Friday, August 04, 2006

The Gasoline Game

Once upon a time, buying gasoline (and getting a fairly decent price) was easy. We had a Mobile station right here in Celebration. Granted, it was on the outskirts (the Water Tower shopping center in 192), but you could access it without technically leaving "The Bubble." Because there was a Race Trac station right across the street, the Mobile kept its price competitive. Usually it would match the Race Trac or set its price a penny or two above it, which I considered a "convenience fee."

But several weeks ago, lightning struck the Mobile, and the resulting fire put it out of commission. I think it's supposed to reopen soon, but in the meantime I've been a Gasoline Nomad, wandering aimlessly in search of a rare combination: the best deal and the most convenient station.

The Race Trac is still there, but it's not particularly easy to get to even though it's right across the street from Water Tower. You have to go out on 192 and make a U turn. Once you arrive, you'll discover that every tourist in the greater Central Florida area has made a beeline for that same station. I have a theory that they must give the gas away, but somehow I'm never included in the giveaway that attracts customers from near and far.

The trick is not only to find an available pump, but to locate one on the correct side that matches with Canyonero's gas tank. The tank is on the driver's side, but 9 times out of 10 the available pumps are in a spot that matches up with passenger side tanks. Grrrrr! Granted, I could back in, but that's a virtually impossible acrobatic feat with cars constantly buzzing around like lions circling a herd of wounded wildebeests. They're ready to swoop the moment they spot an open gas pump, and if you're trying to take it yourself, God help you! When you're driving backwards, it's virtually impossible to outmaneuver an aggressive front-facing driver who decides to stake a claim on your pump.

Often, all of the pumps are taken, so you must stake out a territory and pray that someone will pull out soon. Generally, that works out as well as picking the quickest line in the bank or grocery store. I always seem to pick a block of pumps where the drivers are not merely fueling up, but also saving some money on lodging expenses by settling in for the long haul. After all, they have a rest room and snack shop in close proximity. Why pay for a hotel room when they can just crash in their car for free?

Even though the Mobile was generally busy, I never had to wait for a pump. It had a steady flow of traffic, but I always had a fighting chance of being able to purchase gas without turning it into a competitive sport. I hate it when filling up my tank is akin to finding a parking spot at the Florida Mall during the Christmas season.

In order to avoid the world's busiest Race Trac, I generally buy my gas on the way to or from the barn in Clermont. There is a Hess station near the Wal-Mart on 27 that is generally cheap (with "cheap" being a relative term, i.e. barely under $3) and somewhat less crowded than the Race Trac on 192.

I never, ever stop for gas on 192 between Celebration and Clermont because for some odd reason those stations are way higher than the ones heading east. Heading towards Kissimmee, you can buy your gas for less than $3 per gallon, but just a few blocks to the west you'll pay $3.04 and up. I've never figured out the difference...perhaps the West 192 gasoline is mixed with gold flecks or diamond chips.

We also frequent the Hess stations on Disney property. Logic might tell you that Disney stations would be much more expensive than the norm, but surprisingly that's not the case. At most, the WDW Hess stations are two or three cents more per gallon, and they're generally not too crowded unless you visit them at park closing time.

How I long for the day when I won't have to play Gas Station Roulette any longer because the Mobile has reopened. I never realized how often I patronized them until they were gone. Celebration needs its gas station! Hopefully they will be back in business soon.

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1 comment:

Two4Disney said...

Living on the opposite side of Disney, we, too, have found the best place to get gas is on Disney property. Ironic, but true. :)