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Tonight’s Commute

Our commute tonight was derailed. Literally. This afternoon a train carrying several 28,000 gallon tankers of ethanol was derailed on highway 30, avoiding explosion, but starting a massive fire. The highway was closed for several miles, which meant Levi and I needed to find an alternate route.

We’ve been driving the Pontiac. Generally, the Pontiac gets better gas mileage than the Bravada (except with how I drive, which is I dunno – normal?!). The Pontiac is available while my husband bikes to work. This should be a win-win for everyone. Except that the Pontiac has a short history of overheating on me.

Okay, says my husband, it was broken parts! We replaced those parts (heater core and radiator hose), so it’s fine, besides the car never gives me a problem.

Well, it has set a bad precedent for me, and has aided in my fear of sitting in traffic. So, I try to avoid it. Often, when I try to avoid traffic, I get home at the same time, maybe a little sooner, but never later. If I take the “fast way” (that is, the Freeway), the time to get to or from work could be as little as 30 minutes or as much as an hour and a half. If I choose a few select routes, the variance is 15 minutes: 45 minutes to an hour, tops. I’ll take the latter odds if it means I keep moving, the car keeps cool, I don’t get bored, I don’t fall asleep, and I keep moving.

Here are a few choice shots from my mobile on the way home (we were stopped thank you). We took a road that maxes at 45 mph, until it dropped us down into Northwest Portland into the Pearl District, tripping over the Broadway Bridge in all its construction glory, to a rather quick jaunt up Greeley given the time of day. Ah, living in a big metropolitan area. (Reminder, I grew up in a  town of 8,000!)

[flickrslideshow acct_name=”alexis22578″ id=”72157626526367555″]

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Logo of General Motors Corporation. Source: 20...
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Living in Portland is kind of like living in the land of foreign cars. We have lots of Japanese models to choose from: Subaru, Toyota, Honda. And, then there’s the European branch of Volvos, VWs, Saabs. And of course the other Asian market of Hyundai with their Kias and Souls. My husband is convinced that Subarus outrank American (made?) cars 3 to 1. An old boyfriend claimed the West Coast just had more variety.

So, all car companies have their problems. My theory is that the younger the car company the less likely you are to hear about problems because they haven’t been around long enough for any to really make news. GM has been around, what? 75  years? Toyota has been around for 50 years. Just now Toyota makes the news with all their recalls, cars not stopping, and whatnot. Anyway, all cars have to be maintained, and if they aren’t, they’ll break.

We happen to be an American-kind-of-Car company. Some of it has to do with growing up in Michigan and your choices were one of the Big Three lest you be chastised from your family that worked for the Big 3. As it stand, my husband’s father (my father-in-law) was a GM Engineer. Now, we happen to own GM cars because my husband knows them inside and out (he’s the house mechanic like I’m the house chef). But, he’ll be the first to complain about GM engineering and explain why they are in the shit hole they are today.

Okay, that all said, this post is really about ridiculous marketing. So, Toyota’s image has been tarnished with all their recalls, right? So, they have been employing what looks like a massive ad campaign to keep the positive spin on their image going strong. I enjoy watching the Boob Tube at night to wind down my mind. While watching The Mentalist a Toyota commercial came on. They have these actors pretend their families who’ve owned their cars for 200,000 to 400,000 miles, and express how they’d never trade it in for anything except an appropriate upgrade. So, this one family in this one commercial talks about how the car went through the parents for a few years then the girls each drove it for a really long time. If you listen carefully, you’ll hear that they bought the car new in 1997 (I was in my first year at Michigan State University). The first girl explains she got it when she was 16 and drove it for 9 years. So, if the parents drove the car for a year, that means she had from 1998 to 2007. Then, the next girl got it when she was 16, and the family upgraded to a hybrid Camry. Yea family, now the boy wants the Hybrid when he turns 16.

We have three cars. One was purchased as a project car, and it will liekly be turned into my commuter with my new job (yea!). The newest car is the Bravada (Olds) 1999. The other two are white, Pontiac Grand Ams, 1994. Both have around 150,000 or 130,000 miles on them. We are fortunate enough to live in Rust-Free land, so we expect these cars to get at least another 5-10 years out of them so we can give them to Levi has his first car. Beat that Toyota ad campaign.

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SAHM Transport

My favorite mode of transportation was walking to work. I enjoyed slowing down, seeing snakes, smelling flowers, and collecting my thoughts. Now, as a Stay-At-Home-Mom (SAHM), I drive our SUV when I drive and the bus is saved for a special occasion. This change is a little bewildering, and I still can’t wrap my head around it.

In 2005, I walked to work, took the bus to do errands around town, or reserved a Flex Car. I was in school, worked full time, and ventured to my evening classes. Sometimes, I would ride my bike to get around, but mostly I took the bus. I loved taking the bus. One of the reasons I own so many large bags is in part due to the bus riding I’m accustomed to. I need my planner, my phone, a book to read, a water bottle, and random toiletries to get through the day.  So, my bag was my survival kit. I didn’t often bring food except for easy fruits like apples or oranges. Maybe a few snack bars, like Clif, if I’d purchase them through Trader Joe’s. I ate out a lot more then, too. Now, we eat out once a month on a good month. Then, I ate out several times a week.

How life has changed as a SAHM. So, I’m no longer in school, so the need for gargantuan bags has decreased even if the use hasn’t. We bring a small person around with us, so the contents of the bags changes. It’s gone from notes, notebooks, books for classes, research topics to diapers, snacks, and changes of clothes. We used diaper bags for a while, but the transport is mostly around a car to places that aren’t very far away. So, daily “errand bags” aren’t as necessary. And, our daily events now work around nap times. So, afternoon trips are rare. A three-year-old requires fewer packing items than an infant, so the bag has even shrunk. Although, church on Sunday requires a certain number of cars and/or books.

