Getting Car-Little

On January 10, 2011, in Environmental Ethics, Lifestyle, Work, by Meghan

Many of you know that people used to pay me to work in Yosemite National Park. That’s right, I pattered about my professional living in the granitic depths of Yosemite Valley, a vacation destination for most.

Meghan and Yosemite Valley from the Four Mile Trail (photo by Bryon Powell, October, 2008)

Working in Yosemite was almost paradise. Sometimes, I shared the sidewalks with black bears. On one occasion, I came face-to-nighttime-face with a bobcat. I ran on trails before and after work as often as I was able. I won’t forget the night my car’s headlights illuminated a mountain lion and its giant, yellow eyes next to the road. Coyotes yipped a playful banter. Rocks grumbled along their gravitational tumbles. Snow fell in wet, softball-sized flakes, then melted into raging torrents. Some of the world’s best rock climbers dined where I did, too. Cool, fall nights replaced sweltering summer days. I took an occasional lunchtime walk for the sole purpose of watching a waterfall.

My idyllic existence had one heartbreaking catch: I had to leave Yosemite every day. After work, I kissed the granite good-bye, climbed into my car, and drove an even 36 miles (58 minutes of driving on those mountain roads) home. And, every morning, I repeated an opposing journey, 36 more wend-y miles (58 more minutes, yep, I was counting.) back into the wonderland. I commuted 5 days a week, every week, until I didn’t think I could survive much longer.

“We are the first nation in the history of the world to go to the poorhouse in an automobile.” (Will Rogers)

My life was unsustainable, in the crudest definition of the word. To depart a place of such beauty every day of my life and to spend so much time inside a motorized, metal box: I wish this sort of torture on no one. In its fashionable, green meaning, this life was also unsustainable. By day, I effort-ed to protect and preserve Yosemite’s wild-scape. By my commuting, I grew a massive carbon footprint that, I’m certain, overrode all good I did at work. This is to say that my car took me to my version of the poorhouse.

The Meghan-mobile on vacation from the daily commuter's grind and on its way to a, perhaps foreshadowing, vacation in Utah (November, 2009)

Moving to Park City, Utah was a calculated change. We came here, in part, so that I could develop again a car-little life. It has, so far, worked dream-y wonders. These days, everything I need to survive is located within a 1.5-mile radius of my home. Trails, good shrubs for the dog to sniff, groceries, restaurants with delectable food, coffee shops, a place to get ice cream, a bookstore, the gym: it’s all in the circle. If I extend the radius to 8 miles, well, it then includes even a movie theater and pretty much any supply store you could ever need. And, more importantly, supreme wilderness is included in those 8 miles, too.

Salt Lake City is a 45-minute drive, but it feels like an unattainable lifetime away. Three months ago, I drove more than 45 minutes, twice a day, to make my professional life. I’ve, thus, experienced a paradigm shift of locality in just two months of Park City living.

Can I tell you one last thing? As much as I love Yosemite and everything it offered to a girl who gets her rocks off in places just like that, I never, ever want to go back to my life there. Me, my walking-distance coffee shop, my neighborhood trails, and my car-little life: we’re all good, thank you very much.

16 Responses to “Getting Car-Little”

  1. Ewa says:

    What a wise choice.
    In a way, maybe because of lack of courage that you seem to posses, we are stuck here, in the suburbs where everything is far away and a simple trip to the library requires a car. And yes, we have the usual excuses: jobs, house we would not be able to sell easily now, friends, learning opportunities for our son and so on, and so on.

    • Meghan says:


      I hope you compare yourselves only to yourselves. I’m able to easily move because I don’t have things like an owned structure, large debt, or kids.

      To pick up and really heft oneself about: the more responsibilities one has, the more challenging it probably is.

      Take good care and enjoy your lil’ piece of the world,

  2. Olga says:

    That’s my idea of living. Sadly, the place we rent right now, while has trail at the doorsteps, gym inside a complex and a pool (which I never use anyway), is 2.5 M away from a supermarket (and I feed a family of 4, so no, I can’t walk with a full backpack) and 6M from yoga studio. Not to mention 2.5M from a bus stop, to which I drive every day – and then at least cut off the majority of the commute.
    My plan is to retire around 50 yo, work part-time by doing what I love (and not for a paycheck to support the family) in a minimal space and have no car. And walk – everywhere. Just like in Russia:)

    • Meghan says:


      It sounds like you have a good set-up, and that you are making plans for an even better one. I love the no-car idea! Bryon and I were talking last night and he can’t recall the last time he drove his car, but maybe it was over 2 weeks ago. Lovely that he can’t remember, in my opinion!

      BTW, I feed Bryon, so there’s no way I could carry his groceries home from the store, either. I drive there and back. πŸ™‚

      Hugs to you,

  3. Danni says:

    Yay! It’s nice to not have to drive much. While Kalispell is no Park City we don’t have to drive much here if we don’t want to. It’s great.

  4. Danielle says:

    You spell out exactly why we’re looking to move.

    • Meghan says:


      You have much more patience than me! To not only care for oneself, but also a little family out there in the wilds, I’m sure it requires SO MUCH driving. I hope you find exactly what you’re looking for, and I look forward to hearing about your next step.


  5. Karen says:

    I’m with you! I actually feel guilty when I have to drive the car more than a couple days in a row or fill the tank more often than every two weeks. I wish I had a nearby coffee shop πŸ˜› that and the ice cream shop, must be like heaven!

    • Meghan says:

      Hi Karen,

      Thanks for commenting and linking your blog. I just subscribed to it so I can follow along. πŸ™‚

      Yeah, I’ve taken to filling the gas tank every 2 weeks and it’s still a little traumatizing!

      I have to confess, while I’ve enjoyed the coffee shop some, I haven’t yet eaten any ice cream from the ice cream shop. When we moved here at the beginning of November, it was already too cold for ice cream. Burr! It looks delicious, so I can’t wait to indulge in the warmer months.


  6. Keith says:

    Park City…, Banff,…nuff said…



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  8. Leslie says:

    I don’t know HOW you did it for as long as you did. I couldn’t and wouldn’t do the commute. I see it as forfeiting 2 hours a day of my life. As you know, on the top of my list of “reasons I love Banff and small town living” is the ability to walk to everything I need. It’s a real joy and pleasure. It also gives you a few extra bonuses: the gift of extra time and extra exercise. I’d be fibbing if I said I was motivated by any eco-friendly intentions, but I sure do appreciate the benefits I personally enjoy daily! πŸ™‚

  9. JeffO says:

    I live in a mixed environment. Groceries .5 miles. Two coffee shops .5. Multiple restaurants .5 miles. Lightrail stations 1.2 and 1.3 miles away. Two parks for running in smoggy air .7 and 1.4 miles away. Work 5.5 city congested miles. Foothills to run on trails in clean air ~14 miles. And I still fret about gas. My friends keep saying “So what?!” In spite of ultra runners spending so much time running in beautiful wilderness, many are the opposite of environmentally conscious. Incesant plane trips, long road trips, and tons of short road trips to get to those wilderness locations creates a massive glut of resources. Not many ultra runners seem to live responsibly. Great move on your part.

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