Out of Gas

This is as nearly as close to empty as I have ever gotten. Note that the tank holds 21 gallons meaning I had a little over a half gallon left. (I showed this picture to my daughter and she fixated on the price until I directed her to the gallon line and explained why I found it interesting.)

On top of that there were various power outages around here today due to winter storms (it’s technically spring right!?) and even though the next station “was not that far” the last station “not that far” I visited was totally dark, so I was a bit on edge. The difference between the last station and this one is that the sign stating prices was lit up. However, the interior and exterior were pretty dark. So there was a bit of concern until I got closer and saw that the pumps were powered. As I was filling up the exterior lights flickered on making it look open for business.

I had a similar experience a long time ago taking a cross-country trip where I was traversing some place where the gas stations were few and far between—Nebraska maybe. They sometimes have helpful signs saying how far the next gas station was and since things were not too bad I kept going. Except that the “next” station was no longer in business or replaced by a cornfield or something I had to make a long trek to the next and barely made it, (there was some coasting involved as I recall).

That sort of stuck with me as today I’m pretty good at topping off when it’s convenient just in case. It also helps with sticker shock as I’m just getting a quarter of a tank here and a half of a tank there with an occasional ¾ tank or more thrown in.

So, what happened today? Well, a certain family member borrowed the car for the day. Later as we were leaving to something I noticed that there was barely any gas in the tank. “Oh, yeah, I forgot to tell you that you need gas,” the certain family member said.

We had a little talk about how if you borrow someone’s car you don’t return it with barely any gas in the tank. What if we were in a rush to get somewhere? Not to mention it’s just impolite when there were no circumstances preventing stopping to put a few dollars of gas in the tank on the way to returning the borrowed car.

Luckily we were not on too tight a time schedule so were able to stop and put a few gallons into the tank, (not a full tank because we did have to get somewhere). While we did pass by a gas station on the way home I forgot to stop. But it was not a big deal because later my son had youth group at, (or so I thought at the time), a church with plenty of gas stations on the way. My plan was to leave a little early and do a proper fill-up then.

Unfortunately, a few minutes before we were supposed to leave I was informed that the group was meeting at a leader’s house. This place was further away and in a rural area with not much but farms and large houses around. More unfortunate is that the way there did not take us close to any gas stations that I knew about and a detour would make us late.

No worries as this place was not totally in the middle of nowhere and I figured I would have about 15 miles after I dropped him off. We did have a moment where we came across a gas station at an intersection, (I had already filled in my son about the gas issue), and started celebrating…until we got closer and realized that the pumps had been pulled out; it was just a beer store now.

What is pretty neat is that as I was talking to my son about the gas issue he asked me if we would make it. I told him “yes” but was not sure how much I had after that. He asked “15 miles?”, which is the exact figure I had worked out, (and as it turned out pretty close to truth). My son then said that I should search Google for the nearest gas station, (which I had also planned to do).

After I dropped him off I searched for gas stations and found one about five miles out in Dixboro. It was open 24 hours according to Google. Although at this point the gas gauge was pretty low so I turned off almost anything that would draw power, (except I needed the windshield wipers), and shifted into neutral when I could while otherwise keeping a light pressure on the accelerator when needed.

When I got there with much relief…the gas station was closed.

The next place was another five miles away and at this point the needle was well below the thin red line marking empty. So I set out with even more extreme gas-saving techniques—except that I kept getting stopped by red lights!

To say it was nerve-wracking was spot on. While things worked out I wonder if I had just driven with the radio and heating on, and not too concerned with how heavy my foot was on the gas pedal, would I have made it that far? And what if I had to travel another five miles to the next station on my map? In a video game you can try these things out and just restart from the last save point. In real life it’s kind of an annoying mystery…

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