Steve Cotler

Steve Cotler

Gas(p) Prices!

Screen Shot 2014-07-17 at 8.56.42 PMAfter a terrific cioppino lunch at Duarte’s Tavern in Pescadero (the huge quantity of crab paired extremely well with the wallet-slimming price), my wife and I motivated south on California’s Highway 1.  She was driving. I was marveling at guano-encrusted rocks jumping up from the seabed. It was a bright blue day, and we were in our Prius, on the way to Santa Barbara for a long weekend.

“I think we need gas,” she warned.

I leaned over, glanced at the gauge, and gave my mathematically confident reply. “We have 125 miles before empty…give or take ten.”

Her expression convinced me she was unconvinced.

“We can make it to San Luis Obispo,” I explained. “I’ll drive.”

lucia lodgeShe pulled over. We traded seats. And 90 minutes later, a beep and a flashing low-fuel light challenged my assertion. We had just passed Lucia, a non-community consisting of the well-populated Lucia Lodge (judging from the parked cars) and no gas station.

“Nothing to worry about,” I assured her and myself. “That light means we have about two gallons left. About 90 miles.”

The last road sign, a few miles back, had pegged SLO as 74 miles distant. And I knew there was gas in Cambria, home of the Hearst Castle, less than 50 miles away. Onward courageously! We rolled along the high curves on Route 1, pelicans and sheer drop-offs to our right.

About a dozen miles later, we came upon Gorda, a tiny, unincorporated community and its most prominent local enterprise, the Gorda-by-the-Sea Mini Mart. My wife suggested the rest rooms might be useful, so I pulled in and found myself near an SUV waiting to use one of the gas pumps.

gorda“Might as well,” I mused, even though I knew I didn’t really need gas yet. I angled the car into a second-in-line position and waited while the matron decoded the arcane instructions on the pump and her teenaged son badgered her for soda and jerky money. The wait was long.

“Slow pump. Line inside at the bathroom. I should’ve continued southward,” I chafed, but it was a lovely afternoon, so I smothered the self-righteousness and leaned back in my seat. At last the SUV moved out, and I moved into position.

ScanAfter 50-some years, filling up is an auto-pilot operation. Pop the gas cap. Wallet out. Credit card swiped. Zip code entered. Select grade. Nozzle inserted. Pump.

I set the auto-pour latch, my exhalation unconsciously confirming completion of a modulated, efficacious process. Then I turn back to the pump’s glass face to check progress.

Take. Double take! The gas is priced at $5.999 per gallon.

I choke, cut the flow at just over two gallons and re-commit to San Luis Obispo. My wife returns. We resume our journey.

Later I find out that this gas station is renown for having the highest gas price in the USA. I must’ve missed the NPR story about this back in 2008.

 

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