Personal Transportation and Self-Sufficiency

Originally at Simple is Working – 8/20/11

As we have moved more towards a more “self-sufficient” lifestyle over the past few years, I have identified areas that we are reliant on or should I say prefer the convenience that gas or on-grid electricity provides us in many situations.  They make work simpler, quicker and usually with less physical labor in it for me, in order to do what we want or need to get done. I guess that is why we no longer do things the same way as they did in the 1800’s.

This is going to be a series of posts on different things that we do or use personally and how we could move to be more self-sufficient, using different alternatives and less dependent upon fossil fuels and on-grid electricity.  This will give me an opportunity to research, look at alternatives and possibly identify potential or manual backups to how I am doing things and possibly save a little bit of cash as prices continue to soar around us.

These posts are based on today’s world, not some future where things could be very different.

Transportation

Gas-powered vehicles are tools that we use for many different reasons. They are the main form of transportation that most us use to get to work, school or just go shopping. Vehicles are a major part of the lifestyle that we associate with our independence – the ability to go when, where and with who we want, for our own reasons.

America as whole is an automobile dependent society of that there is no question. We have purposely developed a very suburban-based culture and the corresponding transportation system, since the end of World War II based on the idea of cheap gas and access to our cars.

Yes – we are part of this this suburban-based culture and live in a bedroom community between two larger towns.  We do not live within walking distance of anything more than a little country convenience store that is about two miles away and is more for getting booze, soda, cigarettes, a limited assortment canned goods or junk food than it is to go shopping for staples.

We presently have two vehicles:

2007 Subaru Forrester

and

For several years we worked in different directions or times, so having two vehicles was necessary. Now that we are both at home the need for two vehicles is much less and we did consider reducing down to just one. However, both are paid for, so when the truck finally dies or doesn’t pass state inspection, without significant repairs, we will probably turn it into a wood hauler/plow truck and beat it until it dies, then sell the Dakota for scrap.

What Alternatives to individual Gas Powered Vehicles are there around “heah”?

Public Transportation – There are not any bus routes or subways, taxi service would be cost prohibitive. Not an option.

Trains – Not an option the nearest set of accessible tracks is on the other side of a lake about 8 miles away or on the other side of the Kennebec River and bridges are too far away. The rail infrastructure would have to be completely re-built in our area in order to be of use to us, which is not likely to happen anytime soon.

Alternative Fuel Sources – None are really within our price range, hybrid vehicles or all-electric command a premium prices and other fuel sources need a lot lot more development before they are available, are not too costly or have a workable logistical fuel system in place.  Not a feasible option for the foreseeable future.

Bicycles – Yep I own a bicycle, but don’t ride it very much yet (it still bothers my knee quite a bit), riding a bike 10 miles or so, just to go get groceries or other needs in town, while doable, is not the most convenient way to do things.  Time would be fairly reasonable – probably less than an hour each way.

It would definitely be much more healthy for about 8-9 months of the year, but riding a bicycle 10 miles or more from December to March would be a big problem between the snow and the cold. Could we use bicycles most of the time, instead of a vehicle in today’s world – if we had to. It would require a different mindset and setting up the bike for carrying things differently or creating a cart to drag behind it, but it could work most of the year.

Critters – Horses, mules, llamas, etc. going back to the 1800’s lifestyle and have to drive a wagon or ride a critter to town. This had been the primary method of transportation throughout history, but is not a convenient way of transportation in today’s world.  We would have to completely change how we live in order to accommodate critters for transportation i.e., building a barn or modifying the garage, tack, making a pasture, feeding, cleaning up after, wintering, etc. (which might not be a bad idea in the long run, if you add in a cow, goats or some other critters). However, there is a lot to owning critters that people don’t think about until they have them.

On Foot – The oldest and most reliable method of transportation (as long as you are not injured). Walking to town could be done, but it is a bit to walk 10 miles one-way to get supplies. You would be limited by what you could either carry or pull in some kind of a cart to bring back your stuff. This method would also be an all day excursion to get there and then come back. In today’s world, while doable as a voluntary thing, would not really work.

What do I think?

Of the different alternatives, the most workable non-individual vehicle would be using a bicycle and even that would require a different mind-set and ways of doing things when you needed to go into town to get stuff. I also don’t think that my wife would be all that thrilled if I went out and got rid of the vehicles and told her we were using bicycles for our primary mode of transportation from now on. 😛 I think she might seriously think about getting rid of this old duffer at that point.  I am kind of happy with my life as it is right now so…

Realistically as long as our vehicles work, fuel isn’t exorbitant and available, I know that we will be like most Americans and continue to use our gas-powered vehicles for individual transportation. I like being able to jump into my vehicle and go to either town to get something we either need or want.

The biggest change to how we use our vehicles now that we both are not working, is that we don’t really go all that many places and we think first before we go into town to make as many stops as possible in one trip, so that we don’t waste fuel unnecessarily.

So could we get by without gas-powered vehicles in today’s world? I don’t believe we would like many of the changes that it would force onto or into our lifestyle, it would completely change how we live, but I have no doubt that we could do it – but only if we had too. It really is not something that I want to do voluntarily for any length of time.

There may come a day when individual vehicle transportation is not an option due to costs or availability, but until then, I will keep using my Subaru, Truck or other vehicles that I may have. However, I do think a lot more carefully about how and when I use them.

A limited budget does make you think differently about how you do things, but at least we are thinking 🙂