Bike And Bus

We’ve been very busy during the last month: taking a vacation in Canada, getting Sophia settled in at university, and getting Thomas’ senior year of high school underway. All of this has been in addition to preparations for my departure for the west coast.

I have been edgy, contemplative, not really myself. I realize that this is a cool and exciting transition, but something has been wrong. Yesterday I figured out what it is.

I don’t want to make this transition without Meg. I will be going out west, exploring a new city, finding new things to do, seeing an amazing part of the country, and starting a new life. And she won’t be a part of it for a full year. That’s what’s been getting me down. It feels better to know that, and to say it out loud, but it still puts a bit of a cloud over everything that I am about to do.

I’m gonna miss my sweetie. A lot. 😦

*     *     *     *     *

With the first half of the move to Portland just one week away, we are pretty far down the road towards being able to hit the ground on stable footing out there. I will be at a hotel near the airport for the first week, mooching their airport shuttle to get to the end of the Red Line MAX train which can deposit me near my office building in the morning and whisk me back to the hotel at night.

Portland has an amazing public transportation system: their “light rail” (think of a cross between a street car and the subway) bisects the city and surrounding area both east-west and north-south; and the buses — and actual street cars — cover the rest of the surrounding area. The downtown area is actually zero-fare transit (I’m not kidding, it’s free), and an adult, unlimited-ride, system-wide  monthly pass for all of the bus/train/trolley lines is just $100.

Additionally, the city is very bike-friendly. The streets are littered with bike racks, the public transit system is very welcoming to commuters with bikes, and the bike path/bike lane map of the city is mind-boggling.

Given these two facts, and the availability of a small apartment just across the highway from downtown, I am going to try to make a go of things in Portland as a bike-and-bus commuter.

No car. This will be the first time since I was in college that I won’t have a car.

This is one of those “is this really possible” experiments that I am going to engage in during my scouting mission to Portland. Can human beings with lives and jobs and pets and stuff actually live like this? You hear about it, and hear about people doing it. But when you actually see those people they have blonde dreadlocks, they’re wearing leggings made of hemp, and they have tattoos across their neckline that read, “Breast Feed The Homeless.”

On paper, it will work just fine. There is a grocery store in walking distance from my apartment. The city has a massive farmer’s market every weekend about 10 blocks away. There are 4 Starbuck’s shops within a stone’s throw from my apartment. And the bus to my office picks me up in front of my building.

I say it’s “my building,” I haven’t signed a lease yet. But it’s looking good so far.

I will need a bike, and I’m narrowing down the possibilities. This is exciting, since I have been meaning to get myself a new ride for about 3 years now — other priorities have always taken precedence. But the top 3 are currently this one, this one, and this one. My office actually has bike storage and showers (!!!) for people that commute by bike. So I may just try that when the weather is good.

The weird stuff is going to be, “Hmm. I need to go to the hardware store for a pair of needle-nose vise grips.” Well, where’s the hardware store? How far is it? Is it raining? Does the bus go there? How many transfers will I have to make? And do those routes run today? No more just getting in the car and going there. That’s going to be weird, and given my gerbil-like patience, may be difficult to overcome.

Another challenge is going to be large purchases. I am not moving any furniture or electronics out to Portland, I will be gradually acquiring that stuff after I get there. So when I buy that desk and office chair, that queen-sized mattress or that 42″ LCD flat-screen TV, how the HELL do I get it back to my apartment? I think Hertz and I are going to become rather close friends when I decide to go shopping.

My first year out there is going to be an experiment: which of these wild ideas will work, and which of them won’t. Living without a car will be the biggest one of these undertakings, since it really is a lifestyle — and one that neither Meg nor I has ever tried before.

We’ll let you know how it goes.

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