Fuel prices be damned: University of Oklahoma football fans are willing to pay more for their pilgrimage to Norman.

Even with gas and diesel costing about $3 per gallon or more, recreational vehicles streamed into the Lloyd Noble Center west parking lot Friday afternoon, filled with folks eager to watch today’s season opener between Oklahoma and Texas Christian.

A lot attendant said 70 spaces were reserved as of Friday, and “walk-ins” were expected to arrive. Last year, the lot averaged about 65 overnight vehicles. Jessica and Jason Saldivar were among the throng after spending $150 in gas to drive their sport-utility vehicle and camper from Andrews, Texas, to Norman.

“I can’t decide if I’m dedicated or foolish,” Jason Saldivar said shortly after the eight-hour drive from west Texas. “I’ll go with dedicated.”

He had “a tickle in the back of my neck” earlier this week when gas prices began to climb in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, prompting him to momentarily ask, “Do I really want to do this?” But it was a fleeting moment, and the Saldivars were eager even after filling their tank Friday morning at $3.29 a gallon.

“It was no question not to come,” Jason Saldivar concluded.

W.B. Smith had a far shorter drive from Oklahoma City, but he brought a large recreational vehicle after filling the camper’s 40-gallon tank earlier this week at $2.72 a gallon.

With tickets already in hand, Smith said the choice to pay more for fuel was easy.

“You’ve got to do this or they’ll throw the tickets away,” he said.

Smith plans to attend every home game and will travel to Lubbock for the Texas Tech contest, “but there’s no way I’d go to L.A.”

Stan Haffner, though, said he is going to the Los Angeles area for OU’s Sept. 17 game at UCLA.

The Edmond resident figures he will spend about $1,200 for the diesel needed to drive his large, yet sleek black RV that gets eight miles to the gallon to Pasadena.

But Haffner has caught a break by not having to buy diesel since basketball season last March. There is still about 80 gallons in his vehicle’s 150-gallon tank. When Haffner does refill, he’s likely to shrug off the expense, saying many common expenses cost as much or more than gasoline.

“The fuel is more, but I probably spend more on other things and I don’t get as much enjoyment,” he said. “When you think milk costs $3 a gallon, I still think it’s one of the most cheap commodities there is.”

But there is a limit, even for traveling fans like Haffner. If the price per gallon reaches $5, he may have to reconsider some road games.

Not so for Darren Van Horn, a Dallas-area OU fan who spent $90 on gas to drive from Corinth, Texas, to Norman.

“There’s no ceiling,” Van Horn said. “We’ll be here in the RV lot, no matter what. They’d have to run out of gas for me not to be here.”

James S. Tyree



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