Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Mental blocks...

Its interesting how much time it takes for the human mind to adapt to change when its had one way of doing things for so long, heck it doesn't even have to be so long.

Presently we are in the process of potty training our 2 year old son Samuel. Its interesting to see behaviors in him that I know apply just as well to myself. For example, he's proven in running around for a few days without diapers that he's perfectly capable of "holding it" as long as he wants, but what is hard is making the mental shift from going in a diaper to going in a potty. He just doesn't want to make that change.

For us, as the title of the whole blog states, we find it takes time, a fair bit of it, for real lasting change to take place. As I mentioned in the last post we sold our last and only partially functioning vehicle a few weeks ago, and interestingly found that having that car around even if not driving it, was a mental block in and of itself.

Nickie's parents live about 17 miles south of us, and so far we'd been pretty hesitant to make the trek on bike between her being pregnant and just having it in our heads that 35mile round trip days with kids and stuff in tow was too much.

Well with the car being gone, this last Sunday morning we woke up and I thought "what the heck, why not", so I posed the idea to Nickie. After talking through the logistics of nap time and such we decided to give it a go. It turned out to be totally fine, in fact quite enjoyable. There was one point where we were stopped by the side of the highway for 25 minutes while she nursed our 1.5 month old, but then resumed our journey without incident.

Also, on a slightly unrelated note, we put money down on a new battery for Nickie's electric assist as there was a problem with the first supplier. So she's pretty excited to finally get that up and running to make trips to neighboring towns something she can easily perform by herself. Looks like Christmas is coming right on time instead of July as we first thought after all ;)

Well, hopefully Nickie and I as well as Samuel will continue to realize that we are capable of more change than we first suppose.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Many changes...

Well, I suppose a newborn and toddler around the house isn't the most conducive to blogging.

So yes we do indeed have a new addition to the family, Anders Christopher Stout. He was born on Oct 15th, weighing in a 8lbs. 3oz. although he's already well past that weight.

Also, we finally pulled the trigger and have moved officially into car free-dom. We sold our partially functioing car a couple weeks ago and so far so good. Not that it really changes much as the car mostly sat except for a couple trips to the hospital right around the birth.

We've found that Lands End is really our friend when it comes to gearing up young children, having just bought some great winter apparel for our toddler, so he's nice and toasty on our rides. We've done some rides after dark in the mid-low twenties and he's been quite toasty inside the Chariot trailer, which by the way we LOVE our Chariot Cougar 2, and often comment that this trailer was one of the best purchases we've ever made.

With the day's being so short and the whole family now traveling by bike, we've been upgrading our lighting overall as most of our family rides are now in the dark. LED lighting is finally "there" in my opinion. Having used several high end halogen systems over the years, I can really appreciate the qualities of the Dinotte lights we've purchased, weighing right around a pound, yet putting out almost as much light as a 20W halogen and running on high mode for 8 hours.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Realizing Dreams: Change and Time

Anthony's dad said something once that I thought was very interesting. He said that most people grossly overestimate what they can do in a year and grossly underestimate what they can do in ten years. I think that he is right. At least in my life, I have observed this to be true. There have been huge changes in my lifestyle over the past 6 or 7 years. ie: became a vegetarian, had 1 (almost 2 now) kids, started a business, recycling, using environmental cleaners (still learning), in the process of going car-free...just a couple examples. I think one thing I've learned through this is that lasting, meaningful change takes time and is more about the journey than about the accomplishment.

