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Mileage mavens

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Posted: Wednesday, April 2, 2008 10:00 pm

You might have noticed that the era of cheap oil and cheap gas is long gone.

Just when we finally got used to the idea of the $3 gallon, experts predict that we'll be seeing the $4 gallon sometime this summer.

To spare their wallets, some local residents have found vehicles that sip gas rather than guzzle - and some that don't use gas at all.

Here are a few Lodi and Galt-area residents that have learned how to stretch a gallon.

Just plug it in

Mike Henry's ride has everything he needs to brave the roads - turn signals, break lights and headlights. But it's not a motorcycle, and it's definitely not a car. It's a $175 electric-powered scooter he bought at Pep Boys two years ago.

Henry, 26, and his wife share a car, so he drives the scooter to his job as the junior-high pastor at Temple Baptist Church.

"She's not a big fan," he said about how his wife feels about the scooter. "She feels safer in the car."

The scooter goes about 20 mph, so on smaller streets he drives on the main roadway. On bigger, busier streets, he uses the bike lane. He always wears a helmet.

Best part of all, he doesn't use a drop of gas. He just plugs it into the wall.

The charge holds for about 20 miles, which lasts him about a week.

Henry calls the scooter "one of the best investments of (his) life" and loves he to ride it.

  • Drive like your grandmother's in the car. Don't speed up to a red light. Don't try to beat the car next to you off the limit line. It's better for your tank, your pocketbook and, if a police officer is watching and your driving record.
  • Don't speed. For most cars, the optimum speed is around 60 mph if you're trying to save fuel. The farther you go above that mark, the more fuel you'll lose.
  • Dump the extra baggage. The more weight you have in your car, the more energy your car will need to move that weight. The more energy you need, the more fuel you'll need to create it.
  • If idle hands are the devil's tools, an idle car is his mode of transportation. If you're not going anywhere and you're burning gas, you're getting zero miles per gallon.

    That doesn't mean run stop signs, but try to keep moving whenever possible.

  • Set your cruise control and use your overdrive gears. Cruise control will help you keep a constant speed. If you aren't constantly slowing down and speeding up, as you're bound to do with your foot on the pedal, you'll save gallons.

    Using your car's overdrive gears will decrease the speed of your cars engine, reducing the amount of wasted gas and engine wear and tear.

    Source: www.fueleconomy.gov

He did get pulled over by a Lodi police officer one time.

Henry showed the officer his driver license and let him look over the scooter.

The officer said, "OK, be careful," before taking off.

Henry does get his wife to ride on it every once in a while, as long as he drives. During the summer, they cruise over to the Farmers Market for some late-afternoon, outdoor fun.

"It always gets a couple good looks," he said.

The super commuter

Bob Carroll, 58, needs a car with good gas mileage just to make his drive to work affordable.

Bob Carroll drives a 1996 GEO Metro to his job in Santa Clara. (Brian Feulner/News-Sentinel)

Though it's not stylish, his 1996 Geo Metro does the trick.

The Metro has logged more than 433,100 miles with its original engine.

He said he usually gets between 42 and 49 miles per gallon. He's got as many as 54 miles per gallon, but that's when he was employing some questionable driving techniques, like popping the engine into neutral while going downhill, methods he doesn't recommend anybody try with their own cars.

"That was cheating," he said. "It's not normal, and it's not safe."

Carroll calls his everyday drive to work his "92-mile driveway." He has worked for a LASER company for 24 years, and while his office has moved around a bit, it hasn't got any closer to his home just outside of Lodi.

So, every day, Carroll gets up, climbs into his Metro and heads to Santa Clara, an hour-and-a-half to two-hour drive.

Though he knows most people think he's insane to commute that far, he's found ways to pass the time.

"I've probably heard every book on tape there is," he said. "You put the trip in chunks and you're in the driveway before you know it.

Carroll said he's never bought into the idea that the car a person drives says something about him or her. If that's true, he said, he's afraid to think of what his car says about him.

"This is mainly to drive the ridiculous distances," he said. "It serves its purpose: to get from point A to point B."

Nor does he think he'll buy a new car anytime soon.

He's open to the idea of a new car. He's just never found one that tickles his fancy well enough for him to buy it. Plus, he can't get over the idea that cars lose their value as soon as they are driven off the lot.

The gas mileage is a bonus

Teri King originally bought her metallic-green Vespa in 2005 because she thought it was cute.

