Months ago, before we had even left WV, my sister Sara text asking to stay with us in Buffalo and borrow our car, so she could go to her bestie’s destination wedding in Niagara Falls. Sure, why not. Isn’t that convenient? Your best friend is getting married twenty miles from our new home and I benefit from a visit too? Sign me up.
Then that whole selling the car thing happened and she sends me another text, “Do we need to rent a car?” Now come on. If the seven of us can get around, the two of you can too. She’s my sister, I can heckle her a wee bit. I did offer to rent the car for her, but also laid out some alternatives. I wouldn’t be able to pick her up at the airport because she was arriving during school pick up time, so she could take the bus, wait for me to get her, call a cab, or again, rent a car. Come arrival time, she and her husband Micheal surprised me, they took the bus. $10 and about an hour later, they had arrived at University Station and walked down the historic University Avenue to our house. The weather was perfect. 70s, with a brilliant tint of autumn foliage.
We started the sight seeing with a request from them to get wings. We obliged, walking with the trusty Radio Flyer back to the station, boarding the train (using the day passes they purchased to get to our house), and going to the Anchor Bar. The next day, while the children were in school, I took them sight seeing. We covered 18+ miles (map linked), down to the lake, and back again, taking in the tastes, smells, sounds and views Buffalo had to offer us. I wore them out. We started with breakfast at Sweetness 7, then headed to City Hall for a one of a kind view. We rolled out to the Erie Basin Marina, Canalside, and then looped around First Niagara Center and the construction to find ourselves out front of Coca-Cola Field. We worked our way through the city to Allentown, then walked the southern portion of Elmwood Village before stopping for lunch. We wrapped up our tour in the bike lane and on the sharrows of Elmwood Avenue, turning off at Bidwell Avenue to catch the path through Delaware park, our preferred route home.
The following day I promised less time in the saddle. We stayed in the Parkside and North Buffalo neighborhoods, covering about a quarter of the miles (map linked). We rode by the Darwin-Martin house, spent a couple hours at the zoo, then lunched on Hertle Avenue at The Global Market. We picked the boys up at school then headed home. That evening Sara and Michael walked the kids to the library and made a stop at the grocery. My sister thought she wouldn’t get any exercise on vacation, as it often is, and she later text me to say she lost a couple pounds. I didn’t starve her, but active transportation has many benefits.
When the wedding day arrived they decided to rent a car. I borrowed car share to take them to the airport for their car pick up, as the bus wasn’t timely, and then they had quick, convenient access for their 6AM flight the following morning.
All in all, we had a great time and I was able to take them places I had never been in Buffalo by bike. I really like to explore, and having company with me was empowering and fun. I hope they felt the same.
In Huntington, WV you had very few route options for getting out of town regardless of the transportation mode. We wanted to take our bikes to Barboursville, but it was either narrow winding hilly roads, wide faster state highways or the interstate, so we drove. It made the city of Huntington amazing for cycling. You had an oasis of level streets and all your needs met within a small radius. After a while I started to feel landlocked. It didn’t help to stack up our experiences to those of Tiny Helmets or Family Ride, those mamas pull mileage, but I think it comes down to them having access to miles to pull. They had more places to go and further to get there. Welcome to Buffalo.
All the locals say, “everything is 20 minutes away.” They are of course referring to driving, and the series of looping highways and diagonal expressways that get you around and through the town quickly. Those same loops and cut throughs make cycling navigation more…. interesting. However there is easier access to the towns around Buffalo because of the terrain and the way each adjacent city has grown to the point you can’t tell Kenmore from Amherst from Buffalo. It’s posted on a sign occasionally.
For example, last week I set out to get a New York state drivers license. The nearest auto bureau was about 2 miles away into Amherst, one of the largest suburbs, and in the middle of a strip mall. The route was all residential side streets and stop signs, then a cross walk over Niagara Falls Blvd and around the back side of the shopping plaza. It was so uneventful and pleasant. Oliver and I had budgeted extra time for complications and used to make some Target returns/purchases before our second appointment at Panera with the Buffalo Mommies group again.
