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New and traditional ways of exploring the globe, and your own backyard.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Road Trips and High Gas Prices

It’s finally road trip weather again. The last stubborn snow piles in the Walmart and grocery store parking lots are looking less and less like abstract winter art and more like melted mush – which is how it should be. It is spring. While every year people look forward to the thaw, there is one thing they do not look forward to. That would be the summer increases in gas prices. And this year it looks like it came early. I saw my first gas this weekend for over $4 (it was $4.03 at a Mobil on New Scotland Ave. in Albany). It’s highway robbery. Kinda literally. But we’re all dealing with it. One of my friends said there were some benefits since the last time it got really high, following Hurricane Katrina, it seemed like just enough incentive for people to finally stop wasting gas on small trips when they could walk, bike or take the bus. So, that is a good side effect. A bad side effect, however, is that many people might have to put off their planned road trips this summer or at least decrease the originally intended distance. This makes me sad since I truly feel America’s byways were meant to by explored. I was thinking about my cross-country trip last year. And, I have to admit, I really don’t know what I would have done if gas prices got this high. The average gas prices in the Capital District are over $1 more than the average gas I paid for on my 18.5 day trip. I had to utilize 41 gas stations from here to San Francisco and back – using mainly I-90 to get there on a northern route and then mostly I-40 the way back. The average price I paid was about $2.87 with the highest in a gas station out in the middle of no where in the Utah desert (it was $3.69) and the lowest was off the highway in South Carolina (at $2.36). Full disclosure: I probably have an unnatural fixation on gas prices…which I blame completely on my father. After church every week, we would compare notes on where the cheapest gas was in the area – usually it was in Wynantskill – and go there to fill up the family van. To this day my friends catch me spending an unnatural amount of time staring at the large gas station signs to remember the price and weigh it against other finds. (The cheapest I’ve seen lately is out in Nassau at $3.83, for those interested.) But my gas obsession finally came in handy since I was pretty accurately able to gauge our gas budget for the 8,799 mile trip. I budgeted about $860, it ended up being about $830. Don’t worry. I put that extra $30 to good use on the lodging which I under budgeted for. Oops. I found that gas was cheaper the more inland we went on the way over and got more expensive as we got to the west coast. I wondered if the reason it was sometimes cheaper in the Midwest was because we were so close to the oil sources. We passed by a lot of large oil pumps, sometime that were just off the road.

(On a side note, I also made sure we stopped for gas when we were at a half tank. My friend Jess said I was being responsible. Really, I was just being paranoid since I didn't want to get stuck in the middle of nowhere without a gas station.) Obviously, it was expensive in the more posh areas, like in Aspen. And then cheaper in some areas where you might not expect to see a lot of tourists, like Alabama. By my calculations, we used about 288 gallons of gasoline. And this makes me think that if the average gas price a year ago was $2.87 and now average prices nationwide are up about a dollar. That means the average now would probably be around $3.87 and I would be spending more than $1,100 for gas this summer for the same trip I did last year. Oh sure, it’s still do-able but I have a feeling I would be spending a lot more nights camping than in motels and hotels.

(Did I also mention I'm a spastic gas price recorder too? These are all my records from the trip.) Gas prices from 8,799 miles in 18.5 days

Highest: $3.69 – Utah dessert/ Lowest: $2.36 – South Carolina

$2.79 – July 1 NY

$2.86 – July 1 NY

$2.73 – July 2 Ohio

$2.99 – July 2 Indiana

$2.87 – July 3 Chicago

$2.69 – July 3 Wisconsin

$2.74 – July 3 Minnesota

$2.69 – July 4 South Dakota

$2.84 – July 4 South Dakota

$2.82 – July 4 South Dakota

$2.63 – July 5 Wyoming

$2.77 – July 5 Montana

$2.79 – July 5 Montana

$3.09 – July 6 Yellowstone

$2.89 – July 7 Wyoming

$2.85 – July 7 Wyoming

$3.55 – July 8 Aspen

$3.69 – July 9 Utah, near Moab

$2.74 – July 9 Utah, near Salt Lake City

$3.59 – July 10 Nevada

$3.05 – July 10 Nevada

$3.13 – July 11 Reno, Nevada

$3.66 – July 11 Yosemite, California

$3.15 – July 13 California

$2.95 – July 13 California

$3.39 – July 13 California

$2.99 – July 14 near Hoover Dam, Arizona

$3.34 – July 14 near Grand Canyon

$2.65 – July 14 Navajo Nation New Mexico

$2.73 – July 15 New Mexico

$2.55 – July 15 Amarillo, Texas

$2.49 – July 15 Oklahoma

$2.75 – July 15 near Oklahoma, Arkansas border

$2.49 – July 16 Jonesboro, Arkansas

$2.41 – July 16 Alabama

$2.59 – July 18 Georgia

$2.36 – July 18 South Carolina

$2.43 – July 18 Virginia

$2.59 – July 18 Maryland

$2.67 – July 18 Pennsylvania

$2.85 – July 19 Albany, NY


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