Category Archives: price of gas

Days 273-277: MLwC and what happens when you don’t drive your car very much….

We took a brief vacation over the holiday to San Juan Island up near the watery boarder between the US and Canada. We were really looking forward to getting away for a couple of days, bike riding and hiking our way through the Thanksgiving holiday.


We managed to reserve a perfect little cabin at Lonesome Cove Resort, an old (1947) and tucked away collection of cabins on the north end of the island. Highly recommend this place to stay as its truly welcoming and down to earth, not very “resort-like,” but awfully sweet and cozy.

The first day out, we drove to the opposite end of the island for a loop bicycle ride up and down and up and down and up and down the hilly west coast of the island–what a beautiful and exhilarating ride! But first! What happens when you don’t drive your car very much….

  • The price of gas!!! When did the price of gas go crazy? I haven’t bought any in a while, I guess, and I was blown away that it was $3.25 a gallon! I’m so happy I don’t drive much.
  • Cars need oil!!  I really don’t remember when I changed the oil on my car last.  It’s maybe been 8 months–too long.  I know.  So, we’re driving along and the “check engine” light comes on–yipes!! What does this mean? Cars are so stressful. We find a sweet garage in Friday Harbor that’s actually open and the guys are more than happy to check the car out. “You’re out of oil,” the guy says sweetly, looking at me like I must be out of my mind. “You ever check the oil?” I mumble that I don’t drive the car very much….He adds oil and suggests that we have the car checked out when we get back to town, the catalytic converter sounds bad and may need to be replaced which is why the “check engine” light went on. We’re good to go for now so we head out.
  • Cruise Control: it’s a great thing to use whenever you can. Why? Because it makes life in the fast lane a lot less stressful and uses  significantly less gas. Here’s what I figured out: if you have your car set at cruise control at the speed limit, the inevitable clumps of traffic move around you. Because of this, you are sometimes at the back of the herd and sometimes in the lead, but you’re cruising down the highway with less stress and using less gas in the process.
  • Double Occupancy lanes: These lanes mean go as fast as you can. They’re not about optimizing car usage.  They’re not about traffic congestion. They are about an unwritten rule that says if I have another person in the car, I can ride in a multi-occupancy lane and go as fast as possible, and anyone in my lane should get out of the way, whether they also have another person in their car or not. I’m not sure this makes sense, but it did seem to be a consistent experience.
  • Drive early: We found the trip up and the trip back to be just about as relaxed a drive as you can have in Puget Sound region on a holiday, and that impacted gas usage as well, since we had next to no stop-and-go tie-ups. All in all, an efficient drive.

So, those are the things I noticed about the big blow-out 325 mile drive this weekend. I appreciated having a car because we got to go up to one of our favorite places on the planet and play for 2.5 solid days and enjoy fabulous vistas everywhere we looked. But I also got slapped up the side of the head that even if you don’t drive your car, you still have to tend to it. It’s not magic.  And it’s expensive.
La Marguerite has gotten me to start thinking about other things along with driving and car usage and I’m happy to say that by and large, we didn’t create a lot of extra garbage in the process of our holiday. We took all our food and cooked there, took our bags and containers home to recycle. We did have some coffees to go a couple of times and that was a little bit of a drag. This morning we got a breakfast wrap to take on the early ferry home with us and when it was ready, the server started to put it in a plastic box but we asked to just have it in a bag with napkins. She asked if we were sure, like maybe we’d made a mistake, and we said yes and thus there is one less take-out box in the garbage today.

It’s great to get away and see the world differently for a few days…clear your mind. And for that, it’s great to have a car. Our national (and growing global) problem is we also think it’s great to have a car to go to the video store or the post office or to the park or downtown where dozens of buses go all day and all night or a party where you could ride with friends or….on and on. Our default setting is Car. When the price of gas is $7 a gallon, maybe we’ll be a little more discerning in our use of the little gas guzzling wonders.

Daily Stats (Wed, Thu, Fri, Sat, Sun)
Car: 325 exactly.
Bike: 18 miles
Ped: approx 9 miles
Bus: 0

Day 205 thru 207: MLwC and Bus Ridin Chick

Pal Jodene showed up in West Seattle today after traveling to Bellevue from her home in North Seattle. I don’t know how many miles that is but it’s a lot, so she is my hero today. She noted that it’s funny how going from her home in North Seattle, all the way around the north end of Lake Washington into Bellevue was a measly buck twenty-five, while traveling from Bellevue to Seattle was a whopping 2.50–a two zone ticket. She wondered why, I suggested because two major shopping areas equals two different zones.

Tomorrow I’m heading to the Fremont district, north of downtown. I’ve toyed with the idea of bussing it but am a little intimidated by the idea. Jodene has thrown the gauntlet down and I’m feeling I must answer the call. I wonder how many zones that is, from West Seattle to Fremont, home of the Lenin Statue and all that is truly funky in Seattle.

