The mechanic shared the words gracefully: “It’s not going to be safe to drive this car anymore without significant repair work. The rust underneath is just too extensive. It’s probably the end of the road.” A little later that afternoon, I pulled into the driveway for the last time with my 2005 Ford Escape. That was June of 2020. A year has now passed since our household (two humans, two canines) began navigating life as a one-vehicle family.
Initially, I thought I’d take a few weeks to research and explore options for a second car. I was working mostly from home at the time, so there wasn’t an immediate need to get another set of wheels. As weeks turned into months, I began to wonder if perhaps I could challenge myself to make it a full trip around the sun without my own car. The takeaways from this experience have been many; here are three:
Deepened appreciation for travel alternatives. Having spent a summer bicycling to work a few years back, I was familiar with the health, financial and environmental benefits of that style of commute. The past year has given me opportunities to utilize Uber, walking, the city bus, rental cars, a local car-share business called Hour Car, and my Razor electric scooter. I also borrowed Justin’s truck from time to time.
While there were a lot of conveniences to owning a car, it has been beneficial to have this backstage pass to the many other ways a person can get around southeastern Minnesota (and especially the city of Rochester).
Increased awareness of seasons, time, and weather conditions. A chilly springtime is no problem for scooting, as long as one is appropriately layered for warmth! When I had a car, I paid far less attention to rain forecasts and temperature. It was easy to open the garage, jump in the car, and head on my way regardless of conditions outside.
These past months have equipped me to be much more intentional in my preparations for each day. I look at maps and routes. The weather radar is always close at hand. The position of the sun in the sky influences the timing of my arrivals and departures. These awarenesses will stick with me.
Expanded dedication to becoming a neighborhood and city that is increasingly inclusive toward one-vehicle households, as well as those who don’t have a car. While it may feel quite commonplace for everyone to have their own car, there are many people who for financial and environmental reasons don’t choose that option. It also wasn’t too many decades ago that most garages were built with a single stall.
Prior to last fall, I’d never spent any time on a city bus. Even though I’d lived in the area for over a decade, this has been the first time I ever paid attention to the value of having easily accessible bus routes that run on evenings and weekends. Cycling, electric scooting, and walking have expanded my appreciation for city planning that prioritizes safe intersections.
Last June, I had no idea that the mechanic’s final diagnosis of my vehicle would pave the way for an enlightening year. This route is one I didn’t see coming, and I definitely wouldn’t trade it in.
"Holy Everything" is a weekly column by Emily Carson. She is a Lutheran pastor. Visit her website emilyannecarson.com.