The Holiday Season Favorite Veggie: Sweet Potato or Yam?

A delicious discussion

We’re about to enter the hustle and bustle of the holiday season with Thanksgiving this weekend and Christmas right around the corner. When we think of these two holidays, the meal often shared with family is what comes to mind.

It’s turkey time! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The turkey, dressings, and cranberry sauce are the stars of these delicious holiday spreads but there is one sweet product that appears in several different courses especially during the Thanksgiving and Christmas meals. This one vegetable is a must-have for a traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner to be complete.

Lettuce for your Thanksgiving dinner salad © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The vegetable I am speaking of is the sweet potato. Just mentioning it now does your mouth start to water thinking about the sweet potato casseroles, baked sweet potatoes, sweet potato pie, and candied sweet potatoes (not yams)? Yams have starchy flesh and a bark-type skin compared to the sweet potato with reddish-brown skin and moist sweet flesh.

What makes the sweet potato so unique during these holidays is how it can appear in so many different courses. The sweet potato can be used in bread, casseroles, pies—the list goes on with so many different delicious recipes to showcase the sweet potato. 

Wine for your Thanksgiving dinner © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But, shopping for sweet potatoes in some grocery stores can be a puzzling experience. These commonly seen orange tubers we know as sweet potatoes are occasionally labeled as yams.

Related: Thanksgiving & Staying Safe

You might be thinking, “But I see yams at my grocery store all the time”…and you’d be right that they’re labeled that way. But this label is deceiving.

Oranges for Thanksgiving © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You can find sweet potatoes at just about any grocery store. However, in North America and Europe, you will only find true yams stocked at international and specialty markets.

Sweet potato or yam? That is the question.

Pies for your Thanksgiving dinner © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Yams in the U.S. are actually sweet potatoes with a relatively moist texture and orange flesh. Yams and sweet potatoes are botanically unrelated. Yams are part of the Dioscoreaceae or Yam family, closely related to grasses and lilies, and originate in Asia and Africa. The edible roots vary in size from a half-pound to a record 130 pounds. There are over 600 varieties of yams and 95 percent of these crops are grown in Africa.

Sweet Potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) are from the Convolvulaceae or morning glory family. Their colors may be white, yellow, orange, reddish-orange, and even purple, both firm and soft varieties.

Food for your Thanksgiving dinner © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Despite the shared name, sweet potatoes are only distantly related to the potatoes used to make French fries or potato chips. Non-sweet potatoes (including red, white, and Yukon gold varieties) are part of the edible nightshade family. Other members include tomatoes, tomatillos, eggplants, peppers, pimentos, and Goji berries.

Aside from growing similarly and looking alike, sweet potatoes and yams are often confused as the same vegetable. A true yam is a starchy edible root and imported to America from the Caribbean or Africa. Unfortunately, I can find none that are produced in North America.

Food for your Thanksgiving dinner (?) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While the origin of the sweet potatoes has never been determined, many botanists think they originated in South America. The earliest cultivation records of the sweet potato date to 750 BCE (BC) in Peru although archeological evidence shows cultivation of the sweet potato might have begun around 2500-1850 BCE.  By the time Christopher Columbus arrived in the ‘New World’ in the late 15th century, sweet potatoes were well established as food plants in South and Central America.

Food for your Thanksgiving dinner © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Columbus brought sweet potatoes back to Spain, introducing them to the taste buds and gardens of Europe. Europeans referred to the sweet potato as the potato which often leads to confusion when searching for old sweet potato recipes. It wasn’t until after the 1740s that the term sweet potato began to be used by American colonists to distinguish it from the white (Irish) potato.

Related: Thanksgiving Road Trip: See the Best of Arizona in these 8 Places

The word yam is of West African origin. Two languages spoken there have similar versions of the word. In Fulani, the word is nyami and it means “to eat.”

Pies for your Thanksgiving dinner © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When colonists brought the sweet potato to North America, the Portuguese changed the word to inhame; the Spanish changed it to iñame; both are presumed derivations of the African words for yams due to their similar appearance. Its first usage in English was igname. By the mid-1600s, the English spelling had changed to y-a-m.

Food for your Thanksgiving dinner © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wherever and whenever they originated, and however they have traveled the globe, I’m incredibly thankful that most of us have sweet potatoes in our lives today especially as we approach Thanksgiving.

