Memorial Day travelers are getting on the road. Montanans aren't seeing the $4.00 gas, as had been predicted earlier in the year.
Prices appear steady, but are creeping up, even though domestic crude oil is down. Travel can be an expensive investment, and many drivers are pumping gas and wincing at the numbers.
Dale Linhart of Missoula filled up his vehicle to take the family to Seattle. He expects the round trip will cost from $200 to $250 in fuel.
Nate Carter was traveling from Clarkston, Washington, to Roundup. He said he paid $3.79 for gas in Clarkston, and $3.79 in Missoula. But he got a deal.
Five minutes after Carter got back on the road, the gas station hiked its prices 4 cents. Prices fluctuate fast.
Even though the price of domestic crude went down to its lowest level in several months, pump prices certainly don't seem to be dropping. "There's a slight glut of oil in the central part of the U.S.," said Missoula economist Paul Polzin. "That's driving down the price of West Texas Intermediate. But the world price tends to be higher."
Polzin said the U.S. and world prices are diverging. He said there are two factors affecting travel, an economy that's better than it was in 2008 and 2009, and relatively stable gas prices.
He said the further away drivers are from refineries, the more they will pay. Damon Bergman is from Denver, and travels six states selling medical supplies.
He said he recently bought gas in Rock Springs, Wyoming for $3.55, in Salt Lake for $3.70, and he said his boss bought gas two weeks ago in Houston for $2.99.
The closer travelers get to the coast the more likely they will pay more for gas. Polzin said the further drivers are from refineries the more they will likely pay.
But plenty of folks were heading out, although some not so far. Paul Champion of Missoula is going on a trip for the weekend, but just up the road to Swan Lake.