"An empty man is full of himself." -- Edward Abbey

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Travel in the Time of Gas Shortage

     We were vacationing at the beach in South Carolina while visiting family outside of Charleston. We did not venture into the city, as we usually do (the streets are crowded, we were told, and nobody is wearing a mask), but instead we focused on family and hung out in our beach community.

Rolling dunes protect the shoreline

     The beach was great. But a few days before we were scheduled to go home, the Colonial Pipeline went down. (I have photos of the beach here, not gas pumps -- they're prettier.) But how were we going to make the drive home -- a little over 700 miles -- with no gas?!?.

     As soon as I heard about it, on Monday last week, I filled my tank -- before the crowds arrived at the gas stations. But we were traveling back and forth between the beach and the grandchildren's house, so by the time we left, the tank was down to a little over half. On Wednesday and Thursday we saw several gas stations that were empty, trucks parked out in front of the pumps, black bags covering the handles.

A long walk to the beach

      How bad is this? we wondered. Should we see if we could stay over a couple of extra days until gas was more readily available?

     Our kids suggested that if anyone had gas, it would be Costco. So on Friday, the day before we left, B stopped off at Costco. There was a line. But there was also gas, and she was able to fill up.

The sand was dotted with jellyfish

     Still, we couldn't make 700 miles on one tank of gas. We'd have to stop once along Route 95. I checked online. Pilot Flying J showed many of its locations out of gas. TA Truck stops offered no information about the situation. Love's had a list of stations that were out of gas or "in danger" of being out of gas. But most of its locations seemed to have supplies.

     We decided to leave as planned. Online I found several stations along our route that said they had gas. But would they in real life?

A man casts for dinner

     We set out on our trip, along I26, turning north on I95. We watched the gas gauge sink from full to three quarters to half. My odometer estimates how many miles we have left in the tank. We started at 520 miles. We got down to 400, then 300. At 240 we reached the Virginia state line, where my research indicated there was a Love's with gas.

     We exited the highway and saw the station. It was crowded, but we found a pump. When I went to insert my credit card I saw the message: Please wait. Pump temporarily out of order.

A bird finds some food

      I saw a guy leaning against his car on the other side of the island. I asked him if he knew what was going on. Apparently there was gas at several of the pumps, but not all of them. Which ones? Probably the ones with the long lines. The place was a madhouse.

    Then I noticed Flying J across the street. It wasn't too crowded, but there seemed to be activity. So I crossed over and pulled up to a pump. It was working. We were able to fill up.

The end of a day

     We got home as scheduled, on Sunday, gas emergency notwithstanding. The fact is, we saw a lot of cars and trucks on the road, traffic as usual. The gas shortage didn't seem to stop anyone. And when you think about it, it's pretty impressive that the petroleum infrastructure was able to refill the network as fast as it did.

     People blame the big oil companies for global warming. Sure, they have something to do with it. But the real problem is the American public that is addicted to driving -- typically in a gas-guzzling SUV, at a gas-guzzling speed of 70 or 75 mph.

     But that's not really my point. (Okay, we're addicted to driving, too, but at least we don't drive an SUV and we try to keep it to a more efficient 65 mph.) I just want to say: It was great to be traveling again after our long quarantine. It was great to see the grandkids. And we got home. Safe and sound. 


Carole said...

NY state has passed legislation that all new trucks and cars sold in NY need to be zero emission by 2035. Cuomo is expected to sign the bill. My next car will be a hybrid for sure. I own a condo; the nearest public plug-in station is a good 20 minute drive. And, it takes about 2 hours to fully charge.

If Cuomo signs this bill, there will need to be a good plan in place for options to charge your car. I own a condo, and there are electrical outlets in our underground garage. But this would be using shared "community" electricity.

It's a great idea to to move in this direction for a lot of reasons, but there needs to be a solid plan in place for transitioning to this change.

Just realized I'll be 83 in 2035. Yikes! Will I still be driving?

gigi-hawaii said...

I am impressed with your fortitude and ingenuity. All is well that ends well.

Arkansas Patti said...

So glad you made it home OK with only a bit of anxiety. My brother headed for N Carolina to visit family from Ohio right after the hacking. He said he wasn't having trouble finding gas if he stayed away from the big cities. Haven't heard about his attempt to go home yet.

ApacheDug said...

Tom, I enjoyed the beach pics with your "gas adventure" but I would've been major stressing. I knew you were vacationing in SC, but I assumed you returned before that pipeline hack. Reading your trip back took ME back to the early 70s during the real fuel shortage. I'll sure feel better when electric cars are the norm, we should've been there years ago. Anyway--glad you had a nice trip! PS. One of my sisters & her husband love Charleston so much, they moved down there 7 years ago.

Mage said...

Welcome home. So glad you were able to take this trip.

Olga said...

So people go to the station with the longest line because the people in that line are getting something they don't have and a short line is the less desirable gas? People are weird. There are Florida lines and small stations out of gas and the pipeline doesn't even supply the state so the shortage was entirely made from the actions of greedy people.

Rian said...

Tom, I'm so happy to hear that you had a good vacation and had little trouble getting back home. Love the pictures! I so miss being around the water and walking the beaches. Did you ever make a decision about buying a vacation home or is it something you are still thinking about?

DJan said...

I have still not gone anywhere very far away since the pandemic started. I too am glad you made it home safe and sound and were able to find gas!

Red said...

We have other issues than covid. I think that the environmental issues will bring about a few shortages. We may be rationed!

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Wisewebwoman said...

Lovely photos Tom and I felt the stress of the gas hunt. We are so dependent on gas and I hear you on those guzzlers. I am astounded at friends who buy them in the name of "safety" on the highway.

I'm glad you're home and safe and rich with memories.


Kathy @ SMART Living 365.com said...

Hi Tom! Like all the others I'm glad you were able to make it home okay. Here in California all we saw was the inevitable price hikes. And also relieved that you apparently didn't witness the "gas hoarders" who were caught putting gas into plastic bags. I agree that our country is addicted to driving but as you say, there are a lot of vehicles that are more environmentally correct than others--and it isn't always the SUVs! At least here in CA it is the semi-trucks that are the largest problem with pollution but I'm glad to see that our current administration is beginning to offer more and more solutions. Meanwhile, at least you got to visit with family and had a good time. Hopefully there will be many more to come. ~Kathy

Janette said...

Love the beach pictures.
Your saga played out here as well. I treated it a great deal like the virus. There are people who need to get to work. Most of them essential. They are going to need access to gas- so I stayed home. I didn't make fun of people getting loads of gas in anything they could, because they probably had to make sure they could get somewhere and not lose their job. I know they cannot afford a new $40-80,000 electric car.(and where are we going to get the electricity to run those cars when the Nuc plants and coal powered plants go down in the east?). It is a pretty good wake up call, isn't it?
I am leaning toward an electric self driving car with a solar charger. I figure I have five years to save!

Kay said...

I'm so glad you were able to enjoy your trip and was able to return home without toooo much of a problem with gas. We have a Prius which is great actually. Since we've got solar panels, Art is wondering about getting an electric car when it's time to trade in the 12 year old Prius.

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