At a wide spot in the road, minutes south of the California-Oregon border, I saw something that I had never seen before. The service station sign read: Premium gasoline – $5 a gallon.

In a matter of weeks, the run-up in gas prices has managed to do something once thought impossible. It has made gasoline for $4 a gallon seem like a bargain.

Close to home, people are talking to their hometown newspaper about bike lanes and about the cost savings available from hybrids, motor scooters and mass transit.

And folks are talking about summer travel. Or not. In a recent Press Democrat online survey, more than half of the respondents said gas prices would force them to change their travel plans this summer. One in three plans to stay home.

For consumers, this is bitter medicine for the nation’s failure to recognize a crisis that was all too predictable.

If you want to buy an SUV, cheap, now’s the time. Then get ready to pay $100 for a tank of gas.

Note that the impacts go beyond personal decisions about travel. A business owner told me that one of her suppliers just increased wholesale prices by 25 percent because of the high cost of transportation. For businesses, higher energy costs can only lead to higher prices – and consumers will get to pay those, as well.

In the coming days, speculation about $5 a gallon gasoline is sure to grow louder.

Place your bets: How high will gas prices go?