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2021 Gas Shortage: Traveling In These Crazy Times

A Gas Shortage While Traveling

We were vacationing at the beach in South Carolina while visiting family outside of Charleston. We did not venture into the city, as we usually do (the streets are crowded, we were told, and nobody is wearing a mask), but instead we focused on family and hung out in our beach community.

gas shortage
Rolling dunes protect the shoreline

The beach was great. But a few days before we were scheduled to go home, the Colonial Pipeline went down. (I have photos of the beach here, not gas pumps — they’re prettier.) But how were we going to make the drive home — a little over 700 miles — with no gas?!?.

As soon as I heard about it, on Monday last week, I filled my tank — before the crowds arrived at the gas stations. But we were traveling back and forth between the beach and the grandchildren’s house, so by the time we left, the tank was down to a little over half. On Wednesday and Thursday we saw several gas stations that were empty, trucks parked out in front of the pumps, black bags covering the handles.

A long walk to the beach

How bad is this? we wondered. Should we see if we could stay over a couple of extra days until gas was more readily available?

Our kids suggested that if anyone had gas, it would be Costco. So on Friday, the day before we left, B stopped off at Costco. There was a line. But there was also gas, and she was able to fill up.

The sand was dotted with jellyfish

But Do They Really Have Gas?

Still, we couldn’t make 700 miles on one tank of gas. We’d have to stop once along Route 95. I checked online. Pilot Flying J showed many of its locations out of gas. TA Truck stops offered no information about the situation. Love’s had a list of stations that were out of gas or “in danger” of being out of gas. But most of its locations seemed to have supplies.

We decided to leave as planned. Online I found several stations along our route that said they had gas. But would they in real life?

A man casts for dinner

We set out on our trip, along I26, turning north on I95. We watched the gas gauge sink from full to three quarters to half. My odometer estimates how many miles we have left in the tank. We started at 520 miles. We got down to 400, then 300. At 240 we reached the Virginia state line, where my research indicated there was a Love’s with gas.

We exited the highway and saw the station. It was crowded, but we found a pump. When I went to insert my credit card I saw the message: Please wait. Pump temporarily out of order.

A bird finds some food

 I saw a guy leaning against his car on the other side of the island. I asked him if he knew what was going on. Apparently there was gas at several of the pumps, but not all of them. Which ones? Probably the ones with the long lines. The place was a madhouse.

Then I noticed Flying J across the street. It wasn’t too crowded, but there seemed to be activity. So I crossed over and pulled up to a pump. It was working. We were able to fill up.

The end of a day

The Masses Weren’t Holding Back On Travel

We got home as scheduled, on Sunday, gas emergency notwithstanding. The fact is, we saw a lot of cars and trucks on the road, traffic as usual. The gas shortage didn’t seem to stop anyone. And when you think about it, it’s pretty impressive that the petroleum infrastructure was able to refill the network as fast as it did.

People blame the big oil companies for global warming. Sure, they have something to do with it. But the real problem is the American public that is addicted to driving — typically in a gas-guzzling SUV, at a gas-guzzling speed of 70 or 75 mph.

But that’s not really my point. (Okay, we’re addicted to driving, too, but at least we don’t drive an SUV and we try to keep it to a more efficient 65 mph.) I just want to say: It was great to be traveling again after our long quarantine. It was great to see the grandkids. And we got home. Safe and sound. 

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About The Author
Tom Lashnits
Tom Lashnits
Tom Lashnits spent 40 years in New York book and magazine publishing before retiring to Bucks County, PA, in 2017. He now volunteers in the school system, produces the baby boomer blog Sightings Over Sixty . . . and is just starting to chase after grandchildren.
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