For example in regard to going car-lite and eventually (hopefully) car-free, the journey began 7 years ago for Anthony when he started commuting to work while car-sharing with roommates for groceries etc. For me, it began with gaining endurance to go farther and faster. After we got married, I started commuting just to work (1.5miles at the time), while Anthony continued to commute a la bike. Then 4 years later, we moved about 12 miles farther from work. Anthony built up endurance over the period of 2 years to doing that distance every day, rain or shine. We got a bike trailer about a year and a half after our son was born, and I again started commuting short distances around town. Each new challenge took a lot of time. It took me a good solid 3-4 months to learn safe ways to get around our city on a bike. I had to learn where the bike lanes and paths were, what roads intersect the path--and at what points so I know where to get off. What gear to bring with me for both me and the toddler. What snacks to bring. How long it takes me to get places so I'm not late for naptime or for work. What repair tools to bring with. These are things I already knew how to do with a car, but had to learn afresh with a bike. I think that is where the "overestimate what you can do in a short amount of time" thing comes in. There is so much to learn, so many adjustments to make, with any change that a person might want to make--be it exercise, nutrition, financial, or environmental. Changes are much more complex than we realize. Just focusing on the goal and the timeline can be so paralyzing. The interesting thing is that when I pray and ask for help with any "life-thing" that is going on, not just going car-lite, I hear the Lord telling me just to take one step and to trust Him with the results. He has often surprised me with what he will do with my tiny offering of faith. So, I guess I will keep trusting him with my dreams and hopes.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Help is on the Way!

Entering the 3rd trimester and toting 65+ pounds of toddler and a trailer wherever I go, I am finding myself (Nickie) very grateful that we have ordered an electric assist. I seem to go slower each day, instead of faster and it's definitely more of an effort. A few weeks ago, I was saying I don't really know if I'll need the help of a motor. Now I have no doubt. Will publish the results of the new motor in a few weeks.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Testing the Waters...

So as a many-fold step we sold our van, partially to pay off some things before our second child comes in Oct, but also partially to pay for an electric assist for Nickie, and at the same time to try out at least for a month or so how it would actually work for us going car free as a family. We still have another car... kind of... Its an older ford explorer someone gave us that has a dying trannie that's only good for about 16 miles of warmup before it starts slipping and limping along.

We figured since we wanted to try out the waters of going car free now that we're placing an order on an electric assist, having only a partially functioning car as backup would be useful set of circumstances to get our feet honest to goodness wet with this lifestyle.

One thing is for sure, I really admire my wife. Its really neat to see her challenging cultural stereotypes as she rides her trike along with a big preggo belly with child in tow behind her. In fact when we were talking the other night about getting a replacement car for the one we just got for free with the dying trannie, she actually said she'd rather get an electric assist first so she can go everywhere by bike including the 30 and 40 mile trips despite the extra strains of pregnancy and towing a 70lbs worth of trailer behind her. Then if we find after a month or two that its not working to be pretty much without car and having a decent amount of time to see how the electric assist changes the picture, we'd reevaluate replacing the car.

She's always impressed me with her adventurous spirit and willingness to re-evaluate cultural norms.

The other day when I was talking to a co-worker about getting an electric assist for her so she could get all around the Boulder metro area by bike/trike even with being pregnant and having a child in the trailer behind her, his response was "Wouldn't it be easier to just take your guys' van?". I like what one of the founders of Xtracycle said in a video, "Its not about making life easier, its about making life BETTER". I couldn't agree more. Figuring out the logistics of doing life, business, family, fun all without using cars, certainly poses many challenges, but on the flip side, there's so many benefits that most don't see at first glance that more than make up for it.

So anyway, bringing it back to the original point of this post, we're taking some exciting steps towards really making life work without a car and with a family. I'm probably placing the order on the electric assist in the next day or two once we hash out a few details, and I'm selling my Steelman and replacing it with a tough steel mtb with Schwalbe touring tires, and heavy duty rack, with the intention of adding an Xtracycle at some point in the near future so that my bike is good for much more than just getting me to and from work. Exciting stuff :)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

What we CAN do

Something I've been realizing of late is just how much can be done today to change the way that we as people live and the impact that we have on the world around us for our generation and those to come.

Like many I'm sure, I really thought that many of the bigger changes required money or legislation changes, of which in either case, I'd be waiting for another day. But what I've been finding is that this is simply not the case. I believe Nickie already quoted him, but Ghandi made a great statement "We must be the change we seek in the world" or something to that effect. Sustainable living is really much closer at hand than might be thought at first.

For example, let me address a few areas of our existance. Assuming it is feasible, commercialism will almost always follow consumer demand. Take, for example, wind power. According to some pretty exhaustive studies, there are enough locations ideal wind-wise and cost-wise to provide 5 times the current power demands of the whole world. So feasibility aside, wind power is something that we as consumers have the ability to demand of our energy corporations. Even our small town of Longmont has wind power tie in's so that for a meager ~4-5% hike in our electrical bill, our we are using a renewable resource for our electricity. Since companies must legally meet that demand, we the people of this country can basically move renewable energy forward by our demand.

