Why Take a Road Trip?
by Steve McCarthy, author of “Road Trippin-A Guide to Absolutely the Best West Coast Road Trips-Ever!
The Mavins of Panic, aka The Media told us back about February, that gas prices would soar to five bucks a gallon plus this summer. They got it wrong. Again. And naturally, the specter of high gas prices has fed a kind of panic among the public. In reality, a misplaced panic. As usual. Seems crude oil prices are in the $80-90/barrel range right now, and that means gas prices should be in the $3.50/gallon range in California. Well within doable for almost any road trip you’d want. Let’s look at the Math:
Being conservative, to say nothing of making the number crunching easier, let’s say gas is four bucks a gallon. Let’s continue to be conservative and say 15 miles per gallon, and a tank of 15 gallons. So, 15 times fifteen, carry the 3, do some other mystical calibrations and a tank should get you 225 miles, easy. So, that’s $60 for a tank of gas, and if you do 400 miles, you’re in for something like 26 gallons, or $107. That’s being pretty conservative on the figures, In reality, you’ll probably spend under $100 for a 400 mile trip. Fifty bucks a head if you have a passenger. Throw in $20 for breakfast (if ya start real early) and $30 for lunch, $40 for dinner and $75 bucks for a motel room, and your cost for the day is, lessee here, $265. Then another $100 in gas to get home, and another $50 for food, that’s $415. Let’s round it up to $500 ‘cause you’re sure to find some neat stuff to buy along the way. For the both of you!
Ok, you say, what’s that really mean? I’ll tell ya. When I taught Economics, the very first lesson I’d hammer into their pointy little heads is a concept called “Opportunity Cost.” The idea is that the True Cost of anything is NOT the dollars you spent, it’s what you now cannot buy because you cannot spend money more than once. Let’s say you want to buy a new Widget for your Auld Crate. The Widget is $50. You also really need a pair of shoes, and the one’s that work for you are $50. The cost of the Widget is a pair of shoes. Satch Carlson, a writer in Autoweek about a bazillion years ago taught me my first lesson in this idea. He wrote about a friend who figured everything in terms of Pizza and Beer. “Hmm, he’d figure, I’d like a new stereo, but MAN, that’s a lot of Pizza and Beer...better not.” As we get older, we use a different currency. “Hmmm, should I pay the electric bill or the cable bill…”
Let’s apply this lesson to Road Trips. Dizzyland now hits you for EIGHTY SEVEN DOLLARS A DAY PER PERSON! To do the Tragic Kingdom AND the Caliphony Adventure, that’s $348 in admission alone for two people. Then, there’s the gas and parking ($15/day!) and the “food” and the obligatory mouse decorated stuff. You’ve passed the $500 mark easy, and you haven’t even tried for a hotel room. God only knows what the cost would be for a family! At least interest rates are low for the second mortgage you’d surely need!
So for less than the price for two days of getting Moused, you can take an 800 mile two day road trip. That’s a trip that will get you from LA as far north as Frisco, or Sacramento, or as far east as Death Valley or Flagstaff. From say, Sacramento, it’ll get you to Oregon or Elko, Nevada. If you have an East Coast mentality, from Atlanta almost to St. Louis, or Newark to Pittsburgh.
OK, so why? What’s so different? Well, first, there’s scenery. Real trees, real rocks, real vistas that stretch as far as the eye can see, instead of ersatz “imagineered” hard-shell-over-foam-mountains-in-1/5th-scale. You get to meet real people, people who actually appreciate your business and have real stories to tell instead of the plasticized smiles of “cast members.” You get to see something new, instead of something you’ve done a hundred times. You also get the satisfaction that, except for the dough you spend on gas, the money you’re spending is helping some small business owner who could really use it, rather than dumping it down the Mouse’s insatiable corporate maw. You’ve done more in your hours on the road than wait in line. You’ve talked, laughed, listened to something other than “It’s a Small World.” With the windows down (or better yet, the top down) you’ve smelled the dusty sandy desert or the piney-turpintiney mountains or the potpourri of wild flowers in the foothills, instead of stale popcorn and staler diapers all drenched in the sickly sweet odor of spilled Coca Cola.
Now both of these options do indeed offer escape from the real, work-a-day world. But a Road Trip offers an escape from reality that IS reality. The other is a monument to the fraudulent. So get yourself out there and Hit the Road. If you’re not sure where to go? Well, gosh, I just happened to have written a book about it. It’s called Road Trippin-A Guide to Absolutely the Best West Coast Road Trips-Ever! and can be bought at Autobooks or even on the web at www.mccarthypix.com.