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Memorial Day travel plans bolstered by dropping gas prices

Survey shows slightly more Californians will take trips
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Auburn drivers are joining motorists around the nation in weathering escalating gas prices as best they can. Ahead of the high-mileage Memorial Day long weekend, AAA released results of a travel survey Monday that projects 4.2 million Californians plan on traveling 50 miles or more this coming three-day weekend. That represents a slight increase of 0.2 percent over last year. “While concerns over higher gas prices are causing some travelers to opt out of a summer road trip, many are modifying or scaling back in other types of vacation expenditures,” said AAA Northern California spokesperson Cynthia Harris. Most of the travel will be on California’s highways. The AAA forecast is for 3.5 million California travelers to be driving on Memorial Day weekend. In Auburn, with the price of a gallon of regular gas dropping below the $4 mark at some pumps, motorists were breathing a sigh of relief – but continued to express unhappiness with the high price of a fill-up. “It’s outrageous and so unnecessary,” said Judy Ussher, who lives across the American River canyon from Auburn in Greenwood. “There are so many environmental issues in this state while my daughter lives in Idaho and gas is much cheaper there.” The average price per gallon Monday in Idaho was $3.754 to California’s $4.118 average. The Sacramento-area average was $4.165 – down from $4.219 a month ago and $4.247 a week ago, according to the AAA’s Fuelgaugereport.com. Ussher said that with her odometer clocking 15 miles from her home by the time she reaches the American River Canyon on the El Dorado Canyon side, the high price of fuel is definitely affecting her. “It’s a matter of economics,” she said. Ussher, who has lived in Greenwood for more than 30 years, said she’ll be sticking close to home for her Memorial Day weekend – something she does every year, high gas prices or not. In another study – this one released last week by the Associated Press and the GFK polling group – numbers indicated that 66 percent of Americans are gearing down on driving because of higher fuel costs. Mona Schmiedel of Auburn said she had already taken steps to preserve fuel and money. One of the biggest changes came two years ago with a move to Auburn from Foresthill, where mountain driving to and from the community 17 miles east of Auburn slurped up the gas. “I’ve always been very careful about planning trips from one place to another,” Schmiedel said. “The high prices have made me worry about it more so it’s nice to see them coming down a bit.” Joan Denzler of Auburn also said she was pleased with the recent drop in prices at the pump. But Denzler added that she’d be happy to see them come down some more. Her plans are for a trip later in the year. And hopefully by then the price-per-gallon will have dropped again. A year ago, the price per gallon was $3.142. AAA is projecting expenditures for a West Coast family of four will average just more than $970 over the weekend and the average road trip will cover about 1,000 miles.