SAVING GAS: Not so easy in the boondocks
TOWNER, N.D.--There're a lot of gas saving tips floating around these days with new record high prices for gas being set every week. I've been trying to figure out if any of the ideas will work on our place. We live 15 gravel road miles from the ...
TOWNER, N.D.--There're a lot of gas saving tips floating around these days with new record high prices for gas being set every week.
I've been trying to figure out if any of the ideas will work on our place. We live 15 gravel road miles from the hometown of 574 people, and 60 miles from the chain restaurant and big box store commerce center with a population of 36,567.
Where's the mass transit?
The first gas saving tip I cross off the list is "use the mass transit system." When you don't have much for human masses, there's not much available in mass transit.
I've checked every approach and intersection between here and town for a bus stop or a set of subway stairs to no avail. The only public transportation I could even consider is hitchhiking. And you can't always count on seeing a car on the 15 miles of road between the ranch and town.
There's the much touted "change your driving habits" advice to consider. Driving in traffic with jack rabbit starts, sudden stops and extended idling can burn up the gas. In our traffic, we only have to start moving once when we leave and stop once when we get to there. I think we're doing the best we can in that fuel saving area.
"Build up speed before you get to a hill, then coast down the hill for a free ride." Obviously, not advice written for drivers on the level plains of North Dakota. There's one little hill between our place and town and the hundred feet of coasting probably won't make a big dent in my gas consumption.
"Make lists and buy groceries just once or twice a week," I saw on one list. We've been doing that for years. We've been known to leave the supermarket with 8 or 10 cartons of milk, four loaves of bread, the big bag of pancake mix and an entire flat of canned vegetables. People in the aisles look at us like we're survivalists but we're just stocking up on our big trip to town and feeding two growing boys.
They say tire pressure's important for fuel efficiency. I always considered tires that would hold air all the way to town and back drivable. Forty-five pounds when you leave and 15 pounds when you get back probably doesn't meet the definition of proper inflation.
When it comes to regular pounds, the weighty kind, the advice is to travel as light as possible. It's getting to where we need to unload the posts and the post hole digger, kick out the dog and jettison the tool box to increase our miles per gallon.
Combine trips and perform as many errands as you can in a single trip is another piece of wisdom. I try to do this, but it's hard to synchronize the breakdowns on the ranch that dictate the need for a trip.
I usually make sure we do at least two things on each trip. When we drive to church we try to stop at the city park or go visiting. If I go to a meeting somewhere I try to get a back haul of groceries and diapers.
The other day my wife took our four-year-old in to play a little kickball with the other tikes in town. I had her stop and buy some wood corral posts. I'm not sure if I really needed them, but for a couple hundred bucks worth of posts, we justified the drive.
Mostly, though, the only second stop we make on our trips to the big city is at the gas station to fill the car with nearly $4 a gallon gas or top off the pickup with $4.68 diesel.
That full tank of fuel weighs down the car, lightens my wallet and gets us to thinking that the reclusive life of a hermit might not be so bad after all.