Prius Conquers Colossal Commute
November 21, 2011
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Home on the Range -- Bob Callen leans on his Prius, while his granddaughters Chloe, 15 (left), and Fallon, 11, rely on a different kind of horsepower. Callen has a 320-mile roundtrip commute from his home in the country to his job in the city. Photo by Paul S. Howell
Bob Callen was reluctant to buy a Prius back in 2004. With a daily commute of 320 miles roundtrip, he was afraid he’d have to replace the battery in less than two years.
But, he says, “I decided to chance it and buy.”
His 2004 Prius has since racked up 500,000 miles – and it still has the original battery.
Callen is a sales manager at Canon U.S.A. in San Jose, Calif. He lives in Coarsegold, a hamlet near Yosemite National Park.
“We moved there about 11 years ago because some friends got a retirement home there,” he says. “Once we got the horses and the grandkids moved in, my wife let me know I could work wherever I chose as long as I understood she wasn’t moving.”
So Callen leaves home at 2:30 a.m. and arrives at his office at about 5:30 a.m. He heads home at 3 p.m., arriving between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m., depending on traffic. Not surprisingly, he did a lot of research before buying a car for a commute that can take seven hours a day.
“When I was shopping for a new car, I was looking for something economical and reliable,” he says. “I rented every small vehicle available to test economy, comfort and power going up and over Pacheco Pass every day.”
Because the highway is a main trucking route, he also wanted to make sure his car could easily pass 18-wheelers.
“I was reluctant to try the hybrid, but after renting one for a week, I was swayed to get the Prius,” he says. “It had the room, the economy and the power I was looking for.”
It’s not only withstood his daily commute but longer trips as well. “I sometimes drive to Los Angeles and San Diego, going over the Grapevine, and to Las Vegas, going through the Tehachapi Mountains and the Mojave Desert,” he says. “I’ve been caught in a sandstorm in the Mojave, snowstorms in the Sierras and was on the Grapevine when they had to shut it down for a huge fire a few years back.”
Callen is particularly pleased with Prius’ fuel economy. “When I first got the car, just getting an average 45 to 47 mpg was worth the investment as my old car only got about 18 to 20 mpg,” he says. “But with gas prices approaching – and sometimes exceeding – an average $4 a gallon, this has been a great investment.”
He protects that investment by getting an oil change almost every month.
Although he services the car at several Toyota dealerships along his route, Piercey Toyota of Milpitas is his go-to dealer.
“I know the people, and they know me,” he says. “Friendly, helpful and convenient. Need I say more?”
Callen doesn’t plan to turn in his key fob any time soon. “I’ll continue to drive the Prius as long as I can,” he says. “And I would most definitely consider another Prius when I’m ready to change vehicles.”
Unless, of course, his mind is changed by the granddaughters and horses that keep him so far away from work. The girls compete in horse shows on weekends, so Callen borrows a friend’s truck to tow a horse trailer. If his Prius ever poops out, he may buy a 4-wheel-drive Tundra instead.
By Susan Pack