenty minute bus ride from downtown and there was a bus stop a block from my apartment. I had carefully designed my life not to need a car.

I get in the car more than I’d like and I know that I rarely need to ride in the car. So this is my situation as I try to go for one week of travel only by car, one week of travel only by bus, one week of travel only by bicycle, and one week of travel only by foot.

By the way, that really great road bike I bought for myself after high school was stolen from in front of my apartment six months ago tomorrow. Currently I own neither car nor bicycle. My girlfriend has one of each that we share.