Health & Medicine

Destination: nearby

Jim Madden of Lexington has this mini-vacation thing down: two gallons of gas each way, and he and his companion, Dewey, an Australian shepherd, are on vacation.

In their RV camper.

At Herrington Lake.

Madden and his dog go on ”stay-cation,“ a phenomenon born of inflation and nearly $4-a-gallon gas prices. It's a combination of ”staying put“ and ”going on vacation“ — ­having a rest at home or very close to it.

”I've seen a lot more people spend a lot more time down there,“ says Madden, who sells commercial building materials. ­”Everybody down there talks about gas every week.“

Pam Hedge of Irvine has a slightly ­different take on stay-cations. She and her husband, Dave Severson, hope to visit all of Kentucky's state parks during the next ­several years. Hedge moved from Idaho six years ago to be closer to her father. The couple runs a monthly newspaper called All Things ­Country (www.allthingscountryky.com).

”I don't plan on leaving,“ Hedge says. ”Two reasons: the cost of gas, and I'm new to Kentucky, relatively. ... I'm always ­trying to push for people to stay in the area in my magazine. I can't see even going to Gatlinburg and taking Kentucky's money to Gatlinburg. ... If we don't support our own state, where are we going to be in the long run?“

Crystal Dempsey-Gillum of the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority takes the stay-cation concept even further: She and her husband are down to one car to try to save gas — which is challenging given that the pair live in Winchester and that he works in Lexington and she works in Frankfort.

”With gas and everything, finances are just getting tighter,“ she says. ”I work in Frankfort, so I commute a long way, and my husband works in Lexington. I drop him off every morning. ... To save gas money, we're just taking one car now.“

Gil Lawson, a spokesman for ­Kentucky's Tourism, Arts & Heritage Cabinet's ­Department of Travel, says the state's ­campaign urging Kentuckians to visit ­Kentucky tourist attractions is drawing lots of attention from strapped ­Kentuckians. The promotion gives away prizes every day, ­usually ­passes to a ­Kentucky ­attraction, and urges ­Kentuckians to discover the attractions of their own back yard — which runs, conveniently, from ­Murray to Maysville.

Christopher Oakford, a spokesman for the Bluegrass branch of the American ­Automobile Association, says AAA employees ­preparing the ­organization's TripTik maps get constant earfuls about the price of gas. He says people are ­taking road trips out of state, but they're keeping costs down in other ways. They're parking the SUV at home and taking a smaller vehicle, reserving cheaper lodgings and eating at less-expensive restaurants.

Says Martha David of Lexington, who works for the University of Kentucky: ”With no raise this year for UK employees and the price of gas at what it is, I will not be making any trips outside of Lexington this year. Although a small trip to the Cincinnati Zoo has been thought of, I decided that taking my granddaughter for a 11/2-hour horse-riding lesson maybe twice this year at $60 a session would be cheaper in the long run.“

With gas prices so high, David says, ”I barely like to go from one end of town to the other.“

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