Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Shadracks Christmas Wonderland lights exit 407

I just got a message asking about a 'humdinger' of a display of Christmas lights at the Smokies Baseball Stadium. The display can be seen for several miles around the I-40 at exit 407 in Tennessee. That isn't just any display folks. It's Shadrack's Christmas Wonderland and it keeps getting bigger and better each year. (Check this link for photos of the Shadrack's Christmas Wonderland 2012.)

Only three states have this spectacular show. The East Tennessee location is at the  Smokies Baseball Stadium in Kodak / Sevierville (I-40, exit 407). It runs from November 11, 2011- January 8, 2012. 

The admission price varies depending on the size and type of vehicle. Full information is available on the website for Shadrack's Christmas Wonderland at the Smokies Baseball Stadium in Sevierville (Kodak).

Three quiet places in the Magic Kingdom

There are three quiet places in Magic Kingdom that Hubby and I were able to find. Quiet is relative at Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World. You are in a kinetic frenzy of motion from the time you arrive until the time you leave. This is fun but sometimes you have to catch your breath. After searching all over the Magic Kingdom Hubby and I found three quiet spots where you can do just that.

Two of the three quiet places that we found were Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom. The first is Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe. This is an indoor, air conditioned, food court style restaurant. Each of the three bays serve different food. 

You don't normally think that a place to eat at Walt Disney World would be one of three quiet spots at Magic Kingdom but it is. Here's why.

Diners pick up trays and head to the opposite side of the restaurant from the entrance. When they do they walk away from a quiet alcove that is one of three quiet places in Magic Kingdom.

Look for it next to the entrance of Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe and on the right. Almost everyone misses this section so it the alcove is quiet. Plus, the restaurant has cool air conditioning cool and the large glass windows in the alcove are great for people watching.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Knoxville free Christmas events for 2011

If you are in or near Knoxville, Tennessee you may be interested in free Christmas events for kids. There are always a ton of great opportunities. Only a few are in this blog article. You can find many more listing on the website for the City of Knoxville or on the sites for various new agencies that cover the region.

Here are a few of the events for Knoxville. Find out more about each by clicking on the links for the event names.

Knoxville Regal Celebration of Lights 2010
Locations vary. Click link for details.
November and December is a two month long celebration of events. It includes the Regal Celebration of Lights, Comcast Christmas in the Park and lots of other activities. These are free and great for families with children.

West Town Mall
7600 Kingston Pike
November 27 at 1:00 p.m.
December 11 at 1:00 p.m.
The melodies of Christmas music float through the air at West Town Mall. This free event includes old favorites and classical pieces that children and adults will enjoy.

December 2, 2011 at 7:00 p.m.
This year the parade features Rodney Atkins. It is an event delights young and old alike. Santa Claus sneaks away from the North Pole to join in the fun. Marching bands from area high schools and floats from organizations and nonprofits add a special touch of fun. Visitors begin lining up early along the parade route.

What is a travel attorney

Every once in awhile someone will ask a question that catches me off guard. The email that came in last night asking "What is a travel attorney?" is one that did that just. Fortunately for me (and the reader) none of my favorite search engines let me down.

Blue Ridge Parkway Scenic byway sign
It appears that a travel attorney is someone who can help if problem strikes when you are on vacation or visiting another country. Specifically, it seems to be someone who can help you understand the legalities of another country.

A travel attorney may be able to help if you are involved in a DUI on foreign soil or possibly in cases of international law. The term may also used to describe attorneys who take cases involving cruise ship accidents, automobile accidents or maritime law. I also found a link that indicates the term travel attorney may be used to describe an aviation attorney.

The Aviation Law Prof Blog can give you a better feel for what a travel attorney may do. Searching with your favorite search engine may also yield additional answers.

Please keep in mind that I am a travel blogger who is definitely not in the legal field. This article should not be taken as being any kind of legal advice. It is only information that I gleaned while searching the internet.

If any of my blog readers can help out both myself and the reader who asked the question please let me know. The comments field is always available or you can email me from the link on the top of the page. Thanks.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Patagonia cruise now on my bucket list

Looking at other travel blogs and websites is becoming dangerous for me. My bucket list of places to visit keeps expanding. Ever since we went to Alaska and Glacier National Park I've wanted to see other glaciers. Now, it looks like a trip to visit Patagonia will be added to my bucket list.

Patagonia aerial view
Source: Wikimedia Commons
Patagonia is between Chile and Argentina. It includes part of the Andes Mountains to the Pacific Ocean and through the Colorado River to the Atlantic Ocean in the east.

Glacial lakes are said to often hold icebergs which I'd like to see. But don't think that this land is all ice and snow. There are green valleys, wildlife and low lying rivers.

Hubby and I have discussed taking a cruise for our 25th anniversary. Maybe we should consider a Patagonia and Cape Horn cruise. 

One of the most interesting cruise routes goes through the Strait of Magellan and Beagle Channel. This cruise carries visitors to the Pia Glacier and to the Garibaldi Glacier.

Part of my interest cruises to see glaciers stems from the fact that they are shrinking. I've been told that many glaciers worldwide may be gone in the next few decades. This makes me incredibly sad and spurs my interest in seeing them before it's too late.

Cruises from companies like the one linked above carefully consider the environment. They understand the delicate balance between protecting the environment and tourism. What is a vacation to some may be part of a days work for another. Some cruises even have scientists aboard who are studying the Patagonia region.

How does all this sound for amazing? Plus the prices are lower than you'd expect. All of this adds up to placing a cruise to Patagonia on my bucket list.  

How to set and meet financial goals for travel

Writing is the primary way that I'm working on getting out of debt. Some of you know what I'm talking about when I talk about hitting a wall. It isn't easy to come up with ideas that will fill a blank page and keep you from being bored. Basically, my goal to travel and blog about it. 

