Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Tale of Two Trips

I don't go anywhere for months and then have the opportunity to take two trips in a month, roughly two weeks apart. I went west, to Iowa, on business, and then went east, to Ohio, for pleasure. I'm documenting these via gas prices.

Let's start with Sunday, March 11th. I filled up the car on the way out of town. Four dollars and nine cents was the prevailing price in my location. Gas had just hit four dollars a gallon that week.

When I got to Iowa, I could find gas for $3.62. That was quite the bargain. Iowa is a two tank trip. It's a tank out and a tank back. I did see gas for $3.55 but I had an appointment to keep so I couldn't stop and top off.

Upon returning to Chicagoland on March 12th, gas had jumped twenty cents. It was now $4.29 at the station where, the day before, I had paid $4.09 to fill the tank. I don't think I mind, horribly, when it goes up one or two cents a day, but a twenty cent jump in 24 hours makes you wonder just who is profiting.

Saturday, March 24th, I headed to Youngstown, Ohio. I had a half a tank of gas but I decided to fill the tank before leaving to get maximum mileage before needing to stop. I knew I was headed into cheaper gas territory. I wasn't sure exactly how much cheaper. Yes, that is $4.55 per gallon on that sign. In two weeks, the price had gone up over 20 more cents.

Ohio is a one and a half tank trip. I got as far as just inside the Ohio border before having to refill. I stopped at the Tiffin River rest stop for lunch and gas. You can see I pumped Plus for $4.10. That wasn't what I wanted to pump. I was going to pump regular, which was $3.99 at this pump. Oh well.

When I got to Youngstown, gas was $3.99 there. It seemed to be a relatively uniform cost all across Ohio, from what I could see advertised on the giant signs. Indiana gas is about ten to fifteen cents more expensive at the plazas. It took a little over half a tank to go across Ohio and get to Youngstown.

Tuesday morning, I filled the tank. Perry announced, on Monday evening, that gas had dropped twelve cents which was great news. Every little bit helps when the total price gets above $40 to even top off a tank.

This full tank got me to the first travel plaza into Indiana. I stopped for gas and lunch, just as I had on the way out. A side note, I did not have problems driving out or back this time. Back in May of last year, I was having knee problems which could translate into hip problems and make getting into and out of the car, a chore. Plus, there's the feeling that I could have leg or foot cramps from whatever was going on at the time. I had none of those. It's probably due to the prednisone I'm taking prior to the RA drug, but, when you drive a vehicle without cruise control, I'll take it. It was a joy to drive 8 hours and only feel that you needed to stop for food and fuel.

I filled up in Indiana and headed on to Chicagoland. I worry that I'll have to get off the Interstate in Northwest Indiana and get gas. It's such a tangle of highway in that area that I try, very hard, to avoid needing to get off. If you are going from the junction of Interstate 80/90 and 94 west, do yourself a favor and make sure you have at least a half a tank of gas to get past the separation of Interstate 80 from Interstate 294. It's roughly 10 miles, but it can feel like an eternity, particularly if there is traffic.

Gas is currently $4.39.

What does this unscientific sampling mean? Well, when the Ohio trip was planned, gas was $3.87 in Chicagoland. It's 445.6 miles, one way. I figured 2 fill-ups, to be on the safe side. That meant close to $100 in gas out and back. In actuality, I spent $49.93 and $54.48 on Saturday and $42.01 and $51.90 on Tuesday, so not quite the $200 I expected to spend. Well, not quite by less than two bucks.

The wild fluctuations we see mean that it's very, very hard to really plan for what you think you might spend on gas. Aside from hotel accommodations, if you need those, gas is going to be, maybe, your biggest expense if you choose to drive and you can't predict what it's going to be from day to day. I have to say that I don't blame the president or even the congress for gas prices. Speculation and turmoil and oil consumption outside of the US are what drive prices now. I remember a time when gas prices changed maybe once a month and people complained when it was twenty-five cents for that gallon of regular, with lead, too, I might add.

I want to go a couple of other places this summer, but it's going to be very hard to set aside the cash for gas. I guess, I take my best guess and hope prices don't exceed that.

Beverage:  Edinburgh's Finest tea


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