Marlene "Marc” Pankow couldn't get $25 worth of gas in the tank of her gray Mercury Sable when she bought it a few years back. "It wouldn't hold that much,” she said. "Now, $50 won't fill it.” The coordinator of horse shows for the Oklahoma State Fair commutes 96 miles round-trip, five days a week from her home at Purcell. Recently, Oklahoma City finished last among 50 U.S. cities in a study about areas best able to cope with high oil prices, according to an article in CNN Money.com. The study, published by the economic development group Common Current, contends that "cities with strong public transit systems will likely remain competitive in the face of soaring gas prices.” Public transportation isn't an option for Pankow, and she said carpooling wouldn't likely work because of where she lives and her work schedule. The horse enthusiast is like many who responded to The Oklahoman's call for commuters of 45 miles or more each way: They like where they live and where they work.
Home and awayThe former barrel racer lives at Jim Frazier Quarter Horses on the southeast side of Purcell. Working with the horse industry through scheduling shows for the State Fair is the perfect fit between interests and work. "I love my job,” she said. "The facilities are so exciting, and I work for the greatest people in the whole world. I have chosen where I live and where I work. "Prices are high, but you make sacrifices.” She was driving a 1989 three-quarter ton pickup when she began working at the State Fair in 2004. Even then the commute was costly, about $25 a day, so she bought a Mercury Sable. "You can see that pretty soon that was beyond ridiculous,” she said of the pickup and her daily travel. "The Sable pretty much saved my life.” Or rather her way of life — one with a long commute. And how often she makes that trip will soon increase. Although she makes the trip five days a week, that will likely increase to six days in July. Closer to the fair in September, the Mercury will carry her back and forth seven days a week. "Sure, it will be harder, it's bad enough driving five days a week,” she said. But she knows that others are making sacrifices as well. "I'm not the only one,” she said.
‘So what is a working person to do?Gayle Brown drives about 100 miles round-trip from Lexington to Oklahoma City. "I can't afford to work in Noble or Norman for minimum wage, and I can't really afford to quit a job that pays me as much as I make,” Brown said. "So what is a working person to do?” Lillie East, who drives from Guthrie to Oklahoma City, provides a good example of how much more it costs to drive shorter distances. When she worked at 36th and Lincoln, she spent $45 to $55 monthly on her gas card. When she worked downtown at 201 Robert S Kerr Ave., she put $90 to $140 per month on her gas card. Now working in far north Oklahoma City, which is closer to home, she is spending $275 to $325 per month. "I schedule all trips to and from work,” she said of stops along the way. "I do absolutely no back-tracking. If I do not have it in the pantry, I will change my menu.” Reggie Stockton of Duncan is racking up about 160 miles round-trip daily to and from Oklahoma City. About a year ago he invested in a VW Jetta TDI, turbo diesel, which gets about 45 miles per gallon, he said. He spends about $300 a month, compared to just over $200 a month a year ago. "Diesel used to be quite a bit cheaper than gas, so it's frustrating that diesel is now more expensive,” he said. "We have previously considered moving to the Oklahoma City area, but the cost of living in Duncan is quite a bit cheaper.” He said the cost of commuting has outweighed the cost of moving, so far. "However that is slowly changing,” Stockton said.
HypermilingHypermilers are drivers who go to extraordinary lengths to get as much as they can from each gallon of gasoline. Doug Wilson of Midwest City, shown above with his SUV, is a hypermiler; read his story on Page 4A.
How to hypermileHere are just a few things hypermilers do to save gas: •Inflate tires to the maximum amount for your car: Also, balance and align. •Pay attention to wind conditions: Driving on a calmer day can save fuel. •Minimize stoplights and stop signs: Plan your route. Every time you stop and start, you waste fuel. •Run without the air conditioning: Bring plenty of ice water to stay hydrated. •Keep up with maintenance: Changing the air filter and oil, and getting scheduled tune-ups will have a positive effect on your fuel economy. •Get rid of what you don't need: The heavier the vehicle, the worse mileage you'll get. •Park facing out: Park at the highest spot in the parking lot and face out. You'll be able to exit by rolling forward in neutral without turning on the engine, thereby saving gas. Source: Edmunds.com