History Hwy 11 road trip sign
The problem is that when you are writing your way out of debt (even for travel writing) missing even one day of blogging can be a setback. Toss in two or three days and it could be an issue. Not only does it mean that you aren't writing but you are potentially missing out on ad revenue. This snowballs into being unable to pay off a bill or travel.

It was a happy day when I found Setting Writing Goals and Meeting Them. The author lays out some good advice about setting goals and provides tips on how to meet them. Even I learned a few things about goal setting that will help with my travel experiences.

Budgeting and goal setting are keys to positive road trips. I was able to glean some tips about record keeping that will help me do just that. Hopefully, the tips will keep me traveling a little more often. We'll see. 

My daughter and her bridesmaids girlfriend getaway

My daughter finally had her bridesmaids getaway. After much debate about where to travel they decided to keep things simple. The goals were to keep the getaway affordable for all parties while still allowing the bridesmaids to meet each other. My daughter wanted everyone to be able to relax and get to know each other.

Trying on dresses for the bridesmaids girlfriends getaway
One of the bridesmaids was going to have to travel for almost 10 hours to arrive at the getaway. The other girlfriends were local but college students. The last thing that the future bride wanted was for expensive travel plans to keep anyone from being able to enjoy the girlfriends getaway.

Plus, schedules are much more complicated now than when I was a bride. Even though the wedding is several months away there was concern that opportunities for everyone to travel for a get together would be limited.

With travel plans and finances in mind they decided to go for a low key slumber party. The girlfriends getaway weekend became a giant slumber party.

Chocolate, DVDs and laughter ruled the weekend. There was a lot of laughing and very little sleep. Each of the bridesmaids had a good time. The next day the girlfriends had a light breakfast before traveling to the bridal salon about 40 minutes away.

Once there, I think the bridesmaids tried on every gown in the store. There was lots of laughter as selections were being made. After the total was tabulated the girlfriends getaway concluded with their favorite restaurant. They each had a good time, got to know each other and are looking forward to all the wedding planning details. What more could anyone ask for?

Don't forget to follow me on Twitter for wedding planning updates. Here are a few more links you may enjoy.

What is a bridesmaids getaway
Small gift ideas for the attendants
Should we buy wedding invitations or make them

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Our bathroom remodeling project

Our first bathroom remodeling project is complete. We are so proud of the results that I decided to blog about the remodeling experience and share the photos.

I thought about tackling the kitchen first by possibly going with an Italian kitchen design. The kitchen makeover is on the list but a little further down. starting with a smaller scale bathroom remodeling project mades sense.

Before photo
bathroom remodeling project
The bathroom was a dark peach that made the entire room look even smaller. Dark spots in the wall didn't help. Previous occupants placed a darker curtain over the single window. The curtain is pretty but would be too dark for bathroom remodeling plans and is being donated to charity.

After careful consideration I opted for an all white bathroom remodeling job. This makes the room look larger and better reflects existing light. 

Our first task in the bathroom remodeling project was to remove the existing cabinets and light fixtures. Hubby helped do some church remodeling awhile back and was able to get this done for me. It only took a few minutes for him to do what would have taken me all day.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Three free things to do in Chattanooga

There are three free things to do in Chattanooga that families or couples will enjoy. It's one of my favorite cities to visit. Not only is it close to Knoxville but two major interstates run through it which makes it accessible from Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia.

One of the free things that I like to do in Chattanooga is to visit the River View Arts District. The sculpture garden there is a thing of beauty. I think that visitors will find at least one stainless steel sculpture. There are also sculptures made from several other types of materials. Each one of these works of art is more intriguing than the next.

The arts district isn't far from the pedestrian-only Walnut Street bridge. It's between the parking lot at the Tennessee Aquarium and the Hunter Museum. Bridges like this one were constructed from the late 1800's to just after the turn of the century. The views from here are tremendous. Of the list of free things to do in Chattanooga this one takes the cake.

Visitors will also want to see the sculptures at the Hunter Museum of art. It's not free but visiting the museum is always interesting.

While you are in the area be sure to take a look at the plaza area around the Tennessee Aquarium. This is actually a park with fountains, concrete sculptures and man made stream. The concrete sculptures provide shade for summer entertainment. There aren't any picnic tables but it's not uncommon for people to have a brown bag lunch next to the man made stream.

I hope you enjoy these free things to do in Chattanooga as much as I do. There are other fun activities in the city that are free. What is your favorite? Leave a comment below to share your ideas with us.  

Three Hawaii honeymoon resorts

A friend of mine just got back from Hawaii and I've been a little envious of her ever since. Today was a cool day here in Tennessee. Going to a tropical island sounds lovely. A Hawaii honeymoon is what my younger daughter has in mind (on her long list of possibilities). It's on my bucket list so I've been checking it out too.

Because it is in a tropical climate there are unique needs for cooling, hot water heaters and boilers. Hawaii strives to be as eco-friendly and is one of the most popular places in the world for honeymoons.

I found several Hawaii honeymoon resorts that sound good and some offer all inclusive packages. These make it a snap to plan any getaway. Plus, there are more picturesque spots in this tropical paradise than anyone could hope to have. When it comes to making a honeymoon selection my daughter has her work cut out for her!

The Hilton Hawaiian Village has a romance package that includes sparkling wine or cider upon arrival. There is a full American breakfast for two served either in your room or at a designated restaurant. Plus, it has 22 acres of oceanfront to be enjoyed. Search for this Hawaii honeymoon resort online or call the hotel at 1-808-949-4321

Another Hawaii honeymoon resort is within walking distance of the beach. The Waikki Edition has an outdoor movie theater, lobby bar, surf and bikini boot camps, spa and a famous restaurant. Visitors can dine at Morimoto Waikki. If you've not heard of the restaurant you may have heard of the famous Iron Chef star Masaharu Morimoto who owns the restaurant. Call the resort at 808.943.5800 or look them up online for more information.

