The Stars and Stripes were much in evidence yesterday at Maumee Bay State Park as early visitors for the Memorial Day weekend began arriving.
The entrance to the campground on the western side of the park was a veritable tribute to Old Glory: scores of small flags in close proximity lined the road.
The park, which straddles Oregon and Jerusalem Township, has been gearing up for the big weekend, according to manager Scott Doty, and has even been assisted by a corps of adult volunteers who pitched in to get the grounds ready.
The campground's 256 sites are all booked.
"People are coming in here this afternoon and evening," Mr. Doty said yesterday. "But Friday is when we'll see the biggest influx of weekend campers."
Maumee Bay's visitors are among the 32.4 million travelers expected to take to the roads this holiday weekend. That compares with 31.9 million last year and 35.3 million in 2007, according to AAA.
Drivers are in for a significantly easier time at the pump than they were at this time last year, when a gallon of gasoline was just shy of $4 a gallon locally, among the highest on record.
Yesterday, the average price of fuel in West Toledo was $2.44 a gallon, according to the Web site GasBuddy.com. AAA puts the nationwide average price of self-serve regular at $2.22.
But gasoline prices have climbed 28 cents a gallon in the last month even though there's plenty of unused refining capacity, U.S. crude oil inventories are at their highest levels in almost two decades, and demand has fallen to a 10-year low.
Analysts blame the spiking price of crude oil, which has increased about 70 percent since January, closing at $61.05 yesterday, and big investment funds, which are buying oil futures as a hedge against inflation.
"There's no lack of gasoline right now or the lack of ability to produce it, and anyone who says speculators are not playing a role in this run is delusional," explained Tom Kloza, publisher and chief oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service.
Gas prices were not a concern of John Weber yesterday as he relaxed with family members outside his RV in the park campgrounds.
That's because he lives in Clay Center, 15 minutes away.
"We made it on one tank of gas," he joked.
For the extended Weber family, Memorial Day at Maumee Bay is an annual affair.
Family members reserved four campsites and 39 relatives will make the trip to the park, some from as far afield as Columbus and Pennsylvania.
"I booked online in January, and there were only 50 campsites left," explained Ron Weber of Waterville, John's younger brother.
"I learned my lesson. You really have to book right after Christmas if you want a particular campsite," Ron Weber explained.
The park's 120-room lodge and 24 cabins were 80 percent booked for the weekend as of yesterday, according to the registration desk.
Another Memorial Day weekender in the campground was Butch Shoalts of Curtice, a mere 10 miles away.
He'll be celebrating the holiday in his 36-foot-long Sunnybrook Bristol Bay RV, which has all the amenities of home, he said.
"We're here every Memorial Day. We've been coming here for years. My grandkids will be coming, and we're just going to relax with them," Mr. Shoalts said.
The weather forecast for the weekend is mostly good. Today will be partly sunny with a high of 78. Tomorrow's high will be 82 with a chance of showers or a thunderstorm. Sunday will be dry with a high of 76, and Monday's high will be 75 with a chance of showers.
Information from The Blade's wire services was used in this report.
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