500 Miles

Every time I fill up the fuel tank in my car I have this momentary fantasy. It goes like this; “I have a full tank of gas. I could get in and drive anywhere. Right now, just anywhere.”

It isn’t really that far-fetched. My hybrid has a set of displays I can cycle through, and the first one that comes up, based on my most recent mileage, is the Driving Range (and that is not a golf term.) When I fill the tank, the range figure is always 500 miles or more.  I have driven 500 miles on one tank of gas with about an eighth of a tank left.

So, theoretically and, well, actually, I could get in my car and drive 500 miles in about any direction… except maybe west. That wouldn’t be good. I would have credit cards and an ATM card, and my cell phone; I could call Spouse and say, “I’m going up to Oregon for a few days. See you soon.” I never do, of course, but I could.

So, where could I go?  Well, I could make it almost to Eugene, Oregon on one tank.

I could make it to San Simeon (Hearst Castle) easily, and almost make it back. I’ve never been to Hearst Castle.

I could head east and make it to Truckee, California, and back easily on one tank. Ditto Lake Tahoe. I could make it to Reno, but probably not all the way back. I don’t like to gamble, so there isn’t really any reason to go to Reno, but Lake Tahoe is pretty.

I could make it to Yosemite, and even to Bodie, a famous mining settlement that is now a ghost town. It’s a great place to take pictures, but the altitude can be daunting (8300 feet above sea level), so maybe not.

I could make it to the town where I was born, the lovely and expensive Santa Barbara, California, and even have about a quarter of a tank to sight-see on. Here’s a shocker; I could make it to the city limits of Los Angeles on one tank. Then I’d be on empty by the side of the endless freeway, holding up my smart phone in a desperate attempt to get bars. That doesn’t sound like a fun trip.

Can I make it to Disneyland on one tank? No, I cannot. I would definitely have to refuel.

I can make it to Weaverville, in the Trinity Mountains, between Eureka and Redding. Why would I go there? Once, decades ago, I taught a class there. While I was in the tiny town of Weaverville, the key to my ten-year-old car broke off in the ignition. I was a little worried. This was before cell phones, and I didn’t have AAA road service then, and I was due to teach a class at the other end of town in about twenty minutes. (Okay, I could have walked, it was a small town… but still.)  The hotel manager called the local lock-smith, even though it was 7:30 in the morning, and he came over, dislodged the stem of the key, gave me a ride to my class, and brought me a new key about an hour later. That was pretty darn nice, so I remember the town fondly. And I could drive there on one tank of gas.

If I went up the Oregon coast, I could make it to Florence, but not Newport, which is the home of the wonderful Sylvia Beach Hotel. I have been there. I stayed in the Dr. Zeuss room.

So, free spirit that I long to be, have I ever done this? Ever just gotten in the car, filled the tank and driven off, answering the call of the open road, the lure of wanderlust, the thrill of the road trip?


How do I use my 500 miles of unbridled freedom? Mostly:

  • I go to the store.
  • I go to the bookstore or library.
  • I take my mother-in-law places.
  • I visit friends.
  • I go to a local park to walk.
  • I go to the ocean.

I go to towns in the county, like Healdsburg, Sonoma, Petaluma. Sometimes I make the big leap and drive all the way to the San Francisco Bay Area. That’s a great, white-knuckle adventure.

Then I’m back at the gas tank. I fill it and hang the nozzle back up. I tighten the gas cap. I get behind the wheel, and press the display button. Driving Range, 500 miles comes up on my dash, and I think, “I could drive anywhere. Right now, just anywhere.”

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