Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Luxury of the Sunday Drive



I’m quitting using gas. When I go to Wal-Mart, it costs me twenty bucks. Thirty dollars if I forgo the hick look and do some real shopping in Roanoke. If I keep it up, I’m going to have to get a real job.

Everywhere you go in the country is far. That’s one of the drawbacks. In Jersey, you could walk down to the supermarket if you really wanted to. Granted, you got people shaking their fists at you and giving you the middle finger because you’re too far in the road trying to skirt around someone’s chain-link fence or avoid a vicious dog, but you didn’t spend anything doing it. My friends up north gasp when I tell them it takes me at least an hour to drive anywhere around here. They can’t believe, when we’re yakking about how to pinch pennies, that it’s not worth bringing clothes to the consignment shop, even the ones from the real shopping places, because they won’t pay you what you spent in gas. Or how you spend more money going to Sam’s Club than you save because of the gas. Everything I do, I ask myself nowadays, is it worth the gas?

People with little cars might think I’m cheap. But let them walk a mile in my shoes. Or in this case, drive it. I have a pickup truck, the ultimate gas guzzler. The last time I went to the Minute Market for gas and milk and a package of Little Debbie powdered donuts, it cost me over a hundred bucks. I thought about buying a Hyundai to hold me over until the gas goes down, if it ever goes down again, but what I’d spend on the car—the insurance, registration, personal property tax (something else they get you for down here) and the maintenance—would not offset the price of gas. Assuming that this situation is, of course, temporary.

Even if gas never goes down again, I can’t get rid of my pickup truck. I use it for farm purposes. I use it for getting grain and shavings and mulch. I use it to take the horses places and to transport irregular-shaped or large items like plastic kiddie pools for dog swimming, antique dressers hauled out of the Dumpster and flats of flowers. Plus, I like how I look in it. Big black truck, long blonde hair, sunglasses, Marvin Gaye or Gretchen Wilson (yes, I have very eclectic taste) blasting out of a stereo system Kurt installed so I’d be even sexier. Nah, I can’t get rid of it. But it’s going to sit right there in my driveway for as long as possible.

I’m not the only one revolting. I recently read about a guy in Missouri who is so mad he has sworn off his car and is pedaling to work on an old blue Schwinn even though it’s fifteen miles each way. Uphill. And there’s a kid in Tennessee who is actually riding his horse to school. Now that sounds like a great idea. But if I rode Harley to Wal-Mart, where would I tie him up? And where would I put the groceries? I know, I could use those stalls where you return the carts and hook him up to a wagon to carry the groceries home. Yeah, that’s it. We could all go back to horses and wagons just like Little House on the Prairie! It’d be fun! It’d be an adventure!

Kurt said, “Now you’re taking this country stuff a little too far. Next thing you know, you’ll be churning butter.”

Well, I don’t know about that. That’s manual labor for no good reason if you ask me. Like making soap. As close as I get to that is saving all the little leftover pieces and squishing them together in a big ball. It’s an Irish Spring/Ivory Soap/lavender-and-ginseng glob no one will use.

We’re not poor. Kurt makes a good living. But it’s still a struggle. The gas has caused everything to go up. I got sticker shock when I went into Wal-Mart last week. Almost four dollars for a loaf of bread? Almost a dollar for one pepper or one cucumber? I didn’t buy everything I wanted. I skipped the Sara Lee smoked turkey at the deli and ordered “whatever’s cheapest.” I bought bologna. I bought generic brands and I cut back on the extras. No paper plates, no paper towels, no People magazine even though there was something in there about Brangelina’s twins and it’s only a matter of time before Brad comes to his senses and wonders what he has gotten himself into. I’m sorry. I don’t like her. She’s mean to her dad. We’re talking about the Midnight Cowboy she’s being mean to. No wonder it didn’t bother her to take Jen’s husband—if she can be mean to the Midnight Cowboy….

Anyway, that is neither here or there. Buying crappy brands didn’t make a bit of a difference. The bill still came out to $388. for three people. I got out my glasses. It was somehow even higher than the last time. I don’t know what I spent it on. We’re still out of everything.

I wonder about the people who actually work at Wal-Mart. The people in low-wage jobs. Or even the guy down at the cabinet shop who has a good trade but who still only brings home about six hundred bucks a week. Decent money around here. I think about the nurse who is going to take the position the county is advertising for right now that pays a salary of $29,000 a year. How can they even afford to go to work? What about the people who have to pay for child care on top of it? They can’t possibly make any money after they fill up their tanks.

I’m giving everybody a heads-up. Don’t expect me to go anywhere unless it’s absolutely necessary because my wheels are parked. Sunday drives have become a luxury and my days of cruising around looking at the nice scenery around here are over. There will be no more driving to community service projects for the 4-H club or willy-nilly excursions to Lowe’s or automatic participation in fun activities without considering the distance and the fun factor. Except for barrel races and Frank’s Pizza, I’m not budging.

