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Gas prices cut allure of beach weekend

Posted May 23, 2008

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— As Memorial Day weekend – and the summer vacation season – got under way Friday, gas prices inching closer to $4 a gallon made trips to North Carolina beaches harder on the pocketbooks of vacationers.

Statewide, the price of gas ranges between $3.83 and $3.89 a gallon, with the cheapest prices along the coast, according to AAA. Nationally, the average is $3.83.

The prices compare with $3.14 a gallon in Raleigh and $3.21 nationwide for Memorial Day weekend a year ago. Some analysts said the price could top $4 a gallon in North Carolina as early as next week.

"Not only has the gas prices affected us actually getting here, but it affected how much we spend on groceries," said Becky Millirons, who said her family drives from Virginia every year to vacation in Nags Head.

"Usually, we'll go out to eat at least once, but (Thursday) night at the grocery store, we were, like, 'Maybe we should buy some more meals and just cook in,'" Millirons said.

A group of Ohio University students who drove to the Outer Banks for a surfing trip said they got an economics lesson on their holiday.

"It's definitely changed my mindset. I was kind of bummed out, having to fork out so much money to support this trip," student Aaron Reick said.

Student Mike Tucker said gas money cost him and his friends about $25 each.

"That's beer money for the weekend," Tucker said.

AAA said 380,000 fewer people were expected to travel nationwide this weekend compared with last Memorial Day, marking the biggest drop since 1998.

The average trip will be 250 miles, about half the distance of last year, AAA said.

Nearly 805,000 North Carolina drivers were expected to hit the road Friday – roughly about the same number as last year.

Outer Banks tourism officials said bookings for summer vacations appear to be strong, but they said some owners of beach houses are offering gas cards to vacationers to help book rentals.

To help ease highway congestion, the North Carolina Department of Transportation has suspended most road construction until 9 a.m. Tuesday. One exception will be on southbound Interstate 85 in Vance County, where traffic will be cut to one lane from mile marker 214 to 208.

The DOT also warned of delays in Cabarrus and Mecklenburg counties because of race weekend events at Lowe's Motor Speedway, south of Concord. Congestion will be heavy on I-85 and U.S. Highway 29, officials said.

The state Highway Patrol said it would work with other agencies to operate seat-belt checkpoints and would increase patrols during the weekend. Last year, 19 motorists were killed and 707 were hurt in Memorial Day weekend accidents, troopers said.

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  • djofraleigh May 23, 2008

    The beach at Wilmington, Surf City, Wrightsville are about two hours and twenty minutes away, or about half a tank of gas, or $30 round trip in a Civic, Focus or that size car. You would be paying about $15 dollars more this time than last summer.

    IF $15 busts your budget once or twice a year, then you shoulda stayed home all along. Pack your first meal to make up the $15 buck difference, but go enjoy the coastline, the waves, wind, sunrise/set, gulls, and fishing are all free. Forget the shopping at the beach. Ladies, if you go to the beach to shop, then this is a wake up call, and guys, if you go to play golf, forget it.

    I like the 'philosophical' driving...slow starts, speed down, even on the interstate.

    Two adults, two kids, and maybe a friend for the older kid, everything bought in Raleigh, not the beach, and it isn't an expensive drive. The mountains to tent camp on the parkway is really cheaper, not in gas, but otherwise.

    GO EAST YOUNG PEOPLE. LIVE now, while you

  • steelslinger512 May 23, 2008

    That's it.. I'm buying a horse.. how much is hay nowadays anyway??

  • howdiditgettothis May 23, 2008

    Bottom line is the higher gas prices STINK STINK STINK regardless of whether you are going on vacation or work or school or anywhere.

    The US has the booksmarts (and years) to come up with an alternative fuel source.

    You can thank your corrupt congress for the last 40 years for letting BIG OIL fill their pockets and campaign finance accounts over and over again.

    There IS NOT a gas crisis. History will repeat itself, and gas companies will report RECORD PROFITS AGAIN.

    Congress will call for a hearing about these record profits, and nothing will be done.

    Until America stands up and says NO MORE we will be pimped out and paying for the corruptness of our leadership.

  • Madonna May 23, 2008

    I think the bigger issue is paying the ridiculous price $250/night for an old musty beach cottage. Also high bacteria levels in the water due to over-development. And watch out, there could be a huge pipe along the beach to pump sand.

  • tchr313 May 23, 2008

    So you are telling me that just because someone makes the choice to drive somewhere for a nice weekend getaway they are being selfish? If EVERYONE stayed home, maybe we could change something about the gas prices. But that is never never never going to happen. So I'm going to go out and enjoy my weekend, despite the big hole it puts in my pocket.

  • MOM AND LOVIN IT May 23, 2008

    You all are talking about vacations...what about daily life! This is terrible!

  • FloydTurbo May 23, 2008

    I'm just glad that as a longtime Republican I have that special secret code to put into the pump for my $2.00/gallon gas. The high prices only effect those silly Democrats.

    The secret low cost health insurance we Repubs get comes in real handy too.
    _____

    The scary part is a high % of non-Repubs actually believe the above.

  • piperchuck May 23, 2008

    "Anyone who is enduring hardship over that extra $15 does not need to be going on vacation in the first place."

    I was thinking the same thing. People are allowing the higher gas prices to become an emotional issue. OTOH, the higher prices hit us every time we drive, not just when we drive somewhere on vacation, so it certainly has an effect on disposable income.

  • blondton13 May 23, 2008

    Some of us don't have the luxury of taking vacations during three day weekends. But I know in my case I am really thinking about everywhere I drive. Unfortunately it is just too expensive right now to even take my daughter from Hillsborough to Raleigh to visit old friends even though I would like to. I get 30 MPG and work in RTP. I would move if I could afford it, but living closer to RTP also costs more in rent.
    We all have to sacrifice something right now I guess. Some more than others.

  • denverbob234 May 23, 2008

    boatinggrl1980, I'm surprised you did not tell me to head north (seems people in NC think there is only 2 directions; north and south), since that is the type of 1 track thinking most people here seem to suffer from. Try some north west coast beaches, if you want to be impressed, that is. I know, NC has the mountains and the beach and all the blah blah that goes along with it. Want to see some pics of the mountains going into the coast? By the way, all coastal states in the US also have mountains, no exceptions, even FL has a mountain

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