Ride To Work
by bj max
While waiting in line to pay for a tank of diesel fuel in Wiggins, Mississippi, hometown of the late, great Dizzy Dean, I noticed the headline on the front page of the Times Picayune in the rack to my right;
“Six Percent Less Oil Used Last Month”
I leaned in a little closer and read the first paragraph. According to the article, Americans consumed six percent less gasoline in April of this year than we did in the same month a year ago. The article reminded me of another I had read recently by some energy expert who said that if the average American cut back on fuel consumption just a few percentage points annually, that combined with flex fuel cars and higher production of ethanol and bio-diesel would gradually decrease demand for gasoline and eventually drive prices down. Well I’m for anything, short of doing away with the internal combustion engine, that will drive gas prices down so I began to ponder ways that I might cut back on my personal consumption.
One boneheaded idea I had was to buy a push mower. You know, one of those old-timey mowers without a motor. But a new rotary push mower cost a hundred and twenty dollars and a few seconds on the calculator told me that it would take nearly fifty years to recover my investment. I moved that brainstorm into the stupid column. Another idea I dreamed up, one that I really liked, was to just quit work altogether. That alone would eliminate ninety percent of my personal gasoline consumption. Only problem is, it would also eliminate me so I reluctantly checked that off, too. I could always slow down I guess, but that would tie up traffic and idling cars would most likely undercut any fuel I might save.This was an interesting problem that deserved further study so I Googled up a few million articles that dealt with energy conservation, and did a little research.
Basically, I learned that our government is pushing for increased production of ethanol and biodiesel. Biodiesel is a vegetable oil based fuel that runs in unmodified diesel engines. It’s usually made from soybean oil, but can also use the oil right outta’ the fryer vats at McDonalds if you want. You can blend biodiesel with regular diesel or run it 100%. Ethanol, on then other hand, is essentially corn whiskey, better known as moonshine around here, and my ancestors have been making the stuff for over two hundred years. You can make a gallon of ethanol for about seventy five cents and if there ain’t no revenuers around, you can have a pretty dang good party while you’re doin’ it, too. Ethanol, blended with gasoline, is known as gasohol. Two common mixtures are E-10 and E-85, which contain 10% and 85% ethanol, respectively. I can burn E-10 in my motorcycle with no after effects. Says so right here in my owners manual. But, there ain’t no gasohol in this part of the country, so that eliminated that as a way to conserve fuel.
There were numerous other considerations, but none were practical. Until, that is, I ran across an ad in this here magazine. While perusing the last issue I noticed the promotion for this year’s national “Ride to Work” day and suddenly it hit me. You ninny. I slapped my forehead. The solution is right in front of your nose in the form of a GL1800A Gold Wing, parked right outside the door. All you have to do to cut back on your personal energy consumption is ride to work. And not just July the 19th either, but every single day.
I pulled up the ‘ol digital cipherin’ machine and began some serious cipherin’. Let’s see here now. My old pickup averages fifteen miles to the gallon and with gasoline bumping $2.80 per gallon, that works out to about 18.6 cents a mile. I drive a total of 130 miles to work each week, making the total cost $24.18. On the other hand, my motorcycle costs only seven cents a mile to operate. That’s $9.10 a week, or a savings of $15.08 or $60.32 a month. Not bad.
Now, oil is currently seventy bucks a barrel. And a barrel of crude is 42.7 gallons. So that means I would be saving 2.3 barrels of pure gasoline a year. Hey, now we’re getting somewhere. I went a little farther and figured that if only half of the AMA’s 275,000 members rode to work every day, that would be an amazing savings of half million barrels of gasoline a year. A half a million barrels! Granted, that’s just a drop in the bucket compared to the ten million barrels a day we consume here in the good old U. S. of A. But hey, it’s a start. And it’s certainly better than doing nothing.
So I vowed then and there to start riding my motorcycle to work every day. But there were issues. I work odd hours and my trip home each night meant that I would have to ride through several gang infested neighborhoods, at two in the morning. Not something I was looking forward to.
The first night I was a bit apprehensive. Scared might even be a better word. And why not? I’m just a transplanted country boy and way, way out of my element. In my pickup I felt fairly safe, but on the bike I felt naked and vulnerable. I thought about breaking out my balaclava in hopes the bad guys would mistake me for a terrorist and look for a softer target. Now don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t completely helpless. I had a couple things going for me, too. First, I could outrun everybody and that was certainly an advantage. And second, I was packing. Hey, they don’t call this the Redneck Files for nothing.
The second night in my new life as a guerilla commuter, I rode home in a thunderstorm. Usually the wind and lightning would have spooked me, but tonight I welcomed them as old friends and looked upon the heavenly fireworks as protectors. Everybody looked upon me like I was crazy, which I thought was a good thing. Don’t nobody mess with crazy people.
As I rode into my second and third week, I became more comfortable and came to realize that nobody paid much attention to me, except maybe to admire the bike. I even got a thumbs up and a big grin from the occupants of a Crown Vic boom box, rolling on gangster walls and sportin’ a set of those dizzying, perpetually spinning wheels.
“Ride to Work” day is only a couple weeks away and I don’t guess there’s ever been a time it was more practical to ride your motorcycle to work. “Ride to Work” day was originally conceived to make non-riders more aware of our presence in the world, but with the price of gasoline these days, ride to work has a whole new meaning. So, by all means, ride to work “Ride to Work” day. Better yet, ride to work every day.