Last night, I was eating a very late supper with two friends that I officiate basketball with (one of them grew up in a Methodist parsonage). We had officiated several ballgames at a summer high school camp, and the three of us had ridden our motorcycles to the games - both for fun, and to save money on gas. We were remarking how hard our parents and grandparents worked, and how much easier by comparison that we have it. Sending kids to college, paying bills, and the like are still not easy, but we were telling these stories while eating a pretty good meal in a nice restaurant.
There are all kinds of political, social, and economic reasons and theories about why the price of oil is going up, that the government should intervene, etc. I am not fluent enough in any of those areas to risk an opinion there. I just know that the reality is that gasoline costs over $4 a gallon. For some, it is going to be an economic hardship. For me, I am having to reassess priorities and travel.
I can't get around the fact that I have to drive a lot to do ministry. It is never a stretch to drive as many - if not more - miles that I am budgeted to be reimbursed for; it doesn't take long at 50.5¢ a mile! And while my old BMW gets 24 mpg, my old motorcycle got 40.
My old bike had a lot of miles and years; it was a 1993 model. So I finally quit being so cheap and bought a new bike about a month ago: a 2008 Kawasaki Vulcan Classic. It averages 45-50 mpg, and has a much bigger tank and engine than my last bike, and is already paying for itself at the pump: I pay half what I used to pay for my car to go the same distance! The weather has been outstanding this past month, and I have ridden to work, on errands, and in making pastoral and hospital calls. Yes, I occasionally run into the occasional storm - that's why they make rainsuits. I also realize from my trip to England that pastors have to be very creative in their transportation because of costs. So instead of just riding for fun, I tend these days to ride out of economics. A strange thing has happened in the process.
I used to loathe driving during work hours - I hate the waste of time that driving takes. You can't run an errand or make a hospital call in less than an hour in Paducah, and if I have someone in the hospital at Vanderbilt, I have just lost a whole day just by driving. It is certainly work that needs to be done, but I often wish I could snap my fingers and be transported directly to my destination instead of wasting the hours driving there.
But I have started enjoying the drive now. Riding a motorcycle is glorious, and the sights are always seen with a 360° view. I get a few stares when wearing a clerical collar, but that's an inconvenience at best. The strange things are the conversations that emerge. Motorcycles are always conversation starters, i.e., "Nice bike." "I'll pay for your gas if you'll pay for mine!" When it gets more interesting is when someone asks, "What do you do for a living?" When I tell them, the reactions range from uncomfortable silence to wide grins. And that sometimes leads to very interesting and blessed conversations and opportunities.
Who would have thought a little evangelism would save me money?