If youíre burning diesel, or even high-octane gasoline, in your vehicle, $4-a-gallon fuel is a reality for you right now. The way things have been going, most of us whose cars and trucks can get by on regular grade will be there soon. So itís even more urgent for us to look for ways to economize between fill-ups.
On a flight to the East Coast earlier this month, a man sitting in the row in front of me and across the aisle was reading an article in ďUSA TodayĒ that appeared to offer such tips. Thatís what I gleaned from the headline, which was the only thing I was able to see clearly from my vantage point. I made a mental note to look for a copy of that newspaper later, but my mental note somehow got erased when we landed and I joined the sprint to the airport baggage claim. But the headline alone was intriguing enough.
ďAvoid left turns to save gas,Ē it proclaimed, or something to that effect. Without having read the story, I could imagine it pointed to the wasted minutes spent by vehicles idling in left turn lanes waiting for oncoming traffic to pass. In contrast, right turns are quick and simple. Most states even allow you to do so after stopping at red lights if the way is clear.
I immediately began trying to visualize ways to avoid left turns, and came up with one of those truths that had somehow escaped me before: three rights make a left.
Since this revelation came to me while I was on an airliner, I recalled a comment by Bulletin colleague Steve Nash, in one of his Thursday columns last summer, claiming that he flew east from Niagara Falls to reach Brownwood. Of course, you canít get anything on Steve, because he always seems to diffuse such needling by directing it toward himself before anyone else can do so. The cat-juggler mentioned his faux pas last week, so here I am today with his leftovers.
Nevertheless, I began to calculate how I could make my daily commute from home to office and back without making any left turns. The morning drive is easy: right turns all the way from the Brady Highway, to Carnegie to the Bulletin parking lot. But getting home is a bit more complicated.
My first impulse was to turn right out of the Bulletin parking lot onto to Carnegie and see where that might lead me. Before I knew it, I was roaring along on the Williams Ranch Road heading toward the Camp Bowie Access Road. The additional 10 miles this involves seemed counterproductive to the gas-saving purpose. So I narrowed the scope of navigation.
I could turn right on Vine and head toward the house. Oops! Thereís a left turn just off Coggin. Letís back this buggy up, and utilize the three-rights-make-a-left theorem.
Getting out of the employee parking lot and heading west on Carnegie without making a left turn takes some doing, but I was able to manage it by circling a couple of downtown blocks with a series of right turns ó a total of seven, if youíre counting. Then, the cloverleaf design of the ramp from Carnegie to head south on Austin is exactly what the doctor ordered, allowing in effect a left turn with a 270-degree righthand sweep. I proceeded along Austin Avenue to Avenue K, from which I made a right, and three more rights put me safely in my driveway.
Iím still trying to calculate if the approximately half-a-mile distance this route adds to my commute once or twice a day (depending on whether I go home for lunch) drinks up the savings enjoyed from not idling while waiting to turn left a couple of times. An extra half-mile driven eight or 10 times a week does add up over the course of a year. Thatís almost enough miles to use up a tank of gas.
I decided I needed to refine this some more. I went down Vine, took a right at Avenue K and headed home. Home, sweet home. And it was done with all right turns, thank you very much.
Iím just glad I didnít try this experiment before the cat-juggler asked for a ride home because his vanís fuel pump went out. But I have my excuse ready, should he need another lift and think Iím lost or something. Iíll just dismiss it all as professional research.
Gene Deason is managing editor of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Friday. He may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.