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Thanksgiving travelers follow their hearts to Auburn, elsewhere

Down economy can’t keep 5.3 million Californians from Turkey Day destinations
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Thanksgiving travel may be daunting for some budget-cautious Californians but it’s not stopping millions from following their hearts this holiday. According to AAA’s latest travel survey, many Californians are choosing to visit family and friends this long weekend instead of trimming their travel budgets during the upcoming holiday celebration. The Auburn-Conheim Station on Blocker Drive was a central location for hugs, smiles and suitcases Wednesday as travelers arrived by bus and train for reunions with loved ones. AAA Northern California’s latest travel survey predicts more than 5.3 million Californians plan to travel 50 miles or more this extended, four-day Thanksgiving holiday weekend and Modesto’s Dean Pearson was among the throng. Thanksgiving Day will include dinner with his sister in Auburn and a chance to meet up with about 20 relatives. Pearson said it’s been 10 years since he’s seen some of them. Cost for the roundtrip ticket was $50 and he said there was assistance from family members to allow him to join them. “I didn’t have the cash to do it so I got some help,” Pearson said. “It’s going to be great. I’ve got a lot of family I haven’t seen in a long time – even some new ones.” The estimated 5.3 million travelers represent an overall increase of 4.1 percent when compared to last year’s figures. Many Californians have foregone holiday family gatherings over the past three years, AAA Northern California spokesperson Cynthia Harris said. “This year, the overwhelming desire to travel has taken hold and the desire to create lasting family memories is proving to be more important than staying home for the Thanksgiving weekend,” Harris said. The AAA is predicting heavy congestion on many of the state’s roadways as more than 4.5 million Californians are projected to travel by motor vehicle during the holiday weekend. That also represents a 4.1 percent increase when compared to last year’s figures. The California Highway Patrol is reminding all motorists to buckle up, observe the speed limit and not to drink and drive. During the 2010 Thanksgiving weekend, 21 people were killed in collisions throughout California. And last year during the holiday weekend, the highway patrol made 1,546 arrests for driving under the influence, a nearly 6 percent increase from the same time the previous year. Despite higher airfares, more than 620,000 holiday travelers are forecast to fly, which is an increase of 1.9 percent when compared to 2010. More than 145,000 state residents are expected to travel by other modes of transportation, including boats or trains – an increase of 14.9 percent. Scott Eberts of Grass Valley met his sister Susie Saunders at the Auburn train station Wednesday. She had taken Amtrak from Seattle and then bussed from Sacramento to the Conheim station. Eberts, Saunders and many more family members will be gathering at the rural Eberts residence. “The holidays make you feel more of home and family,” Eberts said. “The weather turns cold and you think of hearth, fire and comfort. And what can comfort you more than family.” ------------------------ Thanksgiving facts - 42.5 million people will travel 50 or more miles during the weekend – 4 percent more than last year - An average West Coast family of four is projected to spend an average of $906 over the holiday weekend - Families who travel by car are likely to drive an average of 647 miles over the four days - The increase in air travel is occurring despite a 20 percent jump in fares during the holiday weekend - The average lowest round-trip rate is projected to be $212 for the top 40 U.S. air routes Source: AAA