My Last Long Road Trip

At least I hope it is my last one. I have made a few long-distance trips by car in my life. The first few were a lot of fun. I was seeing the country for the first time. But after crisscrossing Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma a few times, I would honestly rather have a root canal than have to do it again - especially when it means 25 hours on the road with three impatient kids in the car.

Things have changed quite a bit since my last trip, though. When I was in college, my first long distance road trip took me from College Station, Texas to Gaspé, Quebec (2,600 miles) and back. My most recent long-distance trip, in 2005, had taken me 1,150 miles from Northern Oklahoma to Montana (twice). This time, I drove from Montana to North Texas (1430 miles). For reference, New York to Los Angeles is about 2,800 miles. Here are my observations.

When we left Montana, I noticed that traffic was very light. That is unusual for Montana in the summer, because a lot of traffic passes through Billings on I-90 headed to Yellowstone National Park. The road is usually packed with RVs, but I was well into Wyoming before I saw the first RV. In fact, in the first 300 miles of driving, I saw only one RV on the road. This theme was consistent throughout the trip: Light traffic, and very few RVs. My wife commented that high gas prices had really done a number on the traffic. I told her that I thought an era had passed and that going forward we would start looking at personal mobility in a different manner.

I was towing a packed 4' x 8' U-Haul Cargo Trailer behind a Ford Escape, and I was pretty concerned about the impact on fuel efficiency. So I started out driving about 60 miles an hour, both to conserve fuel and because the trailer behind me was fairly heavy. I maintained my discipline throughout the first day, and I kept track of my gas mileage. With the trailer, and driving up and down some fairly steep hills, I managed about 22 mpg on that first day. According to the EPA, that particular model should get about 24 mpg on the highway. So, I figured that wasn't too bad, considering there were five people in the car, and a heavy trailer behind me. I don't know what fuel efficiency the vehicle normally gets, as this was my first time to drive it. This is my wife's car. (As for me, since I will be in Europe half of the time, I don't intend to get a car.)

I couldn't help but reflect upon how desolate most of Wyoming is. We drove down a very empty I-25, which runs well east of the Rocky Mountains. It is scenic, but towns are few and far between. The soil is thin, and there isn't a lot of water. Life there is probably going to become very hard as energy prices continue to escalate. In fact, a recent story in the New York Times identified rural Wyoming as one of the areas hardest hit by high gasoline prices. It made me think of Jim Kunstler's prediction that areas like this are likely to be abandoned in a peak oil world.

I noticed as I made my way down Wyoming that my fuel efficiency was dropping. I wasn't quite sure why, unless my elevation was changing and that was having an impact. I had started out at about 23 mpg, but then by the time I got into southern Wyoming, it had dropped to 21 mpg. It would drop further to 20 mpg as we turned east and traveled across Nebraska. It struck me that I could be getting some ethanol, but I tried to avoid the pumps that indicated that there was ethanol in the gasoline.

As I entered Nebraska, my thoughts turned to corn and ethanol. You enter Ogallala country right away when you enter Nebraska on I-80 from the west, and of course the depletion of the Ogallala aquifer has long been cited as a threat to agriculture in large parts of the Midwest. As I passed acre upon acre of corn being irrigated by drawing down the aquifer - now being spurred by misguided ethanol mandates - I couldn't help but think about what the future holds for the area if the aquifer continues to deplete. I talked to my daughter a little bit about this, explaining to her the role of the aquifer in making corn production possible in that part of Nebraska. This would be one of those normally unaddressed negative externalities we talk about when discussing ethanol production from corn.

Regardless of your opinion on ethanol, Nebraska is one of the most energy intensive states in which to produce ethanol due to the irrigation requirements. In fact, in the USDA's various analyses of corn ethanol energy inputs, Nebraska has consistently had the highest energy inputs of the nine Midwest states they examined. For a relative comparison, see The Energy Balance of Corn Ethanol; Table 4. (Note that while the energy inputs themselves may have declined over time, Nebraska will remain as the high energy producer).

Further, the USDA averaged all of the energy inputs across the nine states when they reported the energy balance. So the next time someone tells you about the energy balance of corn ethanol, remember - Nebraska is worse. From that report, the energy inputs for Nebraska corn were 54% higher than those of Wisconsin. It is certainly not out of the question that the net energy from ethanol produced in a typical Nebraska ethanol plant and shipped to Texas or California may be negative.

We finally got to our stopping point for the night in Lexington, Nebraska. We were staying at a hotel right off of I-80, and there were few cars in the parking lot. We had smelled the hog farms for quite a while, and we could smell them from there as well. If you have never smelled a large hog operation, let's just say it isn't pleasant. In fact, I doubt you could get away with building a factory anywhere with that kind of smell coming out of it.

Day 2, we were up early and off. I made a strategic decision on this day that is contrary to my typical obsessive desire to conserve energy. We had spent 13 hours in the car the previous day. Google Maps had indicated 10 hours and 39 minutes. While my wife and I can deal with that OK, that's cruel and unusual punishment for three kids. So I decided to bump the speed up to 70 mph for the drive today. I estimated that this would get us to our new home in Texas in 11 hours. After driving for the day, I calculated that it also had the impact of dropping our fuel efficiency down to 18 mpg.

The second strategic decision was to take a shortcut. We did not have a map, but at the hotel I had calculated that I could save about 20 miles by leaving I-80 at its most southerly point in Nebraska and cutting across to Kansas on U.S. 183. At first this seemed like a great decision. Traffic was very light, and the road was pretty straight. However, after entering Kansas, we suddenly encountered a construction worker standing in the road with a stop sign.

Twenty minutes later, my short cut wasn't looking like such a good idea. We were just parked in the middle of nowhere - no traffic in sight. I told the family that maybe some joker was pulling a prank to see how long he could hold up traffic. But after 20 minutes, we were allowed to go. And the part that I could never understand is that we drove 4 miles before coming up on any signs whatsoever of construction - and then it was a spot of less than 100 feet. Why they had to back up traffic four miles away from that spot was lost on me.

But that wasn't the end of our delays on the shortcut. I remembered the town of Phillipsburg, Kansas from one of my previous trips. It stood out in my mind for three reasons. First, when I was driving from Oklahoma, it had the first gas station I had encountered for many miles. I was in danger of running out of gas when I finally pulled in there. Second, there is a train track that crosses Highway 183, and my previous time through the train had blocked traffic for 15 minutes. Third, there is a rusting refinery on the north end of town that had been owned by a farmer's co-op until it was shut down in the 80's.

So, as we pulled into town, there were the rusting remnants of the refinery. And up ahead, I could see the crossing barrier on the train tracks descending. So we pulled up, parked, and watched car after car of (ADM) ethanol go past. And just as the train was about to clear the tracks, it reversed direction. We went through this routine several times. The train would pull up, almost clear the tracks, and reverse direction. I kidded that the ethanol producers must have known I was coming. Finally, after another 20 minutes of delays, the tracks were cleared and we proceeded toward I-70. I had always heard that a train could only delay traffic for five minutes in case there was a medical emergency and an ambulance had to get through. Given our 20 minute delay, this may be just urban legend. But I won't voluntarily travel through Phillipsburg, Kansas again.

Finally, we got to I-70 in Kansas. Wouldn't you know it? The interstate was down to one lane, and traffic was creeping along at 40 mph. This ended up costing us another 15 minutes or so, and my shortcut ultimately ended up costing us almost an hour.

