Using a wear-and-tear calculator I found at, driving my own car would have run me $151 in depreciation, tires and what-have-you.  A conventional mid-size car would have been $206.  An SUV or large car:  $300.

Furthermore, the rental had a USB port, which my 2007 does not.  Insert smiley face here.

You may be most comfortable in your own car, and you might think that the only cost of driving your car is gas.  When you include the hidden costs, rental cars often prove to be a better choice.

September 3, 2013

W. C. Fields, the comedy star of early cinema, was quoted as suggesting something like this for his tombstone:  "All things considered, I'd rather be in Philadelphia."  Were he still alive, I would argue the point with him.

I fly a whole lot on US Airways.  Whenever I can, I connect through Charlotte.  Sometimes, the only choice is Philadelphia.  

US Airways is a much improved airline.  It has consistently the lowest fares from Roanoke.  I even like the airline's reliable Dash-8 propeller aircraft.  The issue can be their connecting cities.

Charlotte can be a problem on a late afternoon in the summer.  Lightning can shut that airport down in an instant.  I have been lucky this year.  It hasn't happened.

But Philadelphia--that's a worse story.  The mere suggestion of bad weather will close all but one runway, backing up some flights for hours--that is, the ones that don't get canceled.  Something bad has happened each of the three times I have used Philadelphia this year.

Yesterday, I was supposed to leave Portland, Maine at 6:15 p.m.  Having learned my lesson before, I arrived at the airport at 1:30.  A space opened up on the 3:30 flight to Philadelphia, so the agent moved me to it.

The 3:30 flight left at 6:30.  I made my connection and landed just an hour late at midnight.

If, when I had started driving, I had skipped the Portland airport and kept going all the way to Roanoke, I would have arrived at 1:00 a.m., one hour later than my flight delivered me.

This is flying today.  It is, for the moment, faster than driving.  Barely.

August 29, 2013

Belize is a little country in Central America.  You can cross it to Guatemala in a couple of hours, not that there is any good reason to go across the border.

They moved the capital inland a few years ago to keep it away from hurricanes.  When I read in a tour book that Belmopan is "best seen in the rear view mirror," I had to visit.  

It is an unfinished city with barracks-like buildings, easily the least interesting capital.  Anywhere.  So if you go to Belize, I'd recommend staying in the interior at a lodge where you can zip-line or float through caves.  Also, the beaches on Ambergris Cay. (Pronounce it "am-burg'-iss-key" to sound local.)  And a very nice zoo.

At the zoo, in an aquarium, lives a snake of about 18 inches with a diamond-shaped head.  That shape is the giveaway that it's a nasty little fellow with a killer bite.  The fer-de-lance is the scourge of walkers in the woods of Belize.

So Roxanne and I were, of course, walking in the woods.  We had to in order to get to the point where we would jump in a tube and float down the river.

You have to understand that with the fer-de-lance, you have about two hours before your eyes start to bleed.  They assured me that the lodge had the anti-toxin.  

We did not end up needing to prove that..  My advice, nevertheless:  look down, and keep looking down and you'll live to enjoy a beautiful country, mostly unspoiled, except for Belmopan.


August 27, 2013

I'm Jeff Marks.  My day job is general manager of WDBJ7.  My hobby is travel.

This blog is devoted to what I have discovered along the way.  I'll share tips and warnings.  And I would like your contributions on any travel subject.

Disclaimer:  I am vice chairman of the Roanoke Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau board of directors but I'm not going to write that much about how wonderful our part of the world is.  We know that in terms of culture, education, recreation, scenery and so much more, this region is a gem.

I am lucky to have visited 44 states, some of central America, Mexico and Canada, 26 countries of Europe, lots of the Caribbean, and parts of Asia.  I thought I had traveled a lot until I met a young flight attendant this morning who has been to many of those places and also South Africa and South America.  Of course, she travels at a big discount.

My wife Roxanne and I took a trip in June with Sean, our 12-year-old grandson.  We saw the sights of London, northern Wales and Ireland.  Someday I'll share some of those pictures, but I want to mention here an afterthought that turned out to be a highlight.

On the last full day of our trip, we were driving from Kilkenny to Dublin for our flight home the next morning.  As we often do, Roxanne checked the tour books to see if there were any interesting spots along the way.  The only thing she came up with was a cutlery showroom in the otherwise undistinguished town of Newbridge.  We drove to it.  Well, we drove by it twice.  We found it.  Sean stayed in the car.

Since that tour book was published, Newbridge Silverware has turned itself into a gift emporium, featuring knock-off jewelry of the stars from Audrey Hepburn to Greta Garbo.  What wasn't in the guide was that the second floor of Newbridge Silverware is a museum.  The owner has collected one of Dorothy's dresses from The Wizard of Oz, the Beatles' suits from A Hard Day's Night, and costumes of stars from Michael Jackson to Bette Davis.  

The museum is astounding to find in a small town in Ireland.  It's also free, if you don't count the $86 we spent in the gift shop afterwards.  

Ireland has fabulous castles, cliffs, pubs and parks.  Do all of that, then stop in Newbridge on your way out of the country.