Then there is the oceanside Four Seasons Resort Lana’i at Manele Bay which I think my daughter may fall in love with. This Hawaii honeymoon resort is adjacent to a marine preserve. She may pack her bags when she hears about the reef fish and green sea turtles on the preserve. There there are the golf courses, pool, beach and tantalizing packages. Find them online or call the resort at 1 (800) 321-4666.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Should we do a Disney Cruise for a 25th anniversary

Hubby and I will have been together 25 years in 2013. Time passes quickly and we're looking into taking a Disney Cruise to celebrate. This isn't my idea. It's his. When we went without the kids I had to drag him away of the parks. The claw marks in the concrete were left as evidence that Hubby didn't want to leave. For him, there's no better place on earth to take a vacation than WDW. He could live there forever. 

Celebrating our 23rd anniversary
at Disney's Crystal Palace
Personally, I would like to sail just once to see what it is like. It looks like the Disney Cruise Line may offer a land and sea combination that we will both enjoy. This will be my first cruise so thinking about cruising makes me nervous. A lot of people assure me that we will have a great time.

We are also perusing brochures from companies like Carnival and Holland Cruise Lines.  A dizzying array of options abound. I fell in love with Alaska a few years ago and can't rule out a cruise there. It's going to be really tough to know which one to choose.

With a Disney Cruise it looks like we'll be able to drive down and store our camper for a few days. We can pick it up when we get back to port and take it to the Fort Wilderness Resort. I enjoyed Pop Century Resort this year but there seem to be more amenities to Fort Wilderness. Plus, after a few days on a ship I think it would be nice to have a campground experience.

Hubby just wants a cruise experience. Fortunately, we have two years to decide about a Disney Cruise. In the meantime we have to reduce our debt, ,pay for a wedding and see a daughter graduate from college. By the time all of this happens a campground may make more financially feasible than a ship. We'll see what happens. Right now it's too early rule anything out.  

Have you taken a cruise? Which would you recommend (or not)? Let us know by leaving a note in the comment section. 


Why my Dremel Tool is tops for crafts and home repair

I really like the Dremel Tool that we picked up on Black Friday last year. It was one of those things that happened to land in my shopping cart. (Honest Hubby, I still don't know how it got there!) But, I'm glad that it did.

A chameleon has nothing on this Dremel Tool. Fifty accessories came with the kit which makes it suitable for several different projects. I also like that it is compact and cordless. The full length is about 10''. Although the motor isn't powerful it works well enough for lightweight projects. It excels at grinding, cutting glass and tile. Charge time is under four hours. (Click 'read more' below for the rest of my review.)

I've even read where some people use their Dremel Tool to trim the nails on their dogs. There isn't a snowball's chance in the Caribbean that our dog will sit still for that. I'll console myself with using it to grind glass, cut tile and sand down tiny spots when refinishing furniture.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Restaurants open on Thanksgiving in Knoxville

Our list of restaurants that are open on Thanksgiving in Knoxville hasn't changed. Just click here to read the previous blog post. The good news is that a wide variety of restaurants will be open on Thanksgiving day. Eateries aren't limited to fast food. Family restaurants and even upscale dining opportunities are on the list. A couple of sports bars are also available.

Shoney's, Cracker Barrel, Wasabi and others on the above list are open. There are several more. Check out the link above.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Unchaperoned adults spotted at Magic Kingdom. Caution not advised.

Adults in the Magic Kingdom? No, it's not against the rules. It's just plain fun. Hubby and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves when we went to Walt Disney World. We relished in being unchaperoned adults in the Magic Kingdom. I think we did everything that would have embarrassed our kids had they been with us. It was probably good that we made them stay home.

Here are a few highlights from the Magic Kingdom portion of our Walt Disney World vacation:

Friday, November 18, 2011

How to survive Walt Disney World with cranky kids

How to survive Walt Disney World with cranky kids will hopefully give parents needed coping strategies. Standing in line, being on the go constantly and one too many rides can make anyone cranky. Even the most magical place on earth can be hard on youngsters. (Heck, it can be tough on adults too!) 

This article has been requested by readers who liked How to survive Walt Disney World with whiny teens. Cranky children are not fun. The strategies are similar most ages. These tips were invaluable when we toted  our children to the parks 'way back when'. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Visiting the Ocoee Whitewater Center

When we drove through the Cherokee National Forest this fall we took a quick stop at the Ocoee Whitewater Center. Some of you may remember this spot from footage of the 1996 Summer Olympics. This incredible place is where the whitewater rafting competitions were held.

Ocoee Whitewater Center
To help travelers enjoy the visit there is a back deck behind the center. You can sit here and watch the world go by. The water around the whitewater center is rocky but calm. I enjoyed standing at the back of the center and taking in the scenery and could have stayed put for hours.

You can feel the energy and the raw power from the river at pull-offs near the shoreline. It gushes and twists in sharp contrast to the peaceful Cherokee National Forest that surrounds the Ocoee River.

Ocoee River in TN
Some brave souls were out on the water when we visited. We pulled off of the side of the road to watch the kayaks. The bright outfits stood out against the rocks and rushing water. My hat is off to them. No matter how intense the exhilaration may be there's no way that I'd have the guts to to ride the rapids.

The Ocoee Whitewater Center has a neat gift shop on the ground floor. Look for everything from really cool craft items to accessories that you can use on the river. I'm pretty sure that even sunscreen was available.

Ocoee River at the
Ocoee Whitewater Center
An information area is on the top floor of the center. If you want to know anything about the river, the surrounding area, Athens or the Ocoee Whitewater Center just ask. You might want to bring a notepad and pen so you can write everything down. I picked up information on several campgrounds that are near by.

We'll have to try some of the campgrounds when spring comes. Winter weather doesn't work for a pop-up camper. There are some terrific campgrounds in the Cherokee National Forest. I am looking forward to putting the pop-up to good use around the river and by visiting the Ocoee Whitewater Center again.

