My Commute: Natalie Ramsland

Portland Transport is constantly looking out for first person accounts of commutes or trips that shed light on our transportation system, or our attitudes about it. We invite readers to e-mail their stories to webmaster@portlandtransport.com

I work as a bike messenger, a job which is an easy spin downtown, downhill from my apartment. I live within biking and walking distance of just about everywhere I need to be, or want to go on a daily basis. I have never owned a car, and I haven’t even driven a car in over a year. Yup, I am the veritable poster child of bike-friendly, alternative-transporting, givin’-a-hootin’-not-pollutin’ Portland.

But a daily cup of piping hot smugness is no kind of reason to get out of bed in the morning. A cup of coffee at Stumptown with my husband Austin is.

Unfortunately, the love of my life works in the belly of the Beaverton beast. It’s a miserable commute any way you do it and he’s found that biking only prolongs and accentuates the gnarliness. Where he goes, bikes fear to tread. So, while we do our best to minimize driving, his car is still a necessary part of our life.

So this is our commute: Each morning we load my bike into the back of his car, drive downtown to Stumptown Coffee, park, and unload my bike. We have coffee, chat, smooch, and reluctantly head our separate ways. Austin on four wheels, me on two.

The joy I get from this situation is threefold. First, we enjoy a morning coffee date. But we also get to turn my husband’s otherwise typical car commute into a carpool! Why should I have all the glory, when we can both exercise commute alternatives?

And last, I derive a dark secret pleasure out of unloading my bike from his car in front of all of the super macho “hardcore” bikers who roll up on their matte black, brakeless fixed gears. Pulling my bike out of his car is SO uncool. But I know in my heart that I am a tough, committed biker and that I have biked in conditions that are not only adverse but completely insane. I have biked sometimes out of necessity, sometimes by choice, sometimes with passion, and most of the time without applause.

I know this, and yet I know exactly how wussy my commute looks. That’s okay. My bike is neither a phase nor a lifestyle accessory, and I won’t take no flack from any little hipster rolling up on his über-cool fixie. (If they have a problem with that? They can meet me at the bike racks. After school.)

My commute allows me to reconcile the smugness and idealism associated with bike culture, with the beautiful, imperfect reality of our almost-car-free life.

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