LIMA — Following months of sporadic rain, snow and sleet, many are thankful the unofficial summer kickoff finally has arrived: Memorial Day.
AAA estimates roughly 1.3 million Ohioans will be traveling 50 miles or more during the Memorial Day weekend holiday, stretching from today to Monday. They’ll be spending an average of $659, a figure that’s slightly lower than in 2012.
Some Lima travelers are taking advantage of the long weekend by visiting friends.
Krystal Gephart drove to Chicago with a friend Thursday night. They decided to head out before the expected rush that will likely continue through the weekend.
“We heard the traffic is going to be pretty crazy,” said Gephart, 24, of Lima, during some last-minute errands before her departure.
According to AAA, Chicago is a top 10 travel destination for Ohioans during Memorial Day weekend and throughout the summer. The top three destinations for Ohioans are Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Hilton Head, S.C.; and Orlando, Fla.
Gephart is staying with her friend’s boyfriend, and they plan to go sightseeing. It’s the first time she’s been to the Windy City as an adult; she said her friend is trying to convince her to move there.
She also may be thankful for hitting the road early. With the influx of traffic, there will be extra Ohio State Highway Patrol troopers working, particularly in construction areas like state Route 309 and Interstate 75.
“If you need to go through this area, just give yourself some extra time,” said Brant Zemelka, a Highway Patrol Post Commander.
Highway Patrol will also be out from now through June 3 for the annual Click it or Ticket campaign. During this time, instead of being a secondary offense, there will be a zero tolerance policy for those who don’t buckle up. Seven fatal accidents occurred statewide during the Memorial Day weekend in 2012. Some of them weren’t wearing seat belts.
“Seat belts save lives,” Zemelka added.
Meanwhile, Terryn Turner is heading east to Cleveland. He recently graduated from Ohio Northern University and is going to visit several college friends who live there. A cookout and shopping are on the itinerary.
“This is one time we’ll get to see each other before moving to other jobs,” said Turner, 23, of Lima.
Others are staying put.
Hicham Moukaddam, 39, a St. Rita’s Medical Center radiologist, is working throughout the weekend. He said he normally doesn’t make any big plans for the holiday. And Denise Clay will be spending most of her time at home.
“I’m just going to get some stuff done around the house,” said Clay, 59, of Lima.
She also hopes to host a cookout at her home Monday. The weather should be good for it, too. In Lima, it’s supposed to be partly cloudy with temperatures ranging from the mid- to upper-60s throughout the weekend.