Monday, July 21, 2008

Hey Pal, Going My Way?

I know it sounds like a broken record, but these gas prices have got many of my friends up here more tangled up than a youngster with a new Zebco. The fact of the matter is that those of you on the porch and your other friends up here all realize the great distances we MUST travel to live here. There's a lot of truth in the old saying "everything is a half hour away". Now conversely, that's what offers us the peace and solitude we so enjoy. But by gollie it is just almost unaffordable to fill up anymore.

A few of us folks were talking the other day at the Boulder hardware store and briefly outlined a rather self sufficient means of implementing our own public transportation, which we all feel is needed now more than ever. First, let's all start by acknowledging that we need each others help. If Gladys is running down to Minocqua, there's no reason why she wouldn't contact the rest of the ladies down the road to see if they've got their list together ; one trip down 51 could help 4-5 families. And accordingly, when I've got to run down to see the good doc at the Marshfield Clinic, not a reason I can think of why I wouldn't look for a rider or pick someone up along the way...long as I had some idea of who they were. So in about 20 minutes and between numerous "hellos" and "goodbyes" this is what we came up with that could morph into the Northwoods "Fishin' For a Ride" Line.

First off, let's identify the communities that we would start with. (Now pardon me, but this is all on recollection and I've recycled a few bottles of "Cab" since we talked last Tuesday if you know what I mean?!) Okay, these communities would likely include Presque Isle, Winchester, Mercer, Manitowish Waters, Boulder Junction, Arbor Vitae, Woodruff and Minocqua. In each of these communities except Minocqua (explain later) we could identify one establishment/ business that would serve as a drop off/ pick up point. In inclement weather, perhaps these fine folks would allow riders to stay inside (bbrrrr....please?). This would also drive traffic (pardon the pun) to their establishments. Now if you needed a ride from say, Presque Isle to Minocqua, you could feasibly stand at the shelter in front of Headwaters Real Estate and place the wooden "Minocqua" sign on the front of the shelter and wait for your ride. Your first offer may be only as far as Boulder Junction or Manitowish Waters, but you have gotten further down the line and are increasing your chances of a ride to your destination considerably as traffic also increases the closer we get to Minocqua. Now you may be thinking, just who is going to get into a car with a stranger? Or, who in their right mind would pick up a complete stranger? Both obvious AND wonderful questions that require thoughtful answers.

One of the benefits of a small community is that you know almost everyone. And the people you don't know, they're probably pretty nice too. Now in order to qualify as a potential "driver", you must have a bright sticker visible to all on your front windshield. In order to obtain this sticker, you must meet the age and driving requirements of the program. These requirements would most likely include NO DUI arrests, NO license revocation, NO felony charges etc. And let's say at some time you wanted to be a "rider". You too would be required to have a "pass" that identifies you. This part we're still refining, however it also should be a very thorough screening . Perhaps a rider would write into a log the date/ time/ location and drivers license number before accepting a ride that would be left at a "kiosk" or with the "host" at a particular site. Understanding that Minocqua is the main hub of the area, it would have a disproportionate number of drop off- pick up points, possibly as many as 10. These would include downtown, WalMart, Trigs, Lakeland High, Marshfield Clinic, movie theatre etc. Still, remember that most of us have cell phones and most of us know each other. The wait times would be expectantly slow during implementation of this program but hopefully would increase to a point of success after residents know and understand the purpose and benefits and any fears are addressed.

So that's basically it in a nutshell; a small town grass roots "ride share" program.No doubt about it, lots of unanswered questions, but the premise is pretty clear and there seems to be support for what amounts to helping each other out and in the process, strengthening the ties of a small community. I believe this could be done so efficiently and swiftly and also serve as a reminder to everyone that most of the solutions to our challenges are right under our noses. So, I urge you to momentarily forget the politicians, and along with me, Gus, Harold, Ernie and our Northwoods friends, find that activism in yourself, roll up your sleeves and let's all "Git R Done". Heck, for a bunch of old "ripe" folks we're starting to sound pretty "green"!

I've gotta run. Thanks for stopping by today and bringing the pie. All my love to you and yours, Elmer

No comments: