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Author Topic: How to host a successful road meet  (Read 6941 times)

hbelkins

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How to host a successful road meet
« on: May 20, 2013, 03:38:46 PM »

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.
« Last Edit: May 21, 2013, 09:35:12 AM by hbelkins »
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Duke87

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Re: How to host a successful road meet
« Reply #1 on: May 20, 2013, 07:57:39 PM »

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.
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deathtopumpkins

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Re: How to host a successful road meet
« Reply #2 on: May 20, 2013, 08:09:15 PM »

Stickied this topic for you.

Alps

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Re: How to host a successful road meet
« Reply #3 on: May 20, 2013, 08:33:08 PM »

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.
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hbelkins

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Re: How to host a successful road meet
« Reply #4 on: May 20, 2013, 09:19:57 PM »

To elaborate on #7: Use whatever Google gives you and round up.

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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Brandon

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Re: How to host a successful road meet
« Reply #5 on: May 20, 2013, 10:27:26 PM »

While allowing time for a stop, you will also need to allow for time to corral everyone at the end of the stop.
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oscar

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Re: How to host a successful road meet
« Reply #6 on: July 01, 2013, 08:45:00 PM »

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.

I'm a Facebook refusnik.  Please make FB events page viewable by us non-FB users, rather than use the default setting which locks out non-users.  I find it helpful to occasionally check FB pages for meets I'm planning to or might attend, for details that don't end up on aaroads, even if I can't post there and need to RSVP on aaroads or by e-mail.

EDIT: Facebook is increasingly restricting access by non-FB users, even to "public" FB events. For example. non-FB users can read basic event information (which is helpful), but not read any discussions.
 
Often some meet attendees are on FB but not this forum, so keeping everything on the forum is usually not an option. But at least make sure that the forum gets copies of the most important info, especially late changes to meet locations and times. This has been done with all the meets I've attended, and we should keep doing that.
« Last Edit: November 04, 2016, 11:16:43 AM by oscar »
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Re: How to host a successful road meet
« Reply #7 on: March 19, 2014, 04:20:21 AM »

Don't overthink things.  I hosted a Tulsa roadmeet a few years ago, and it took me literally 5 minutes to plan the itinerary.  I got to see things that I had never seen before.  Everybody seemed to have a good time, and we had a good time at my apartment after the driving (except for one person who was a complete buzzkill). 

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Re: How to host a successful road meet
« Reply #8 on: April 23, 2014, 08:39:50 AM »

Here's a question. At some meets, there are lots and lots of places to stop - a bridge here, a highway stub there, a neat sign right around the corner - often so many, that some attractions have to be drive-through only. Other times, like if the primary purpose of the meet is to drive a brand new stretch of freeway, not many places stand out as a good place to stop.

Do any of you have a rule of thumb for how many stops to make?
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Brandon

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Re: How to host a successful road meet
« Reply #9 on: April 23, 2014, 09:38:02 AM »

Here's a question. At some meets, there are lots and lots of places to stop - a bridge here, a highway stub there, a neat sign right around the corner - often so many, that some attractions have to be drive-through only. Other times, like if the primary purpose of the meet is to drive a brand new stretch of freeway, not many places stand out as a good place to stop.

Do any of you have a rule of thumb for how many stops to make?

Not really.  However, if there is a good vantage point for a feature such as a bridge, a stop there is always a good idea unless that stop requires the use of "the worst urban street in the world" to get there.
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CanesFan27

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Re: How to host a successful road meet
« Reply #10 on: April 23, 2014, 10:14:10 AM »

No there isn't.  However you should take into consideration how many people are attending/number of vehicles.  Some stops may not have available parking and you may need someone to stay back to make sure no issues arise.

Other items you don't have to showcase an entire area in one meet.  For the early pittsburgh meets we did one feature or geographic area at a time. 
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Re: How to host a successful road meet
« Reply #11 on: April 23, 2014, 06:19:24 PM »

"the worst urban street in the world"
I can't be the only one who read that in Jeremy Clarkson's voice.
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Brandon

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Re: How to host a successful road meet
« Reply #12 on: April 23, 2014, 07:04:32 PM »

"the worst urban street in the world"
I can't be the only one who read that in Jeremy Clarkson's voice.

