Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day!

Best wishes to you on this Valentine's Day - hope you are spending it with someone (or doing something) you love.  

Also: this is adorable.

Also-also: this little bit of warmth makes me smile on this very slushy day!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Location, location, location...

I mentioned here that my husband and I went to see about a house in December. And then, last week, that we had submitted an offer. As of a few days ago, we are officially under contract. We are currently waiting for news on a couple of contingencies so that we can formally inspect the home, and hopefully, we won't find anything too surprising. Assuming no deal-breakers, we should close at the tail end of February or beginning of March. We won't move in right away. There is a lot of work to be done to get the home ready - it needs a new kitchen, the plaster walls and ceilings need some major TLC, and there's a little evidence of water damage here and there so that we will want to make sure the plumbing is in good shape throughout the home. There is, of course, the other cosmetic stuff you would always expect: painting, refinishing floors, etc. And we'd like to update the windows, which probably haven't been replaced in 40 years or longer. And, all things being equal, I'd love to convert the fireplace from wood-burning (nonfunctional at present) to gas (warmth at the flip of a switch). At least, those are the things we know about and are planning for now.These things may change.

While, ostensibly, this development has nothing to do with cycling, it really does do, which you likely recall from past posts. The home is in a much more cycling-friendly area. It is four times closer to my office (one-and-a-half miles vs. six), half the distance to the nearest bike trails (one mile versus two), a handful of blocks from a bustling, walkable and bikeable area with racks a plenty, stores, restaurants, and entertainment, and a hop, skip, and jump from the nearest MetroLink stop - I can eschew my car pretty easily, weather-permitting (and frankly, after driving in snow and ice and slush on Tuesday and Wednesday, I'd rather have bundled up and let the light rail whisk me to work and not worry about the terrible drivers out there who don't adjust their driving for weather and road conditions. At all).

There are a couple of trade-offs. We'll be (relatively) a lot farther from the grocery store (at least one mile from the nearest one, and probably farther for preferred stores), and my commute to church will become eleven miles instead of two. And I go to church frequently (I volunteer extensively there, and will continue to do so at least through the remainder of 2014, and I'm not even considering changing churches).

It's about a wash for my husband's commute. It's shorter, but the principal routes to/from are more congested, though the option of the MetroLink becomes available to him if we move into the new home. Similarly, the yard is smaller, but will also require less work to maintain, and less water, too. Both neighborhoods have a strong sense of identity and are perfectly lovely.

In total, the benefits really seem to outweigh the drawbacks. I go to work at least five days per week versus usually no more than three days at church (there are weeks when I'm there four or five days out of seven, but that's fairly rare). There are a number of days when I need to work late, and so does the husband, and being able to get home quickly to have lunch with the dog would be good for both of us (me; the dog). The shorter commute makes walking (half an hour versus not-an-option) or biking to work (10-15 minutes versus about 50) a real and meaningful option. The very close proximity to parks and trails makes getting outside to play more often another easy option for us (especially since we won't have to drive to get there). We can walk over to all these great restaurants. On nice days I can walk to see a movie or a band play live at a couple of different venues, too, activities I truly enjoy. 

Really, it's about buying into a change of lifestyle. We can walk to a few things now (grocery store, a couple or three restaurants, a couple little shops), but we usually don't. It requires crossing a large arterial road and walking through parking lots, which is, frankly, kind of awful. When we walk, it's most often when we want to pick up or drop off a Redbox movie, because we can at least take the dog with us. "We" can bike to a trail and church, or over to the neighboring 'downtown' without interacting with the arterial road, but by "we", I almost always mean "me", since my husband prefers to stick to trails (he doesn't feel safe or comfortable on many roads), and most of my riding friends don't live in the area. Where we are is safe, and suburban, without crossing into exurban territory, but I've been itching for a more urban experience for a while. Our trips to Europe in 2008 and 2012 and Australia in 2010 have only cemented this desire for me. (I also spent four summers in London in 1990, 1995, 1997, and 2003, lived in Massachusetts and relied on rail to commute in 2000-2001, and embraced the bus as a means of traveling to and from college classes for three of the four years I was in undergrad. I really loved the ability to get to different places without a car that each spot offered.)

I read a post recently by Santa Cruz cyclist Richard Masoner (@cyclicious), whom I've recently begun following on Twitter and the message really resonated with me. 

[Being green // avoiding traffic // saving money // exercise] aren’t reasons to bike — they’re just nice bonuses. If I felt like I had to bike to work to save the planet and my wallet, I’d probably hate it. The Santa Cruz County Bike To Work website repeats those “reasons” to bike to work, which is fine, but ignores the most important reason: We bike because we like it. Biking is fun. It feels good.

I don't want to pursue this lifestyle change (which includes, among other things, cycling) just because I should. I want to do this because it feels good, and it's exciting.