RV owners feel the pinch at gas pump

Summer driving season is here and that means gas prices are inching back up again after dropping off last month.

The AAA Motor Club reports the average price in the Myrtle Beach area climbed to $3.48 a gallon for unleaded regular, up 7 cents from last week and ten cents from a month ago.

The increase in gas prices impacts all drivers, but recreational vehicle owners, with huge gas tanks to fill and low fuel economy, are feeling the pinch more than most.

The Camodeo family from southern Maryland brought their 36-foot Super Class C motor home to Ocean Lakes Campground in Myrtle Beach this week for their annual vacation. They experienced some sticker shock when it came time to fill up the tank before they left.

"I put 52 gallons in on Saturday morning. It was $206 of diesel," said Mike Camodeo, a retired Navy officer.

Camodeo said high gas prices have never changed the family's plans about where to travel or how far to go, but pump prices are something he pays close attention to and just a penny or two more per gallon can have a big impact on their budget.

"If I can save 5,6,7 cents a gallon, I'll definitely do that, when you're talking 80 gallons of diesel" Camodeo said.

Ocean Lakes marketing director Barb Krumm said the campground felt the impact of higher gas this spring, when prices spiked by more than a dollar per gallon. A few campers cancelled their reservations, Krumm said, but the campground's overall occupancy was not affected.

"Everybody that cancelled due to gas or any reason really, those reservations were immediately booked by the next caller, so I guess for some it did impact, but others didn't mind."

Krumm said Ocean Lakes' nearly 900 camp sites have remained about 95 percent occupied since early June, with even higher percentages on weekends. While higher gas prices haven't stopped them from camping, Krumm said owners of the big rig motor homes that struggle to get out of single digits in miles-per-gallon are not happy about what it's costing them to fill up.

"It can be pretty expensive. In general, the motor homes themselves, you're looking at probably 8 to 12 miles to the gallon, depending," Krumm said.

One of those big rig owners is Mike Cottrell of Dahlonega, Georgia, who has to shell out about $300 to fill his 45-foot Class A luxury coach. Diesel fuel prices have nearly doubled since he bought the RV in 2008, Cottrell said, and a trip like his family took to Alaska in 2000 with a previous motor home would be unthinkable today.

"At today's prices, I wouldn't take this to Alaska. It's that big of a difference."

Still, Cottrell admits that fuel economy didn't figure into his thinking when he bought the motor home and he understands that most people are unlikely to shed tears for him because of what he pays to fill the tank.

"One thing about an RV like this, if you can afford it, I guess you can afford to pay the fuel cost," he said.