Opening my eyes by doing the legwork II: Back on foot

we had something in common: not much to look at, but boy she worked hard

It feels like just yesterday that I was reminiscing about my first couple of months in central Maine, where “my two feet” were the only mode of transport I had access to on a daily basis, and writing about how walking around West Palm Beach reminded me that traveling on foot is a good way to see a city in a way you wouldn’t from behind the wheel.

(Editor’s note: it was less than three weeks ago, you idiot.)

Life has a funny way of imitating art, because it didn’t even take a whole month for me to find myself back in that same situation on a permanent basis. Because after less than two weeks in Denver, I said farewell to a mostly trustworthy friend of more than three years: my Outback.

As I mentioned in my previous post about walking, I shipped the car from Florida to Colorado rather than having to undergo the arduous task of driving the 2,000-odd miles on my own, and risk the car not making it here at all.

I arrived late on a Wednesday night, and by 10:30 a.m. on the Thursday morning I had taken delivery of the Subaru, a process that literally brought traffic on my street to a crawl while the transport driver backed her off the truck. He sneaked her into a parking space that he was incredibly lucky to find, but I had things to do and places to go, so I took off almost immediately.

After making trips to the realtor’s office to sign my lease and a furniture store to arrange for something to sit on, I opted to park back at the hotel I had booked for the first few nights until I had my place set up.

It wasn’t until the next day though, after I’d made a couple of runs to Walmart and the grocery store for the bare essentials of the moving process, that I realized I had a problem on my hands: where to put the car around my apartment. The first space I got was a block away, which made lugging bulky dry goods like cases of bottled water a pain in the ass. Later, coming back from Walmart, it took three trips from two blocks away to unload the car.

Compounding my worries was the fact that all of the spots on the street in a reasonable radius were restricted to two-hour parking, which could prove to be problematic from the moment I started work.

In the couple of weeks before I left, I’d ummed and ahhed about where exactly I should live. My initial instinct was to get a two-bedroom place for the times when friends and family came to visit, and my budget allowed for it, provided those apartments weren’t right downtown. But that would involve both driving to and from work, as well as paying for parking in a private garage near the office.

Ultimately I decided to get a place within walking distance of the Post to cut down on commute times and the cost of private parking, but there was no way I could’ve known the street parking situation before I got there to see it for myself. The apartment building offers a handful of off-street spaces, for an extra $75 a month, but there was only a slight chance one would become available in May or June.

Despite that niggling worry, during the first few days I discovered that parking inspectors didn’t appear to be so vigilant (or even present, really), so that was something of a relief. But the other thing I came to realize was that I hardly had any occasion to use the car day-to-day anyway.

It takes me about 12 minutes to walk to work and back each day, and my new gym is just a few hundred feet from the front door of the office. There’s a great cozy bar 75 steps from my front gate (I counted), and the main east-west drag of Colfax Avenue, where you can find restaurants and all sorts of other amenities (and…characters) is just a few blocks to the north. There’s a 24-hour supermarket a few blocks east, and little clusters of stores, restaurants and even breweries within 10 minutes in any direction. As far as daily needs go, everything is right at my doorstep, figuratively speaking.

That doesn’t necessarily rule out the need for a car, but if I only need one once every couple of weeks, there are options available. A block north of my cross-streets is a parking lot where Zipcar, Maven and Enterprise all leave vehicles that subscribers to their respective car-share programs can borrow for an hour or a day or whatever. For trips to the mountains, or out of town, I can snag a car for a few hours right up the street.

To fill in the gaps for small trips here and there, I’ve never waited more than a couple minutes for an Uber or Lyft to pick me up, but most things are accessible enough for me to walk to. It also helps me to rack up some daily exercise, with the Fitbit mentioned earlier in these pages keeping me accountable to an extent. Obviously the combination of ride-sharing, car-sharing and rentals would cost me some money in the moment, but compared to the couple of hundred bucks a month I’d be forking over for insurance, gas and repayments, just to drive the car a day or two a week at most, this kinda seems like a no-brainer.

So I went the simplest route, knowing that the Subaru needed more work than I was willing to pay to put into it, and knowing that private sales are a huge pain in the ass and a magnet for tire-kickers looking for a bargain. I contacted a cash-for-cars mob, who offered me exactly the remaining value of my car loan, then came and drove her away that afternoon.

It was definitely a strange feeling to hand over the keys (and I couldn’t bare to watch ol’ Subi drive away), given all the adventures we’ve had over the past few years, from her very first day in my driveway to excursions to Bangor,  ferrying visitors around Vacationland and moving my shit from the northeast to south Florida. We’ve been through a lot together, but I’m sure my trusty old Outback will be better served as someone else’s daily driver than sitting on the street in Capitol Hill gathering cobwebs.

I’ll miss ya, old girl.


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