Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Easing gas pains

As I was recently held captive in line at Costco to pump $4.30 a gallon gasoline into my car, I began thinking of some of the more memorable times when I have bought gas in the past 50 years.

My first experience of buying gas was for my high school best friend's '56 Chevy.  In 1964, "gas wars" were not uncommon.  One gas station would lower their price, and then another would go lower, and another still lower all around the town.
It was during one of these "gas wars" that gas got down to 19¢ a gallon.
That in itself is a story, but how we paid for it is equally improbable.

Both, Bobbi and I, were from middle class families.  We were still in high school, and relied on $1.25 an hour, 4 - 8 hours a week, wages from The Broadway.  We didn't have much money, to say the least.

To supplement our "gas fund", we would go through magazines and cut out the manufacturer's coupons.  We would take the clipped coupons to the grocery store and skipping the middle part, of actually buying the product, would "cash" them in.  Yes, they would actually give us the cash value of the coupons in money.
We did this for months, maybe even a year or so, before someone put a stop to it.
Those toothpaste coupons did brighten our smiles, and bought us enough gas to cruise Whittier Blvd. on many an evening.

In 1970 in our new Ford van, The Duke of Earl and I went on a 3 week, 7,000 mile road trip.  Our first child wasn't walking yet.
We pumped fuel into the gas tank in Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon.  By the time we were back in California, we had very little cash left.  We had no credit cards.  We had our check book and money in the bank, but no one would cash an out of town check.  This was in the time before ATM's or debt cards.  If you ran out of money, well, you were out of money until you could get to your bank, during business hours at that.

To get home,
we drove from San Francisco going 45 mph to increase our gas mileage.  We arrived home with the gas gauge on empty and a nickel in our pockets.
The next time we were going out of town my dad gave us a gas credit card to use, if needed, so he could sleep at night while we were gone.

By 2000 we had credit cards and debt cards, but weren't too much smarter.

We often camped in the remote Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest in Eastern Nevada.  The campsites along White River are primitive and 10 miles off the highway by way of a dirt road. The area is so isolated that we would see only an occasional car or person during our 2 week stay. 
We would drive into the nearest town, Ely, once or twice to buy ice, groceries, and gasoline while we were there.
The ghost town of Hamilton, Nevada is 40 miles from the campsite where we pitch our tent.  And on this particular trip to town, we decided to drive the loop that goes from Hwy 6 up to Hamilton and down to Hwy 50 into Ely and back to camp.  

The extensive ruins of Hamilton, the roadside and fields of wildflowers, the birds, deer, clouds and mountains normally made the jarring ruts and potholes along the dirt backroads a fun ride.

But this time a thunderbolt hit at 
 the point of no return, when I was told we were getting low on gas, as in "check gas gauge" low.  We were 18 miles from Hamilton where there was the greatest possibility of seeing another human being.  We were some 58 miles from Ely.
I comforted my anxiety knowing we had water and food with us.  I had my books.  
After bouncing along the rocky, steadily climbing road in nervous silence for 40 minutes, we came to a sign that read "Hamilton 5 miles".
Finally, Hamilton came into view, and with it, Will...a horse riding, chap wearing, real cowboy.  Duke inquired as to where the nearest gas station would be.
 Will told us where his ranch was located and where his gas pump was.  It was one of the kindest things a stranger has ever done for us.
Will, if you are reading this, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Wouldn't you know, the gas gauge is on empty again.
I'm off to fill 'er up.

t.t.f.n. ~ Carol



  1. i love this! i had never heard about will.... or if i did, i had forgotten. great post. -jennifer

  2. For some reason, I remember being in the family car (I was probably around 6 or so) and dad pulling in a gas station, getting out, immediately getting back in, mom asking why and him saying, "I'm not about to pay .67 for a gallon of gas."

    I paid $3.49 this morning.

    This brought back lots of memories. I'm not sure I even remember life before debit cards and such!! =)

    1. It is truly mind boggling the little things from years past that we recall. It makes for great self entertainment. Thank you for the lovely comment. ~ Carol

  3. I know I've said it before...and it's still true...that cutting through the 76 station in the corner of the Home Depot parking lot...breezing by the a great way to finish or begin my bike commute.

    And thank you for all the fun, gasoline-fueled trips.