My partner and I were riding back from the west seattle farmer’s market today, transporting precious cargo in our panniers and the little stow-away on the back of my bike: rainier cherries, fresh pasta, tomatoes, bibb lettuce, red onions, spinach.
As we peddled home I started thinking about when I was a kid and how my mom got food to our baby-boomer household: once a week, a trip to the store and our local farmer’s market and back home again with a load of food for a family of six. That was pretty much the regime. We didn’t get in the car again for days.
If we ran out of something, we walked to the nearer store–not as big, not as cheap, but a nice walk and easy to do.
The deal was: we didn’t jump in the car for everything. We just didn’t. And I grew up in Southern California–it’s not like I didn’t grow up in a car culture, I did. But using a car was sort of a big deal back then–it was expensive and also, walking and bike riding were more common. When I stayed at my grandmother’s house in Los Angeles, we rode the bus everywhere–it’s just what you did.
Then I got to thinking about the price of gas now compared to then and thought driving was probably so much more expensive then. When I got home I checked out the price of gas adjusted for inflation and here’s what I found:
Turns out we were paying per gallon back in 1960 about the same price we’re paying now. What happened, how come We’re driving like fifty times more! Upon more investigation, what happened was this: in the late 70’s and early 80’s, gas prices soared, we were in the midst of ongoing crisis in the middle east and the government called for more efficiency and less reliance on middle eastern oil. Car companies responded by making more fuel efficient vehicles–compared to the cars we had when I was growing up, the Country Squire station wagon we had, for example, these new cars were wildly efficient. The old cars had terrible mileage–like 6-10 mpg, making everyone very careful about when and how they drove. So, enter the age of the fuel efficient car.
Does the fuel efficient car help us use less gas, make us less reliant on ME oil? Hell no! It helps us drive wherever, whenever, and in the largest-ass car we can get anytime we want. We’re using per capita way more oil now than we were back then when cars were completely inefficient. So, was the drive to efficiency (no pun intended) a good thing? Not so much, looks to me.
Anyway, back to my ride home….I recognize that I’ve reverted to that earlier model now. I’m going to pretend that my car gets 6 mpg and that fuel is more expensive than water. And I’ll be calmer, happier for it. Cars are incredibly addictive–I know I’ve said this before, but I was just marveling at it again today, so it’s on my mind. I’m feeling sort of old fashioned, in a weird way, and I like it. Simpler. Calmer. Easier.
Daily stats: (Saturday, Sunday)
Bike: 6.2 miles
Ped: approx 3 miles