Category Archives: Car-free

About the Car Thing

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Car in Wendy’s driveway 3-2-2017

I took this picture through the window of a city bus today. (The yellow arc is some reflection on the glass.)  This car looked noticeably better than most I’ve ever owned until the right front wheel changed directions on its own. The people were just getting to Wendy’s when this happened and surely had no idea the car would break down. I’m a little sad for them and also glad I’m not one of them. Also, here’s a lesson in car ownership. If I can’t afford to deal with something like this, I’m not ready to own a motor vehicle.

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New Bike, Old Chore

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So this is the folding bike I got with my back pay from SSI. (I got some other stuff, but this is the biggest thing.) It’s kind of a delayed-reaction impulse buy. I saw it in the window at a local bike shop one day in late December and decided to buy it because it’s similar to the Dahon I really wanted but about $170 cheaper. When I finally got the money, I bought it first thing. Dumb decision (which is why I’m not giving the brand or model). Buy a Dahon or another good brand if you can. On this one, the low gear isn’t as low enough for climbing, headwinds, or heavy cargo; the handlebar height doesn’t adjust to my size; and it has other drawbacks. Oh, well. At least it’s pretty.

That green thing on the seat post is not part of the bike. I’ve been carrying that gadget, called a Traileron, for years. (The black bump above it is a tail light.) It allows me to pull almost any cart behind the bike without any other hardware. This is actually the first time I used it. In this case, I towed my hand truck with my laundry as the cargo.

The detail of the Traileron is not as easy to see as I’d like because I’m not as good at editing as I’d like. The handle of the hand truck goes into a notch in the Traileron and is secured by a heavy-duty O-ring bent into a shape that works for the purpose.

How did it do? Pretty well. The O-ring is the brilliant part. It gives enough flexibility to let the hand truck adapt to the bike leaning or turning but is tight enough to keep it firmly attached. The sad thing is that Trailerons are not made any more.

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Here’s the “home and dry” picture. I wish the Traileron were still made. I would certainly recommend it as cheap way to get much more work from a bicycle. The user doesn’t even need a luggage rack, and the trailer can be any of many things, such as a child’s wagon, wire grocery cart, or even a golf bag cart. There’s a second O-ring provided that would give more choices. Thus, there’s less need for a trailer custom-made for bicycles. I imagine a good do-it-yourself person could probably make one, but there would be work involved that most poor people don’t have tools, shop space, or know-how to perform.

Ghost of a Business

I walk east on West Broad Street most Saturday evenings. When darkness began to fall before the time I passed this area (about 6:30 p.m.), this sign caught my eye. A close look told me it had to be a glow-in-the-dark sign. The building is boarded up with the plywood painted black, but that sign outlasted the business that bought it. I found it hard to get the building into the picture with my cell phone, even editing it later. That last pic gives you the spooky, odd feel of the place, though.

Need, Plan, Benefit

“Need, plan, benefit” is a format used to write proposals. It’s also a sound way to address issues. In this case, the need was to organize an overflowing cardboard box (upper left) between my bag chair and the door into a more useful and less unsightly “staging area” for my car-free lifestyle. The first picture shows the need, although this picture is too dark. (All of these have captions, too, but they got lost somehow.)

The plan: buy a big, cheap shelf unit and sort stuff onto the shelves. Also, use the top shelf to hold a lamp I bought for that area. I bought the shelf unit from Home Depot (lower left). As you might guess, the bus driver looked at me doubtfully when I brought that big package onto the bus, but she didn’t say anything. I got home, rested overnight, and assembled it the next day. Due to a quality control failure at the factory, I had to trim waste material from the ends of all the poles, but that’s part of getting things cheap.

The benefit: organization and easier trip preparation. The lamp sits on the top shelf, along with some hats and gloves. The next shelf is bicycle tools, parts, and equipment. The third shelf holds the many and varied bags I posted about a few months ago, except the barracks bag and big rucksack that are just too big. The bottom shelf is “miscellaneous” stuff, including rain gear and the bag for the bag chair.

 

Nice From Indoors

Pretty much any scenery (other than trash cans) is nice as seen from a safe, comfortable place out of the weather on a full stomach. Experienced outdoors, it’s usually different.

I got home today just as the rain began. It looks benign from my doorway. My friend in Spokane, WA, has been posting pictures of her husband shoveling large amounts of snow with lighthearted comments. However, I have walked miles in rain and snow. Even if I have the right gear, it’s far more difficult than driving in it or staying indoors. I’m counting my blessings tonight, but let’s all remember that people are homeless and trying to sleep in tents or under tarps in this stuff.

Accomplishments: Filing System, New Chair, Drying Rack

I have been accomplishing things this weekend, and I like that far better than the exciting/chaotic times I once had. It beats sleeping or sitting here in a daze, too.

Friday evening was boring but will serve my needs. I finally got filing supplies and set up a new filing system. I found the file box a month or more ago at the VOA Thrift in Galloway, but hadn’t used it until now. This may be the dullest picture I ever post, but for people dealing with SSI, Medicare, Medicaid, “Part D,” SNAP, and all the rest; keeping track of all the paper really counts.

