Friday, September 29, 2006

Blog Moved and Renamed

Glad you found me! My blog has moved and been renamed -- just slightly. To make the address easier to remember, I've moved it to my own new domain name, and renamed the blog to match:, with the tag line, "Behind the NinthWheel."

The ninth wheel, of course, refers to the steering wheel of my motorcoach; motorcoaches have eight wheels, the steering wheel being the "ninth wheel." So it seems a perfect name for a blog sharing my personal thoughts, opinions, and activities, especially for family and close friends.

You're welcome to add comments to my posts if you like; you do not have to register or do anything special. Just click the comment link at the bottom of the post to which you wish to comment. I plan to leave the commenting open like this unless the spammers find it and start abusing it -- so far so good, however.

Mohonk Mountain House

Mohonk Mountain House Yesterday I drove for a Hagey Tour to Mohonk Mountain House, near New Paltz, NY, in the Catskill Mountains. It's one of the most unique and beautiful hotels I've ever seen, built on top of a mountain right on the edge of Mohonk Lake. I took the photo above from one of the gazebos along the pathway to the mountain top just across the lake from the hotel. It gives a great overview of this huge hotel and lake.

Coach 67 at Mohonk Mountain House This photo of my coach for the day, Coach 67, was taken where I refer to as the back of the hotel -- the side opposite the lake. The hotel was built in 1869 by the Smiley family, and has remained in their family ever since. There have been numerous additions over the years. It's a very exclusive hotel; the least expensive room is almost $400 per night -- oh, but that does include three meals a day! Good thing, as the hotel is so isolated, there isn't really anywhere else around to eat. My group had a buffet lunch while visiting, and the food was very good.

The Gardens at Mohonk Mountain House The gardens and the landscaping around the hotel are as spectacular as the rest of the scenery. They grow their own flowers, used throughout the complex for decorating, outdoors in these gardens, and in a greenhouse adjacent to the gardens during the winter.

Flower A wide variety of flowers are grown on the property; this was one of my favorites -- I think it's a dahlia of some kind? Again, I'm not good with names of flowers, so if you know, post a comment.

A beautiful place to visit ... I'll probably never be able to spend a night here, but I still enjoy visiting. This was my third visit here, and I've taken many, many photos each time I've been here -- almost 300 yesterday. These were four of my favorites. (And, as usual, you can click each one to see larger views.)

Good News!

Glenna just talked to Jon on the phone ... today was his last day of training in Chatanooga, and he has now moved back to his place in Nashville, TN. The good news -- his company announced today that they have been awarded the government contract they were hoping for, which means he has a job for at least the next 5-1/2 years! He's happy and so are we.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Schedule Update

Mini-mums I have an unexpected day off, as my trip today was canceled this morning. No big deal, however -- the only job I had scheduled for today was a shuttle run tonight -- four hours at the most, so I'm not unhappy it got canceled. My best trip of the week will be the one I'm driving tomorrow -- a Hagey Tour to the Mohonk Mountain House. It's a very old, very scenic, very expensive hotel in the Hudson Valley of New York state. I've been there before, and the scenery there is amazing, so I'm hoping to get some nice photographs tomorrow. I'll post a few here if all goes as planned. We'll be doing a tour of the hotel and having lunch there. Check out their website for a hint of what's there:

Yesterday I picked up a group in Ocean City, NJ and returned them home. I had about an hour to walk the boardwalk, where I took the photo of the flowers, above -- some kind of small mums? I'm not sure what they are -- I'm not good with names of flowers.

Glenna made it home safely from Ohio on Monday evening -- I picked her up at the Philadelphia Airport about 8 PM. She had a great time visiting and helping her parents with chores around their home.

Friday I have a local trip around the Kulpsville area -- not sure exactly what it's about but I won't be driving far! Saturday is a Hagey Tour to Annapolis, MD, and Sunday I'm off -- the first Sunday off in a couple of months, I think! Not sure if they'll recognize me at church. I'll get my schedule for next week late this afternoon; things should start picking up now with more school trips in the next couple of months.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Dover International Speedway

The race is about to begin... My trip yesterday was a private charter (I was lead driver of two coaches) to the NASCAR race at Dover International Speedway, in Dover, Delaware. There were a couple of no-shows, so they gave tickets to myself and the other driver! They were $94 tickets, so it was a nice gift -- but we got no tip, so it wasn't a profitable day. But at least we had a little fun watching the race, and I got a few nice photos.

The photo above was taken at the start of the race as the cars were led around the one-mile "Monster Mile" track by the pace car, just before the green flag was dropped. The bright orange car, 4th from the right in the outside row, is that of #31, Jeff Burton, who eventually won the 400 mile race.