Teri King poses with her Vespa. (Jennifer M. Howell/News-Sentinel)

"But when gas went above $2 a gallon, I found another reason to love it," King said.

King regularly drives her Vespa from her home in Galt to her job as a property officer with the Lodi Police Department.

She fills the tank on her vintage-looking Italian scooter about once every two weeks for around $8.

Even though it's fast enough to drive on the freeway, King was a bit hesitant to drive the Vespa to work when she first got it.

Now that she's had it for a while, and gained experience on a motorcycle she also bought, she's a bit more comfortable.

"It doesn't really scare me now that I have some riding experience," she said.

On the freeway, King estimates her Vespa gets 70 miles per gallon - 60 on surface streets.

When it's too wet outside to ride the Vespa, King takes her 2000 Honda CR-V, but it pains her to put gas in it.

"It's like $50 to fill it up. When I do that it just hurts," she said.

Plus, the Vespa is just fun to ride.

"I get to work, and I wish that I could keep going," she said.

Would I buy it again? Yes!

For 11 years Janet Graham, 66, drove a Jeep Cherokee.

In fact, she drives her Jeep every now and again, especially when she goes up to the mountains.

"I really love my Jeep, but it was costing $500 to $600 a month in gas," said Graham.

Janet Graham, who works in Tower Park, drives a Toyota Prius Hybrid to save on gas mileage. (Brian Feulner/News-Sentinel)

Graham didn't just care about the dollars she's throwing into her tank, though. She's also the only licensed eco-broker in the county, which means she, among other things, advises people on how to buy greener houses.

So, after shopping around, Graham decided to lease a Toyota Prius for $300 a month. She now pays $120 a month for fuel.

She saves so much money driving the Prius that she says it's like somebody is paying her to drive it.

But the cost difference isn't the only reason she loves it. Graham says it handles like a sports car. And she should know; she's had one - a Triumph.

"I'd like everyone to get one because it's a lot easier on the environment," she said.

It's pretty cushy, too, she said.

She and two of her friends took a trip up to Oregon not too long ago.

Even though the car was packed with luggage for three women and an ice chest, they still had plenty of leg room.

The entire 1,165-mile trip cost her less than $80 in gas.

"You couldn't take this car away from me," she said.

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  • posted at 6:26 pm on Sat, Apr 5, 2008.


    Audi 5000 11:58 AM: Your chance of experiencing a roll over out numbers the chance I'll be squashed in my sedan.

  • posted at 7:45 pm on Thu, Apr 3, 2008.


    Proud hummer driver here! it's worth $600 a month in gas to be a cool mom!

  • posted at 11:39 am on Thu, Apr 3, 2008.


    As far as "nerdmobiles" go, I highly recommend the Nissan Altima Hybrid. It looks good and is fun to drive with more "get up and go" than one would expect. We are, however, anxiously awaiting the release of the Ford F150 Hybrid. Supposedly, it will get 60 miles to the gallon by utilizing the hydraulic system to retain more energy instead of relying solely on a battery pack, such as in use now for the passenger cars like the Prius, Altima, Camry, etc.

  • posted at 6:58 am on Thu, Apr 3, 2008.


    I'll pay a little extra in gas to be safe in my large SUV. Scooter, Geo, Prism, or any other Nerdmobile v. SUV, I like my chances.

  • posted at 5:04 am on Thu, Apr 3, 2008.


    I ride my Bike to work, This way we can put gas in my husband's truck so he can get to work. we try to save anyway we can, I only have to watch out for the people driving, No one likes to stop at Marked crosswalks anymore, But it is my choise to do this,

  • posted at 2:38 am on Thu, Apr 3, 2008.


    Ahh, so that dude on the scooter is the one holding up the traffic on Lower Sac. Here are the commuters I really hate, you know the ones who will never move over when they are in the fast lane and doing 71 mph on NB 99. Hey idiots get a clue. Moreover, just because you can't speak english doesn't mean you cannot understand the posted speed limits, ohh wait does it??
    You know the dirty mini vans with quas--flashy rims who have about 20 heads in the car just puttin' along in the fast lane doing 55.

  • posted at 2:35 am on Thu, Apr 3, 2008.


    You can use any other means to drive but i will still drive my car. If you want to save on gas just plan your trips. one day out of the week for shopping for food. no, driving around shopping, know where you are going. before going out check the internet for you best route and where you can save on gas. too many people get fast food in the drive-in. that is a waste of gas. either make your food at home or park the car and go in to the resturant to order dinner.



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