September 3, 2005 in Idaho

Labor Day travel remaining heavy

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Despite reports of gas shortages and calls from some political leaders to limit travel, there appeared to be no shortage of campers, boat trailers, big trucks or tourists in Coeur d’Alene and surrounding North Idaho on Friday, the eve of one of the busiest holiday weekends of the year.

Some hotel clerks reported cancellations, but many business owners said they expect no hurricane-related slowdown because of the high gas prices.

“We have an unusual number of cancellations,” said Neil Meagher, manager of the Motel 6 in Sandpoint. “Whether those are due to gas prices or not, I just don’t know. We’re going to get affected eventually. We’re a destination location. Quite frankly, if I was going to travel with my kids, I’d think about it twice.”

Don Gimbel and his family drove to Post Falls on Friday from his home in Kalispell, Mont. The family was in town to attend a weekend balloon festival. Gimbel estimated he spent an extra $100 in gasoline to fill his full-size pickup, which pulled a large camper trailer. The setup gets six miles a gallon, or roughly 50 cents a mile in gas alone.

“It’s a pig,” he said. “I don’t know if I’ll stop traveling, but I complain a lot more.”

Tourists heading to the region’s lakes often own boats. Typically, if they can afford a boat, they can afford to pay an extra dollar per gallon for gas, said Tammy Sprenkle, co-owner of the Priest Lake Marina. “Most of them don’t care,” she said. “This is the last hurrah of the season.”

The Osprey Inn, of Harrison, Idaho, was fully booked with Oregon and Washington residents who plan to cycle the nearby Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes, said innkeeper Jim Bersuch. “We’re filled up the whole weekend.”

But at the other end of the bicycle path, in Wallace, a hotel clerk at the Wallace Inn said many reservations were canceled this week. The clerk, who did not give her name, said rooms were still filling up with walk-in customers. “There are many people out there when this (hurricane) happened that haven’t gotten home yet,” she said.

A classic car show planned for the weekend at Silverwood Theme Park is drawing visitors from across the country, said park spokeswoman Nancy DiGiammarco.

“They seem to still want to drive,” she said. “We’re expecting a really big weekend.”

Calls for limiting travel have come from several governors, as well as President Bush, who on Thursday said, “Don’t buy gas if you don’t need it.” The governors of Idaho and Washington have issued no such pleas.

Janet Ray, spokeswoman for AAA Washington/Inland, said analysts were predicting the busiest Labor Day travel weekend in years. Ray was not willing to guess what the hurricane’s effect would be on Northwest travel. “We are in territory that’s uncharted,” she said.

Although there have been reports of “intermittent” gas shortages in the region, travelers staying out of Southern states near Louisiana have no reason to worry about widespread problems filling their gas tanks, Ray said.

Just in case, “What we’re telling people is when you get down to a quarter of a tank, fill them up.”

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