December 2, 2021

The Forum Is Back!

The Forum (also commonly known as a Bulletin Board) was a featured part of EightWheels.com in past years. It allowed everyone here to share, easily and in an organized fashion. But over the last couple of years, it was overrun by spammers registering to use the board. Even though I was able to prevent them from posting, I couldn’t find a way to easily prevent them from signing up, and in a short period of time I had thousands of registrations to sort through to try and find the legitimate sign-ups. So I ended up closing the forum about a year ago.

With the new site design a couple of months ago, I started once again looking for more spam-proof forum software that would integrate with the new design, and I found it! In fact, as you can see, it’s better integrated with the site than the previous forum ever was. It looks good, and so far it’s also working great. The jury is still out on whether spammers will be kept away, but so far none have successfully registered, while several individual users have signed up without problems.

Right now there are two separate sections: one for drivers, and one for passengers. Each has several sub-sections. More will be added in the future as I see the need.

You must register to use the forum. After clicking on Forum in the navigation bar at the top of any page, just click the Register button on one of the Forum pages, and follow the directions there to sign up. Then feel free to interact with some of the topics already started, in the most appropriate section, or click the new topic button and start a new topic of your own. It’s easy and fun!

Also new this week on EightWheels.com are polls! They may show up at various spots around the site in the future, on individual posts or in one of the sidebars. Right now there is a post in the right sidebar, just for motorcoach drivers, on GPS use. If you’re a driver, take a second to vote.

Site and Photo Gallery Updates

I’ve been working way too much recently, but you have to make hay while the sun shines, right? LOL … In between trips, I’ve made a few updates to the site and added a couple of photo galleries. The FAQ is back! Not many changes from the previous version a while back, but it’s been updated some. Also in the Links menu is a new page for State DOT Sites for each state in the USA. Plus I’ve added a few more links on the Parking & More links page.

Two new photo galleries have also been added — photos from two different, recent visits to the Arlington National Cemetery, and a few photos from a trip to FDR’s home in Hyde Park, NY. Check them out when you have a chance.
[note]Arlington National Cemetery
FDR Home[/note]

The Case of the Disappearing Rest Stops

Virginia Rest Area, Mile 54 South, I-81, one of the rest areas to be closed July 21, 2009.

Virginia Rest Area, Mile 54 South, I-81, one of the rest areas to be closed July 21, 2009.


With the downturn in the economy, states across the country are experiencing budget crises, and looking for ways to cut expenses anywhere they can. And many are looking for quick fixes — short term savings regardless of the long term consequences. One of those shortsighted “fixes” affects all of us who travel, drivers and passengers: the closing of state operated rest stops.

States are discovering they can save millions of dollars, in some cases, by closing interstate rest areas that produce little or no direct income. Virginia, for example, is closing 18 interstate rest areas next week (July 21, 2009), and one of their welcome centers on I-66 in September, for a reported savings of almost $9 million annually. Maine is closing two rest areas on I-95 to save about $700,000. Vermont has already temporarily closed four rest areas, and is considering permanently closing six rest areas, for a savings of $1 million annually. Louisiana has closed 24 of its 34 rest areas since 2000, four of them last year. Colorado, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Arizona and others are also considering closing highway rest areas.

One of Virginia's rest areas on I-81, closed 7/21/09 for budgetary reasons.

One of Virginia's rest areas on I-81, closed 7/21/09 for budgetary reasons.

While states may be saving a few dollars short term, it comes at the expense of both the traveling public and the local economy. The loss of 24/7 toilets at rest stops is just the most obvious loss. Now travelers will need to exit the highway to find facilities, relying on businesses — at their expense — to provide facilities. Some of those businesses will benefit from the increased traffic, but many aren’t prepared and can’t handle the increase. Most of them are not open 24/7, so travel times will be affected. Very few of them can handle animals, so travel with pets will be much more difficult, too. My guess is that we’re going to see a lot more cars parked alongside the road, both people and pets relieving themselves along the highway, the most dangerous place they could possibly be.

And what about buses? Fifty passengers descending on McDonald’s to use the restrooms may be slow but workable, at least occasionally … but what about multiple buses? Few small businesses can handle the parking needs of a motorcoach, let alone a sudden crowd of 50 or more people arriving at the same time. Trucks will have similar issues when it comes to parking needs. Rest stops have provided them a safe, off-the-road parking spot to catch a nap or just take a safety break. With more trucks parked on the shoulders of the highway, everyone’s safety is jeopardized. Studies have shown that the greater the distance between rest stops, the higher the truck accident rate.

Many small attractions in communities across the country have not been able to afford advertising other than the brochure racks in rest stops. Even larger attractions benefit significantly from the advertising opportunities at rest areas. Some will experience significantly fewer visitors from the loss of exposure and may ultimately close.

So short term, yes, states save a few dollars by closing rest areas. But it seems very shortsighted to me, with a very high potential cost down the road, from both an economic and safety standpoint. What do you think? Add your comments below.

UPDATE 7-28-09 — Here’s a link to a complete list of Virginia’s rest areas (from Virginia DOT) showing both open and closed rest areas that may be helpful:

http://virginiadot.org/travel/map-rest-area.asp

Six New Photo Galleries Posted

KABOOM! An 8 inch mortar is fired at the Gettysburg Reenactment.

