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The Upside of Higher Gas Prices?

Written By Sean Harvey, Mar 01 2012

First.  I am not an economist.  I am an optimist.  While gas prices are not as high as they have been in the past several years, the price at the pump still makes fuel - and the price of - a large consideration in our daily lives.  When confronted with this new reality one should try as hard as possible to make the best of the situation.  Become creative, because I don’t expect things to change.

Coming of age in the 1990s, my summers pivoted around the numerous road trips taken to visit family, go camping or both.  This meant driving; Driving thousands and thousands of miles across this gorgeous, interstate-laden country.  Crossing states and regions and temperate zones without a single thought towards the cost of fuel.

Fast forward almost twenty years.  I’m the head of household and the economic environment is markedly different (from what I remember in my youth). Economic worries aside, I consider it my parental charge to share with my kids those same opportunities for exploration that my parents shared with me - the romance of the open road, the feeling you have as you extend your arm into the air blowing past your car window, rocking out to John Denver whilst counting down the miles to your destination – gosh I love road trips.  Yet, reality dictates that my wallet isn’t the money machine my son believes it to be.  No worries.  That won’t stop me and I hope it doesn’t stop you.

Step 1) Stay Local
We live in a gargantuan playground.  Pull out a map, pinpoint your house and draw a 100 mile radius.  Within this 100 mile radius there are enough destinations to keep you busy for months.  Plus, considering the average car has a 12 gallon tank and gets 15 miles per gallon.  Total fuel costs for the trip, with in this radius will be $50 to $60.

Step 2) Go Wild
I like the Holiday Inn and the Embassy Suites, but c’mon this is a road trip we’re talking about!  Choose a destination that avoids claims to room service and mini-bars.  Go for the experience.  Let Nature be your wake-up call.  If you live in western Virginia (as I do), there are 12 state parks, 1 national park and 2 recreation areas within 100 miles of you.  Each destination features different accommodations and activities, but that’s 14 opportunities to relax and enjoy an inexpensive excursion.

Douthat State Park, VA
Features: cabins, camping and an onsite lodge and restaurant.
More info: http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state_parks/dou.shtml

Watoga State Park, WV
Features: cabins, camping, restaurant and convenience store.
More info: http://www.watoga.com/

Holly River State Park, WV
Features: cabins, camping, restaurant and convenience store.
More info: http://www.hollyriver.com

Spruce Knob Recreational Area & Seneca Rocks, WV
Features: limited to camping only, but the activities are numerous.
More info: http://www.fs.fed.us/r9/mnf/rec/rec_index.shtml

Canaan Valley State Park, WV
Features: cabins, camping, lodge, 3 restaurants and conference center.
More info: http://www.canaanresort.com

Black Water Falls State Park, WV
Features: cabins, camping, lodge, restaurant and conference center.
More info: http://www.blackwaterfalls.com/

Lost River State Park, WV
Features: cabins, camping, restaurant and convenience store.
More info: http://www.lostriversp.com/

Shenandoah National Park, VA
Features: tent camping and RV camping, numerous restaurants.
More info: http://www.nps.gov/shen/

Sky Meadows State Park, VA
Features: camping
More info: http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state_parks/sky.shtml

Lake Anna State Park, VA
Features: cabins and camping
More info: http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state_parks/lak.shtml

Pocahontas State Park, VA
Features: primitive cabins and camping (10 minutes outside of Richmond Metro area)

James River State Park, VA
Features: Lodge, cabins, camping and a canoe livery for rentals.
More info: http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state_parks/jam.shtml

Claytor Lake State Park, VA
Features: cabins, camping, docks, meeting facility.
More info: http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state_parks/dou.shtml

Moncove Lake State Park, WV
Features: camping
More info: http://www.moncovelakestatepark.com/

Step 3) Bring your toys.
Why pay rental fees for boats and bikes?  Just bring your own.  I know what you’re saying…”Sean, if I load up the SUV with a canoe, kayak or 3 bikes, I’ll be cutting my ability to save on gas.”  Good point.  However, the money you save on rental fees will offset the extra cost of fuel.

In the end, have fun.  Use the time you spend to teach your kids about the amazing areas around your community.  Break out of the cliché summer vacation and rent a cabin in the woods.  Trade-in the beach towel for a mountain bike or spend the money you save on not renting a beach house to take the family on a guided rock-climbing trip.  Don’t let the price of gas slow down your summer.  Drastic times calls for drastic adventure.

Sean Harvey is the Director E-commerce for Blue Ridge.