AAA: Fourth of July travel outlook expected to be busy | Local News

PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) – The July 4th weekend will be here before you know it and if you’re planning to head out of town, you’re not alone. Travel is expected to be busy and not just by pandemic standards.

According to AAA, the travel volume will be the second-highest on record. Nearly 48 million Americans are expected to take a trip that holiday weekend, that includes 597,000 Oregonians. AAA says this is a 40% increase from last year.

Right now, the CDC says that fully-vaccinated people can travel across the country at low risk to themselves. Those who are not vaccinated are advised to practice social distancing, wear a mask, wash your hands and get tested before and after travel.

Whether you’re vaccinated or not, remember masks are required on planes, trains, buses and other forms of public transportation.

According to AAA most people will be hitting the road. In a survey of members in Oregon and Idaho, the most popular road trip destinations are central Oregon, national parks of Utah, Yellowstone, Hawaii, Disneyland and Las Vegas.

The good news for drivers is that gas prices are holding steady. AAA says a rising supply of gasoline is helping to stabilize prices. The national average is $3.07. In Oregon a gallon of regular gas is $3.50 on average. In Washington it’s $3.65.

Copyright 2021 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved. 

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Independence Day travel expected to surpass pre-pandemic levels | Local News

The greatest number of Texans on record, approximately 3.7 million, are expected to travel during the Independence Day holiday weekend, according to travel forecast data from AAA Texas.

A closer look at the travel forecast, which the American Automobile Association started in 2000, shows more Texans than ever will drive to their Independence Day destinations, about 3.3 million. That is a 41% jump from last year and a 10% increase from 2019.

Airports will be busier too as AAA Texas forecasts around 338,000 leisure passengers will fly to get away, an increase of 177% from 2020 and just around 3% fewer than 2019. The “Other Travel” category, which includes buses, trains and cruises, is also going to see a recovery by about 75% (+15,000 people) from 2020 totaling around 35,000 passengers but will remain lower by around 83% from 2019 figures.

On a national scale, more than 47.7 million Americans will take to the nation’s roadways and skies during this holiday timeframe, as travel volumes are expected to nearly fully recover to pre-pandemic levels. In fact, this will be the second-highest Independence Day travel volume on record nationally, trailing only 2019. Overall, just 2.5% fewer Americans are expected to travel this year compared to Independence Day in 2019. This represents an increase of nearly 40% compared to last year, when total travel fell to 34.2 million.

While all modes of travel will see increased demand this Independence Day, road trips continue to dominate this summer. Despite the highest gas prices in seven years, more than 91% of holiday travel will be by car. An expected 43.6 million Americans will drive to their destinations, the highest on record for this holiday and 5% more than the previous record set in 2019. With 3.5 million people planning to fly, air travel volumes this Independence Day will reach 90% of pre-pandemic levels and increase 164% compared to last year.

“After deferring opportunities for nearly a year-and-a-half, more Texans than ever are anticipated to travel away from home this Independence Day holiday,” said Kent Livesay, vice president and general manager, AAA Texas. “With this projection in mind, AAA Texas recommends that vacationers work with a trusted travel advisor to plan a memorable getaway that meets your needs and comfort-level.”

Another 620,000 Americans are expected to travel by other modes this Independence Day, an increase of over 72% compared to last year, but 83% lower than in 2019. This includes travel by bus and train, and also the return of cruising. Cruise lines have announced limited sailings resuming from U.S. ports beginning in late June. For those who make the personal decision to take a cruise, AAA Texas reminds them that a travel advisor can help with any cancelation policies, answer questions related to what you can expect on your cruise, and travel insurance options to help protect your health and travel investment before and during your vacation.

INRIX, in collaboration with AAA, predicts drivers will experience the worst congestion heading into the holiday weekend as commuters leave work early and mix with holiday travelers, along with the return trip on Monday mid-day. Major metro areas across the U.S. could see nearly double the delays verses typical drive times, with drivers in Boston and San Francisco likely to experience nearly three-times the delays.

“With travelers eager to hit the road this summer, we’re expecting nationwide traffic volumes to increase about 15% over normal this holiday weekend. Drivers around major metro areas must be prepared for significantly more delay,” says Bob Pishue, transportation analyst, INRIX. “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, along with Monday mid-day.”

The 3.3 million Texans expected to travel by car this Independence Day can expect gas prices to be the most expensive since June 2018 with the statewide average at $2.74 per gallon of regular unleaded, at the time of this report.

