Accidentally car-free: Equipment

reflective vest and grocery back-packreflective vest and grocery back-pack

[This is an installment in the series “Accidentally car-free” about getting around Cobb County without the use of a car. To see a list of the entire series visit this link. To see how this project began, read the first article in the series by following this link.]

For those of you who are more interested in the “big picture” this installment of the Accidentally car-free series might seem a bit tedious. It addresses some of the small details of what it takes to function without a car with reasonable efficiency in a county with terrible public transit and miles of residential subdivisions unbroken by practical shopping destinations.

As much as I hate bringing any new objects into our house, which is already overrun with the sort of clutter two people accumulate over seven decades of life, I’ve bought four things so far to support this project: a bright yellow reflective vest, an insulated backpack to carry groceries, a cheap, very small chromebook and a bicycle chain cleaning kit.

The vest

Of the equipment I bought, the bright yellow vest with reflective tape probably needs the least explanation.

I cross a lot of busy intersections on foot on my way to various destinations, plus the terrible bridge on South Cobb Drive I described in an earlier installment, that requires that I run down the middle of a traffic lane.

And I want to be as absolutely visible to drivers as I possibly can.

Also, depending on where my walk takes me, I might have to leave while it’s still a little dark.

The grocery backpack

The first image that comes to mind when I think of shopping by foot was of a person pulling one of the wheeled wire grocery basket that I used to see frequently when I worked in New York City during the early 1980s.

For distances of up to about a half mile, in an area with consistent sidewalks, those things are great.

But to go the five-mile round trip to the closest grocery store from my house, with long segments of grassy shoulder, dragging anything behind me is not realistic.

I needed some sort of backpack.

So I searched on Amazon for “grocery back-pack” and found an insulated backpack for about $30. It’s not as large as I would have liked, but my goal is to do smaller shopping lists more frequently.

So yesterday I tested it out with a trip to the Publix.

Here’s what I picked up, and it had the backpack maxxed out:

1 jar of pickles

1 container of almond milk yogurt

2 heads of bok choy

2 bunches of asparagus

3 large russet potatoes

1 large sweet onion

1 small tub of olive oil margarine

The groceries plus the backpack weighed in at 14.4 pounds.

All things considered it worked out well. The weight of the pack caused a little soreness between my shoulder blades on the return trip. But that’s just a matter of figuring out how to adjust the pack further up my back. When I’d manually shift the pack higher, it took some of the pressure off.

Also I need to find some very thin frozen gel-packs. I want to turn the insulated interior into a cooler compartment, but I don’t want to take up too much space or add too much weight.

The chromebook

I intend to do some of my work from the Chattahoochee Coffee Company at the Eddy in Riverview Landing. But even my existing laptop adds too much weight and bulk to the approximately four miles round-trip.

So I found a Lenovo Chromebook for about $100. It’s tiny, and works for the sort of thing I’ll be doing away from home. Plus it was cheap.

I actually had two motives for getting the chromebook.

The first I mentioned in the first paragraph.

But I also needed something mobile that could work for teleconferencing via Zoom and Google Meet. My existing main computer doesn’t allow screen-sharing on Zoom or Meet (it’s a long story).

I tested that aspect of it yesterday evening.

Google Meet works like a charm, but Zoom has a fluttering image that makes me look like Max Headroom. That isn’t too surprising, since Google Meet is probably optimized for Google’s own app for the Chromebook. For now, though, this is a good solution, even for Zoom.

Bicycle chain-cleaning kit

For this whole project to really work without constantly bumming rides or breaking down and replacing my car, I have to increase my reach.

And that requires some combination of bicycle and Cobb’s currently awful public transit system.

I was once a serious road cyclist, commuting to my job in downtown Atlanta by bicycle, and riding centuries (100-mile bike rides).

But my old Raleigh road bike has been sitting in the garage for three years untouched now.

So I need to do some of the routine maintenance tasks on the old bike to evaluate what it needs to be safe on the road.

The first step is cleaning the chain and chainring to see if it still has life in it. Afterwards I’ll replace the chain if needed, adjust the derailleurs, check the tires and tubes, check the brakes and shift levers plus all the cables.

At that point I’ll determine if I need to put it in the shop for full maintenance.

What’s coming up?

I’ll probably do one more post that addresses walking in the area, focused on nearby parks (Nickajack Park, Discovery Park, Smyrna’s Riverview Park plus the soccer field on Oakdale Road, and Shoupade Park).

After that I want to move on to cycling.