What-ing? A funny word that I am fully embracing, quaxing is a new term that is defined as “to shop, in the Western world, by means of walking, cycling or public transit”. Apparently, a council member in Auckland, NZ named Dick Quax accidentally coined the term when in a heated Twitter debate regarding transportation options back in January. Regardless of how it originated, I’ve been seriously and happily overusing the word since I learned it last week. “Neils, I’m headed to Oliver’s to do some #quaxing” has been said multiple days this week. Did I mention how much I love Oliver’s?
This concept is not new. I, myself have been using my regular ‘ole bike for errands here and there for years, but not until I discovered the world of cargo bikes have I become truly obsessed. To give you a bit of short history on my relationship with transportation, I’ll start in Texas a few years ago. In the year 2000, I was a Finance major on the huge, 5,200 acre campus of Texas A&M University in College Station. Our lovely duplex was about 3 miles from the building where most of my business classes were held. There were a few options in terms of getting to class: the bus system which was easy to access, cheap (free to us students whose parents paid for the service in our tuition fees) and timely. A second option was to bike, which many students did. Walking was also an option but less likely depending on the time of year, as it’s scorching from May – October in Texas. And of course, driving. The best option in my mind was driving the 3 ish miles and parking at school. I didn’t just park at one of the enormous lots that dotted the campus – no, there were about 20,000 other students fighting it out for those spaces (that’s a conservative estimate, as A&M has 44,000 undergrad students) and the walk could still be a half mile or so away (the dread!). No, I parked at the PAID lot right next to my classes. Yup, instead of using the pass my parents bought for me each semester, I used my (non-parent approved, newly minted and A&M logo’d) credit card to pay EACH TIME I PARKED in this lot – so roughly, 3-4 times/week. Writing this down is kind of freaking me out.
So, as you can imagine, I was a pretty sedentary individual back then. Not only sedentary, but generally unhealthy – my favorite lunch was a 1/4 pounder with cheese, fries and a large Dr. Pepper. I had that meal about 3 times/week. Literally. Of course, drinking was a favorite past time, as it usually is for college kids. So, yeah, I was pretty healthy back then. How shocked was I that I put on 40 lbs from 1999 – 2001? Shopping for a new wardrobe for my new, corporate job that started 2 weeks after graduation, I was (unpleasantly) surprised to find myself buying the largest size of clothes I had ever worn – size 22. “Embarrassed” doesn’t quite sum up the way I felt when I started that job and quickly realized I was the largest person (not just woman) in the office. Something finally clicked and thanks to an invite by my cheery co-worker, Sarah, who was trying to lose a few lbs, I joined her at a Weight Watchers meeting the following week. This literally changed my life and I don’t think I ever thanked her properly for it.
I don’t tell you all of this to get a “way to go” or “rah, rah rah” reaction. It’s just that I’ve never properly documented how much my life changed once I began my journey of getting healthy. Over the 2.5 years after college graduation I went on to lose almost 90 lbs, started running and then moved to San Francisco. My life was forever altered and I couldn’t have been happier for that. It’s been 11 years since I’ve moved to the Bay Area, 10.5 years since I began dating my husband, 7 years (this Sunday) that we’ve been married, almost 6 years since our first son was born and 4 years since our twins were born. Changes abounded in every direction but the constant that’s gotten me through it all has been fitness. This has taken many forms over the years from training for and running 10 half marathons, a boot-camp obsession, training for and finishing a sprint triathlon, pilates, yoga, spinning, barre classes, P90x, T25…you get the idea. The goal of all of these various forms of fitness was generally to maintain or achieve a look that I’ve always longed for. The reality is, that look was never to be attainable to me. It took a long time for me to figure it out, but exercising and dieting to “look” a certain way doesn’t seem to last. At least for me. Sure, it does work for the short term and I’ve had great results in the past with all these various forms of fitness. I still love many of the classes and toggle between them when I need a reboot. But, something I’ve realized in these past couple of years is that life is all about working in what’s important to you. If you don’t make time for these things (friends, gardening, yoga, exercise, date nights), they will just disappear…and quickly. That’s something I saw happening to me when I finished my last endurance event – injured and done. Thank God for that injury. It made me truly examine my relationship with these endurance events (which I loved and hated simultaneously) and what they were doing to my “non-runner” body. I started riding my bike more as an exercise that kept me moving but also didn’t hurt, and used pilates to help re-hab my back.
Biking has been something I’ve done on and off, but using it for transportation has been truly an awakening. Discovering the Yuba Mundo last year was eye opening. I borrowed a Yuba Mundo from the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition last summer after hearing about the brand locally (they’re based in Petaluma). The maiden voyage was a little unnerving with my 3 wiggly passengers, but I got my bearings after a couple of short trips around our small town. I hated to give the bike back after borrowing it for a month, but my time was up and so we said goodbye to “the fun bike”, as my boys called it. Through the Fall and Winter (if you could call it that here in Northern California), I thought off and on about the bike, but reasoned that we couldn’t afford it or that I wouldn’t actually use it as much as I wanted to, etc. Then in January, I made a career move that really altered my view on what’s possible. After almost 9 years working and traveling for my (former) company as their West Coast Region Manager, I went to work for my friends and (former) clients right in Petaluma! The change was immediate – I felt lighter, happier and more in control of my days. My old company was so great and they’re still like family to me, but this change was more than just a job – it was a lifestyle change once again. This really got me thinking about biking as transportation since I was now totally local and so, I rode my bike to my co-workers house my 2nd month into the job to carpool to a work event. The following week, I biked over to meet our intern for lunch and rode to an education event in Petaluma the following week (an 18 mile roundtrip). All on my bike! Which had me again thinking about the Yuba Mundo that I had borrowed last year. If I can transport myself via bike, why not my boys? I could ride them to school, the park, the store…the list is endless. Not everyone was in favor of this idea – my mom thought the ride down Old Redwood Highway to be a bit dangerous since the speed limit is 45 MPH. So, I borrowed the Yuba again for a test drive of sorts to tote P and F to school and see if I could truly do it without losing a kid, my balance or my sanity. I can’t say for sure that I’ve kept my sanity, but the rides were actually (mostly) pleasant! I was hooked. And apparently, my sweet husband was in favor of the Yuba too. Success! Two weeks later, as an early Mother’s Day gift, I had my shiny,new, bright blue Mundo delivered, via bike I might add. Yes, the delivery guy for Yuba used his Mundo to TOW my Mundo 9+ miles from Petaluma. Talk about #quaxing!
And that’s the (long-ish) but condensed tale of how I got here….#quaxing all the way! Check out my nursery run to grab a bag of compost this weekend. Those compost bags ain’t got nothin’ on 3 wiggly boys!