But after going so long without, it's quite a shockAfter seven years, five months and 23 days without a four-wheeled vehicle, Mrs. Trevitt and I finally bit the bullet and bought a car. Even after all that time, we were only just getting used to the unbelieving looks we'd get when people found we relied on motorcycles, the bus and walking to get around a city that is completely devoted to its car culture. Surprisingly, however, it's been a real shock for us to join the ranks of normal people and drive rather than ride.
I always got a chuckle out of seeing people's reactions when I told them we didn't have a car. I may as well have said we were homeless or from Mars. It's a given in Los Angeles that you have a car, even at the expense of everything else. In fact, more than a few people literally live in their cars here who would otherwise be homeless. Somehow, we managed without a four-wheeled vehicle. I rode test bikes to and from work-still do-every day. Mrs. Trevitt walked or took the bus to where she needed to go, something you'll doubly sympathize with if you know how atrocious L.A.'s public transit is. Grocery shopping was always a bit tricky, but was made a lot simpler when the Trader Joe's opened just around the corner a couple of years ago. Luckily, the weather is always great in California, and we were caught only a few times having to ride somewhere in the rain.
One nice thing about not having a car was the money we saved. Loan payments, insurance, registration, gas...that all adds up, and we were able to save enough money to almost buy the car outright. Neither of us had ever owned a new car, but since we went so long without-and plan on keeping it for a long time-we treated ourselves to a brand-new Honda Civic. In the sea of Mercedes, BMWs and Ferraris that fills every intersection here in L.A., the lowly Civic can seem a mere sardine. Indeed, when I first proudly showed our shiny new wheels to hired-help Steve Mikolas, he just turned up his nose and said, "Dude, your car is invisible!" That may be, especially to people who take four wheels for granted, but to us the Civic is the lap of luxury.
After going car-less for so long, I think we had adapted pretty well to life on two wheels and two feet. The trouble is, it's just as much of an adaptation-if not more-to all of a sudden have a car. The biggest surprise for me is the traffic: Thanks to California allowing lane-splitting, I'm used to hopping on a bike and getting where I need to go in a set time, almost regardless of how many people are on the road. In the car, a half-hour trip can easily turn into an hour or more, and that is incredibly frustrating. There is no way I could sit in traffic like that every day getting to and from work, and it's amazing there is not more road rage than that which already occurs.
Before we moved to California, I only drove vans at home, and it's coming up on 20 years since I drove a car regularly. In a van or on a motorcycle, you sit up high and can easily see over traffic. In our car (I'm still getting used to saying that) I have a lot of trouble with being so low to the ground and not seeing over what is invariably an SUV in front. And of course, if I leave enough of a gap to where I'm comfortable, another SUV just slots into that space, making the drive even more frustrating. Good thing I can play a soothing CD while stuck in traffic-something you can't do on a sportbike.
Of course, now we've got car payments, insurance and license fees to look after, which we were prepared for. And-also expected-the newly mobile Mrs. Trevitt quickly discovered a whole new shopping world beyond walking distance, as well as the convenience of bringing items home in the Civic's trunk rather than carrying them. But I had never realized how much parking could cost and how much hassle it could be: After getting so used to tucking bikes into any available space, and usually for free, finding and paying for a parking spot is almost a new experience.
As big a change as it is, we're getting used to having the extra wheels. We can go to the movies or the mall now and not have to worry about leaving a most-stolen sportbike in an exposed place, nor do we have to tote gear around all day. We can go to the store in air-conditioned comfort on a hot afternoon. And I can ride a bike that doesn't have a passenger seat home for the weekend. All these luxuries are quickly adding up, and-no doubt-soon I won't know how we ever managed without a car. I sure will miss all those funny looks from people when I tell them we don't have one, though.