Thursday, December 17, 2009

The End of the Semester

Yesterday was the last day of finals and technically the last day of the semester. I needed to come into campus today to tie up a few loose ends. For the first time in over one hundred days, I considered driving my car. Given my agenda for the day, I opted to ride my bike again. As I headed out the door, Tim warned me of the cold; it was 10 degrees at our house.

The cold wasn't too bad on the walk out to the road; a little more bite on exposed skin was all. When I got out to the road, I glanced around for the car, just in case I wanted to change my mind. But my car was gone! I looked around on the off chance that Tim moved it, but I didn't see it. All I can think is that perhaps our neighbor borrowed it if her car wouldn't start this morning.

I hopped on my bike and started into town. Heeding Tim's warning, I checked my brakes to be sure they weren't frozen before heading down hill. The brakes worked fine, but my gears were frozen. I could change my front gear rings, but the back ones wouldn't budge. I hopped off on a flat spot and manually moved the chain to where I wanted it. Despite my cold fingers, legs, and face, I was able to appreciate the simplicity of the bicycle; Even though I don't know too much about bike repair, I was able to fix my shifting problem in short order. I don't have that same self-reliance and assurance with a car.

The rest of the ride was relatively uneventful. The roads were clear and the sun was out. I was reasonably well prepared for the cold; only my legs got very cold. The cold seemed to bite through the thin fabric of my pants like I had nothing on, reminding me that I should start wearing long underwear. When I got to campus, I discovered that my lock was frozen shut. Ah, well, the realities of winter riding.

So today is it. The final day of our experiment in car-free living. What have I learned from this? That the bicycle is a viable form of transportation, even here in rural Vermont. That weather doesn't prove to be too much of a barrier for most of the year, if you prepare for it. That if you only use a bike for transportation, your "home range" shrinks, but you get to know where you live, and you have a greater sense of place and distance.

What will I do with those lessons? Will Tim and I look back at this as the point when we changed to primarily human-powered transportation? Or will it be just another college project that gets forgotten? I'm not very good at trying to predict the future, but I think that this project will only be the beginning of our discussions and debate about finding sustainable transportation alternatives. We plan to drive the car over the holidays to visit family. After months of limited transportation range, it will be nice to go somewhere. When next semester begins though, I suspect that we will be on bikes more often than in the car. And come next summer, I would guess that once again our car will be found sitting in the parking lot, day after day after day.

With the end of the semester, and the end of our experiment, I guess this is also the end of this blog. Tim and I have talked about possibly continuing to post our on-going thoughts on transportation and sustainability. If you would be interested in continuing to read this blog from time to time, please post a comment telling us that. Otherwise, this will be my last posting. I would like to thank all of you for taking the time to read my thoughts and for your support in this endeavour. Happy Holidays to you all!


Kristin said...

I am a fellow GMC grad that found your blog. I've enjoyed reading about your project and I would love to see you keep the blog alive.

Dianeax00 said...

I also would love to see you keep writing about your adventures and thoughts on transportation and sustainability...I don't remember how I found your blog but I have really enjoyed reading it. I'm in New York near Rochester.

Anonymous said...

Grammy Foster says that when she had small children her world was quite small...she did not go very far....but as the children grew...her physically world expanded. She traveled many places. Now at age 88 she finds that her day-to-day world is much smaller again. She is content to stay close to home. She has enjoyed hearing of your adventures on your blogspot....and she says to keep up the good work....and she would like to hear more of your experimental life and thought-processes.

Your mother - me - I have also enjoyed hearing of your day-to-day experiment. It would be marvelous to continue to hear about your I hope you will continue this discipline of sharing with us your the future maybe Zeb could write a few words as well.....

Jesse said...

Hey, Ruth! I'll keep reading if you keep writing. I've really enjoyed following your semester.

By the way, "Recycleman" has a prominent spot on my desk here in Unity.

Anonymous said...

Keep it up Ruth! I love hearing what is going on as does my mom! Elaine