First crash of the day My seat was on Turn 3. The first four accidents of the race all happened right in front of me, on turns three and four. This photo is the first one, soon after the race began. What's interesting to me on this one is how close #31, Jeff Burton, was to being involved in it -- as you can see in the photo, he dropped all the way to the inside to avoid hitting #20 as he was sliding down the track. The race outcome was so close to having been totally different.

Dover International Speedway overview with the pace car leading the pack In this overview of the speedway you can see the bright yellow pace car at the bottom of the photo, a Dodge Charger, leading the pack during a yellow flag following another crash. There were quite a few crashes during the day, but to the best of my knowledge, no one was hurt. Races like this are really awesome to watch. The noise is so loud you can't even talk to the person sitting right next to you; many people wear ear plugs, but although I had some, I wanted to experience the full effect, so I didn't wear them. There were 140,000 people in attendance, and over 500 buses -- actually I don't know the exact count, it may have been more.

I watched the first 200 laps before heading out to the coach for a short nap and to prepare for the trip home. Good thing, too -- the rain held off for the whole race, but less than ten minutes after it ended, we got a terrific downpour that caught everyone leaving the stadium, so my passengers arrived back at the coach looking like drowned rats, soaked all the way to the skin. The coach didn't smell too great by the time we got home two hours later.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Photo Exercise

Lake Nockamixen by the Fishing Pier I spent an hour late this afernoon at Lake Nockamixen taking landscape photos near the fishing pier. I had been waiting much of the day for sun to come out and warm things up as the weathermen predicted, but when it finally came out, it was only out a few minutes here and there with lots of cloud cover all afternoon -- no beautiful blue skies like we've had the last few days. I took about 50 photos, and the one shown above is my favorite of the bunch.

Gaither Homecoming Concert

Hershey's Giant Center The Gaither Homecoming Concert at Hershey's Giant Center (photo above) last night was fantastic. So much good music ... and my favorite group, Signature Sound, was there even though they weren't on the playbill! So I was thrilled. The Center was sold out for the concert; almost 100 buses were there, including two from Hagey's. Other favorites of mine during the evening were the Isaacs (what amazing musicians they are -- I don't care for bluegrass music, but they are so good, I really enjoy their music), and, of course, the Gaither Vocal Band. There's also a new pianist replacing Anthony Burger who died last year -- Gordon Mote -- he's blind, and an amazingly talented and versatile pianist. I was so impressed I bought one of his CDs, as well as the latest Gaither Vocal Band CD, "Give It Away" (they weren't giving it away, however LOL).

The Isaacs did a version of "It Is Well with My Soul" that was absolutely awesome -- raised the roof on the Giant Center, and brought tears to your eyes. I found out from some of my passengers that they were selling a CD of just that song at their stand there, but I missed it. I just checked iTunes but there's only one of their CDs there, and it doesn't include this song. Hopefully it will be available there eventually.

Coach 58 -- old graphics Coach 54 -- new graphics I drove our "new" old Coach 54 for the trip last night to the Gaither concert. It was its inaugural trip since being fully refurbished. It got a new interior a couple of months ago, and a new exterior (paint and graphics) just finished this week. The new graphics match the style of our newest MCI J4500 coaches. It's the first of the older coaches to be refurbished on the outside; eventually all our older D-model coaches will look like this. Fortunately I didn't put the first scratch on it -- it's still in perfect shape. The photos show the old and new style of graphics -- Coach 58 (first photo) is the old style, and Coach 54 is the new one I drove last night. It also happens to be our oldest coach -- 11 years old, although it looks brand new inside and out since the refurbishing (and except for being slightly underpowered, still drives like the new ones). It has close to a million miles on it. (Click photos to see larger versions.)

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Breakfast at Ikea

The passenger ship, United StatesMaybe it's just that I've been more observant lately, but I can't recall seeing so many beautiful skies as I've seen the last few weeks. Several times I've commented to passengers in the front of the coach, "Look at that sky!" There have been beautiful sunrises, beautiful clouds, and beautiful sunsets (like the one I posted here yesterday). One of the reasons I love driving motorcoach is the huge, picture window view out the front all the time as I drive.

Today is no exception; the sky is deep blue with lots of pretty, puffy clouds -- very photogenic. I had breakfast at Ikea this morning (which is where I'm parked, in south Philadelphia just off the Delaware River and near the Walt Whitman Bridge) -- 99 cents for bacon, eggs and home fries, and another dollar for a bottle of water -- two bucks for a complete breakfast (bus driver's salary, you know LOL). After breakfast, noting it was such a beautiful day, Ikea Flags 1 Ikea Flags 2 I decided to go for a walk, and took a few photos along the way, posted here.