It would be as I meant it.  Had you been to the Saint Louis meet, you might have met "the worst urban street in the world" as well.  It's a street, but barely an alley, yet riddled with potholes big enough to swallow a Nissan Armada.  My poor Dodge Caliber barely stood a chance other than the fact it's small enough to skirt the worst of them.
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Scott5114

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Re: How to host a successful road meet
« Reply #13 on: April 24, 2014, 04:09:02 AM »

One idea, which worked out pretty well at the 2008 Oklahoma City meet, is to plan a main tour but keep some ideas for "special features" afterward. Upon returning to the initial meetup site after the main tour, those who would prefer to head home or return to their hotel can bow out, and if anyone wants to continue, you can discuss what they'd like to see. One night after the main tour, several attendees asked for information about interesting bridges nearby, so we did an evening tour down to McClain County for some bridge hunting. We also did some of Route 66 by request after the main tour the second day.

This might work better if you are having the meet in a city you are intimately familiar with, such as your home city, because if someone wants to go bridge or alignment hunting, you will probably already know of some potentially interesting sites.
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Re: How to host a successful road meet
« Reply #14 on: May 06, 2016, 12:40:47 PM »

While allowing time for a stop, you will also need to allow for time to corral everyone at the end of the stop.

I think this is a good idea.  I was in a motorcycle rider's club a few years back including people of widely varying riding abilities and comfort levels.  Some were comfortable constantly speeding, others rode slowly due to lack of confidence, others (like me) preferred to go just slowly enough to enjoy the ride, roads, and scenery.  Invariably, everyone would be together at the beginning of the ride in the morning, yet it would take close to a half hour for all of us to arrive at the designated lunch stop, and people often split off mid-ride to do their own things and it was difficult to keep track of.  By the end of the day I was often riding by myself or with only one or two others.  Maybe it's just the way that particular club was run.

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Re: How to host a successful road meet
« Reply #15 on: May 31, 2016, 10:27:05 AM »

Being that I attended my first meet this weekend, I'm kind of pumped to plan one of my own, but knowing me that will likely die off as I get back into the routine of going to work and so forth.  I'm certainly a rookie on the forums.  On my way home, however, I was thinking of places locally I'd like to show off, and was kind of dismissing them: "Surely every roadgeek has seen Breezewood," "Surely every roadgeek has seen the Park-And-Ride at the end of I-70 in Baltimore..."  I suppose I need to stop being pessimistic, however, I couldn't think of any places other than "popular" ones.  But, as you say, those not from the area may not have been to places.

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Re: How to host a successful road meet
« Reply #16 on: May 31, 2016, 10:49:39 AM »

Being that I attended my first meet this weekend, I'm kind of pumped to plan one of my own, but knowing me that will likely die off as I get back into the routine of going to work and so forth.  I'm certainly a rookie on the forums.  On my way home, however, I was thinking of places locally I'd like to show off, and was kind of dismissing them: "Surely every roadgeek has seen Breezewood," "Surely every roadgeek has seen the Park-And-Ride at the end of I-70 in Baltimore..."  I suppose I need to stop being pessimistic, however, I couldn't think of any places other than "popular" ones.  But, as you say, those not from the area may not have been to places.

I would never say "every".  Many people can 'see' Breezewood via aerial and street car views, but haven't experienced it.  Many have said they avoid it on principle, so they've never actually seen it either.

If you were to plan a meet, you can always put out a survey asking people what they would like to see.  If you have time for 3 stops, and there's 6 possible areas of interest, see what potential attendees would like to stop at. Something like a Breezewood could conveniently be on the way between two stops.  If there's route clinching involved or an interesting sign, those items will take care of themselves simply while on the move.

I can say I'm about 90 minutes from Baltimore and never seen the I-70 Park-and-Ride.  And I've only encountered Breezewood because of the much more interesting abandoned PA Turnpike tunnels, which would interest quite a number of people.

So, never say never.  Sites that some of us see every day or every week will always be a first-time experience for someone else!
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Re: How to host a successful road meet
« Reply #17 on: June 08, 2016, 05:31:04 AM »

^this^  Yeah I once saw Breezewood in person, even stayed there overnight-in 1977 as a 7 year old child on a trip from Michigan to DC. I can't tell you that I remember much about it other than swimming in the pool at the motel and watching the traffic on one of the two Interstates wrap around the side of a mountain and disappear way off  in the distance. If I were ever to go to a road meet in PA, I would like to see that again as an adult-as well as the abandoned turnpike tunnels that Jeff was speaking of. I've never seen the I-70 park and ride either.
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Re: How to host a successful road meet
« Reply #18 on: June 11, 2016, 02:30:32 PM »

Also bear in mind that road meets can be social events as much as sightseeing tours. Some people may well show up even if they've seen things before simply because they have friends who will be there, or because someone who they want a chance to meet in person will be there.

The shifting of the community over time is also such that even if a road meet was held in a particular area before, you may still attract attendance from people who were unable to make it to the last one or were not yet active in the community at the time it occurred.
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