The yam is a major food source for millions of people in tropical and subtropical regions especially in West and Central Africa where at least 60 million people depend on it. More than 96 percent of the world’s production is grown in West Africa. However, 41 species of wild yams are becoming endangered and research is ongoing on how to preserve these essential plants.

Carrots for your Thanksgiving dinner © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

According to its latest publication, the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of Threatened Species, these species are principally those in the genus that are only found in Madagascar and southern Africa.

Yams are an important food in Madagascar. They are usually eaten boiled and provide an important source of carbohydrates, fiber, potassium, and a range of micronutrients. While cultivated varieties are available, much of Madagascar’s rural community opt for eating wild yams.

Food for your Thanksgiving dinner © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worldwide sweet potato production and consumption are huge. All around the world people eat and use this food, its plant leaves, and roots. With a vast array of uses, sweet potatoes are among the world’s most important food crops. Annually, more than 130,000,000 tons (that’s 260,000,000,000 pounds) are produced around the world.

Turkey for your Thanksgiving dinner! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sweet potatoes are primarily grown in tropical to subtropical regions since they prefer a daytime temperature of 75 degrees and warm nights. Sweet potatoes rank among the world’s seven most important food crops (along with wheat, rice, maize, potato, barley, and cassava). In over 50 countries, it’s one of the top five food crops grown with China producing over 90 percent of the total.

Related: There Is No Winter like a Desert Winter in the Valley of the Sun

Asia’s crop is used for both human consumption and animal feed. Yearly, China uses over 60,000,000,000 pounds of plant leaves as feed for pig stocks.

Food for your Thanksgiving dinner © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

South America, the sweet potato’s original home, produces about 4,000,000,000 pounds yearly. North America produces about 1,200,000,000 pounds yearly. The top producing locations in the United States are North Carolina, followed by California, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Significant numbers are grown in Texas, too.

Radishes for your Thanksgiving dinner salad © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While most supermarkets carry one or two different types of sweet potatoes, about 25 varieties are available in the United States. And I was amazed to discover that this represents only a tiny fraction of the total diversity of sweet potatoes.

The sweet potato geeks of the world may be fascinated to know that the International Potato Center in Peru maintains a gene bank consisting of over 6,500 varieties of sweet potato. I don’t know about you, but personally, I wish I could try them all!

Wine for your Thanksgiving dinner © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sweet potato varieties range in color from dark red to brown to purple to orange-yellow to white. They also have different tastes, sizes, shapes, and textures.

Here are just a few of the most popular types of sweet potatoes:

Garnet, Jewel, and Beauregard sweet potatoes have reddish-orange skin and deep orange flesh. These are often the ones masquerading as yams at mainstream grocery stores. Who knew sweet potatoes could be so sneaky?

Pies for your Thanksgiving dinner © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

White sweet potatoes are crumbly with white flesh and golden brown skin. They don’t contain as many antioxidants as orange varieties.

Related: I’m Dreaming of a State Park Christmas…

Okinawan sweet potatoes are also known as purple sweet potatoes because of their high anthocyanin content. Anthocyanins are the pigments that give red, blue, and violet plant foods their beautiful colors. Anthocyanins are also what give Okinawan potatoes 150 percent more antioxidant power than blueberries. Despite their name, Okinawan potatoes are actually native to the Americas. They were brought over to Japan sometime in the 16th century where they grow well and have become a staple in Japanese dishes. In North America, you will most likely find true purple sweet potatoes in an Asian supermarket.

Food for your Thanksgiving dinner © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Japanese or Satsumaimo sweet potatoes are known for being sweeter than most other types. This is especially true when they start caramelizing in the oven.

Sweet potatoes are high in fiber, vitamin C, potassium, pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), niacin (vitamin B3), vitamin B6, manganese, magnesium, and copper.

Food for your Thanksgiving dinner © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

They get their orange color from beta-carotene, which is a pigment and antioxidant. Sweet potatoes also contain a modest but helpful amount of protein—around four grams per cup when cooked.

When compared to white potatoes, sweet potatoes offer more vitamins and antioxidants. Surprisingly, considering their sweeter taste, they also have a mildly lower glycemic index score. This makes them slower to digest.

Walnuts for Thanksgiving © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But the greatest sweet potato nutritional glory of all may be its rich supply of vitamin A. A single sweet potato offers over double the daily value for vitamin A.

