Tuesday, July 31, 2012

By the Numbers...

I mentioned yesterday that I might start tracking some things, but I wasn't sure how much I was willing to share on the big, bad interwebs. I've thought about it...and since one of my goals in this car-less adventure is increased exercise and overall health, I believe I WILL track these statistics. If anyone is interested in possibly making a lifestyle change of this magnitude, I want to be able to share ALL of the information that might help someone make an informed choice. (Well, I suppose if someone wants to make an informed choice they should do more than rely on one blog...but, nevertheless: full disclosure!)

So, I plan to track on here:
*Monetary expenses, including savings AND expenditures, to get a net savings result. Bikes are definitely cheaper than cars, but they DO entail expenses...I want to be fully honest about what goes into owning and operating a bike for regular (or semi-regular) commuting.
*Health statistics, including weight lost, and my cholesterol level. Also, I will likely discuss some things that are not easily measured, like how I feel in general, and how my medical issues are improving (or not).

So, here are the starting stats:
7/16 weight: 198.3
Cholesterol level: 216

Yesterday's check-in:
Weight: 196.7
Miles ridden: 24

I don't plan on getting my cholesterol checked for another few months, so we'll have to see about that.  Also, I will happily post inches lost as I go along, but I just can't bring myself to post those numbers, for some reason. A gal's gotta have some secrets, I suppose. :-)

That's all for today! Coming up in future posts: information about the electric assist, tips on products that have been helpful, and certainly more stories about inconsiderate wildlife.

(Also, if anyone is considering bike commuting and would like to ask any questions, please feel free to do so! I will try to answer any questions I can.)

Monday, July 30, 2012

First Solo Flight

Today I took my first solo trip!  Yesterday's adventures left Don completely depleted of energy and Malcolm's bike in a state of disrepair; therefore, I had to venture out alone. Surprisingly, I didn't mind doing this. I was actually quite ready and willing to head out on my solo adventure. With the exception of a duck that I'm sure was mocking me and a squirrel that most definitely pelted me with an acorn, I'm happy to report that it went great! I stopped at the English Department and got the keys to my office, went to the Bike Barn and got all of our supplies, stopped in at the Graduate School and filled out my paperwork, took a little rest at Starbucks, rode over to Kroger and did some grocery shopping, then went home. All in all, I biked around 8 miles.

I have to say that there was something incredibly empowering about running all these errands (or "biking" them, as my sister-in-law clarified) on my own. I figured out the best route to Kroger by myself, and I did all of the biking, locking, etc. on my own. A couple of years ago, this sort of thing intimidated me.  I'm not quite sure why it did; after all, I consider myself a rather "brave" and independent person. But the whole bicycle thing...there's a fear factor there, for sure.  But I'm slowly getting over it.
And I love getting to see mountains in the background everywhere I bike!
So, there it is.  A successful first solo flight!  I even found myself singing and whistling while I ran my errands. And bonus - I got my exercise as part of my day and didn't have to schedule time at the gym.

Speaking of which...a very nice aspect of all of this bike riding is that my exercise has increased greatly, resulting in immediate weight loss. Since being car-less two weeks, I've already lost 1.6 pounds (and that's with "moving eating" going on - if you know what I mean). I think I might start to track pounds lost regularly each week, along with a mileage count (24 last week). I haven't decided yet which numbers I'm willing to share (do I post my weight online for the world to see?), but I can say that another goal of mine is to decrease my cholesterol level. So...in some way or another, I will certainly post progress on those items.


Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Night Everything Went Wrong

Well, we took a break for a few days from bike riding while my brother and his wife were in visiting. In some ways, it was nice to take a break. At the same time, I was getting antsy from not getting out there on the bike! Surprising!

This evening, we were invited to visit one of my professors and have dinner at her house. Before we left to bike out there, Don was extremely excited about biking to our first "social event." Unfortunately, my professor lives clear on the other side of town, in THE HILLIEST (is that a word?) part of Blacksburg.  The steepest hills I've seen since moving here. Yeesh!  So, naturally, lots of things went wrong.

On the way there, Malcolm got a flat tire. Don set out to fix it, only to find that the place that sold us the bike had put the wrong sized tube in there. Okay, no big deal...we'll still work to fix it...what?  What was that? The bike pump isn't working?  Awesome. Without the proper tools and such to fix the tire, we had to walk Malcolm's bike to a bike rack, lock it up, and pray that the campus police wouldn't cut the lock and confiscate the bike. Fortunately, Don had brought the Bakfiet instead of his other bike, so Malcolm hopped into the basket and kicked back the rest of the way. UNfortunately, the extra weight was excruciating for Don on those hills!

Okay, so the problem with Malcolm's bike was handled. THEN - my electric assist stopped working. Then it started working.  Then it stopped working again. It took Don about 15 minutes of fiddling to get it to work (thank goodness!).  But - it will need to be fixed, because it is now missing a part. <sigh> Let's add to the list of things to get at the bike shop... But seriously, the important thing is: I didn't have to suffer on the ride there. Only Don did.

