2012-11-01 / Views

From the Braver Institute

I was out of the country last week for the first time in decades. I was only across the border in Canada, but saying that I was out of the country sounds more exotic.

I was traveling with the Badger to Hamilton, Ontario to take in another Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band show. I saved his life again almost exactly the same way I saved it last spring, so if you want to hear about it, just look back to April of this year.

Anyway that is all kind of beside the point right now.

We departed from the Badger’s house outside of Algonac, Mich., and crossed over to Canada on the ferry out of Marine City, Mich. From there we wandered farm roads up to Sarnia and turned east toward Hamilton.

Along the way we drove past several gas stations, but since we had gassed up before we left Marine City, we had no real reason to pay close attention to them.

At the time of this writing, the price for a gallon of regular gasoline in Marine City was right around $3.50 per gallon. The price has been steadily dropping lately, and I welcomed the smaller impact on my wallet.

Somewhere along highway 402, probably near London (Ontario, not England) it dawned on us that gas was really cheap in Canada. The price was something like $1.25.

The only logical reason we could come up with for such a contrast in pricing was that Canada gets so much of their oil from their own oil sands and other national sources.

Having filled up in the states, we had no need to buy any additional gas for our trip over and back. I was a little disappointed I hadn’t decided to buy gas on the Canadian side.

The morning after the show we were sitting down to breakfast in the hotel restaurant we once again discussed the gas prices. I said that it wouldn’t be a bad idea to fill up on the way back, but closer to the border to maximize the quantity I could buy at the lower price. I decided that we should get gas in the little burg (we couldn’t remember the name of it) where the ferry docks on the Canadian side of the St. Clair river.

My GPS worked wonderfully getting us to Hamilton, which is home to half-a-million people, but it wasn’t so good at getting us to a riverside village with fifty residents that we didn’t even know the name of. It kept wanting to route us through Port Huron, Mich. and when we told it to avoid Port Huron, it wanted to route us through Buffalo, N.Y. and along the south shore of Lake Erie, which would have been fine if we wanted to drive nine hours out of our way. Eventually we convinced the GPS to take us to Windsor, Ont. We would have to drive right past the little ferry town on the way, and we knew the rest of the trip from that point on.

All was going well until we were getting closer to said ferry town. The highway to Windsor did not follow the same route, or so we thought, and I ignored the GPS’s instruction to turn. It soon became obvious that we had forgotten about the turn on our way to Hamilton, and the GPS was correct. We were off track slightly, but it was no big deal, the GPS took us back to the main highway, and we had barely gone out of our way.

We soon arrived in the little ferry town, which we found to be named Sombra, Ontario. To my surprise, there were no gas stations in the town. We both could have sworn that we saw at least one between the ferry and Sarnia. We concluded that we must have bypassed it when we took the wrong turn.

I pulled over and looked up the nearest gas station on my smart phone (smart is an understatement). Since we were just across the river from Michigan, I had a good signal from my service provider, and wouldn’t have to worry about paying seven million dollars a minute for data the way I would have deeper in Canada.

It turns out that the nearest gas was in the town of Wallaceburg, some eight miles away. We seriously thought about abandoning the plan to get cheap gas, but it was a nice day and we had nothing better to do, and I would save a lot of money on the fill up, so driving the extra eight miles would not be a big deal, and we would be able to catch the Walpole Island ferry that would take us directly to Algonac.

We pulled into a gas station in Wallaceburg, and as I stepped out of the car it struck me like a lightning bolt – they use the metric system in Canada! The price of gas is in liters! Gas wasn’t $1.25 per gallon, it was more like $4.73 per gallon.

The funny thing is that I had been mentally preparing to write about how unfair it was that Canadian gas was so cheap (I would have felt good about writing such a piece), but instead I get to write about how absolutely clueless I can be at times.

Oh well, at least the concert was great.

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Waye Braver can be contacted on Facebook or by e-mail at waye@braverinstitute.com. Visit the Braver Institute at www.braverinsitute.com.

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