American Road Trips

My friend John, the rib king told me a few months ago that’s he buying a stretched out Checker cab and driving it from Chicago to California along Route 66. He’s going with his buddies from high school in an attempt to relive the best times of their lives. Technically 66 no longer exists but the original route can be accessed via the Internet. God bless ‘em.

A week after he told me this I got an email from a bunch of guys in Nashville driving a bus to DC, New York, Massachusetts, Denver, Burning Man, and California. They were looking for press coverage and ideally, donations to fund the ride by selling seats on the bus for $900. God bless them as well.

Three days ago I got an email about, (guess what?) another cross country road trip being sponsored by the US Department of Transportation that features hydrogen powered vehicles driving across the USA. As much as I want to believe that hydrogen is the answer to our countries energy issues, I just don’t buy it.

Part of it may be that I don’t really understand it but here’s what I do know. Hydrogen is non-polluting and totally sustainable. (I think) it’s the most abundant substance on the planet. The only by-product of burning hydrogen is water. Sounds great, huh?

Here’s the problem. In order for hydrogen to become feasible, every gas station in the country would have to be changed over and modified to dispense hydrogen. Sure it can be done and you could do the same thing with natural gas. Cars will run on that too. How long will it take? How much would it cost? Who can say?

Here’s something else I know. Tesla’s all electric $120,000 sport scars are starting to show up in people’s driveways. Leno has a video of him driving one on his “Garage” website. GM is busting their butt trying to figure out a way to get the electric Chevy Volt to the marketplace. Toyota is selling Pria faster than they can build them and people are now waiting in line for years to buy a Smart car.

We’ve been hearing for years about America’s love for large gas guzzling SUV’s and the open road. That’s all swell till gas hits four bucks a gallon. There was a small bit in the Washington Post today on page 2 about the latest numbers. Ready?

In June 2008, we Americans drove 12.2 billion fewer miles than in June of 2007. That’s billion with a “B,” folks. According to the article, that’s a 4.7% decline and the biggest monthly drop in a less driving trend that began last November. Here’s another “B” fact for you. Measuring from November to June in 2008 as compared to 2007 we’ve driven 53.2 billion fewer miles.
Here’s one more but we have to drop back to millions with an “M.” The first quarter of 2007 as compared to first quarter 2008 – 400 million fewer gallons of gasoline burned in the US of A.

What can be learned from all this?

My neighbor John is a little kooky but I already knew that. If I could stand to ride in cars for long periods of time I’d volunteer to go with him.

The guys in Nashville have a great idea but they need marketing help. I wish I had the time.

Hydrogen is a good idea but still in the pipe dream stage.

All electric cars are already here.

A wave of plug-in hybrids are expected in 2010.

If the price of gas stays high and I believe it will, America will cut back on their Great American road trips, drive less, spend less time in their cars and dial down the production of green house gasses. Doesn’t sound so bad, does it?

Scott Sowers


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