I wouldn’t even go down to the Minute Market when I ran out of milk. I called Kurt and asked him to stop on the way home. Then the next day I asked him to stop and get bread. Then I asked him to make the bank deposit on his way out. Kelly had a sleepover here and normally I would have offered to drive the girls home but this time I didn’t say a word. I didn’t say boo. It all adds up. My truck is still sitting there with half a tank. I’m saving it for a rainy day. I’m seeing how long I can go. Or stay. If gas goes up any higher, my tires just might dry rot.

14 comments:

Amy Hanek said...

Well, you would hate having your daughter in sports then. I drive two to four nights a week to practices or games. Nothing is closer than a 20 minute drive - which really adds up!

Maybe you should buy a carriage to go with the horses. Hay would be a lot cheaper!!

Mrs Mom said...

I'm with you! The Great Green Beast (aka: my work van) does not leave the drive unless we are heading to a client. Period. Once done with the client, we hit the grocery store and bank, or where ever we need to go. No more drives on a whim for us....

Amy Tate said...

Girl, I hear you loud and clear. One thing you could do instead of selling at consignment shops is to sell on Ebay. I usually do pretty well, and I never have to leave my house. I get those Priority Mailers from the post office for free, charge the shipping to my buyers, and mail it from my mailbox.
I like the idea of riding horses again, although it would be a pain when it rains.

Becky Mushko said...

I've cut back on driving a lot, too, and I've got a little car. A trip to Rocky Mount means we go to several places while we're there, and we stock up on specials at Krogers. Ditto for Westlake. My truck hasn't had a fill-up for months—just $30 at a time for around here.

We're learning what we can do without.

So, when are you going to ride your horse over for a visit. I've got plenty of places you can tie him up.

(Years ago, my cousins rode their horse through the drive-in window at the Penhook Dairy Queen, so it can be done.(

Mrs Mom said...

LOL We keep joking about riding the 5 miles down the road to Sonic some night... Wonder what they would say coming out to a horse in the car park spot...hehehe

Rising Rainbow said...

I've been parking my truck as much as possible. I only use it when I have to haul. Otherwise I steal....um borrow my husband's little car that gets 30 some miles to the gallon. And even at that I only drive what I have to. It's getting crazy.

CountryDew said...

I never go to Roanoke anymore unless I'm doing two or three things at a time. And I drive a four-cylinder that gets fairly good mileage. I think these new habits will ultimately be good for us all - we'll learn to be better time managers and what we can live without. Nice post.

Amy Hanek said...

Last night at baseball practice, one of the Dads offered to let us use his mule and sell us $10 worth of oats every week for it. Too bad we are in the 21st century...

Roanoke RnR said...

I really wish there were freaking sidewalks around here in SW Roanoke county! I would actually walk to work which is only about two 1/2 miles away if I wasn't afraid of getting run down on 419. Same thing for just running down to the supermarket, post office, library, bank, etc. Not only would I safe gas $, but I'd be in much better shape too...

Debi Kelly Van Cleave said...

Me too Roanoke rnr--I would honestly ride my horse down to the Minute Market if I wasn't worried about getting run over.

Now they're talking about how the gas in France is $10 a gallon--meaning we are lucky ours is $4 a gallon. More brainwashing?

Anonymous said...

I THINK THIS GAS THING IS OUT OF CONTROL. The Sheiks own the majority of this country as it is. One day we are going to wake up with a foreign flag flying over and wonder: What Happened? It's happening right in front of our noses. We need to wake up, smell the coffee, and stop driving!!! I would ride my bike to work if I could. I am too far way to do that BUT HAVE DEFINITELY CUT BACK ON DRIVING. IF WE ALL CUT BACK THE OIL COMPANIES WILL LOSE MONEY, AND THAT IS THE ONLY THING THAT WILL GET THEM TO LOWER PRICES.

colleen said...

We're seven miles from town. I guess I need to ride my bike but there are too many hills. I have a CRV Honda and want to buy a smaller car too but hate to start up payments again. We also have a truck and need it. I hope every starts growing their own food. Then we won't have to worry about the toxic plastic most stuff is stored in.

Momma / Cowgirl said...

Oh man... this sure rings true to all our ears, eh? I work 4 10 hour days and on my off days the vehicle goes nowhere! I have the biggest suburban they make and my other car is a Chevy truck (I look good in it and I won't sell that, hehe). I am fortunate that I work in my small town that is only 9 miles from home. My hubby works in the big town which is about 20 miles away. We don't go into Walmart or the Mall much because it takes 45 minutes just to get there. We thought about going to the movies to get out... but then we get back into reality and figure we can just stay at home and read blogs ot other productive stuff... LOL
Oh, and btw Angelina and her dad are making amends. I didn't like her at first, but I am coming around.
take care and happy horsin' around!

Kristine said...

To think that I was happy today to see gas back down to $3.79. Ugh.

I keep telling my husband, when you go to town to pick up (something little), it's costing you an extra $7 in gas!!! We're spending as much on gas now as we do on food.