Next time you shop for sweet potatoes, here are a few things to keep in mind. When you pick one up, take a close look at its skin (no, you don’t have to pack your magnifying glass). It should all be mostly the same color without visible signs of decay or cracking. Give it a little squeeze. You don’t want your sweet potato to be squishy anywhere, as this could indicate rotting.

Food for your Thanksgiving dinner © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When you get your sweet potatoes home, make them a nice place to rest in a basket on your countertop or pantry. You should keep them dry and cool (room temperature, not refrigerated).

Related: Fruitcake: National Joke or Tasty Christmas Tradition

Typically, you should use sweet potatoes within a few weeks of purchase.

Chile peppers for your Thanksgiving dinner © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sweet potatoes are affordable, easy to use and store, and available in many parts of the world all year long. Sounds pretty sweet to me!

Worth Pondering…

I don’t think; therefore, I yam!

Thanksgiving Road Trip: See the Best of Arizona in these 8 Places

There’s a lot more to Arizona than the Grand Canyon which is why these eight places are the perfect excuse to take a Thanksgiving road trip

This Thanksgiving, be grateful not just for the four-day weekend, but how it allows plenty of time to see Arizona at its best—winter to the north, t-shirt weather to the south.

Tubac © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The state’s scenic variety shines through as fall edges toward winter. Even as snow blankets the high country, the desert sun continues to warm snowbirds who bask in it on desert hikes.

The long Thanksgiving weekend provides the perfect opportunity to spend a day or two on the road, seeing areas that have perhaps escaped your view. Here are some suggestions to get you on your way.

Sandhill cranes at Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Willcox

This up-and-coming town in southeastern Arizona is attracting visitors who come for its wineries and tasting rooms, but you’re here to hike in Chiricahua National Monument and see the sandhill cranes. The majestic birds winter in the Sulphur Springs area, and Willcox is the perfect hub. Thousands of cranes roost in Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area, a shallow lake that is a flurry activity at sunup and sundown, when birds depart and return in a swirling cloud of feathers.

Tumacacori National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tubac and Tumacacori

Head south on Interstate 19 to Tumacacori National Historical Park, where a stately though incomplete mission stands as a reminder of the Spanish Franciscans who settled in the area two centuries ago. After soaking in the history, head 3½ miles back north for lunch in Tubac, a charming arts colony. Stroll among dozens of galleries and studios where you’ll find pottery, jewelry, paintings, and works in all sorts of media.

Boyce Thompson Arboretum © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Boyce Thompson Arboretum

See just how lush the desert can be at this oasis of more than 3,000 types of Sonoran Desert vegetation. At 392 acres, Boyce Thompson is Arizona’s largest and oldest botanical garden founded in the 1920s. There are 3 miles of trails and the most popular is the 1.5-mile main loop that offers a perfect overview. 

Montezuma Castle National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Montezuma Castle National Monument

You’ve lost count how many times you’ve whipped past the off ramp for Montezuma Castle as you head north on Interstate 17. But go ahead, angle right at Exit 289 and be rewarded with a look at a work of ingenuity and architectural design, circa 1200. The ancient dwellers carved a 40- to 50-room pueblo into the cliff and lived there for 400 years. Visitors in the early 20th century scaled ladders and explored the rooms, but ruins are off limits today. No matter, because the view from below is stunning.

Cathedral Rock at Red Rock Crossing © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Red Rock Crossing, Sedona

Among the dozens of Instagram-worthy sites around Sedona, this is one of the best. Its official name is Crescent Moon Picnic Site but it’s commonly called Red Rock Crossing. Cathedral Rock soars in the distance, its two towers book-ending a slender spire offering the perfect backdrop to Oak Creek, which flows along rocks worn smooth by water and wind. It’s also said to be home to a powerful spiritual vortex. For something more palpable, pack a lunch and dine in one of Arizona’s prettiest places.

Bisbee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bisbee

For a few years, Bisbee was the “it” destination, named Arizona’s prettiest small town by a number of travel sites. That level of attention may have dwindled, but the former mining town is as beautiful as ever. A stroll down Main Street reveals buildings that look much as they did a hundred years ago, now occupied by restaurants and boutiques rather than miners and speculators. If you head 3 miles south to Lowell, you’ll find a strip of former service stations and garages repurposed as stores and restaurants.

