Lizzy

We moved to Boise in January of 2007. We arrived sight-unseen from England with very low expectations. Having lived in Seattle and Portland before moving abroad, we knew Idaho was where you ended up only if you’d done something bad in a previous live. As such, we only planned to stay in Idaho for six month to a year, two years at the absolute most.

Lizzy1When we moved to the UK, we each sold our cars and borrowed one from family for the first month we were back in the States to get us settled. With the understanding that we wouldn’t be here long, we looked for a car that would get us through our stay in Idaho. We found Lizzy. She was a 1991 Toyota Corolla station wagon with 183,000 miles. The hope was that she had 20,000 more miles in her and would last until we moved back to the West Coast.

Within a month of arriving in Boise, our opinion was changing; within two months, we were loving it and had given up our plans to leave. We also starting exploring some of the more remote areas around our new home with longer and longer road trips. First to Stanley, Idaho for a music festival, then to Seattle to visit family. Before long, Lizzy was taking us on back country roads in remote parts of Idaho, Oregon, Utah and Montana.Lizzy2

As we explored further, we also got more adventurous with our driving. Gravel roads, dirt roads, unused forestry roads, lines on the map that probably weren’t meant to be interpreted as roads at all, we drove them all. One spring, we were poking around southern Utah. We had left the interstate days ago and hadn’t seen pavement in several hours. As we approached the intersection with the next “major road” we spotted several large trucks and jeeps parked along the side. We pulled over to make sure everything was alright. They were debating whether their off-road vehicles would be capable of making the drive we just did in Lizzy. “Where’d you come from?” they asked. “About 40 miles… that way, I think,” was my reply. They looked over my shoulder at Lizzy and asked, “In that?!?” She was pretty amazing.

We’ve now been in Idaho for almost a decade and Lizzy has served us well all these years. We started joking that Avery would learn to drive in Lizzy. Then, this summer, Lizzy started having some issues. She could still get us around but not as well and with a baby on the way, we decided it was time for Lizzy to go. The question is what do you do with a car that took us on so many adventures and clearly means more to us than anyone else. When the opportunity arose to trade Lizzy in for a bike and go car-free for a year, it seemed like a perfect fit. Lizzy’s spirit could live on in the new bike and Lizzy would get donated to a good cause.

lizzygoneSo, after nine and a half year and over 100,000 miles, the car that was expected to last two years and 20,000 miles was finally taken away. When the tow truck came, the neighbors who knew the story, came out to say good bye. Overall, Lizzy was a great car for us. Like Boise, she was much better than we expected. We had a lot of great adventures and look forward to the adventures yet to come with the bike that will replace her. It even seems likely that Avery will learn to ride a tag-along connected to this new bike.

Fare well, Lizzy. You were a great car.

lizzy

 

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One month car free

It’s been one month since I stopped driving and so far the experience is going well. There have been interesting times, such as the wasp that stung me between the eyes on my ride home from work. Apparently I ran into it while it was flying and the wasp was as startled as I was. It stung for a little while but that’s been the worst so far.

I’ve selected the bike I want and it’s been ordered. Unfortunately, there was an issue with the production factory (so I’ve heard) and delivery has been delayed until the end of the month. As a result, I’ve been riding my old commuter around town. 14156397_1223437731062244_943652854_nI even got a trailer from a friend so I could make runs to the grocery store or move supplies around for work. Along with the new bike, a new trailer is coming too which should make moving a bunch of stuff much easier.

For the other side of the equation, Lizzy, the car I was trading for the bike, was picked up earlier this week. I’ll have a more detailed write-up on Lizzy soon.

The most challenging aspect so far has been my runs. I’m a member of the Boise Area Runners and I lead Sunday morning trail runs. These were pretty easy when I’d wake up, throw the dog in the back of the car and drive to the trail head. Now that I’m biking to the trail head, it’s been more challenging for both me and Jamie, the dog. The first one we went to was only about a mile and a half from home. I thought about just running and decided against it. I biked to the trail head with Jamie on a leash. We did our 6 mile run and then headed home. Jamie had enough energy to pull me almost entire way. Next week was 3 miles to the trail head, mostly uphill. By the end of that run he was tired enough that he was dragging on the way home but still having fun. Any runs we do further than that he’s been have to ride in the trailer. He’s not a big fan.