Like this article? Try reading:

Etowah to Etowah in six hours
Indian Boundary Campground on the Cherohala Skyway

Doing Walt Disney World without the kids

Going to Walt Disney World without the kids was one of the most fun vacations that we've ever had. It wasn't the most relaxing getaway but it was fun. This was the first time we ever traveled without the kids. Both of them are in college now. (One daughter is actually in graduate school!) So, we decided they were old enough to go it alone for awhile.

One of the reasons why we went to Walt Disney World without the kids was because we could. As empty nesters we have the freedom to be ourselves on our vacations. Walt Disney World even has pet boarding so our vacation had absolutely no constraints.

Being able to do what we wanted to do was a big part of the vacation. We were without whiny teens who wanted to go one way and then the other. Hubby and I were able to take in the shows at Walt Disney World  instead of being dragged to the fast moving roller coasters. We love the Walt Disney World characters as much as the children do. I'm not ashamed to admit it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

How to survive Walt Disney World with whiny teens

Knowing how to survive Walt Disney World with whiny teens is a skill that all parents should develop.My family really enjoys our trips to Walt Disney World. We've taken our own teens (plus extras) and we've gone with a school group.
It's been a close call a few times but we made it. Learning how to survive Walt Disney World with whiny teens isn't for the faint of heart but it can be done. These are the techniques that i used. Maybe they will help you too.
Expect raw nerves
When tempers flare the magic fades. Raw nerves happen at home so they're bound to happen on the road. One of the first things we did to survive Walt Disney World with whiny teens is acknowledge that the family vacation will probably only be 99.5% perfect. Any trip is going to have sunscreen days and rainy days. Heat, humidity and long lines can make anyone impatient. Acknowledging the .05% ahead of time makes a difference.
Let teens roam
Giving teens permission to explore the park on their own helped. We set a meeting point and used cell phones to keep in touch. The freedom gave us all a break and reduced tensions.
Stay cool
Going someplace cool during the heat of the day helped us survive whiny teens. Hot weather begs for hot tempers. Cool spots at Walt Disney World include going back to the room, riding the monorail, table service restaurants and shopping at the resorts. Indoor shows and the air conditioned shops in the parks also provide relief from afternoon temperatures.
Keep teens hydrated and fed
Snacks and bottled water are invaluable. Walt Disney World allows guests to bring in their own. Cooler are not allowed but insulated bags and backpacks are welcome. When teens get hungry or thirsty they tend to get whiny. Having these items eliminates waiting in line for snacks.
Pause for a moment before heading into the parks. Learning how to survive whiny teens at Walt Disney World means not trying to do it all. Don't try to do it all. Decide on two or three 'must do' family activities. Try to fit those activities in and leave the rest for next time.
Take a nap
Give yourself and the teens an indoor break. Head back to the room for an afternoon nap. If the teens get whiny they can go to the pool while mom and dad enjoys the break.
Set a budget
When teenagers know how much they can spend it gives them a sense of empowerment. It also keeps them from becoming whiny. They might ask for more money but they know they might not get it.
Charge cell phone batteries
Teenagers of today don't respond well to low batteries. They want to be able to use their smart phones to talk, text and take photos. Learning how to survive whiny teens at Walt Disney World means reminding them to charge their phones. It also gives them a way to phone mom and dad if they run out of money.
Leave whiny teens at home.
Hubby and I had a marvelous time without them. This has to be the best way to survive Walt Disney World with whiny teens that I have found. The teens (or college students) may whine if you go without them but you'll never know it. 
Related articles from You've Been Reviewed 

Nashville to Atlanta Megabus stop location confusion

Update: 11/18/11 - New information has come in regarding the Megabus stop in Nashville. Visitors should go to the 'bus stop' section of the website and view the map. Then, click Nashville and select 'bus stops'. Scroll down in the window on the right. The information is there that indicates that the stop at the Ramada Limited with happen 15 minutes before the commerce stop. Confused much? Keep reading.

We have heard from blog readers about the new Nashville to Atlanta Megabus stop. The location is causing some frustration. At one point the bus line listed two stops the Nashville to Atlanta route and one of these was tagged as being an alternate pick up point. Who knows which to use?

Megabus stop in Washington, D.C.

Getting an answer from Megabus can sometimes be like racing a three legged turtle. Don't worry though, super sleuth Dave got the full scoop.

I'm going to copy and paste directly from the email he received from Megabus about the Nashville to Atlanta route.

According to our schedules, we show the route from Nashville to Chattanooga :

Nashville Ramada Hotel departure is at 7:45 am, Nashville Commerce Street 8:00 am and  arriving Chattanooga S Terrace Plaza 11:30 am. .

For further assistance with the bus stop and reservation inquiries, you
may call our reservation hotline at 877.462.6342.

As of this writing there are still two stops in Nashville. The new Megabus route begins this week and look forward to finding out how it was. I just checked and $1.00 tickets are still available. Perks like electricity and Wi-Fi make the ride more enjoyable. (You can read more about that on my blog post from the double decker bus out of Knoxville.)

If you blog us know if you ride Megabus from Nashville to Atlanta. We can't wait to hear how it went. Click 'comments' on this article to tell us about your travels. We can't wait to hear from you! :)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Video of the Megabus stop at Union Station in D.C.

I took this video of the Megabus stop at Union Station in D.C. on my last trip. Getting off of the bus was pretty confusing. The stop was much easier to navigate on the return trip because I knew more of what to expect.

This video of the Megabus stop in D.C. is taken as I got off of the escalator on the bus deck. This location was put into service in November 2011.

The bus deck at Union Station in Washington, D.C. is open air. In the video you can see that the ceiling provides some protection from rain, sun and snow. Riders are still exposed to the outside temperature and should dress accordingly.

Signs for the lines are plain on the video. Riders who are arriving will need to look for the exit signs. These will lead you to the escalators from the Megabus stop. The main level of Union Station in D.C. is where you can catch a cab, Metro or meet friends who are picking you up.

