Car-Free Diet Skeptics Blog


Director Chris Keener quiets the set.

Sound rolling.

Camera rolling.

And without looking up from the camera-

“Whenever you’re ready.”

Welcome to the Studio

And that’s how it began- my first step towards fame.

Of course, everyone’s definition of fame may be slightly different, but let’s be honest, we can play the semantics game all day.

My definition of fame is being the host of a show.  It’s incredible.  My name, being tossed around in the same light as all of the great hosts- Carson, Letterman, O’Brian, Leno.

“And wait, who’s this late comer? I thought everyone had showed up to the party” you might say.

But then the person next to you, who is clearly much more into what’s trending right now, would turn and condescendingly answer, “Nope. That’s Smith.  The party actually just started.”

Cue red carpet, champagne (the expensive kind), and fireworks.  Boom. Boom. Boom. It’s like Mardi Gras and the 4th of July, celebrating my arrival. And then, as the smoke begins to clear, a name, in huge golden lights, slowly emerges through the veil.  Car Free Matt.

And that’s exactly how I remember it all going. Pretty much.

Regardless of whether or not I’m actually super famous now (I am) the show has been a  great adventure from beginning to end.

I was approached many moons ago about a possible Car Free Diet Show.  The details hadn’t all been worked out yet, but the gist of it was that we’d be doing a sketch comedy show based on the Car Free Diet.   I recall being very busy at the time, working on a rough outline of how I could become super famous, and suddenly all the chips fell into place.

But you’d be surprised how hard it is to create a show.  Well maybe you wouldn’t be, but I was.

Content was difficult from the start.  It took weeks of creative sessions involving Arlington County, its partners, myself, and the whole Car-Free gang before we finally had rough scripts pieced together.  There were conference calls.  There were meetings.  There were  vetoes and re-dos.  There was stress.

But in the end, we’d created enough scripts to shoot six episodes of the Car Free Show.  Not so funny that you’ll laugh to death because that’s dangerous, but funny enough that you should be careful drinking too much water right before watching.  Unless you have an extra set of pants near by.  Even then, it’s not the best idea, but let’s say you just ran a full marathon and now you’re super parched and all you want to do is drink tons of water and watch the show.  That’s cool.  I’m just saying you do so at your own risk.

Once we had scripts approved, we still had nothing but obstacles in front us.

Casting

Crew

Scheduling

Location

Shooting

Editing

In the biz, we lump most of these issues into one of three categories:

1. Pre-Production

2. Production

3. Post-Production

I’m just knowledge dropping on you.  It’s not necessary that you know that.  But when you’re super fab in the biz, like me, it’s just stuff you absorb.

Protect Your Melon: Wear a Helmet

I don’t want to bore you with ALL of the details about how we put it all together.  Suffice it to say, a lot of people put a lot of effort into making the Car Free Diet Show a reality.  But like I mentioned in the beginning, eventually, we got to this place:

Director Chris Keener quiets the set.

Sound rolling.

Camera rolling.

And without looking up from the camera-

“Whenever you’re ready.”

I think for all of us, the expression “ready as I’ll ever be” was appropriate.  We were embarking on new  territory.  Part comedy.  Part PSA. Part-y.

I won’t spoil all of the great skits we have in store for you.  But get ready.  We have five more episodes coming your way. Episode one was a success.  It already has over 1,000 views on YouTube.  That’s 1,000 times more than 1 view.  And when you look at it that way, those numbers are pretty significant.  I might be crazy, but my estimates put the population of Arlington at 2,000 which means we were able to capture the attention of HALF of the population here.  I’m not fantastic at crunching numbers though so don’t quote me on all of that. I’m a celebrity, not a mathematician.

One thing I am sure of: The Car Free Diet Show is the next big thing for sketch comedy shows under six minutes, based in Arlington, and focusing on going Car Free.  You might even say we’re number one.

If you haven’t already, peep the first Episode here!

And make sure to stay tuned for all of the upcoming episodes of the Car Free Diet Show, as well as blog posts from me, your favorite host ever EVER, Car Free Matt!


Today brings a close to the thirty days Kyle and I spent competing against each other in the Car Free Diet Skeptics Challenge.  I was chosen as the grand prize winner, but the truth is that Kyle and I both are winners; and I’m not talking about the prizes we were given.

Over the past 30 days we have both learned how to survive without a car.  We went from absolute know-nothings to certified know-some-things.  Maybe we haven’t hit the know-it-all status, but we’re on the right track.  The transformation is significant.  There was a time when I would have been terrified if my car broke down, but that seems so very long ago now.

Today I stand a wiser, happier man.  And as I stood with Kyle during Bike to Work Day, I could tell he felt the same.  It didn’t matter what name they pulled out of the envelope as they announced the winner.  In all honesty, for all the times I’ve tried to bait Kyle into a friendly rivalry, the name in that envelope didn’t matter at all.  I looked around at all of the people enjoying the day, celebrating a common desire to lead a healthier life.

