Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Megabus - new NYC location

I meant to post this last month, but didn't get around to it.... I had a biking event to attend in New York City in mid-November. When I bought my ticket, I noticed that Megabus stated they had changed their bus location for the return trip to DC. It's now located a few blocks from the other spot. I thought that was a GREAT idea, since the other location was SOOO crowded and crazy! So I was curious to see how the new place would be.

Well, I was very pleasantly surprised. :) Gone were the crowds and craziness! Instead, there was quietness and organization. It was HEAVENLY! :) The Megabus guys walked around and answered people's questions and directed them to the right line to get in. The buses pulled up ON TIME (imagine!!! ha!) and we left on time. It was 100% better than my previous experiences with the other location.

I'm Megahappy with the Megabus!! :)

By the way, this month marks my 3rd year being car-free! :) In reviewing my recorded expenses, I spent a good amount of money on transportation this year (vs. previous years). I got together a number of times with family and friends out of town, and also have rented cars from Enterprise for some weekends away. Still, I think my overall costs doing it this way (bus, train, and rental cars) is less expensive than owning/maintaining/repairing a car. My friends and family have also been helpful in meeting me at various Metro stations and bus stations near them, as I put my folding bike in their car trunk, and we enjoy visiting together. So, my thanks to my friends and family in working with me to get together. :)

On the other hand, I also had a chance to help a friend one time this summer with my Zipcar membership. :) We met up via our bikes to someone's house in D.C. so she could look at a dining table & chairs she was thinking of buying. After checking it out, she decided to get it, but then was thinking about how to get it all home. She had a small car at home -- she would have to make numerous trips, if so. I thought about Zipcar, and since they have pick-up trucks, I suggested we could ride to the nearest available pick-up truck and come back for the furniture. :) I called up Zipcar and they located one, and we set a time for the reservation to begin, and my friend and I biked on over. (That was an adventure in itself, in getting there via bikes and without a map, but we stopped to ask a few people along the way). We found the pick-up truck, put our bikes in, and went back for the furniture. We managed to fit everything in and went to drop off the furniture at her place & then returned the pick-up truck. So I was glad to help her out. :) (She insisted on reimbursing me the cost of the 2 1/2 hour use of the pick-up truck, which she didn't need to do, but was nice of her).

So, let's see what adventures 2011 will bring in being car-free! :)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

To the Philadelphia Bike Expo

This Saturday, I'm taking the Megabus up to Philadelphia for the day to attend a Bike Expo. The last time I went to Philadelphia a couple of years ago, was via Amtrak because there was NO bus service. But since that time, a few cheap bus lines have popped up. So, I got my roundtrip bus ticket for $14 - - not bad at all. Hopefully the return trip will be less hectic than when I take the bus to NYC...I will report back.


Well, I should've left home about 5 minutes earlier than I did....because just as I rode up to the bus parking lot, my 5:30 a.m. bus rode off! :/ RATS!! :/ So I asked the bus attendant there (who checks people onto the bus), if I could catch the next bus up. He said he wasn't sure if there would be a 6:30 or not, but if so, all I had to do is pay $5 (credit card only) to board. So that was good news! He saw my folding bike and said that it would have to be put in a bag or something, and I said sure, no problem. The problem was to try and keep warm in the 40 degree temps with the wind blowing lightly....I had dressed slightly warm, but I didn't anticipate standing for almost an hour in those conditions.....and there's nowhere to take's just a parking lot, so you're standing out there like a cow in the pasture...walking around and stomping your feet to try and stay warm, while a cold breeze is at your backside. :) While me and some other standby passengers were waiting, we watched a lady bus driver roll up on a Bolt Bus. It was dark, and she was trying to back the bus up to the curb to pick up her passengers. She slowly backed the bus up, but was way too close to the curb and a railing by the steps....and she unfortunately ripped off half of the back bumper!! Ack!

