Friday, June 20, 2008

Gas Prices Give "Coastal Living" a New Meaning

The last time I filled my gas tank, $50 got sucked out of my bank account. I don't drive a big car, just a little 12 gallon Jetta, but I really feel the "pain at the pump". I started monitoring my driving habits long before my last fill-up -- back when the price of gas first started rising -- but now I do it seriously.

I live near the beach -- ahh, the coast. These days, though when I think "coast" I immediately estimate "how far", and plan my routes accordingly. Grocery store "A" is up the hill and around the corner -- and not where I'd normally shop. I've discovered, though that the downhill journey home allows me to disengage the clutch and maintain speed. I get home with very few taps to the accelerator.

Every journey now includes considerations of the coastal route. I've found that coming home by the highway route allows for the best use of momentum. If traffic isn't being metered, I can build up enough speed coming off the on-ramp to just tap the accelerator once, reach cruising speed, and then disengage the clutch and coast to my exit. If the traffic light at the bottom of the ramp cooperates, I can get another half-mile out of the coast before I have to accelerate.

That's the sweet spot, though. It doesn't happen often, but when it does...woohoo! No, I don't get a lot of excitement in my life; give me a break. So, if traffic cooperates, I can coast all the way to the "Bike Lane Begins" sign. Tap it to forty at the sign and I can coast all the way to the stop sign -- about two blocks. Two short taps after the stop, one for first gear and one for second, and I'm in my driveway.

Know which journeys allow for maximum coasting? I do. I don't know if coasting actually helps save on gas. I don't know if disengaging the clutch really reduces drag and helps me get more momentum. I just get the sense that I'm doing something to help save on gas...and getting the max momentum is a strange kind of fun.

So, how are you dealing with gas woes? Do you have any suggestions that work? Anything that includes the words "public transportation" is not a suggestion that will work for me. Not that I mind the ten minute walk to get to the bus stop, I've done it before; it's the part where I have to ride for twenty minutes before I can transfer to a bus that will take me where I need to go that gets me.

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