One of the reasons I was eager to forgo our car three years ago when we started the "low car diet" (which quickly became a total car-free life) was his nasty habit of driving to the grocery store... three blocks away. And don't get me started on his eagerness to give people rides clear across the city.
But when we found out he'd be going to Iraq this summer; changing our financial situation from just north of "desperate" to a few ticks shy of "flush," he began to sneak this phrase into conversation: "I've been thinking when I come back, we could use some of my money to get a hybrid..." Or this one: "If I get that job as a cop I could drive to work in a hybrid..."
"No!" I'd say, firmly. "No cars!" I love the money we save, $200-300 per month just in gas, insurance and tags; I love that we have to think carefully about all our bike trips, keeping us closer to home; I love my conscience, clean as the air around me as I bike.
So Thursday morning, when some nice people from Ford's social media test drive program delivered us the sparkliest Escape Hybrid you've ever seen, I immediately gathered the two boys nearby and drove off -- before he could arrive home and suddenly remember his uncle (0.75 miles away) needed his groceries carried upstairs; or his friend (0.23 miles away) hadn't chatted in a while; or that we desperately needed to take the cans back to Safeway for recycling (0.4 miles away).
But before we hit the road to pick up film (3.7 miles away: this is how you do it, honey!) and take my four-year-old to preschool, I took a gander at the rundown on our car... $33,725 including "destination and delivery" for the model in our driveway. But "THIS VEHICLE NOT FOR SALE," said the page. At least there's that...
Oh, how I loved this car. On Friday afternoon, after the obligatory neighborhood joyriding, we set out on a three-day "camping" trip, sleeping in tents on my parents' and a friends' properties in rural Oregon. As we buckled up, boys freaking out with joy over spending hours upon hours in close physical contact with a car! with a motor! and windows! and lights! and oh, the navigation system!!!, my husband joked, "I'm going to leave you for this car!"
At about this time, I started to feel guilty for cheating on my bike, which we'd locked up in the basement, a rare banishment for my beloved vehicle.
The hybrid technology worked beautifully; the battery took over on the many downhills in the Pacific Coast range on the way to and from grandma's house, at stoplights, and whenever the car idled. It was a bargain; we'd been told to deliver the car back with at least a quarter tank, and we never had to stop at a gas station despite over 200 miles of driving.
Our grand total expenses, other than groceries we would have bought anyway: $3 for marshmallows and $1.75 for coffee at a Dutch Bros. drive through (oh drive through coffee, how I've missed you).
And it's fun driving such a lovely, shiny, leather-clad car; I could hearken back to the days when I would garner approving glances for my Mercedes SUV. Our culture gives big points for one's ability to spend lots of money on a shiny, well-made car, and today we can even get cred for the low-emissions technology.
And that's when I remembered the admiring glances I get as serious bikers, clad in spandex and brightly-colored jerseys, pass me on my mamabikeorama with two or three boys and panniers full of produce. Sure, I get a lot of "sweet bike!" praise -- that's little different from praise for the car. But I get even more admiration for muscles and dedication to the bikey lifestyle. Admiration for what I've done, not what I'm able to pay someone else to do for me (and, lest we forget, my children and grandchildren will be paying for the roads and environmental cleanup from our driving today).
Oh: and I'd much rather use the $600 or $700 a month in car payments for the (admittedly gorgeous and desirable) Ford Hybrid to pay down debt or to work less and spend more time biking around with my boys while they're still young. Thank you Ford! You've convinced my husband how wonderful a hybrid can be. You've probably turned the heads of several of our hosts (who now drive enormous Dodge pickups and such). You've allowed us to go on a super-cheap family vacation. But I'll be sticking with my bike.
Though when we rent a car for a weekend excursion again, I'll be sure to ask for an Escape Hybrid, and I'll be sure and bring gifts home to my mamabikeorama to assuage my guilt. Wouldn't you like a new spoke card, sweetheart?