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Sharel Wallis pumps gas at Clark Gas & Oil, 903 Broad St., on Thursday. She will be staying close to home to visit with family over Memorial Day weekend. Roadways are expected to be busy as people take trips after a long pandemic year.

BELOIT — Whether Beloiters join the 70,000 other Wisconsinites hitting the road for Memorial Day weekend or choose to staycation, there are plenty of options for outdoor recreation, whether it be sipping a beer on a patio or strolling through nature spots.

The American Automobile Association (AAA) expects more than 37 million Americans to travel 50 miles or more between May 27 and May 31, a 60% increase from last year, when 23 million traveled. In Wisconsin, 711,649 residents are forecast to take a trip during the holiday weekend, a big increase from last year, when 455,159 residents traveled. Fewer people took trips last year due to the pandemic, according to Nick Jarmusz, director of public affairs for AAA—The Auto Club Group.

Auto travel is expected to increase 52% compared to 2020. The top destinations include: Las Vegas, Nevada; Orlando, Florida; Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; Denver, Colorado; and Nashville, Tennessee, according to AAA.

Americans can expect gas prices to be the most expensive since 2014 with the national average for regular unleaded possibly more expensive than $3 per gallon, although the prices aren’t expected to deter travelers eager to get out after the pandemic year, Jarmusz said.

As of Thursday, the average gas price in Rock County is $2.82 a gallon. The current average gas price in Wisconsin is $2.88, up from a month ago when it was $2.74, and a year ago when it was $1.83.

Travelers might want to budget extra time due to road construction. Most notably, the I-39/90 Expansion Project in Janesville and Beloit is ongoing with lane shifts and reduced speed limits near the Interstate 43 interchange in Beloit and the Highway 26 and 14 interchanges in Janesville.

“We encourage motorists to plan ahead, slow down and leave room to brake in these work zones,” Wisconsin Department of Transportation Region Communications Manager Steve Theisen said.

There are holiday work restrictions, meaning no work operations impacting traffic, from noon Friday, May 28 until 6 a.m. Tuesday, June 1, Theisen added.

Other nearby projects for drivers to be aware of include Wisconsin Highway 11 resurfacing from Browntown to Brodhead; Wisconsin 213 bridge replacement; and Wisconsin Highway 69 resurfacing. For information on projects in southwest Wisconsin, people can visit https://projects.511wi.gov/region/southwest.

Although there won’t be a Memorial Day parade this year, entertainment options abound in the downtown area along with lots of natural exploration opportunities throughout the region, according to Visit Beloit CEO Celestino Ruffini.

The Beloit Farmers Market runs Saturday from 9 a.m.—noon downtown and Kauffman’s Country Store Market run by Steve Williams will be at the store’s lawn at 9550 W. State Road 81 from 8:30 a.m.—1 p.m. Saturday.

Ruffini said Memorial Day weekend marks a home weekend for the Snappers who will be playing the Peoria Chiefs on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

In addition to the well known parks such as Big Hill and Riverside Park and Beckman Mill,11600 S County Road H, there are lesser-known natural areas people can visit.

The Green-Rock Audubon Society has the following properties to explore which Ruffini recommends: Androne Woods, 7101 W Cleophas Road; Cleophas Reserve, 6734 W. Cleophas Road; Gabower-Reilly Reserve, 6705 W. Cleophas Road; Spring Creek Reserve, 3499 W Spring Creek Road; and Taylor Property, 6400 Cleophas Road. For more information visit https://www.greenrockaudubon.org.

Nature at the Confluence, 306 Dickop St., South Beloit, is offering the new Rock River Birding and Hiking Trail. People can park in the area around the 200 block of Oak Grove Avenue to view a nest of eaglets via their binoculars. South Beloit City Park has also reopened.

While there are no guided paddle trips, Ruffini recommends people check out the Rocktown Adventures website https://rocktownadventures.com for information on kayak rentals. One popular route is to start in Shopiere and end at NATC. More information on trip planning is available at www.friendsofturtlecreek.com.

DC Estate Winery, 8877 State Line Road, South Beloit, is a popular destination as is G5 Brewing Company, 8877 State Line Road, South Beloit.

People are also invited to pick up a passport to get stamped on a “beer trail.” Participating establishments include: CheezHead Brewing, Artisan Pub, Grand Avenue Pub, Lucy’s #7 Burger Bar, and G5 Brewing Company.

“If you make a stop at all five you can redeem your passport for a craft beer T-shirt,” Ruffini said.

Those who prefer other drinks can join the Cafe Trail with stops at Bagels & More, Blender Cafe, Blue Collar Coffee, the Flying Pig and Dee Dee’s Main Street Coffee & Decor in Rockton.The passport can be redeemed for a Cafe Trail coffee mug. Details are available at www.visitbeloit.com.

Areas south of the border to explore include Historic Auto Attractions with Famous cars, TV memorabilia and artifacts from American presidents displayed in an eclectic museum at 13825 Metric Road, Roscoe. The Nygren Wetland Preserve, 3190 W Rockton Road, Rockton, is a 721-acre tract near the confluence of the Rock River and Pecatonica River, making it an important stopover and nesting spot for many species of birds including sandhill cranes.