Now that you know my car-shedding story, I’d like to share a little about my car-free experience (mostly bicycle related):
1.) I’m lucky enough to live in an area of Midtown, Memphis where a grocery store, pharmacy, movie theater, coffee shop, dry cleaner, pet food store, convenience store etc. is in, what I consider, walking distance from my dumpy but affordable midtown rental,
2.) I’m fairly stubborn and economical so, relying on a bicycle and public transit in combination with not wanting to ask for rides and hesitating to pay exorbitant rates for cab fare has sufficiently limited my social life, and
3.) Additional items I highly consider you make an effort to obtain to compliment your car-free survival kit:
- sun glasses: While sunglasses are beneficial to any person in the long-term, especially those with light-colored eyes, they become crucial in the most dry and blusterous times of being car-free in Memphis. (For example, I ironically love how, “grit,” and, “gritty,” have become descriptive terms for Memphis and its spirit, its soul or its what have you… I kind-of understand, (but don’t,) this emergence but, truly bask its unintended but literal portrayal. Seriously, if you decide you are going to bike or walk Memphis, sunglasses are a must if you intend to nurture your ability of vision. You think I jest but, if you walk or bike regularly you may notice an unfathomable yet inherent amount of what I deem, “literal grit.” (yard debris, construction site debris, fraternity-house sand volley ball court debris, (I could go on and on)) occupying the sidewalks and portions of the streets of Memphis. In the best-case scenario, it gets into your shoes, on your clothes, on the frame of your bicycle, or detours you into more unsafe portions of the street to continue your travel (annoying but tolerable) and in the worst, such as during random bursts of high winds (which do happen), it gets into your eyes and can forcefully come into contact with any other area of skin that is not concealed beneath clothing or some other protective gear (it’s unexpected and it’s mildly painful (I’m not kidding.))
- bike rack + bungee cord combo: If you decide bicycling Memphis is going to be your car-free go-to method this combination of additional equipment can open up a small world of possibilities. Most bike racks that are oriented to fit the rear of the bike are guaranteed up to forty pounds but depending on, 1.) what you find you need to transport and, 2.) the number of bungee cords you have to secure said item, you’ll be able to maneuver more than you would imagine. (keep in mind, slow and steady wins the race (adding additional weight to the rear of your bicycle somehow can make the front end a little unsteady (proceed slowly and with a bit of balance and once you get to a normal speed it’s easy street (until you stop again… but then, again, it’s all about balance)),
- U-lock-cable lock combo: To tell the truth, I literally cringe when I see any caliber of bicycle, “secured,” with a useless lock scenario. I’ve always opted for the U-lock-cable lock combo. For a single bicycle it’s able to secure the frame plus both wheels (and, in my case, my helmet) either to itself or most available railings, street sign posts, or standard bike racks (unfortunately many of the, “artsy,” bike racks are, while well-intentioned, pretty useless for the security of your two-wheeled vehicle). An added bonus of the U-lock-cable lock combo is that if you are traveling in a group you are able to secure multiple bikes at one time (making you a crucial component of this car-free gathering of friends (just make sure you are all on the same page as far as when it’s time to leave, etc.))
- Rain gear/spare clothes: It’s not always convenient but rain gear or spare clothes (especially shoes and socks) can make the difference in your car-free day. I’m always of the mindset that if it’s raining on the way to anywhere but home I’ll find a way other than bicycle. If I’m on my way home I’ll endure any level of sprinkle or downpour. It’s pretty uncomfortable to find yourself at work (or anywhere else for that matter) with soggy shoes and socks. Most other clothing items tend to dry (are endurable) in a reasonable amount of time but soggy shoes and socks, for some reason, sustain and tend to break rather than make your day.
- Reusable bags: One (at least I) never really knows when they might remember they need to stop by a store to get household supplies (including groceries). Having a reusable bag stashed somewhere allows a bit of spontaneity in these circumstances, If you’re on bike (with a rack and bungees) or walking you can anticipate spending about twenty dollars for standard items (veggies, cheese, bread, etc.) and filling up one bag with enough groceries to last you a few days.
- Good shoes and agility: One of the few items in my wardrobe that I’m willing to invest in new are shoes. Good shoes, while not pedestrian, are crucial to being a pedestrian. I walk a lot, as I mentioned in my first point. At times, walking in Memphis has reminded me of walking the red trail at Meeman Shelby Forest State Park, minus the steep grades. Sidewalks in Memphis are crazy. Because Memphis is such a, “tree city,” (as yet undesignated) there is an apparent and determined battle between urbanization and nature that reveals itself forcefully in the sidewalks of this city. If you walk at all with a determined pace to reach your destination, some stretches of sidewalk aren’t dissimilar to stretches of the Red Trail. Nature, in the form of property owner’s unkempt shrubbery can either threaten to whack you in the face or obstruct your path altogether. These forces also tend to assault any sense of surefootedness in the form of severely uneven, cracked, and crumbled surfaces that require a readiness as quick as your pace, and lastly
- Determination and will: Just as any other choice in life that one ventures into with uncertainty (they are many (let’s be honest)), a car-free life in Memphis will be met with many and varied trials and tribulations. In my experience, firstly, mindset, then, preparation, and lastly, perspective of the bigger picture, it’s not unobtainable. Certainly I wish for other opportunities where this lifestyle that I have chosen would be commonplace and easy but, I am where I am now (mindset and perspective) and I have the capacity and the fortune to make it work for me (preparation).