“Higher gas prices won’t deter road trippers this summer. In fact, we’re expecting record-breaking levels of car travel this July Fourth,” said AAA Texas spokesperson Daniel Armbruster. “Though prices are around $1 more per gallon compared to this same time last year, travelers are likely to look for more free activities or eat out less, but still take their vacations as planned.”

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Local couple turns former Navy bus into traveling tiny home | Local News

The mobile home has AC and heating, solar panels on the roof hooked to lithium batteries, and a rooftop deck accessed from an interior ladder. There’s even space up there for a pop-up tent.

“The only thing that didn’t make it in, because it just takes too much floor space, is a bathtub,” Borland said. “But I’m thinking we can find room at some point for a detached one stored up top.”

They say a part of their dream is to eventually own small pieces of property in two or three different parts of the U.S.

“The hope is to eventually build an A-frame or tiny houses on those pieces of property, and then use the bus–home to travel between them,” said Austin. “We could stay in one and rent out the bus if that made sense.”

Austin and Borland have been working on the TV show “The Walking Dead: World Beyond” in and around Richmond. They say productions happen all over the country, and their converted bus can both get them there and then serve as a residence for as long as needed. Austin figures the bus could remain off the grid for up to a month.

“And at pennies on the dollar to what it would cost for hotels and eating at restaurants,” he said.

Austin, who has experience building custom houses, developed an affinity for the trades by accompanying his grandfather—Don Austin, a welder—to work sites when he was young.

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Citizen group aims to combat crime in Edenton | Local

A newly formed group aims to help combat crime in Edenton through community activities that encourage citizens to know their neighbors.

Know Your Neighbor met Monday at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church to organize and discuss how to reduce the town’s crime.

Edenton Police Chief Henry King noted that the town has had what some considered gangs for decades, but more recently learned that they are nationally known gangs with long-running feuds.

“They were referred to as East and West, as in if you lived past this certain street, you’d be in the West gang and if you lived on the other side of the street you’d be in the East gang,” King said. “More recently, we’ve learned that these gangs are just the Blood and the Crips.”

Gang members tend to travel along the US 17 corridor, committing crimes in Edenton, Hertford and Elizabeth City.

“These people will do something in Edenton, travel to Hertford. They’ll do something there and then go up to Elizabeth City,” King said. “Then they come back to Edenton and start doing it again.”

These gangs often use YouTube to share rap videos about their crimes and the consequences of telling the police, King said. He noted groups of five or six people will gather near abandoned houses or empty lots, film a few minutes of video and then drive to another location in town to film another part. The music is then dubbed over the footage.

He said the videos often include people with guns and doing illegal substances.

“You have to be very specific when you search on YouTube for these videos,” King said. “You often have to search for something like a specific street name.”

The public can help reduce local crime by reporting any activities that are out of the ordinary, King said. Parents can watch for unusual behavior in their children, or things such as wearing items of clothing in a different way or new behaviors.

“Parents usually have, like a spider sense, when it comes to their kids,” King said. “They can feel that something is off with their kid; although they may not know what it exactly is.”

Among the keys in helping curb gun violence, is communication. This involves communication between the police and the citizens, family members and criminals, and various organizations working to better youths’ lives.

He noted a new program the police department is offering for people who they identify in the YouTube gang-related rap videos. The agency sends them a letter encouraging them to turn their life around or be arrested and charged with a crime.

He also encouraged businesses to get surveillance cameras that point outward, toward the parking lot or street.

He noted the April 8, 2020, case in which shots were fired at a pickup truck and the driver of the truck returning fire at the ABC Liquor Store on North Broad Street. Five people were arrested and charged in connection with the case with the help of store surveillance footage. There were several witnesses inside the store, but when questioned, they refused to talk, King said.

“On the indoor camera footage, you could see customers go up to the store window, press their faces to the glass and look outside. They could see what was happening,” King said. “One of the witnesses denied he was there so much so that when we pointed out that we had a credit card receipt with his name on it for two bottles of Hennessey, he said that someone else bought the alcohol and used his card.”

King noted many crimes are like that, where there are many people around who claim not to have seen anything.

EPD has an anonymous tip line, 252-632-0303. King noted that tips, in conjunction with other evidence, are used to build cases.

He mentioned that residents should call law enforcement about anything that seems out of the ordinary. They’d rather respond to a call, investigate and find nothing, rather than have something bad happen that could have been prevented.

This upcoming fiscal year, which starts July 1, the Town of Edenton has included a budget item for EPD to purchase a system that will help better track shootings.

The program, which a one-time cost of about $150,000, alerts EPD to shots-fired incidents. When installed, EPD will be able to accurately locate such incidents, as well as determine where the shooter was and their direction of travel. King noted that the system will automatically turn city-owned cameras to where the shooter is, in an effort to capture any identifying features or a getaway vehicle.