I had been talking to another lady who was going standby for the same bus as mine, and she was headed up to Philly to visit her ailing grandmother in a nursing home. She had a reservation on a later bus, but had gotten to the parking lot early, and decided to take the 6:30 bus. However, she evidently didn't have her credit card with her in order to pay the $5 fee to I offered to pay it for her, and she gave me the cash. :) Glad to help out a fellow passenger. :) She sat with me on the bus and said this was her first time taking Megabus. She was amazed at how nice it clean, roomy, and much better smelling than the Greyhound bus she took previously. :) Plus, Megabus was A LOT cheaper than Greyhound. So she was quite happy with riding the Megabus. :) We arrived in Philly about a half hour early, which was nice, since my friends were arriving about the same time as I was, to attend the expo. :) The drop-off and pick-up location was easy to find, and there weren't the massive crowds on the return evening bus like there was in New York City. So it was a good experience taking the Megabus to Philly. :)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Up the Hill to the Big Top! :)

Yesterday, I had tickets to see a Cirque du Soleil show at National Harbor. It was a grey, drizzily day. I decided to bike the 10 miles over to the show. If it had been pouring, I would have gotten a Zipcar, so that I wouldn't be sitting in wet clothes (despite my rain gear). The Cirque show was set atop a big hill overlooking National Harbor. There was a lower and upper parking lot. The sign said that the event parking was $12. Wow - a bit expensive. I think the last time I came to a show there, parking was $10... I chose the upper lot, as it was closer to the gate entrance to the show. There was a concrete jersey barrier around the whole parking lot, so I put my bike on the other side of the jersey wall (to sort of hide it) and locked it with 2 locks to a parking sign.

After the show, the sun was out as I walked back to my bike. It's always a relief to see that my bike still there. :) Hopping on, and leaving the parking lot, the parking lot attendant commented, "Now THAT'S the best way to go!" as he pointed to my bike. :) I said, "Definitely!" with a smile on my face as I zipped past the big long traffic back-up of cars leaving the parking lot. :)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Bringing Home the Bacon (and the milk, and TP!)

Sunday is one of the days I get some groceries at the store - that way the milk and bananas stay fresh during the work week. When I pulled up to the grocery store, I saw a few other bikes locked up by the front door, which is kind of unusual. When I came out to load up my groceries, I saw another lady nearby, loading up her groceries too! :) She had these wire baskets on the rear of the bike, which were full and she was plopping a large container of toilet paper on top of the load, using a couple of bungee cords to hold it in place. As she got ready to leave, I stopped to chat with her briefly. I said how nice it was to see another person (a lady even!) getting groceries by bike! :) I admired her bike - it looked was a beautiful red retro-looking one-speed bike. She said she had seen it in Target for under $100! She couldn't believe the price, so she bought TWO - one for her and one for her husband. :) She said she lived on the other side of the shopping complex and mall, so she didn't have too far to go. We commented about how busy and full the parking lot was -- she said she bet some of the cars belonged to people who lived within a stone's throw of the store. I agreed. We both looked at each other with a look that said we were having more fun getting our groceries than they were. :)

There are a number of good reasons to shop for your groceries by bike:

1. Hassle-free parking - - just pull up in front of the store and lock 'er up.

2. Portion control - - you won't be picking up a lot of EXTRA things while you shop - because you know you have a certain amount of space, and you need to get it home. :) Plus, you stay within your "food budget".

3. Shop locally - - you'll buy groceries from the closest grocery store - to get the items home while they're still cold. :) And yes, I've bought ice cream and brought it home by bike. The grocery store is about 2 miles from home.

When I have A LOT of groceries or cat supplies to get, I pull out my flatbed trailer that I recently bought from

It can carry 150 lbs.! Not that I'm planning on carrying that much weight, but it's nice to know I have the option. :) I HAVE carried about 70 lbs. on it so far. :) I bought a large Rubbermaid crate to place on the trailer, and the straps hold it in place. With the lid off, I have carted a busted wheel from another bike. So the trailer is versatile. In storing the trailer, the wheels have a hidden release button, so the wheels slide off and everything fits in a closet. :) So, between my panniers and the trailer, I'm able to bring home the basic necessities. :)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Up to the Big Apple Again

I headed up to New York City again yesterday to attend a bike event, and this time, I took the Megabus, which is my first time. The bus pulled up on schedule and the line of people proceeded to board. I had my small Brompton folding bike, which I had folded down, and the driver said to set it next to the bus tire and he would put it in. We got on the bus and we left on time and the driver high-tailed it out of the city lickety split! The Megabus makes a stop at the White Marsh park & ride lot near Baltimore, where we picked up some additional passengers. We zipped up 95 and believe it or not, for the first time, the bus actually arrived in New York City 5 MINUTES ahead of schedule!!! I was quite surprised and pleased. I got my bike and enjoyed a day of riding in the city, which is always a fun time.