The Car Free Diet is about more than Kyle and myself, and it’s about more than Ross and Todd.  I saw that today, as strangers came up to congratulate me on the win.  They asked about my videos.  They inquired about my grandfather.  They’d followed along with the competition.  When I missed my interview, they’d been there.  When I got the job anyway, they were there.  I wasn’t alone in my mission to use my car less.   Kyle and I had become part of something much larger than the two individuals we had been on day one.  And it felt great.

I look forward to seeing who Arlington chooses as Skeptics in the future.  Last year Ross and Todd showcased their own Skeptic style.  This year Kyle and I did the same.  What will future competitions bring? I’m not sure, but I can say that each year, as the competition gains more and more exposure,  the Car Free Diet Skeptics Challenge holds amazing potential.  I moved to Arlington just over a year ago.  I saw people biking and running every day, but I felt like an outsider looking in on an elite group of athletes and hobbyists.  This challenge opened the door and let me into that group.  I wonder how many others are out there, contemplating using their car less just like I was?  From the responses and support I’ve received over the last thirty days, it seems like there are many, many people like me.

And perhaps more important is the connection I’ve been able to make with people who have been biking and going car-free for years.  I found that the group I had perceived to be elite and unwelcoming was just the opposite.  They gave advice.  They cheered us on.  They welcomed us to their bike lanes and trails with open arms.

Bus drivers were always willing to answer my questions as I bumbled along.  It’s POSSIBLE to put your bike on the front of the bus? HOW?! Is this bus headed towards Pentagon City or Tokyo? Are these seats taken? You think of a stupid question, I’ve asked it over the past 30 days.

Monday I’ll probably wake up and walk to the bus stop so I can catch the bus to Rosslyn and head to work.  Or maybe I’ll ride my bike in, or to the metro and metro in from there.  The options are mine now because I know they exist and I’m not afraid to use them.  30 days ago, you would never have heard me saying those words.  But I don’t need my car.  And quite frankly, I have no desire to get back to using it unless I absolutely have to.  I haven’t felt this sort of freedom since I followed up on that dare to streak across the football field when I was in high school.  Or that time I was dared to streak across the parking lot in college.  Or the time Kyle dared me to streak across Farmer’s Market yesterday.  Yes, freedom like this only comes during a few rare moments in life.

So as I stand on the edge of one journey and the verge of another, I can only describe my feeling as excited.  I’m excited to keep losing weight.  I’m excited to keep saving money.  I’m excited to meet new people and learn new tips and tricks.  I am excited about living life in Arlington, for the first time since I moved here.  No more speeding or parking tickets.  No more 4 or 5 dollar gas prices costing me hundreds every month.  No more traffic.  Imagine that if you can.  No. More. Traffic.  It feels like a million pounds just lifted off of my chest.

I don’t know where my path will lead now.  Maybe Kyle and I will continue to blog and post videos of our adventures.  I hope Arlington supports that idea.  I’d love to remain a part of the car-free circle.  But even if not, you can be sure that I’ll keep living my life being as car-free as possible.  I’ll sip orange juice on the bus in the morning, I’ll enjoy the wind on my face during every bike ride.  I’ll use the extra time walking to and from the bus stops to plan for the day or unwind on the way home.

Maybe some of you were able to read the short story I wrote, Life 56 Feet Above Sea Level.  It was about finding my smile again, and taking chances even though you might be terrified.  Moving from a small town to Arlington was overwhelming, and somewhere between the traffic, and the masses, and the concrete, I started to feel very far from home.

But then I was given a bike, and running shoes, and a smart trip card- and I was told to go out and seize the day. So that’s exactly what I did.  And on the streets and railways of Arlington, I found more adventure, and more support than I could have ever asked for. I’ve found myself loving being car-free and loving Arlington.  I found a place to call home.

And that’s more important than any tangible prize Arlington could have given me.


Is there any situation where Boys II Men lyrics DON’T help convey an emotion?  I don’t think so.  Go ahead and try to find one.  Boys II Men will have you covered. However, if you find yourself stuck, New Kids on the Block will work as a suitable alternative.  Here’s an example:

You: Hey Car-Free Matt, how have you felt about all of your trips on your bike? Also, do you think you have the right stuff to be able to win this challenge?

Me: (While doing infamous NKOTB leg swinging side to side dance)I’ve loved it.  And I’ve definitely got oh oh ohhhhh, oh oheeeo, oh oh ohhhhh, the right stuff.

So that’s a stretch.  But it’s nearly my last official Car-Free Matt blog post and I wanted to have a little fun.  And what better way to do that then by discussing Boys II Men and New Kids on the Block? Ok, there are probably better ways to have fun.