Traveling along I-70 toward Salina, Kansas, I started to see a lot of wind turbines. I mean a lot. There may have been more wind turbines concentrated together than I have ever seen before. I looked it up when I got a chance, and it turns out that this was the Smoky Hills Wind Farm, which is ultimately a 250 megawatt project. You can see a map of the various wind projects in Kansas here; there are a lot.

At Salina, we finally turned south toward Wichita. I had chosen our route to avoid cities, and the only ones we would pass through were Wichita and Oklahoma City. Wichita was actually a breeze, although we did encounter our only road tolls of the trip south of Wichita. The trip across the rest of Kansas and Oklahoma down I-35 was uneventful, although I did have one close call in traffic outside of Oklahoma City when a semi tried to move over on top of us. One thing I did note in Oklahoma is that I saw fields that had been planted in nothing but wheat as far back as I can remember, but they were now planted in corn as far as the eye could see.

We arrived pretty late - about 9:30 p.m. - at our new home in North Texas. It had taken us 12 hours on the second day (thanks to my "shortcut") for a total of 25 hours in two days. It was a long grind, and I hope to never have to repeat it. Despite traveling without a map or a navigation system, we never got lost, nor took any wrong turns.

Gas prices had varied during the trip. The most we paid for gasoline was $4.08/gal at a truck stop in Nebraska. Montana, Wyoming, and Nebraska tended to all have gasoline above $4.00. Gasoline in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas was generally below $4. The cheapest price we paid for gas was $3.78 at a Flying J station in Ardmore, Oklahoma.

Reflecting back on the trip, I firmly believe that we are undergoing a permanent shift in traffic patterns. Those summer RV trips are going to become increasingly reserved for the wealthy, and people are going to think twice about taking long road trips to vacation destinations. The roads are going to be less crowded, and the cars on them will be smaller. The world is going to seem a little bit bigger to future generations.

why did your mileage drop through wyoming ?
was it the ethanol ?

on a recent trip, i noticed that gas mileage was slightly better on the non ethanol gas, but not significant. my car sure didnt run as well at the higher altitudes of wyo and colorado.

and your long journey across nebraska could be improved if you could learn to enjoy the benifits of listening to am radio !

I remember getting much better gas mileage at high altitude in my BMW on trips across the mountain west.

i didnt notice any real change in gas mileage(at higher altitude), except that i was buying the non ethanol gas. my driving varried, so mileage varried. what i did notice, was that i didnt have as much power as at lower alt.

Alan...I can verify from ancedotal but first hand experience that fuel efficiency while riding a Harley Davidson through 'ethanol country' and fueling up with ethanol fuel results in a minimum mpg drop from 45mpg to 33mpg, or, about 25%. With some ethanol blends from certain stations fuel consumption increased by about 33%. In no case have I ever gotten better fuel mileage with ethanol fuel. I have made the rides on both fuel injected and carburated Harleys and the results have been almost identical. First time riders to the Sturgis Rally and approaching from the South or East have all experienced the reduction in mpg when they reach 'ethanol country'. This is widely known in the biker community and I am surprised that the subject continues to be debated here.

Comment from River, June 4 2008 Drumbeat

If things are well tuned (shouldn't the new electronic controls do this), you should have lower aerodynamic drag at higher altitudes. Also wind can make a large difference.

Interesting account. Living in the Midwest, I've made several trips like this in various directions, and like you, for me it's definitely losing it's appeal.

The big plus: a quick calculation suggests that it's twice as expensive (at a minimum) for me to fly four people on a trip like this, versus renting a car and driving. Of course, there are a number of additional factors

  • With a car, you can more-or-less completely control the schedule,
  • Flying arguably saves you a hotel night or so, a day's worth of restaurants, etc.,
  • Flying is probably still safer, even with the bankruptcies, etc.,
  • But, if you fly you have to submit to security probes that are quite annoying, rapidly moving towards creepy.

For me, the first choice is "neither"--I can't recall the last time I took a lengthy trip for a vacation, though this has little to do with energy prices.

I have already sworn off flying forever, and have resolved that from now on, if I can't get someplace within a day's drive, I'll get there by train or not at all.

I would still like to take one more flight to Europe--maybe one way... ;-)

very interesting. I enjoyed because i have taken similar trips through the mid west on a number of occasions. one thing you did not list as a future problem was the road maintenance. my guess is in the near future traffic loads will not warrant basic road maintenance. You may have just took a trip that will very soon not be possible to most folks reading your missive.

"my guess is in the near future traffic loads will not warrant basic road maintenance."

I share similar ideas about this. What I found interesting on my recent trip (described in a post below) was the number of major highway projects underway. Of the projects I encountered, one was a large operation to smooth out the sharp bends on I-84 between Baker City and Ontario, OR. This is a huge undertaking, as it requires the removal of large amounts of hillside.

My Dad just got back from a Seattle, WA-->San Antonio, TX, road trip and mentioned some major highway projects underway around Phoenix and in other parts of the desert southwest. Complete rebuilding of the road in some cases.

Looks like BAU continues in the highway maintenance sector.


Wolf in YVR BC

I have seen many stretches of totally rebuilt highway projects either underway or completed along I-90 between Chicago and Central Washington State. I-90 over Snoqualmie Pass going to Seattle needs rebuilding. It is the crappiest Interstate I have every driven on.

In short, these rebuilds can't last forever. They basically subsidize our reliance on the long haul trucking industry.

Say good-bye, Gracie.

I just drove I-90 through Snoqualmie last week and didn't notice any problems (actually, I went up to Snoqualmie Summit from Seattle and then drove back). I certainly don't think it's nearly as bad as I-20 between Ft. Worth and Abilene. Road conditions there are perennially terrible, at least for the past five years. Maybe as the volume of traffic abates, repairs will last longer.

Here in the UK too - £65m on a new junction for M4 at Reading. Partially this is for bus and cycle lane priority but the majority of the spend is to ease traffic flow to the clusters of business parks along the M4 corridor.
The fact that most of these are friggin empty and have been since they were built 4 years ago has obviously not troubled the planners.
In their defence they have stuck up a freakin huge windmill - 122m and 2MW. Magically this is now 'Green park'.

There is a really long leadtime to get these types of projects planned, approved and funded, so the projects we see being built today might have been first hatched a decade ago.

Roads like US183 might be the ones that actually do continue to get some maintenance. Those are the roads that farmers use to haul their harvest to the nearest grain elevator, and to haul back fertilizer and seed to their farms. Once all the freight has moved back to rail, the interstates will eventually be down to single lanes each way under perpetually unfinished maintenance, then detoured forever.

Thanks, Robert, for a nice trip summary.

Over the past three weeks, I just completed a round-trip from Vancouver, BC, to Pocatello, ID, approximately 1,800 miles. Gas prices ranged from $4.29/gal to $4.42/gal in WA, and downward to about $4.09/gal in Pocatello (with some stations being a few cents less than this).

This is a drive that I've been doing (at least the SEA-PIH part) for over 20 years, often more than once a year, and I've done it in every season.

I left on the long weekend in Canada--Canada Day July 1st--and found the border crossing into the US to be a nightmare: 3.5-hour-long wait. One thing that contributed to this is that both US and Canadian interests are updating the Nexus facilities, and the US operation only had half the usual lanes open.

