Sunday, March 27, 2005

The Cost of Motoring

I lived in America for 42 years, so I'm sympathetic and sensitive to the price of gas. But these days after living overseas for the last several years, I just can't shed many tears over the recent price rises back in the states. So what is it now, somewhere between $2.00 and $2.40 a gallon? Jeez, that's too bad. How'd you like to pay more than $4.00? That's what it is here in Latvia this week. It can't be much fun dropping a C-note every time you've got to fill up that SUV, eh? That's why I'm glad we bought a Skoda (hey, it's a Volkswagen on the inside!) last summer. I wanted a diesel at the time, but the dealer said it would take at least eight weeks to get one and we needed a car. . . like. . . now. But all he had was the little 1.2 liter. I thought that would never do, but he insisted that we take it for a test drive and, you know what, the more I drove it, the more I could see ourselves owning it. It was actually, well, enough for the roads around here where the legal maximum is only 90 kph - that's 54 mph for the metric-challenged.

Now, after eight months of driving, I am so glad he talked me into it. Those Latvians are practical folks. I get a combined 40-42 mpg and can easily get 45-48 by driving out a full tank on the highway. (Remember, this is all translated from the weird liters/100km calculation they use here and the rest of Europe). We won't mention 0-60 times, but hey, that little motor is pretty smooth and sweet with its twin cams and balance shafts, and it sings a nice little note going through the slick gear changes. I know this is sounding more like an auto mag, but I'm just trying to encourage some alternative thinking to horsepower and thrills. Don't get me wrong, I've owned 26 cars in my life, including a couple of BMWs, and I like horsepower and thrills as much as anyone. Maybe I've evolved just a little . . .

I know it's been said many times before, but seeing your country - and I still consider the States my country - from a distance does indeed develop some perspective. I actually think America would benefit from higher gas prices. Believe me, the rest of the world has absolutely no sympathy for its complaints. At least pay what other affluent European countries pay. They manage it. There's much, even most, that I disagree with about the "European Way" (again, a subject for another day), but their approach to motoring is smarter. Still, just try to tell that to the "patriot" with the flag decals on the bumper of his SUV. Just remember, every time you go to the pump, your putting big-time money into the hands of some people who like nothing better than building a palace in which to preach our demise.


At 12:31 AM, Blogger Jia Li said...

Ah yes the Skoda, I remember seeing those in Germany. Hey, I think your page is cool so I would like to link it with mine. Would that be ok?

At 5:23 PM, Blogger vienalga said...

Ya, sure. . .

At 11:19 PM, Blogger DirtCrashr said...

Did you ever drive across Nevada on Hwy 50 to Colorado, or across West Texas up to Nebraska? I took a bus from LA to New Orleans once and it seemed liie West Texas took two days. :-) Jeez, there's some big empty spaces out there where a big old low-revving motor with lots of low-end torque is just the ticket over long distances - like train-travel would be if it went more places. :-) Diesel at my local pump costs more than gas!
Coming back from overseas ('69) we drove our VW Bus from MYC to California after having driven around Europe to burn off the taxes associated with a new car. Later in college I lived in Vienna and was completley on-foot nad had to hitchike if I wanted out. Stuff in Europe is very different, distances including cultural-distances especially.

I'm wondering, are the gas-prices actual market-prices, or do they tax the heck out of it for other services? But you're right, we do pay for other nasty people who beat on us from their pulpits - I suppose some might call it a form of penance if not self-flagellation for entering into such a Faustian devil's alliance?

A friend of mine from boarding-school in India lives in the UAE, used to be Bahrain but encountered some problems with corruption and moved to Dubai. He's a small-time guy in a bank. I bet all the cars in Abu Dhabi were air-conditioned? Walking around in such heat as they have there is hard! Latvia and the baltic looks really cool, and I look forward to their prosperity - an old book I read about sailing in the Baltic piqued my interest.
Saw your mention by/in/(on?) Anne Althouse, she's a very balanced-perspective person, good going! :-) Please excuse my rambling, I'm in-between employment.
Regards, -keith

At 9:17 AM, Blogger vienalga said...

Driving through West Texas would definitely be better in a big 'ol torque monster, especially with a nasty cross-wind. The right car for the right conditions. . . In the snow around here low-torque and skinny tires get you where you want to go without chains.

The gas price reflects a higher tax than in the states, and yes, it is a faustian bargain, one that's has some really nasty side effects. Where would our foreign policy be if we didn't have to pay tribute to a region made frighteningly wealthy by an accident of geography?

Yes, everything is air-conditioned in The UAE. I don't know how they lived without it. The older Officers I taught, mostly in their 40s and 50s are a tough but gentlemanly lot, but their sons leave a lot to be desired.

Finally, yeah, Ann's great; a well-rounded person. I love reading her stuff.

At 11:19 PM, Blogger DirtCrashr said...

Nothing wrong with a Skoda - it's no Trabant! I have a fondness for the 2CV actually. :-)


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