Sadly, the time for fun and games is coming to a close.  It’s serious face time, decision time.  Tomorrow, there will be a winner of the competition. And it will be me.  Or Kyle.  But let’s stick with me.

And I look back now on the past month.  The ups, the downs.  There have been plenty.  I wish I had more time to show you everything I’ve seen over the course of thirty days.  But like they say, time flies when you’re having fun.

I’ve been able to make several videos.  They’ve definitely helped get people talking to me about the competition and what I’ve been experiencing.  If you feel so inclined, please feel free to repost them on your own facebook, twitter blogs, etc.  I’d love the help sharing:

Trip to Jay’s Saloon featuring the song Happenstance

Capital Bikeshare Scavenger Hunt featuring the song Post Script as well as music created by my very good friend Ryan MayenSchein (Manshine)

Rebuttal to Kyle’s video announcing he sold his car

Trip to Maddy’s in DC featuring the song The Lights in DC

PSA #1

PSA #2

PSA #3

PSA #4

PSA #5

PSA #6

PSA #7

PSA #8

National Walk at Lunch Day featuring the song Two Sides to Coins, Walls, and Us

First Bike Ride, Missed Interview, Shenandoah, and my first video blog

In the past thirty days, I’ve been able to lose five pounds just by biking and walking more.  No gym.  No working out at home.  Just getting from point A to B.  Another eight months of this, and I may just be high-school skinny. We’ll see… but if not, I’m still way healthier than I was and it will only get better.

I’ve also saved between $175-200 in gas alone.  That doesn’t include the amount I’d have spent to park on the street or the almost guaranteed parking tickets I would receive for parking on those streets.  There have been no meters to feed, no parking police watching me from afar.

Learning to plan is something that takes time, ironically.  Because people who don’t plan well usually don’t have time to learn how to plan well…  But through out the course of this contest I’ve become much better at planning ahead, and getting places on time.  When I drive, I show up late.  That’s sort of what I do.  But with using the bus and metro system, I’ve learned to find the time I need to be there, and BE THERE at that time.  I show up places on time.  Mouths drop.  It’s a big deal.

My stress level has decreased substantially.  No more sitting in traffic.  No more wondering where all of the people in the cars around me came from.  No more wishing I lived in 1784 just so I could find an open rode somewhere.  I just sit back and relax and someone else drives me to and from my destinations.  I read, I listen to music, I zone out, I play games on my phone, update my social networks, etc. It’s sort of like being wealthy, or a celebrity.  Take me to Rosslyn driver. Pip pip, cheerio people stuck in traffic.

I’ve also been able to see people and places I never would have seen if I wasn’t going car-free.  Maybe you don’t find enjoyment in seeing the world around you, but I’m a huge fan.  Today, as I sat on the bus, I watched two guys talking with each other.  As an attractive girl passed by them, one of the guys followed her with his gaze and the other guy tapped him and gave him the, “No way brotha.  She’s out of your league look.” Then they both laughed and continued on with their conversation.  I love moments like that, when I get to see people being people.  I call it people watching.  You may call it being creepy. But that’s why you’re wrong and I’m right.  (This style of arguing is a tactic I’ve learned from my girlfriend, Dana.  You can read about it in my new book, Always Be Right, Always.)

And in just a few weeks I’ve already started to accumulate ways to make my commutes easier.  As you go car-free, I think everyone will begin to shape their own version of what works best for them.  But little things here and there go a long way.

  • Bring an umbrella (you can never trust the forecast and a wet Iphone is a uselss Iphone).
  • Wear regular shoes to and from work so you aren’t walking in uncomfortable shoes.  Change at the office or where ever you’re headed.
  • Pick up some reusable grocery bags for groceries.  It’s better for the environment AND reduces the chance that your bags will break.
  • Bring along something to read or something to do while you’re on the metro or the bus.  You can spend your time watching people too if you’d like.
  • Invest in a Smart Trip card.  This a no brainner.  It’s faster and it saves you money if you’re transferring from bus to bus or metro to metro.
  • Try to NOT transfer if you don’t have to.  My commute into Rosslyn could be done a few different ways (bus to bus, bus to metro, etc).  But the easiest way is to find a bus that goes right there.  That way there’s no chance you’ll miss the next bus or metro.
  • If you’re biking, don’t hug the shoulder! I know that it seems like it’s safer to do so, but it’s really not. Be visible and give yourself distance from parked cars.  They’re actually JUST as dangerous as moving vehicles.  People getting out of their cars or stepping out from in between cars aren’t looking for you.  They’re looking for cars.  Slamming into a car door or a person won’t be fun.  Well, it won’t be MUCH fun.  I bet it’s a little fun.
  • Use the trip planner located here. It’s a really useful tool when planning your trips.
  • Planning the “there” trip is much easier than planning the “return” trip.  It’s one thing to know you’re meeting friends for diner at five. But that dinner could go for one hour or four hours and planning your trip home is a little more tricky because of that.  You can never really plan perfectly for the return trip.  So make use of the aforementioned trip planner.  I have it saved on my phone so I can bring it up whenever I’m ready to head off.
  • Make sure you have enough money on your card BEFORE you get to the metro line and try to go in.  This is especially true if you usually only give yourself a few minutes to make sure you get to the metro.  Taking time to put more money on your card can cost you a missed metro which can cost you a missed bus which can cost you a wasted night.
  • Don’t leave your bike unattended.  Sometimes Kyle will sneak by and sabotage your chain.

