Friday, April 15, 2011

Car Free Day

I wonder why we haven't done this in forever?

The Sienna gets a day off to enjoy the spring-like sunshine.
Our biggest challenge in trying to reduce our environmental footprint has always been in the realm of transportation. We live miles (or depending on how you define it, hours of miles) from anything. There is no public transit to speak of here. One day a week, which is the wrong day for us for any number of reasons, if you have the entire day to spare, there's a bus that will get you to Nelson and back. But we've never been able to use it. Buses to Calgary, which Erin does make use of regularly, require us to make a 6-hour round-trip drive just to get her to or pick her up from the bus station: and cost almost double the price of gas to drive the whole distance in the van. And even the short distance to town (3.4 kilometers to get to the top of main street) is along a winding mountain highway with scanty shoulders, with a 6-8% grade. It's not a walk for the faint-of-heart.

As anyone who reads this blog will know, our village of 600 has a lot going for it, but when it comes to several of the things that my kids are interested in there simply aren't the numbers and activities here to support them. So we travel a lot. Playing a soccer game against another team requires a 40-minute drive. The aikido dojo we were a part of was 30 minutes south. Corazon Vocal Ensemble rehearses 90 minutes away. And of course violin and viola lessons for the older two are 8 hours away in Calgary.

So we drive. A lot. Thirty thousand kilometres a year, at least. And feel guilty about it. Six years ago we bought our minivan with an eye to fuel efficiency. (Passing on the 4WD model was a probably short-sighted choice made primarily to reduce fuel consumption.) But it's a minivan nonetheless and it runs on fossil fuels.

Today we didn't drive. Today we decided to be car-free in order to remind ourselves how much we depend on the vehicle, how much we appreciate its convenience and instant gratification it affords. (Out of milk? Wondering if anything interesting came in today's mail? Drive to town! Go back later for something else...)

Wild turkeys, seen crossing the highway yesterday
The three younger kids and I had a meeting at the school with our DL program liaison teacher this morning. We had a bunch of projects, books and bookwork to bring and show off, so we packed them in a backpack and headed out. There was snow on the ground at home, but out on the highway things were clear and dry. We had hoped we might run into the turkeys again today but alas while Sophie heard some gobbling in the woods, they weren't out in plain sight.

We arrived perfectly on time, the walk taking about 43 minutes (downhill being much the quicker direction). While Noah was finishing up his part of our meeting, the girls went to the Post Office and picked up the mail. We went to the bank and then to our favourite café for lunch. Then we headed home, which took about an hour.

After we got home, Erin, who had stayed home practicing for the morning, went to the gym. She jogged down, did her couple of hours of working out, and then power-walked and jogged back home, for a total of about three hours of exercise.

In the meantime the three younger kids had eaten supper and we had given their bikes a spring tuning. They rode off to Gaming Night, a Friday night occasion not to be missed. Held at one of the community halls, this is a chance for kids and adults who enjoy playing computer and video games to get together and play in real time and real space in a social atmosphere. There are 4 or 5 reconditioned computers, plus the organizer's own couple of machines, plus a console game platform or two hooked up to a TV (most recently the Xbox Kinect which my kids love). For the first three hours the games are all rated "E" for Everyone and all kids are welcome. After 9 pm it's mature gaming time targetted at teens and adults (slightly younger kids can stay with parental permission) so all the younger kids leave and the older ones stay on or drift in. Noah attends the entire six hours if he can manage it, and has become kind of the Assistant Tech Guy, granted full admin privileges and recently taking most of the responsibility for selecting and installing games for the pre-teens.

So the kids rode their bikes down and have ditched them at grandma's house for retrieval tomorrow. I'll head out in time to pick Fiona up at 9 o'clock. I'll bring four head-lamps and some water and leave half of my supplies with Sophie and Noah. I'll walk home with Fiona. At a few minutes before midnight, as Gaming Night is shutting down, Noah and Sophie will don their own head-lamps and start hoofing it up the hill. They are have pointed out that according to their logic Car Free Day ends at midnight and that therefore I will be there in the minivan to pick them up before they get too far up the hill. Depending on how cold and spooky my walk home with Fiona between 9 and 10 turns out to be that may indeed be the case. Then again Fiona will have self-transported a total of 15 km today, most of that on foot; should Noah and Sophie really be rescued after 11.5 kilometres? We shall see how benevolent the owner/operator of Mom's Taxi Service is feeling at midnight.

All in all they've taken to it without complaint and with the spirit of adventure and appreciation that it was intended to nurture.

Oh, and Chuck is off at a conference for a few days. We had a feeling he wouldn't have been willing to play along (as his lack of appreciation and respect for No-Screen Days in the past has suggested), so this Friday was chosen strategically to avoid the issue of paternal non-compliance.

4 comments:

  1. Anonymous7:11 pm

    Excellent!

    We drive a lot too, for the same reasons, but around here (our neighborhood)we mostly walk or bike. Not today...I went up the hill to dh's office with two of our kids and the air was brown with smoke from wildfires and ds was already sounding like a smoker from a previous bike ride up the hill...so we caved and drove. I just brought in the laundry I forgot was on the back porch and our freshly washed clothes smell like we've been camping for a week.

    Deborah

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  2. Beautiful. I struggle with the amount that we use the car but it is nothing compared to you so, hey, your post made me feel heaps better! Always good to find a new post from you.

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  3. One of the deciding factors for us moving back to a city was that we were never willing to be a two car family. While we sacrifice some access to nature and open spaces we do have the ability to go weeks without driving, and still get to spend hours down by the river.
    Stacey

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  4. I'm envious of your kids' endurance. If my kids had to walk even 2 km they would collapse in misery.

    Our move to the country meant using cars far more than when we were in the city. But we make up for that in many other ways, and I wouldn't change it for the world...Personally, this horse-lover is hoping for the return of the carriage. ;-)

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