In the US, my observations of traffic patterns were similar to yours. Only a few RVs were present, and many of those were the small ones (little campers like the Mini-Winnie). Maybe this past week, in WA, there seemed to be a few more RVs than three weeks ago--perhaps some travelers decided to hit the road after the holiday on the 4th. Inter-city traffic seemed significantly less, though intra-city traffic seems little changed (at Seattle and Boise for example)--perhaps a reflection that non-essential trips are going away first (intra-city trips are probably more essential that inter-city for most people). All anecdotal, of course.

Some interesting details: Despite lower traffic volumes, there seemed to be many more people fixing flats on the interstate shoulders that I'm used to seeing. Also, I saw more bikers (muscle-powered) on the highway shoulders than I've ever seen. Granted, it wasn't a high number, because usually I wouldn't see any. I can recall four different cyclists on my outbound leg to Pocatello. Don't know if this is just a trend towards better fitness among the masses, or more people are simply crossing the country on bikes these days, or just randomness confounding the picture. Lots of motorcycles of course, in the sunny and dry weather that's been the usual lately.


Wolf in YVR BC

wolf, down here in north Florida i am noticing more cars abandoned by the side of the road. Most are late 80's and early 90 models. assume they were owned by those surviving on the margin trying to get to work. Perhaps prices are beginning to have an impact and these folks are falling into a life style being experienced in third world countries. Perhaps it has always been here, like New Orleans, but i sense the future will not be kind to many delusional Americans.

Not for me to judge, but drivers strapped for cash resort to various penny-wise/pound-foolish measures like ignoring repairs and letting their cars run out of fuel. Towing and repairs end up costing more in the end. It's a downward spiral of spending and debt.

but i sense the future will not be kind to many delusional Americans.

My extreme worry is that the future will not be kind to Americans who are aware of Peak Oil and its ramifications. At best, the standard of living of the country will decrease. If it's not too much it will be tolerable, much like we tolerate a worsening of our situation - traffic congestion, increased commutes, unaffordable housing, more crowded stores, etc. - from our politicians allowing and encouraging population growth in our metropolitan areas (and country).

It may be less than tolerable-- it could be downright miserable-- in the transition period, but afterwards I think it will be quite tolerable. You just have to be flexible in your thinking and learn to let go of certain luxuries which we now consider necessities. That's psychologically hard, but all things considered, I think we will be able to fashion a decent standard of living in the long run.

The other possibility in Florida is that those were cars driven by illegal migrant workers, who didn't want to wait around for the state patrol when they broke down, either for fear of deportation or simply because they lacked licenses and insurance.

We just completed a 2 week road trip from Vancouver BC through the southern end of the province, into Alberta through Crowsnest Pass, up to Calgary to spend time with relatives then back via Banff (3 lovely days) and a long one day run from Banff back to Vancouver via the Okanagon valley.

We drove ~ 3000km; in the southern end of the province traffic was *extremely* light; we camped about half our trip and never found space to be tight - mostly campgrounds looked almost barren. In Banff on the way back we saw more RV's, quite a few from the US but most from Alberta.

Talking to restaurant owners in Banff we learned that business was substantially down - I forget the exact number - one place shared their receipt decline with us - but it was of the order of 50 or 60% down. This is in peak season, the first two weeks of July. Vacancies were high in hotels in Banff and the town was definitely lacking that usual packed feeling I associate with early summer time.

Most notable was a dramatic drop in observed US license plates, although my kids still managed to record plates from 30 states and almost all provinces and territories in Canada. The drop off in US visitors is no doubt partly due to the higher Canadian dollar - visiting Canada is not the cheap bargain it was once.

Seemed like a sea change summer to me.

I live on a stretch of Highway between the US Border and Lethbridge, AB. I have noticed a LOT less RV's and fifth wheels already, and the Sheeple Corral (A field used to park RV's and Fifth Wheels over the winter) we pass everyday has stayed full where in other years it empties very quickly mid-june to refill mid-september.

Just my observations.

I go the speed limit for the reduction in stress, better mpg and the increase in safety due to maintaining a good interval. As a result, I have a speed baseline from which to judge other traffic.

Going the speed limit I pass no other vehicle and am continually passed by others, regardless of vehicle size. Vehicles are routinely backed up with no interval in the passing lane as they pass me. When I read of huge pileups I don't wonder how it happens.

This past week I drove from Chicago to Lacrosse WI on interstate (goes by way of Rockford IL and Madison WI). I saw a handful of very large motor homes, a few pulling cars, and I'd estimate the average speed of traffic has dropped by about 5mph, though still well above the speed limit. As before, it seems to me the largest non-commercial vehicles (SUV's and pickups) are going the fastest, though they should be the ones getting the worst gas mileage.

I almost always drive the speed limit when I'm in my own vehicle, and I always do when I'm riding my motorcycle. People zooming by all the time, but I have noticed that they seem to be passing me with a slightly lower speed. On the 3 hour ride from my current house to my new land that I'm building my house on, I passed ONE vehicle... ONE. It was a truck going up a rather steep hill. Later on, he passed me.

Thanks, RR! I really enjoyed your account of this trip. I traveled from near Albany, Oregon to Des Moines, Iowa a few times as a kid -- to visit grandparents in Des Moines. Often we kids laid down in the back of the big old Chevy station wagon and slept while dad drove through the night.

By way of contrast!

I don't have enough reason to justify a road trip right now. I'd love to visit family in California and Texas from my locale in Minnesota, but I have trouble rationalizing the expenditure of energy. It just seems so self-indulgent. Sure, the energy will be burned anyway, and quite possibly more frivolously, but I still wind up just shaking my head sadly about this.

Instead, as you may recall, I've been experimenting with various alternative forms of local transportation. Pedicabs and a cargo trikes dominated my life for about 8 years, while lately I have chosen a Zap Xebra as an efficient short-haul urban vehicle. My knees and hips thank me daily -- hauling 200-to-600 pounds of tools and supplies by pedal is quite wearing. I don't know how long pedicabbers last around the world, but it would be fun to find out!

I wonder at how resistant to change we are, and at how we can so easily be conditioned to assume that petroleum -- or a ready substitute -- will enable us to continue our very comfortable, travel-intensive, energy-intensive lifestyle.

I've read that it takes us about 6 weeks to develop a habit, and I guess that habitual ways of thinking become so ingrained over the years that we are less and less able to comprehend the world as it is rather than the world as we have experienced it.

New, sudden, radically different experiences cause some cognitive dissonance, but then we try to rationalize our way back to comfortable sameness. We convince ourselves that this change is only temporary, or that some scapegoat is to blame -- government, industry, speculators, or Terrorists, or some other "them" who is not "us" or like "us" at all.

Unfortunately, we then proceed to rationalize killing people and taking their good stuff in order to maintain our "normal" lifestyle.

Can we evolve or become enlightened to a better way of relating to our environment and fellow-people?

The last 4k road trip my wife took about 4 yrs ago the thing I noticed was almost every town or city of any size if it didn't have a city limit sign telling where you were at they all looked the same.The same eateries same stores the US has been homogenized.

Try going to Paris ... and the first big store you see is Ikea.

