Snow White and the 3 Priuses

By Jeff Petersen, The Observer November 04, 2011 06:59 pm

I got swept up in a rare group panic earlier this week in La Grande.

I was taking my dwarf of a car into the tire dealer where the employees do their best Steve Prefontaine imitation.

The late, great Oregon distance runner would approve of this business model, but I’m not sure he would recognize the world today.

When Pre died, in 1975, regular unleaded gas cost 57 cents a gallon and the road was filled with gas-guzzling land barges like the Plymouth Gran Fury, the Mercury Monarch and the Chevrolet Imperial.

Today gas is $3.69 a gallon and the road is filled with Priuses, Volts and Leafs — and not all from maple trees.

When I received word the snow tires had been successfully installed on my white Prius, I caught a ride to the dealership to pick up my car. A cold wind blew. Snow was imminent. Caterpillars were growing an extra layer of fuzz.

There sat my car, near the front entryway. Great, I thought, I’ll sign the paperwork and be on my way.

I did so and returned to my car only to discover it was not my car. This white Prius had a  steering wheel cover and a toy duck riding shotgun.

I looked farther in the jam-packed parking lot only to spot another white Prius.

Super, I thought. Approaching it, though, I discovered it, too, was not my car.

Good grief, I thought. Not only is this town getting overrun by Priuses, it is getting overrun by white Priuses.

Finally, after more searching, I found my own car. Soon I was on my way, back to getting 45 mpg and happy that I could afford to commute from Cove despite the recession that is causing bills to rise and paychecks to fall.

OK, so it should have been obvious that mine was the only white Prius with a bicycle rack. Can anyone say “senior moment”?

It’s also obvious that people in Northeast Oregon are expecting a brutal winter. Many weather models agree, predicting deep snow. High winds. Lots of suffering — unless you’re a skier or a snow angel.

But then, predicting the weather is an inexact science. Depending on long-range forecasts is about as reliable as predicting the economy or whether flat-top haircuts will come back into fashion.

The bigger point is, in today’s economy we need to stretch the dollar as far as we can — and then stretch it some more. And if we’re lucky enough to get to drive a high-mileage car, so be it.

This morning I awoke to 2 inches of snow in Cove. A truck had spun out in Ladd Canyon, closing the interstate briefly. We don’t know for sure if the winter will be brutal. The only thing that is certain is the tire stores will be busy these next few weeks trying to keep ahead of the group panic.

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