Making it even easier for energy corporations to make this shift in supply, its remarkable how much can be done to reduce the energy needs of the average house. We've been replacing a few light bulbs each week with CFL's (compact fluorescents). And instead of relying solely on our AC as the temperatures increase, we open our windows at night and close them in the morning as it starts to warm up, and despite getting up around 90 degrees for a high we've haven't really had to use the air conditioner at all yet this season. Our electric bill this year is half what it was last year, which it wasn't particularly high then either, and that's accounting for the wind power surcharge.

Regarding the resources used in transporting food nationwide, many areas have farmers' markets within decent proximity, and sometimes organic at that. With us for example there's a farmer's market here in Longmont every Saturday starting in the spring and running pretty well into the fall. Buying local is also a very large step in reducing our energy footprint and for what you're saving on your electric bill you can afford the local organic stuff.

Speaking of organic farming... Since organic produce isn't grown using chemical fertilizers and pesticides, it basically ensures on some level that farmers use more responsible practices in order to get good crops such as crop rotation and putting organic matter back into the soil and even giving the land a break from time to time, instead of relying on commercial chemical fertilizers and pesticides to cover up a multitude of sins.

Then there's recycling and even better buying responsibly to start. Its amazing if you put just a little forethought into your purchasing how much useless packaging you can cut out of your purchases, or when you do get something with packaging making sure that its packaging that can be recycled when you're done with it. Nickie's really been the champion of recycling in our household. Between the cloth diaper system she found (Bum Genius), and just being informed shoppers and generally good about recycling, we're down to less than a small grocery bag worth of trash per week, and I recently found out that even much of that can actually be composted through our local recycling center.

Then last, but not least, is transportation. I've heard varying statistics, but we'll assume the most favorable picture for car ownership possible. If you account for a fully paid for car, plus $35 a month in insurance, plus the cost of gas for pretty average American mileage ~12,000 miles/yr. and then standard consumables, like tires, fluid changes, brakes, and the unfortunate reality that on occasion it will need a repair, say $500, you're easily talking $2,000 a year, likely much more, most stats I've read stated something closer to $5,000.

My general experience after around 7 years now of cycling more or less as primary transportation personally, is that its going to cost you around 1/10th that much once you have the gear and bicycle and its simply a maintenance state as with the car above. If you do apples to apples and compare the costs of buying new car and registration vs. buying a new bike and related gear, the balance is still pretty much the same. Some say I'm crazy tough for having commuted year round in colorado by bicycle, but these are also the same people who get up at 5am on a Saturday and drive up to the mountains only to ski in even colder temps and stronger wind chills solely for recreation... I think its simply a matter of perspective. So in this case like many so far you're saving money and saving the world and its something fully available TODAY. Nothing against the Toyota Prius, but I can pretty much guarantee you that my transportation is a lot easier to buy into for the average individual and also a lot greener.

My wife and I describe cycling for transportation as a win win win win win win. We do good for the environment and diminish the potential impact of peak oil, we stay fit without going out of our way to do so, we have fun getting to our destinations, its an adventure with Samuel which he enjoys far more than the car, bikes are infinitely simpler than cars and negate the frustation of shop time for the car, and last but not least, it saves us a lot of money each year.

So what are you all waiting for, there's so much we can all already be doing :) Isn't that great news? :)

Trike Dialog

Eco Soccer Mom

Monday, June 11, 2007

Tires to go the distance...

This may seem a mundane post to many, but bicycle tires are whats on my mind these days. Between riding to and from work, general errands rides and riding with my family, I'm generally doing around 160 miles a week, and at present I'm getting a flat tire seemingly every couple days.