In the video of the Megabus stop in D.C. you can see that other bus companies use the same deck. Watch out for Bolt, the Washington D.C. Circulator, DC to NY and other companies. The bright blue and yellow buses that you need are hard to miss.

Please feel free to share this link with friends who may be interested. As always, we crave feedback. Let us know what you think of the video in the comments section below.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Weighing in on Megabus from Nashville to Atlanta versus rail

Megabus by Guest Blogger Dave 

Megabus coach bus on I-81
Although it is not the ideal form of travel for most Americans, it is very popular in the UK and all over Europe. I have used several of the bus services all over the UK, and they have one advantage to the way Megabus will operate here. For the most part, the cites and town have gone ahead and joined in with these coach/bus services and provided either a permanent loading area with some form of shelter, or as in London ( where I am originally from) they operate out of places like Victoria Coach Station, along with National Express buses.

We ( I ) am eagerly waiting for the startup of Megabus here in Nashville...One of the boarding points is downtown by the Titan Football stadium at a hotel, so I am going to find out today, if there is some form of parking down there for the riders. I emailed Mr Moser at Megabus, and told him that a passenger is going to think twice when ordering a ticket and hoping to get a good discount of under $10 for booking early, when they suddenly find out that they will have no parking for their cars ( free )  and have to may 25X the cost of he ticket for a cab etc..

The other stop is on 5th and Commerce.Once again, how do people get there?   I would rather have seen them use the parking area next to the Music City Central bus terminal on 5th . That way, people would have a least the option of a MTA bus. For me it wold have been just like being back home in London, when I used public transit every day. I could drive from the house ( Gallatin ) park at Sam's-Walmart's at Rivergate, ride the BRT to the MCC, then grab a sandwich and a cup of coffee at the Dunkin Donuts shop in the MCC wait in the dry and warmth and then step out the door on to the bus for Atlanta..

As the " Powers that be " here in the mid state, have focused their minds on keeping Nashville-Mid TN etc several decades behind the known world out there, with respect to  passenger rail, and it looks like they will manage to keep it that way for at least another 25-30 years or more, then Megabus and companies like this are going to jump in and fill the gap.

Sadly it takes a guy ( Sir Brian Souter )  who was a former bus conductor back in Scotland when he was a young man,and who is now a Billionaire, and owns East Coast Trains-Stagecoach and First Trains in the UK, Now also owns Grayhound Bus Lines over here,plus all of the shuttles you ride at most airports in the US, plus owns many of the yellow school buses here and in Canada, to get what the public need. He saw an opportunity and took it. Make money and provide a service that is needed for the good of the public. A no brainer. Why couldn't it have been a American?

It's not like we don't have the smarts in the USA, after all, it was an American that got the London Underground ( Tube ) train up and running with his investments back then. It is like we have lost our way here, and the " foreigners " are now showing us the way.

My wife and I ride Amtrak a lot. The negative side to it, is the proximity of the station. Atlanta and Memphis, both 200+ miles away. Until Nashville's leaders and the State, get serious and bring back Amtrak connecting us to Chicago in one direction and Atlanta in the other, then Megabus is the answer. If my predictions are correct, that Amtrak will not be here for at least another 30 years or so,and if this Megabus system works well and expands to Birmingham-St Louis-Chicago-Memphis from Nashville, then Megabus will have a great 30+ year run of service here, and middle TN will reap the benefits of a comfortable,cheap bus transit to enable us to connect with Amtrak and to use their massive system for travel in the US.

More from this blog

How to protect tech gear during holiday travel

These simple tips can protect your electronics and tech gear during the holidays. I travel with camera, mifi, netbook, cell phone, extra batteries and other gear. After my netbook suffered a near death experience I knew it was time to get serious about how to protect my electronics and other gear for holiday travel. These tips have helped me better protect my electronics and tech gear ever since.
Verizon Mi-Fi 2200 device
Pack it well 
The number one tip to keep your tech gear safe is to pack it well. Follow the instructions in your owner's manuals. 

Use extra padding to protect electronics from being bumped against each other. Fold and secure cords with Velcro tabs or simple twist ties. Take measures to guard against extra static electricity and dust. 

Something as simple as securing a lens cap can keep your camera or camcorder from being damaged. It helps to put each item into a skin or case before putting it into a messenger bag or packpack.
Keep zippers zipped 
When the flight boarding is called or bus arrives it is tempting to shove tech gear into a bag and hurry off. All too often the zippers don't get zipped all the way. This can let electronics fall out or be lost. Ear buds are especially prone to being caught on something. Take the extra second secure your tech gear.
Use a messenger bag 
Backbacks are often carried by one strap on a shoulder. This makes it easier for tech gear to be jostled around and harder to keep your hands free. Evaluate your travel plans before you leave on holiday. A messenger bag may be more convenient and keep your tech items secure.
Pay attention 
Tech gear is used frequently by holiday travelers. Phones, iPods and other electronics are easily lost during the holiday travel season. Paying attention reduces the likelihood of putting your phone or iPod down and forgetting it.
Use straps 
Straps on tech gear are there for a reason. If you are using your tech gear use the strap. You will be less likely to drop it if bumped. It is also possible that the strap will catch your electronics if dropped.
Due diligence 
Exercise due diligence during holiday travel. Someone can easily pick up your tech gear when you are distracted. Put your iPod or smart phone in your pocket when digging into your backpack for keys. Don't put your bag down and walk away. These simple tips go a long way to protect your tech gear during the holiday travel season.
How do you keep your gear safe when traveling? Are there any products that you like to use? Help us all keep our electronics and tech gear safe during the holidays. Leave a comment to let us know. 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

How to contact Megabus

Needing to know how to contact Megabus has been hair-pulling at times. This article represents hours of work, tears and some frustration. Some of the information is not readily available online nnd has come from having to contact Megabus through other phone numbers and signs on the actual bus.

Megabus on deck at Union Station in D.C.
I'm posting the contact information for Megabus that I have been able to find so far. If you can add anything, please email me or leave it in the comment section below. Your input can help me create a quick resource that everyone can use.