I have a very short trip today -- I brought a business group to Philadelphia for the day. Across the street from the Ikea store where I'm parked is where the former majestic passenger cruise ship, the United States, is docked on the Delaware River (photo above), awaiting whatever its future is to be. It has been docked here about five years -- already gutted, it was to become a floating restaurant and casino, but with the legalization of other casinos in Pennsylvania, its future is now very much in doubt. I've heard that the ship's owner is spending $1,000 per day just to have it docked here while its fate is decided.

On my walk I also took the two photos of Ikea's flags -- I couldn't decide which of the two I liked better, so I put them both up -- do you have a favorite? I lean toward the first one, but the second is good, too. (Click each photo for a larger view.)

I go back to pick up my group about 4:30 PM today, then have the evening off.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Quick Update

SunsetI've really fallen behind at keeping this updated. I've been working on some major updates to some of my Web sites, also spending more time taking pictures before the summer comes to an end, plus still busy driving ... enough excuses? LOL

A quick update on a few things:

Dave is doing very well, He went back to work on Saturday, and is working full time this week. His face is healing very nicely.

Glenna flies to Ohio tomorrow (Thursday) to visit her parents. She'll return Monday evening.

Sunday I had my first Eagles game trip of the season. Too bad they really blew it in the 4th quarter! At least the tailgating before the game was fun -- lobster tail and steaks again. Delicious!

My favorite trip this week is coming on Friday -- a Hagey Tour to the Gaither Homecoming concert at Hershey's Giant Center. I was off yesterday and will be off Saturday, too -- driving the other five days this week. Today I had a trip to Cabela's in Hamburg, PA. They had Crocs my size, so I bought them! I had looked earlier several places this summer trying to find some but had no luck. I was rather surprised to find them at Cabela's. They are the "Off Road" style, in black. Don't know what Crocs are? Check 'em out here:

I photographed the beautiful sunset shown above from the parking lot at Hagey's as I walked to my car after work this evening. Click on the photo for a slightly larger view.

More soon.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Wildwood, NJ

The new Convention Center in Wildwood, NJ
Today (Monday, 9/11/06) was day 2 of my five-day trip to Wildwood, NJ. I only have 16 passengers, and the schedule includes lots of free time for walking the boardwalk (our hotel is only a block away), the beach, shopping, etc., so this is probably one of the easiest overnight trips I've done since I started for Hagey's.

We saw two shows today, both at the new Convention Center in Wildwood (shown in the photo above -- click for a larger view). This morning was two singers and impersonators who did many famous singers from the past and present. Tonight we had a nice sit-down dinner, then dancing and a comedian, Dick Lord, did a great show, very funny. There were about 1,000 people in attendance at both of the shows today -- mostly senior citizens.

The group went on a two-hour dolphin watch this afternoon. Because of parking issues, I didn't get to go along, but it sounds like I didn't miss much -- they only saw one dolphin the whole afternoon. It was sunny here, but very windy, and so the boat stayed mostly in the bay. The best areas to see dolphins are out in the ocean a short way off shore.

Five years since 9/11/2001 ... that's hard to believe. I've been watching some of the specials on TV tonight, and like most people, I suppose, reliving some of the events and memories of that day.

Friday, September 08, 2006

A Company That Cares

My initial trip today covered 330 miles, a little longer than an average day, but nevertheless it was a pretty easy trip. I picked up the students at the camp in the Pocono Mountains that I had taken there on Wednesday, and brought them back to their school near Philadelphia.

I had just finished my paperwork and was still sitting in the drivers' room at work, looking over my trip info for next week, when my boss rushed in and asked if I could do an emergency run yet today. One of our coaches had broken down in Atlantic City, and they weren't sure they could get it fixed in time to bring passengers home from a casino there.

Well, I didn't have many hours this week, so I agreed to do it. By the time I left the terminal a few minutes later, they had gotten the other coach on the road again, but were concerned that it might break down again and leave the passengers stranded. So my instructions were to head for Atlantic City, and when I met up with the returning coach, turn around and follow it the rest of the way home, just in case there was another problem.

We met near the Walt Whitman Bridge just outside Philadelphia; they weren't having any more problems, so I turned around and followed them the rest of the way home -- entirely uneventful. What was interesting is that the passengers never knew about the problem, and never knew another coach was following them in case they broke down. (The initial problem occurred when the coach was empty.) But it's a good illustration of the integrity of a company that cares about their customers to that degree, that they were being shadowed, unaware, "just in case." It's one of the reasons I like working for Hagey Coach. I know they're there to support both me as a driver, and my passengers as customers. They care. And today, the passengers didn't even know!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Stitches Removed!

