- Associated Press - Saturday, February 18, 2017

KOKOMO, Ind. (AP) - Want to know the price of gas in Kokomo anytime in the last 22 years? Just ask Robert Parks.

The 68-year-old retired Chrysler worker has kept track of every tank of gas he’s ever purchased since 1995.

Parks has meticulously logged every purchase in precise, clean handwriting in a tattered, worn notebook he keeps inside the cab. Every log entry includes the price, the amount of gas and the gas mileage.

At the end of every year, Parks graphs out the purchases by hand on paper, connecting the dots between each fill-up to show the price fluctuation. Those charts now take up his entire dining room table when he spreads them out.

“After four or five years of doing this, people all started asking me the same thing: Why?” Parks said.

It’s a fair question, with a straight-forward answer. He said he finds it interesting.

The undertaking started out innocently enough. Parks bought a new Dodge Ram 1500 pickup in December 1994, and wanted to keep tabs on each fill-up to see if the truck was getting the advertised gas mileage - 11 miles per gallon in the city, 17 on the highway.

Parks said it didn’t take long to determine that the pickup was actually getting better gas mileage than anticipated. He could have stopped logging his gas purchases then. Instead, he just kept going.

“I don’t know,” Parks said. “It just became a habit and I continued to do it.”

Now, his charts provide a fascinating glance of the sometimes wildly inconsistent gas prices Kokomo residents have paid for more than two decades.

From 1995 to 1999, the charts show relatively straight lines, indicating gas prices remained steady and didn’t change more than 50 cents within a year. After that, the graphs become more sporadic, sometimes marking out more than $1.50 price jumps.

The most dramatic chart came in 2008. The price skyrocketed to a record high of $4.19 in July. A steep downward line shows gas prices plummeting to $1.55 just five months later.

Parks said price changes used to be predictable. Almost every gas station in town would change their rates on Thursday and leave them set for a week. That’s not the case anymore, he said.

“It’s amazing how gas prices fluctuate,” he said. “Now, there’s no regularity to it. They raise it anytime. There’s no way of knowing when. And when they do raise it, it’s usually 30 cents on the gallon. They’ll do that in a heartbeat.”

Parks said keeping an eye on gas prices has revealed another local trend. He said almost without fail, prices are substantially cheaper on the south side of the city compared to the north end.

On Feb. 8, Parks consulted his favorite smartphone app, Gas Buddy, to prove his point.

Sure enough, the Conoco station on Center Road rang in at $1.88 a gallon. At the Speedway station located at the corner of North Street and Indiana 931, the price was reported at $2.01

Parks said his family and friends don’t really understand his obsession with local gas prices or his compulsion to document every tank of gas he buys. But it makes perfect sense to him.

“I’ve always been a statistical type of guy and analytical to a point,” he said.

When he watches a basketball games, for instance, he can’t just sit and watch. Parks said he has to take down detailed stats documenting the number of turnovers, fouls, free throws and three-point shots. After the game, he usually just throws his notes in the trash.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s a high school game or college game,” he said. “If I’m watching it, I’m taking stats. I’ve always been analytical that way.”

It was the same story when he coached UCT little league baseball in the 1980s. Parks said he kept track of all his players’ stats without fail.

“I could tell you how many times my second baseman struck out or how many times my right fielder did or didn’t field a ball,” he said. “Numbers have just always been a big part of my life. I’m not a big mathematician, but following numbers has always fascinated me.”

Parks said given his fondness for numbers, he has no intention to stop logging gas prices. He still owns the Dodge pickup he bought in 1994, and he still wants to know how much he spends on gas.

“I’ve kept track of every gallon of gas that’s run through that tank down to the tenth of a gallon,” Parks said. “Why stop now?”

So how much has he spent on fuel? According to his logbook, Parks has shelled out $27,602.22 in the last 22 years.

Parks said that’s a lot of cash, and it doesn’t help that his truck gets low gas mileage. But like his gas-graphing habit, he has no intention of dropping it.

“I like the truck a lot,” Parks said. “I usually keep a vehicle until the wheels fall off, and the wheels are still rolling, so I’m keeping it.”

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Source: Kokomo Tribune, https://bit.ly/2lMLriv

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Information from: Kokomo Tribune, https://www.ktonline.com


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