When you want to how to contact Megabus it's usually to make or change a reservation. The website seems to be the best place to book the trip. I have found the phone number to be the best to make a change or confirm. It has taken me as plong as 45 minutes to speak with a live person at 877-GO2-MEGA (1-877-462-6342). If you contact Megabus by phone, be sure to have a full battery.

I have also found the following contacts to be helpful.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Two oddball tourist attractions in Tennessee

Since becoming a blogger I have found a plethora of fun tourist attractions in Tennessee. The variety in our area never ceases to amaze me. My articles have included pieces on the Cherohala Skyway, Chattanooga Aquarium, Christmas lights, a fossil field and more. When it comes to oddball tourist attractions there are two that especially stand out..

Green dragon
One of the most oddball attractions almost met with tragedy a few months ago when the fireworks building next to it caught fire. The owners brought in new and used construction equipment to flatten the building and clean up. The large green dragon seems to be none the worse for wear. Actually, the empty space around the dragon makes it easier to find.

Take I-75 North and you can't miss it. It is several stories high and can be seen from about a mile from the 134 exit. Because of the construction you can no longer walk up to the dragon. However, you can get a good look from your car. Get off of the exit and turn right at the traffic light. Go about a mile and you will find it on the right.

World's Largest Guitar
Head to Bristol, Tennessee on I-81. The World's Largest Guitar stands three stories tall and 70 feet long. The landmark was constructed by Joe Morrell in 1983. You can get a pretty good view of the guitar from the Tennessee rest area. It has to be one of the most oddball tourist attractions in Tennessee.

What is your favorite oddball tourist attraction in Tennessee? Be sure to leave a comment below to let me know about it. Search for attractions and road trips in Tennessee.

My photos of the Occupy DC movement in McPherson Square

We stopped by McPherson Square today to see the area occupied by Occupy DC. After all the reports from the media I wasn't sure if I wanted to travel there or not. It turns out that there wasn't any reason to worry. The protesters we spoke with were all friendly. You can see much of the area around the park in the photos. In addition to the photos shown below I have some on the Yahoo Contributor Network.
Occupy DC KSt sign

What was interesting about my visit isn't only the protesters themselves but other activities in the park area. Tomorrow is Veteran's Day. A stage was already set up with a band across the street from the Occupy DC protesters.

It was the center of a crowd of onlookers that appeared to be tourists. Some of these were also checking out the activities in McPherson Square. It is enough to make me wonder if the occupation is going to be a travel destination.

Tents at Occupy DC
Many people who walked past ignored both groups as they went about their business. A busy Starbucks on the corner seemed to be a catch-all gathering spot. Fortunately for us the line moved quickly. It was an intriguing mix of people and an interesting way to spend the afternoon.

Hopefully tomorrow we'll be able to travel to some of the sites in DC. The monuments will probably be packed but we may try to see the National Zoo or Rock Creek Park.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Blogging from a double decker Megabus out of Knoxville

Right now I'm blogging from a double decker Megabus. These are very different from the coach bus that carried me to DC from Knoxville last time! I'm sitting in one of the ground level seats that are closer to the front. It's roomier and more comfortable than on a coach bus. The electrical outlets, lights and air controls are above my seat.

Interior of double decker Megabus and table
I'm blogging from one of two tables near the front of the bus and are the perfect height. It has cup 4 holders but they're holding my modem and phone right now. The ride is smooth enough to be able to type. That makes it much easier to get my blogging and other writing done.

We've not picked up people in Christiansburg yet so I'm not sure how the Megabus will be after the pickup. As of this moment the table and seats have more than adequate room for working and are very comfortable.

I couldn't help but take a peek upstairs. The steps were a little hard for me to navigate because there is a curve about halfway up. Let me just say that the handrails on this Megabus are very secure. There isn't a bathroom on the upper level. Riders will need to be extra careful on the steps when the bus is in motion.

The view from the top of the double decker Megabus is great. I bet it will be a fantastic ride when we go up the mountains. Hopefully, there will be some brilliant fall colors.

Tables weren't immediately visible on the upper deck. The electrical outlets and air controls seemed to be in the same places on top as on bottom. I can say that upstairs on the double decker Megabus looked to be comfortable. This was confirmed by a rider there.

Gloria is our driver today. She has been at the wheel on my other trips to D.C. With roughly a year of experience on this route this lady knows where she is going. It's reassuring to see an experienced driver at the wheel on any bus line.

The new bus stop in D.C. is at Union Station. It should be an easy access stop. Look for a blog post to come later about that .All in all, so far so good on this trip. I'm excited to be on the double decker Megabus out of Knoxville.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Pros and cons of travel loans for vacation

A couple of times people have asked for my thoughts on travel loans for vacation. Although I have never done this personally, I have had friends who did this. This seems to work out well for them. 

The thought is intriguing so I spent some time researching options. There are some pros and cons to think about when financing a vacation. We'll look at some of those here.

Welcome to Manitoba, Canada.
My no-loan trip of a lifetime.
Travel loans are sometimes used to pay for a honeymoon, anniversary or other expensive getaway. Loans are often considered for trips that are once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Memories and family togetherness can be worth any cost.

One of the reason that travel loans are used is to spread payments out over a period of time. Many people find it easier to spread vacation payments out in small amounts than to come up with a large sum.

One of the cons of taking out a travel loan for vacation is the interest rate. The cost of any loan can be substantially increased by high interest rates. What may seem like a bargain originally can add up to hundreds more when interested is factored into the cost.

Illness and natural disasters can wreak havoc on the best of plans. Another consideration that borrowers should think is insurance. This can protect your investment and recover costs in the event of an unexpected trip cancellation.

Vacation loans can come from a variety of sources. Credit cards are frequently used. Other potential sources include banks, credit unions and other lending institutions. Because interest rates vary it can be important to compare the different financial institutions to find the best deal.

