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Archive for December, 2006

Shopping on Day 5

The act of grocery shopping, and shopping in general, sans auto could drive even an environmentalist straight to the Hummer dealership. But with a little ingenuity and just over $40, you can make the “car-less” trek to the store less of an ordeal.

It won’t be a cinch, mind you, but if the weather’s behaving it can turn into a pleasant outing and an opportunity to get to know your neighborhood better.

But making it work largely depends on how close you live to a grocery store and public transportation. Suburbia seems to have been designed more for car traffic than foot traffic. Should you live close enough to a store, it is worth trying to shop at least once.

Crucial in getting sustenance to your home is buying a mini laundry/grocery cart with wheels. Two roomy backpacks are mandatory accessories. If you happen to be a Von Trapp-sized household, you’ll need to add more carts, along with extra patience.

I scored a push cart at Bolfing’s Elmwood Hardware in Berkeley. The store’s owner even offered, without any nudging, to assemble it. Anyone who has looked too closely at the wobbly IKEA bookcase I assembled over six grueling hours knows having him do it was wise.

It did feel a little odd pushing the cart on the street, but I’m sure I’ll get the hang of it later on. (Yes, I do plan to do it again.) I did take a couple of turns a little too wide, but there were no wrecks, no spills, no eggs broken.

Since the brisk but dry weather cooperated, I managed to polish off my Christmas shopping on a separate mission. Once again my trusty backpack served me well. In all, the shopping experience went smoothly, mostly because we live so close to two grocery stores.

Like much of the week, doing this task without a car turned out to be simpler than I imagined.

On that note, I’m signing off on this, my final entry, on the blog. I had great fun doing this Week Without a Car and hope you enjoyed it too.

‘ll be wrapping up my experiences and posting an article Thursday both online and in the paper. But before that, I’d love to hear from the brave souls who are going “car-less” or relying on bus/bike/BART to get them everywhere.

Just drop me a line at rmyers@cctimes.com to tell me about your experiences or call me at 925-977-8419.

Happy trails!

Posted on Saturday, December 16th, 2006
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a confession

I cheated, but only a little. Instead of finishing my commute tonight (Friday) with a bus ride from BART, I walked. The judges decided to issue me a warning, but ruled I’m still eligible to play.

But I’m done – D-O-N-E – with the bus. Let me repeat again – done!

That’s because earlier I caught a bus and then hopped on another and then climbed aboard yet one more just so I could get from Walnut Creek to Concord for an interview. If you’ve driven from the W.C. to Concord, you know it’s not exactly like travelilng to Tahoe.

I set out at 11 to get to my appointment, and arrived on Willow Pass Road just after 12:10. My interview went till 1:30. I caught a bus back that took me to Concord BART where I then took a train to Pleasant Hill and waited to board another bus to Shadelands.

The time suck spent getting from Walnut Creek to Concord and back: Roughly 3 hours and 40 minutes. Minus the interview: 2 hours, 20 minutes of travel. To be fair, it all went like clockwork. But just imagine doing this every day? Some have to.

I’m seriously glad it’s Friday. And wondering how I’m going to make it to the Parkway tonight to see Borat? Maybe I’ll just bag it and rent a DVD.

Posted on Friday, December 15th, 2006
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All bus, no stopping

Posted on Friday, December 15th, 2006
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Day 4: Get on that bus without whining

Randy Myers' lunch, BART card and wallet

There are a few essentialsyou must have before getting to work by bus. Those include a reliable watch (or a cellphone that tells accurate time), a thick wad of dollar bills and an air-tight travel plan hashed out well in advance.

With a handful of change (I failed at grasping the “bill” part) and an itinerary cooked up with half-closed eyes at 6 this morning on the 511 travel website http://transit.511.org/tripplanner/index.asp I came up with a rather effortless commute.

I hopped on an AC Transit bus that deposited me at the Rockridge BART station (with all this newness I exited one stop too early), took BART and then hooked up with a County Connection bus at the Pleasant Hill BART station. That bus delivered me nearly at the doorsteps of the Times Central office.

If you’re like me and consider yourself an idiot when it comes to the bus system, try out the 511 Travel planner site. It certainly saved me from winding up in Alameda. Now that’s not a bad city to be in, but when your boss is expecting, you better hustle.

A young woman I met at the Pleasant Hill BART station swears by the 511 travel planner. She doesn’t own a car, and relies on the bus to get to work.

The big challenge I’m facing arrives later today when I try to navigate the bus-BART system to get to an interview in Concord. It seem like one of those “The Amazing Race” challenges, only on a very, very, very, very small scale without the exotic locales.

Although Walnut Creek and Concord practically rub geographic shoulders on the map, the cities seem as far away as Alamo is to Sacramento when traveling minus a car. The hour-plus plan I’ve come up with might not be the easiest nor the fastest, but I’m going to stick to it. At least until 11.

To get to my interview by 12:30 p.m. I have to leave the office no later than 11 a.m. I’ve created some wiggle room in case I get lost, always a possibility given my checkered past.

Some people do this every day, getting to work, doctor’s appointments and home, by bus. I admire the heck out of you.