There are plenty more.  I’m still learning, and so will you if you give going car-free a chance. I’d love to hear any more suggestions any one has.

There’s so much I want to say, and so much I want to learn still.  It’s a shame the contest is only 30 days.  I’d love to extend the challenge, but alas, it’s not up to me whether I beat Kyle in 30 days or 365 days.  But I’ve had a blast doing this and I wouldn’t change any of it.  Has it been easy? Nope.  Has it been possible? Yup.  And it gets easier with each passing day.  So I’m not looking backwards, focusing on stumbling blocks along the way.  Towards the past is no way to be facing when you’re biking, running, and metroing into a new future.  I really do want this competition to be the beginning of something greater for me.  In a year’s time I want to be thinner, richer, calmer, and above all else, happier.

I’m extremely thankful to everyone who has helped out with this competition.  To all of the stores and organizations that donated; to all of the people who have offered up advice, support, and encouragement; to everyone who helped spread the word about the competition; and to anyone I’m missing: thank you.  I joke around most of the time, but I offer that thanks with the utmost sincerity.  It has been nothing short of an amazing month and I couldn’t have done it without any of you.

With any luck, the next time Billy Ocean comes around demanding that I get into his car, I’ll be able to look him straight in the eyes and say, “No way Billy.  I’m Car-Free, plus you’re creeping people out by demanding they get in your car all the time.  It’s really not an acceptable practice and no one enjoys an ultimatum.”

And don’t forget! Kyle and I will be at the Rosslyn pit-stop bright and early tomorrow to hang out with fellow bikers and to find out who will win the competition.  I hope to see you all there.

 

 


Well, it’s almost the end of our little journey. What started as a personal challenge has become so much more. Ultimately, I’m greener, thriftier, fitter, richer, happier, and more involved in my community than I’ve been since moving to this area!

I’m wicked Earth conscious now, as I’m no longer putting hundreds of pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere on a monthly basis. Driving a car to and from work always made me feel guilty. Now, that guilt is lifted like a huge weight off my shoulders. Seriously. I think I’ve added 3 inches to my vertical. Of course, that could be from constant quad workouts from the bike.

Additionally, being out of traffic has reduced my stress level IMMENSELY. When I first moved to the area, the traffic caused such bad stress that I had chest pains for the first few months. Not only are those gone, but my heart is getting regular workouts at least twice a day. I think I need to start eating a large number of tacos to counteract all this activity.

Speaking of which, the experience has made me a better planner. I used to just fly by the seat of my pants. If I wanted a taco, I’d hop in the car and go get one. Now, such immediate indulgences are unnecessary. Instead of driving somewhere to get fast food, I’ll have planned out my grocery shopping and will have something to make at home. The moral is this: if I want some sort of treat, I better be prepared to work for it.

This mode of preparedness is not only good for my body, but also for my wallet. Obviously, if I’m cooking at home, I’m saving boatloads of cash. Without insurance, gas, maintenance, parking, and the money saved with groceries, I saved between 400-500 dollars JUST THIS MONTH. This is a ridiculous amount of money to be saving, and it didn’t even occur to me until the end of this post! That’s how low on the ladder of pros this is! We don’t even need to bring up the money!

That is, unless the ladies want to talk about the money...

Anyway, I’ve decided to cap off the end of the evening with a little me-time. With my roommate gone, and the competition over, I decided that I was going to get the most recent released video game to veg out for a week. However, there are NO video game stores in all of the Rosslyn/Courthouse/Clarendon area (Thanks Congress… whom I assume sees over such matters). I was going to have to point my bike tires towards the west, and ride until I saw pocket protectors…

Day 25: New Beginnings

May 16th, 2011 by Kyle

Well, it was an absolutely glorious week in terms of weather. Too bad a lot of it was spent indoors at work or sick. Nevertheless, I was able to catch some quick glimpses while biking too and from the office.

That’s right Arlington. I’ve pretty much exclusively made the switch to bike-travel. My ankle still hasn’t healed completely, and the bike is definitely better for it. All but one trip to my office was made on two wheels. Additionally, I’ve become a regular at Revolution Cycles due to gross ignorance and lack of a bike pump. There’s still a lot to learn, but not nearly the maintenance knowledge I needed when I had a car.