You deserve to have the getaway of your dreams. There are many reasons to consider travel loans for a trip. The decision of whether or not to take out such a loan is an individual decision. As with any other type of financing taking out travel loans for a vacation should be done only after considering all the pros and cons.

Read more about my trip of a lifetime drive to Alaska:

Monday, November 07, 2011

Megabus opens Atlanta hub expands service to 11 cities

Did  you hear the news? Megabus is opening a new Atlanta hub that will expand their service to 11 additional cities. This is potentially good news for the southeast.

Megabus in I-81 traffic like everyone else.
Megabus is a low cost bus service carrier. It offers fees as low as $1.00 on each route. Riders who book early have the best shot at getting the low fares. Booking close to the departure date will cost you. Last minute tickets from the Atlanta hub are expected to run upwards of $25 - $30.

Visitors from Knoxville can now take Megabus to north to Washington, D.C. or Christiansburg, VA. When the new Atlanta hub opens people can travel from Knoxville via Atlanta to Orlando, Florida or other points. Tickets must be booked online at

Travelers should keep in mind that Megabus isn't a tour bus. You won't find much in the way of perks or personal assistance. WI-FI is available and electrical outlets are at each seat. Be prepared to carry your own bags though. It will be up to you to put them on the bus or in the overhead bin. The article 'What to expect on Megabus' covers more of what riders can expect.

Here are more articles that you may enjoy.

Megabus expands service via Atlanta hub

Shear Genius is the newest salon in Knoxville

Have you heard about Shear Genius Salon yet? It's the newest salon in Knoxville. I met up with co-owner Leila Albanna today. With her friendly, outgoing personality it wasn't hard for Leila to open up about her business. This is a lady who clearly enjoys owning Shear Genius Salon.

Let me go ahead and tell you the best part up front. If visit the shop be sure to mention this article. Leila will give you 50% off a a color with cut if you mention You've Been Reviewed. We don't get a kick-back or anything but readers do get a discount. Don't forget to mention us. If you want to print the article to bring with you that's even better.

Photo from Facebook page of Shear Genius Salon in Knoxville
Ladies and men can feel comfortable here at this unisex salon.

In addition to cuts, Shear Genius Salon in Knoxville offers a full range of hair care services.

Waxing is available and of course, hair coloring. The stylists here can do everything from full color to highlights. They stand behind their work and your satisfaction is guaranteed.

One of the nice aspects of the salon is the layout. It it designed with the client in mind. The Facebook page calls it 'warm and friendly'.

Customer feedback is welcome on all aspects of the business. I'm told that Shear Genius Salon is proud to be in the community and look forward to serving the area for a long time.

The combination of a satisfaction guarantee and 50% off a color and a cut is tempting. I've not tried their services yet but plan to make an appointment after payday. As always, there will be a future write-up about my experience.

The address for Shear Genius Salon is linked in the 'location' tab below. Don't worry. Getting there isn't difficult. The salon is in the new shopping center between the Pilot and McDonald's on Middlebrook Pike. The map link puts it at the end of Fox Lonas Road in West Knoxville.

Shear Genius Salon
8659 Middlebrook Pike
Knoxville, TN 37923
Phone: 865.357.CUTS (2887)


Fall in the Big South Fork National Park

BOne of the places in East Tennessee that people enjoy in the fall is the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. This park is one of the more rural of the National Park system. Located in Kentucky and Tennessee, the park offers a multitude of recreation opportunities. Directions to the Big South Fork National Recreation Area are available online.

Visitors can camp, go horseback riding, hunt, fish or go paddling. Astronomy and hiking are also popular activities. The area's brilliant fall foliage attracts many visitors annually. Three visitor centers welcome park guests.

Big South Fork River and Recreation Area
Photo copyright John Crabtree 2009
Bandy Creek Visitors Center 
The proximity to the campground makes this center a popular location. It is roughly 15 miles from Oneida and about 24 miles east of Jamestown.

There is a bookstore, vending machines and ice. Exhibits at the visitor center cover the many recreation activities at Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area.

Stearns Depot Visitor Center
Visitors to this part of the park can enjoy a train exhibit and purchase tickets for the railroad excursion train. Inside the depot there is a bookstore and and additional exhibits. Any railroad fan would enjoy a trip to this portion of the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area.

Blue Heron Mining Community
This is an abandoned coal mining town. It is an outdoor museum that was reconstructed in the 1980s. Visitors can tour the town at any time to view the exhibits. More information about the community and other visitor centers is available from the National Park Service.

Each site has its own charm to offer. There is no admission charge but some of the attractions may have a fee. Park hours and seasons are listed on the link above. My family had the privilege of visiting the Big South Fork River and Recreation area few months ago. We hope that yours will too.

Looking for something to do in the fall? Check out this article on free stargazing and astronomy programs at Big South Fork.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

How to choose retirement community

Many factors come into play when choosing a retirement community. The retirees of today are living longer than ever and can expect to have a good quality of life. Once upon a time a retirement community was viewed as being a short step away from a nursing home. Today, that thought couldn't be farther from the truth.

Many retirement communities are designed for active retirees. There are many opportunities for residents to get to know each other. Common dining rooms provide a break from meal preparation and gives time for social interaction. Retirees should expect a full slate of programs that they can enjoy. Religious services, bocce games, historic or art programs and other presentations are just a few of the many activities that may be offered.

Retirees who like to travel may find that a retirement community can make them happy. Local day travel arrangements may be organized by an activities coordinators. Van tours or motorcoach travel for residents may be made through a travel agent or by a community member. Destinations can include local hot spots, weekend or overnight trips or longer outings.

When selecting a retirement community cost is always a factor. My family found out that it's important not just to look at the price tag but to evaluate each of the services that are offered. Some, like Elm Terrace in Lansdale, PA offer a long list of activities and services.

From health care to travel, there is no doubt that you will use some services more than others. When you are choosing a retirement community it is important to choose one that fits your needs and active lifestyle.

