Enslaved to the pump

I-25 at 10 a.m.

Rising gas prices have made a virtual wasteland of Interstate 25 in Bibleburg. Or not. And the "Keep Right" sign is an amusing redundancy here.

If rising gas prices are curtailing driving, as so many of the usually reliable sources are reporting, I sure haven’t seen it here in Bibleburg.

I drove the Subie north to Whole Paycheck yesterday and felt like a minnow caught up in a salmon run. Eighteen-wheelers, SUVs and pick-em-up trucks zooming by at 10 to 20 mph over the 65-mph limit, honking and swerving, tailgating and gesticulating. In short, just another day on the American highway.

But clearly, The People are suffering:

“We have an au pair from France, and she recently filled up our minivan and gave me a bill for $70,” said Melanie Janin, a mother of three from Bethesda. “I was like, ‘Oh, my God.’”

Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.

20 Responses to “Enslaved to the pump”

  1. Bobzilla Says:

    Geez, Muffy, next thing you know the au pair will leave and you will actually have to see your kids.

  2. bromasi Says:

    GOD ??????

  3. Peter W. Polack Says:

    “We have an au pair from France, and she recently filled up our minivan and gave me a bill for $70,” said Melanie Janin, a mother of three from Bethesda. “I was like, ‘Oh, my God.’”

    Sounds like Ms. Janin is about to make the leap back to the middle class from her upper class, au pair lifestyle. Perhaps we can all show her what life is REALLY like.

  4. Larry T. Says:

    Yet when I stop by the post office in our town, there’s usually one or two large, V-8 powered vee-hickles idling in the parking lot while their owners tend to biz inside. Huge, gas powered lawn mowers are already swerving around and around on postage-stamp sized lawns. Besides muttering the wife’s infamous three-word explanation, I think to myself that dino-juice is still too cheap in this country when compared to elsewhere in the world. We are 5% of the world’s population and use 25% of the world’s energy last time I checked. Isn’t it about time SOMETHING happened to change this?

    • Steve O Says:

      the invention of the remote key fob … lets you leave the car running while you run into the quickie stop for some slim jims and a 254 oz monster gulp. makes me want to carry a sack of potatoes to jam up their exhaust every time I see someone do it.

  5. John Says:

    For the last three or four springs I have volunteered at the local REI to give a clinic on the techniques of bicycle commuting and how to deal with automobile traffic (the local store doesn’t have a bike shop and I’ve been commuting by bike longer than a good portion of the staff have been alive). Given how gas prices have gone up and all the angst I read in the media about how it’s going to keep going up, I figured this year’s clinic would be a sell out. Alas the talk is tonight and all of one person has signed up. Apparently nothing has changed: people are willing to gripe and bitch about gas prices, but it ain’t getting them out of their precious cars. You win again, laziness!

    I’m optimistic, though. I think gas prices will come back down eventually. They’ll keep going up until the economy suffers yet another drastic setback (possibly aided in no small part by the oil companies), then demand will drop and gas prices will go down. Just like in 2008. This way oil prices will guarantee a cycle of recession to marginal recovery and than back to recession. It’s capitalism, baby!

    • khal spencer Says:

      Hi, John. I had the same problem here in BombTown with offering League Cycling Instructor courses to empty rooms. I gave up. I even do them for free (except the students sometimes needing to buy the booklets–the P.D. bought one batch and the National Lab another).

      Its pretty much been a lost cause. People wanna drive. Its kinda like a crack addiction. We have construction going on right now in town. Fastest way to get to work is cruise down the bike lane. Guess what? Its me and the bike lane.

      Something will change this. National bankruptcy. P-A-S.

      • John Says:

        Khal, you predicted the future on this one. I gave the clinic last night to an audience of one. As far as volunteering to help people cast off the chains of oil dependency and re-discover the bicycle, that was my last performance. No mas.

        I was even doing the bike maintenance clinics for this REI as a volunteer since no one there had any bike shop experience, but I now that they hired someone who knows bikes I’ve stopped doing that. I won’t allow them to use my volunteer efforts so they can cut back on some other guy’s hours.

        Got any other good predictions? Lottery numbers, perhaps?

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Gents, it’s all about what’s easy. Twist that key or turn those pedals? Most of us twist that key.

      As K says, cheap gas is an addiction, and a tough one to shake (as a former cigarette smoker, I like to think I have some standing here). I’ve been fortunate over the years in that even when I did have a real job, I lived close enough to the newspaper to hoof it or cycle at least some of the time.

      Tucson was the main exception — a 20-minute drive from Orange Grove Road to The Arizona Daily Star at about 3:30 in the afternoon, when it was only about a thousand degrees F. Fuck, it was in the 90s at 1 a.m. when I got off work. In Tucson I swam. Not a great way to get to work, but a great way to ogle UA coeds.

      Here in Bibleburg I can walk to the Safeway of the Living Dead if need be (their organics selection rivals that of the average 7-Eleven). My favorite grog shop is an easy bike ride away, as is my favorite local bike shop, cookware dealer, spice retailer, running-shoe store, and so on and so forth.

      Yet still I twist that key. Our better organic groceries are a tough hustle on two wheels. I can use car-free bike paths to get most of the way to all of them, but we’re talking 40 minutes each way — and there are a couple of really hairy road minutes involved no matter which location you pick. So I twist that key.

      And mind you, I’m a lifelong, experienced cyclist. I know I can do all my business on two wheels, but even I resist doing so. That key is right there,next to the front door. So I grab it and go.

      Think how hideous it must seem to the noobs. Small wonder they’re too scared (or too lazy) to hit the streets on two wheels, or even take a class that might ease the pain a bit.

      They’d rather push a car than ride a bike.