But what an exciting week it’s been! The biggest and probably saddest news is that my roommate left for her internship today. However, this also translated into a wild and raucous weekend that took us from Dupont to Clarendon and everywhere in between. Since she also doesn’t have a car, we mostly used the Metro to get from A to B.

It's like a female version of me.

Also last week, I had some friends visiting from out of town. I figured, “why not show them how to live Car-Free?” We did just that, using Capital Bikeshare to make our way from Clarendon to the National Mall. We took in some monuments, visited some museums, and met up with the Washington Post (article comes out Thursday. Mark your calendars). It was a great way to enjoy the sun and finally get some culture.

Finally, the week also had the ribbon-cutting of our new office. For those of you who haven’t been paying attention, my office moved recently from Chantilly to Clarendon. This week, the move was made official as our Executive Chairman visited the US. Now that the building has been christened, I can finally start doing some work I’ve been putting off for weeks (just kidding boss). While none of this has anything to do with being Car-Free, I just thought it was really cool.

I hope everybody has enjoyed these posts as we enter our last week. Be sure to stay tuned, and come join us at the Rosslyn pit stop for National Bike to Work day on Friday!


Going car-free takes planning. I’ve said it before. I’m sure I’ll say it again.

But this week brought about an interesting lesson for me. It brought promise. And then it brought me to my knees.

Let me backtrack a moment. I know I mentioned last week that I didn’t get the job I interviewed for on the first day of the contest. I had already begun to brace myself for that possibility so when the news arrived, it wasn’t as though I was caught off guard.

However, what DID catch me off guard is when they called me on Monday, to tell me about another position. In fact, they didn’t call to ask me to apply or come in for an interview. They simply wanted me to take the job. So I rode my bike to the metro like I’ve done so many times in the past few weeks, and I took a ride into Rosslyn so I could discuss the details with the owners.

On my way into the office, I received a response from The Smithsonian Channel in regards to a position I had recently inquired about. They asked if I would like to come in for an interview as well.

Suddenly my mind was reeling. One job offer and an interview for another job, my DREAM job, in the same week?

“What are you up to Life”, I asked.
“Oh nothing,” Life giggled.

I stepped inside the office for the first position, and after discussing everything with the owners, found myself loving the position they were offering me. There were no negatives save for the possibility of a job at the Smithsonian Channel off in the distance.

I took the return trip home and spent the time biking to consider everything that was happening. After nearly a year of searching for a full time position, it seemed as if things were turning around.

I walked into my house and called my girlfriend, Dana, to tell her all about the good news. Seconds after we hung up, my phone rang again. This time, not Dana. It was Christy Goodman from the Washington Post, following up on a suggestion I had given to her about covering the Car Free Diet Skeptics for a story in the Post. It was a go.

Flash forward in the week.

I go in for the interview at the Smithsonian Channel. As always, I ride my bike to the metro. I ride the metro into DC. I walk half a mile to the building, documenting my entire trip with the Flip Cam Arlington’s graciously given to both myself and Kyle.

The interview goes well, though not fantastic. But that doesn’t bring me down. I had just been sitting in an office at the Smithsonian Channel because they had, at the very least, an inkling of interest in me. Or, in other words, I just sat in an office being interviewed for my dream job. It was the kind of job that made me go to school for film in the first place. It was the kind of job that lets someone like myself be someone like myself. As I walked the half mile back to the metro, I reminded myself that this was only the beginning. Maybe it would only mean that I had a baby toe in the door of my future, but it was something, and not nothing.

I felt like skipping. But men don’t skip. I can prove it, because I turned off the camera while I skipped so there’s no proof.

I rode the metro home, thinking to myself how fantastic the week had been and how much better I’d started to get at going car-free. I began to wonder why anyone needs a car. Life was at a high for me, and I hadn’t used a car for a second of it.

But isn’t that how life works? It’s an emotional roller coaster, and when you reach the top of the hill, I suppose there’s no where left to go but down sometimes.

On Friday, I got a phone call from my mom. My grandfather who had gone to the hospital earlier in the week for a “more than minor but less than severe” issue with his kidney, received more information. It wasn’t his kidney that had been the problem; he had an aneurysm in his aorta. I’m not a medical expert, but I’ve seen Grays Anatomy. And Dr. Derek Shepard is always very clear: aneurysms are no joke and need to be treated immediately.

Suddenly everything was moving backwards. I had to drive with my girlfriend to the hospital, but even that didn’t seem fast enough. I knew the severity of the condition. If I didn’t see him before he was operated on, I might never see him again. There is no such thing as moving too fast when a loved one is in trouble. But moving too slow does exist. Not a bike, not a bus, not waiting for the metro or train will do.

