Travelers putting on miles despite rising gas prices |

Travelers putting on miles despite rising gas prices

KIM NGUYENthe associated press
AP PhotoGary Jones, 67, Souix Falls, S.D., cleans the bugs off of his motorhome at Chatfield State Park near Littleton Wednesday. Jones, who makes a couple dozen trips a year in his motor home, says he isn't concerned about rising gas prices.

LITTLETON – Dana Settles likes to take trips every other week into the Colorado Rockies with her 8-year-old dog, Sunshine, and her small, orange trailer hitched to her truck.But rising gasoline prices are starting to affect her pocketbook. Instead of heading to the mountains for the Fourth of July weekend, the retired tour bus driver arrived early at Chatfield State Park in Littleton.It was a short, 2 1/2-gallon drive from her home in nearby Arvada – a far cry from her recent trip to Montrose in southwestern Colorado that set her back more than $100.”They’re just too high,” Settles said of the gas prices. “I go as close to home as I can now. They really gouge you.”With the cost of crude oil recently hitting a record $60 a barrel, the average price for a gallon of unleaded gas has increased more than 29 cents since last year to $2.21 – up nearly 5 1/2 cents from last week, according to the Energy Department.

While many are lamenting the higher charges at the pump, AAA predicted that 40.3 million people will travel 50 miles or more this weekend, up 2.8 percent from last year. Approximately 84 percent of those people, or 33.9 million, will be driving.”People are aware that prices are going up, but they’re still going to travel,” said Cathy Keefe, spokeswoman for the Travel Industry Association of America.Keefe said that people won’t be spending that much more on gas for their trips. The average round trip of about 800 miles will set the average traveler back an additional $30, she said.”And what’s that? Two cheap pizzas?” Keefe said. “No one is going to cancel their vacations over two cheap pizzas. People need to go on vacation because they need to decompress. They need to get away from the rat race.”In northwestern Montana, hotels and other lodging in the Glacier National Park area are reporting advanced bookings over the holiday at full occupancy, said Joe Unterreiner, president of the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce. He said the chamber was concerned that gas prices were going to affect the number of travelers visiting the area, where about 80 percent of them come via automobile.

“The gas prices are not enough to dissuade somebody from taking their trip,” Unterreiner said.Farther east, near Billings, Mont., fewer visitors were expected at Pompeys Pillar National Monument this summer, monument manager Dick Kodeski said. He said the Lewis and Clark landmark was expecting a 6 percent drop in visitors from its average of 55,000 per year.”There are a number of variables that are affecting the numbers,” Kodeski said. “And gas prices are definitely one of them.”Mary Greer, a spokeswoman for AAA Colorado, said travelers could face high gas prices for the Labor Day holiday, too.”The end of summer will be a question – to find out how the crude oil will affect gas prices,” she said. “How high is hard to tell.”

Back at Chatfield State Park, park manager Brad Buckner said the long weekend may encourage people to travel a bit farther from home.”But we expect to be very busy this weekend,” he said.Bruce McKimmey, a visitor to Chatfield from St. Petersburg, Fla., said he had to cut his cross-country trip by 80 percent this year because of expensive fuel.”I was planning to go to Utah to see my brother this summer,” said McKimmey, 59. “I don’t think any of (the gas prices are) going to come down soon.”Fellow Chatfield camper Gary Jones of Sioux Falls, S.D., said he will take his 40-foot motor home on the road, whatever the price of gas.”Why worry?” he said. “If you gotta go, you gotta go – if you can afford it.”

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