The two complications I had with the auto bureau were parking and the important detail of them taking my only form of photo ID while I wait for them to mail me a new one. The ID I need to show with my debit card, to pick up my children from school, to cash checks. It’s important, and they took it. I had plans to escape to Canada this week and those border patrol folks take their job very seriously. No photo ID, no entry. As for parking, we tied up to the faux pillar by the front window.
Target had a few bicycle parking spaces up front, as I have found all Target’s tend to do. Panera was lacking in anywhere to lock, so we locked the bike to itself in front of a window we could see from our table.
These suburbs weren’t too shabby by bike. They also work well by bus. A couple weeks ago I was taking London to her new school using the Metro system. We rode the bus to school together, then I headed back to the University Station, a large bus and train hub in our neighborhood. For the sake of the damp cold weather, and time, I waited a couple minutes then took a second bus north to the same shopping plaza described above to do some school supply shopping. The bus let me off at Trader Joe’s, where there was access to shoe stores, restaurants, book sellers, baby warehouses, and oh so much more. If you need more. Same bus picked me up and took me back to the station where my cargo bike was waiting for me, inside.
I can’t say I have strong desires to go shopping (or the DMV) often, but when I do need something, it’s nice to know I can get there easily, safely, and conveniently by many modes of transportation.
We sold our only vehicle the weekend before we left West Virginia. It was a financial decision, but none less one we knew we can handle after two years of choosing to ride our bicycles and making efforts to live more locally. My dad came down from Ohio to help us with the move, so we packed five of us in his two door Civic and two rode in the cab of the moving truck with the crated cats. The short story goes like this….the children and I arrived, then a couple days later the truck, my dad, Brent and the cats arrived. The same afternoon we were unloading the truck, we picked up our Japanese exchange student, Eiki. We spent a few days unpacking, then we started to slowly get out and explore.
We have, since that day, used the car share a few times, taken a day to go downtown on the train and buses, spent a full day going downtown on bikes, and have managed trips to the zoo, science museum, grocery, bike shops and workshops, parks, schools, farmers markets, food coop, suburban shopping plaza, tool library, bookstores, and Brent’s office, all with our bicycles. The weather has been amazing. The rental house is serving us well. The distances aren’t ideal, although manageable. The terrain is mostly level with inclines here and there, that still have me yearning for an e-assist. Diversity of language, race, religion, age, and income is plentiful. Many things cost more and taxes are higher. C’est la vie.
I haven’t been tracking expenses as closely this past year, but I did start tracking transportation costs after selling the van. Since our arrival, we spent $98.50 in August, not including Eiki’s personal transportation, for which he is responsible, and $126.00 thus far into September. We have been using the bus and train more often this month (and I have sometimes been overpaying when I am not paying attention), and we had one taxi ride ($30). I suppose that number could be about $50 more if you include the new locks we bought for the bikes. I should think about how I want to track these numbers.
Enrolling the children in school was a saga, for which I have a lot a confidence will bring about a positive and rewarding outcome. Or so I keep telling myself. Eiki will be going to private school 10 miles south of our home, but using bikes and public transit (passes provided by the school). The school was arranged before his arrival. He has already been selected for the varsity soccer team and utilizes this combo of travel almost daily for practices. We had no shortage of bicycles for his use. Oliver will be staying home another year, and the boys are going to a public preK-4 school about 2 miles from home. We biked to school for about a week, then the weather got a little wet and we let them ride the bus. London was accepted into a gift and talented public high school that serves 5-12th grades after a week of delays and “navigation” of the system. The school is 2.5-3.5 miles from home depending on how you want to get there. We test rode it and were not pleased, so she’s likely taking the big yellow school bus most days until we find a route we feel is safer.