So, one month in the car is gone, the bike’s ordered and I’m still going strong.

 

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Bicycle Delivery

When deciding to give up driving for a year, there was one life-changing event I saw in the near future that would make this particularly challenging, the birth of our first child. How to get us to the birth center when I couldn’t drive because of the agreement and my wife shouldn’t drive because, apparently, contractions are distracting and make driving dangerous (who comes up with these rules?).

Years ago, a friend loaned me his pedicab in exchange for me doing some work on the brakes. When I started thinking about how to get move us all about, this was my first option. Unfortunately, he has since sold the pedicab. As luck would have it, I overheard a conversation at work in which someone was about to donate their pedicab to a local non-profit which happens to be five blocks from home. After interjecting into the talk, the current owner thought this was a great use for the pedicab and agreed to let me borrow it before it went to the non-profit.

Two important facts about pedicabs: they are heavy and they are slow. This one has an electric assist, which I admit felt like cheating, until I realized it no longer worked and only added weight to the already heavy machine. Once we had it, we had to do some practice runs.

Practice Run

Practice ride. Maybe we should go for ice cream?

These ensured that we could make the one mile trip to the birth center without trouble. As a bonus, it’s pretty fun to ride around with a pregnant woman in the back of the pedicab. We got lots of interesting looks and many encouraging comments.

The time finally came 12 days after our due date and we were ready for the next stage. It also happened to come at 4:00am which meant pulling out all the bike lights we had to make this pedicab radiate in the predawn darkness. It turns out, that wasn’t too important since we only saw one car on the road, but still, we were prepared.

The ride down was wonderful. We had clear skies and cool (but not cold) temperatures. The stars were out to put on a beautiful scene between contractions and the pedicab cushioned most of the bumps in the road to give a gentle ride. My wife and mother-in-law rode in back while I pedaled. The whole trip took about 10 minutes and I can’t imagine it going any better if we’d been in a car.

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Obviously not a practice run. A bit fuzzy because taking pictures in the dark while someone is trying to give birth is tricky. 😉

When we got to the birth center, Charlotte, our midwife, had the place warm and ready. The way everything was laid-out and prepared was almost enough to make me want to give birth… almost.

We watched as the sun rose, bringing a soft predawn light into the room. Then as it rose higher, to the full brightness of midday. And still she labored.

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Pedicab at the birth center. Note the license plate of the car, “Midwife”. Clearly we were in the right place.

As afternoon progressed towards evening, we were all ready for this kid to be out and completely exhausted. When evening turned into night and we hit the 24 hour mark for labor, we reassessed. Charlotte suggested we think about transferring to the hospital where Dom could get some meds to help her rest for the final push.

At this point, speed was critical and I was too tired from being awake for ~40 hours to pedal us anywhere. With Charlotte and my in-laws driving, we made the 1 mile trip in no time. Once at St. Luke’s, Dom was able to get a few hours of much needed rest.

When she awoke, it was time to get this baby moving. Unfortunately, with all the stress getting here, our kiddo was not liking the idea of more contractions. After discussing with doctors, nurses, midwives and family what the options were we decided a cesarean was the safest route. This was definitely not part of our birth plan and wanted to avoid this option if at all possible. But when the decision was almost made for us with the hospital prepping for an emergency c-section, before things improved enough to cancel that order, we decided this was our best option.

In the end, we came away with a happy, healthy baby girl. She was born Sept 2 at 9:04am and weighed in at 7lb 14oz. We were kept at the hospital for a few more days of monitoring (every hour on the hour which seemed excessive) and were finally release on Sept 5. The hospital, with all their rules about how and where you can carry your child, was not too keen on a pedicab ride home for mom and the new born. Overall, I’m not sure Dom was either. Her parents drove all of us home where the three of us were finally allowed to sleep, uninterrupted for two hours, until she informed us that she needed changing… or food… or to burp… or…

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Meet Avery Morgan Sobey, she’s the cute one in front.

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Limbo

Saturday was the day. I stood on stage (briefly) and promised to relinquish my car as well as go car-free for a year in exchange for a fancy new bike.unnamed It was quite the experience. If you’ve never been to Tour De Fat, it’s worth checking out when (if) it comes to a city near you. It’s part biking, part beer and a lot of vaudeville-type shows.

