Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Cars, Buses, and Cold Toes

Temperatures are falling below the freezing point at night. Yesterday morning was in the thirties and raining. My uncle, an enthusiastic cyclist who had been visiting over the weekend, informed me that I was crazy as I saddled up on my bike in shorts and sandals for the ride into town. He was right: it took an hour or so on campus for my toes to stop aching. Today I wore socks, shoes, and long pants. Ahhh, much better.

In the afternoon yesterday I took a long-postponed trip into Rutland--our nearest town of any size, about 20 miles north and east--via bus. Last winter the Rutland bus service expanded to include Poultney. Buses make the round trip five times a day during the week. It costs $2 and takes a little less than an hour on the way there and a little more than an hour on the way back. There is even a bike rack on the front of the bus that can be used for no extra charge. Once in the city, I was able to catch local buses for $0.50 a ride to the various stores that I needed to visit. In a few hours I had everything that I had come for and was ready to catch the next bus back to Poultney. Altogether, the trip took a little more than four hours and cost $5.00. For occasional trips, it seems that the bus is a much cheaper option than owning a car, and paying for gasoline, insurance, and maintenance.

My trip to Rutland made me realize that I haven't been to a town besides Poultney in almost two months. Part of that is due to my college coursework, which keeps me perpetually busy, but another part is due to the additional time and energy required to travel anywhere if I'm not just hopping into my car and driving off. Last Saturday night some friends were having a potluck and barn dance. We were invited, but didn't go because I just couldn't muster the energy to ride six miles over the hills and then come back in the dark. With the car, I won't have taken into account the amount of energy required to travel there, even though more energy would have been needed to push my car and me up the hills to their house. A bike and rider is much lighter and, according to physics, would require less energy to move than a car and rider. However, since with the bike we use our own energy we think about it more than we do with a car where the energy being used is from fossil fuels.

Tim started thinking about the sheer amount of energy required to move a car this week as well. On Friday he used our car to make a trip to Massachusetts, four hours away. He was going to teach a class with the Children of the Earth Foundation at a high school, but unfortunately, there was a miscommunication in the dates and no one was there when he arrived. As he drove the four hours home, he thought about the 14 or 15 gallons of gasoline he had burned and the amount of energy they contained. If that much gasoline could push a ton of steel (the car) and himself about 400 miles, what else could it do? And how much more beneficial might that be than a road trip?

When he got home, Tim decided that he was OK with hanging up the two-man pull saw and pulling out the chainsaw to get in our firewood for the winter. A gallon of gas later and we have a cord and a half of wood starting to dry. So now, as temperatures continue to fall, my toes have a place to warm up at home after riding from town in sandals.


James said...

This blog is really great; I have gone through all the posts.

Small Town Cyclist said...

Nice work Ruth, that's awesome!
I went to GMC in '87 and '88 and I know what it gets like up there!
Check out my blog if you have a minute:
Ride safe!
Patrick Owens
Marion, MA