Goodbye gas pumps. Hello outdoors

By Baylie Davis

LARRY BRINLEE/WTE Careen Read, left, looks at new bicycles while her daughter Casey Read, center, talks with saleswoman Taylar Carter at the Bicycle Station on Tuesday in Cheyenne. Due to high gasoline prices, Casey Read wants to ride more and drive less.


CHEYENNE -- Despite a daunting economy, Wyomingites don’t seem willing to give up their beloved sunshine and fresh air.

Airlines might be suffering, stocks might be falling, and folks might be more frugal at the pump, but camping, biking and hunting are just not satisfactory sacrifices.

In fact, Phil Richardson, owner of Cheyenne Sports Center, and George Schwarting, a mechanic at Capitol Motorcycles, both reported very good sales so far this year.

They said they’ve had motorcycle buyers tell them they’re making the purchase because of high fuel prices.

Richardson said all-terrain vehicle sales are down a little, and it’s possible that it is because people aren’t willing to budget for them this year.

Patrick Collins, the owner of The Bicycle Station, also said sales are very good.

“We’re having the best spring we’ve ever had,” he said. “Every day, I have somebody come in and tell me that, at $4 gasoline, they’re going to start riding their bikes (to work) on nice days,” Collins said.

A lot of accessories for bikes are being sold at The Bicycle Station as well, like big bags people can use for their commutes, Collins added.

And although it seems most are still willing to lay down some dough for a new bike, Collins said he has noticed people spending a little more time before buying one.

They’re not as impulsive, they come in asking really good questions and are already educated about what they want, Collins said.

Recreational vehicle sales also are, surprisingly, not suffering -- at least not at Adventure RV.

Jesse Tafoya, sales and rental manager at Adventure RV, said they’ve actually seen an increase in sales.

However, they aren’t selling as many of the big, fifth-wheel-type RVs, but more of the smaller pop-ups and lightweight travel trailers, Tafoya said.

“People are just camping closer to home,” he said.

He also said RVs are being rented at the same rate they were last year.

Wyoming summer camps also don’t seem to have been affected by the economic trouble.

Tom Marshall, assistant director of the Teton Valley Ranch Camp in Jackson, said business has been steady over the last three years.

He said there have been no more parents than usual seeking financial aid, but he has heard a few more “quiverings” about the travel costs of getting to camp.

The camp gets some local customers and some from as far as New York City and Florida.

He added that, in the past, the camp’s staff has often flown right to Jackson. But this year, many are choosing to fly to Salt Lake City and take the shuttle in.

He also has seen a large increase in the number of European travelers.

Jessica Cruickshank, program director for Solid Rock Outdoor Ministries in Laramie, also said the camp is seeing average or above-average attendance this year compared to the last four years.

In fact, the longer camps, which last 20 or 40 days, have seen an increase in signups.

The high costs of gas and food might affect the camp some, she said, but they would absorb that cost and not increase prices.

“I think we’ll be fine,” she concluded.

And according to Gary Schoene, public information officer for the Wyoming Department of State Parks and Cultural Resources, the Cowboy State is expecting an increase in regional vacations.

“We are kind of expecting that, more regional visitors,” Schoene said. “We already get a pretty big number of visitors.”

He said with gas prices the way they are, the state is expecting more vacationers from places like Colorado, Montana and Nebraska.

But Schoene did say there is still the possibility that as people stay closer to home for vacations, they might just stay within their own state borders.

“The visitors will probably stay more regional, and that may mean the Colorado people will stay in Colorado,” he said.

Regardless, state officials are expecting people to stay more local as gas prices continue to rise.

Cheyenne Parks and Recreation Director Rick Parish said the city’s extensive parks system and new facilities are capable of handling an increase in use.

“I’m sure that we will (see an increase in visitation), but I think our facilities are large enough to handle it,” he said. “I think there’s a lot to do in our parks, and I think they can handle our population.”

Parish said the city is continually expanding and updating park facilities and is excited to offer new attractions for local residents.

WTE reporter Brandon Quester contributed to this report.