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$3 gas unlikely to deter travelers

Leona Wevley would rather not fork out $3 or more for a gallon of gas, but it couldn't keep the Morris, Minn., woman from joining her family for Thanksgiving dinner in Moorhead. It won't stop her daughter in Wisconsin from making the trip, either.

Graphic: Gas averages

Leona Wevley would rather not fork out $3 or more for a gallon of gas, but it couldn't keep the Morris, Minn., woman from joining her family for Thanksgiving dinner in Moorhead. It won't stop her daughter in Wisconsin from making the trip, either.

The family get-together is too important to let gas prices stand in the way, Wevley said Monday as she and another of her three daughters picked out a turkey at Hornbacher's in Moorhead.

"It's not stopping us," she said.

Despite gas topping $3 per gallon for the first time in November, AAA doesn't expect a drop in holiday travelers. The association estimates that 38.7 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles from home - a 1.5 percent increase over last year.

The average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gas in Fargo and Cass County was $3.11 on Monday, compared with $2.22 a year ago, according to AAA.

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North Dakota's average cost of $3.22 per gallon Monday was the seventh highest in the nation and 94 cents higher than a year ago. Minnesota's average price was $3.03, or 82 cents higher than a year ago.

"It's a significant increase, and it undoubtedly impacts the budget of many families," said Gene LaDoucer, public affairs director for AAA North Dakota. "But (what) we've historically seen, and what we expect to see here, is that won't curb travel for the holiday."

While families may not curb travel over Thanksgiving, they may cut back between the holidays, LaDoucer said.

Sylvia Garcia of Moorhead said her family used to drive to her hometown of Crystal City, Texas, twice a year to visit relatives over Thanksgiving and Christmas. This year, they plan to have Christmas in Texas and Thanksgiving in Moorhead.

"We do think about it twice because of the gas," she said.

Her husband, who works in the Twin Cities, drives back to Moorhead every third weekend now instead of every other weekend to save on gas, she said. He'll carpool this week with their daughter, who spent the last two years in Iraq with the Minnesota Army National Guard.

When the family travels to Crystal City next month, they'll fly and rent a car when they land, Garcia said.

"We won't be driving," she said.

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More Midwesterners are considering flying rather than driving, LaDoucer said.

Survey data from AAA shows auto travel among Midwesterners is expected to jump 0.3 percent over last Thanksgiving, compared to a 1.3 percent rise nationally. Meanwhile, air travel is expected to jump 2.5 percent among Midwesterners and 2.1 percent nationally.

Airports will be hectic this holiday weekend, and travelers should give themselves plenty of time to get to their flight gates, LaDoucer said.

Auto travelers should see some minor relief at the pumps. Gas prices in North Dakota dropped by about 3 cents in the last five days and could drop another 3 to 5 cents before Thanksgiving Day, LaDoucer said.

Still, just to be safe, Gary Brock of Moorhead said he bought bus tickets for his son and daughter and her three children in Minneapolis so they could come home for the holiday.

"I don't think they would have made it up here if we didn't," Brock said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528

$3 gas unlikely to deter travelers Mike Nowatzki 20071120

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