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High fuel prices curtail RV trips – just a little

For millions of Americans, towing the vacation home or traveling around the country in an RV is a way of life, even with the high cost of fuel.

By Ron SchererStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / May 13, 2008

At the pump: Filling up an RV can be a wallet-sapping event. Some models, for example, carry 90 gallons of gasoline. At today's fuel prices, it would cost $332 to fill it up.

Mario Villafuetre/PhotoLouisiana/file


Kutztown, Pa.

Inside the door of their 36-foot-long RV is a map that shows the route Bob and Linda Timko have pulled their "fifth wheel" – from Pennsylvania to California and back again.

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With fuel prices at record levels, they allow that the trips may cover shorter distances – especially when they get 10 miles to the gallon. There will be some sacrifices for the retirees: perhaps fewer meals out, maybe working a part-time job.

But they can't imagine giving up the RV lifestyle: a sense of freedom and adventure mixed with close friendships developed over years of traveling around the country. They don't plan to turn in their wheeled home for a condo.

"I don't know how high fuel would have to go for us not to do this," says Mr. Timko. "God has created so many great places to see, and we just haven't seen them all."

For millions of Americans, towing the vacation home or traveling around the country in an RV is a way of life, even with soaring fuel prices. This time of year, for example, thousands of "snowbirds" are working their way north after spending the winter in Florida – as the Timkos are doing. By Memorial Day, many parks and campgrounds will be full of RVs. In fact, one indication that the RV crowd still considers the price of fuel secondary: Slots in campgrounds and RV parks are filling up fast.

According to the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), some 8 million households own an RV. One in every 12 vehicle-owning households owns one. About 80 percent are "fifth wheels," the variety that is towed.

In March, when the price of gasoline hit $3.35 a gallon, an RVIA survey found that 93 percent of owners said they planned to use their vehicles as much or more than they did last year. "We're finding people are traveling closer to home," says Courtney Robey, a spokeswoman for the RVIA in Reston, Va.

That would include Charlie and Janet Cooper of Milford, N.J. As they pull their RV into the parking lot in Hamburg, Pa., at Cabela's, a large outfitting chain, Mr. Cooper says the couple has decided to forgo trips to Darlington, S.C., and Martinsville, Va., so they can see NASCAR races. "The gas prices are not keeping us home, but we are not out as much or going as far away," he says as he uses the free waste disposal at Cabela's.