17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Higher the Gas, the Cooler my A**

(sorry about the title...I couldn't think of another word that rhymes with gas)

I have discovered a direct correlation between the price of gas and my "coolness" factor within my neighborhood and ward.

Since the recent spike in gas prices, we are no longer the "weird, one-car family."
When people visit our house, they now say, "Wow, it must be really nice to be so close to a grocery store." Rather than, "Wow, the lights from those stores across the street sure are BRIGHT! Is that grease I smell from the restaurant over there?" They no longer look at us with pity when they find out that one and often both of us commute to our jobs by bicycle. We are cool, we are trendsetters, we are FIERCE....and trust me, that puts us in very unfamiliar territory.

We didn't set out to be so gloriously cool and we certainly didn't predict the direction that gas prices have taken. Growing up in bike-crazy Portland, and then living in New York, walking and alternative transportation just became the norm. And then when we decided that living in the burbs was the best decision for our little family at this time, it seemed so traumatic to go from metrocards and cabs as our primary modes of transportation to two huge and expensive vehicles. So we did the suburbs on our own terms. We obviously needed to have one car, but strategically bought a townhouse within walking distance of shopping, schools, a community rec center, the park, a community garden, restaurants, and soon, a metroline to the city. There are times when owning two cars would be nice, but not many.

I hope this blog isn't sounding too self-righteous. I have a lot of sympathy for large families who need large vehicles and others who have to commute long distances for their jobs and don't have a lot of choice in the matter (although, admittedly more judgement and less sympathy for many of my NoVA neighbors whose large beastly SUVs have seen many a Nordstrom parking lot but have never been actually driven off-road.) I am so very frustrated that we didn't forsee this crisis and plan our neighborhoods and cities better during the housing boom (well, actually this probably all started post WWII, but regardless...) I hope that sustainable answers come quickly, and fear that this "pain at the pumps" is the only way to make change happen.

How have your attitudes and driving habits changed since this recent energy crisis? How do you think the future will play out....are these high prices permanent and lifestyle changing or another economic bubble that will soon burst?

Discuss. Meanwhile, I'll be talking my DH into riding our bikes to church next Sunday...how cool would we be then?


  • I fear you're right- this is the impetus for much-needed change.

    What I hope to see is the return of the neighborhood market. I would love to have a little, local market to pick up things I need, and not have to head to the mega-mart in my car.

    More power to you on biking to church! All I can think of is the nightmare getting ready for church already is, coupled with the ginormous hill between us and the chapel, and the sweaty mess I would be hauling the burley that far... no way in h*ll.
    posted by Anonymous tracy m (dandelion mama) at 6/30/2008 06:42:00 AM  

  • We have friends who ride their bikes to church. They may not be doing it now since they live in AZ and it's kind of hot now. I think it's way cool.

    I would like to see bike racks at more places. Sometimes I am afraid I won't find a good place to lock up the bikes and the trailer.

    My goal for next year is to get Princess riding her two-wheel bike well enough that we can ride to school together - her on her bike and my pulling the trailer with the other two kids on mine. I might not be able to pull us all together in time to do it every morning, but I want to set a goal of 2-3 times a week.
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 6/30/2008 07:13:00 AM  

  • Oh, and one more thing, I would like to see drivers be more aware of bikers and be happier to share the road with them. DH rides his bike to work a few days a week and sometimes I get really scared for his life.
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 6/30/2008 07:15:00 AM  

  • Fine, two more things. One of the worst parts of moving away from NYC is running errands with the kids. Getting them all in and out of the car is so ANNOYING! I just want to head out with the stroller and do it all in a few blocks of walking. Better city planning would be nice.
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 6/30/2008 07:28:00 AM  

  • I totally agree with Carrie with the last comment. For as much as I moaned and groaned about shchleping goceries/etc. around the city with my kid, it was SO easy to just throw stuff in a stroller or a mini cart and get everything accomplished in a few blocks. I really miss that...
    posted by Blogger Chloe at 6/30/2008 08:50:00 AM  

  • Another thing: I have a Nissan Quest minivan with the WORST gas mileage on the planet - it now costs nearly $80 to fill it up (gas where I live is average $4.60 for regular) and I HATE that I am being held hostage both by my gas guzzling car and gas prices.

    Where are the minivan hybrids???????
    posted by Blogger Chloe at 6/30/2008 08:52:00 AM  

  • You are the envy of most burb dwellers, like myself in NoVA. I would live in the city if the house prices were more reasonable. I think city and states need to think more mass transit and less super highways. It makes me frustrated that they may kill the metro going out to Dulles Airport. I would love to see it head out to Woodbridge and out I-66.