As moves go, this one has been uneventful. There are still a lot of boxes in the children’s room to unpack. I am waiting to put together their shelving. There is a stack of art in the sunroom, where we set up our office, and a stack in the garage. I am forward with people walking down our street, introducing ourselves as new and asking too many questions, seeking opinions and ideas. It seems we have joined every business and organization that has a membership as some effort to get to know the neighborhood and save some money on entertainment. It was less expensive to pay $60 for science museum memberships than to visit twice with seven people. The tool library was a $10 annual fee, but we would have spent significantly more on a cultivator, grass shears and an electric voltage meter. Going there to check out rubber mallets and crow bars has been better than finding a toy store for the children. Interestingly, we haven’t joined GOBike Buffalo yet. We need to. They have a workshop close by and they have bike lockers at the nearest train station.
Although we haven’t found any bicycling families yet, we hear lore of them being in other downtown neighborhoods. It’s just a matter of time. And when I do find them, I think it will be time for Buffalo to have a Kidical Mass.
Brent and London left this morning at 6AM during a break in thunderstorms, by bike, to catch a charter bus to NYC. 13 hours later, they are checked in to their room and pulling together a great three day agenda to celebrate her 10th birthday. Brent’s there for work, she’s there for play. Many bikey adventures await, and a few amazing urban originals. Want to follow along on their adventure? @BrentPatterson is tweeting pics every so often and @ASimpleSix is RTing. Join us. It’s fun.
The Huntington Tri-State Airport is 13.4 miles from our home using the interstate or 9.9 miles taking the more direct route. The fare for flying from Huntington was the same as flying from Charleston, WV or Columbus, OH and far more convenient, or so I thought. The Tri-State Transit Authority does not have a bus route to the airport. I called the two hotels the airport lists as having shuttle service and they don’t transport people who are not a guest in their hotel. I called Yellow Cab and learned that it was $2.40 to get in and $1.40 per mile, making it approximately $17-$22 to get to the airport. I truly considered biking. I am only taking my backpack, so luggage was not an issue, but I didn’t know what to do with my bike when I got there and the route was not a safe one to bike with my lack of experience and strength. Maybe for another trip?
Brent’s been preparing for my departure as well. He got the oil changed in the van on Monday then loaded up on frozen pizzas and cereal at the grocer’s last night (by bike). I have always maintained he would be my biggest challenge to ditching the vehicles. He’s been a good sport about it so far, but concessions and compromises are made for the sake of sanity and our relationship. We are planning to drive to pick up the children from school, then heading out for an early dinner on the way to the airport, all for the sake of time.
My family will enjoy their time with out me here and I will enjoy making memories with my two sisters, mom and all the other friends and family while in Phoenix. It will be an East meets West reunion for us all. My sister relocated to Arizona more than five years ago and left all her family in the mid-west. Her two best friends are flying in from Boston and Tampa. The groom’s family is all in Phoenix.
This will be my third visit to the dessert, but my first without the children. Does anyone have some suggestions of things I need to do in Arizona, that I can’t do anywhere else? I have been mapping out distances from my sister’s place in Avondale, hoping to bike as much as I can. I packed my helmet and I can either ride my sister’s bike or I found several places that rent them. The bus and light rail system seem to cover the entire city, so I don’t feel I will have to be dependent on everyone for a ride after all.
It’s also probably a good idea to re-mention that I don’t feel cars are the enemy. My original intent with driving less was to save money, and I have done so, quite a lot of money actually. Enough to pay for my trip to Phoenix, but not enough to rent a car when I get there. Between all the vehicles the bride, groom and the groom’s family own , the out of town guests should all be able to get to and fro without major hassles. Biking, walking and using the bus system just gives me a greater sense of independence and more options with my own time.
I hope to keep writing and posting pictures from AZ, but my technology situation (I will have internet access, just unsure about other hardware, card readers and such) is still uncertain at this time. Perhaps you will see something tomorrow, or perhaps when I return next week. In either case, I look forward to reading your suggestions for my time in the dessert.