I took Dave back to Lehigh Valley Hospital this afternoon to get his stitches removed. An hour and a half later (along with a lot of paperwork, he said) he is stitch free! He hopes to start shaving again tomorrow, although I'm guessing that will be a challenge, considering his face isn't very smooth yet. The doctor also cleared him to go back to work starting next week, assuming he feels up to it and takes it easy at first. His job is very physical, but he thinks he can do it, and of course he needs the money, so he's planning to start working again Monday.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Work Schedule

It's good that this week includes a paid holiday. With the eight hours from Labor Day, and just three days of trips, I'll have a little over 40 hours this week -- but that's the slowest week I've had all summer. It looks like it may be the ONLY slow week, as things pick up significantly next week with trips six days.

Today I took a class of 8th graders from a Friends school to a three-day retreat at Camp Timber Tops in Greely, PA. On Friday I'll go back to pick them up.

Sunday I start a five-day Hagey Tour to Wildwood, NJ -- the first I've done that tour, and I'm looking forward to it. Friday I take an elementary school group to Camp Canadensis in the Poconos. Saturday is my only day off next week, and then Sunday have my first Eagles game trip, taking the group for whom I've been driving to Eagles home games the last three years.

School trips should continue to keep me busy, along with a variety of other trips, from now through mid-December when things slow down for the holidays.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Mädchen-Musikzug Neumünster

Back in August (11-18) I did a seven day trip with an all-girls marching and concert band from Germany, on a concert tour of the US and Canada. Actually they were here for two weeks -- another driver drove the first week of the tour, and I drove the second week. They did four concerts while I was with them, and they were REALLY good! The girls range in age from 12 to 25, and represent their town in northern Germany. I drove for them starting in Lancaster, PA, then to Toronto, Niagara Falls, New York City, and Long Island, NY. I really enjoyed the trip and took a number of photos; if you're interested in seeing them, I just got some of them on the Web for them -- almost 100, posted here:

Mädchen-Musikzug Neumünster

Labor Day Weekend

Glenna and I got to spend a day together Saturday to attend a Mark Lowry concert at the American Music Theatre in Lancaster, PA. It was great!! He is so funny, we laughed until we cried. The music was great, too; he sang several songs from his latest CD ("Be the Miracle"), plus his famous "Mary, Did You Know" ... and appearing with him was the trio, LordSong, plus the Voices of Lee -- a 15 voice a cappella group from Lee University in Tennessee -- one of the best a cappella groups I've heard. The trip was a Hagey Tour, for which I drove. We had lunch at Shady Maple Smorgasboard before the concert -- one of my favorite food stops, too. It was a great day!

Video chat with JonSunday we drove to Baltimore to visit my dad and Harry's family, and also had a great time. Dad is doing well, and has gained some weight (which is good!). Late afternoon we had an hour-long video chat with Jon in Nashville (screen capture at the left!). It was the first time Dad had seen or participated in a video chat; he was quite impressed and really enjoyed it (thanks, Jon!). Jon is moving this week to Chatanooga, TN, for the next month (living in a hotel) for training for a change in his job in Nashville.

Wear Your Seatbelt!

Dave's accident last week was a real wake up call on the benefit of wearing your seatbelt -- or the consequences of NOT wearing it. His head and neck went entirely through the windshield, resulting in more than 50 stitches in his face and neck. Had he been wearing his seatbelt, chances are he would have had bruises and that was it. (You can click on the photos above to view larger versions.)

He was less than three miles from home. Moral of the story: ALWAYS wear your seatbelt!

Here's a link to a brief story about the accident that appeared in the Allentown Morning Call newspaper online:

Morning Call article about Dave's accident


Welcome to my new personal blog on

A word about the name of this blog -- NineWheels ...

I drive motorcoaches -- tour buses -- for a living, all over the eastern US and Canada. Motorcoaches have eight wheels, and I have a Web site at for drivers and for my passengers. Sometimes when I refer passengers to it, I start by asking them how many wheels a motorcoach has. In the US, nearly all motorcoaches have eight wheels, but I was surprised at how often the response from my passengers was nine! When I asked for an explanation, they had included the steering wheel!

This blog is intended to be a personal space to express personal thoughts, so including that ninth wheel, the steering wheel, seemed like a natural name for the blog. So that's why it's NineWheels.

The "breakdown lane" is that right lane, the shoulder, along most highways in which you're not supposed to ever drive, and in which you don't want to be parked, either -- that would indicate you have a problem. Seemed like a natural tag line for this blog, so that's the story on that -- "Staying Out of the Breakdown Lane."