Nice post. Your obsevations are close to mine, i just got home for a three week trip from Missouri to Vegas and back thru Utah and colorado. 3982 miles 22.6 mpg $3.91 avg. gas price, $685 or so on gas in my plush GMC Envoy. Air fare for two would have been around $800 and I would have missed grand canyon and all the desolate wonders of Utah and the mountains of colorado.I make this trip almost every year, I used to fly but the last couple i have drove. Less traffic this year, mabye 10% and yes more cars sitting on the shoulder of the road, but most of the cars looked like small older junkers. I guess people want to save as much possible by pushing the envelope with these old beaters. This is a bad sign.
Motels and restaraunts seemed a lot more empty. Thats a bad sign. Vegas seemed less crowded Less people at the casino resort, the five swimming pools more deserted, the cheaper off strip buffets more crowded while the top end places always had seats. thats a bad sign.
I read on this site or somewhere else that 30% of the travel in the USA is discretionary. That 30% is 100% of someone elses income. Demand destruction is not pretty. Its sad.
oN the bright side my suite was half the price of last years, more frebies and comps. Cheapest trip since the late nineties.
While I read the EIA stas every week i didn't see the destruction locally once I got out on the road it hit me. Thanks for reading.

Glad to hear RR got a whiff of hog factory. I have six of them within 3 miles of my place.

This is what we are condemned to if corn can not be used for ethanol. They are an environmental disaster and an energy waste. Hog farming should return to the land with hogs becoming more expensive so that there is an economic base for rural living. Won't happen though.

It is interesting to hear of how few RV's are on the road. I suspected as much as locally Winnebago Industries is practically shut down and it's stock has tanked big time. Still Winnebago International Travelers is having it's annual rally again this year in a former cow pasture next to the Winnebago river.

I was expecting it be be a total flop with gas at $4 and diesel at $5, but this morning when I drove by the place was filling up with motor homes as usual. It never ceases to amaze me that people will pay $100,000 to $250,000 plus expensive fuel to drive to a cow pasture in the middle of no where. Then park butt to butt and shoulder to shoulder with a bunch of others doing the same thing in 90+ degree heat.

It's great for the local overpriced grocery store. All those temporary residents got to eat. And of course fill up those gas/diesel suckers again before they leave. Local stations love it.

I grew up about 25 miles from Lexington. I'm not sure how how familar RR is with the various rural scents, but I suspect he was actually smelling either the rendering plant (processes animals that die of various natural causes (e.g. not killed at a meat processing plant) or the huge local meat processing plant. I haven't been to Lex in probably 10 years, but the rendering plant was a truly gastly smell. The meat processing plant wasn't quite as bad, but there was so much more of it and the prevailing winds bring more of its scent to the town. There weren't a ton of confined hog operations there when I was growing up, but that could have changed. But I don't think even hog confinement could cover up that rendering plant.

Having grown up on the Southside of Chicago near the back of the yards when the Union Stockyards, meat packing plants, and rendering plants were still operating, I agree with you how awful the smell coming from rendering plants. On a southeast wind the Darling and Co. rendering plant would foul the air so bad the uninitiated would have to go indoors in my former neighborhood. The people employed at such places would say it smells like money.

When I see them parked next to the Pacific near the Big Lagoon in far northern California, it makes a bit more sense.

I guess that when you pop a quater million or more on a RV a extra buck or two on fuel is nothing. When they can't get fuel to drive it thaTS THE RUB.

I guess that when you pop a quater million or more on a RV a extra buck or two on fuel is nothing. When they can't get fuel to drive it thaTS THE RUB.

Nope. Those people have a TON of money. A buddy of mine sells high end coaches, (and is one of the top 5 salespeople in the nation) anywhere from $300K-$750K. When gas hit $3.50/gal., I asked him if it was affecting business.

"Nope. In fact, I sold 5 of them this week."

Meanwhile, back on Earth . . . My wife and I took the teens on a family vacation to the Adirondacks last week. Four people, in a Prius, packed to the gills, and with a Yakima roof box on top. Normally, it gets ~50 around town. In vacation trim, we made the 411 mile trip on one tank of gas. 10.1 gallons, 60-70 mph cruise, averaging 41 mpg. I was pretty happy with that.

$41.70 in gas, ~$85 round trip. IMO, a screaming bargain to move 4 people and their belongings over 800 miles.

$41.70 in gas, ~$85 round trip. IMO, a screaming bargain to move 4 people and their belongings over 800 miles.

That brings up the point someone once made about SUVs being green. They get bad gas mileage but can carry 6 to 8 people depending on the model. Fully loaded they are greener than 1 person tooling around in their Prius or Honda Civic Hybrid.

Then maybe they could serve a purpose if not with just one or two people, which is the numbers I see in them most of the time.

Way back when gas was still cheap someone who lived a rediculous distance from work bought a van and started a "van pool" with a group of people who similarly thought it was OK to live a rediculous distance from work. That type of stuff must really be starting to catch momentum now.

Meaningless comparison.

A fully loaded Prius compared to a fully loaded SUV would at least be comparing like with like, but fuel economy for both vehicles with average occupant load would be best.

And since average occupant load is undoubtedly much closer to 1 than 4 or 6 (or 8) it isn't hard to figure out which one comes out ahead.

Not a meaningless comparison when a fully loaded SUV is tooling down the highway and a Prius, typically bought by empty nesters and dinkers only has two people in it in the next lane. If we went full like-with-like and the SUV was a full-hybrid with a small engine then 6 people in an SUV really looks good versus 2 in a Prius.

In the past people seemed to overlook miles driven when judging how "green" someone was in terms of cars. A Prius owner living 25 miles from work was considered greener than a Hummer driver who lived a mile away. But as occupant loads go up that will have to be factored in as well. A non-hybrid SUV driver who carries large amounts of passengers and doesn't drive very far will be pretty darn green compared to a Prius owner who has a sizable commute by him/her self. That may be hard to swallow given how we typically think of Prius owners and SUV owners.

SUV's haul more than just passengers, a lot of the vehicle weight (and reason for poor mileage) is large tires and lots of extra metal carried in bumpers and side panels.

Here's a simple calculation: my car (not a hybrid, just a little car) gets 32 mpg in the city, GM says the Tahoe gets 14 city. So unless the Tahoe has at LEAST two people in it, at all times, it's a worse deal than my little car. If I carry two passengers, which is common, then the Tahoe would have to have at least six people in it to get equivalent mpg/person.

Over the life of the vehicle, there is just no comparison. For a specific trip? Maybe so, but that is ignoring the vast majority of the time that the SUV is driven solo.

In addition to installing the battery and generator/motor, etc., hybrid makers also do other things to increase gas mileage. Like using aluminum instead of steel for part of the body, using tires with less rolling resistance, installing a smaller or more efficient style engine (the Prius has an Atkinson-cycle engine), and shaping the body for minimum coefficient of drag. I think in the future, what SUVs are built will incorporate all of these things. And the term SUV may disappear in favor of these "crossover" vehicles which are lighter SUV-styled vehicles based on a car design more than a truck design. Hopefully people commuting with V8 engines will disappear. I was amazed to read about some guy who had moved from Sacramento to 50 miles away in Yuba city and complaining to the reporter about the price of gas as he made the commute in his V8 TRUCK!

But yes, if one person is in an SUV it has less mileage than a compact or subcompact car. But for carpooling - they suddenly become a lot more desirable as you can fit 5 adults a lot more comfortably than in a compact car. 5 adult males wouldn't want to carpool in a Prius or Honda Civic, but in a SUV it would be OK. At which point, the SUV becomes what I would call green - multiply the mileage times some factor based on occupancy. Which is all I am saying. I am not saying SUVs in and of themselves are green.