In fact, a car isn’t even fast enough. Perhaps light may be an example speed for travel under those circumstances. But I don’t have the capability. And I reached the hospital after he’d already gone into the operating room.

I sat with my family as the doctor delivered us more bad news. It wasn’t one aneurysm, it was three; and two had ruptured. Due to his age, open surgery wasn’t an option. That meant the surgery would need to be done by entering from a different location, without any actual visualization of the aneurysms other than a computer screen as the doctor maneuvered around inside my Grandpop’s body. And he explained that the survival rate for a procedure like this was 20% or less.

It took my breath away. Those were supposed to be the odds of Kyle winning this competition, not my grandpop’s chances of surviving. I look up to my grandpop. We share the same middle name, Owen. It was passed onto me and he is one of the only people in my life who will refer to me by it.

So I spent the day in the hospital. My grandmom was there, along with their five children (including my mom) and a large number of THEIR children. It was a big group to say the least. And as we sat in the waiting room, watching the minutes tick by, the conversation of the car-free campaign came up.

They’d seen my videos. They’d read the blogs. It was just idle chatter really, something to help fill the silence. But it did do just that. Help pass the time. I made a mental note to include it in my many reasons why I am grateful for this competition.

Six hours passed, and the doctor returned to say that the operation was a relative success. He was very up front. Though he’d removed the aneurysms, the percentage of survival had not increased as of yet. The days following such a complicated procedure, especially for someone in their 80s, were as much of a danger as the operation itself.

So now we wait and I look back at the week which began with such promise and has ended with trepidation. And I ask myself, how does someone do it? Going car-free has so many fantastic qualities, and I highly recommend it still. But what about the moments, like I ran into this week, when being without a car can take critical hours, minutes, and seconds away from you?

In response to myself, I would answer that planning ahead for such moments is the only possible answer. I’ve become much better at planning for a bus in an hour or planning how I’ll travel the following day. But I’d given no thought to emergency situations where I would need a plan of action. I still believe there is a way to address the problem, but the time to do so is not while you’re in the moment of crisis.

So I leave this post with only this recommendation: if you plan on going car-free, or you are already living that lifestyle, do yourself a favor and create an emergency plan. It’s obviously not something you can create perfectly, but give yourself some sort of idea about how you will get to where you will need to get to. Maybe you have a relative nearby. Maybe you use zip car. Or maybe there is some other option which will work for you. But you NEED to give it some thought. If you’ve never feared for the life of someone you love, then you may just have to trust me on this one.


We are all molded. Each of us is molded a little more every day. We’re molded by the people we meet, the places we go, and the events we take part in. We’re molded by nature, by blind luck. We’re molded by the chances we take. And we are all molded, all shaped, by the ostensibly infinite number of choices we’ve made, and will make, in our lifetimes.

I say this because the challenge is nearing its final week and I can’t help but begin to reflect on the experience. I wanted this challenge to be more than the prizes, fame, jewelry, sponsorships, record deals, etc., etc.

Obviously, I’m joking. Of course I want all of those things too.

But most of all, I wanted to learn something. I wanted to change. I wanted to BE change.

Still, we’re not all presented with the opportunity to be the first man on the moon or the woman who cures cancer (get a move on sister!) Some battles are fought as individuals who, collectively, form a whole.

I am just one person who has said, “Enough is enough! I don’t need

the gas prices
the stress
the hours wasted
the pollution.

I don’t need a car.”

When did the car become a staple of the American lifestyle? Forty years ago it was fortunate for a family to have ONE car. Now moms and dads each have their own SUV and the 3.5 children each drive their own hipster vw’s. Cities can’t keep up with the inundation of CARS. CARS. CARS. There aren’t enough parking spots. There isn’t enough space. And I don’t have enough patience.

So what’s stopping us from getting rid of our cars or just using our cars less? Fear? The unknown? Laziness? There’s a plethora of reasons I’m sure. And I really am sure. I’ve had those same reasons for years. But not anymore.

I’m still a skeptic. I’m not convinced all things can be accomplished without a car. But I love when things CAN be accomplished without a car; and it’s way more than you would think.

So I’m just one of so many others who have already realized what I’m realizing. Arlington was just chosen as one of the most “walkable” cities in America. It’s also recognized as being one of the top 50 Biking Cities in the country. The resources are at our finger tips.

I know this is my own challenge, one which I will win (mid-speech smack talk bomb dropped on you whaaaaat). But I challenge everyone who’s reading this to give it a shot.

My brother told me that he wants to start biking into work a few days a week because of this competition.

A friend of mine called from outside of Chicago. He told me I’ve inspired him to use his car less. He’s been walking and biking way more. Aside from the obvious health and money reasons, he mentioned that he’s able to go out to the bars downtown and not worry about driving home.

Holy smokes?!

