$4.79 a Gallon? That Ain't Regular!

High gas prices in car-crazy California have forced many drivers to make lifestyle changes.

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When you grow up in a big California city, you learn at an early age that factors beyond your control can have a powerful impact on your life; factors like earthquakes, violence and whether your family lives in the mean flatlands or the glorious hills. This year, three young Californians have been forced to add another factor to the list—gas prices that have soared to more than $4.50 per gallon.

Hilary Sledge and Aaron Deaver grew up in Oakland in the 1980s and '90s. Hilda Howard, Sledge's cousin, grew up in Los Angeles. They went to parties, proms and basketball games together, before graduating from high school and setting off on the paths that would define their adult lives. Their trajectories have differed, but for each of them, the price of gas is a factor in key life decisions.

Deaver, 26, is a salesman for an event media company who recently received custody of his 4-year-old son. Last weekend, he was cleaning out his mother's house in North Oakland. He's moving back there from the apartment he's been renting in suburban Dublin. The reason—the price of gas.

"I moved to Dublin to get away from Oakland," he said. "It's just too crazy out here. Too much violence, too much poverty, nothing positive really going on here."

But living in Dublin meant driving more than 50 miles per day.

· Driving from Dublin to Oakland to take his son, Isaiah, to school.

· Driving from Oakland to Martinez, where he's studying to become a police officer.

· Driving from Martinez to El Sobrante to check on a house his family owns there.

"Before, I was spending maybe $100 a week on gas, but now I'm spending anywhere from $200 to $300," he said.

The price of gas also forced Deaver to alter his plan to purchase a new vehicle. He'd rented an SUV for a month while his year-old Toyota Camry was being repaired and decided he liked the height and space the SUV afforded. He applied for a loan to purchase the truck and was approved, he said, but the price of gas forced him to take the truck back to the rental firm and keep the Camry.

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