In June I drove from Virginia to Utah and back. 5000+ miles. Turnpike in PA and Ohio then I-80 most of the way to I-70 across Colorado. Last time I drove this was in 2005. It seemed to me that there were a lot more trucks this year. And the hotels seemed pretty full. Maybe fewer RVs but I couldn't say for sure. I-80 may be too major a route to have suffered traffic loss as yet?

I'm the same age as the interstate highway system and I have been on long road trips since I was very young. I remember seeing the interstates being built all over the west in the 60s and 70s. And also the major upgrades to the roads more recently, like Glenwood Canyon in CO and triple lanes on the turnpike thru most of OH. They are just about done with upgrading 80/94 south of Chicago -- they've been working on that for years and years!

It is such a huge investment this country has made. We are going to find it very hard to turn our back on it. Even if we should, we won't. Not easily.


This is someone else's video of some of the most memorable miles of our summer trip.

I think I remember less traffic than you see here. On the way back east, we often had the road all to ourselves.

35 mpg despite the many changes in elevation. The kids loved the road as much as I did. The trick is to not be in a hurry and let them choose the points of interest. Of the many repeaters for public radio in West Virginia, needed because the mountains block the signal, I heard Kathy Mattea on Mountain Stage on the last repeater on the way out of WV singing songs from her new album "Coal"

I think this is a recording of the show:



I'm carsick now...


I sort-of wonder how long they'll be patching the blacktop, it's bound to get more expensive as bitumen is repurposed as fuel.

I also did a long road trip (Fairbanks AK to Minneapolis MN) via the Alaska Highway, which I drive quite often (ie about annually). I noticed the same thing about the lack of RV's: I'd say they are down at least 50% over the last time I made the trip in 2006. I did notice a lot more motorcyclists touring; as a matter of fact they were nearly on a parity with the RV's. I talked to some who said they had parked the RV because of the cost of fuel, but still wanted to travel.

I too changed my speed to conserve fuel. On the way down I had a plane to catch, and I'd left Fairbanks a bit late. So I drove most of the way down at 60. I was also pulling a trailer, which had a rack sticking way up (for 20' pipe), and averaged less than 16 mpg. On the way back I got pretty radical about driving slow, and for the most part drove 45 (faster if traffic required, which it didn't often as it was fairly light). I was also loaded on the return, which I estimate reduced my mpg by 2. On the 3,200 mile return trip I averaged almost 19 (18.8 to be exact). The most expensive fuel (diesel) at Watson Lake (Canada) at nearly $7 a gallon. I estimate my slow driving, which added 15 hours of driving onto the trip, saved me over $16 per extra hour!!! Slowing down really does save a lot of fuel.

I also met quite a few bicyclists on the road. I did this trip (2,400 miles to Seattle) on a bicycle too--it is a great trip, though I cycled to get in shape not to save fuel. Of the cyclists I talked to none mentioned the cost of fuel as a reason for cycling....

Hi Robert. If I had known you were in our state I would have invited you and the family to supper. I live in NW Wyoming by the way. I think parts of Wyoming may see some depopulation but It's hard to think of a state with more energy per square foot than Wyoming. We produce the bulk of the country's coal for electricity, a huge percentage of the NG and wind farms are just about everywhere. There is a secret about traveling in Wyoming: avoid the interstates like the plague. The trucks own them and they are pretty hammered. The natural gas drilling boom has really destroyed our peaceful environment. It is now full of semis hauling drill pipe and the like for the industry. The air quality in SW Wyoming in the so called Pinedale Anticline, once pristine is now very poor. The out of state young workers do long shifts, grap a six pack and weave home on long commutes in overpowered pickups with antelope bumpers to the nearest sleazebag motel or apartments endangering and killing themselves and others. Eventually the boom will go bust as it always has and the oatmealboard and vinyl clad junk box motels and strip malls will eventually fade in the relentless sun and dust and Wyoming will will reclaim its moniker of high, wide, and windy.

Went from Casper to Denver last week averaging about 70-72 mph the whole way. I never was passed by an 18 wheeler- not once. This was not the case a year ago and going as far back as I've lived here ( ~30 years). I observed the same thing in May traveling I-80 from Rawlins to Evanston ( on the WY/UT border. I was in a govt bus driven by another. I'm sure we averaged near the 75 mph speed limit. We were NEVER passed by semis coming or returning. Folks who haven't had the "privilege" of driving I-80, with its extremely heavy truck traffic, have no idea how profound a change this is.
Gotta agree with Robert about WY's long-term future. Once we've outlived our usefulness as an energy colony for the rest of the USA, we will be largely deserted as we do not have the soils for cultivated large scale agriculture, the water to irrigate it. or the climate i.e. growing season, I love this place and its people but I greatly fear for its future after most of what passes as natural resources ( coal,oil, natural gas, coalbed methane) are used up in the next 30 or fewer years. We have a tough road to become anything near sustainable

I told her that I thought an era had passed and that going forward we would start looking at personal mobility in a different manner.

Mobility and food distribution are my two gravest concerns. Food is obvious, famine is a very short 19 days away in a major oil crisis.

Mobility is an aspect of liberty. The world has never had more opportunity or more liberty than in this age of cheap oil. Mobility, education, freedom of expression, etc... are aspects of liberty.

As we re-tool our infrastructure, we should strive to keep mobility as affordable and accessible as possible. I believe there are ways to achieve this.

I think that the annual road trip is something I would like to see preserved as long as possible. Much better to give up pointless urban commutes and spend the energy in pursuit of a pleasurable and mind expanding tour. I ahve actually toyed with the idea of purchasing a large SUV specifically for road trips, which would be fully loaded with family and gear. I could justify this up to about $10/L (AUS) (Currently $1.63) as long as our daily use of petrol for our everyday lives could drop dramtically through use of bikes/walking and PT. This wouldonly be an annual thing but we have plenty to see in OZ just as you do in the Americas and Europe.

Just completing a similar trip -Calgary to Santa Fe and back.

The way the price of gas is increasing this may very well be the last trip of this kind I take for pleasure (and I took a lowly Chevy Cobalt rental to save on gas!) At the back of my mind there is the feint hope that one day we might have a passenger rail system that would make such trips feasible -not unlike the one that existed prior to the modern interstate system- but we're a long way from that. The first obstacle is psychological -many, many people are only very grudgingly coming to accept that the era of cheap gas is coming to an end, and then only after being subjected to repeated bouts of sticker shock at the pump.

We take the interstate system so much for granted it's easy to forget it was only begun in the 1950s and completed in the 1980s. The whole trip I couldn't help wondering whether this engineering marvel really has a future or whether, like Rube says, the traffic loads eventually won't justify the cost of upkeep.

The most I paid for gas was $4.29 in Buffalo, WY. Hotel room occupancy seems to be down -I had no trouble getting in anywhere on the trip without reservations.

We could potentially electrify some or all lanes of the interstates which could allow dual mode trolleytrucks and long-distance trolleybuses to use them in an era of expensive oil. Electrified rail would be more efficient in terms of lower daily operating costs but this would require lower initial capital costs than building new rail routes. There are a few technical challenges related to attaching and detaching from the overhead wires at speed, allowing for vehicles to pass and exit quickly but I don't believe it is beyond our engineers to build dual mode trolley vehicles.

There are a few technical challenges related to attaching and detaching from the overhead wires at speed

If everything is on rail and moving at the same speed, you just have a single overhead conductor and use the rail as the current return.  This makes it downright easy.


