Happy Earth Day! I’ll be honest: I often let Earth Day pass me by without noticing, which is kind of ironic given how much of our lives are oriented around land and soil and earth. Given my poor Earth Day track record, I was kind of tickled last evening when Tim and I decided to bike to church this morning, and I realized that our first official commuter bike ride in Virginia was going to correspond with Earth Day. The timing felt especially nice since we had to miss out on a local Earth Day celebration of alternative transportation yesterday due to our scheduled high-tunnel building day (pictures and more about the high tunnel to come!).
Tim has been amped about our potential commuter biking careers for some time. He’s a long-time and avid cyclist. He loves being on a bike, but I think even more he loves using his bike to get places. Before we even met in college, I had heard about Tim as the crazy (a.k.a. cool) guy who had biked to school. From Virginia to Indiana. He’s not deterred by bad weather or obnoxious motorists or long miles, and is pretty much game for biking anywhere, anytime. I have a shorter cycling history, and also less of a passion for it, but I really enjoyed my own years as a commuter cyclist when we lived in Atlanta.
More recently, living in Pennsylvania, our lives were very car-centric. We would sometimes bike across the road from our house to the farm, but with me commuting 40 miles to my church job and many of our other car trips involving food deliveries or farm errands, we just didn’t find many good occasions for hopping on our bikes. So when we decided to move to Virginia, one of the first things that Tim began to dream about was doing less driving and more biking.
Now, to most people, our new context doesn’t seem any more suited to commuter cycling than our place in PA. We’re 10-12 miles outside of town, depending on where you’re headed, with lots of hilly roads in between. Tim, however, has already done that ride many-a-time, back when he was living with his folks after high school. He has fond memories of riding home by moonlight (with super bright bike lights) after working evening shift at a restaurant in town. I’ll admit–I’ve been more reticent to re-create those moonlight rides, especially because of the fact that we’re now towing Anabel in a bike trailer.
Tim and I’ve had a bit of tug and pull on this one. I can’t help but focus on the “what-ifs” of biking with a two year old in tow on hilly rural roads. Tim is also, of course, cognizant of the risks, but he believes that we can bike safely; he points out that we take risks every time we set foot in a car; and he doesn’t want us to be held back from making intentional lifestyle decisions because of fear. I concede all his points, but still say “what if?” Currently, I’m game for the day time commuter trips, but am not ready to take Anabel out in the trailer after dark. We’ll see where the conversation leads in the future…in the meantime, the ride this morning felt perfectly safe, and Anabel was PUMPED about the whole thing.
One thing that makes this conversation a little easier is that we have to drive a lot less in our current lives than we did in our former ones. Pending our organic certification and the beginning of our farmers’ market careers, we’ll head into town twice a week for market (unless we get really motivated and super strong, we’ll take the farm truck to haul our produce, not the bikes), and we’ll correspond other errands, shopping, etc. with those market runs. Our other commuting will happen for church, visits to friends, and local community events. Neither of us love driving, and we’re both homebodies, so the less frequent commuting suits us. We’re also really happy to have less “need” to burn so many fossil fuels and, hopefully, by beginning our commuter biking careers, we’ll burn even less.
Alternative transportation isn’t something I’ve seen discussed a lot on other homesteading blogs (please, correct me if I’m wrong!). Which is sort of interesting to me, given that so many homesteaders are motivated to live alternatively, use less resources, and be less dependent on “the grid”/non-renewable resources. It also seems like a good conversation for homesteaders to have given that many of us choose to live quite rurally, which means driving a distance to get to grocery stores, schools, kids’ events, etc. Perhaps transportation just isn’t something that comes up as much in the blogging sphere, but I for one would love to see more conversations and more encouragement around not only the alternative lives we build at home, but the alternative ways we get to and from those homes.
One thing I really appreciate about Tim is that he’s good at taking the daunting-factor out of things. And I think a lot of people are daunted by biking, or walking, or horse-and-buggying (this, too, has been a dream of Tim’s!), or bussing, or whatever other form of alternative transportation you might choose. It’s hard to get over that initial intimidation factor, to do things other than the “normal” way, and so it can be super helpful to have somebody in your life encouraging you to just go for it. As I realized this morning, getting back on my bike for a 20-mile round trip ride after not riding for some time–it’s hard, but it’s certainly not impossible. What’s more, biking (and many other forms of alternative transportation) can be a really good way to slow down, to see the world at a little slower pace, to chat with your biking partner, and to genuinely have fun.
We’ll still drive plenty, I’m sure. But on this Earth Day 2018, I’m excited about yet another way to be a little easier on the Earth, and to enjoy its beauty all the more.