Surviving in America without a car

Trip Start Sep 17, 2006
Trip End Dec 23, 2008

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Flag of United States  , Texas
Thursday, October 16, 2008

I am fortunate in some respects as my base for this month is within walking distance of a large quality supermarket. However a visit to the supermarket on foot isn’t without incident. Firstly the family that I am staying with having two violent dogs, well one is definitely violent, and the other is just possibly violent! These dogs prowl around the garden here all day long only going inside at night, they have the habit of barking often, and chewing on random bits of what is possibly rabbit flesh.

Now when I’m with others I can cope with these violent beings, but on my own it’s a different story. What I have resorted to doing is exiting through the back door, which is conveniently about three feet from the back gate. However things are complicated by the fact that the back door sticks, and makes significant noise. The noise created thus alerts the dogs who then race round to the back of the granny flat that I’m living in. This gives me approximately five seconds to get out the back gate, which I forgot to mention sticks as well!

Once out of the back gate you might presume that I could stroll to the supermarket in peace. Not so. These American housing areas have seven lane roads going right through the middle of them! By seven lanes I mean three for each direction, and then what they call a ‘turning lane’ in the middle. If you are turning left you move into this middle lane and stop, then turn when it’s clear. The system works well, unless of course you’re a pedestrian. Here pedestrians are rarer than cyclists, who aren’t exactly common! The supermarket is about ten minutes down the road, just before I get there is another significant road of perhaps six lanes. I need to get over this other road and onto the other side of my road to arrive at the supermarket.

Right now you are thinking, press the button, wait for the green man, be patient. Well that’s correct, but for the fact that it takes about 10 minutes to get the green man (who is actually white!). Then just when all seems to be clear an added danger appears, cars turning right on red lights. This is where cars can turn right (as in left in the UK) at any time, even when I have my green (white) man. In theory this works as of course car drivers are safety conscious. Not here. They fly round the corner without even seeing me! Three times now I have had to dive out of the way. Finally the white man appears for about two seconds before a flashing red light warns you to hurry across the road, and so you end up dashing towards the other side hoping that the dozens of vehicles you pass !

If I do manage to reach Market Street in one piece I am greeted by what is a very good supermarket. I’ve no idea how it compares pricewise to other supermarkets, but I guess it’s quite an upmarket place. Fresh food is available on one side, and in significant quantities. On the other side well stocked shelves offer most things a household might need.

This dangerous trek to the supermarket happens every couple of days. If I head in the other direction I can walk to a chemist, and other small shops. Walking to Whitney’s mum’s takes perhaps an hour, a coffee shop called J&B Coffee Co is a similar distance away. Texas Tech campus is about one hour and ten minutes away.

Luckily Whitney drives me around town, otherwise life would be kinda tricky! She rightly pointed out that even poor people here have cars, the only people without cars are homeless people and me! Not that I’ve seen a homeless person here yet though, supposedly the lack of available alcohol makes it quite undesirable for a homeless bum!
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