29 days without driving a car
Couple successfully completes challenge
By MATT GLEASON World Scene Writer
Published: 2/18/2010 2:25 AM
Nathan and Kristin Pickard parked their white Scion xB in the driveway of their downtown Tulsa home on north Denver Avenue, then left it there from Jan. 9 to Feb. 7.
It was a challenge for the 27-year-olds: Could they survive without a car during a month when snow fell, ice covered the roads and temperatures plunged?
Yes, it turns out, they could. And they could document it, too. The Pickards blogged about their experiences at tulsaworld.com/carlessintulsa.
The challenge began as a way to avoid becoming cliches — the one that finds two young professionals driving miles to a gym, only to spend a half-hour riding stationary bikes.
Nathan Pickard didn't want that, so the internal auditor, who already rode his bike to work at City Hall, came up with the carless challenge. His plan included using saved gas money to pay for about $200 of warm clothing and bicycle gear. First, though, he had to convince his wife to join him.
Kristin Pickard is a physician's assistant at Oklahoma Oncology near St. John Medical Center. So, if she went along with her husband's idea, she would replace her eight-minute drive to work with a 25-minute bicycle ride. Nathan promised to escort his wife to work, and to meet her halfway for their ride home. Plus, they'd stick to riding on trails and through neighborhoods as much as possible.
Though Kristin initially figured the carless month was "maybe just a crazy idea," she couldn't really give her husband a valid excuse why they shouldn't do it.
Still, she had her reservations, which she blogged about a few days before the challenge began on Jan. 9.
"My hands and feet typically stay about 25 degrees below my body temperature anyway," she wrote, "so I'm not sure what is going to happen when I expose them to wind chills of -10 (degrees) while on a bike."
And she worried about how her ride to work would affect her appearance.
"Is my hair going to be all smushed down?" she wondered in the blog. "Am I going to have helmet hair? Is my makeup going to be all smudged from my face-mask?"
She finished that Jan. 7 blog post with a simple plea: "Cars. Please don't hit me. That's enough. I'm getting more nervous."
The first day of the challenge found the couple riding through patches of snow in 18-degree weather as they made a test ride to Oklahoma Oncology. It was cold and icy, but, as Kristin said, "We knew that if we did it in January, we could do it in any month."
Along the way, the couple didn't lose weight, but they put on more leg muscle. They also did their part to save the environment. Though Kristin said, "We're not fanatical environmental people, by any means." And her husband said, "We don't hook our bicycle up to our toaster, or anything."
Beyond the benefits of riding their bikes, a carless month offered a few obstacles, like how to carry their groceries home. But, eventually, Kristin Pickard realized she could stop by Petty's or the Med-X in Utica Square during lunchtime to buy a load of groceries small enough to fit in her backpack. Then her uncle provided an even better solution when he gave his niece a bicycle cart crafted from the remains of a wheelchair.
Looking back on the month, Nathan said, "We stayed under our grocery budget for the first time in several months." And his wife said, "You really focus on your consuming."
Often, family and friends came to the Pickards' house for visits, but the couple couldn't bring their church to them. So each Sunday morning, they started pedaling from downtown Tulsa at 8 a.m. to reach church near 51st Street and Harvard Avenue. They were sure to arrive early, so they could change clothes in the church bathroom.
By the final day of the challenge, Feb. 7, the couple had spent a month not only getting more exercise, but they also literally slowed down to enjoy the beauty of Tulsa and each other's company.
Nowadays, the couple occasionally rides to work. As far as giving up their car for another month, Nathan's already thinking about it.
"Naturally," he said, "I want to do it in August, which is the second-worst month of the year."
Will they blog about it?
A laughing Nathan sitting next to his wife at their dinner table said, "If I can convince her to do it."