What's some sore muscles when the view is this great?
I snapped the above photo at the top of the hill leading down to my professor's house. She lives at the bottom of a very steep hill.  VERY steep. So steep, I kid you not, that on the way home, even my electric assist couldn't get me up it.  I had to walk my bike the whole way up the hill. (CRAZY!) Fortunately, the majority of the ride home (with the exception of that first hill) was downhill, so Don had an easier time. On our way, we stopped and picked up Malcolm's bike and took it home. Malcolm sat in the front of the Bakfiet with the bike lying horizontal across the bucket in front of him.  It was quite the sight to behold. I tried to take a picture of it, but it's kinda hard to make it out. (You can sort of see his wheel sticking out to the left side in the picture below.)

Taking a picture while riding your bike is not advisable, safety-wise. Or usually very successful.
So, we made it home, and Don dissolved into a puddle on his comfy chair and whimpered uncontrollably for a few hours before limping back to bed. All in all, a successful first social outing.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Lessons Learned, Chapter 2

Lesson #3: Be sure to remember the lessons as you learn them. Otherwise, history is doomed to repeat itself.

That is all. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Lessons Learned, Chapter 1

So, we have lived here for about 9 days now, and I have already learned some lessons the hard way. I was fully expecting this, of course. So...here are two of the lessons I've learned so far.

Lesson #1: When you are commuting by bike instead of by car, it is about 10 times more important that you remember every bit of paperwork you might need BEFORE leaving the house. Learned this one the hard way today, when we went to the bank to open up a checking account. We forgot (a) something showing our change of address and (b) Don's ID. And there's no "quick, I'll drive back to the house while you get the paperwork started" when you're doing this by bike. So...the bank will have to wait another day.
Such a small piece of paper caused such big trouble...
Lesson #2: When you are depending on electric assist, do NOT, I repeat, DO NOT forget to charge your battery...ESPECIALLY when you just moved to a place that is very hilly. As I mentioned in my previous post, I have a bike with electric assist. Because of multiple health issues, I rely on this quite heavily in order to not keel over midway through a ride. Of course, electric assist is helpful only if the electric is working, and the electric is working only if the battery is charged, and the battery is charged only if the person using it remembers to charge it. The person in this scenario would be me, and, uh...I forgot to charge the battery. This is what I believe they call "user error." 
I shall never neglect you again, my friend.
If you would like to know more about the results of said battery-less journey, feel free to consult my husband, who I am sure would love to tell you about how I could barely pedal up the tiniest of hills, and how I looked to be near-death the whole journey. I never fully realized just how helpful this little guy is, even when I'm not pushing the button so I can sail past Don and Malcolm on a hill while laughing mockingly.

So, there you go...two lessons learned in just over a week!  And I haven't even started my PhD program yet.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Going Car-less: The Adventure Begins

Three years ago, I refused to ride a bike.  At all. It drove my husband nuts, because he is quite the avid cyclist. He wanted me to ride along with him, at least for recreation. But I refused. Two summers ago, I finally relented, and went for a few bike rides. Last summer, I finally started riding my bike every so often to a local coffee shop to study, and joined my husband and son here and there for a ride to the park. Finally, eight days ago I became a baptized-by-fire bike commuter. I am quite sure that the sudden nature of my commuting change will provide ample source material for humor, mockery, commiseration, and perhaps even education for veteran cyclists, novice cyclists, and just about anyone willing to watch someone make a fool of herself.  So I figured, hey...why not blog about it?

For anyone reading this who doesn't know me...I am entering a PhD program at Virginia Tech this fall, and my family and I just made the move to Blacksburg, VA to get settled. When we made the decision to move down here, we realized that we would be heading into an unknown employment situation for my husband; therefore, finances were (and continue to remain) a big mystery. Cutting out every expense we could made a lot of sense...so when we made the move, we left our car - and its associated $7,000+/yr expenses - in Ohio.

So, we are now car-less. Or, as my husband calls it: "car-free." I'm not quite sure about adopting that label quite yet, as it indicates that I find freedom in not owning a car. To a certain extent that is true; however, I'm still a bit...reluctant. In addition to being overweight, I have health issues that are aggravated by heat and stress. I hate being sweaty. I don't trust drivers. I'm generally not "outdoorsy" in any way (my definition of "roughing it" is a 2 star hotel). But, at the same time, I am excited about the fact that Blacksburg has great bike trails, and I have a bike with electric-assist. I have a husband who is knowledgeable about biking, and I also have a pretty fantastic public transportation system to fall back on if I really, really don't want to bike today. It's an interesting combo of positive and negative here. Should be fun, right?

So, this blog will be about all of the ups and downs of learning to be a bike commuter. I promise to share every last humiliating detail. For some of you, it will be pure entertainment, as my lack of experience, vanity, and innate wussy nature will clash in hysterical ways. For others, I hope it might actually offer some hope for learning to be a bicycle commuter. Because honestly, it is a very good thing! It's great for the environment, for your health, and for general peace of mind. And so if you have that inkling...if you think, "Gosh, I'd like to try this, but I'm just so... (fill-in-the-blank)," then comfort yourself by reading about my mistakes and triumphs (emphasis on the former), and trust that if I can do this...you certainly can, too.

That's it for now...let the adventure begin!

(oh - the picture is of my husband and son on the bike trail outside of our apartment. Beautiful, isn't it?)