Posted on 25 June 2010.
Off the beaten path with Kiddoo (Photo: Kiddoo)
Bishop local driven to run
Phill Kiddoo’s one-way commute to work is between 1.9 to 2.1 miles, depending on the route. Driving, it would take under five minutes, yet his travel time averages 18 minutes. The reason? He prefers manpower over horsepower. In other words, he runs, through the heat, rain, snow, and wind—from his home on the outskirts of Bishop into town, usually back home for lunch, returning to work, then home again.
Kiddoo has lived car-lite for about 10 years. Although he probably runs more and drives less than the average American, last year Kiddoo set out to see whether he could traverse more terrain with his own physiological power than with a motor. For 365 days he logged his travel distances by bike, by car, and by foot, recording them to the nearest tenth of a mile.
Kiddoo said he wanted to keep his life as much the same as possible, not making huge sacrifices in the name of cutting gas miles. He still took the usual ski and snowboard trips, and occasionally drove into town with his family for a movie or dinner. However, his wife still gives him a hard time about an evening when his family had dinner plans in town with friends and everyone hopped into the minivan except Kiddoo. His wife asked if he was seriously going to run into town and meet them there. He said he was.
Kiddoo admitted that he has a tendency to become overly driven about certain things. For this reason, he and his wife made an agreement that she had the authority to stop Kiddoo if he got carried away.
“For example, if she caught me outside cutting the lawn with a pair of scissors to save gas, then she could say I’d gone too far,” Kiddoo joked.
For the most part, running and biking for the majority of his transport was an easy transition from his former lifestyle. A passionate long-distance runner, the sport is Kiddoo’s addiction, viewing it as his time to stay healthy, to think, to be alone, and to explore the beauty of the area.
One of the most difficult adjustments Kiddoo made last year was starting runs from his house rather than driving to an alpine location. He said he was depressed at times, but grew to appreciate the seasonal changes in the valley he had never seen before.
“The year was kind of an eye-opener,” Kiddoo said. “The world is enormously large without a car.”
By the end of 2009, Kiddoo calculated that 43 percent of his driving miles were work-related. When he could, he ran. One time, he ran 65 miles from Bishop to Lone Pine for work. When he couldn’t carry something while running, he biked. Kiddoo said he only drove to places as a last resort. He said the year’s most notable bike trip was either carrying 150 pounds of chicken food, balancing 35 tomato cages, or stopping at the gas station for 9 gallons of gas (for the lawn mower and rototiller).
Kiddoo started the year off running 409 miles by the end of January, which is an average of 13.2 miles per day. He wanted to rack up the running miles early in the year, since he knew some of the upcoming months would be more motor-reliant. May and June were the big motor months, logging 797.3 miles in May, and 576.9 in June, due to garden and work-related necessities. In October, however, Kiddoo’s motorized mileage totaled zero. He carried a GPS watch with him everywhere, cataloguing each trip in a calendar. The calendar shows Kiddoo’s meticulous record-keeping. The box for each day is full of his scribbles, notes, and calculations.
The motive for his mission was influenced by the 2008 spike in gas prices, although he developed a serious aversion to cars after he almost died in a car crash at age 16. Inspired by books like Katie Alvord’s “Divorce Your Car” (New Society Publishing) and other literature about peak oil, Kiddoo said minimizing his ecological footprint has always been a goal.
He has also preferred foot travel over car travel throughout his life. He recalled a time in grade school when the school bus driver kicked Kiddoo out of the bus because they didn’t get along, and made him walk to school for two weeks as punishment. Kiddoo said the bus driver’s plan failed because he really enjoyed walking.
“Cars add complication to life,” Kiddoo said. “They add more things to take care of and deal with, such as changing oil and going to the gas station. Plus, running through a field with cows is a lot more entertaining.”
Kiddoo said living a more sustainable life is all about making choices. He gets satisfaction from knowing that he can choose not to participate in the modern American way of life. People can invest time in car maintenance and driving, or they can choose to invest time in alternate forms of travel that perhaps take longer but are healthier for themselves and the environment. People can drive around the parking lot five times to find the closest parking space, or they can walk or bike and not have that problem.
Kiddoo’s attention to his carbon footprint is reflected in both his job and lifestyle. He has worked for Great Basin Air Pollution Control District for the past six years and views keeping the air clean as his full-time job. His family owns one car. He tries to live as simply and self-sufficiently as possible, and builds things from scrap or junk when he can. He recently helped his two sons build an impressive backyard half-pipe from scratch.
His family has over 2,500 square feet of garden, not including all the plum, pear, peach and apple trees. They also raise chickens, rabbits and turkeys for eggs, meat and as a natural pest control for the garden.
The family was impressed by last year’s yields from their garden, including 51 pounds of garlic, 250 pounds of potatoes, 2190 eggs, and 180 pounds of turkey meat. What they can’t consume in summer and fall, they preserve for winter and spring.
He also rigged an irrigation system that feeds water into the garden from the pond. Most of the family’s organic waste is tossed into the 25-by-25 foot compost heap, which takes 12 hours to turn. Kiddoo said he believes in the importance of feeding his family fresh, organic food.
“Farmers should be paid as much as doctors,” he said. “Half the people who see a doctor don’t have the right farmer.”
Kiddoo’s lifestyle choices may pass to the next generation, as there are signs his 10- and 13-year-old sons have been influenced by his method of living. He said his car-lite program really brought to his kids’ attention how much society revolves around cars. He said his kids don’t think it’s weird to ride bikes to pick up fruit. His eldest son has no problem slaughtering and butchering a chicken. So far, gardening isn’t a priority over skateboarding, but when his kids are bored, Kiddoo said, they help plant and harvest.
Both Kiddoo and his wife grew up in Bishop, moved away, and then came back to raise their family. He said his roots here fed a strong sense of community, making him want to always act with the community in mind.
Kiddoo said it takes a month for alternative transportation to become a habit, and after a year, any inconvenience becomes a non-issue. By the end of 2009, Kiddoo had driven 3,750.7 miles. His biking distance totaled 524.4 miles. But his running miles trumped both other forms of transportation with a whopping final count of 3,770.4 miles.
His way of life, however, has not shifted much from last year. He still runs as much as he can. The biggest life change that resulted from his year of running was his resolve to participate in fewer races that take place around the country. The most exciting difference between this year and last is that he can go on alpine runs again. He said he has already been up to Pauite Pass five times this year.
Until Kiddoo finds the motivation for another lofty goal, he said he just wants to continue to live as an example for his children and for himself.
But perhaps his story will inspire others to slow down and see the world at a natural pace rather than letting it race by. Although Kiddoo’s preferred means of transportation may limit his options, it opens up a vast world of community-based living.