Taking It Too Far

There’s a remarkable irony about driving a Prius. At least, there is for us. We get such incredible gas mileage – especially when my husband drives – that we tend to think we can go farther than we actually can.

This has resulted in several close calls, including one that I blogged about <a href=”https://mybrightspots.wordpress.com/2013/03/07/almost-perilous-road-trip/&#8221; >here</a>.

However, we’ve always made it to a gas station. The Prius behaves oddly as you near the end of the tank. When the gas gauge goes down to one block, the car beeps. Fairly soon after that, it beeps again and turns itself off.

The first time this happened, my husband was alone in the car. He (fortunately) discovered that if he pulled over, put the car in park, and then pushed the power button again, the car would start and continue down the road. In his case, far enough along to get him to a gas station.

We had the opportunity to test this out again when we were returning from dropping the kids off at summer camp last summer. Again, the car restarted and we made it to a gas station. I commented on that trip about how deeply embarrassing it would have been to walk up to one of the farm houses near the highway and ask the farmer living there if he could drive us in his pick-up truck to a gas station to get gas for our hybrid.

But while there are remote, unpopulated sections of highway in Texas, I would argue that Kansas is perhaps more desolate. As we drove along I-70, he commented that we needed to get gas soon. “I think we can make it to Salina,” he said.

Sometime later, he asked me to look on his phone for the nearest gas station. The phone was unwilling to provide access to the internet, however, so we began watching for signs. We were still fifteen miles from Salina and the Google Map already loaded on his phone did not look promising.

The car gave its first beep. And then its second. Without panicking, my husband pulled over and restarted the car. We continued down the highway at a lower speed and with the air conditioner off.

The car beeped angrily. We continued along the road. It beeped again, sounding testy, and shut off again. Again, he restarted it and continued on. The carp beeped its complaint.

To our good fortune, we saw a sign indicating a gas station at the next exit. We crested the hill as the car beeped and shut off. We drifted down the exit ramp and breathed a sigh of relief as the gas station came into view. I marveled at my husband’s incredible good luck. Things always work out for him.

As we drew closer, he pointed out what I had missed. The gas station was out of business. We wouldn’t be filling up there and now we had wasted some distance and fumes on an unnecessary exit. At this point, I said, “I can’t stand it anymore. I have got to pee!”

He tried to coax his phone to look up gas stations while I walked behind the shell of one to find a private place to empty my bladder. I found success, but he did not and we were soon puttering along the shoulder, my husband turning the car on, the car beeping, then complying, then turning off.

Eventually he had to admit that we weren’t going to make it to a Salina gas station and I called AAA. The automated response asked for our card number and then hung up on me. I tried again and it hung up again.

He finally gave up on goosing the poor car along and stopped. When he took the phone, he inexplicably got a human instead of the computer and cheerfully announced, “I’ve run out of gas in Kansas!”

Forty-five boring minutes later, we were back on the road. “I thought for sure you had pulled it off again when we saw that gas station,” I said.

“Well,” he replied, “Daddy luck works on many things. For everything else, there’s AAA.”