Courthouse Plaza, Pewscott © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Whiskey Row, Prescott

Park the car and enjoy the kind of afternoon once experienced by cowboys, miners, and ranchers looking to blow off some steam around the turn of the 20th century. While the bars aren’t nearly as numerous as they once were, you can still duck inside one of Whiskey Row’s three saloons (Bird Cage, the Palace Saloon, or Matt’s) and revel in the history. Special treat: Just across the street, Courthouse Plaza will be decked out for the holidays one of the reasons Prescott is the Arizona’s Christmas City.

Catalina State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Catalina State Park

To experience the magic of the giant saguaro cacti up-close, look no further than Catalina State Park near Tucson. There are easy nature trails here and also longer and more challenging trails for experienced hikers. The park spans 5,500 acres of foothills, streams, and canyons and is home to over 150 species of birds. RV camping is available.

Western scrub jay at Catalina State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

This was as the desert should be, this was the desert of the picture books, with the land unrolled to the farthest distant horizon hills, with saguaros standing sentinel in their strange chessboard pattern, towering supinely above the fans of ocotillo and brushy mesquite.

—Dorothy B. Hughes

Turkey Talk At Thanksgiving

Let’s talk turkey. We’ll examine some little known facts about the turkey to gobble up along with your Thanksgiving feast.

Today is my favorite holiday of the year.

No presents to buy.

And as Canadian Snowbirds we have the opportunity of celebrating Thanksgiving in October (Canadian Thanksgiving) and again today.

The only thing to spend is time with family, food, and football.

Giving thanks for turkeys © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Thanksgiving holiday is an opportune time to consider turkeydom—the wild stock and those top-heavy, farm-raised birds that are pardoned and spared from the dinner table each Thanksgiving by the President of the United States.

Giving thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You know you’ll probably eat too much. But what do you really know about Thanksgiving? What do you know about the headliner of the day, Tom Turkey?

Giving thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wild Turkeys are native to North America, with some interesting historical and geographical twists along the way. The common turkey was tamed between 800 and 200 BC by the people of pre-Columbian Mexico. Up until about 1100 AD, the Pueblo peoples raised turkeys primarily for their feathers for use in rituals, ceremonies, and textiles.

Giving thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Then in the 1500s, European explorers carried wild turkeys back to Europe, where the birds were further domesticated. When early English settlers brought turkeys to Eastern North America a century later, the species crossed the ocean once again.

Giving thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wild turkeys live in hardwood forests and marshlands. Equipped with powerful legs and clawed toes, they are adept at raking through leaf litter and moderate snow depths. Their broad diet includes over 600 types of fruits, nuts, waste grains, grasses, and insects. At night, Wild turkeys roost in trees for shelter and predator protection.

Giving thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Appearance-wise, the Wild Turkey won’t win a beauty contest. Males have blue or gray featherless necks and heads that can shift color according to the bird’s emotional state. When angry or during courtship displays, the neck and head turn a radiant red. The male toms are the larger sex that boasts a spikey “beard” of feathers protruding from their mid-chest.

Giving thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The snood is a fleshy flap that hangs from the beak; prominent bumps on the head and throat are termed carbuncles, while the wattles drape from under the chin. These physical characteristics are far more pronounced in domestic turkeys.

Giving thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Most commercial turkey farmers breed their birds to have white feathers because white feathers leave no spots on the skin when plucked. Bred exclusively for the table, flightless domestic turkeys are 70 percent white meat and 30 percent dark meat. This differs from their wild relatives, whose breast flesh is darker due to their active flight habits.

Giving thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The two types of meat differ nutritionally. White meat has fewer calories and less fat than dark meat. The rich flavor of dark meat is especially valued in soup and stew recipes. Dark meat holds up well in rich marinades and is a perfect choice for grilling and barbecuing.

Giving thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Benjamin Franklin, who proposed the turkey as the official United States’ bird, was dismayed when the bald eagle was chosen over the turkey. Franklin wrote to his daughter, referring to the eagle’s “bad moral character,” saying, “I wish the bald eagle had not been chosen as the representative of our country! The turkey is a much more respectable bird, and withal a true original native of America.”

Giving thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863, supposedly as a response to a campaign organized by magazine editor Sara Joseph Hale. In 1939, President Franklin Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving Day forward one week, as it is presently celebrated.

