Gas prices can't keep weekenders off the water

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KNOXVILLE (WVLT) - Memorial Day weekend typically brings about the unofficial start of summer. This year the third weekend of May has also brought about record high gas prices.

AAA says gas prices jumped about a nickel a gallon between Friday night and Saturday morning.

Even with historically high fuel prices, some East Tennessee residents aren't ready to give up hitting the road and water just yet.

David Tippett is among them. On Saturday he was enjoying the warm weather and lamenting what it costs his friend to fill up his boat.

"I don't want to see his bill, its way too expensive," Tippett said. "Everything is so expensive in general that you need to be able to afford it to actually have one and have a good time with it."

On Saturday, AAA said a gallon of regular unleaded averaged about $3.91 nationwide and $3.79 in Knoxville. The price off land is a different matter.

"I haven't checked to see where they're at here on the water," said Matthew Castle, a boat owner. "I'm too scared to look."

Even though a gallon of regular unleaded cost $4.40 at the dockside pumps at Fox Road Marina, it still hasn't been enough to keep boaters docked.

"It's been just as crowded as any Memorial Day I've seen here," said Mike Rapier, the marina manager at Fox Road who has been there for five years. According to Rapier, even though nautical traffic is brisk this weekend, gas prices have changed what boaters do when they leave.

"I've had a lot of people say, they were just going to go down to the Cove, and hang out," he said. "They aren't going to do the skiing and tubing, or run all the way down to the dam and back like they normally would do."

Even if the gas prices didn't take boaters off the water, it did take some drivers like Jack Younce off the road.

"You've got to acknowledge that it's four dollars a gallon and it's just not do-able," he said. "Long trips just aren't do-able at this point."

Susin Desai drove to town from North Carolina to visit her family, and was one of the picnickers enjoying Saturday’s weather at the Cove in Knoxville’s Concord Park.

"We're just a really close and we enjoy being with the family,” she said. “We weren't going to let gas prices stop us from being able to see them."

AAA estimates that gas prices will keep about one percent of typical travelers home this Memorial Day holiday.

That's about 360,000 people.

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