Is the Golden Age of Ground Transportation Near?

By Laura Michonski
November 7, 2012
Courtesy <a href="" target="_blank">mmiwig/myBudgetTravel</a>

In the past decade, a wealth of new bus lines such as Megabus, Vamoose, and Bolt Bus have made it easier and cheaper to travel by ground (here are six of our favorite budget bus companies).  Bus travel has increased accordingly (you may remember the DePaul University study Sean O'Neill quoted last year showing that bus travel had risen by 13% in 2011).

Train travel is looking good too. President Obama has a vision to increase the speed on our railways-a goal that we took a baby step toward last month when the Amtrak line between Chicago and St. Louis reached 111mph, 30 mph faster than our nation's fastest train (yes, we still have a ways to go before we catch up to those European trains that blast through the continent at 150mph).

All of this bodes well for ground transportation in the coming years. And now, a new website is poised to make it easier to search these options and identify the most efficient and affordable combination. The site is called Wanderu and they are calling themselves the "kayak of ground travel." It's not the first website to try to combine ground travel options (there is also, which is a bus ticket search engine that makes it easy to search schedules and fares from bus carriers across the country), but it is the first metasearch site that I have seen that takes train schedules into consideration.

It's about time. We have more options for ground travel than we ever had before, but we still have the problem of identifying the best possible combination to get from point A to point B.

The downside, unfortunately, is that the Boston-based start-up is still in private beta and there is no word on when they will officially launch.

I have my fingers crossed that Wanderu will succeed as it's a service that an avid ground traveler like myself could benefit from. If not Wanderu, however, I'm sure another company will step in to try their hand at coordinating ground transport. In the meantime, the very existence of sites like Wanderu and BusJunction suggest that we're getting closer to an era when ground transportation will be easier for Americans.

I certainly look forward to that day and am thrilled to think that it may be close at hand.

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Top Chef: Seattle "Chef-testant" Restaurant Guide