Giving thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 2012, more than 253.5 million turkeys were raised. More than 210 million were consumed in the United States. An estimated 46 million of those turkeys were eaten at Thanksgiving, 22 million at Christmas, and 19 million at Easter.

Giving thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nearly 88 percent of Americans surveyed by the National Turkey Federation eat turkey at Thanksgiving. The average weight of turkeys purchased for Thanksgiving is 16 pounds, meaning that approximately 736 million pounds of turkey were consumed in the United States during Thanksgiving in 2012.

Giving thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Deep fried turkey originated in the southern United States but is popular today throughout North America. Quickly cooked, deep-fried turkey is rich in flavor with a golden brown crispy exterior while moist and fork-tender on the interior.

Turkey consumption has nearly doubled over the past 25 years. In 2012, per capita turkey consumption was 16 pounds compared to 8.3 pounds in 1975.

Giving thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Turkey can be used in so many cooking methods, including stovetop, oven, microwave, and grill. The wide range of cuts and products available such as ground turkey, turkey ham, turkey franks, turkey pastrami, turkey sausage, turkey bacon, and deli turkey make this protein easy to incorporate into any meal.

Giving thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Did you Know?

Only tom turkeys gobble. Hen turkeys make a clicking noise.

Domesticated turkeys cannot fly. Wild turkeys can fly for short distances up to 55 miles per hour and can run 20 miles per hour.

Thanksgiving & Our RV Lifestyle: Giving Thanks

Have a Happy Thanksgiving and Safe Travels

Many will be on the road traveling today and throughout this Thanksgiving weekend.

Thanksgiving is the biggest travel weekend in America, and RVers are out in force, back on the road, crossing the country in their RVs to spend Thanksgiving with family and friends.

Giving Thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And many snowbirds are traveling south to their favorite Sunbelt roost to avoid the rigors of another northern winter.

I have so much to be thankful for! I give thanks to my partner—my wife Dania, my co-pilot—and our family and friends.

Giving Thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With a lifelong love of travel, a condo-on-wheels has always been our destiny. Yes, we’re living our dream! We’ve wintered in California, Arizona, Texas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.

Our RV travels have taken us to over 40 states and four western provinces.

Giving Thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

I am thankful as Canadian Snowbirds that we have the opportunity of celebrating Thanksgiving in October (Canadian Thanksgiving) and again in November.

Thanksgiving offers the opportunity to reflect on life, liberty, and the pursuit of full hookup campgrounds with really good Wi-Fi.

We’re thankful that RV travel is so popular in our own vast and wonderful countries.

Giving Thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

I’m thankful for our continued health and safety while traveling. Any time you venture onto highways, you are rolling the dice. So far we’ve enjoyed over 150,000 miles of safe and mostly carefree travel as we cruise the highways and byways of our two great nations!

Giving Thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

I am thankful for our freedom. As Americans and Canadians we take so much for granted when it comes to freedom. We have freedom of speech, expression, the right to vote, and so much more that others across the world only dream of. That freedom came at a price—and that is the lives of many of our servicemen and women.  So, I also would like to give thanks to our troops.

Giving Thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Oh yeah … and I give thanks to the Internet which has given me the opportunity to share my thoughts on RV Travel.

Stay tuned, friends…the best is yet to come!

Giving Thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What are you thankful for?

Best wishes for a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend from our family here to you and yours.  We hope it will be full of amazing food, love and laughter and of course–great wines!

Have a Happy Thanksgiving and Safe Travels…and we’ll see you back here tomorrow!

Giving Thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Thanksgiving Day Stats

Key to any Thanksgiving Day menu are a fat turkey and cranberry sauce.

An estimated 238 million turkeys were raised for slaughter in the U.S. during 2014, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistical Service.

Giving Thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

About 46 million of those turkeys ended up on U.S. dinner tables on Thanksgiving—or about 736 million pounds of turkey meat, according to estimates from the National Turkey Federation.

Minnesota is the United States’ top turkey-producing state, followed by Arkansas, North Carolina, Indiana, Missouri, Virginia, and California. These “big seven” states produce more than two of every three U.S.-raised birds, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

Giving Thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

U.S. farmers also produced an estimated 841 million pounds of cranberries in 2014, which, like turkeys, are native to the Americas. The top producers are Wisconsin, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington.

