Alan, looking a little peaked

Sometimes I’m envious of my car-free friends. They don’t have the option of taking the car when they’re not feeling well, or when the weather is nasty, or just because they’re feeling lazy. If they don’t ride their bike, they’re only left with other green options such as public transit, car-pooling, or walking. Because our family is only car-lite*, we can always fall back on the car, so we have to be diligent and resist the temptation to use it when we don’t really need to.

My wife, ever the optimist, suggested we wait and see how I felt in the afternoon before we made a decision. She then proceeded to load me up with Airborne and Tylenol (I was starting to get the impression that she really wanted to go for a ride).

The car was looking particularly enticing this weekend. I’ve been working lots of overtime, I was feeling exhausted, and I started coming down with something Saturday evening. You know the feeling, it starts with a little tickle in your throat that you write off to allergies. Then you notice a little stiffness in your neck that, before you realize what’s happening, explodes into a full-blown sinus headache. We had a plan to run errands on the bikes Sunday afternoon, but by Sunday morning I was tired and sick, and it was looking doubtful.

My wife, ever the optimist, suggested we wait and see how I felt in the afternoon before we made a decision. She then proceeded to load me up with Airborne and Tylenol (I was starting to get the impression that she really wanted to go for a ride). By mid-afternoon, the pharmaceuticals were working their magic and I wasn’t feeling half bad, so we ended up making that errand run on the bikes afterall. We rode a bit slower than usual, and I griped and moaned a bit more than usual, but it was still a lovely ride and the car stayed home in the garage.

I’m glad we resisted temptation and I’m happy to report that I’m no worse for the wear. The payoff is that it was a gorgeous winter evening and we experienced many sights, sounds, and smells we would have otherwise missed.

*I define “car-lite” as having one car in the family that is only used when “necessary”. It’s for the individual to determine what is defined as necessary.

22 Responses to “Sicko”

  • Ryan says:

    My wife and I have been carless for more than a year now here in Houston. Most of the time we’re really happy about our decision. Most everything we ‘need’ is close enough that we can ride to it. Of course we’re very limited in other slightly-out of the way (texas-sized remember) attractions like hiking and shopping. Some times it gets us down, but most times we turn it into a weekend-long trek or we try to enlist car’d friends to take us.

    Weather, or the cold and windy weather of this current winter has, unfortunately, shut us down lately. I blame the ever-shifting (hot-cold-hot-cold) Winter we’re experiencing that makes us (1) sit around our fire place and ignore the outside world, and then (2) envy those with cars who can drive anywhere.

    Eventually it’ll pass, but for the time being, I still kind of wish we had a car.

  • Greg says:

    Around here, we have Zipcar – other cities undoubtedly have similar programs – where you can forgo owning a car but still have access to one on an as-needed basis. That’s a great way to be car-free and car-lite at the same time.

  • Alan says:


    Yeah, I like the Zipcar concept. They claim that every Zipcar takes 15-20 privately owned cars off the road. They haven’t made it to our area yet or I’d have written more about it here.

  • Ryan says:

    There’s a Zipcar here in Houston. though at Rice University. As much as I’ve tried to impersonate a Rice University student to take part, it’s surprisingly not easy to do! With only two cars, I think Zipcar is trying NOT to open up to the public.

  • Abhishek says:

    I am car free for the past two months. The days are getting cooler, even in Jacksonville FL and I keep feeling that I should go out and buy a beater car for protection. Sometimes, I feel very lazy to go home for lunch but when I get on my bike and spend 30 seconds peddling, I start feeling better and begin loathing all the car-addicted people again :)

    Oh yes, we don’t have zip car yet, so tough love on longer distance trips!

  • Shay says:

    I just envy people with public transportation that they can use! I’m probably not even at what you’d call car-light..but for me, it’s the bike or the car, and there are no options like buses, taxis, or Zipcar around here.

  • Chris from DE says:

    Airborne — as in THIS Airborne?

    Looks like you could recoup some of your losses after spending money on this product.

    I’m glad the Tylenol worked to make you feel better, though.

    I just got over my third cold in the past two months, and was really psyched to be able to ride my bike to work last Friday, even though the temp. was a chilly 26F.


  • Alan says:


    LOL… I KNEW someone would mention Airborne.. :-) I realize its benefits are very likely 100% psychosomatic, but when the boss says “take this”, I don’t argue.

    I’m glad to hear you had a break in the weather that coincided with your good health so you could ride to work. 26F(!) – we’re wimps out here in CA…

  • Dave says:

    Normally, I’m a pretty healthy guy but this season has been hard on my immune system. I’ve been coughing and wheezing since mid-November. I’m on my second round of anti-biotics. I’ve been going through all kinds of OTC remedies and at best I get relief but not cured. I tried to keep up with bike commuting 3 times a week, but now I just want to get healthy. I went from over 300 bike commute miles a month to only 75 in December. Sucking cold, damp air into congested lungs through a raw wind pipe is no fun and not fair to my fiance, who’s been trying her best to help me heal too. These days when I feel well enough to go to work, I’m taking the car or the motorcycle. As soon as I’m healthy again, I’ll get back on the bike. Right now, getting healthy is my priority.

