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July, 2007


Part of the adventure of a long road trip, I am rediscovering, is in how fast our hard earned dollars can slip away, like sand through our fingers. I now suspect, before this vacation is over, I shall have spent at least half again what I had intended. So, even more than I normally tend to, I am on the lookout for real deals, and wary of any that are phony.

Here are six examples I have come across in the past week, as my Pacific Northwest trip has progressed, so far (through 7/12/07) from Austin, TX, to Big Timber, MT. I am sure you will be able to tell, as I have seen, that not everything called "value" lives up to its name, but that there still are at least a few unheralded bargains out there to be found if we are looking for them:

All I Could Eat and More - Before leaving TX, I stopped at a Cracker Barrel restaurant and ordered their oatmeal breakfast. The waitress said I had my choice of a couple things to put on the cereal, but I told her they all looked good and to just bring me some of each and I would pay extra. So, besides the big bowl of warm oatmeal (Mmm, good!) with butter, a huge hot blueberry muffin, and milk, that came with it anyway, there were sides of sliced bananas, pecan pieces, raisins, and brown sugar. As has always been true for me when I order this item, it was way more than I could eat right away, so I took the whole muffin to have for lunch. Total tab: $3.29 (plus tax and tip).

Higher Octane for Lower Cost - Several service stations in SD are offering an octane 89 blend of unleaded auto gasoline and ethanol for 10 cents a gallon cheaper than the traditional octane 87 regular unleaded gasoline.

America the Beautiful Pass - For an annual payment, seniors (age 62 or older) and others in the car with them are granted free subsequent entry throughout the year to all US national parks and federal recreational lands (which can cost $15-25 for each entry). But if you look like I do and have a big wrist splint on one arm when asking at the Badlands National Park, SD, for your annual senior pass, the ranger is likely instead to give you, as she did me, a lifetime senior (disability) access pass, with the same benefits as the annual one but requiring no renewals. Total tab: $10.

America's Best Value - After a long day of driving, I pulled into Gillette, WY, and what clearly was the ideal motel for a bargain hunter, America's Best Value. As luck would have it, they still had one room for the night left for me, though it was a smoking accommodation, and they would give me a discount credit for my AAA membership. Total tab: $110. (In this case, I decided to keep looking, and eventually wound up driving on farther west on I-90.)

Daily Sub Special - Almost every day, Subway has a 6-inch special on one of its sandwiches. On Wednesday, 7/11, in Buffalo, WY, for instance, the 6-inch special for supper was the low-cal turkey breast sub. Mine included three pieces of turkey and two slices of cheese, honey mustard dressing, an oat bread bun, about 10 salad items, and hot peppers. It was quite delicious and filling. Total tab (with tax): $2.88.

Healthy Lunches for Less Than a Dollar - Even with the higher than chain store prices at local, small town (Lodge Grass, MT - population about 300) food markets, a few items of fruit, a loaf of whole grain fresh bread, a small dispenser of honey, and a jar of peanut butter can be bought for just under $10. Total tab for a little fruit plus a peanut butter sandwich lunch: a bit less than a buck.

As I am learning, searching for good value probably would not keep us from losing an arm and a leg in long driving trip costs these days, but, with luck, being discriminating and going for good deals might just keep us from having to get a second mortgage or declare bankruptcy soon after returning from our ideal vacations.

On the ledger's plus side, even with large outlays, this trip seems worthwhile, and I'm seeing much more than previously of the great American West.


Larry is not a professional. Don't take him seriously!

Actually, the investment article provided here is for general information only and should not be considered as professional advice, a solicitation to buy or sell any security, or the Word of God. Investors are encouraged to do their own research while considering their personal goals and circumstances, or consult their own professional financial advisors, before making investment decisions. Neither Larry nor LARVALBUG will be liable for any losses sustained by any visitor to this site.

(Disclosure statement: Larry and Val have holdings in some of the suggested assets but do not "make a market" in any of them and do not derive any direct benefit from recommending them, except perhaps for a bit of smug self-satisfaction.)

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