Find out more about Elm Terrace online

Connecticut mountain tourism

When it comes to vacation getaways Connecticut has a special charm. Fall foliage tours are a good one tank trip or weekend getaway. Connecticut also has a reputation for the wide array of cultural and shopping experiences that this state has to offer.

Skiing is a popular wintertime sport among locals and tourists. Many of the ski lodges are also open to summer travelers. Informal lodges are the perfect place to relax any time of year.

Visitors come to the lodge to relax and enjoy the mountain views in Connecticut.Windows provide a glimpse of postcard perfect scenery. There, the views of the landscape are perfectly framed by huge arching glass panels. Rented mountain homes will often have expertly placed windows on the back or sides of a home.

Architects know that the simple pleasures in life can be the most meaningful. Who doesn't enjoy stepping through large french doors that lead to a deck or patio? A cozy spot, good book and cup of hot tea can start the day off right.

Much of Connecticut is covered by towns and large cites. There are areas where you would never know this.

One of the more popular attractions is on the road less traveled. We're talking about the famous Appalachian Scenic Trail that stretches from Georgia to Maine. Visitors to the trail often hike it in sections. A handful of people known as 'through hikers' will hike the full length of the trail.

In Connecticut, the trail goes from Kent to the town of Salisbury. At 51 miles the Connecticut portion of the Appalachian Scenic Trail is relatively short. Several easily accessible spots lend themselves well to day hikes. Trails in this state cover every difficulty range. Hikers should do their research to decide which one is right for them.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Edmonton, Alberta a fun place to live or play

Driving to Alaska with my daughter was one trip that I will never forget. We drove from East Tennessee, across North Dakota and into Canada. We came back by a different route. I think the only city that we passed through twice was Edmonton, Alberta.

As we drove through I could imagine myself looking for a house to rent Edmonton is an interesting town to visit. It is the capitol city of Alberta and is the home of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and many other cultural attractions. The arts district is in the downtown area not far from Chinatown. This area has lots of art galleries and shops.

Over a million people live in Edmonton. The city seems to be teeming with life and with jobs. It looks like a city where it would be good to live or work.

Another one of the things that I liked about Edmonton is how close it is to the Canadian Rockies. I think we got to the mountains fairly quickly. They are absolutely spectacular. Being close to Edmonton puts them in reach for a day trip or weekend getaway.

Each city has its pros and cons. From what we could tell it seems to be a good place to raise a family. We were told that the schools here provide a world class education. There seemed to be plenty of parks and green spaces. Most of the people we met seemed friendly.

If you ever wanted to live in a city where hiking and fishing were close to cultural attractions this has to be the place. If you are traveling to Alaska you may fall in love with Edmonton, Alberta too.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

I should have gotten the pop-up camper sooner

I was asked about my Palomino pop-up camper today. The person wanted to know what my opinion is. It has to be the easiest question that anyone has ever asked! I knew it would be great to have one and I love it. Really, I should have gotten the pop-up camper sooner. 

Another picture of me and the Palomino pop-up camper
Pop-up campers like the Palomino give you the freedom to camp but still have available transportation. It's small size makes it relatively easy to maneuver. 

Once the camper is in place all you have to do is level it, put the jacks down and pull out the sides. It's pretty easy to do and only takes about 15-20 minutes. (We'll probably get better as time goes on.)

The Palomino essentially has all the comforts of home. My friend was shocked to find out about the hookups for water and electricity. I enjoy being out exploring during the day and coming 'home' to write in the evening. We still have plans to get a campervan but for right now this definitely makes me happy. 

A pop-up is something to be used from spring to fall. The walls are canvas so camping during cold weather isn't going to happen. It can't be used throughout the year like a van can be used. I also think a van would be more secure in bear or moose country. 

We have big plans to use the Palomino this spring. I'm really looking forward to heading out after the wedding. You've Been Reviewed will help you virtually travel along with us and the Palomino pop-up. It should be a really interesting journey.

More about our adventures

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

How might fit my travel writing schedule

Traveling isn't only one of my passions it is also how I supplement my income. Writing travel reviews here on Youve Been Reviewed and for online writing sites helps me pay bills and provides some freedom.

Update: 10/6/18 This article was written several months ago when I was first deciding where to attend college. Instead of attending an online school, I opted for my local community college. The offline courses have kept me at home more, but the tuition is free and that's a major factor. Because a couple of people said they benefitted from the article, it makes sense to leave it up. However, I wanted to return with an update in the interest of full disclosure.

Now, back to the original article...

Travel writing takes me on the road quite a bit. My Disney World articles outlines my experience at the theme park. You can find a lot of information on this blog about how we did Disney without the kids. My insights will hopefully help you make your next trip a magical adventure. You can also read about my drive through the Canadian wildnerness to Alaska and about journeys closer to home. But what does this mean for my college education?

I enjoy being a travel writer, but I also have plans to go back to school. How will I fit everyting in? That's where an online school like Walden University might be beneficial. An online school will allow me to work on the road while completing my degree at the same time. I'm also looking into classes at Pellissippi State. This is a local community college that offers an expanding array of online courses.   

Schedule flexibility is important. Needing to have someone with me means working around Hubby's schedule and the schedule of my kids. That's why, if I ever want to go back to school someplace like is going to be at the top of my list.

I've been surprised at how often internet is available on my travels. On our drive to Alaska I couldn't help but notice that internet access was easier to find than a cell phone signal. My Mi-Fi is nice to have but WI-FI is also available in many campgrounds.

That's what makes Walden University's online degree programs a possibility. They not only have flexibility but they offer classes that sound interesting. The combination is one that is worth considering. Learning different languages would certainly be a plus for me! You can click here if you would like to learn about Walden.

I'm not sure about going back to school. I have discussed this with my family so it is on my radar screen. Right now I like being able to bring travel stories to you from my pop-up camper, home office and on the road. Who knows what the future holds?