High Gas Prices Force Tough Choices on Holiday Weekend

May 23, 2008 6:28:56 PM PDT
For the first time in six years, AAA is predicting that fewer people will drive somewhere for Memorial Day, and the main reason is high gas prices. The travel group says 37.9 million people will travel more than 50 miles over the extended weekend.Gas prices have crept up above $4 a gallon all over the Valley and now some people are literally choosing between gas and food.

Traffic on Highway 99 is busy this holiday weekend, but the lanes could look a lot more crowded if gas prices were lower. At $3.95 a gallon, it's a relative bargain at an Arco along the highway in Madera, and the pumps are packed. But even the bargain hunters there are feeling the pinch.

"Man it hurts," said Atwater resident Darmell Brown. "This is ridiculous, man."

"It's a lot of pain," said Milton, Washington, resident Bill Rhoads. "Every time I turn around, it seems like it's going up."

Rhoads watched the meter tick all the way up to $125 and that's not even a half tank of gas for his motor home. He and his wife are breaking the mold by traveling a long distance and paying the high prices.

An exclusive Action News poll, conducted by Survey USA, found that 66% of Valley residents are planning not to drive anywhere over the weekend. The price of gas was a major factor in that decision for 69% of those people and many of them are staying right at home when taking the train out of town isn't an option.

"No travel plans," said River Park visitor Suzi Kosko. "Maybe to do some grocery shopping, get some barbecue, and staying put."

Many people are choosing closer options for their entertainment -- Like the movies or the Chaffee Zoo, instead of Disneyland.

"You know, I go out of town or I stay home," said zoo visitor Richard Perez. "Go out of town and not eat or stay home and eat, so I have to stay home."

And even those who decide to pay the price are thinking about how to save money for the rest of the summer.

"Gonna probably take it home and park it for a couple, three months," said Rhoads, of his motor home.

The stay-at-home vacation is so popular now it even has its own nickname ?"staycation." Our polling shows that a lot of people are already planning summer staycations.


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