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High gas prices not derailing Labor Day travel plans
Maxwell Hansen gases up his truck Wednesday afternoon at an Arco station. Because he needs transportation for work Hansen says that he doesnt even bother to look at how much it costs to fill up anymore its just something I need he says. - photo by JASON CAMPBELL

Craig Vacquero loves to camp.

Packing up his Chevy Suburban full of overnight gear, piling his family in and heading to the mountains for the weekend, he says, is both a fun and affordable pastime that he and his wife have shared ever since their three boys were old enough to take with them.

But with the California average for gasoline topping $4.10 -per-gallon, Vacquero – who used to have no problem searching for new camping places or hitting the high country – has been finding places a little bit closer to home.

That’s what he’ll do on Labor Day weekend when he hits Pinecrest instead of Bass or Huntington Lake. He plans on putting the money he’ll save in gas into food and other trip expenses.

“It’s always something that you factor into the cost of a trip like that, but when you’ve got a truck like I do it costs a bit to get up there,” he said. “Staying a little bit closer and saving isn’t a bad idea.”

And with the summer driving season comes to a close, and the national average fell one-cent per-gallon Monday morning – the first decline in the month of August – California motorists likely aren’t going to see any relief any time soon.

The explosion and subsequent fire that ripped through a Chevron oil refinery in Richmond earlier this month – a site that produces upwards of 20 percent of the West Coast’s supply – is blamed for the recent spike in prices throughout the state.

California motorists, as of Wednesday morning, are playing $4.10 on average for a gallon of unleaded gasoline – second only to Hawaii’s $4.24 per gallon.

While fueling up wasn’t what Crystal White wanted to be doing on Wednesday, the commuter said she had no choice but to search out the best value she could find.

She plans on staying home next weekend and barbecuing with one group of friends instead of heading to the beach with another.

But it isn’t going to be gas prices, she says, that keeps her from enjoying her life.

“I’ve got to fill up for work and I spend a lot of my week working and driving, so when the weekend comes I want to be able to enjoy it,” she said. “I can’t change how expensive the gas prices are and I’m not going to let them run my life. It sucks, but what can I do?”

White isn’t alone.

According to AAA, 33 million people will hit the roadway for Labor Day Weekend in America despite a sluggish economy and rising gas prices – the greatest number of travelers since the economy started to freefall in 2007.

And they’re planning on spending more.

Those getting away, according to a model designed for AAA, will spend $749 – up from $702 last year.

It’s about what Matt Sorelli says he’ll shell out when drives down to Santa Barbara to help his brother move into his new off-campus digs.

“I didn’t really think about it but every tank of gas adds up and I’m driving a truck down there,” he said. “Throw in a hotel room and food and everything else and it gets pretty pricey. I think they’re on the mark.”