Low-gas getaway

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Kris Caceres believes you can save gas and enjoy a vacay.

Kris Caceres believes you can save gas and enjoy a vacay.

Photo By dominick porras

For more information, visit www.localdaytrip.com.

Despite a small dip in gas prices, don’t expect the term “staycation” to pick up and mosey away any time soon.

With America facing the prospect of another season skulking around the house, it’s a relief to discover that two local, enterprising souls, at least, have been working on more fuel-efficient ways to get you out and get your fun on.

One of these souls is Shawn Engleman, a Santa Clara native and city bus driver who recently began a ride-share program between the Bay Area and Ashland, Ore. Every week he rents a fuel-efficient car (“Hybrids,” he said, “are really a blast”) and hauls a group of adventurers over California’s northern border, providing them with an opportunity to take in the famed Oregon Shakespeare Festival, stroll through some redwoods or just get away from it all at one of the city’s cozy bed-and-breakfasts. For $70 round-trip (the price covers the cost of renting that hybrid), Engleman’s passengers receive door-to-door service, baggage schlepping and an enthusiastic companion on the long journey north.

And then there’s the small matter of conserving gas and saving money.

“[The issue of] fuel expenditure is astronomical,” Engleman, who often bikes to work in Santa Clara said, describing why he decided to begin his unique enterprise. Having commuted regularly between family in Ashland and work in Santa Clara for some time, he decided he might be able to interest fellow Bay Area residents in saving some cash and energy output by sharing the ride with him.

Two months after posting his ad on the Bay Area and Sacramento Craigslists and pinning a handful of fliers to Ashland’s community message boards, he had received 1,000 e-mails and given lifts to more than 100 people. He now reports a number of regular weekly or bi-weekly customers (a typical trip leaves the Bay Area on a Thursday or Friday night) and consistently fills the eight-passenger Toyota Sequoia he rents each weekend. Although he feels that making a for-profit business out of his altruism would be “defeating the purpose,” business is, nevertheless, booming.

Closer to home, Sacramento businessman Kris Caceres started a Web site called LocalDayTrip.com, a resource listing hundreds of nearby destinations.

“I first had the idea in 2003,” Caceres said. “I wanted a site where I could select an activity I was interested in doing and specify the distance I was willing to travel to do it. At the time, there was no Web site around that would let me do that.”

“I’m married with a 3-year-old daughter,” he continued, “so we’re always looking for fun things to do on the weekend that won’t require us to refinance our house. With gas prices so high, the ability to enter your ZIP code, select an activity and specify how far you’re willing to drive is a very powerful tool.”

Started this February with only a dozen entries, the Web site now lists around 650 destinations in California and Reno, Nev. More listings—a variety of museums, parks, festivals and wineries—are added weekly, all sorted into helpful categories like “Coupons & Freebies,” “Kid Trips” and “Lowest Gas Prices.” As of July, the site had 6,000 hits a day.

Like Engleman, Caceres described his efforts as more of “a passion project” than an actual business. Ultimately, he envisions a collaborative online community. This community spirit expressed by both men jives well with the emerging green ideal of conserving resources while enjoying what you have all around you.

“We live in a beautiful state and there are literally tons of things to see and do within a couple of hours from home,” Caceres said. “For me, the benefit is finding one or two [trips] I can do with my family and still have us home in time for dinner.”