In this week’s News-Sentinel column, Karen Nesius Roeger describes how her family’s car-free project — in a city not known for its public transportation — helped provide focus in a world that sometimes offers too many choices.
I was thinking about that yesterday while walking around Dollar General, testing which combination of toilet paper, laundry detergent, dish soap and hair conditioner would fit in the small backpack I’d be wearing on the bike ride home.
Our list of groceries that needed restocking after a family trip followed almost immediately by a weekend softball tournament was extensive. But after getting a ride into town with my son and biking to my sister’s house for a 30-20-10 workout, I was relying on my two-wheeler to get back home. That meant zeroing in on the supplies we needed most.
I wondered if anybody thought I was trying to shoplift those items I was jamming into my backpack, but this was just part of the process. When I came up with a combination that fit – changing out a small box of detergent for a pack of laundry soap pods did the trick – I carried my pack up to the counter and dumped everything out.
“I’m on a bike,” I told the puzzled clerk. “If it doesn’t fit in there, I can’t buy it.”
My forays into car-free commuting are pretty limited (and really, almost recreational) compared with the Roegers’ experience. In the evening there’s usually a car available if I really want it, and I could always drop my son off at work and keep the car during the day.
Unlike Mike Roeger, I’ve never rode to work when it’s below zero. Unlike Karen Roeger, I’ve never had to figure out how to get all my family’s groceries for the week by bus or bike. I’ve never had to figure out how to get myself and a pre-teen home from soccer practice after dark on a night when the buses aren’t running. Or figure out what combination of bus routes plus walking will get you from northeast Fort Wayne to the Eagle Marsh nature preserve southwest of the city, where the family continued to volunteer all during their project.
But when I interviewed this family, none of them – not even their 11-year-old son — thought their 2½-year experiment was a harrowing experience. It was a slower lifestyle, for sure, but it was also simpler. And cheaper. With built-in exercise.
Makes you think, doesn’t it?