Monday, April 11, 2005

#158 - Giving Me Gas... [Updated]

Our summer will disappoint this year, I'm afraid. We usually look forward to summers if only because we have a chance to take a week or two and travel around with our little family. There for awhile we alternated between our friends up in Washington state and family in Utah. Last year we decided to putz around the mountain regions of northern California, admiring the beauty of Mount Shasta (while worrying about the decided lack of water in Shasta Lake) and surrounding areas.

This year, I'm thinking our big destination will be the local putt-putt and pizza palace.

It's not that I'm complaining, but it isn't as if the country has had little or no warning about these pesky fuel costs. I was a new driver during the "Energy Crisis" of the late 70's and had to spend a few days at our local gas stations. We slowly inched our way around the block waiting for our turn (wouldn't you know both of our vehicles had odd numbered license plates!) to put some go-juice in our go-buggies. Every time we did, we lost several hours of life sitting in those cars, softly swearing at some faceless organization called "OPEC" and wondering when Detroit was ever going to get a clue.

Thirty years and about a gazillion SUVs later, we're still clueless. We still choose to ignore those who warn against our dependence on foreign oil, and laugh at those who tout alternative fuels for a commute-happy society. Worse, we threaten to find creative ways to punish those who dare to purchase energy efficient vehicles, because some poor politician isn't getting enough money to waste on highway maintenance projects. (If you've ever seen a CalTrans road project, you know that "efficient" is not allowed in the current bargaining unit agreement.)

With the cost of gasoline steadily creeping upward (we're pushing the $3.00 ceiling here in sunny southern Cal!), the next voices I expect to hear would come from the various tourism boards across the country. I, for one, will likely not be taking my family very far from Orange County this year. I've done the math, and even my easy-on-the-mileage Saturn will be too expensive for anything but day trips. If even 10% of the families who normally find some way of travelling elsewhere for vacation find themselves in a similar situation, I predict a few ghost towns increasing their spiritual populations by summer's end.

Me? I'm not getting into this debate. I can't really afford to do anything but wait it out and either buy an alternative-fueled vehicle when I can next afford one (retirement, I'm thinking), or save up for five years at a time so we can take two more travelling vacations before the girls get too old to enjoy them.

Yeah, it's that bad.

UPDATE: So Mrs. Woody and I were budgeting for our vacation this year, when Mrs. Woody hit on the idea of checking into the train. (Note: the Coast Starlight is not suffering from brake trouble these days)

Turns out that travelling by train actually saves us over the cost of gas, hotels and food that we would pay for the trip up and back. So, odd as it may sound, saved by Amtrak!

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