How long can I go without driving my car in Iowa?

Estimated read time: 5 minutes

In August 2017, I started working from my home office. Here's a picture of the first iteration before getting some additional equipment:

Here's how my commute looks:

I have to say I really like working at home, just as much as I like traveling to clients for workshops and trainings. Walking down the steps feels like I'm being highly efficient with my time. I'm not spending any time in a commute for any unnecessary time to get to work.

So as the month kicked off I thought maybe I could go for a couple weeks without ever driving my car. In fact, I started making the case that we should get rid of one of our two cars. Because, what do we use our cars for the most? Probably to drive to the office. And now with me working at home it made sense to me that maybe I don't need a car.

So my goal was to go as many days in a row as possible without driving my car. I thought I would make it at least to the middle of August at which time I need it to get to the airport to fly to meetings in Canada.

Yep, I could plan on taking an Uber to the airport and back home but sometimes Ubers aren't very available in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. In addition, the round-trip with the right-sharing service cost around $48. But in comparison I can park at the Cedar Rapids airport for five days for like $35. And very few of my trips ever take five days.

Either way, I thought I'll give it a try and was ready to keep a journal on how hard or easy it was to not take my car.

Here's a quick overview of the things I have to do:

  • Daily early-morning trip to the gym. The main gym is about 2 miles away so driving there makes much more sense but there is a 24-hour gym about 1 mile or so away. So walking there is not necessarily out of the question.
  • Grocery shopping: my wife usually does our grocery shopping so I guess I could cheat a little bit here and count her going and me not going as not driving. Realistically, there's no grocery store within walking distance. The closest is about 2 miles away and then of course you have to haul back the bags. Ugh. Maybe I should get a bicycle with a basket.
  • Getting fuel! LOL. Well, if I'm not driving I don't need to do that.

  • This would also mean not going to the downtown farmers market which is about 4 miles away.
  • Or getting a massage-which is also about 4 miles away.
  • Or going out for dinner-which is about 2 miles away.

On Day 5 of the challenge I did actually walk two miles to eat Chinese for lunch and then two mikes back. Quite time consuming but it was fine once.

I couldn't even think of many other reasons why I would need to drive anywhere. So I was getting ready to declare premature victory of being able to go a couple weeks without driving.

The first day of the month was supposed to go just fine. I was scheduled to work at home, no travel and no trips planned. I went on a run for my exercise that day. So the gym trip was easy.

And then I realized that I needed to get more equipment for my office. The easiest way in my opinion to get monitors was of course to go to Best Buy, which is about 1.6 miles away according to my Waze app. That's probably a walking distance except who wants to carry electronics for that far? even transporting a monitor on a bicycle seems dangerous. Plus, I don't even have a bicycle. To buy one I could drive downtown-about 4 miles-to buy one.

So of course I got in my car and drove to Best Buy and gave up on this goal. Or maybe I shouldn't even call it a goal and just an experiment. A very short-lived one.

That may have been the quickest quitting I've done ever. But realistically it's just not possible to never drive in Iowa. It does remind me a little bit of the time when I worked in nonprofits in Iowa and we tried to help people who didn't have cars. In this area it is extremely hard to make things work when you don't have a car. That even includes people like me who work at home. My commute could literally not be any shorter. Having a car doesn't actually help me make more money necessarily but it helps me achieve other tasks. Of course, that's not the case for other people who have to drive to their job or to job interviews.

And with a family of four-including two kids-I'm not even sure it's possible to make it as a one-car family. For example, these guys were going on a trip for a couple days and I was staying behind. So if they were to take the only car we have as a family how would I get around?

It is an interesting conundrum, certainly one I don't really have to face involuntarily but it is something for us to think about as we are choosing to live in a state like Iowa, which isn't that walkable.

Related: Why I likely won't leave Iowa anytime soon

So it was worth trying and experimenting with but in reality it's not a goal I was able to achieve. Living in Iowa, which of course is known as a rural state but I do live in an urban area, I still need a car. End of story. 😱🤔 🚗