I was born and raised in Sandy Hook, Conn., a rural idyllic town (unknown until two years ago), while my wife Karen spent her childhood on a farm in Edinboro, Penn. Given that we both lived in the boonies, car ownership was a necessity. Each of our parents had cars (well, they were called “vehicles” in Karen’s neck of the woods) and we both spent a lot of time in a variety of vehicles over the years. And we drove everywhere.
My only exposure to mass transit growing up was during annual summer visits to the Bronx for Yankees games. We always drove in, but I was fascinated by the hustle and bustle of trains moving through 161st Street Station. I loved the energy of NYC and imagined I would live in a big city one day. Little did I know I would be 45 before that happened.
After I turned 16 and earned my driver’s license, it wasn’t long until I was a car owner after purchasing a Pinto Squire station wagon for $600. It served me well during my HS days and it even made the trip to Lakeland, Fla., where I drove it all over Central Florida as a stringer for the Lakeland Ledger during my sophomore year at Florida Southern College. I absolutely needed that car so I could make a few bucks.
And when I graduated and accepted a job at a small daily newspaper in rural Lake County, Fla., I needed more reliable wheels and purchased a brand new Toyota Tercel, which I drove all over Central Florida as a sports reporter. A few years later, I landed a job at a South Florida marketing company, where I was employed for 20 years. Being a car owner was ingrained into my DNA by then. During that time, I transitioned from the Tercel to a VW Jetta, followed by an Izuzu Rodeo, VW Passat, Nissan Xterra, Chevy Avalanche and Mini Cooper, which made the 3,500 mile trek from Pompano Beach to Seattle in 2009. (Side note: The Mini’s days were numbered because of its manual transmission. Karen wouldn’t be caught dead on Seattle’s hills with a stick, so we traded the Mini for a VW Rabbit in 2010.)
Part of our decision to move to Seattle was to live in a sustainably driven city. But we never considered giving our car up (not very sustainable, I know) when we got here because we were conditioned to be lifelong car owners. I was beginning to live a greener life in a variety of ways, but I never considered giving up our car during our first six years here — especially during our first two years in Seattle. We took frequent weekend trips to explore our new home — day trips to Portland, Vancouver, Mount Rainier and the Olympic Peninsula were common. We drove to hiking trails all over the Cascades and transported our bikes to riding trails throughout Western Washington. Our car was an extension of our lives … or so we thought.
When 2015 began, we began rightsizing in several ways, so it was only a matter of time before car ownership was on the table. Karen and I both work from home, so there are no daily commutes. We use a car to pick up groceries, run errands, go on weekend drives in the summer, and as transport to occasional hiking and biking destinations. But we weren’t using our car more than once or twice a week.
As explained in our very first “Without Wheels” post, we decided to go carless because the numbers don’t lie. It simply didn’t make sense for us to keep a car when so many other less expensive options exist — all of which we intend to explore in the very near future. And we’ll document our journey along the way.
Karen will relay her stories, too. We’ll both share the lessons learned, frustrations and joys of living a life in the Pacific Northwest without wheels.