KABOOM! An 8 inch mortar is fired at the Gettysburg Reenactment.

I’ve been working at getting caught up on posting photos to my Photo Gallery pages. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve posted six new galleries, including over 350 photos from the 9-day PBU Chorale Tour in early June, a day trip to Hickory Bridge Farm, almost 150 photos from my 8-day tour to Branson, Missouri, a few photos from the Culinary Institute of America, over 80 photos from a 3-day trip to Niagara Falls, and over 60 photos from my first trip of the 3rd quarter 2009 to the Gettysburg Battle Reenactment.

Prints from any of the galleries are available for purchase; just click “Add to Cart” while viewing the photo you want, and follow the directions to select quantity, size, finish, etc. Check them out today!

[note]PBU Chorale Tour 2009
Hickory Bridge Farm
Branson, Missouri
Culinary Institute of America
Niagara Falls, Ontario
Gettysburg Battle Reenactment
[/note]

Five of My Favorite Broadway Shows

I love Broadway shows, and because I frequently do trips to New York City, I get to see a few shows each year. Here’s a list of my top five favorite Broadway shows that are still playing, plus a few others worth seeing and two of my all-time favorites that are no longer playing.

1) The Phantom of the Opera

The longest running show on Broadway, and once you’ve seen it you start to understand why. Great music. And one of those very rare shows you want to see more than once. I had one passenger recently who was seeing it for the 11th time!

2) Mamma Mia

I love ABBA’s music, and this is a fun story built around their great songs. Another one you can see more than once — my wife has been there twice already.

3) Jersey Boys

Okay, I love oldies … and I love Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. So this show in a no-brainer — great music and a great, mostly true, story. [Read more…]

Five Day Trips Everyone Should Do

Day trips by motorcoach are something nearly everyone can do and enjoy. Here are five destinations that should definitely be on your short list if you’re in the eastern PA area and haven’t already done them at least once. All are easy and inexpensive; just dress comfortably and wear good walking shoes. Most tour companies offer trips here, but if you want to go with the best, go with Hagey Tours, the company I drive for. You can go by yourself on a public (retail) tour, or if you have a group, charter a trip especially designed just for your group, including custom pick-up and drop-off points.

1) New York City

What an easy way to visit the Big Apple! Take the motorcoach directly to the Times Square area. There is so much to do. If you like Broadway shows, pick up a half price (or deeply discounted) ticket for a same-day show at the TKTS booth in the center of Times Square. Lunch at one of the hundreds of great restaurants. Shop along Fifth Avenue in some of the most famous stores in the world. A short subway ride takes you [Read more…]

Five Things to Take With You on Your Next Motorcoach Trip

It’s easy to make your next motorcoach tour just a little more pleasant by remembering a few of these things to take with you. You may or may not want to take all of these, but consider the following.

1) Bottle of water

Even though most tours stop regularly for rest stops and meals, having a bottle of water along quenches your thirst, especially if you’re talking a lot with a seat mate or other fellow passengers. If you’re hungry, it can also hold off hunger pains until the next food stop. A snack bar or energy bar might also be a good idea if you think you might get hungry on the road.

2) Neck pillow

Seats on modern motorcoaches usually recline and are quite comfortable, but it’s always nice to have a small pillow of some kind with you. Places like Brookstone or gift shops in service plazas sell small pillows especially suitable for traveling, but [Read more…]

Eight Tips for Group Leaders on Motorcoach Trips

Have you chartered a motorcoach for your group’s trip? Great — smart move! Here are eight tips for you, the group leader, from my perspective as your driver for your charter trip.

1. Introduce yourself, as the person in charge, to your driver.

You’d be amazed how often we have to guess or ask around the group to find out who is in charge of things like letting us know when you’re ready to depart, confirm destinations and time schedules, letting us know that all passengers have boarded, etc. Sometimes our paperwork tells us who’s in charge and we can find you, but just as often the person listed on our paperwork is the person who booked the coach for the trip, not the person who’s actually in charge on trip day.

2. Ride Bus #1, and sit in the front of the coach.

If you’ve booked multiple coaches for your group, the overall group leader should ride on the first coach in the group. Sometimes last minute “executive decisions” need to be made en route, and it’s difficult [Read more…]

Are Buses the New Way to Go?

That’s the title of an article yesterday in USA Today. It’s an interesting summary of low cost travel on some of the newer carriers providing very inexpensive rides between major cities in the east, midwest, and western us, including Megabus (CoachUSA) and BoltBus (Greyhound).
[note]Are Buses the New Way to Go?[/note]

Mystery Tour and Ligonier Photo Galleries Posted

I’ve posted photos from two of my most recent Hagey Tours: a Mystery Tour April 23 that included a tour of the fascinating Duke Farms in Hillsborough, NJ, and the Red Mill Museum Village in Clinton, NJ; and a two-day tour, April 26-27, to Ligonier, PA, that included visits to two of Frank Lloyd Wright’s homes, Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob, plus tours of the Compass Inn Museum in Laughlintown, PA and Fort Ligonier in Ligonier, PA. Both were great trips, very interesting for the passengers and great photo opportunities.
[note]Mystery Tour Gallery
Fallingwater/Ligonier Tour Gallery[/note]