The world will indeed be a little bigger to future generations, even the present one. However, I partially disagree with your sentiment:

I firmly believe that we are undergoing a permanent shift in traffic patterns. Those summer RV trips are going to become increasingly reserved for the wealthy, and people are going to think twice about taking long road trips to vacation destinations. The roads are going to be less crowded, and the cars on them will be smaller.

I think that as flying to and from a vacation becomes too expensive, people will substitute car trips for flying. Now, they may not travel as far away in absolute distances, but they will travel.

Nice account of your travels. You are very astute to pick up on something Nebraska gas station owners like to do. You will enjoy reading this: State promises to prosecute gas stations that cheat customers.
I find great irony in the fact that a state that gleefully promotes ethanol production illegally sneaks it into gas which is labeled "regular"!! Also, in the past, on the interstate in Nebraska, certain I-80 stations, especially in North Platte, bought humongous tall flashing signs which flashed seemingly low gas prices. Then, the large stations would have about 25 pumps and only 1 would have gas at the flashing sign's price! This went on for a very long time before the Atty. General tried to do anything about it and I think it still goes on to some extent (price differences of 10% or more).
Advertising practice irritates I-80 travelers
Also, regarding Nebraska's depleting the Ogallala aquifer in the name of ethanol production, note that the ethanol producers prefer locating in Nebraska because of the guaranteed crop production using irrigation vs. the variabilities of natural rainfall.
Wishing you and your family the best in your new home.

I guess Nebraska needs to go back to raising subsidized (by me) corn to feed cattle for rich Asians.

I'm sure That wouldn't drain the Ogallala Reservoir (at least no one would notice.)

The more interesting part of Oklahoma/Kansas/Nebraska dryland irrigation using the Ogallala aquifer actually lies in another resource used to do the irrigating as well.

In northern Texas and western Oklahoma, there is a massive natural gas field called the Hugoton field. I believe I've heard it referred to as one of the biggest natural gas fields in the world. Our Gawar of natural gas, if you will. They run irrigation pumps on natural gas and are not only depleting the water but the natural gas as well. In fact the real rub is, they get the gas for free, usually on homestead type agreements or from the companies that pump it. Many companies, as wells deplete faster and faster, are no longer giving their product away. Many farmers are experiencing loss in well pressure, so now if they want it they have to pump it under pressure. Even if they aren't shipping that much away anymore (due to market share loss from REX pipeline and others coming in the future from the Rockies) our breadbasket still suffers as the fuel they use to grow our food runs out. Oh, and I believe there are quite a few fertilizer plants that were feeding off the Hugoton field as well...

The really crazy part is that the Ogallala aquifer around the Ogallala, Nebraska area is the healthiest part as it recharges off the North Platte River. That's not to say we're only drawing at the rate it's replenishing, it's still being depleted. Just not as fast as elsewhere, apparently!

From the U-Haul website:


...Maximum recommended speed is 45 MPH"

RR you bad-ass!

My last "long" trip was from Madrid (Spain) to Netherlands (also called Holland), to visit our family there (both mine and my fiance's).

The round trip is something like 4200-4500Km (3000 Miles), plus trips there.

I used my gas powered car, and I travelled slowly (this is, max legal speed, 130 Km/h in france, same speed in spain (not legal but you dont get fined for going at that speed).

There were lots of SUVs... and now, this year, you don't see them anymore... and there are lots of ads of hummers.... as they can't sell them anymore!!

Yesterday I took a short business trip near Rome (Italy). On the highway, I run firmly at 90 kmh (around 52 mph) to save fuel. Guess what? Everybody was doing the same. Usually, our highways are race roads where they keep running like hell. I told myself "Looks like we're in the USA, everybody at speed limits!" ;-)
(Our car is a WV Polo 1.4 diesel, I get around 22 km/l or 50 miles per gallon. My husband wanted to buy an Audi, but "was forced" to forget it!)

Robert, good to hear from you! Thanks for the view of the great heartland.

It is interesting that virtually no one mentioned your observation of the windmills.

The world is indeed changing, I have been looking forward to you giving us a review of the “The Pickens Plan”, T. Boone Pickens proposal which has been advertised on national television, and now has an inclusive new website. It‘s been creating a bit of a stir:

What do you think? Love to hear your feedback. We will really know things are changing when someone mentions driving past the giant concentrating mirror solar installations in the west.

In other news, I have seen several national news articles on the idea of substituting sweet sorghum for corn in the production of ethanol. This is now being put forth as the savior of the ethanol industry, being full of sugar content and requiring less water and fertilizer to grow than corn.

It is said not to compete directly with food production, but the operative food is directly, since much sorghum goes to cattle feed. Who knows, we may soon be reminded of why the wealthy used to be the only class that ate steak often!

Lastly, the tone of your remembrance of life on the road brought a sigh, not of sadness but of nostalgia :-)

I remember having a book in my high school years in the 1970’s that depicted what was given as the end of the road life. It was a collection of photographs of RV’s and the last remaining remnant of the hippie generation in converted school buses and VW Microvan’s. The book showed life out on the highway in the 1970's in a period of ever increasing fuel prices, and depicted the “class structure” of the mobile highway rovers.

At the top of the hierarchy were the wealthy rock and roll and country music stars on the road in custom buses with all the amenities. Jackson Browne’s great road anthem “The Load Out” captures them perfectly:
Now we got country and western on the bus
R and B, we got disco in eight tracks and cassettes in stereo
We've got rural scenes & magazines
We've got truckers on the CB
We've got Richard Pryor on the video
We got time to think of the ones we love
While the miles roll away
But the only time that seems too short
Is the time that we get to play

Who does not remember the legendary “deadheads” trooping around the country behind the Grateful Dead? They didn’t operate at quiet the level of the “star” bands, but they kept moving, right through the worst recession in postwar history, and the highest fuel prices ever known.

Then on down the line, the retirees touring America one last time, the bikers in groups on Harleys, the truckers, another great road anthem, “Return of the Grievous Angel” by Gramm Parsons:

We flew straight across that river bridge,
Last night a half past two
The switchman wave his lantern goodbye
As we went rolling through
Billboards and truckstops pass by the grievous angel
And now I know just what I have to do

“Out with the truckers and the kickers and the cowboy angels
And a good saloon in every single town

Oh, but i remembered something you once told me
And i'll be damned if it did not come true
Twenty thousand roads i went down, down, down
And they all lead me straight back home to you."

The addiction was great, with such terms as "Road Trip", Life On the Road", "Easy Riger", "White Line Fever" entering the vocabulary. But we knew, it was all coming to an end.

It is hard now for people to understand the sense of loss and longing we felt in the 1970’s. People made books of photos of RV’er’s, certain that we would never see them again. Books were done of Route 66, and of highway diners, and independent films were made capturing a “bygone” era. Films of American automobile TV advertising became collectable, "See The USA In Your Chevrolet" was more well known than Chevy's current slogen of the day.

An utterly ridiculous movie about a good ole’ boy and his buddy delivering beer, with a black Pontiac Trans Am as the real star, drew huge crowds at the box office, not because the movie was that great, but for pure fantasy fulfillment, racing across the country in a big V-8 engined muscle car, an adolescent blast at the road, the freedom all the little boys in big boys bodies loved. In the heart of the worst recession and energy crisis years in history, the Pontiac Trans Am sold in greater volumes than it ever had in it's prior 10 year history.