    When we lived in AZ we walked a lot of places but I was surprise how many people would drive to church when it was a 1/2 block away, in the name of it being too hot. It would take you longer to cool down your car then just walk. We live in a very wasteful country. I also had a friend that would walk 4 miles with me in the early morning but not walk .4 miles to work at our local elementary school, that was just so strange to me. I could go on forever on this subject.
    Jen you are an inspiration. I know I can do more.
    posted by Blogger delilas at 6/30/2008 10:36:00 AM  

  • A few weeks ago, I went a whole week without a car. I biked everywhere, grocery store, work, even church! It was pretty fun, albeit sometimes annoying, especially when I remembered I needed to drop something off at my Mom's, which is up a steep hill. Anyways, I think I'm going to try no car at least once a week. Also, I'm so into biking to church. I think its such a great idea, and I plan on trying it when we have kids.

    I agree with tftcarrie about wanting to see drivers being happier to share the road. I tend to ride on the sidewalk because the road is so scary.
    posted by Blogger tamrobot at 6/30/2008 11:44:00 AM  

  • Thanks for the comments so far everyone...

    Tracy M- Neighborhood markets sound divine. And I was sort-of kidding about the biking to church for now...it is way too hot and humid and our Burley is SO heavy with both boys in it. Definitely this fall when the weather is cooler.

    tftcarrie- I completely agree. I love the bike trailers but they are very bulky and difficult to lock up. I always feel like I am taking up the entire sidewalk when I try. I hope drivers do step up, there is definitely power in numbers so the more people out biking the more bikers can't be ignored. It has been so amazing to be riding around Portland where there are bike lanes EVERYWHERE. In the bigger intersections, there are yellow boxes for riders, etc. etc.

    chloe- I think its really weird too that there aren't minivan hybrid options but there are quite a few SUV hybrids on the market. Minivans are so much more family-friendly...they MUST be coming.

    delilas- thanks, but I'm no inspiration, I'm mostly just cheap. Oh...and the metro to Dulles is back on! That will include a stop a few blocks from our house. I'm SO excited...that is one of the main reasons we bought (for convenience and to help increase the value of our property).

    tamrobot- That is so great you were able to give up the car for a week...and I know that SoCal isn't the most bike friendly of places. Could you carpool or did you have to bike or walk? I don't think I could do it with kids....but more power to you!
    posted by Blogger Jen at 6/30/2008 12:23:00 PM  

  • Oh ladies...biking to church is NOT fun. Once upon a time I was a missionary and it was ridiculous in a skirt. But, more power to you if you can handle it!

    We also are a one car family (haven't always been) and it's a pain since our city's 'mass transit' is almost nonexistent so we are very reliant on that car.

    I think gas prices might be here to stay. The few countries I've visited in the past had higher prices than what we pay today. Maybe today's price is a more accurate reflection of what gas costs? I don't know, but it's just a thought.
    posted by Blogger the Rew Crew at 6/30/2008 12:55:00 PM  

  • Seriously- Biking in Heels to church with kids??? I couldn't think of something more absurd (for me)... also how would I transport all the church stuff we have? Bags, books, binders, scriptures... I don't know about everyone else but sometimes I feel like we've got everything but the kitchen sink at church with us!!

    Besides that, tho, I agree that riding your bike is a great alternative. I thnk it's doable with no kids-

    How would you transport an entire cart full of groceries? I mean, sure if you can go to the "market" every other day... but with 3 kids who wants to grocery shop more than once a week?

    Anyway.. the realities of having a family make cars a necessity. We just need to get some that run off of water-maybe the hydrogen ones. Hopefully this gas crunch will speed up that technology too.
    posted by Blogger Rachel H at 6/30/2008 01:32:00 PM  

  • rew crew and rachel h...maybe biking to church will change church fashion...pants anyone?

    I try to live as green a lifestyle as possible. HOWEVER, I do have an SUV that guzzles gas. We are a part of the car program at my husband's job. We pay a minimal fee each month that covers gas, carwash, insurance, the car, and any repairs or maintenance. So....I have not been affected by the gas surge at all. I totally appreciate this perk that has become an EVEN bigger perk of late.

    I am ticked though because we are not given the option of the hybrid tahoe...we have to have the brand new Acadia. Now, of course, I am not complaining, but I just wish the company was a bit more green, and conscious....and it would be nice if there was an incentive program beyond this that benefitted those who do not use as much gas as others. Eg. we use probably a half tank a week and other employees use up to 3 tanks a week with their commute...we all pay the same amount in the program.

    I recently got my driving priveleges back, but I was not permitted to drive for about 3+ months, and I felt so good about not emitting fumes into the air. I realized that I could do my whole life car-less if absolutely necessary. I also carpooled more....which is a form of green/saving money on gas.