Also while discussing technology, King asked residents to find out whether their home security system has any cameras that point to the street He asked that those willing to do so to either create a user ID police can access or let the police know it’s there. If a crime occurs in a neighborhood, EPD can either log-in to watch your camera footage through their User ID or call to get your permission to watch the footage.

An example of this would be if a crime takes place on a street in your neighborhood, EPD could note that your cameras operate near the crime scene and possibly find out what kind of car was used as a getaway vehicle.

King said they plan to put this program in three areas in town totaling about a 1-mile radius. Those areas include part of Oakum Street, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and Tyler Run.

Another tool that EPD uses in a national ballistics database, NIBIN. King noted that each time a bullet is fired, the gun’s barrel leaves a “fingerprint” on the shell or casing that is unique to that particular gun. The database can show whether a particular gun has been used in other crimes.

In the case of the ABC Liquor Store shooting, EPD used the database and learned that one of the guns used in that incident was used in several other crimes. When one of the suspects was caught, EPD was able to add more charges in connection to those other crimes. The suspect’s case was moved to federal court.

Know You Neighbor hopes to help the police by reintroducing neighbors to each other through community service activities, such as neighborhood clean-ups. They also hope to get groups of people to tour town and note any abandoned houses or empty lot.

They hope to bring this list of properties to town officials and work with them to create community gardens in empty lots and get the property owners to take care of their empty houses.

The group hopes to host meetings through Edenton, at different churches and centers within the community.

“We would like to open this up to the whole community to not only voice your concerns, but to hear your ideas for improvement, and volunteer to participate in initiatives,” the group’s flyer read. “Our goal is to bring pride back into our streets and build a stronger and safer community.”

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Staying local or going longer distances, more vaccinations mean more travel and relief for struggling hotels and restaurants | Local-news

It’s Wednesday night and that means Family Night at Leo’s Coney Island in Waterford Township.

For two hours a week, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., Baffling Bill the Magician strolls the aisles, stopping to perform sleight-of-hand magic at tables with children with his assistant Gus the Rabbit, who assists by pulling the correct card from a deck picked by patrons.

More people, now vaccinated, are at least going out to eat more often, and more are expected to travel this summer, bringing some relief to hotels and restaurants which have struggled to survive through the 15-month pandemic.

Exact numbers are hard to come by, but most associations dealing with hospitality and travel are optimistic for this summer and the months after as virus case counts fall, vaccination rates rise and more people engage in what used to be a pre-pandemic normal life.

Sarah Horn is among the frontline workers who could not wait to travel.

As the Executive Director of Ascension MyHealth Urgent Care Center Group – which has locations in Macomb and Oakland County — she has had to work between 50 and 70 hours a week since the start of COVID-19.

Horn has remained busy since the early days of the pandemic when securing personnel protection equipment for the staff, staying abreast of the rapidly changing protocols, and setting up test sites and vaccination clinics to serve the community was most important.

“We’re still busy,” she said.

However, with the third wave behind, many frontline workers, teachers and other essential workers are finally being given time off.

In Horn’s case it was only a weekend away, but it made all the difference in the world.

“It was the break I needed,” said Horn. “My husband and I flew to Cape Coral, Florida and enjoyed four glorious days of fun in the sun.”

Horn said the airports and all flights to and from Florida still mandated masks but everywhere else in Florida they did not have to wear them.

occupancy rates

Hotel occupancy rates

Bouncing Back

Locally hotel bookings are rebounding, according to the Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau, which operates the website and promotes tourism in Detroit and Oakland, Wayne and Macomb counties. Though perhaps not entirely back to pre-pandemic levels, the sentiment is that activity is headed in the right direction.

Renee Monforton, spokeswoman for the convention bureau, said hotel books so far have rebounded from extraordinarily low levels in the 20s to the mid 40 percentile range this year.

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation estimates hotel bookings more than doubled in April compared to the previous year when economic activity, particularly travel and hospitality, ground to a virtual standstill.

“We’re pretty optimistic,” Monforton said. “Occupancy rates are way up from last year. Within our region, there’s a lot of events that are going forward and that’s driving tourism too. We even launched packages designed to create some immersive travel experiences for people. Giving people the opportunity to reintroduce themselves to metro Detroit.”

Many people are expected to travel beyond the region to other parts of the state or country.

While the auto club AAA hasn’t released a summer travel forecast yet, it’s pre-Memorial Day forecast nationally predicted a huge upturn in travel to 37 million people traveling 50 miles or more, an increase of 60% from the same holiday weekend in 2020.

