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Travel: The Great American Independence Day Tradition

Hitting The Road

Judy Rizzo and her boyfriend Carl Wier rested at the gas station on 7073 Route 281 in Cortland County, heading to Alexandria Bay for a bike weekend. Photo by Yuner Gao

June 24 was the penultimate day for Jose Hernandez and his family of a 10-day vacation.

“We traveled from Miami to Canada,” Hernandez said at the Mirabito gas station on Route 281 in the Cortland County town of Preble, “We are going to New York City.”

He, his wife and three children were to fly back to California the following day.

“Everything is expensive right now,” Hernandez said. “We haven’t had vacations since three years ago. And I don’t know next year.”

As Hernandez prepared to say goodbye to his vacation, Judy Rizzo of Spafford took her motorcycle to the road.

“We are going up to Alexandria Bay for the bike weekend,” Rizzo said while she took a rest at the gas station. “Thirty dollars for five gallons, it’s crazy.”

For Independence Day weekend, Rizzo will be in South Dakota with her boyfriend, Carl Wier.

“We love to travel as much as we can,” Rizzo said. “Our kids are grown. It’s kind of our time to have some fun.”

Rizzo will be among 47.9 million people who will travel 50 miles or more from home over the Independence Day weekend, AAA predicted. This is an increase of 3.7% over 2021, bringing travel volumes just shy of those seen in 2019.

Car travel will set a new record, surpassing 41.5 million in 2019 and 41.8 million in 2021, despite historically high gas prices, with 42 million people taking to the road.

“Even with gas hitting record prices, travelers are still eager to hit the road this summer. We expect nationwide travel times to increase about 50% compared to normal. Drivers around major metro areas must be prepared for significantly more delays,” said Bob Pishue, a transportation analyst for INRIX, in a release. “Knowing when and where congestion will build can help drivers avoid the stress of sitting in traffic. Our advice is to avoid traveling on Thursday and Friday afternoon.”

Besides that, AAA offers the following advice:

¯ Have a plan A, B and C. Plan your flights, car rentals, accommodations, tours, cruises and other activities ahead

¯ B-E-T on a breakdown-free trip by partying attention to your vehicle’s battery, engine and tires. Make sure to get a full vehicle inspection ahead of any long trip.

¯ Beat the rush. Based on AAA booking data, Friday is shaping up to be the busiest day for air travel during the holiday weekend with July 4 being the lightest. For those hitting the road, the Thursday and Friday before the holiday are anticipated to be peak traffic days.

For Matthew Rupe of Marathon, who worked at a fast food franchise, he is just going to stay put, with his wife and six children this coming holiday weekend.

“Minimum wage is just not really helping,” Rupe said. “I am putting $40 a day in my car just to be able to get to work and for her (his wife) to do the running around.”

He has acres of land where kids can run and play.

“Buckle down and get ready for fun,” Rupe said. “They have super-active imaginations and anything is a toy.”

Or maybe, if local travel is an option, they could try kayaking on Skaneateles Lake or attending a summer concert in Homer village. The Cortland Convention and Visitors Bureau offers ideas at its Experience Cortland website, www.experiencecortland.com/.

Wherever you go, safety is important, said Cortland County Sheriff Mark Helms in a statement. Plan ahead for a safe and sober ride.

Police agencies in Cortland County and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are reminding drivers that buzzed driving Is drunk driving. The administration reports that 11,654 people were killed in alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes in 2020, more than 200 people just over the Independence Day holiday.

“Everyone deserves to have a safe, enjoyable Fourth of July,” Helms said. “We’re partnering with NHTSA to share the reminder that buzzed driving Is drunk driving. It is never OK to drink and drive — even after just a few drinks. There are so many options for a sober ride these days. So, plan ahead — if you’ll be drinking this Fourth of July, or any other day, arrange for a sober ride.”

Here are some safety tips for independence Day weekend:

¯ Even if you’ve had only one alcoholic beverage, designate a sober driver or use public transportation or a ride service, or a sober-ride program, if one is available.

¯ If you see a drunk driver, call 911

¯ See a friend who is about to drink and drive? Take the keys away and make arrangements to get your friend home safely.

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