As the summer season approaches, I find myself following the price of oil and wondering how the upward trend is going to affect my travel season. The truth is that oil, and the fuels made from it, are a finite resource. The price is going to continue to rise, no matter how many subsidies we throw at it. Period. But this doesn’t spell the end of the roadtrip. (In fact, this may be the dawn of a new “golden age” of exploring America’s roadways.) Here are three ways to keep the pavement rolling under your tires as fuel prices rise.
1. See more, drive (slightly) less. While I’d love to get back out to the Rocky Mountains again this year, I’m considering scrapping that plan for exploring the nearby White Mountains instead. Rather than drone out long-distance milage to get to a far-off destination, I’m going to spend a lot more time getting to know the backroads of western Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. While a lot of the small towns here aren’t considered “destinations,” they all have something to offer, either historical or cultural. I spent twenty minutes with an elderly gentleman as he described, to my friends and I, how the small town we stopped in for breakfast had changed over the years since his childhood. I’d never heard any of the events he’d spoken of and it reminded me how little I really knew about the region within 100 miles of my home.
There are a lot of resources available for identifying scenic or historically significant highways and byways in your local area. Two comprehensive sites that are easy to navigate are Budget-Travel’s Trip-Finder and America’s Byways.
2. Ride-share. Whenever possible, I try to con friends and family into accompanying me on my adventures. Splitting the costs can be essential to getting out on the road as fuel prices get prohibitively high (especially for longer trips.) What if your friends are all busy or have their own adventures? Why not ask a stranger to accompany you? Ride Share programs such as RideshareOnline and eRideShare make sharing your car with a stranger a lot less awkward than it might seem. Just like the popular CouchSurfing, Ride Share sites offer detailed profiles of their members making making the exchange safer and more comfortable. Don’t discount Craigslist’s RideShare pages, however. The larger community means more people might be headed your direction. Don’t be afraid to ask your new passengers for references such as their FaceBook profile or resume before you hit the road–and don’t be offended if they do the same.
3. Hit the road in an electric vehicle! There are nay-sayers out there, but electric vehicles are the future—and the future is now (or close)! But how do you top off the tank when you come to the end of your electric car’s 100-150 mile range? Have a nice, leisurely lunch, of course. A new ecotourism initiative by Washington state is adding recharging stations at strategic points along Route 2 through the Cascade Mountains. These high-tech charge stations are capable of recharging a Nissan Leaf in less than two hours, giving the driver time to rest, eat and explore some of these towns’ historic, scenic and cultural offerings. Electric cars may not be able to sprint from coast to coast (yet), but putting your top down and hugging the corners on a high mountain pass in your Tesla Roadster may more than make up for it.