It's not just voters who are celebrating in Washington state today—the tenth season of Top Chef, Bravo's culinary Olympics reality show, is headed to Seattle and is doing its part to build the foodie buzz both in the Emerald City and across the Pacific Northwest. Premiering tonight on Bravo at 10 EST, Top Chef: Seattle will introduce viewers to 21 "chef-testants" hailing from acclaimed restaurants, nonprofit programs, and culinary schools all over the country. If Top Chef anticipation has your mouth watering, don't fret-you can sample the fare fresh from the kitchens where this season's contenders honed their skills. See photos of the contestants here, and check out our list of their restaurants (with a couple menu highlights) below. (Entrée price guide: $ = $15 and under; $$ = $15-30; $$$ = $30 and up). Anthony Gray, Executive Chef, Southern Art Bourbon Bar, Atlanta, Ga. (Southern, $$): Try an elegant spin on homestyle southern classics like shrimp and grits and cornmeal-dusted catfish. Bart Vandaele, Belga Café, Washington, D.C.
 (Belgian, $$): Try the Belgian steak with "real" Belgian fries, or the mussels with garlic butter, curry crème, or white beer. Brooke Williamson Hudson House, Redondo Beach, Calif. (Gastropub, $): Enjoy an avocado and fennel salad or grilled shrimp tacos with one of the pub's 50 beers. The Tripel, Playa del Rey, Calif. (Gastropub, $): Sip one of the funky bar's "libations" while snacking on coconut and red curry dumplings or a calamari po'boy. Carla Pellegrino Bacio, Las Vegas, Nev. (Italian, $$): The menu at the revamped Tropicana's upscale Italian restaurant includes classics like risotto al gamberi (shrimp risotto) and scaloppini alla romana (veal with artichoke and prosciutto). Bratalian, Henderson, Nev. (Italian, $$): Or try the traditional family-style dishes at this "Neapolitan cantina," such as penne alla vodka or salsicceand pepperoni (sausage and peppers). Danyele McPherson, Sous Chef, The Grape, Dallas, Tex. 
(New American, $$): The eatery, a Dallas standby for 40 years, offers coffee-rubbed pork chop and olive and mustard braised rabbit. Eliza Gavin, 221 South Oak, Telluride, Colo. 
(New American, $$$): Locally-sourced options include Rocky Mountain trout dusted with truffle oil and mushroom-crusted Colorado lamb shank. Elizabeth Binder, Bar Bambino, San Francisco, Calif. (Italian, $$): Try the bigolli with local sardines and zesty Pantalleria capers, or the goat cheese and savory fig-pear preserve panino from the restaurant's café-style Pronto menu. John Tesar, Spoon Bar &amp; Kitchen, Dallas, Tex. (Seafood, $$$): Inventive seafood dishes include fusilli with braised octopus and monkfish "osso bucco." Jorel Pierce, Chef de Cuisine, Euclid Hall Bar &amp; Kitchen, Denver, Colo. (Gastropub, $): Take your pick from an extensive menu of beers and playful eats like "fries with eyes" (smelt, vinegar aioli, and tarragon-doused fries) and a chicken schnitzel sandwich. Joshua Valentine, Pastry Chef, FT33, Dallas, Tex. (New American, $$-$$$): highlights on the simple yet elegant menu include pork loin with Carolina gold rice and scallop with piquillo chile, grapes, and capers. Micah Fields, The Standard Hotel, Los Angeles, Calif.
 (New American, $$): The 24/7 eatery at the trendy downtown LA hotel offers chicken 'n waffles and a customizable mac and cheese mini-menu. Sheldon Simeon, Executive Chef, Star Noodle, Lahaina, Hawaii (Asian Fusion, $): Classics from East and Southeast Asia get a Hawaiian twist: a Big Island rib eye with shiitake and negi, or "Hapa ramen" with roast pork, baby bok choy, and kamabako. Stephanie Cmar, Rounds Cook, No. 9 Park, Boston, Mass.
 (French, Italian, $$$): Menu offerings include Vermont quail with chestnut milk and slow-roasted elk loin. Tyler Wiard, Executive Chef and Culinary Director, Elway's, Denver, Colo. (Steakhouse, $$$): The "Classics" section of the menu includes a Colorado rack of lamb with a rosemary crust and parmesan-crusted Pacific grouper with Louisiana Creole sauce and andouille sausage. Tina Bourbeau, Executive Chef/ Senior Director of Research and Development, FreshDirect
: many readers may already be familiar with FreshDirect, which delivers, fresh, high-quality ingredients and pre-prepared meals to doorsteps nationwide. Gina Keatley, Dietitian and Founder, Nourishing USA, Harlem, NY: 
The New York City-based non-profit is dedicated to fighting hunger with a network of food pantries and soup kitchens across the nation. Kristen Kish, Chef de Cuisine, Stir, Boston, Mass.: This Beantown school of fine cooking offers classes from $100 a session. Daniel O'Brien, Seasonal Pantry, Washington D.C.: foodies can sign up for cooking classes or seasonal "supper club" menus available through advance reservations. Rounding out the chef-testant lineup: Chrissy Camba of Chicago's soon-to-open Bar Pastoral; 
Kuniko Yagi, Executive Chef of an upcoming David Myers restaurant in Los Angeles; and personal chef Jeffrey Jew, who has worked at restaurants in London and Washington, D.C.


