Scabby shins, helmet hair, farmer’s tan lines, bruises of forgotten origin, deeply satisfying exhaustion, well-deserved hunger, and a profound appreciation of a nap, these are the side effects of a bike ride that a ten-year old rarely considers. What registers with a youngster’s consciousness (and I’m using the term youngster figuratively here) when she swings a leg over her steed is a euphoric sense of freedom, a visceral joy of the physical body and the anticipation of sights, to be seen, smelled and heard at a pace determined by her own legs. It’s said that there’s no pleasure without pain and cycling illustrates that in spades. Grinding in a tediously slow, low gear up a hill, is rewarded by a wind in the face descent that gives you the sense of a conquering Mongol, galloping her pony across the plain.
This time of year, the hills are green and carpeted in wildflowers. Cool, sunny days are made for outdoor activities. Knowing I should be home pulling weeds and preparing the garden for spring planting, makes escaping to the trails all the more delicious.
Rising gas prices trouble me little in spite of the fact that I drive a shamefully inefficient vehicle, because I rarely fill my tank more often than once a month. So, whether it costs $50 or $150, the impact is negligible to my budget. However, my disdain for opportunistic capitalists who use every rumor to immediately raise the price of the refined product does influence the way I think about purchasing it.
It irritates me when the media make dire predictions of gross increases in price for a product that’s months down the line, paving the way for purveyors to immediately raise prices at the pump. For instance, the US has not yet stopped purchasing oil from Russia (thought there is talk) and yet the prices at the pump are already reflecting anticipations of shortages. Depending on the source, the U.S. imports about 40% of its oil (though it is a net exporter of oil and petroleum products), of which a scant 3% (of that 40%) comes from Russia. Now I’m no mathematician, but I can’t seem to make that evolve into a $2.00/gallon increase at the pump without considering that someone is profiteering from the war in Ukraine. I’m willing to consider that transportation of the raw product accounts for a portion of the cost but there are many sources closer than Russia.
So, here’s my proposition, and admittedly it’s rather simplistic, but I am a simple minded person, everyone should cut consumption. Remember, when folks first started staying home in 2019, and gas prices tumbled? It wouldn’t take much of a cut in consumption to make up for that .012% of oil that Russia will have to sell elsewhere on the world market.
So, here are my tips for conservation:
Slow down – instead of driving 10 – 15 miles per hour over the speed limit, drive just 5 mph over. The additional reaction time allowed by traveling just 70 mph will make texting considerably easier and safer.
Accelerate as if you’re driving grandma’s 1979 Buick – most fuel is consumed while achieving velocity, so go easy on the accelerator pedal.
As expensive as jack-rabbit starts are, sliding stops are almost as costly. When you see an impending stop ahead, remove your foot from the gas and allow your vehicle to coast for a bit before using the brake. Every second you coast, you are driving for free. And a bonus is fewer brake jobs and less frequent tire replacement.
Never pull the car out of the garage for a single errand. Always combine trips to the grocery store with a drive to work, a visit with your folks, a dentist appointment, a trip to the auto body repair shop (don’t bother with those little scrapes where the speedier, unenlightened drivers have resorted to pushing you through the intersection).
As a last resort, and this should probably be first, ride a bike. At first, a two mile ride to the fruit stand might seem daunting in the uphill direction (here, in my valley, everything is either uphill or down) but with some conditioning, you will learn to enjoy traveling farther and farther. Next, pick up a little trailer for your bike at a garage sale. Folks are always buying them, thinking they will tote the little ones around, but then those tykes grow into chubby adolescents and it’s not so much fun anymore. It’s actually fun to come out of the grocery store with 40 lbs. of provisions and then try to sprint home before the ice cream melts. There are few pleasures greater than a bowl of soft ice cream at the end of a hot ride.