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By Carmen Ensinger
One of the main reasons some older folks don’t go places more than a few miles away from home is because they don’t like to drive to get there or they don’t like the hassle of trying to find a parking place when they do get there.
Those obstacles have been erased with the arrival of Timmy’s Travels, a 29-passenger tour bus owned and operated by Tim Reif of Carrollton.
Timmy’s Travels has already had two almost fully booked day trips since its official “opening” on July 20 – one to Casey to see all the “big” sights and one to a St. Louis Cardinals baseball game, plus it has been rented for several different events.
Reif, who currently works as a paramedic in the St. Clair County/Randolph County area and is also a Carrollton alderman, is not new to the tour bus trade.
“I started out as a paramedic and then drove a truck over the road for a few years when I needed more money to pay bills,” Reif said. “But my first job driving a bus was when I was EMS manager at Boyd Hospital. I drove part-time for Cavalla and then later part time for Ted Herman who owned Godfrey Tour and Charter whenever he would need someone to fill in until he retired.”
Reif said he loved doing the trips to the different places and taking care of the people on these trips.
“I had the opportunity to get to do a lot of things that I otherwise wouldn’t have gotten to do,” he said. “I got to go to the Cardinals/Cubs home opener in Chicago one year. I’ve taken band and orchestra groups out of the St. Louis area to competitions and I even had the chance to drive the University of Illinois Lacrosse team to a meet once. I’ve done all different kinds of groups and different things that I would never have gotten to do otherwise.”
But when Herman retired, Reif went back to his job of being a paramedic, but deep in his heart he longed to hit the road again – this time with his own tour bus.
“I thought about buying a bus for a long time, in fact, I almost bought one before COVID hit, but I’m certainly glad I didn’t now, because, obviously the world shut down and I would have still had to pay for it,” he said. “But it gave me time to think about something – there is a bus in Jerseyville and one in Carlinville and a guy in Jacksonville that has one who rents it out for things like parties, but that’s it for this area.”
Reif said he kept seeing people on Facebook asking if anyone knew of a party bus or a bus to rent for a birthday party or other events and that is when the idea of his own tour bus came back to mind.
“I knew that Strahan’s in Carrollton used to do the day trips and charge other buses to come in and trips for them and I knew the older people missed that,” Reif said. “In talking to them, they said they missed going on those trips and that they liked being out with other people and having a chance to go out for the day and not worry about driving. So, I decided I was tired of working overtime all the time and I wasn’t getting any younger and that I might as well try this and see what happens.”
Once his mind was made up, the search was on for a bus. Since a new one was financially out of the question, he began searching for a good used one.
“It took me over three months to find a bus that I wanted and that would meet my criteria and do what I wanted to do,” Reif said. “Buses of this type are hard to find right now. This is more than just a shuttle bus like the casinos use – those are easy to find because they are cheap with vinyl seats and nothing fancy.”
Reif’s bus is anything but cheap. It is a coach made specifically for over the road trips complete with overhead luggage compartment for storing small carry-on bags plus a separate storage compartment in the back. It has high back reclining cloth seats, arm rests, tv to dvd player, radio, heat and air conditioning. It will hold 29 people and is made for luxury trips, not just your shuttle trips across town.
To find this little gem, Reif would have to travel all the way to the Eastern seaboard.
“My dad and I flew to Washington D.C. to pick this up after I bought it,” he said. “It was owned by a limo company out there. We then drove it the 897 miles home.”
Besides the day trip to Casey and the Cardinals game, Reif has several other day trips planned.
“I’m working on a trip later this summer to the Dana Thomas house in Springfield and the Lincoln Museum and maybe another ballgame later this fall,” he said. “I’m also trying to schedule maybe a couple of winery trips where we go around to the different wineries in the area.”
People who love going to the ball games, but hate all the walking involved, will love going on this bus. Reif drops his passengers off right at the gate where the tickets are located and picks them up at the same gate once the game is over. The ultimate curb service.
For those who want to get away for more than just a day – Reif said he has a three-day trip planned to Kentucky in October.
“This trip is to the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter in Kentucky and is all inclusive except maybe for a few meals and snacks,” Reif said. “Otherwise, lodging, your ride, tickets to the attraction – everything is included for the ticket price of $450.”
Reif said it is a six-to-seven-hour drive down there, then they will spend one day at the Creation Museum and then the next day at the Ark Encounter and then leave at the end of that day and come home.
Even though he is still a full-time paramedic, Reif said he will do most of the driving himself.
“I do have a couple of people that can help if I have a trip scheduled on a day that I am already scheduled to work,” he said. “But, as of right now, everything I have scheduled, I am scheduled to drive myself.”
When asked how much it is to rent the bus, Reif said he doesn’t have a set price.
“The price I charge depends on the time and the distance traveled because those are the two things I have to pay for – the driver’s time – whether it is me or someone else and the fuel – because the farther you go the more fuel it takes,” he said. “So everyone asks – do you charge by the hour? Well, not exactly. You can break it down by the hour, but its not really by the hour charge. I need to know where you are going and how long you will be gone before I can give you a price.”
For those wondering, the bus has a diesel engine and averages around six miles per gallon. The Ark Encounter is located in Williamstown, Ken., 394 miles away, which will take an average of 65 gallons of diesel. At approximately $5 per gallon, that comes to $325 down there and another $325 back. A trip to St. Louis right now costs about $55. This is just taking into consideration the fuel cost – none of the other costs associated with driving such a vehicle.
Almost all of Reif’s day trips include lunch, something Reif admits he loves to include in the package price because he gets the opportunity to “check out” the cuisine before booking the venue for his group.
“The fun part about that for me is that I get to go ahead of time to try lunch at all these places and make sure it is good,” he said. “Because I don’t want to take a group of 25 people to someplace for lunch and it isn’t good.”
He did that when he took his group to Casey
“I went there and took two other people and we each ordered something different so I had the chance to try out three different things,” Reif said. “Everything was wonderful. Afterwards, I told the manager why I was there and he helped me out and gave me their catering list and told me how they would set it up and how they would take care of us and said we could be in and out in 45 minutes because we could order ahead and it would be ready for us when we got there.”
If you are worried you will be eating at McDonald’s or Cracker Barrell on your trip, put those thoughts out of your mind.
“I always seek out somewhere that is not a chain restaurant – a place that is unique to that area and something that you are not going to get at any other place,” Reif said. “That is part of the experience of the trip – to experience different things. Anyone can go to an Olive Garden anywhere, but when you go to Casey, that is the only Richard’s Farm Restaurant there is so that is part of the excitement of going there – getting to eat somewhere unique to the area.”
The other question he gets quite often is “what will you take.”
“My answer to them is simple – anything that is legal and morally okay,” Reif said. “You can rent this bus for wedding parties, birthday parties, any kind of celebration at all and if you have any doubts, just give me a call.”
Reif has a Facebook page, Timmy’s Travels, LLC, where he updates about upcoming scheduled trips. For more information about chartering or renting the bus for an event call Reif at 217-473-9321.