But earlier this spring, the auto club noted that more people were enthusiastic about a return to travel while continuing to urge precautions, such as calling ahead to make sure some destinations would be open.

“Road trips to domestic destinations continue to be the preferred way for many to travel, but even these trips require additional planning and preparation,” AAA noted in late March. “Those who make the decision to travel by car can refer to AAA’s COVID-19 Travel Restrictions Map and for the latest state and local travel restrictions, and to identify which rest stops, gas stations, restaurants and hotels are open along their route.”

To aid travelers, AAA announced Thursday, June 10, that it would test sanitation levels at the 26,000 hotels it inspects nationally. AAA inspectors select guest rooms and bathroom locations, which may include guest room door handles, light switches, thermostat controls, guest room desk or writing surfaces, television remotes, refrigerator handles, faucet and toilet handles, hair dryers and vanity surfaces.

Hotels that meet AAA’s standards for cleanliness, condition and the new surface cleanliness testing will now be recognized as Inspected Clean and then assigned a Diamond designation by the auto club.

While the test does not provide direct identification of viruses such as the one that causes COVID-19, it allows for confirmation of properly cleaned surfaces.

If renting a car, travelers can ask what has been done to clean the vehicle. Hertz, for example, has introduced Hertz Gold Standard Clean, according to AAA. That’s an enhanced vehicle disinfection and sanitization process. For extra peace of mind, AAA recommends travelers use disinfecting wipes to wipe down door handles, steering wheels, shifters and control panels.

Travelers will be able to find Inspected Clean hotels on to help plan their trips later this fall.

Improving Conditions

Even as late as last year, optimism was hard to come by for hotels, and for restaurants that had struggled through shutdowns and limited capacity when they reopened.

As late as December, hotels and restaurants were sounding alarm bells based on surveys of lodging and hospitality memberships.

Significant survey results released for Michigan in December found that:

  • 5,600, or 33 percent, or Michigan restaurant operators said it was unlikely they will still be in business in six months
  • Two-thirds of hotels (approximately 850 in Michigan) reported they would only be able to last six more months at current revenue and occupancy levels without any additional relief,
  • 52 percent of hotel owners said they were in danger of foreclosure,
  • 89 percent of Michigan restaurant operators expected their sales to decrease during the next three months and 63% expected their staffing levels to decrease over the same period,
  • 48 percent of Michigan restaurant operators say they were considering temporarily closing their restaurant until the COVID-19 pandemic passes
  • 90 percent of Michigan operators said their profit margins were lower than prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, and,
  • 63 percent of hotels said they had less than half of their typical staff working full time.

After additional rounds of congressional funding passed that included more assistance to businesses, some of those worries were alleviated for many in the travel and restaurant industry.

“We’re finding out that the majority of restaurants in Detroit are fine but they’re experiencing staff shortages,” said Monforton at the metro visitors and convention bureau.

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Bennion Creek and Bear fires cause evacuations, impact travel on U.S. Highway 6 | Local News

The Bennion Creek and Bear fires, located near the Utah and Carbon County border, continued to burn into Friday, causing evacuations and leading to closures along U.S. Highway 6 north of Helper.

As of Friday, the Bennion Creek Fire is reported to be 0% contained with 4,706 acres burned and the Bear Creek Fire is 5% contained with 8,332 acres burned.

On Thursday, U.S. 6 was closed at approximately 11 a.m. due to the Bear fire with no estimate of it reopening. Cars were diverted off the highway to use Emma Park Road and U.S. 191 as a detour.

Firefighters conducted firing operations on the west side of the highway during the closure to try and keep the fire from jumping the freeway. In an update from Thursday night, the highway remained closed but officials felt confident they could keep the fire from moving toward Helper.

“I know things look bad with all the smoke, but the fire is still hung up high on the hillsides,” Type 3 Incident Commander Jason Porter said in a Facebook post. “The smoke is just bending down into the canyon and the valleys.” 

About two hours later, the Carbon County Sheriff’s Office issued a pre-evacuation in the northwest corner of Helper due to fire behavior, which included 10 homes.

In an update Friday morning, officials noted challenging weather conditions overnight with cooler temperatures and calmer winds.

On Friday afternoon, one lane was opened on U.S. 6, with cars following a pilot car to ensure firefighter and driver safety. Due to the proximity of the Bennion Creek Fire, the two fires continue to share resources.

The Bennion Creek Fire experienced strong winds and extreme fire behavior, moving the fire southeast and leading to evacuations of Aspen Cove in Scofield.