This is by far a record for me considering my latest tires (Michelin Krylion Carbon's) are supposed to be a durable puncture resistant road tire. I must say, neither is really the case. I've put about 1,400 miles on them now and they are showing significant wear, and I've already commented on the puncture resistance :P

Good news is that I've found out that Schwalbe, an awesome tire manufacturer out of Germany who specializes in real world tires now makes a tire called the Marathon Plus in a 700 x 25c which should fit on the Steelman Stage Race I ride. I'll probably have to modify the fenders where they clear the fork and brakes, but considering these tires are called "flatproof" by some and built to last 4,500-7,200 miles its well worth making them fit :)

Schwalbe Marathon Plus on Schwalbe's site

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Starting him young...

Samuel and Dadda working on the bike together...

A More Personal Note

It just occurred to me that I'd managed to leave out the most exciting bit of news in the last few days. Nickie had her 20 week ultrasound yesterday and got to see our beautiful new baby....BOY! Somehow knowing the gender just makes the family dynamic easier to picture which just ups our excitement and anticipation for this new addition to our family. But this also means now we need to start thinking in earnest about a proper name for the little guy.

Stay tuned...

My little family thus far (Samuel was less than a year old here. He's now almost 2)

Hybrid Human/Electric vehicles in suburan America

First off, this is my first post to the blog (Anthony here).

Nickie and I have been talking a lot about solutions presently available to make a carfree lifestyle possible with a family. I've been in practice living carfree for about 7 years now, having sold my car back in college and bought a nice road bike to get around instead, and my wife minus during the transition from being just a married couple to being parents has generally done likewise. Well things do get a little more complicated with this transition but I think we've still been finding some good solutions.

We bought her a tadpole trike (two wheels in the front and one in the rear) a little bit ago for a few reasons. They are quite comfortable for one, more aerodynamic than your average riding position on a road bike, can be ridden while pregnant, which she is, and ridden year round since they have such a low center of gravity and three wheels, snow and ice are much less treacherous. The other added benefit is that a newborn can't be adequately supported in a trailer for awhile 6-12 months depending on who you talk to, while in a trike without the concern of tipping over she could wear the baby in our baby bjorn sport strapped to her chest while riding.

Now coming back to the title of this post, this also all means that on average when my dear courageous wife is toodling around town to do errands she's always toting at a minimum an extra 55lbs of trailer, child, diaper bag, emergency gear, and not all things are as close in proximity as we'd like. So of late I've been researching some electric assist options that we could mount to the trike effectively augmenting her power to the point of being on par with my typical range and speeds (30-40 miles any given day at 18-22mph average) even with towing all the extra weight. This would make trips to grandma and grandpa's house all the more feasible without falling back on the car. Besides the fact that the total amount of energy (besides Nickie's pedaling power) that's required to move my wife, child, trailer, stuff :), is VASTLY less than moving a 3500lb car too, we also get our electricity from windpower, so recharging at home means the extra energy is coming from a renewable resource.

We'll see how it goes, but having tried one out this last weekend we're both in agreement that the question is not, if, but when. So we'll start putting our pennies together and hopefully get her setup in the next couple months so we can take some of the extra burden off of her in the move to a carfree lifestyle.

On a side note we're also in the process of selling our VW Eurovan and getting a more fuel efficient vehicle for the times when we do fall back on the car.

Lastly since we haven't joined the multimedia era by posting any pics yet, I thought I'd throw up a photo of my trusty steed that takes me to and from everyday.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

New Blog, Old Path

I suppose I am writing this blog because I have found that in my efforts over the past few years to become less dependant on foreign oil and to be more responsible in living on this world, I have discovered that change takes time. Change, no matter how determined I am, takes creativity and new habits, and that just doesn't all come at once. And I think it might be useful to have the imput from others along this same path.

My most recent challenge is using my car less. I've found this to be a challenge. Physically it's a challenge. I am pregnant and usually toting a toddler in a cart behind me. And it is a challenge logistically. There aren't always good ways to get around town. There are many places that have no bike lanes. I have to find new ways to get to the grocery store, post office, parks, to get Samuel to play dates. Also, I have a limited amount of time to do my errands in. If I do them too close to Samuel's nap time, I risk him falling asleep for a few minutes and then not taking a nap. (Which both he and I need him to do! ;)

So far, I've cut my driving by about 60-70%. And my gas costs too. It's a nice little incentive! :)