Editor’s Note: This is the first installment in a series the Mountain News is developing on methods of coping with little or no money due to illness, retirement or unemployment. The series is called, “Getting By,” and it will also include our personal narratives and stories. Hopefully, they will be substantive, helpful and light-hearted.
On the spiral of living without much money, sooner or later one gets a vehicle breakdown that is beyond our ability to pay for a repair. Hence, the lack of transportation becomes part of our new life.
That’s what happened to me, as my efforts to nurse a few more miles from a 27-year old pick-up truck were overwhelmed. A blown head gasket required a full engine rebuild, but with 461,000 miles on the truck there was plenty else grinding and making scary noises, so any money put into the engine seemed like a losing proposition.
At first, living without wheels in south Pierce County seemed daunting – after all how would I shop for groceries with my new debit card from the food stamp program, or even pick up a couple bags of frozen beans, peanut butter and day-old bread from the food banks?
Asking for rides from friends grew problematic, and most days I felt like I was on a National Geographic Expedition to a strange land where folks drove much differently than I, and seemed to have enormous difficulties in de-fogging their windshields. In fact, riding with some of my friends was downright dangerous or unhealthy, although I do acknowledge that I might be a little picky about driving styles.
While discussing these conundrums with my food stamp facilitator at the Eatonville Family Center, she told me about the Beyond the Borders transportation program and said it was available for folks like me.
“I thought it was only for people with health issues or disabilities,” I replied.
Oh, no,” the Family Service volunteer said. “It for anyone that is low-income, and since you’re on food stamps you qualify. In fact, I get a Beyond the Borders ride to work here, everyday.”
Wow, I thought. That changes everything.
So, I called the number the EFS gave me, (253) 798-2864, and spoke with a “Penny.”
I was somewhat familiar with the program since I had written a story about the service for the Eatonville Dispatch several years ago, and here’s my understanding of what is provided and how it’s funded.
Beyond the Borders is a free car service for those of us residing “beyond the borders” of the Pierce Transit bus lines, which in this part of Pierce County is generally considered to be south of 224th St . BTB picks up and delivers an eligible rider from their home and takes them to the nearest bus station. For me, that’s the #1 bus at the Walmart in Spanaway.
In addition, they will take me in the opposite direction – to Eatonville – so I can do my food shopping and other chores.
The service is designed to provide rural residents with the necessary transportation to address their most important needs, such as food, medical appointments, job searches, and employment. As far as I can tell, the service is unlimited as long as these criteria are met.
Most of the vehicles that come to pick me up have “Horizon Medical Transport” written on the side, and most of the passengers are Para-Transit people heading to and fro’ their doctors. Guys like me in BTB, which is funded in part by Pierce Transit, seem to piggy-back on the much larger Para-Transit service.
In addition, a BTB rider is allowed to receive five rides a month for personal matters. For me that means going to the movies, and last Saturday I took the BTB to the #1 bus and rode it into Tacoma to the Grand Cinema for my Big Night on the Town.
Actually, it was an afternoon, but I enjoyed it immensely.
The bus is $2 each way, and if I wanted a full PT adventure and ride buses all day, I could have gotten a “Ride All Day” pass that costs $4. Helpful co-riders tell me that I can get a “Senior” pass now that I’m 62, which gets me on a bus for 75 cents. However, I’d need to journey to the headquarters of Pierce Transit somewhere in Tacoma, fill out the forms and get a laminate – and all that is too much of an ordeal for me just yet.
The Grand Cinema is a delightful place, just three blocks west from the #1 bus stop at Fawcett and 9th St inTacoma. On Saturday afternoon, for $6.50 I had my pick of four different films and I chose The Way, starring Martin Sheen and directed and produced by his son, Emilio Estevez.
The Way is a fictional account of a father and son making the famous pilgrimage in northwestern Spain known as El Camino de Santiago de Campostela. It’s a route that has received pilgrims since the 9th Century, and history and spirituality are embedded in the land and the experience.
Of course, El Camino, which means The Road, is a place of transformation and the movie does a splendid job in portraying the evolution of the father, the Martin Sheen character. He’s a tough but good-hearted guy that has become a bit crusty after practicing medicine for forty years. Nevertheless, he sheds his past and grows a new skin on El Camino.
El Camino de Santiago de Campostela is an 800-kilometer journey and the movie fully captures the simply beauty – and power – of this pilgrimage. The movie rings with authenticity, and I picked up a lot of the El Comino lingo, such as the frequent greeting “Buen Camino” that los peregrinos, (the pilgrims) exchange with each other and the residents of the communities they pass through.
Los peregrinos also drink a lot of red wine if they are fortunate to have enough Euros, which I think is an excellent way to explore the inner self. The vino and a 500-mile road are also an effective way to open oneself to the adventure of walking for two months in the company of seekers from around the world.
Let’s see….my social security kicks in next week…$1.2 to the Euro, superb Rioja is 3 Euros per bottle, a bed in the albergues is 15 Euros per night for a peregrino, and the donatarios are even less…two months…oy, how do I get to España?
© 2011 The Mountain News – WA