I am an introvert. I’ve taken those web-based Myers-Briggs tests several times. Consistently, I test as INFJ. It has some different names, ranging from Counselor to Sage, (the tests acknowledge the wisdom I have I suppose). Introverts need refresh time away from intense social interactions. Those bus rides were my time to refresh. The bus rides were my time to reflect (and sometimes nap). Getting that refresh time is very different now. Sure, if Levi and I have errands to run, we usually drive quietly and listen to some classical music pointing out the important things like the white train house. This transport, though, that was one major way in which I organized my day. And, now, I still struggle with how to organize my day.

A friend shared an article that appeared in the Washington Post three years ago. Carolyn Hax explains to a reader what Stay-At-Home-Moms do all day. I often can’t put into words the exhaustion I feel, daily. Not just physically tired, but emotionally drained. I still can’t fall asleep at night because my brain whirs with all those thoughts that pop up during the day. Hax, though, puts it wonderfully when she explains what SAHMs really do:

When you have young kids, your typical day is: constant attention, from getting them out of bed, fed, clean, dressed; to keeping them out of harm’s way; to answering their coos, cries, questions; to having two arms and carrying one kid, one set of car keys, and supplies for even the quickest trips, including the latest-to-be-declared-essential piece of molded plastic gear; to keeping them from unshelving books at the library; to enforcing rest times; to staying one step ahead of them lest they get too hungry, tired or bored, any one of which produces the kind of checkout-line screaming that gets the checkout line shaking its head.

It’s needing 45 minutes to do what takes others 15.

It’s constant vigilance, constant touch, constant use of your voice, constant relegation of your needs to the second tier.

It’s constant scrutiny and second-guessing from family and friends, well-meaning and otherwise. It’s resisting constant temptation to seek short-term relief at everyone’s long-term expense.

It’s doing all this while concurrently teaching virtually everything — language, manners, safety, resourcefulness, discipline, curiosity, creativity. Empathy. Everything. (Hax, Caroyln. 2007 (May 23). The Washington Post, “Tell Me About It.

Transport. Touch. Talking. Now we drive the (paid off) gas-guzzler for our errands. One reason is for the kiddo because he can see out the windows better. We often listen to 88.9 getting in our relaxing classical music fix. I love my husband, I love my son. But, I had no idea how much parenthood and wifehood would affect my needs and where I put them. I miss my transport, I miss my bus, I miss my reading/napping time. I wouldn’t change it for the world, but I miss it.

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My Commute (in 2005)

I wrote this in 2005 for the Portland Transport blog for the “My Commute” series.

I moved to Portland nearly two years ago. The trip across country took our trusty van as a sacrifice for making the distance in Missoula, so my ex and I arrived without motor powered wheels. Since I wasn’t willing to drive the beast we named Bert, this was not a concern. Especially given the fact that Portland’s transportation system is leaps and bounds beyond Michigan’s, another one of those places where you must have a car to get around.

I have lived in Southeast, Southwest, and now North Portland. All places have given me different aspects of commuting to work (next to Willamette Park) and other areas of interest, whether it be a party in Gresham, school at PSU, or seeing a friend’s band (Port Authority) play at Kelly’s or Porky’s.

I have most of my frequently used stop IDs memorized (1152, 11812, 3619, 4466). Recent living without internet has familiarized me even more with 503-238-RIDE (7433); press one to pick your bus stop. Navigating Tri-Met’s website is old hat.

Living in Southeast and now North Portland has brought me back to transferring, which I prefer not to do. Living in Southwest was less than one mile to work, so I walked every day, generally on Macadam. I am elated to learn of Metro’s desire to study the travel from Lake Oswego to Portland, since Macadam is smelly, noisy, and not pedestrian friendly.

I took the bus to school after the 8-5 quota is over, and generally the bus home, although riding my bike was about the same amount of time as waiting for and then riding the bus (10-20 minutes). Work pays for my bus pass currently because it is school related. But, this too comes at a discount (summer all zone for 2 ½ months was $75).

I haven’t ridden my bike much this summer, but it is another form of transportation I use. I love the exhilarating rush I get when speeding down a hill at 25 or 27 mph, the wind in my face, and the fact that I created that rush with my feet, the pedals, and the bike I partially maintained myself.

Flex Car fills in when I need to be somewhere very soon or a planned event: moving across town, last minute trips the ocean, dinner with a friend who is going to where I came from; emergency Vet visits to Dove Lewis; grocery shopping when carrying laundry detergent, food items, and TP just doesn’t quite work on the bus. Flex Car spending ranges from $0 to $200 a month, since my uses for it have varied incredibly – but do not forget that covers maintenance, gas, insurance, and the car’s depreciation.

Although the commute is now back to around an hour (50 minutes is the best bet, but I get to work at 7:15 instead of 8), I wouldn’t trade it for waiting in rush hour traffic. You can’t read a book while waiting for the stop and go to cease. You can’t let your mind wander at a red light that’s about to turn green. You can’t ponder effectively the days upcoming events while paying attention to other cars, pedestrians, and bicyclists.

The more I slow down my transportation, the more I notice which new store is coming up, which one left, the garter snake scurrying out of my way, and the many slugs Portland has to offer and other bugs you must step around. Don’t forget the beautiful flowers I now have time to stop and smell. I step outside of my reclusive box everyday to familiarize myself with strangers on public transit with all of its glory – the smiling bus drivers to that odd urine smell. I won’t trade that for rush hour and an air conditioned cage.

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