A) That’s probably something he should have been practicing already
B) It’s STILL a valid reason to use your car less. I know it’s not the type of reason you’ll see posted on a metro station sign: Go Car-Free So You Don’t Get DUI’s!

But it’s true. Whether you’re a college undergrad who wants to celebrate turning 21, a couple trying to cut back on costs, or an environmentalist trying to reduce your carbon footprint, going car-free CAN BE and SHOULD BE for you. There are so many benefits to using your car less. After three weeks of doing it myself, I’m hard pressed to come up with more than one or two reasons I would need to own a car at all.

So I return to my original thought. We are all molded. We are all being molded even as we sit here typing and reading away on the computer or phone. I for one like who going car-free is molding me into. I’d like to think that I’ll be able to look back on this challenge and say, “that’s the event which changed my life.” Who knows what you can do with more money, better health, and believe it or not, more free time. Maybe I’ll use the saved money for a vacation. Maybe I’ll use my extra free time reading or playing guitar. Maybe I’ll stand by the side of the road tossing dollar bills at the cars stuck in bumper to bumper traffic while I laugh and smoke victory cigars. That last one is probably lower on the “options list” but I’m just saying, the possibilities are endless.

Who do you want to be molded into? Do you want to drive to work in your car every day and spend two hours in traffic? Do you want to be miserable when you get home? Do you want to be broke? Do you want to add to the overwhelmingly large problem of pollution?

Or do you want to be free, with the wind in your hair as you cruise past the fender benders, bumper to bumper traffic, and frustrated beeping? Do you want to have extra money to spend on yourself or your mom for mother’s day or your kids- or again, maybe just yourself? Do you want to look great? Do you want to feel great? Well? Do you?

We ARE the decisions we make. If you haven’t tried using your car less already, don’t feel guilty.

Tomorrow’s a new day. Just think about it. You owe it to yourself.

I’m Car-Free Matt, and I approve this message.

Day 18: Car-less Vacationing 101

May 9th, 2011 by Kyle

It’s a fact of life: man was meant to discover. Landing on the America’s. Westward expansion. Every episode of “Star Trek”. Traveling to new and exotic locations is the perfect way to have a stress-free vacation. And what’s more exotic than the city of Charlotte? Shoot, I hear the place is almost overrun with Panthers.

A delicate eco-system, where tropical fauna thrive.

Normally, I’d pack up and hit the highway with my DMX CD collection and gratuitous amounts of speeding. However, that isn’t the case anymore, as I’ve been pulled over the last 5 times I biked onto the interstate. Instead, we relied a bus for transportation to/amid/from the Queen City. That doesn’t mean that we didn’t run into our fair share of problems.

I prayed I'd never have to see this again.

The trip was planned months ago, and I wasn’t going to let my car-free lifestyle change my plans. I was hungry for some ‘cue! And everyone knows that the Carolinas are a great place to get it.

And the belles of the South.

So let’s pack up and hit the pavement, car-free style!


Let us begin this post with a very important message: Happy Mother’s Day! Although my mom is hands down the best mom since sliced bread, I have no doubt there are many close runner ups! Being a mom can’t be easy. So take it easy today gals. You deserve it. Thank you. I can’t express that enough.

Ok. So now that’s out of the way, let’s get ourselves down to some business here. There are a few things I want to cover. And we haven’t much time. It’s Mother’s Day after all and I’m expected to be places. Moms love me.

Capital Bikeshare Scavenger Hunt

On Sunday, I got out to participate in the Capital Bikeshare Scavenger Hunt.  New bike stations were added and to celebrate, Capital Bikeshare created a scavenger hunt.  The mission: use Capital Bikeshare to travel from station to station, finding the clue at each.  When all was said and done, you had to put the clues together to see what sentence was formed.  Given the close proximity to Easter, I found the scavenger hunt especially beneficial.  I tried to enter 38 Easter Egg Hunts with no success.  Apparently all the eggs were for “kids”.  Last time I checked, kids are already enjoying all the Trix cereal they can get their hands on.  Now they’ve monopolized eggs and fun hunting games too.  Well, not at Capital Bikeshare!

I brought my girlfriend, Dana, along with me to enjoy the adventure.  There will be a video of the trip soon.  It’s in the works- don’t rush me.  Despite the rain, and a few complications,  I’d say it was a success overall.  I’ve never used the system previously and I was really impressed with how easy it is to get started.

For those of you who haven’t used Capital Bikeshare in the past, let me just fill you in:

1. You can sign up for a monthly or yearly membership OR you can sign up for a day or five day membership.  The options are pretty open which is nice.  If you live in a city and want to use Capital Bikeshare- boom- it’s covered.  Or if you’re a tourist and just want a bike for the few days you’ll be in town- double boom- covered again.

2. If you sign up for a monthly or yearly membership, you get a key card.  All you have to do is show up to any of the bike stations around the city, put your key card in the slot, and presto, you have a bike to go meandering around the city visiting all of your favorite haunts.

