Today is May 22 and here in Kodiak gas is up to 4.25 (what is with the 9/10 anyway?) a gallon. It was only 4.10 at the beginning of the month. The price of a barrel of oil keeps rising. So everyone is talking about how high gas will go. Here on an island, it affects more than just driving. Boats and planes need fuel too. Houses are heated with oil. Food, as well as everything else, comes in by plane or boat. So expenses are rising daily. How are people coping? I see more people walking and riding bikes. Of course, our weather is notoriously rainy so perhaps this is more a result of a week of sunshine than high prices. More trucks are for sale. Since everyone owns a truck there is a limit to how many of these will sell. Trucks are losing value by the day. There are few small cars for sale. That's mostly because we only have one major auto dealer (Ford) on the island and it has no Ford Escorts on its lot and only one Escape Hybrid. The only major used car dealer is still stuck with lots of trucks and SUVs which are not exactly flying off the lot right now. People are talking about growing more food but because our growing season is so short I know of only a few people who are successful at it. It seems like rhubarb is the only thing that grows easily here.
One benefit of living on an island with few roads is that you don't have to drive much. So our family has been walking and riding our bikes a lot more ( still it has been sunny...). Our truck which gets 12 mpg around town sits idly (not idling) by. Our Toyota Matrix which under performs at 20 mpg is our basic mode of vehicular transportation. This not only saves money ($4.25 for every 12 miles you walk or ride!) but it is good exercise since Kodiak is a very hilly place. It has always been expensive to live here compared to upstate New York where we used to live so the uptick in prices is not a huge surprise. When I talk to my family in New York they were stressing over gas in the $3.50 plus range; we've been paying that for a year or more.
We have been making changes in the way we eat, too. We don't go out to eat as much. This is not as big a sacrifice as it may sound since there are few places to eat out here and you get tired of going to the same places all the time. We don't stop at the coffee shop every day. A latte costs about what a gallon of gas does. So if you go without a latte a day you have saved up 7 gallons of gas which you can use when you really need your truck (that's a week of driving here!). We still go to the coffee shop for the conversation with friends and drink the very good brewed coffee which is locally roasted here in Kodiak. One of our favorite coffee shops is run by a French pastry chef so it's hard to pass up a muffin or scone. Our dilemma is: brewed coffee plus a muffin equals a gallon of gas but if we walk the three miles to this particular coffee shop we have saved $2.12 at the current prices (assuming we drove the truck) which buys a muffin and the walking takes care of most of the calories so you see its a win - win deal.
These changes slow us down too. This is good and bad. Life is already slower here so you can feel like a slug at times and we have plenty of those already (did I mention it rains a lot?). It takes longer to walk places but you do see more and the scenery is pretty spectacular here and you can take that for granted. So overall I think its a plus to slow down.
We are making other changes too about the way we eat and what we eat. Fish is plentiful here and cheaper than many places in the lower 48. A lot of times in the summer people share fish like people used to share produce in upstate New York. And one good trip out on a boat can put enough fish in the freezer to take you well into the next year. Salmon is good for you and we eat a lot of it. Even our local Subway sells salmon subs. It's hard to get fresh produce here so we pay a premium for it. No way around that. You are not going to grow it. The only fruit that grows here are salmon berries and due to two years of cold, wet Springs even those berries have been in short supply. The bears get most of what's there and you're not going to win many arguments with them. But we have been baking more: bread and cookies. We have changed our oatmeal brand to one that we can get in bulk and is cheaper. We are eating less which is not a bad thing because we discovered we were eating too much before. When we shop we try to stay to the outside aisles of the store - the perimeter - where you get more for your money because all the processed stuff is sold in the inner aisles.
So all in all, we do have some good choices here where our choices are fewer than many places in the lower 48. I know we are fortunate here because there are many places in the world where people's choices are much more limited and food shortages are making living nearly impossible. Organizations like Food for the Hungry and Compassion and World Vision are getting food to some of these people who have no good choices. Hopefully, this focus on high prices in America right now will help us change our lifestyles enough so we have more to share with those who have far fewer good choices than we do.