    In theory I like the bike idea...but it's on my list of high risk activities so I won't be doing that, plus I have NO storage for bikes and in NYC, I fear it would get stolen.....but go bikes! And our 'hood has TONS of bike parking....yeah Queens!
    posted by Blogger Kage at 6/30/2008 04:06:00 PM  

  • ps...chloe and carrie, NYC will always be here....and the minicarts too...come back anytime....

    posted by Blogger Kage at 6/30/2008 04:06:00 PM  

  • Kage,

    The Arcadia is at least smaller than the Denali although the hybrid option would be even better...and don't think I wouldn't take the company up on their offer if I was in your position. I never rode a bike in Queens, even without a medical condition. I missed riding so very much those years. As the mother of two babies, I deemed it also a "high risk activity"...maybe it would have been ok, I don't know. You just do what you can do with what you got.
    posted by Blogger Jen at 6/30/2008 04:38:00 PM  

  • Too cool for school if your family rode bikes to church. Watch out though...they might call you to RS pres and DH to Bishop if they see that kind of coolness.
    I honestly can't look at the pump anymore when I fill up because it gives me anxiety. I have "throttled back" and tried to limit my driving, but we live in a BAD area for no driving. I'm stuck. But I love my Suz (Subaru Outback - performs just as good or better than an SUV and gets much better gas mileage).
    Nothing against your cool a** Jen, but I would like it to get less cool soon. please!
    posted by Blogger Melissa at 6/30/2008 10:37:00 PM  

  • Melissa,

    I LOVE the subaru outbacks and it might be our next car purchase. We rented one on a recent trip and I just loved the way it drove. I do wish they had a hybrid version as well, even if it costs more.
    posted by Blogger Jen at 7/01/2008 10:19:00 AM  

  • I think everyone is a little more aware of where they go now that gas is so high. In Logan UT, I went once to church and the foyer was COVERED in strollers. Why not bikes too!
    posted by Blogger Memmott Family at 7/01/2008 10:57:00 AM  

  • jen,

    I rode my bike to work - it's only a few miles away. I brought a pretty large backpack to haul stuff around with me. On the way home, every other day, I would stop by the grocery store and pick up a few things that I knew we needed. With kids, I'm not sure how you would do it. It was hard enough just doing it for myself and my husband and thinking logistically of how we were going to do errands.

    Riding to church, my DH chickened out - but I rode in a skirt and leggings and some casual flats. It was pretty neat.

    I'm glad that I did the no car thing for a week. It helped me realize that if I really needed to go without a car I totally could. Also, it helped me keep my errands and shopping closer to my home. It's so easy to drive to a store that is further away when you're in a car, but when you're on a bike, you get a more physical feeling for the extra energy that is required, and can better determine what is worth the energy and what is not.
    posted by Blogger tamrobot at 7/02/2008 08:59:00 AM  

  • For dealing with kids and groceries, we're thinking about buying an Xtracycle.
    posted by Blogger Sara at 7/02/2008 10:47:00 AM  

  • i didn't really believe all this talk about "FIERCE" being the new word for cool, but yesterday it was confirmed. My hairdresser totally said my bangs looked fierce. So weird.
    posted by Blogger tamrobot at 7/03/2008 02:45:00 PM  

  • My husband and I are total suburban middle class, but he has to take the bus to work (who can afford parking in Seattle) so we have made it on one car, and one car all those years in Provo, so we've been a one car family 15 out of 16 years of marriage. Not bad.
    I tease my husband that he just hopes he gets his own car before our oldest daughter (10) gets one. I mean, of course if we get one he'll end up with her driving it more than he does.
    We run into problems about 4 or 5 times a year (it used to be 1 or 2 times a year) now that the kids have activities.
    Every year we think we'll use his bonus and get a car, but when it comes down to it, we end up saying "maybe next year."
    We don't drive any less, really, but at least we save on insurance, registration and depreciation (and interest if its financed).
    We've got an SUV, but what's the choice if you've got a family (4 kids now). Our next will be a minivan, so we'll have a minivan and SUV next year after bonus....or the next....or maybe the year after.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 7/04/2008 11:59:00 PM  

  • I love the idea of biking around, and did it while living in Hawaii. I think having kids and also where you live throws a big wrench in it. I live in S. Utah and when it's 100+ degrees outside, there is no way I'm riding a bike. My husband makes his own bio-diesel to run his truck. We haven't bought diesel fuel for months and have saved TONS of $$$$. He also got a motorcycle that he can ride around town. Even with insurance, it still saves us money. I think most people are just trying to drive less and consolidate trips as much as they can. I do think the high gas prices are here to stay, though. Good for you who are making big changes to offset it!!
    posted by Blogger Angie at 7/06/2008 02:48:00 PM  

  • I ride my bike everywhere. To the store (I can fit about $40 worth of groceries in my baskets), work, post office, etc. I ride to work cause hubby goes in early and stays late. It's nice and while I admit that I'm doing it to save $$$ and not to be cool- it is creating great topics of converation. Such as how I'm looking so healthy & tan. And a friend and I have decided that tan fat looks better than white fat. ha ha ha!!
    posted by Blogger Melzie at 7/06/2008 04:29:00 PM  

  • Hi everyone, just stumbled upon your blog... I understand that gas prices have gone up in the US over the last year, but compared to what people in Europe are paying, this really is peanuts! I live in Spain and we pay about double for a liter of gasoline. Up in Holland for example, they pay triple!
    I guess you can understand why lots of Europeans are not exactly happy with US foreign policy...
    posted by Anonymous Richelle at 7/20/2008 05:05:00 AM  

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