Clenched teeth relax into a smile when a sea turtle surfaces alongside our kayak. Five-foot waves looming overhead can intimidate novice kayakers like us, but with help from all members of the ten-day, twenty-person expedition, we make it: 121 kilometres along the roadless Sea of Cortez coastline from Loreto to La Paz, Mexico. (Map) Old missions, a cactus sanctuary, an endearing Malecon, taco stands, and ice cream shops are visited by adding extra days at the beginning and end of the kayak trip.
A Mini Cooper Clubman, Ice Blue with black bonnet stripes: doesn’t this cute little station wagon make you smile? Why would we ever give it up? It is not an easy decision, but going car-free is our resolution for 2018.
What is motivating us to sell our car and go car-free?
Our Mini is lonely. “Your car needs more exercise,” says the Mini dealer, every time we take our car for its annual service. Most days our Mini sits, sad and stationary, in our building’s underground parking garage. It deserves an owner who will take it out on the road more than once or twice a month.
Dollars and sense. Even with little driving, car ownership costs us an estimated $3,500 per year, mostly in depreciation and insurance. With $3,500 we could buy a lot of bus tickets or car-share time – even the occasional taxi or rental car.
Saving the environment. Having fewer children is the most effective way people can cut their carbon emissions, according to a new study. That decision-window has passed for us (we have two children, born in the 1960s). Selling your car, avoiding long flights, and eating a vegetarian diet are the next best actions, says the study. Donate our Aeroplan points and give up meat? Maybe not. Sell our car in 2018? Now that’s a climate change goal we can achieve.
Physical activity. Staying active is one of our retirement goals. We aim to hike, bike, or paddle every single day. Check out our blog posts, and you will see how we are working towards that goal. Selling our car will nudge us keep up the good work.
What are the downsides of going car-free?
Convenience. We will need to plan ahead, and sometimes it will take longer to get places.
Identity. This is an issue for Doug especially. For men of our generation, cars are symbols of status, self-worth, and masculinity. Will Doug and other people think he’s a loser, or will they admire this car-free decision as quirky, bold, and green?
Going car-free is feasible when you live where we do, at Dockside Green in Victoria, BC. Our building is on a bus line and belongs to a car-share program. There’s a full-service grocery store across the street, and downtown Victoria is only a twenty-minute walk. The 55-kilometre Galloping Goose cycling trail runs past the front door. Canoes or kayaks can be rolled across the street and launched into the Gorge Waterway. Lucky us – we are surrounded by transportation options, and the weather is pleasant year-round.
Going car-free will not work for everyone, but we think it will work for us.
The leaves are beginning to turn red, the start of the spectacular splash of colour that awaits fall visitors to canoe-crazy Algonquin Provincial Park. We choose the classic, popular Big Trout Loop, a 73-km circuit of sixteen lakes (each with at least one pair of resident loons), marshy waters, narrow creeks, and slow-moving rivers. We give ourselves ten days (this route is usually paddled in four or five days). Still, our physical strength and Doug’s engineering skills are tested by foreign gear and fourteen portages, the longest portage being 2.3 kilometres.
No wonder Quebec is nicknamed La Belle Province. Landscapes bursting with beauty, lively towns and villages, hospitality in heritage homes, a world-class 5,000-kilometre network of bikeways: Quebec is a province that welcomes visitors. We spend seven days cycling between Montreal and Ottawa on bike paths, including the 232-km abandoned railway Le P’tit Train du Nord. Beautiful? Oui!
Seventeen giant windmills stand before us at the North Cape, and suddenly we get it: this tiny province is a windy place! With gale-force headwinds, our six days of bicycle touring are not quite as easy as advertised, but we successfully pedal Prince Edward Island from tip to tip, buoyed by the camaraderie of our tour group and our two professional guides.
A cod-killer is a good thing, while a smatchy brine is not. Newfoundland’s rural fishing villages are long-abandoned, but the stories are not lost. A fisherman born in Kerley’s Harbour, Captain Bruce educates and entertains us with tales of everyday life in the enchanting coastal communities near Trinity, one of Newfoundland and Labrador’s best preserved historic towns.
Safe yet playful river rafting, spectacular alpine walking, wildflower meadows and waterfalls, comfortable cabins to stay in, congenial new friends: check! Destinations, dates, and companions are a mystery until the last minute, as tour companies scramble to work around an evacuation alert for Clearwater and a two-week wildfire-related closure of Wells Gray Provincial Park.