  • Alan says:


    Get well, Dave. Gotta’ keep that bicycle engine running well…

  • Elaine says:

    I had my first bike commute in a month this morning, between holidays, 2′ of snow, flooding, and then having my right big toenail removed. (Long story.) I felt like I was actually going crazy. My toe was a little uncomfortable by the time I got to the office (5 miles), but I don’t care!

    Oh, and I’ve been known to go for the “preemptive” sick day when I get that tickling feeling. A day in front of the TV or dozing in bed, lots of fluids, napping, and then very often I skip the rest of the cold entirely. I swear by it.

  • Alan says:


    You’re wise. My wife takes “preemptive” sick days as well. I’ve gotten a little better at it, but I still tend to push through and I often end up paying for it in the long run.

  • Ian M Camera says:

    I read not too long ago about clinical evidence that getting physically chilled really does make you more likely to get sick:

    I had scoffed at this notion for years (as a professional nurse who likes to spend time outside) but this at least lends some credibility to the possibility that temperature and illness are related. Now I guess I had better be a little more humble about such ideas…

  • Alan says:


    Interesting study, Ian. Thanks for the link. Now I have to figure out how to keep my nose warm while riding the bike. :-)

  • cafn8 says:

    I like the zipcar concept too, and if my wife and I do one day decide to go car-light (by selling 1 of the 2 cars) I will probably check it out. The biggest sticking point for me, however would be that the nearest locations are farther than 90% of the trips I make anyway. We’ll see.

    As for sinus infections, I learned this trick ( ) a while back and it really does seem to help. Every time the symptoms come back I use “the old water bottle trick” and they are temporarily relieved without making me feel dopey or sleepy like many medications would. It also seems to shorten the duration of a sinus infection too. Plus it’s cheap.

    Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor and am not qualified to give medical advice. My comments are based on my own experience. I have had my share of sinus infections, though.

  • Greg says:

    Perhaps by the time you’re ready for car-lite, there will be a Zipcar spot closer to you.
    Also that “water bottle trick” is known, studied practice called nasal irrigation. There have been at least 2 NIH studies that have shown positive results with it, although you should use saline solution when you do it – isotonic or hypertonic – to avoid some potential pain from the chemical gradient mismatch. You can buy kits w/ solution mix from CVS and similar stores, available in classic “gravity” style or pressurized nozzle (more similar to water bottle trick).

    I used to have a problem with activity-induced asthma, especially in cold weather. I found wearing a balaclava helped warm up the air I would breath and practically eliminated my suffering. Not that I’m advocating you ride when you’re sick, but you may want to get a full or partial balaclava for the cold just for the sake of comfort, riding or walking.

  • cafn8 says:

    Nice to know that it’s a well known and documented practice. Too bad that it’s not really generally used in normal medicine, because for me it seems more effective than most decongestants, and I feel better about not medicating myself unnecessarily. Maybe it’s best not to go into WHY it’s not a common practice in popular medicine, though. If anyone’s interested, I use 1/2 tsp sea salt to 16oz water at 110 degrees F. I arrived at that salt concentration through some web searching and the temperature through some experimentation. Enjoy at your own risk.

  • Julie Pecenco says:

    Last summer, I pledged to try to do most of my local errands without a car, and did so. I thought that when one of our cars died, we might trying becoming a one-car household. That happened years sooner than expected when a nasty accident in December totaled my car, and I’ve convinced my partner that we hold off replacing it and see how things go with just one car.

    Yesterday was one of those days when I would probably have driven had there been a car in the driveway. With no car there, however, and a meeting to get to, I had fewer options, and climbed on the bike. It was sort of nice knowing that I had to figure out some sort “alternative” transport for myself, since I couldn’t just climb into my car. Luckily, the roads were sufficiently clear after Sunday’s snowstorm and we were still in double digit temps :)

    I also highly recommend the use of a neti pot (I bought a real one, though, not a water bottle). It’s chemical free, environmentally friendly, far cheaper than all the meds, and used daily has significantly reduced the number of colds I get, plus helped with general congestions issues.


  • Chris from DE says:

    *twitch twitch* I’m a PhD chemist, so please forgive the twitching response. I’m not trying to be snarky, but nothing is “chemical free” except for an absolute vacuum…
    Water is a chemical.

  • Alan says:


    We like neti pots too! :-)

  • Greg says:

    It actually is used in scientific medicine, especially since the NIH studies have shown it to be effective. I know several people who have had the method prescribed to them by an ENT. I expect it to be more widespread as studies keep coming in showing its benefits. Thanks for the recipe – one more tip, use salt that does not contain an anti-caking agent. Happy snozzling. ;)

  • Charmaine says:

    I went car-free a year ago. I live in the Washington DC area – where we have a good bike path system, decent subway and bus service, and also Zipcar! :) I donated my car, and was given a free lifetime membership with Zipcar, plus $500 in driving credit with Zipcar. I made the $500 driving credit last a whole year. The nearest Zipcar is about 6-7 miles from my house – – I bike there (on my folding bike), put the bike in the back, and use the Zipcar as needed. It works real good. However, now that the $500 credit is used, it’ll be interesting to see how many times I use Zipcar, now that it’ll be on my own dime…. :) I really can get by without a car alright. I bike to work every day (32 miles roundtrip), and can run errands easily on my ride home, which passes by any store I’d need something from. My family and friends thought I was CRAZY to give up my car, but then gas prices went up, and then they were saying “Boy, it’s good you gave up your car when you did!” :)

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