“Crews today (Friday) are working to establish containment lines to protect structures and the community of Aspen Cove,” a Facebook post said.

To get updates on fires in the state of Utah, visit or follow @UtahWildfire on Twitter or Facebook.

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Feds Cite Local Tiger Exhibitor After PETA Tip

For Immediate Release:
June 7, 2021

David Perle 202-483-7382

Kaufman, Texas – After PETA tipped off the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to an illegal tiger display by Kaufman-based Lisa Lopez—who operates under the name “All Things Wild” and has no federal license to exhibit animals—the agency issued a citation to her and ordered an end to the display, an inspection report that PETA just obtained reveals.

During the event in March, Lopez offered photo opportunities with the tigers, who are confined to small travel trailers and hauled all over the country. According to Liberty city officials, Lopez tried passing off another exhibitor’s license as her own to the event organizer.

“No stranger to skirting law enforcement, this menacing menagerie drags along an extensive rap sheet wherever it travels,” says PETA Foundation Associate Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Debbie Metzler. “PETA urges kind people to avoid the tawdry tiger shows at flea markets—and everywhere else.”

PETA opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview, and its motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment.” For more information, please visit or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

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Feds Cite Local Flea Market’s Tiger Exhibit After PETA Tip

For Immediate Release:
June 7, 2021

David Perle 202-483-7382

Liberty, Texas – After PETA tipped off the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to an illegal tiger display at a TVE Fairgrounds flea market by Lisa Lopez—who operates under the name “All Things Wild” and has no federal license to exhibit animals—the agency issued a citation to her and ordered an end to the display, an inspection report that PETA just obtained reveals.

During the event in March, Lopez offered photo opportunities with the tigers, who are confined to small travel trailers and hauled all over the country. According to city officials, Lopez tried passing off another exhibitor’s license as her own to the event organizer.

“No stranger to skirting law enforcement, this menacing menagerie drags along an extensive rap sheet wherever it travels,” says PETA Foundation Associate Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Debbie Metzler. “PETA urges kind people to avoid the tawdry tiger shows at flea markets—and everywhere else.”

PETA opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview, and its motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment.” For more information, please visit or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

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Travel center planned for Bourbonnais Parkway interchange on I-57 | Local News

BOURBONNAIS — A Road Ranger travel center is proposed to open on the Bourbonnais Parkway in late 2022 or early 2023.

The Rockford-based company purchased an 11-acre lot on the southwest side of the Interstate 57 interchange (Exit 318).

Details of the project were presented during a Bourbonnais finance committee meeting last week.

The travel center would include fuel service areas for automobiles and semi-tractor trailers. There would be a convenience store that includes food services.

Jennings Realty of Chicago is the developer for the undisclosed landowner of 145 acres on the east side of U.S. Route 45/52 between Indian Oaks Road (East 5000N County Road) and Bourbonnais Parkway (East 6000N Road).

The travel center would become the third located in Kankakee County. There is a Love’s Travel Stop located at Exit 308 on I-57 in Kankakee and the company is currently building a facility on the east side of Grant Park.

During its presentation, Jennings representatives asked trustees for $1.5 million in tax increment financing (TIF) to be used for infrastructure work on three connecting lots on the south side of the parkway, which includes the 11-acre lot Road Ranger is purchasing.

TIF districts allow local governments to invest in infrastructure and other improvements through the property taxes generated within the district’s boundaries.

Jennings’ financial officer, Jim Adamo, said the money would be paid back through tax revenues (sales tax and gaming tax). The length of the loan is until 2029, but Adamo said that it could be paid off in three to five years based on projected revenues.

Trustees gave approval for attorneys representing all interests to work out the details.

Mayor Paul Schore said the village has been in discussion for the past year on the project.

“This will bring in a lot of out-of-town money,” Schore said. “This is a quality project, a good project.”

The village has not had any serious discussions with other businesses looking at the area, though another 10.4-acre lot on the southeast corner of Bourbonnais Parkway at U.S. 45/52 has drawn a lot of interest, he said.

Schore and other village officials visited Road Ranger’s travel center in Marion, which opened late last year.

Realtor Jeff Bennett of McColly Real Estate was the land broker for Jennings.

“This is the perfect fit for the first project involving the Bourbonnais Parkway Exchange,” Bennett said. “This is a win-win for all sides.”

Road Ranger plans to invest between $9 million and $10 million in the project, Bennett said. It expects to employ between 60 and 70 full-time and part-time workers.

Range Rover officials didn’t respond to an email for additional information. The company owns 74 travel center and convenience store locations in Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Missouri, Texas, Arkansas and Wisconsin. Half of the locations are located in Illinois.

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