Guest Opinion: Musings of times spent driving prompts rethinking of priorities

Meryl Gwinn. File photo
Meryl Gwinn. File photo

By Meryl Gwinn

Cars have been on my mind. Other than natural health things, and plotting to get to the mountains soon, I’ve been thinking a lot about vehicles. Driving more frequently than ever and being keenly aware of it, today I entertain a personal vehicle history report, with subsequent thoughts on transportation.

In the last year, I purchased an excellent blue ’96 Toyota 4-Runner. I say excellent because it’s been found to run noticeably better with encouragement. It was the best decision under the circumstances. The sellers were a local Hawaiian couple who used it for longboard transportation and were expecting a baby at any moment. Every time I see that obnoxious electric blue, I am grateful—mostly because I rely on it so heavily right now, and also because life doesn’t always warrant car ownership.

Upon moving to Southern California five years ago, my boyfriend and I shared a Subaru. We traded off times pedaling to work. My trip was a forgiving 1.5 miles up the hill, his a 14 miler to the San Clemente Pico business park from downtown Laguna, on a vintage road bike. I was spoiled. Life then also included many adventures on the Orange County Transportation Authority buses, a time consuming endeavor. Nevertheless, it kept things interesting. Visit for a hopeful public transportation outlook.

Beyond that, there was an adored ’87 BMW. Personal style really can trump sensibility. During those years, I learned a ton about working on old German machinery, specifically the convertible type with weathered and shrinking tops—a mysterious concept. My San Clemente mechanic became a good friend.

Eventually the golden Beamer was removed by the city for curbside occupancy of over 72 hours, but I was staying in Chile at the time and it seemed inarguable, so I couldn’t be too upset.

Upon returning, a dear friend loaned me a manual Ford Ranger and immediately ensued a short romance with a truck, to which I am also forever indebted. This brings me to the 4-Runner, and my first experience driving an SUV on smooth California freeways and tinyy beach towns maxed out with cars, many of them bulky SUVs.

Again I think, is this really necessary? How can I downsize to free up a bit in other areas, to cause less pressure on the system and self? Specifically speaking, how can we drive less? What if a work commute fell within a certain range that made it a mandatory walk or bike? It might not be intolerable with a tweaked perspective: a healthy challenge, stronger lungs and early sunrise enjoyments.

Maybe we can amend our routines just slightly in favor of efficiency, like “going to town” for all errands in a single swoop, instead of spazzing out and making four grocery runs a week, draining our wallets, time, and spinal elasticity. It’s difficult to change sometimes when we don’t have to, but what if small somewhat “inconvenient” change created awesome outcomes we may have overlooked?

Questioning how I’d ideally be spending this driving time shifted me to priorities. What’s most important to me, and how can I make my life look more like that? Right now I might not be able to change what is required of me (job commute) but perhaps I can change what I require of myself (running the beach trail vs. driving to the gym).

Let’s control what we can and become more flexible. Perhaps if we take the time to consider what is changeable in our own lifestyles, we won’t always have to live life in the fast lane. Simply more fuel for thought.

Meryl Gwinn has a Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology and has studied yoga, health, food and humans around the globe. Gwinn welcomes reader feedback at

In an effort to provide our readers with a wide variety of opinions from our community, the DP Times provides Guest Opinion opportunities in which selected columnists’ opinions are shared. The opinions expressed in these columns are entirely those of the columnist alone and do not reflect those of the DP Times or Picket Fence Media. If you would like to respond to this column, please email us at

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