Kid Rock Gives Michigan a Lift

He may not get the highest marks for imaginative song titles, but pop star Kid Rock is no slouch when it comes to home-state loyalty. The rocker has contributed his song "Detroit, Michigan," from his upcoming album Rebel Soul, to the state of Michigan's official tourism website,  "Detroit, Michigan / Ya heard about Marvin Gaye / We got him," the artist croons, in a song that references a number of Motor City celebs, including Motown singer/songwriter Gaye, "Queen of Soul" Aretha Franklin, and Grammy-winning rapper Eminem as well as civil rights activist Rosa Parks and automaker Henry Ford. Rock, who grew up in a Detroit suburb and has recorded such hits as as "Cowboy" and "Bawitdaba," shows his local pride (and party-hearty spirit) with lines such as "The Big Three baby and the finest cars / George Clinton's P Funk all stars / We spend our days on the line and our nights in the bars." Michigan, of course, should require no arm-twisting where vacationers are concerned. The 11th-largest state, with a population of nearly 10 million, is home to a host of popular destinations, including:   Traverse City, on the shores of Lake Michigan, offers miles of beaches, wineries, scenic lighthouses, and some of the Midwest's best golf courses.   The Henry Ford, one of America's most popular historical attractions, is a museum, a village, an auto factory tour, and IMAX theater dedicated to the inventor of the assembly line and founder of, well, you know…  Mackinac Island, with its limestone bluffs, is a favorite summertime vacation spot for its historic forts and trails for biking, hiking, or horseback riding.   Detroit, best known for turning out world-class cars and groundbreaking R&amp;B and techno music, is also gaining popularity for its downtown casinos like the Greektown Casino-Hotel, the Detroit Beer Company (across from the Detroit Opera House, home to Michigan Opera Theatre), and Diamond Jack's Detroit River Boat Excursions, a two-hour narrated river tour.  


How Hotels Are Dealing With Sandy's Aftermath

Hotels have played a pivotal role in hurricane recovery in New York City, where residents are still in the midst of putting their own lives back together and trying to clean up what remains of their homes, locating loved ones, and helping their neighbors cope with Sandy's aftermath. There are stories on the news of local residents below 39th Street in Manhattan—where power is nonexistent—who took everything they could carry and chose to stay in hotels until things settle down and power, water, and heat are restored. In parts of Staten Island, probably the most damaged of the five boroughs, people evacuated to stronger built hotels and now have no homes to return to in the wake of the storm. This was a major problem when the marathon was still scheduled, since thousands of runners had reservations close to the Staten Island starting line. The Huffington Post reported that Richard Nicotra, the owner of the Hilton Garden Inn in Bloomfield, New Jersey, was standing up for the evacuees, and refusing to give their rooms to Marathon runners, an act which received plenty of praise on social media as more hoteliers continue to struggle with finding an appropriate solution. At the same time, hotels in Manhattan below the power line (aka. at this time, anything south of 39th Street) are still putting up visitors on their properties with or without power. According to an article by USA Today, The NYC Pod Hotel is currently offering rooms for $160 a night and telling guests up front that there is no heat and barely any lighting except for the lobby and hallways, but there is hot water in the rooms and elevator access thanks to a back-up generator. Other hotels in the northeast are doing their part to help out, offering Sandy Specials and donating to American Red Cross relief efforts. Alternative hotels are getting in on it, too. Air B&amp;B announced Wednesday it will not charge the extra fees it usually does to make a revenue so the money guests pay for a room goes straight to the people hosting-check out their Discounted Sandy Listings page for discounted rates aimed at helping out stranded travelers and those displaced by the hurricane.


Survey Reveals The World's Friendliest Countries

Have you ever thought of dropping everything and just starting all over again in another country? A survey by HSBC found that 10 countries are at the top for expats around the world when it comes to acclimating to a new culture, language, and way of life. According to a story originally reported by Forbes Travel, the survey was given in May and June to 5,339 expatriates representing almost 100 countries, and asked participants important questions about what it was really like to live there. The country's economic and social factors that impact everyday life—like ease of making friends with locals, picking up the language, the level of community and social activity, as well as taxes, the amount of pollution, typical climate, and work-life balance—were taken into account to determine which countries were easiest to adjust to and which countries the expats would genuinely like to stay in. Here are the results of the survey, in order from last to first place: 10. Malaysia 9. South Africa 8. Bermuda 7. United States (remember, this is a survey taken by expats all over the world, not just Americans) 6. Spain 5. New Zealand 4. Canada 3. United Kingdom 2. Australia 1. Cayman Islands What do you think of these findings? Is there another country you would you love to live in someday? Tell us about it below.