However, the return trip wasn't as pleasant....I arrived at Penn Station a few minutes before we were supposed to be there to board. There was a GAZILLION people in various lines - since a few different bus lines pull up to that same place. Why don't they assign buses to different blocks or something??! So, when I determined what line I needed to be in....we were told the bus was going to be a bit late.... Not quite what you want to hear while standing in the 90+ degree heat, with the sun shining on you..... Then, one of the Megabus personnel walking around the buses and helping, saw me and asked me if that was my bike. I said yes, and he said, "That has to go in a bag." I told him when I got on the bus that morning, the bus driver didn't say ANYTHING about that being a requirement. This guy said, "Well, it has to be in a bag, or you can't get on the bus!" WHAT????! Here we are, getting ready to board soon, and I have to come up with a bag????! There's no way I was gonna miss that bus, not at almost 8 p.m.! So I went across the street to ask the ticket sales lady if it's true I have to have the bike in a bag. But then the guy called me back over and had a Hefty bag in his hand to give me to use. I told him again that it wasn't a problem that morning - and this guy said, "Well, he could have been fired for letting you get on the bus like that." Well, I guess every employee makes up their own rules, huh?! So I told him I would check the website about this later, as I put the bike in the bag. Good grief.

In the end, even though the bus left 30 minutes late, we managed to make up the time and arrive on time in D.C., thank goodness.

(Note: I checked the Megabus website regarding bicycles on the bus as luggage. It says no bikes are allowed. However, evidently, a folding bike isn't a problem....but looks like the drivers have different rules regarding that. I have sent an email to Megabus to tell them about the situation and asked to be advised regarding their policy, so I can know whether to ride with them in the future. I guess in any case, I could just put it in a bag, and it won't be a problem.)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Motor City

I recently had the opportunity to make a new friendship with a lady who lives locally. We had exchanged some chatty emails, getting to know one another. She liked to hike, kayak and be outdoors, so I saw the potential of having a fun companion this summer. She said she was from Detroit. Detroit - - where the heartbeat and history of the city is, in part, CARS. Cars are their pride and soul. Something akin to someone who is from Texas. They are proud to be from the Great Land of Texas... and hey, "Don't Mess With Texas!" as the quote goes. If you took cars out of Detroit and their history....where would it be? Just another quiet Midwestern city....

She was surprised that I was a native Washingtonian (yes, there aren't many of us around here!). In the process of sharing information, I mentioned that I had gone car-free a couple of years ago...that it had started out as an "experimental idea" but it had worked well for me, so I had continued. I shared how I bike to work, and use my bike, subway, bus, Amtrak, Zipcars, and Enterprise rental cars in going places near and far.

As you've read from previous posts here, some people don't have a very good reaction upon hearing that I don't have car. They think "How in the world can you live without a car?? I couldn't possibly!!" They see it as LIMITING their life, whereas I see it as a FREEING experience. It's like it's their God-given RIGHT to own and drive a car - and by God, you aren't gonna take that away from me! Living car-free is not for everyone, but it can work for a lot of people, if they want it to. This lady had a slight old back injury, and hadn't biked since college, because the bumps while biking hurt her back, and I can understand that. I did mention that some people who have back problems sometimes can resolve it by riding a recumbent or trike....

Needless to say, my being car-free "threw her for a loop" and she declined my friendship. I was a bit hurt and sorry to hear this. I mean, it kind of makes you feel like you're not GOOD ENOUGH. Yes, I know, trying to get together with my friends sometimes can be difficult because I don't have car, but I try to work around it and still get together with them. It's NOT impossible.

So, I was sorry to have missed out on a new friendship...but everything happens for a reason, and you move on in life....whether you move onward in a car, or on a bike....

