Monday, October 29, 2012

From Car-Free to Car-Dweller

Four years ago, I celebrated becoming car-free in Los Angeles. Now, I'm writing from the Bay Area various places and am very, very attached to my car. When I was living in Downtown LA and spending most of my time there, it was easy to ditch the car and use public transit and bicycles. I still use public transit and my bicycle, when I can. But I've found that I really like camping out of my car on BLM land. And it's lovely being able to wake up to scenes like this after pulling over to sleep among eighteen-wheelers:
Vista Point, Highway 101, Santa Barbara.
I've driven between Los Angeles, Bishop, and the Bay Area many times over the last few months. It's hard for me to think about how much gas I've consumed in such a short period of time. Hundreds of gallons, I'm sure, though I get good mileage and drive conservatively. My current lifestyle includes a lot of driving, which I once tried so hard to get away from, and now, I don't really see myself getting away from it any time soon. It's harder to interact with the outdoors, be car-free, and still be very mobile. But it's possible.

If I were planning to live in one place for a long time, and commute to only a few specific places on a regular basis, it would be easier to imagine working out a way to avoid using a car for outdoors excursions. The truth is that right now, I'm not so willing to try that hard. I'm still hauling around quite a few belongings, I like being able to tuck into my home like a turtle, and I like the feeling of independence I get hurtling down highways between cities, where it can seem so desolate.
Sagebrush Campsite, Owens River Gorge, Eastern Sierra.

For now, the best course I see is in staying in places for longer stretches of time than the weeklong trips I've been taking. Where those places might be, and how far I'll have to drive to get there, are all up in the air. A few days ago I plotted out a dozen different climbing areas to visit around the western US. I've met quite a few people traveling around for a month or more (or indefinitely) for climbing. That doesn't feel like long enough, not at all. I want to take more time than that. And I want to make it sustainable for that time, both financially and environmentally, as much as possible. It's hard to imagine how that is going to work. But I'm trying.

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