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File box 12-9-2016

I’m not done with my filing yet. There’s a mini-mountain of paper waiting, but I can work it down now that I have the basic setup.

The weather has chilled. Saturday (yesterday) tested my winter gear setup, and I enjoyed the results. The neck warmer/face mask (prior posting) not only lets me breathe well, but it neither fogs my glasses nor collects condensation. The condensation improvement makes it the best face mask I’ve ever used.

Yesterday I took a trip to the VOA Thrift (again). The most important objective was to try to find a chair at the thrift shop. I use one chair at my computer and most of the time. The one I’ve been using was a $1 deal back in July or August from a nearby thrift, but I’ve worn out the legs. It looked like this:

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Notice how the front legs slant a little wrong? So did I. I figured in somewhere between a day and a month it would fall apart and dump me on the floor. So yesterday,  I took the time to find a different chair. Neither I nor the clerk could read the price marked on it. She sold it to me for my favorite price, $1.91. I had to carry it to the bus stop and from the bus stop back here. The bus driver was friendly and helpful, and I’m glad for that. It’s a little big to take onto the bus.

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New used chair 12-10-2016

This is way better. Besides giving me a safer seat, I also get much more comfort. It’s even short-legged enough that I can rest my feet  on the floor.

While I was looking around yesterday, I noticed a clothes drying rack. I have wanted one of those since I moved, and there it was. I could not carry both that and my chair yesterday, so I had to take my chances and go back today. Got it! This fits neatly inside my bathtub for the dripping part of drying clothes, then I can easily move it close to my wall heater. Here it is with a few cleaning cloths for a test use.

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You can’t really see my new jacket in the background, but I got that today too.

I like this kind of weekend. It’s not exciting, but it improves my life.

Bike ‘n’ Bus Adventures

Bus Bike and “Proof of Concept”

So here’s the bus bike again. The picture on the right shows it after I changed the seat post. I took the seat post from a bike I brought with me that I found in someone’s trash in Mount Vernon. It took me several tries to get it out of the frame, but it’s exactly what I needed.

This bike is a Huffy Rock It. I have seen those in red and neon green, but only this one in blue. Therefore, it has an identity, the blue Rock It. To lessen confusion, I’ll call it Blue Rocket.

I got the seat post on, changed the seat, and so on yesterday. This morning, the weather warmed quickly and the forecast looked good. So today, I rode the Blue Rocket on her maiden (for me) voyage. We went down the Camp Chase Trail, came back far enough to take some streets, and took a bus to Walmart on Georgesville Road, then home via a different route with two more bus rides. She passed all phases of the test. I can ride her a couple of miles easily, and putting her on the bus rack or getting her off is much easier than past bikes. Neither she nor I was perfect, but I certainly have what engineers call “proof of concept.” That is, I’ve shown myself this was a really sound idea.

Another Adventure via Bike ‘n’ Bus

After a break, I found myself still with some energy. The wind had picked up, but I wanted to ride more. For lack of a better idea, I decided to see if the bus drivers would let me put the Diamondback (big bike) on the bus and how that would work out. I only wound up putting it on two buses, the #10 and a #4 that would put me in the area of my favorite park. Neither driver gave me any trouble about the height of my bike, but this thing weighs 45 pounds (20 kg) and takes up every inch of its space on the rack. I put about three times the effort into loading the Diamondback as I had the Blue Rocket.

While I was Downtown, I noticed that  the weather had cooled and that the wind was coming through my hoodie. I wished I had brought another layer, but stubbornness prevailed over good sense and I went on. I got off the bus on Indianola Avenue and coasted down the hill to High Street. By this time, I felt so cold that I stopped at a McDonald’s and had coffee to warm up. Then I coasted on down the hill to the park and decided to take some time in the woods there that I enjoy. I noticed that the most of the under-story plants beneath the autumn-leaved trees looked green and alive, although some had turned golden. We’re expecting below-freezing temperatures tonight, so that may change.

I took a phone call in that beautiful setting, during which I realized that I did not want to climb back up the hill I had coasted down. If I rode the nearby trail back toward home, I would not only have a “net” downhill ride, I’d also put the wind behind me. I needed that. By this time, the wind speed had increased over the 16 mph (25 kph) that Accuweather told me it was blowing when I left home.

That’s what I did. Tired or not, I liked riding downhill with a tail wind. Eventually, I left the trail (and the tail wind) for McKinley Avenue, then back to a trail at Eureka Avenue. By that time, I just kept downshifting and wishing I was already home, but I made it okay. I think the only lasting effect will be a day or two of sore knees. However, after all of that, I could barely stay awake for about four hours. I refuse to take a nap after 6 p.m., but I could not tell you much about that time because I was incredibly drowsy. Now that it’s past my bedtime, I’m waking up. Oh, well.

All in all, I had a very good day. I learned how the “system” of bikes and buses will work, visited a place I love, and had a nice ride for several miles.