3. If you just want the bike for a day, all you have to do is show up to the station, and use your credit card to pay five dollars.  It prints you out a coupon with a code.  Type the code into the bike station and you get your bike! The whole process takes about three minutes.

4.  You can only have the bikes out for half an hour at a time.  But that’s perfect.  There are TONS of bike stations around the city.  If you want to use the bike for more than half an hour, just drive to the next station, dock the bike, and get a new one out.

It’s a pretty ingenious system designed to be as easy for you to use as possible.  If you haven’t used a system like this in the past, don’t stress.  I’ll have a video up soon to help show you how it works.  In the mean time, you can check out this “how-to” video on capital bikeshare:

 


Dana and I were able to figure out the secret code using our above average sized brains. And yesterday we received our prize packages full of Bike Arlington and Capital Bikeshare swag. Triple Boom.

 

 

 

Other News

 

This week I’ve really been pushing to make Dana join me on Car-Free trips.  She’s been resistant.  That’s pretty typical.  I’m still not entirely sold on going car-free myself.  It’s complicated and requires extra planning.  It can make for long nights if you miss your bus or your metro.  It can make for a VERY long night if its your fault and you have a significant other with you who you’ve forced to come along for the car-free adventure.  Fortunately, that hasn’t happened yet.

And I think that’s a worth while subject to mention briefly.  Going car-free is one thing.  But convincing everyone else in your life to go car-free is another.  Obviously that isn’t the point of this challenge, but I hadn’t really given any thought to how MY decision would affect those around me.  I don’t think it’s an insurmountable obstacle by any means, but it is something to consider if you’re planning on trying to go car-free in the near future.  Not everyone is as understanding as Dana.  And she hasn’t even been overwhelmingly understanding.  Just prepare yourself for a few in depth conversations.  Enough said.

Also, I know everyone has been on the edge of their seat to find out if I got the job I interviewed for on the first day of the challenge.  Put on your frowny faces.  Because I didn’t. Let’s be honest though.  I missed the bus, so I missed the metro.  And more importantly, I missed the interview and had to reschedule.  I think we all saw this one coming.  But it’s a good lesson.  That job was important to me.  There will be plenty more situations like that interview.  Going car-free isn’t easy.  Missing an interview on my first day of the challenge, and subsequently not getting the job, has been a pretty tough lesson.  But I’m better because of the mishap.  I’ve learned to plan better and make sure I know what my options are.

So to recap
1. Get ready for relationship disagreements based on going car-free
2. Don’t miss interviews
3. Plan accordingly

Earlier in the week, Dana and I took a trip into DC to meet with her sister and brother in law.  We used Groupon to pick up a deal at Maddy’s bar/restaurant; so I used the opportunity to document a trip into DC.  As always, I recorded a song to use for the video.  It’s something I actually started to write a few years back and then abandoned.  But, since I need music for the videos, I thought I’d try to finish it up.  It’s not done, but it’s a skeleton and SO, I insist that you please enjoy this new video and song.  Ya’ll come back now!

Day 15: Foot-lose

May 5th, 2011 by Kyle

What an eventful week! I dropped a huge surprise on the Car-Free Community that will up my ante in the challenge (watch the video for details on that one). Also, I got my last correspondence from the DC Department of Transportation. After 6 months of reading my 2 page letter, they finally dismissed my last parking ticket! No more dealing with the District!

And good riddance suckas!

Additionally, I got to go out for a ride on the Custis Trail. I had no idea it was so scenic and picturesque. I thought all of the trees in this city had been cut down years ago! Now I know that they are just being saved for those that can appreciate them more.

Additionally, the trail links everything in the Arlington Corridor. You can start in Rosslyn and find off-ramps along the way for Courthouse, Clarendon, Ballston, etc. Eventually, it links up with the W&OD Trail if you want to go farther. It’s like an Bicycle Expressway (which I’m using for my next band name). When I finally got off, I was near an ART stop and got to secure my bike to a bus. Not only was this the first time I’d done this, it was the first time I’d seen a bike secured to a bus. A woman who I spoke with later assumed that I paid extra for it.Clearly, people need to be taking more advantage of this.

However, this week came with a major caveat. I ended up injuring an ankle during a basketball game, rendering me on crutches for a few days. Walking and biking were not options, so the bus would be my mode of transportation.

Nope. This is not some fat lady's ankle. It's mine.

I got to experience Car-Free living in a new fashion: one without a foot. There were some problems (Metro elevators aren’t always the most dependable). However, it was not as bad as I thought. The bus drivers were courteous and willing to wait until my crippled self could sit down. People were always willing to give up their seat on the metro. My biggest complaints were really the 100 foot stretches between stops. Ultimately, if a one-legged man can do this, you can too!


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