Winter-weary Americans plead: Get me out of here

By Don Babwin

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Feb. 28 2014 3:28 p.m. MST

Micah Hilgendorf said the thought of heading back to ice-covered Chicago, where he owns a couple of bars, prompted him to tack on three days in Florida before and after a cruise out of Miami. He also flew to Palm Springs, Calif., for four days.

"All of that is last-minute because of the weather," Hilgendorf said.

Dave Knieriemen, a retired engineer from Fremont, Ohio, is doing the same thing.

"We've reserved a room for another night in case our flight gets canceled because of the weather," he said this week from Arizona as he watched the Cleveland Indians play a spring training game. "And it's so horrible (in Ohio) we might stay a bit longer, anyway."

Travel agents say the numbers of travelers would be even higher if all those who wanted to get away could find a seat on jets that are already full.

"It's far easier to find people a resort to stay in or a cruise ship than to find them a flight," said Gail Weinholzer, of AAA in Minnesota.

The inability to find a flight, afford a trip or get time off from work has sent a surge of customers to businesses at home that can offer even a short escape from the cold, such as tanning salons.

"We're getting a lot of people coming in here to warm up," said Kirstin Leffew, the manager of Bronze Bay Tanning in Pendleton, Ind. "They want the beds that have been used the most, the ones that are nice and hot."

Indoor water parks say they are busier than usual, too. Joe Eck, general manager of the Wilderness Resort in the Wisconsin Dells, said business is up 10 to 15 percent because of the bitter cold.

Among those who decided to go to the Wilderness — which has real palm trees, the resort will remind you — were Jennifer Drost and her family.

"Our kids are young enough where they still enjoy playing outside, but they haven't been able to because it was so darn cold," said Drost, who lives with her husband and three children in Fond du Lac, Wis. "All of us were getting on each other's nerves, (and) we just needed to get out of the house."

Associated Press writer M.L. Johnson in Milwaukee contributed to this report.

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