Gasoline prices are going through the roof apparently because of the turmoil in the Middle East - and because the United States is not self-sufficient with fuel.

There's a ripple effect. Grocery prices escalate because of the costs associated with delivering the products to the store. Local taxes may rise because of the increase in costs for such things as police patrols and busing school students.

Vacations might have to be scaled back because of these higher costs. Not only is gasoline for cars rocketing in price, but airlines are constantly increasing their rates due to the escalating fuel costs.

One thing Americans can do is scale down their vacation plans. There's plenty to see and do close to home.

For example:

Ÿ The town of Jim Thorpe attracts tourists from far away. Have you ever stopped to see what the town has to offer? Did you ever tour the Asa Packer Mansion or old prison, walk along historic Race Street, and take the train rides?

Ÿ The Lehigh Canal and Glen Onoko offer great opportunities for outdoor activities, including hiking, biking, and picnicking. There's also plenty of local rafting.

Ÿ For a day trip, how about a trip to the Philadelphia Zoo? Or Ellis Island? Or Wellsboro - "The Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania." Or even Steamtown.

Ÿ History buffs always find something to do at Gettysburg and Independence Hall.

Ÿ The Appalachian Trail always proves inviting for outdoor enthusiasts.

Ÿ Visits to Washington D.C., New York City, Providence, or Pittsburgh can be accomplished in a weekend.

Get creative. If you have small children, take them to the Crayola Factory.

Even visiting local casinos might serve as a substitute getaway as gasoline prices rise and put pressure on your budget.

You can vacation without going broke. And, doing something locally helps the local economy.

The high gas prices are discouraging. They could mean putting off a long trip this year. But don't let them ruin your summer.

In fact, local trips reduce gas usage; thus decreasing our dependence on the foreign fuel.

By RON GOWER

rgower@tnonline.com