People spent the money on it, and why not? Why not enjoy one last fling out on the road with a completely over the top toy car while you still could?

Many models of 300 and 400 horsepower postwar sports cars were collected, from Italian Pantara's to Shelby Cobra's To vintage Ferrari Dinos. Premium prices were paid, and the cars occasionally driven, to enjoy the sensation of sheer power. One thing we all knew…these would be the most powerful cars that would ever be built. That era was over.

We did not know the age of Dodge V-10 Vipers and supercharged and intercooled Mustangs were still out in front of us, that German luxury cars would soon be built with 12 cylinder engines and over one half megawatt engines under the hood, and that Pickups and SUV’S would soon have 10 cylinder engines and the return of the “hemi".

Yogi Berra was at the All Star Game in New York last night, in old Yankee Stadium, soon to be abandoned for a stadium 60% larger than the present one. Old Yankee was built in the roaring 1920’s just a few years before the greatest depression in history followed by the greatest world war in history. Old Yankee Stadium can no longer hold the crowds.

"It is Yogi who is often attributed with the quote, “Making predictions are hard, especially when they are about the future.”

How hard it can be to have to learn that, a message more profound than many philosophies.


how 'bout woody guthrie - this land is your land

or arlo guthrie - the train called the city of new orleans

In other news, I have seen several national news articles on the idea of substituting sweet sorghum for corn in the production of ethanol. This is now being put forth as the savior of the ethanol industry, being full of sugar content and requiring less water and fertilizer to grow than corn.

It is said not to compete directly with food production, but the operative food is directly, since much sorghum goes to cattle feed. Who knows, we may soon be reminded of why the wealthy used to be the only class that ate steak often!

I remember asking Robert about sweet sorghum almost a year ago here. I don't know if anyone here on TOD had mentioned it previously. Maybe someone in the MSM actually is reading here?

Sweet sorghum is more akin to sugar cane than to corn as far as processing into ethanol goes. You won't get a Brazilian-style EROI, but you should be able to at least get 4.0 or better, with is a good deal better than corn ethanol.

You are confusing sweet sorghum with grain sorghum (milo) when it comes to cattle feed, though. It is an easy mistake to make, the plants look very similar (although grain sorghum varieties grown these days are much shorter than sweet sorghum).

The attraction of sweet sorghum is that it can be grown pretty much every where corn can, and except for harvesting and post-harvest processing, the farm equipment needed is pretty much identical. Sweet sorghum has far fewer pest problems than corn, too, so fewer pesticide inputs are needed; you could maybe get by with fewer fertilizer inputs as well. I would point out, though, that substituting sweet sorghum cultivation for corn cultivation does indeed impact the food supply.

Robert: I can tell you where most of the RVs are - they are all parked, more or less permanently, in campgrounds near popular vacation destinations. We have several campgrounds not far from where I live here in the mountains of western NC, and as you can drive by each you can see hundreds of RVs. The owners of the RVs pay the campgrounds a small fee to keep their RVs there year round. They are parked very densely, and when the owners call ahead a couple of days the campground staff will pull out the RV and position it in a camping space. This is a great deal for the campgrounds, as it gives them a year-round cash flow. The RV owners can drive up in a more fuel-efficient small car, and then use their RV as a cheap place to stay while they drive to various recreational sites in the area during the daytime. I am certain that you'll see the exact same thing at vacation destinations around the country.

We are seeing numerous "RV Parks" popping up that are nowhere near vacation areas, but they ARE usually outside of any city limits. This means less police presence / zoning laws.

Not sure if they are being used by temporary workers, or folks that have lost their homes, or who. I can't imagine choosing to live in the middle of nowhere in an RV, packed onto a lot with thirty more RVs, but it's happening.

By "here" I mean Central TX, near Marlin, Bremond, Mexia, etc. Plenty more scattered about.

I did a long road trip last March. There were times when I dearly wished I had taken public transportation. But in the end, I was glad I drove, and I probably will again.

Yes, driving is becoming very expensive. But flying will likely be worse, so I expect people will continue to drive for quite awhile. Perhaps not as far, or with smaller cars, but they'll keep driving. There's nothing like the convenience of a car...especially in a place made for cars. Which is most of America.

I used to drive from Mississippi to Nuevo Laredo to pick up scripts and back were allowed a 3 month supply coming across the border. The lowest price I ever saw was about $0.89 a gallon, must have been in 1998.....You couldn't make the $ numbers work now.

The problem with flying, not driving, is that airlines are cutting back on the cities they serve. We live in a smaller town (40,000 people) in Southern Oregon, and we just lost our Horizon service (along with about 12 other towns here in the Northwest). To visit our son, who lives 1,000 miles from us, we need to drive at least 250 miles to a major airport first. Once we've driven a quarter of the way, what's the point in not driving the rest?

Flying will work if you are in a major market hub, interested in going to a major market hub. Unless, of course, the Fed steps in to prevent the airlines from abandoning the small markets. (Sorry, bad joke.)

(Actually Mrs. Marku and not Marku)

I like to add the following confirming anecdotal evidence as well: I just returned from an eight-day hiking vacation in Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park, Colorado in early July. I was there at the same time last year.

Last year, I could see at each Trail Head large numbers of cars, particularly at the most popular trail head "Bear Lake". I remember how my wife and I pointed to all the different out-of-state car licence plates, particularly from Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana and quite a lot of cars from the costs incl. Maryland (our state of residence), New York, Oregon, California, etc. At least half of the cars if not more were out-of-state.

This year, the overall number of cars was smaller and also the share of cars with Colorado licence plates was 70 to 30. No car from Indiana. One car from Michigan. Several cars from Texas.

Yes, $4 the gallon has triggered the entry of the US into a "Transition Economy" - a term usually applied to Eastern Europe after 1990.

I must say, the sequence of events reminds me of spring 1988 (democratic government in Poland, real estate in West Berlin suddenly started to rise slowly, unnoticed by a sleepy public, Daimler purchased a big chunk close to the wall). In April 1989, President Bush dispatched Vernon Walters, an intelligence veteran as US ambassador to Germany (again, most people missed the point and the expectations that Bush had: clearly he saw a train in motion and he needed an old hand that navigate rough seas).

When the wall fell on Nov 9, 1989, events were in motion for almost 18 months. Events are in motion in this country since January 2007 but the "Poland moment" occured in early 2008 when gasoline hit $3,50 (this triggered the acceleration in SUV sales declines and the collapse of outer suburbs - exurbs house prices). The press focused on $4 but the seminal occured at $3.50 - unnoticed.

The Berlin Wall moment will occur next year and it will be a collapse in employment - a symptom in itself, not a cause.

There appears no premium for preemptively averting crisis. In this country there must be a full-blown desaster first before the Messiah rides into Dodge City (FDR, 1933;). This is a sub-optimal approach and will amplify the pain.

The adults of the developed world in Western Europe and Japan are living since 1973 in a reality that acknowledges scarcity as one parameter of life - not wishful thinking or spending your life with "dreams" and "hopes". The US is 35 years behind that curve and will spent the 10 years to weed out the naysayers.

It took one generation in Germany and Western Europe to see the oil scarcity deniers enter retirement and removing themselves from the helms of society. The US is one full generation behind.

History rewards long-term thinking. It is also full of example of inflection points where expansion not only stops but reverts and collapses.