Lenin in Fremont

The end of summer is at hand around here, the rains have started and the temperature is chillin’. It’s a funny mixture of relief that things might quiet down a little, and sadness that the beautiful long summer days are behind us. For MLwC, I’m entering a new season and will see how this impacts my alternate transportation plans. Riding a bike in the rain isn’t all that bad, but not all that fun either. But, who knows? Most everything I used to think about transportation has changed in the course of this project, so we’ll see.

Speaking of driving. I was transfixed the other day, checking out the size of the gas cap on a Hummer. Seen one lately? I know, I know–Hummer’s are so overwhelming in general, but check it out next time you’re next to one of those monsters, waiting for the light to change. The gas cap itself speaks volumes (it’s Huge).

Hummer gas cap

Daily Stats: (Sat, Sun, Mon)
Car: 7 miles
Bike: 5 miles
Ped: approx 2 miles
Bus: 0

Days 161-165: MLwC and Hybrid SUVs

Whoa–lost a chunk of time there, it seems. We went over to Sandpoint, Idaho to visit our friends Diana, Shannon and the young man Henry over the weekend. It’s not an easy spot to get to, but it sure is pretty. We flew into Spokane and drove a rented car from there to Sandpoint.

They have an annual Music festival which this year featured Lyle Lovett and his Large Band (it’s not Big, it’s Large). They also have a number of races and outdoor events; my partner swam the Longbridge event (1 3/4 miles in 1 hour and 15 minutes), while our friend Di did the Olympic triathalon in 1 hour, 34 minutes–both beating their own estimates by quite a little bit. Yeeha!

While there, we got into a discussion about Hybrid SUVs. When the time comes, they’d like to get an SUV for traveling around the countryside of Idaho with their growing family; for their in-town commute, maybe they’ll stick with their smaller car. So, they wondered about the Hybrid SUVs on the market. I wasn’t much help; I follow it a little, but my schtick is really learning how to live with very little car-activity at all.

Just so happens that EcoChic has a very recent article on her blog about a test drive of the GM Yukon and Tahoe SUVs. Alas, the story isn’t altogether a pleasant read for those considering hybrid SUVs–she found the whole experience of driving such a large hunk of metal embarrassing and uncomfortable.

She was invited to test drive the car by GM itself and was accompanied by a spokesperson for the car company. That individual expounded on the fact that these cars are very much in demand by women, due to safety concerns. EcoChic counter-expounds that SUVs themselves mean almost certain death for regular car drivers involved in SUV/car accidents. So, safety for these consumers is a one-sided issue it would seem.

But she does note that in-city driving get 40% better gas mileage and highway driving gets 25%. That’s something, even if the benchmark for improvement starts at 14-15 mpg in-city driving.

She accurately bemoans our government’s failure to pass fuel economy standards, particularly the one in 1991 which would now be saving us a million gallons of gas a day. Who put the kibosh on the deal? Ford and GM, who else?

All in all, she said she would wait for the Chevy Volt–a car more to her liking.

Daily Stats (Thu, Fri, Sat, Sun, Mon)

Car: 5 miles (2 tasks, 1 person)
Bike: 8 miles
Ped: lots and lots and lots
Bus: 0
Air: approx 1300

Day 150 & 151: MLwC and green films

I love a good movie–when it’s raining in Seattle, there’s nothing better than a good movie and a bowl of popcorn. Random and Sundry Things highlighted a Grist article on Hollywood’s 15 greenest movies a couple of weeks ago, you can find it here.

Chinatown, movie–for the full article go to

Random and Sundry was surprised that Chinatown was included in the list which pleased me in a weird way. It pleased me because it shows that the plot was so well crafted that the issue of overdevelopment in Southern California, the rerouting of water from the more fertile valleys to the Los Angeles basin was part of the backdrop–vs. a clunk on the head type plot, a plot with an agenda. Chinatown actually has a lot in common with Cadillac Desert, a documentary and good book, though you wouldn’t know it on the surface.

I like a good story, and I hate it when a good story is sacrificed for an overbearing agenda, even though entertainment is often a good way to spread real information. So, even though the true story is hugely important and captivating all on its own, Chinatown is a movie, it’s fiction that is meant to bring the historical facts to life. The greed, the ruthlessness, the corruption.

One film that would have been interesting to include, and which any discussion of Chinatown always reminds me of in terms of period and plot is…oddly enough: Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Why? Because the murder in that animation film, and the whole plot, is based on the idea of removing the existing and beloved Red and Yellow Street Car lines from the Los Angeles basin, in order to put in thousands of miles of freeways–the current freeway system that L.A is famous for. It was a true event and was chronicled, and as the basis of a Disney animation, make for a good story as well as a commentary on choices made out of greed, corruption, and ruthlessness.  Highways mean cars, cars mean gas, gas means money, and money means business.

What other Green Films would you like to see on the list?

Daily Stats (Sat and Sun)

Car: 0
Bus: 0
bike: 0
Ped: approx 2 miles

Day 143 & 144: MLwC and the way we were (less efficient was perhaps better…)

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:

pump price from then to now

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.

station wagon promo pic

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)

Car: 0
Bike: 6.2 miles
Ped: approx 3 miles
Bus: 0