Monday, October 24, 2011

Attending Class

A week or so ago, I signed up to attend a home-buying counseling class, held in Rockville, MD. I've always been a renter, but with low interest rates and the cost of houses at a low, I thought I'd check out the possibility of buying a home. Maryland has a program where, if you take an 8-hour class, you receive a certificate that entitles you to $5,000 off your closing costs. The class cost $95, but I thought it was worth the money.

If it had been a rainy morning, I might have gotten a Zipcar so that I wouldn't arrive all wet. But it was a clear day, so I rode my Brompton folding bike to the Metro and took it to Rockville. The class location was an office building a couple of miles from the station. I rolled my bike into the building, into the elevator, and leaned it up against a wall outside of the glass-encased conference room. I thought about it later, perhaps how odd it looked that I was showing up with a bicycle in hand. But you know, I'm SO used to having a bike by my side, that I really didn't think about it and how it looked. :)

During the break, the classroom instructor commented about my Brompton. She was an Asian lady, a little shorter than me, and said she liked my bike because it looked like it was easy to get on and off, since the frame of the bike is low and easy to step over. I showed her how fast and easy it folded and she was amazed. She asked about the cost of the bike and where she could buy one.

Part of the class involved a monthly budget that we had filled out prior to the class. It was quite detailed as to the breakdown of costs. A portion of the budget referred to car-related expenses. I wonder how many of her students filled in $0 for their car-related expenses? I do, however, spend up to $60 a month currently, on taking the subway and bus, which is a lot less than car-related expenses.

I will be moving next month to Mount Rainier, Maryland, to share a house, since my apartment rent was going up YET again. :( The extra cash I save in sharing a house will go towards a home of my own one day in the near future, if I'm lucky to find something in my price range and that suits my wants/needs. I haven't lived in Maryland since I was a kid, so it feels kind of weird to think about living there again. I've lived a lot of my life in Virginia. So, stay tuned....

The house I will be sharing has a driveway, which is nice. Not that I need it... :) but it's nice for when someone drops by for a visit. The parking for guests at apartment complex I've lived at, is practically non-existent, which is very inconvenient. There is a small half circle in front of the building where you can park briefly to load/unload, but the complex has a very aggressive towing policy, especially in the evenings. So, a driveway will be helpful.

One thing interesting about my new housemate - she is also car-free. She gets around via subway and bus and does just fine. So she TOTALLY gets my car-free lifestyle, which is nice. :)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Autolib in Paris

In the news today, Paris is introducing car-sharing, with electric cars, called the Autolib (similar to the bike-sharing called Velib). They will be building electric-charging stations, and you swipe your card and get a car, and then drop it off at any other charging station. Pretty neat and I wonder how long it'll be before the U.S. gets onboard with the idea? The woman who is in charge of transportation issues at Paris City Hall is quoted as saying "Owning a car is passe." :) Good to hear! :)

I recently was on a bike tour in Washington/Oregon, and was the volunteer sag van driver. I told the group that I went car-free almost 4 years ago and that I get around by bike & public transportation. They admired that, and jokingly commented about the group having a van driver who didn't even have a car back home, and how safe was that?! :) Of course, you don't FORGET how to drive, that's never a problem. (I think I'm a SAFER driver now, more than before). Funny thing, one of the tour leaders was backing up the van one day and didn't see a pole with a gas meter on the side of it, and hit it and busted out one of the back windows! (I was glad I wasn't the one who had done that!). They had insurance on the vehicle and it was taken care of and replaced, so not a problem. It was a large cargo van and had its blind spots, for sure. In fact, on the last hour that I was responsible for the van, I was backing up in a hotel parking lot to move the van to its final resting place, and backed into a curb. Not a problem - but as I pulled forward and looked in my rear view mirror, I saw I had come dangerously close to a car that was by the curb! Whew! I was very glad to have missed it and was very relieved to park the van and be done with my responsibilities as a driver. :)