Giving Thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The U.S. grew 2.9 billion pounds of sweet potatoes—many in South Carolina, North Carolina, Mississippi, California, Texas, and Louisiana—and produced more than 1.2 billion pounds of pumpkins. Illinois, California, Pennsylvania, and Ohio grow the most U.S. pumpkins.

Worth Pondering…

Thanksgiving Day comes, by statute, once a year; to the honest man it comes as frequently as the heart of gratitude will allow.

—Edward Sandford Martin

Thanksgiving & Staying Safe

Here are our top tips for making your road trip safe and enjoyable this Thanksgiving

As the busy Thanksgiving holiday travel season kicks off and cold temperatures begin blanketing many parts of the country, it’s time to pack a little more patience as hundreds of thousands more travelers head out for turkey and stuffing this year.

Thanksgiving and giving thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Thanksgiving is the biggest travel weekend in America and RVers are out in force, back on the road, crossing the country in their RVs to spend Thanksgiving with family and friends. And many snowbirds are traveling south to their favorite Sunbelt roost to avoid the rigors of another northern winter.

Thanksgiving and giving thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

More than 55 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles from home for the holiday, according to an AAA news release. The Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday, November 27, to Sunday December 1.

Thanksgiving and giving thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The busiest days to travel are the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after Thanksgiving. If possible, AAA recommends that motorists plan their travel around these days (Thanksgiving Day is actually the best day to be on the roads).

Thanksgiving and giving thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, predicts road trips could take as much as four times longer than normal in major metros on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving and giving thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For the nearly 90 percent of travelers who will drive to their destinations there is good news: Fuel prices have been fluctuating as of late, but are currently cheaper than the national average at this time last year, giving travelers a little extra money to spend and motivating millions to take road trips. In most regions of the country, prices average about 10 cents less than last Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving and giving thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Plan your travel and route by checking the weather, road conditions, and traffic. Leave early, if possible, and allow plenty of time to safely get to your destination. Carry items in your vehicle that may prove useful in the event of an emergency or if you get stranded, including: snow shovel, broom, ice scraper, jumper cables, flashlight, flares/emergency markers, blankets, mobile phone with charger, water, food, and any necessary medication.

Thanksgiving and giving thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you become stranded, don’t run your vehicle with the windows up or in an enclosed space for an extended period of time to avoid asphyxiation from carbon monoxide poisoning. If you must run your vehicle, clear the exhaust pipe of any snow and run it only sporadically—just long enough to stay warm.

Thanksgiving and giving thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Inspect your tires to avoid a blowout and to ensure proper grip in inclement weather. Make sure each tire is filled to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended inflation pressure. Don’t forget to check your spare tire to ensure it is properly inflated.

Thanksgiving and giving thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Make sure your windshield wipers work and, if necessary, replace worn blades and completely fill your vehicle’s windshield wiper fluid reservoir.

Keep up with routine maintenance and tune ups. Have your entire vehicle checked thoroughly for leaks, badly worn hoses, or other needed parts, repairs, and replacements.

Thanksgiving and giving thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Remember to always wear your seat belt and ensure that children are buckled up in age- and size-appropriate restraints. Children under age 13 should be seated in the back seat.

We can all do our part by buckling up, obeying the speed limit, and avoiding distractions while driving.

Thanksgiving and giving thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Never drive drunk or distracted. Driving drunk kills people. In every state, it’s is against the law to drive with a blood-alcohol content of .08 or higher.

The spotlight on holiday driving led to warnings about avoiding drunken drivers. Over 1,000 people died in drunken driving crashes during the holiday season last year, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration figures reviewed by the advocacy group Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility.

Thanksgiving and giving thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

So obey the law; stay focused and alert at all times.

Doing so could save your life.

Be a patient driver and don’t speed when out on the nation’s highways.

Thanksgiving and giving thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Drivers are urged to keep their speed in check, buckle up and avoid distractions, especially texting while driving.

Drivers also should get a good night’s rest before traveling, check their vehicles’ tire pressure and be prepared for unscheduled closures due to crashes or disabled vehicles.

Thanksgiving and giving thanks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Staying up to date on weather conditions and packing an emergency preparedness kit, with items such as blankets, flashlights, extra clothes, drinking water and snack foods, is another smart idea.

Worth Pondering…

Thanksgiving Day comes, by statute, once a year; to the honest man it comes as frequently as the heart of gratitude will allow.

—Edward Sandford Martin