Editor’s Note: The following story was written by Marcel HonorÃ© for The Desert Sun newspaper in Palm Springs.
As gas and diesel prices climb past $4 per gallon in Southern California, some snowbirds in recreational vehicles say the rising costs could keep them closer to home.
They include Larry and Vivian Wiebe, who drive each year to the Coachella Valley from Alberta in their RV and are parked at the Palm Springs Oasis RV Resort in Cathedral City.
Fuel prices have risen about a dollar a gallon since the couple spent $579 on gasoline in November to make the 1,500-mile trip. Now, theyâ€™re faced with paying considerably more to get back home.
â€œItâ€™s a strain. (But) we have to get back,â€ Larry Wiebe said.
If prices stay this high, the Wiebes said they may visit the Coachella Valley every other year instead of annually.
The price spike came late enough last year that it didnâ€™t hurt local RV park occupancy, operators say. But theyâ€™re watching those prices closely and are worried that gloomy predictions of $5 gas will lead many RV owners to leave their rigs in the driveway.
â€œAre we concerned? Yes,â€ said Greg Sidoroff, vice president of Sunland RV Resorts, which operates Emerald Desert RV Resort in Palm Desert. â€œWe just hope that our great guest service and marketing efforts will carry us through.â€
Thousands of RV enthusiasts escape cold, cloudy hometowns each year to relax at the 20 or so parks from Desert Hot Springs to the Salton Sea. They spend money at local shops and restaurants, and provide cities with transient occupancy tax.
But driving homes-on-wheels that get 10 to 12 miles per gallon makes most RV owners extremely sensitive to fluctuations in pump prices.
â€œWeâ€™ve had a few cancelations across the system, but not a great panic as the last time,â€ Sidoroff added, referring to 2008, when prices at some California gas pumps hit $5 a gallon.
That $5 mark is the â€œpsychological barrierâ€ that keeps many RVs off the road, he said.