Finally! The open road. After battling the morning rush hour traffic in New York City, we headed through the Lincoln Tunnel and out onto New Jersey's spider web of highways.
New Jersey's gas prices are actually lower than you might expect – about $3.60 per gallon – thanks to the state gas tax, which is the third-lowest in the country at 14.5 cents per gallon (the nationwide average is 23.6 cents per gallon). New York, on the other hand, is pushing $4 for a gallon of gas … and its diesel is the most expensive in the nation. That might help explain why reservations for campsites at state parks in New York for this summer are up 16 percent since last year as people look to lessen the pain and take shorter vacations.
Let's hope the weather improves for our road trip – right now we're dealing with driving rain and gusting winds! No fun. Exactly how am I writing this blog while barreling through New Jersey, you ask? Well, my trusty producer Jack – the Thelma to my Louise – is at the wheel right now, which is a probably a big relief for both of us.
We've got several stops on our agenda today. First, we're visiting Hershey Park in Pennsylvania. Sound delicious? It is. It's the legendary chocolate company's amusement park, and it is one of those regional tourism sites that's hoping for big business this summer as folks forsake that big trip to the Grand Canyon (or somewhere else far away) and stay closer to home. Down the road, there is a bed and breakfast offering a "tanks a million" special – stay two nights, and they'll give you the second night half off to help defray your gas costs. Now that's savvy marketing.
We're also going to drop in on Brian McCausland, an insurance adjustor who lives in rural Pennsburg, Penn., but commutes 50 miles each way to get to his job outside Philadelphia. Like many people, McCausland moved far from work so he could afford a bigger home and more space for his family – he has four daughters, ages 5 to 12. But since he bought his house in 2003, gas prices have more than doubled, and now he's paying $300 a month just to get to and from work. That's not including what his wife, Dawn, is now shelling out to shuttle the kids around in the family's minivan. She's had to get a second job, and the family is foregoing dining out to try to plug the new hole in their budget. You can watch their whole story on the CBS Evening News tonight, but suffice it to say that the dilemma they are facing has hit millions of Americans as gas prices continue to rise, transitioning from nuisance to financial burden.
Our final destination tonight: Cambridge, Ohio, 450 miles from our starting point in New York City. We've got a GPS tracker in the car, so you can chart our progress here on CBSNews.com and even check out how fast we're driving (shhh … don't tell my mom).