Entertainment: Save money on fun by staying local

The high price of gasoline has caused Gene Newman of Madera to hang up his pool cue and grab a pitching wedge.

Said the 63-year-old retiree while finishing a round of golf at Madera Municipal Golf Course recently: "I gave up playing pool. It took too much money to drive to Fresno."

Newman said he was an everyday regular at Diamond Billiards in Fresno for more than 15 years. Now he plays golf at Madera Muni, just four miles from his home, and spends more time reading from his collection of science fiction and historical fiction books.

Bill Green of Oakhurst, another Madera Muni regular, said the price of gas forced him to make a choice: golf or dining out. Golf won.

"I can't do both," Green said. "I'm in the senior league here, most of my friends are here."

He estimates the 100-plus mile round trip from Oakhurst to the Madera golf course costs him $20 to $25 dollars three times a week.

"I used to take trips into Fresno for lunch or dinner," the single, 71-year-old retiree said. "Now, the only time I leave Oakhurst has be an emergency. I stay at home."

What to do

  • Planning to take your family to San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles or Anaheim for a baseball game? Try one of the local minor league parks instead. At Chukchansi Park in Fresno (home of the Grizzlies) and Recreation Park in Visalia (home of the Oaks), you can watch players you'll be seeing on ESPN in a couple of years.
  • Think you can't afford your usual weeklong family vacation in the mountains? Try half a week. Alexandra Picavet, information officer for Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Parks, said families are taking more three- and four-day stays in the parks this year. And day hikers might want to check out the $15 round-trip shuttle bus from Visalia to Sequoia.
  • If your usual trip to Pismo Beach now threatens your budget, try a local beach. Reedley Beach on the Kings River is a popular spot for water-loving Valley residents, and a few foothill and mountain lakes have designated swimming areas.
  • What to avoid

    • Prime time. If you're a movie lover, check your local theater for matinee prices. And go after a big lunch, so you won't be tempted to gorge on goodies from the snack bar.
  • Bookstores and video-rental shops. Go to the library instead, where you can check out videos, as well as books, for nothing.
  • To learn more

  • Sequoias/Kings Canyon National Parks: nps.gov/seki/, sequoiashuttle.com or (559) 565-3341.
  • Yosemite National Park: yosemitepark.com or (877) 444-6777.
  • California state parks: parks.ca.gov/ or (800) 777-0369.
  • Valley pro baseball: fresnogrizzlies.com or (559) 320-TIXS, or oaksbaseball.com or (559) 625-0480.
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