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Fun on a Bike! :)

How much fun can you have on a bike, you ask? Last Saturday, I checked out the Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race, and saw a number of very creative sculptures added to different kinds of bikes. :) The people on the bikes rode the bikes through the city, then to a waterfront park where they had to enter the water, go around a short pier and back out. The bikes all had various floatation devices and paddles added so they could handle (relatively) this task. It was slow-going in the water, but the hundreds and hundreds of spectators cheered them on. Later they biked to another park where they had to endure going through a sand pit and then a mud pit! It took a lot of muscles to get through each of these obstacles, that's for sure. But it was definitely a lot of fun to watch and I had my bike so I rode along with them in the (slow) race.

I was going to take Amtrak to Baltimore to get to the race, but my roommate had lent me the use of her car while she was away in MN. It cost just a little bit more to take her car and pay for parking and gas, but it also gave me the chance to stop and visit a friend in the Annapolis area on the way home, which I couldn't have done if I had taken the train. As for public transportation to the Annapolis area, there is only a commuter bus service that runs Monday-Friday, not on the weekends, unfortunately. :(

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Like a Movie

I was living in California when the movie "L.A. Story" came out. I thought it was hilarious because it REALLY captured the way people are out there. One particular scene often comes to my mind, when Steve Martin leaves his house, gets in his car, and drives just one or two houses down the street, to see someone he knows. :) It's making fun of how Californians often use their car to drive such short distances, but I'm sure they do, just like here.

In fact, it happened just the other weekend when I got together with a friend. I biked to meet her at a bike store in Arlington so she could test ride some high-end bikes. After a few hours, she decided on a pretty expensive racing bike and racing wheels. She had her old bike in the back of her car. We had planned to get some dinner, so I suggested we just bike to some place nearby. She said, "Bike??" I said, "Sure - there's lots of places nearby." She said, "But, will they let us into the restaurant in our biking clothes?" I said, "Sure - no problem." (It's not like we were going to be eating at a 5-star restaurant!). She said, "But, how do I carry my things?" I asked her what she needed to carry, and she said her wallet and keys. I told her that I had my bike bag and also back pockets in my jersey. Then she said, "But, what will we do with the bikes when we get there?" I smiled and said, "Well, we'll lock the bikes up." It didn't dawn on me that this could actually be the FIRST time she had done such a process. She was a bit flustered and hesitant. I didn't want her to be nervous about it all, so I gave in, and put my bike in the back of her car, and she was quite happy about that resolution. We leave the parking lot and I kid you not, we drive just a block or two, and pass a Mexican restaurant to eat at, and she pulls over to park at a metered spot. She pays $2 to park at that meter and we walk across the street to have dinner outside. I was thinking how funny it was, and that we could have easily biked there in about a minute.

When we finished dinner, I got my bike out of her car and she asked where my next "adventure" would be. I thought maybe she meant perhaps an upcoming bike trip or something. No, she meant where was I headed off to right now. :) I said that I wanted to go downtown to see the Cherry Blossom Festival fireworks that were going to happen at 8 p.m. I had my reflective vest, blinking lights and headlight, so I was set. She asked if she could drop me off somewhere, and I said no, I'd be just fine. It was a nice night out and the riding would be enjoyable. She looked at me kind of funny/oddly and said she couldn't live without her car. I guess she'd feel vulnerable or something? I know being in a car, you feel somewhat safe and protected. But I feel comfortable and happy on my bike, and I feel safe, as long as I'm not out way late - when some of the "crazies" come out. :)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Stress Levels

My brother called me a little while ago, driving to take a bike ride on a nearby bike trail, since we're having some nice Spring weather. The smooth-going traffic came to a sudden halt and his happy mood changed immediately. He said, "Be GLAD you don't have a car!" and he started to fuss and fume about the traffic jam, and other drivers multi-tasking while driving and nearly ramming into other cars. He has RARELY said that I should be happy that I don't have a car. :) Most of the time, he thinks I OUGHT to have a car to get out of town on the weekends, etc.

