Grounded Vehicles

The most popular post on this blog, by far is called The Dark Side of Burning Man.  My favorite comment on this post was “Yeah yeah yeah…burning man sucks, dont go, yadda yadda yadda….sell me yer ticket.”  What was lost in this exchange was that this post was the second of two and the first one was all about how important i think Burning Man is as a festival and what it has to teach and offer us as a greater society.    The notion that someone can really appreciate something and still be a vocal critic appears hard to grasp to many folks.

So it is with my home community of Twin Oaks.  I have written more positive propaganda about Twin Oaks than probably any other single person, except founder Kat Kinkade herself (who wrote two full books that some would consider propaganda).   I think the sharing systems at Twin Oaks desperately need to be modeled on a large scale or the world has no chance.

Bike Sharing system in Denver

Bike Sharing system in Denver

But just like with Burning Man, i am a loud critic of my community, which i want to change and improve.  Before you ask for my membership slot at Twin Oaks for being comparatively critical, know that i think this community has very high model value and that proof of my love and appreciation for it, is the amount of time i put into trying to make it be better, but reviewing and addressing the many shortcomings it suffers from.

Winter is a vanishing commodity in central Virginia, but we still get a few cold enough days and snowy enough days that all our vehicles at Twin Oaks get grounded occasionally.  This is one of those collective decisions that people outside of community have tremendous trouble rapping their brains around.  What this means is we have a fleet of 17 vehicles and when the vehicle crew decides the roads are too slippery, no one can drive any of them until they are ungrounded.

it rarely gets anything like this snowy in VA anymore

it rarely gets anything like this snowy in VA anymore

This system is good for keeping our insurance rates down, by reducing winter fender benders and more serious accidents.  It is also a way to normalize our range of driving skills.  Some members grew up in Wisconsin or Maine and they really know their winter driving stuff.  Others need to be trained in how to deal with poor weather, without the training it is not fair to say some experienced drivers can handle the snow and others can not.  If we ground the vehicles on the worst weather days, then we do decrease the number of cars which get damaged over the winter.

Acorn does it differently.  Several experienced members inform me that Acorn never collectively grounded their own vehicles.  Instead (like so many things at Acorn  it is a conversation).  Ultimately the responsibility is on you to take care of the car and know your own limits.  The community pays all your car insurance, and there is a culture of checking to see if a member is going to be okay driving in adverse conditions.  And because of the Acorn flexible system, i was able to pull something together at the last minute and make it home in time for Willows Heroes game.  Not surprisingly Acorners use a first come first serve car share system and this leaves some  slack in the system, which is highly desirable.

Tomorrow the Twin Oaks vehicles will be grounded for an incoming snow storm and i am supposed to drive Hawina to her doctors appointment.  I grow up in the Boston burbs and i have driven in some pretty terrible winter storms. i will take her in a borrowed personal car from an Associate member here at Acorn (which mean it can only be used in limited way).

Cross your fingers it does not snow more.

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About paxus

a funologist, memeticist and revolutionary. Can be found in the vanity bin of Wikipedia and in locations of imminent calamity. buckle up, there is going to be some rough sledding.

7 responses to “Grounded Vehicles”

  1. Keenan Dakota says :


    One snowy winter’s day, Twin Oaks had five fender benders–ONE DAY!

    It is profoundly irrelevant how skilled someone is at driving in the snow in Vermont. The problem is that it snows so little in Virginia that every other driver has no experience driving in the snow. I was waaaaaay back in a line of cars that was driving on a snowy Virginia backroad. The five cars in front of me were all driving too close to each other. Rather than wait at the top of one hill to make sure the previous car made it over the next hill, the five cars slowly crawled, together, up the hill in front of me. Can you predict what happened? The first, very cautious, driver started to slide backwards causing all of the other cars to scoot out of the way into various ditches. The road now being impassable, I slowly turned around and went another way.

    “Good” drivers are notoriously bad at accurately estimating their ability. People who really like to drive, typically drive too fast and are often overconfident. This leads to accidents. If Virginia ever has much snow again, and after Acorn has had a few accidents, I’ll wager that Acorn’s system moves towards Twin Oaks’ more centralized control.

    • Rejoice Miene says :


      Acorn has a hard enough time finding a car manager. The “don’t tell me what to do” ethic at Acorn would make it really hard for that car manager (whoever he or she ends up being!) to decide to ground the cars.

  2. Jacqueline says :

    Better drive carefully!

  3. Bliss says :

    If an eastwinder leaves a car in a ditch, they just go get another car :). I was once nearly eaten alive for suggesting people not be allowed to drink while fixing the cars… This system would never even have occurred to me! Always fun to see how a similar network of communities can be so different…

  4. Jack says :

    I hope you have a good, safe trip to the doctor’s. Maybe you should call first to be sure the doctor is actually there though, just in case. If the situation is really bad consider waiting a day or two unless its a real emergency.

    I grew up in Chicago and once we had a real bad snowstorm such that the tollway was even closed. A friend and I drove about a mile and a half in our 4WD Jeep wagon before giving up. Two or three days later we made a bunch of money clearing peoples’ driveways with a backhoe my friend ‘borrowed’ from his employer until he managed to get that stuck also. Just saying . . .

  5. Jack says :

    Keenan’s comment reminds me of driving in Dallas one day in winter when there was a lot of ice on the roads. I had a front-wheel-drive Subaru wagon and noticed the same situations. Dallas drivers definitely were not used to driving in those conditions and every little hill was liberally sprinkled with cars that had skidded off to one side or the other.

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