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How to host a successful road meet

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Hosting a road meet may seem to be an intimidating and daunting task, especially for someone who's never put together a meet before, but it's not as difficult as it may seem. Some meets hosted by rookies have turned out to be great, while others planned by veterans have had issues pop up (to be fair, sometimes it was out of control of the meet host).

Here's some tips that I've gleaned on how to put on a great meet that will leave attendees happy that they took a few hours out of their day, and in some cases traveled great distances, to attend. Everyone should feel free to add their own pointers.

1.) Pick a meet city/area and topic. Many meets focus on ongoing construction projects and/or newly-opened routes, but this by no means is the only subject on which a meet should center. Old bridges, stub endings, old alignments, old or interesting signage, other forms of transportation infrastructure (locks/dams, railroads, etc.) and many other things are fair game. If it has to do with roads, chances are multiple people will be interested in it. What may seem familiar and boring to you may be of interest to someone who has never been to the area, or only has a passing familiarity with it.

The recent meet I hosted in Ashland, Ky. featured stub endings, new and old bridges, old signage, construction projects and some other interesting matters. A meet in Bennington, Vt. a couple of years ago involved new construction, covered bridges and an unusual traffic light. Last year's Doylestown, Pa. meet featured the new road along with the old bridge at Washington's Crossing, an old bridge abutment and some other features. My meet at Somerset, Ky. several years ago featured a number of construction projects as well as a visit to Lake Cumberland, where the water level was drastically lowered due to repairs on the dam, yielding a number of old roads and bridges that are normally submerged. You get the idea. There's plenty to see at any individual meet.

2.) Pick a gathering spot/meal location. Different hosts prefer different types of restaurants. Some go for the local flavor, some like regional chains, others like national chains. It always helps to be sure if the restaurant has a full and varied menu and plenty of parking. Determine if attendees can leave their cars at the venue or if they will need to move to another location before the tour departs. Also, decide if you want to eat first and then have the tour, or start the tour and eat along the way. Check out the restaurant's Web site for menu options and hours of operation, along with gratuity or separate-check restrictions. If possible, eat at the restaurant to gain an understanding of if it will work for the meet in terms of location, seating, etc.

3.) Scout the meet thoroughly. After you decide where you want to eat and what you want to see, drive the loop to get a rough idea of how long it is and how much time it will take. Check to see if parking is available for any stops you may wish to make. Once you get your tour determined, make it available to attendees ahead of time so they can check out the route. Print copies to hand out at the meet, so participants will know where to go in case the caravan gets separated or one car makes a wrong turn somewhere along the route. Check the itinerary frequently, as construction projects can change things up frequently (closed streets, detours, parking spots eliminated, etc.).

4.) Choose a date and give plenty of advance notice. Some people will pick a date and let the chips fall where they may; others will do some sort of poll to determine a consensus on a good date. Notice can range from one month out (a suggested minimum) to several months away. There is no "right" answer, but some people like to have as much notice as possible so they can plan vacation days and travel plans as necessary. Also, competition for meet dates can sometimes occur. It's not likely that a meet in California and a meet in New Jersey would conflict, but a meet in Ohio and a meet in New Jersey might, especially for people who may be close enough to want to attend both and would have to make a choice.

5.) Promote your meet. Post it on AA Roads, create a Facebook page, announce it on "Roadgeek" or any of the regional Yahoo groups, post it on misc.transport.road, create a Web page on your site if you have one. Allow multiple RSVP channels, since not everyone has Facebook and some who do use FB don't want to publicize their travel plans. Post your details, links to the restaurant's site, tour itinerary maps or narratives, etc. Give plenty of information to meet attendees. Provide a cell phone contact number (privately to attendees if you wish) so they can notify you if they're running late.

6.) Be flexible. Sometimes during a meet tour, someone will suggest an additional site that's along or near the route. This happened during my recent Ashland, Ky./Tri-State meet, when it was suggested that we visit the old tunnel for Ohio 75 (now Ohio 93) at Ironton. It was on the route and made for an interesting addition to the tour.

7.)Not too long, not too short. Just right.(With apologies to Goldilocks and the Three Bears.) Set a reasonable time frame for your meet. Usually allow about 2 hours for lunch. Few meets ever get started right at the announced time -- and by "started" I mean everyone is seated at the restaurant. Then, make sure your tour is the right length and distance. Make it long enough to be worthwhile, but not so long that it impedes after-meet travel plans of attendees. I've found that a "Gilligan's Island" tour -- a three-hour tour, get it?  :-D ) is about the right length. Consider the amount of daylight you'll have for the tour, the desire that some attendees may have to not have to drive after dark to get to their destinations after the meet's over, any after-meet festivities you may be thinking of, and so on.

8.) Have fun! In the early days of meets, an "around-the-table" introduction was necessary so everyone could know who everyone else was. More than one "Hi, I'm Carl Rogers" introduction elicited laughs and/or boos. Now, many in the hobby already know many others personally, but there's always a chance that a new face will show up. Enjoy the food, the fellowship and the main attraction -- ROADS!

I'll be interested to see how others add to or embellish this. These are just my thoughts and I'm sure some of you will be able to contribute other good ideas.

Couple things I have to add:

1) Don't just pick where to stop. Have planned out where exactly you are going to trek to when everyone gets out of their cars and be prepared to take charge and lead everyone there. If you just get out and say "well, here we are at X spot", where to go from there may be self-explanatory... or it may not.

2) Traditionally every meet has a group photo. Plan for there to be a good spot for one somewhere along the tour, and either bring a tripod yourself or make sure someone else will. Also, bring your SEND HELP sign if you have one.

Stickied this topic for you.

To elaborate on #7: Use whatever Google gives you and round up. If it's 10 minutes between stops, allow 15. If it's 20 minutes, allow 30. This covers bathroom breaks, people getting lost, etc. More rules of thumb:
* Quick photo stop only: 10 minutes. Yes, it takes this long.
* Quick exploration (i.e., a stub): 15-20 minutes.
* Walking out on a bridge, etc.: 30-40 minutes, depends on the bridge. Can be an hour or more for a long bridge with a long walk to it, such as the Woodrow Wilson during the DC meet.
* Meet photo: add 10 minutes to any of the above.

You may feel like these are excessive, but meet after meet, I've been within a few minutes of when I planned the meet to begin and end by providing these exact amounts of time for each leg. So trust me, it works. As for lunch, it can be anywhere from 100 minutes to 150 minutes, depending on how willing you are to shoo people along and into their cars.


--- Quote from: Steve on May 20, 2013, 08:33:08 PM ---To elaborate on #7: Use whatever Google gives you and round up.

--- End quote ---

Which is the exact opposite of normal travels with Google. Usually it overestimates travel times.

But your advice is sound. If you have a large number of people to round up and herd back into their cars, the shortest stop can turn into one that's longer than you expect.


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