I have rented a car a few times this year already, though, to get out of town, and it IS nice to have that option from time-to-time. This month, I rented a car to drive down to Richmond, Virginia to check out the Handmade Bike Show. (Funny, to rent a car and drive to a bike show...). I would have taken Amtrak, but unfortunately, they were doing track maintenance and the train station that services the line between D.C. and Richmond, was not available. :/ Anyway, when I went to pick up my rental car from Enterprise, the lady agent walked me out to the car to do an inspection, and I had my small folding bike, the Tikit, to put in the trunk. She said, "Okay, do the magic!" She saw how quick it folded up and fit in the trunk, and said, "My bike SOOO does not do that!!" :)

Renting the car from Enterprise for the weekend is kind of nice. The office is located about 2 miles from my house, and it takes about 15 min. to bike over there. I pick up the car on Saturday morning at 9 a.m., when their office opens. Within a half hour, the paperwork is done and I'm off down the road. Their office closes at noon on Saturday, and isn't open on Sunday. So I return the car on Monday morning, at 7:30, and take my bike out of the trunk and can head off to work from there. So it gives me two full days use of the car. I have scheduled visits with friends and family in other locations, and also load up on groceries on the way home, so I feel I make the best of my rental car time. After I return the rental car, I'm kind of happy to get back on the bike and have a slower, quieter pace of life. :)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

No Shoveling Needed

The past month, we have seen MORE than our fair share of snow in the area here. Usually, we may get a big dump of snow every 10 years or so. But not this winter season...we've had at least 3 big snowfalls of 10-20 inches. As I write this, it's snowing and we are due to get 6-16 inches.... That's ON TOP of the over 20 inches we have on the ground....

One very good thing about not having a car in weather like this, is that I don't have to spend time worrying about getting my car DUG OUT (nor worry about being able to navigate the difficult roads). :) Although, I do admit that when I did have my car, I didn't shovel snow then either...I could walk to the Metro, and just let the sunshine do its work of melting the snow. It would take a week or so, but I didn't mind much. It's weather like this that makes me glad I can walk to stores that I need to get to. This afternoon, I strapped on my backpack and walked the 15 minutes to the strip mall nearby, and took care of several errands: the bank, post office, lunch, and getting groceries. Of course, carrying the heavy groceries in my backpack wasn't that fun, but it wasn't back-breaking either. On my way to the store, a lady on her bike passed me. :) I was thinking I could have probably ridden my mountain bike, because the main roads were down to pavement and easy to ride on. But, sometimes I like to just walk, I like the exercise of walking. It uses different muscles than biking. :)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Another Enterprise Weekend

I had a 3-day weekend over the Martin Luther King holiday - and I felt like getting out of town, so I rented a car from Enterprise. This time I rented from a location close to my house - just a little over a mile away. The bad thing is that the office didn't open til 9 a.m., but the good thing was that you could take their rental cars out of the D.C. area. The airport location (where I have rented before) states that their cars are required to stay in the DC/VA/MD area. Since I wanted to drive up to PA and NY, I didn't want to breach the contract terms, so I rented from this particular location.

The agent preparing the paperwork for the car in the office saw my folding bike propped against the office window and was curious about it. I told him it was a folding bike, and I'd be folding it to put it in the trunk. He thought a folding bike was pretty ingenious. It's fun to open people's eyes about folding bikes and even living car-free. It's a concept they don't think about. Of course, he asked the normal question of how do I get groceries. :) I showed him the panniers that were on my bike, and told him that I just fill those up - you can fit a lot in them. I told him I also have a trailer I can use to put groceries in, if need be. I told him I bike to work everyday, and he was asking where I rode. Perhaps he lives in DC or MD, and didn't know about the Mt. Vernon Trail or that you can ride on a sidewalk that crosses the various bridges into DC. It's almost as if these bike routes are "invisible" to people in their cars. :)

Anyway, I enjoyed getting out of town - stopping in MD at a friend's place, and to PA to visit my sister, and then up to NY to spend the weekend with a friend. A rental car comes in handy for trips like this, when I want to make multiple stops. The cost of the rental car, though, was about the same as a flight up to I didn't save money on the trip, but it was fun to see my family and friends. I realized I hadn't rented a car since mid-October (when I drove up to Philly for the weekend).