Anyhow, the ceremony was Saturday, but I didn’t give them my car that day and they didn’t give me the bike that day. As a result, I’m now in this state of limbo. I’ve made the promise to go car-free but I haven’t gotten the bike yet. I’ve been bike commuting to work on my current bike, just to get into the spirit of it. Turns out, an extra 10 miles a day of biking doesn’t feel too bad… until you do a track workout after it. Then you feel slow and sluggish.

I’ve also realized during this time in limbo, there are a lot of different ways to interpret car-free and New Belgium hasn’t giving me much guidance. Obviously, I won’t be driving to work or out to run errands, but what if I’m at work and we have an offsite meeting? Can I carpool with that person to the meeting? If I’m going on a run with my running group, can I offer to drive a carpool to the trail head? If my wife wants to go out to dinner, am I expected to bike to the restaurant and meet her there? What if we take a road trip to McCall, do I have to bike there and if not, am I allowed to drive or just be a passenger? If I fly to a far off land like Seattle or Fresno, can I take a cab from the airport to the hotel or am I limited to only public transportation and a borrowed bike? And what about Boise buses? I heard from previous car traders that they we’re berated online for using buses when the conditions made it dangerous to bike… Really? So many questions.

I’m going to be asking friends for their input on where the lines are and creating my list of rules for what it means to be car-free. If you have any suggestions, comment below. Also, I had a very generous friend inform me that if I break the rules, he will come and steal my new bike. It’s always good to have friend so concerned with holding you accountable.

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Robin Avery, Homebrewer

Boise Brew Minute (episode 92) – Robin Avery talks about his home-made home brewing set up. He explains the benefits he sees of using electric heating to brew his beer such as not burning down his kitchen. We also discuss methods he uses to increase his brewing efficiency.

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Wanna trade?

Every year, Tour de Fat comes to Boise for a day of biking, beer and bemusement (usually music and vaudeville routines). Last year when they came through, I got a chance to talk with one of their brewers before the event and thought that might be the highlight of my Tour de Fat experience. This year will top that.

The event is rolling into town on August 13 this year as part of their nine city tour. In each city, they have a community bike ride through downtown followed by bike games, music, community building and, of course, beer. One of the more ceremonial events is the car for bike swap. One person in each town volunteers to trade in their car and go car-free for a year in exchange for a fancy new bike. This year, I’m that person.

Last Saturday I was looking around the web for info about commuter bikes and planning to get one. When I went to the Boise Bicycle Project (BBP) page to see if they had anything that might work for me, I spotted the link to sign up to trade a car. My wife just got a new car and I haven’t been driving our old one much so I thought this might be a perfect fit. I emailed Jimmy at BBP then forgot about it until Monday around noon when I got his reply, “Come to the Olympic, Tuesday night at 7:30 to make your pitch.” Not entirely sure what my pitch should be, I thought about it for the next 24 hours, then completely changed my idea.

When the time came, I got cleaned up from Track Tuesday as quickly as possible and over to the Olympic. There were four of us who volunteered to make the trade so we each got 5 minutes on stage to convince the audience to pick us. I went first and thought I did well, then I saw the next three present and each of them did great as well. Four very different stories. When the votes were counted (and recounted), two of us had tied. They called in previous car-for-bike-swappers and New Belgium employees to break the tie. After two minutes of deliberation, I was chosen.

So Lizzy, our trusted car for almost ten years, is going away, but her spirit will live on in a new bike (and trailer and helmet and…). It will be sad to see her go, but I’m excited about going a year without driving. As I’m approaching the end of my year of running, I’m starting a year of biking. What could be next? The other exciting piece is that I get to select the bike, trailer and all the gear I want, up to $2250! For those of you more into biking, any suggestions for what I should look at getting?

Here’s to a fun adventure. Ride on!

 

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44 North

opbkqlji_400x400Boise Brew Minute (episode 91) – In this extended interview, Ken from 44 North Vodka talks about the distillation process and describes their still. We also talk about the process for turning potatoes into alcohol. At 44 North, they use multiple enzymes at different temperatures to maximize the conversion of starches to sugars for the yeast before getting turned into vodka.

After the mic was switched off, Ken and I continued to talk about all sorts of topics including the recent admission by Jack Daniels of the role slaves played in the early days of the company. Here’s the article Ken sent me detailing this fascinating bit of history.

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