Gas prices create need for summer travel alternatives

Monday, June 2, 2008 | 10:00 a.m. CDT; updated 11:29 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The summer season’s opener, Memorial Day Weekend, has come and gone. In spite of the escalating gasoline prices, some folks continued their tradition of traveling to their favorite vacation spots. Others, including many of my friends and colleagues, spent that time trying to come up with ways to alter their lifestyles to conform to new financial realities.

The most difficult challenge is eliminating activities that cost money but bring great pleasure to one’s life. One friend, for example, who loves to garden, has decided to forego her yearly shopping spree to search out exotic annual flowers to fill her beloved garden pots. We’ve shared many summer afternoons sitting under her big elm tree, sipping lemonade and inhaling the heady scents of her lilac bush while enjoying the lush beauty of her pots of geraniums, begonias and pansies. Another friend whose summer joy is visiting country markets in mid-Missouri and gathering up fresh fruits and vegetables to preserve for winter says the cost of gas means that she will have to put that little pleasure on hold this year.

I’m not looking forward to a summer without my road trips, but I would doubt seriously that I will see much of the state this summer. Instead, a series of long walks will have to act as substitutes. To add to this pleasure I have a stack of mental games that I invented on long automobile trips to keep my mind active. Sometimes, I do state capitols or the names of American Indian tribes. On other occasions I may just count the red trucks that pass me by. Who knows, I may even hike along the Katy Trail this season.

Several friends have come up with the idea of playing board games while we picnic at the public parks. Card games, Scrabble, dominoes, Trivial Pursuit or Monopoly once were a regular weekly activity for some of us. With any luck at all, this venture could bring us closer together and it undoubtedly will lead us to thinking of other group activities we can do.

When you think about it, the automobile culture has done a lot to foster our tendency to isolate ourselves from each other. I know when I meet with friends we all tend to drive our own cars instead of sharing one automobile. Gee, just think how much gas we could have saved if we had done that.

And I don’t really need an excuse to spend more time at the library. In spite of the fact that I have enough books in my home to furnish a small library, I’m addicted to the printed word and am constantly in search of a new area to investigate.

Surviving this financial crisis is going to call on many of us to find less expensive methods to run our households and take care of our families. Still, I think it is equally important for people to try to maintain the quality of their lives in spite of the sacrifices we all may be forced to make. Those who are fond of movies can always share a movie rental, host a movie party and serve their own popcorn and cold drinks.

After all, most of us are descendants of folks who survived the Great Depression with spirit and character intact. We’ll just have to take a chapter out of our grandparents’ book and be willing to make the best of a bad situation.

I am sorry most for young families, many of whom, until the housing crunch, were living well beyond their means. Having to adjust to a more austere lifestyle can be devastating to some. In some ways it’s like breaking a foot and thinking you will never be able to walk again.

Finally, the casts are all off and there’s nothing more to do but put one foot in front of the other and, well, walk.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at

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