Randy Myers arrives Friday morning

Posted on Friday, December 15th, 2006
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Three hugs at end of Day 3

Here’s a near-perfect way to end a commute: Have three enthusiastic women say they want to bestow big hugs on you. That was the scene at Rockridge BART as a most friendly trio -displaying “Free Hugs” signs – congregated below the stairs and then hugged away. They had many takers.

Each asked politely before proceeding. I got three embraces, and all were more than above average.

I tried to warn them that I was a little stinky, but they were all about the unconditional hug.

Before that I stopped to listen to a fine group of carolers performing next to the BART ticket machine. Nice touch.

Overall my commute went smoothly considering I didn’t make it home in record time. My bike-BART combo was accomplished in just little over an hour.

The cycle on the trail home, however, turned out to be a little “Blair Witch” scary (I’m referring to the first film, not that hideous second one), and almost resulted in a kitty pancake. Luckily, the cute tabby that was flopping from side to side in the middle of the trail got spooked by my flickering light and that incredibly loud UH-OH! I belted out. Smart cat. Everyone escaped free of injury.

With two more days to go – my editors and I decided to stick in a weekend day just so I could I attempt to do my weekly grocery shopping – I feel I’m geting the hang of this. True, I’m more tired at night and in need of a new botttle of Advil, but I’m feeling good.

Posted on Thursday, December 14th, 2006
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Pedal to the metal Thursdays

Posted on Thursday, December 14th, 2006
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Day 3: Of being “weak” without a car

Today I was busted.

A no-guff BART station agent at Pleasant Hill collared me for disobyeing the bike rules. I was guilty of taking the lazy way out and using the escalators instead of the stairs. I could plead ignorance, but that doesn’t fly when the rules are posted online.

Speaking of rules, I guess I should state the ones I cooked up for this Week Without a Car. It’s fairly straightforward: I can’t drive a car or hitch a ride to and from work. That means not stepping into a vehicle, even if it’s a stranger with some candy. Many coworkers have graciously offered to rescue me, and while that’s an attractive offer, it happens to be cheating. I’m not cheating. So far. Really. I’m not.

My mode of transporation must be bus, foot, ferry, BART, bike, maybe even hang-glider if I knew how to use one without inflicting injury on myself and others. The rule is I do the commute daily from my destination.

My commute isn’t a teeth-gnasher like the killer from, say, Byron to the City. I zip over from Berkeley to the business offices of Shadelands Drive, up Satan Valley Road in Walnut Creek. Generally, I’m here in 30 minutes, but the trek home requires more time and patience. Sometimes I lose that patience and yak on the phone. Observing the bad behavior of cellphone drivers these last few days, I’m not going to pick up the phone when I’m back in the car.

Why I’m doing this — especially during this ill-tempered but nevertheless non-blizzard-like weather — is because I’ve always wanted to, but kept on coming up with one lame excuse after another for not doing it.

Not only do I love the exercise and the possiblity of getting in better shape, I like the liberating feel I get from cutting the umbilical cord to a car.

I happen to be in that slim percentage of folks who can kick their vehicle to the curb more easily than others. I have no children who need to be shuttled to school, to soccer practice, to doctor’s appointments, to home. I’m reasonably healthy and am close enough to two BART stations.

Randy Myers arrives Thursday morningOther commuters face much more daunting ordeals and obstacles than I do. I continue to hear from or meet East Bay residents living or working on this side of the Caldecott Tunnel who have less ideal circumstances than mine.

Some have to travel by foot or bike. Others can choose to do it. I’m in the lucky camp of wanting to do it.

OK, enough of all that preachy stuff. Minus the reprimand at BART, today’s commute went of without a hitch. I woke up later than anticipated, having been broadsided at 9:30 last night with a migraine, complete with those flashing and squiggly lights. I don’t think I drank enough water yesterday. A wise man religously tells me that I always need to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Sage advice.

If anyone wants to break out their bike and do their own “Week Without a Car,” drop me a line. I’ve gotten some great tips from no-car commuters, so please keep ‘em coming.

If you’re just starting out, check out the East Bay Bicycle Coalition at www.ebbc.org or the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition at www.sfbike.org. Both contain awesome maps, tips, safety rules, clubs and other resources. Wish I would have gone a-Googlin’ from the start.

Posted on Thursday, December 14th, 2006
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Day 3: Slooooow start

Arggh! I overslept.

Posted on Thursday, December 14th, 2006
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Walkin’ back home: Day 2

I didn’t dawdle. I didn’t take the road less traveled. I walked directly to Pleasant Hill BART, got on a train within 6 minutes, and made it to my Berkeley home within an hour and a half.

That’s a darn sight better than my 2 hours and 30 minutes commute this morning. I even managed to squeeze in a stop at the grocery store – right on my route – and pick up some lettuce.

It was really humbling tonight when I passed a sharply dressed older gentleman holding a number of bags and walking with the careful assistance of a cane. He moved painfully slow, shuffling inch by inch. Watching him made my inner whiny voice shut up but fast.

Regardless, I’m wiped and need to hit the showers and then start plotting my Day 3. See you then.

Posted on Wednesday, December 13th, 2006
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Walkin’ Wednesday

Posted on Wednesday, December 13th, 2006
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