Rising Gas Prices - Behind Bars

Squeezing The Juice

Economics are funny. They'd probably be funnier if I got the joke.

Gas hit four and a half bucks a gallon the other day-at Costco. By the time you read this, it might be six.

Maybe this will be a great year to ride long and hard. Let's eat up that precious oil while we can. Burn hay while the sun shines and all that.

Sure it hurts to juice the bike at 20 dollars per injection. In high school, that money would have topped off my four-by Suburban.

On the other hand, filling both tanks of our '75 F-150 this year pretty much doubles its market value, so even big ol' Black Betty (she of the mighty jugs) is lookin' good these days. Along with returning 42 mpg since break-in, my bike offers motorgasms unavailable at any option level in the Prius line. That needs to be counterbalanced against a sense of social responsibility, of course: In Seattle, the Prius is some kinda chick magnet. For some kinda chicks, anyway.

So there's the obvious: Eschewing 15-gallon fill-ups, bribes to the matre d' and monthly moorage fees, bikes are still a cheap-date solution for summer weekends. Not to mention getting to work. Even without lane splitting, commuting on a bike or scooter doubles your payoff from that last investment in gasoline. Not to mention enhancing your parking options.

Looking around town, though, shows barely a hiccup in the traffic stream. "Rush hour" still means three or four hours with phalanxes of cars chuffing away at idle, and you can't even split lanes where I live. Threading and dabbing your way through the gray monolith of drip-dry NW gridlock-sweating in your Aerostitch while dabbing the sneezed haze of snot off your Fog City shield-is no one's idea of fun.

It's like no one got the message about stepping lightly on the loud pedal. Every time the gallon price jumps another nickel, the lines at the pumps just get longer. Gotta fill that tank before prices rise again tomorrow. We fought for that fuel and we're damned well gonna burn it!

Once out of town, the picture changes. Not so many miles from the cheap (FSVO "cheap") gas, well past bicycle and battery car range, where the roads curve like sweet, fine girls and cell phone coverage is something they'd like to have someday, the Sunday drive is becoming a thing of the past.

The Sunday ride? That's another thing entirely. You can spend all day playing out there in the great nearby and spend less cash than you'd flush away for an hour at your therapist's office. Zapping past the parked fifth-wheels and motor homes of suburbia as you head out for the green-lined play loops around Tacobet, it's hard not to smile when you realize the blue roads are clearer than they've been in years.

It may stay that way for a while. Our notoriously zero-tolerance state troopers manifest an upgraded presence, but mostly close to population centers where they're busily cuffing road-ragin' cagers and unendorsed stuntahs. Maybe it's that perplexing economics joke again. Troopers have a fuel budget, too.

Meanwhile, every day a few more car drivers defect to the dark side. New riders may be a mixed blessing-newbies fall down, go boom more often-but we were all new riders once and they're on the road to becoming our allies. Before you know it, Them is Us.

Now there's a pleasant vision: the whole lovely snarl of American secondary roads, bright with summer, happily plied by thousands of vacationing motorists, none equipped with a vehicle more prodigious than an Electra Glide with camping gear.

The Sunday drive is dead. Long live the Sunday ride!

Even the thirstiest motorcycles get better gas mileage than most cars.