Car pooling to outdoor activities combats rising gas prices

After I shut down the pump and slid the debit card back into my wallet, I couldn’t help but feel like I did when a school thug used to corner me in the hallway and shake me down for my milk money. I was a 13-year-old eighth-grader at the time, and the money he stole from me on an almost daily basis was a whopping five cents. Not much by today’s standards, but in the 1970s a nickel went a lot further than it does now.

On this day, however, it wasn’t the school bully that took my hard-earned money. This time it was the mechanical fuel pump that slowly counted off the gallons of diesel as I pumped them into the tank on my pickup as the total sale price climbed with the speed of the space shuttle. In the end, my $30 purchased little more than seven gallons. Even while getting 18 miles to the gallon, my truck wouldn’t go far on that small amount of fuel.

As I stood there looking at the disparity between the sale total and the gallons pumped, I remembered the day my dad blew his top while getting gas at the service station on the edge of town. He was upset because the cost of gasoline had shot up overnight. It went from 13 cents a gallon to 15.

I can’t understand what he was so upset about. He didn’t have to pump his gasoline or check the oil. Someone did it for you. Plus, he could share his concerns with a person instead of a machine.

“Fifteen cents a gallon … What a whiner!”

“What are you murmuring about?” my wife asked when I climbed back into the truck.

“Just remembering the good ol’ days,” I said.

In outdoor circles, we talk a lot about the good ol’ days, especially those of us who have been around long enough to have experienced good ol’ days. Or at least long enough to remember having heard someone else talk about good ol’ days.

Just the other day I was reminiscing with a guy about the days when we could afford to go fishing or hunting without having to join an outdoor car pool.

The problem with car pools is by the time you load everyone’s gear in the truck, the result looks like something out of “The Grapes of Wrath.” I suppose that’s OK if you take someone along who knows how to tie a good knot. If that person knows how to untie them once you get where you are going, that’s even better.

The good thing about car pools is they allow hunters and anglers to share the fuel expenses and thus make the trip more affordable. They also create a great environment for sharing lots of lies — uh, stories — as you’re waiting in line to make the balloon payment on your last tank of gas.

Once I joined a couple of friends on a fly-fishing trip to Lee’s Ferry in Arizona. By splitting the cost of gas and the boat rental between the three of us, the trip was made more affordable than it would have been otherwise. They took me only once, probably because I out-fished them. That’s another story, but I learned an important rule about outdoor car pools. Never catch more fish than the guy who has the truck keys, especially if he is one of Nevada’s top anglers.

As gas prices continue to climb, car pooling undoubtedly will play an increasing role in the pursuit of outdoor adventure. I wonder if they will put a diamond lane in the campground or on the launch ramp and if it’s fair to make your wife and kids pay for gas.

Doug Nielsen is an award-winning freelance writer and a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. He can be reached at doug@takinitoutside.com.

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