Friday, June 27, 2008

Car Shopping

What a great cartoon! :)

A co-worker told me recently of having a car accident that totalled her year-old car. What a shame, in a way. I can see if your car was 5 or 10 years old, and you had gotten some good use out of it. The insurance paid for a good amount of it, but she still owes $5K on it. So, she's on the "hunt" for another car.

She described going to a couple of dealers and checking out a couple of models. She knows she wants a particular make (Toyota). She talked about the models, year, engine size, leather interior, gas mileage, size of the interior, odometer reading, etc. Her descriptions sounded like she was describing a wonderful meal - a meal she couldn't wait to sink her teeth into. A meal that aroused all of her senses - she was practically drooling! Her new car desire was so strong, almost overpowering. She has to turn in her rental car in a few days, as her insurance only pays for it a certain period of time, since her car was totalled.

It's too bad that she hasn't considered living car-free. This is a good opportunity and time for her to try it, if she wanted to. She talked about next month she'll be moving in with her brother nearby for six months, to be able to save money so she can buy her own place. Think about much more money she COULD save if she didn't have to have car expenses... The location she's thinking of moving to (about 20 miles from DC) has commuting "slug lines" that could get her here to DC easily and for free. Or she could get into a carpool, or take the Virginia Railway Express train and connect to the Metro subway.

People think that you absolutely NEED a car to get around, but you really don't. You CAN work around it (or at least try it), once you find out what your resources are.... And living in this area, with so many resources, really makes it a lot more do-able, compared to some people who live in more rural areas.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

"Bolting" to NYC

As mentioned in my April post below, there is a new express bus service that started at the end of March, from Washington, D.C. to New York City, called the Bolt Bus. Tickets can be purchased as low as $1 each way (limited seats at that price). If you fly or take Amtrak, it's about $150-$200 round trip. The Bolt Buses are brand new, have either faux leather or cloth seats, restrooms on board, and plug-ins for your laptops/DVD players and WiFi service. This makes for a comfortable and enjoyable ride.

So, in the past month, I've made two trips on the Bolt Bus up to NYC. I was able to get the tickets at about $30 roundtrip. On both trips, I rode my bike to D.C. early in the morning to the bus stop, and then put my bike in the baggage bin of the bus.

My first trip was a day trip in mid-May to attend a folding bike festival and bike ride in Manhattan. That turned out to be a pretty long day - getting up at 4:30 a.m., leaving at 5:30, biking to DC to catch the 7:30 bus. It was lightly raining outside. The bus was late pulling up and leaving town, made a food stop at the travel plaza (adding a half hour onto the trip), then we ran into a traffic back-up on the highway due to an accident, took an alternate way, had overheated brakes on the way, and FINALLY arrived in New York City SIX hours later (vs. the advertised four hours). We just managed to make the bike event in time and enjoyed the bike ride, but just a few hours later, were zooming to catch our return bus ride back. It left on time, but it was slow going out of the city through the tunnel, and then we made the food stop again. So our return trip took FIVE hrs. By the time I got home, it was about midnight. Yawn! That didn't exactly make me fall in love with the Bolt Bus, though I had had a great day.

I was a little apprehensive to take the Bolt Bus again this past weekend. This trip was an overnight trip - staying with a biking friend and his wife. We enjoyed biking all around Manhattan and the Bronx, seeing many sights along the way. Some of the biking was on bike paths, and some on busy city streets, but I'm used to that, since I bike to work every day.

Perhaps someone had complained about the food stop/extra travel time, because this time, the bus didn't stop at the travel plaza. The bus arrived and departed D.C. on time, and arrived within a few minutes of the stated arrival time in NYC. Same with the return bus ride. The weather was better and we didn't run into any traffic back-ups. Ahhh..... MUCH better! I guess you never know what you're going to run into with taking the bus, but at least the price is right!

I'd like to also take Amtrak down to Richmond to visit some friends and have lunch and hang out, so I'll make those plans soon. It'll give me an idea of how things work with taking my Bike Friday Tikit on the train. :) With regular-sized bikes, you normally buy a bike box and partially disassemble your bike, and then check the box as your luggage. A year or so ago, Amtrak changed their bike policy, in that if you have a folding bike, you can just tuck it away at the end of any rail car where there is room. Hopefully this will go well, as I have tickets to take Amtrak at the end of August, to meet up with a biking friend in Philadelphia to bike for the day. Both trips are just a couple hours' train ride. I could take Greyhound for half the price, but it wouldn't give me as much time to be in either city as the train would, since both trips are day-trips.

So, stay tuned for reports on these Amtrak Adventures!