The Most Expensive Gas in American History - Gorda, CA
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Posted by: Groundspeak Regular Member Bernd das Brot Team
N 35° 52.567 W 121° 26.747
10S E 640302 N 3971323
In March 2008, Gorda California registered the highest gasoline price in the United States: $5.20 Regular / $5.40 Premium.
Waymark Code: WM5ZQF
Location: California, United States
Date Posted: 03/08/2009
Published By:Groundspeak Regular Member Team Farkle 7
Views: 240

In March 2008, the smallest town at California's Big Sur Coast made national news headlines with this article, published in The New York Times on March 12, 2008.

Most Stunning View in Town
Is the One at the Pump

Published: March 12, 2008

GORDA, Calif. - James Willman seems to be a nice enough guy: polite, good-humored and hard-working, pumping gas seven days a week at the Amerigo Gas Station. But at least once a day, Mr. Willman says, someone pulls in and starts cursing him.

“They say all kinds of stuff — ‘You ought to be shot,’ or ‘Where’s your mask?’ ” Mr. Willman said. “I’m like, ‘Hey, I just work here.’ ”

The reason for the consumer agita is that the station, on the Central Coast of California, is serving up what may be the costliest gas in the land. On Tuesday morning, as crude oil flirted with $110 a barrel and petrol prices set records nationwide, a gallon of regular at Amerigo was going for $5.20. Premium was fetching an eye-popping $5.40 a gallon, though Mr. Willman said that included a free copy of a local newspaper. (The newspaper was free anyway.)

“That’s the reason I walk to work,” said Mr. Willman, who lives about 50 feet up a hill from the station.

The pain, of course, was not confined to Gorda, a one-generator, one-llama town perched on a scenic stretch of Highway 1. The American Automobile Association reported Tuesday that the average price of a gallon of gas nationwide had reached $3.227, a new high, up a fraction from Monday. That was still nearly two dollars short of the high in Gorda, which is about a 185-mile drive south of — and $1.50 a gallon more expensive than — San Francisco.

Many potential customers here slow down to the pump, and then keep on rolling when they see the price. At least Don Lister, who was visiting from South Carolina, came in for a cup of coffee. He had wanted to put in $10 worth of gas — less than two gallons — but his wife vetoed the purchase.

“Wow,” Mr. Lister said. “I’m not in South Carolina anymore.”

The station manager, Leo Flores, said the price reflected this tiny town’s remote location as well as its reliance on a diesel generator for all of its power. That generator uses 100 gallons a day, and the gas station helps foot the bill. Mr. Flores said the price of a gallon of regular at his station actually topped $5 for the first time in late 2007 — “More holiday cheer,” Mr. Willman cracked — as crude prices began to surge. It has stayed put ever since.

“Everyone else goes up and down,” he said. “I stay the same.”

That consistency was not much comfort to Nathan Jacobsen, 27, a computer scientist from Brazil who was spending his honeymoon in California.

“How much?” he asked. “Do I get anything free for that price?”

Mr. Willman handed him a newspaper.

Such interactions have led to a kind of gallows — or perhaps gallons — humor among Mr. Willman and the station’s two other attendants, who serve the public and deal with their displeasure. They say that paper towels to clean windshields come at “$35 a foot,” and that they want to install slot-machine arms on the sides of the pumps. They keep copies of particularly large bills — like those for RVs — as mementos.

One attendant, Nick Osborn, 59, said that he had been threatened recently with a class-action lawsuit by a customer who said he was a judge from New York.

“He took pictures and everything,” Mr. Osborn said.

Not that there is much hard evidence on display. Many gas stations along the coastal highway do not have prominent signs advertising their prices, in large part to preserve the area’s famed views, where crashing waves, stands of cypress and stark cliffs are set against an endless blue horizon.

Gorda, a popular spot for jade hunters and coast-loving bikers, also boasts impressive vistas, as well as a bundle of quaint cabins and a lonely llama who grazes near the station. The town, whose population ranges from about 10 (during low season for tourists) to about three dozen (in midsummer), is also home to a general store, a diner and a pair of pay phones. Cellphone reception is nonexistent, and radio is a crapshoot.

Locals have gotten used to paying a lot for a little, as almost everything has to be trucked in from big towns up and down the coast. A twelve-pack of Budweiser costs nearly $15, and a small coffee at the general store is more expensive than at the average Starbucks.

“You’re paying for the view,” said Brian Boyer, another of the service attendants at Amerigo. “And the entertainment.”

And Gorda is not alone in pricey petrol along the coast. In Cambria, 35 miles south, the price of regular at the Chevron station was $3.95 on Tuesday. In Big Sur, the tourist-friendly hideaway 40 miles north, a gallon of regular went for $4.80 at one Shell station.

The management at the Amerigo station is not immune to the price pinch; Tuesday was trash day in Gorda, and Mr. Flores, who oversees all the business in town, had to fill up the town’s truck to make the trip to the dump. The bill was $123.

Still, Mr. Willman, 47 and single, said he was holding out hope that Gorda’s notorious prices would have a silver lining.

“I keep waiting for some single rich woman to come through and drive me away,” he said.

Type of publication: Newspaper

When was the article reported?: 03/12/2008

Publication: The New York Times

Article Url: [Web Link]

Is Registration Required?: yes

How widespread was the article reported?: national

News Category: Business/Finance

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