  6. Brian Smith Says:

    I think it people will cut back on everything else before giving up the mainline fix of regular unleaded. Also, most folks don’t know or can’t imagine doing anything else but jumping in the car and driving. Also, there are not many alternatives to doing just that. I lived in a small town and was just 1.5 miles from my job. There was no good way to ride to work. Too many log trucks on too small of roads. Kids couldn’t ride their bikes to school simply because of the traffic. Here, it’s 30 miles to work. The first 7 are hilly narrow 2 lane with no shoulder. the last are busy 4 lane divided highway with semi’s barreling at 70. I kinda want live long enough to see my daughter graduate.

    • khal spencer Says:

      That’s why planning the next generation of roads and developments to be accessible, i.e., “complete streets” is so important. Once you build bad design in, its hard to get it out.

      • BenS Says:

        Boy is that right. A town near here is seeking two grants of about $700K each to build bike infrastructure.

        One is a 1.2 mile bike lane(s) to connect a major shopping mall with a mostly bikeable road. Irony – you have to go 1.2 mikes from the mall to find the nearest bikeable route!

        The other us an extension on an existing bike path parallel to the RR. This good, very good as the under used path is great for paceline practice. The extension may make it a practicable commuter route for some.

        The irony here is this is another North-south route, but we have no east-west bike paths or routes that tie everything together.

        Since the local river and the two interstates run N-S getting across or under those barriers is limited due to bridge or viaduct design that tries to kill cyclist and pedestrians getting more than a few miles west of the lake isn’t easy.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      I’m convinced that on-road lanes and off-road paths — especially the latter — would encourage the noobs and more experienced sorts forced by circumstances to live far from schools, shopping and what have you, to walk or ride more instead of twisting the key.

      We do OK with the north-south route — you can ride 60 miles from the DogHaus to the Greenland Open Space and back, or about half that to Fountain and back — but the east-west routes are spottier and hairier.

      When times get tight you hear the small hat sizes squeaking about how cyclists don’t pay their fair share. But we have an excise tax on bikes sold that goes to support trails and paths. It’s just not enough, not in a town that stretches from the foothills of the Rockies to freakin’ Kansas, damn’ near.

  7. Larry T. Says:

    I’m trying to find someone to have sympathy for with respect to the rise in fuel prices — I think I have it. The poor road reps in the bike biz, especially if they have some huge territory to cover as they visit their dealer accounts (I used to be one of these guys so maybe it’s easier for me?) regularly to handle returns/defects, demo the new products and help the dealer sell more of the stuff imported by the company they work for, even if it’s one of the big-three. They can use the phone more to save some fuel but so can the inside-sales guy at the HQ…so unless they get their face in the door, they risk becoming obsolete. Their commissions aren’t getting bigger to cover the increase in fuel costs — so they had better have purchased a high-mileage car (I used a Honda Civic station wagon back-in-the-day) and planned their routes carefully OR they’re facing some dire consequences. But there’s pretty much NO way they can service their dealer accounts with a bicycle with any kind of time-efficiency, no matter how many cool commuter models their company sells.

    • Brian Smith Says:

      The applieds to any of those “shoe leather” traveling sales reps no matter what the industry. A lot of direct customer service is still done this way. Someone hasn’t figured out a way to export it to India, yet. One of my frinds who had just closed his bikeshop rep’ed for bike company for a while. Eventually became a jeweler.

    • khal spencer Says:

      How many of us are in the biz of being a road rep or other shoe leather type? Just as I wonder how many of the “all hat and no cattle” types around here really need the SuperDuty dualie, I wonder how many of us really need to drive everywhere.

      Its not an either-or situation. Its a question of making best use of the resources we have. I miss my old Detroit Iron, a 1993 Ford Exploder. Didn’t use it that often, i.e., about 2500 miles a year (we used my wife’s Impreza for most driving). But sure was nice when we needed it to haul a load of crap to the city dump, make the monthly run to Costco in Albuquerque, get to work in a snowstorm, or haul the dogs off for a Sunday morning trip up a rutted fire road.

      For routine local travel, a small car or the bicycle works fine. A lot easier on Uncle Sam’s oil checkbook, too. I note that that our socialist-closet Muslim President is now being criticized for not opening the spigot on the Strategic Reserve. P-A-S.

  8. Craig Yoas Says:

    Its really not just road design but the fact that everything has been separated in our cities. Especially here in Michigan, in the larger cities, everyone lives in one area, all the industry and commercial biz is in a completely different area and the retail in another. The amount that can be spent on public transportation is limited by Michigan’s constitution. Guess why?
    As Larry T mentioned gas in nowhere near expensive enough if people are still allowing their vehicles to sit in the parking lot, empty, idling away. I won’t even carry on about remote starters.
    We build “bike paths”, that are really just sidewalks, then put the bikers at the absolute bottom of the right of way hierarchy. I have to yield to someone backing out of their driveway across the “bike path”. Even when I ride on the paved shoulder of the road, on the right side of the white “fog line”, I still get honked at.
    Perhaps they are just that jealous that I am not chained to the gas pump like they are.
    I must mention the “Keep Right, except to pass” sign. Along with that should be rules about inhibiting someone else. Drive in Germany, if you can’t pass that truck that is typically going less than 100 kph without slowing that Big Dog coming up behind you at 240kph, you are legally not allowed to start the pass. Here, stick the cruise control on, if it takes 10 miles to pass someone and you hold up 300 other vehicles, too bad, they’re doing the speed limit. If you flash your lights in an attempt to get them to clear the left lane, the rage begins. We all have examples of that.
    This is a country of cowboys, cowboys don’t do well in crowds or with artificial restrictions imposed on them.

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