You Are What You Drive


Mr. Grumby’s Surly- A handsome and functional beast

A few years ago, I was sitting at my desk at work and overheard my co-worker Troy say, in a very serious and confident tone of voice, “You are what you drive.”  As this guy was the proud owner of a brand new shiny Audi, I thought to myself, “Hmmm.  I know he doesn’t make tons of money, so I guess that means he’s in a lot of debt and probably won’t retire until he’s 85.”  Since I am car-free right now, I’m wondering what my transportation choices say about me as a person?

Mr. Grumby and I decided 15 months ago that we would sell our only car when we moved to an apartment near downtown Portland, OR.  Here’s how we’ve been getting around, along with some interesting side effects of not owning a car.


Polly, the neighborhood polydactyl cat

Walking to the grocery store, the movie theater, restaurants, or the park (all within 2 miles of home) is also a chance to:

  • Say hello to the neighbors and enjoy a friendly chat
  • Smell the roses – or daphne or jasmine or lavender or mint or rosemary
  • Listen to the birds singing and look up to see if we can find one (watching a bird as it sings is a groovy experience)
  • Stop to pet neighborhood cats and dogs like Polly the polydactyl cat & Flynn the springer spaniel
  • Watch gigantic trees swaying in the wind
  • See the moment-to-moment changes in the cloudy sky
  • Smile at the kids running around being goofy
  • Oh, and get exercise and burn calories without even knowing that we are “working out”


Exploring by bike with perma-grin: oh, the places we’ve gone!

  • Various city parks within 10 miles of our apartment – for picnics or to just sit and people-watch
  • Bike camping at Milo McIver State Park on the beautiful Clackamas River, with a side trip to Estacada to have dinner with friends

    The Surlys at Milo McIver State Park

  • Multi-day ride through Willamette Valley: humbling headwinds, hops farms, and homemade apple pie at Air BnB in Independence
  • Camping at secluded hike-in camp area at Stub Stewart State Park, after ride through scenic rural Hillsboro and along Banks-Vernonia Rails-to-Trails route
  • Mr. Grumby and I both like to ride as though we just had the training wheels taken off, with wide smiles that say “Woohooooo!”



Free transportation to work:

  • Thanks to a company-subsidized annual transit pass, I’m able to avoid the daily increase in traffic congestion in Portland, and my 12-mile commute is faster by light rail than it is in a car.
  • There’s a light rail station next to our apartment building and at the other end I start and end the day with a pleasant half-mile walk between the train stop and the office (or take the company shuttle if it’s the weather is too foul).
  • Instead of worrying about inattentive drivers crashing into me or whether or not my full bladder will endure the gridlock, I spend my commute time reading books or inspiring blogs, emailing family and friends, or just staring out the window.
  • One less car on the road


15 months of not driving a car to work = less stress, more money, and better air.

  • Freedom from 1,950+ hours of sitting in traffic congestion during work commute
  • ~720 fewer bursts of fear/anger in reaction to the aggressive or mindless behavior of other motorists
  • ~7,000 additional US Dollars to retirement savings
  • ~11,000 fewer pounds of carbon dioxide in the air we all breathe


So, what do my current transportation choices say about me?  I’m a fortunate, happy and healthy adventurer who often has the great privilege of enjoying the life that happens around me while I’m moving from Point A to Point B.   And I’m helping air quality and shortening my retirement horizon at the same time!  When we’re ready to buy another car, we will be sure to incorporate what we’ve learned about frugality and environmental impact into our purchase decision.  After all, we are what we drive, right?  ;o)


Your comments are welcome and appreciated!

  4 Replies to “You Are What You Drive”

  1. Kathleen
    October 2, 2016 at 8:32 pm

    I drive a 20-year-old Nissan Altima that still runs like a dream. I keep saying that I’ll buy a new car in 5 years, and I’ve been saying that for about 5 years now. Here’s hoping this car keeps running so well and it lasts me 10 more years! But when I replace it someday I will apply my philosophy about buying almost *anything*: Buy the best that you can afford so your satisfaction will last longer. For example, in 1999 when I bought my 2-year-old used car, it seemed extravagant to pay more for leather interior. But now in late 2016, the interior of this car still looks excellent. I daresay, if I’d saved some $ back then and went with cloth or vinyl interior, I’d have replaced this car by now.

    So I am what I drive: An older-model but still quality being that still runs damn well. 🙂

    • Mrs. Grumby
      October 11, 2016 at 3:10 am

      Thanks Kathleen. You are what you drive.
      Sounds like your car is cooperating well with your deferred purchase plan. Here’s to ten more years of Altima bliss!

  2. November 10, 2016 at 11:58 pm

    Biking is definitely one of the smartest ways to get around town and is my preferred method as well. Here in Minneapolis, we have amazing bike trails and bike lanes, so it’s very easy to get around by bike – yes, even in winter!

    Not only is it cheaper to bike, but you also get exercise, which saves you money by keeping you fit. Totally agree that you are what you drive! I think it’s great that biking is “cool” these days.

    • Mr. Grumby
      November 11, 2016 at 6:55 pm

      “even in winter”… yes, even with the constant drizzly rain or ocassional snowfall (1 inch = Snowpocolypse!) here in Portland, proper gear and the right attitude make riding a no-brainer. It helps to live in a bike-friendly area, but not requried.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial