Birmingham, Iowa, resident Jim Gengler had a travel decision to make Thursday afternoon he was pumping $3.70 a gallon gasoline into his silver Hyundai Sante Fe at Beachler's Service Center in Peoria.
Birmingham, Iowa, resident Jim Gengler had a travel decision to make. Thursday afternoon he was pumping $3.70 a gallon gasoline into his silver Hyundai Sante Fe at Beachler's Service Center in Peoria.
Oregon or central Illinois? Central Illinois or Oregon?
Guess where he decided to vacation?
"Oregon was out of the question," said Gengler, who was visiting a friend who was herself visiting relatives in the area. "Too expensive. Three-dollar gas maybe, but not at these prices."
The cost of gasoline appeared to be responsible for the third consecutive national holiday to see a drop in the number of travelers from the previous year. AAA Chicago projected about a 1 percent decrease in the number of Americans traveling during the Labor Day weekend - 34.38 million people this year compared to 34.7 million in 2006. Memorial Day and Fourth of July weekends saw even bigger declines this year.
"While we are seeing a drop in travel, it is a small improvement over the Fourth of July holiday when we saw a drop of 1.3 percent. This may show that travelers are starting to respond to the recent drop in gasoline prices," Brad Roeber, AAA Chicago regional president, said in a prepared statement. "People this holiday also seem to be traveling differently with more travelers interested in going by train, bus and some of the traditionally lesser used transportation modes."
In Illinois, nearly 1.35 million people are traveling 50 miles or more this weekend. The majority of people, 1.09 million, will travel by motor vehicle, according to AAA.
While it doesn't seem good enough to be considered good news, gas prices have eased some in recent weeks. A survey of local gas stations Thursday showed a range for the cost of regular gasoline between $3.54 at the Thornton station in Pekin and $3.80 at the MacDonald Shell on Detweiller Drive in Peoria. During the Memorial Day weekend in late May, gasoline hovered around the $4 a gallon mark.
Gary Hoskins of Peoria stopped off for gas Thursday afternoon and lamented the cost that he said kept him close to home all summer.
"We didn't go out as much," he said, adding that the trend would continue this three-day weekend.
The high cost of gasoline had no effect on Mary Colgan's plans for Labor Day weekend. She doesn't have any.
"I'm staying home," the Peoria resident said Thursday as she pumped gas into her car. "It seems strange to appreciate $3.69 gas, but I'm happy for even that little relief."
It will be an exceptional weekend to head outdoors whether it's the backyard or a further distant campground or beach.
"After overnight storms (Thursday night and early Friday morning) we're headed for a really nice stretch of weather," said Brad Churchill, meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Lincoln. "Dry, no chance of rain, sunny. We're good through Tuesday."
Daytime highs Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Labor Day are forecast to be in the mid-80s with overnight lows in the upper 50s.
"Looks like the perfect holiday weekend," Churchill said.
Scott Hilyard can be reached at (309) 686-3244 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.