Oil will come down during the next months just as it did in 1973 and even more so in 1979. The point is: Don't be fooled. Instead, keep operating in an adopted paradigm AS IF oil is already scarce such as Germany and Western Europe has operated since 1973 under the paradigma AS IF oil is already scarce.

Because one - near - day: it actually is (2005 or 2008 or 2010).

I live near Lexington and that was no hog farm you smelled, it was a Tyson slaughterhouse which is right next door. The area always smells like that. The nearest hog farm is about 4 miles away.

I do recall that the smell was different than the hog farms we had smelled back up the interstate. Some of those were definitely hog farms. I raised hogs when I was younger, and it was that smell times 1,000.

Nice report on your trip.

In the couple of months whilst recovering from cancer surgery,removal of my left kidney and the big cancer on it, and then the following Lithotripsy for stones in my right kidney, I have taken the following trips:(passing small pieces of kidney stones along the way)

From W. Ky farm to Raleigh,NC in my Jeep Wrangler and then a return trip a few days later(740 miles one way).

A trip to Tulsa to purchase a Honda Trail 90(100 mpg) and the return the same day(total of over 1,400 miles.

Another trip to Raleigh,NC in a Toyota small pickup averaging 30 mpg then return the next day. Round trip of another 1,480 miles.

A trip to St. Louis, Mo to buy another Honda Trail 90. A round trip of
400 miles.

A trip to Nashville to attmept to buy 4 Honda Trail 90s for $1,000. They were being sold out from under me and being loaded as I pulled in the drive way. Around trip of about 400 miles.

So I had lots of time to watch and measure the traffic patterns.

Definitely has fallen off sharply as you also observed.
Lots of road rage and extreme fast agressive driving by the ocassional pissed off drivers. Lots of anger judging by how the 18wheelers now act towards 4 wheeler traffic. A few almost 'took me out'. I saw 4 wheeler muscle cars sometimes exceeding perhaps 90 mph or faster and weaving very very fast thru heavy traffic. Like they were really pissed at something.

I also saw far far more motorcycle traffic.

Ok. Now I have parked the two Jeeps and the pickup. I ride my Harley which gets 50 mpg on the average and around the area I use the Trail 90 which gets near 100 mpg.

Yep...the world it is achanging for sure.

Oklahoma looked like to me it could be a real survival problem before long, at least in parts of the state...mostly the upper part and west of Tulsa. Lots of sand. Only some wheat grown. Guy with the Honda said he was getting 17 bu per acre.


Was in the USA last year on a driving trip and landed up for the last couple of nights in Thermopolis, Wyoming. Brilliant Dinosaur museum and the bar from the Hole in the Wall used by Butch & Sundance. Well worth a visit if you are on the way to Yellowstone.

Just thought I would put a plug in for them they need all the trade you can give them.

Keep to 60 all last year over 4000 plus miles and kept being overtaken by RV's. Bet that is not happening now!

I'll drive my antique (1980) 4cyl around town, but for road trips of the vacation sort, I'll still be renting a land_yacht of some sort. Cadillac, Expedition, whatever. A hybrid is just useless battery weight on a road trip.

Yes, you spend more in fuel. To me its worth the far greater comfort. Hanging out the windows at Yellowstone, the view is better from 5ft off the ground. You get to your destination rested and ready to have fun, instead of "let me out of the car so I can lay in bed in the hotel for the first day". Sleeping in a Suburban while someone else drives is as restful as a roadside motel, at least for me. Speeding also makes the most sense on rural interstates. The time savings are signifigant, and 90mph somewhere in central Wyoming is probably safer than 55mph in any part of New Jersey.

It's a vacation. Splurge a little, thats the point.

When our children were small, we preferred to travel by train. It is the easiest way to go. Gives the kids mobility so they're not strapped into a seat and gives them the opportunity to watch America go by past a big picture window.

The problem with a road trip like Robert's is that it was primarily done on the Interstate. That's the most boring way to go with children. I took my children on road trips a lot, either to visit our widely scattered extended family or on delivery trips connected to my farm business. As a farmer, I didn't have time to take vacations and we never took a standard vacation trip.

My children learned a lot from those trips. We talked about geology, climate, botany, wildlife, history. We drove on two-lane roads 80% of the time. The trips were long, but the children rarely complained. It helped that they didn't watch TV at home, and so they didn't have to fight the boredom that kids who are "entertained" are susceptible to. Most of our driving was on the Great Plains, "fly-over country" to most of you, but to us there was always something interesting going on outside the windows of the car.

H.A. Tilman, the British mountaineer and sailor, in his book "China to Chitral," said that the only way to travel was to walk. The rest was just being transported. He flew from Britain to Shanghai and said he learned nothing from that trip. Then he walked across China to India. I haven't been in an airplane in 30 years, but from my memories of flying, I think Tilman was right. I like to walk, I like to bike, I like to drive on roads with no shoulder and no pavement. I don't have an SUV, but I bet my minivans have been on roads 90% of SUVs never see.

In May, I went to Pennsylvania to pick up my mother and bring her to Minnesota to spend time with her great-grandchild. She lived a sheltered life with my father and really can't travel alone. I averaged 30 mpg in my plain-Jane 2000 Plymouth Voyager minivan. I didn't hypermile, but I didn't drive over 62 mph. Going on two-lane back-country roads through Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin was wonderful. On those roads I averaged 33 mpg (calibrated). I hauled a full-load of stuff from my parents' house on the way back. Driving across Illinois on I-80 I was only passed by two trucks. The SUVs were zooming by but the trucks were doing 60 mph. I figure that going 60 mph saves them about $100 a day in fuel.

Thanks for a nice trip report, Robert. It was fun to follow along with Google Maps. I've never been on a long road trip out that way. My long road trips usually involve the New York to Florida on I-95 scenario.

One observation, if I may. I find it interesting that you sacrificed fuel efficiency on Day 2 for the sake of convenience. Your plan was to kick your average speed up to 70 in order to lessen the travel time. You get bonus points because you did it "for the children".

Anyone who advocates for the return of the national 55 MPH speed limit would be wise to take notice. As should anyone who advocates eliminating choices we are still free to make. That meme will play out with ever-increasing ferocity as we approach some very tough decisions on energy policy. In fact, I'm starting to think that maybe the traditional split of conservative/liberal, Republican/Democratic parties could fall in the coming decades to a new arrangement that pits those who would agressively seek to acquire cheap energy (at the point of a gun if need be) in order to preserve the American lifestyle, against those who would prefer to transition to a less mobile society with conservation and less intensive energy use at the core. I can really see that happenning.

Hi Robert ,

From my father in-law's blue book (1925), when he came from Winnipeg to settle in Vancouver by driving through the states (roads that way not only better but there!), to now and GPS is 84 years.

Randomly sampled bit from Bluebook: ( from Toston to Winston)
29.7 Toston, 4 cor at lumber yard.Left. Avoid right 30.3; left 34.8-36.3
37.3 left hand road; left.
38.5 right hand road; right
39.0 fork; left. bear right 39.4;left 41.2
42.2 right hand road; right.
42.5 left hand street; left
42.8 Townsend, at bank. Thru.
43.0 4-cor. at lumber yard; right
44.3 Fork beyond bridge over Missouri river; right, avoid right 48.1
56.4 Winston

Large world then, but a twenty minute drive now, just drive 287 for 23.25 miles for the shrunken version of that 1924 experience.(google earth)

Right you are Robert when you say that what was old shall once again be new (if only a little shop worn:)