My Alabama Roadtrip in The 2015 Hyundai Sonata #NewSonata

Roadtrip with the 2015 Sonata!

All travel consideration provided by Hyundai.

As I mentioned yesterday, we finished our tour of Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama by getting into a 2015 Hyundai Sonata and driving it straight off the assembly line. This was something of a “Surprise roadtrip” – I knew we’d be test-driving the new vehicles, but I didn’t realize we would spend the whole day driving through the Alabama countryside by ourselves. This was my first-ever visit to the state, so it was a true adventure to step right into a brand new vehicle and start driving in a new area, armed just with a book of directions – part of the challenge was that we were asked not to use the GPS, so this just added to the mystery!

I was paired up with Tonya of The Traveling Praters, who would be my driving partner for the duration of the trip. We both drove two legs of the roadtrip in two different vehicles: The 2015 Sonata base model and the 2015 Sonata Sport 2.0T. Our goal was to drive from HMMA to Pursell Farms for lunch, then head back to the Renaissance Montgomery Hotel where we were staying.

Beeb driving the 2015 Sonata

Driving the 2015 Hyundai Sonata: Leg 1

I drove the first leg of the journey, getting into a brand-new Sonata that was parked on the assembly line. We tried to get some snapshots of the car before we started, as bloggers do, but once I felt the assembly line start to move I knew we had to hurry up before it rolled away. ;) I actually pulled over in the parking lot so I’d have a minute to properly adjust the mirrors and make sure I could reach the pedals – ha!

Tonya read from our instruction book and told me where to drive from the plant. It was a total mystery to both of us and a true adventure to be in the middle of nowhere in an unfamiliar car, unsure of your destination. The 2015 Sonata has a ton of great features including full iPhone integration with Apple CarPlay and a built-in USB charger that Tonya and I used to keep our devices charged up; but I must say that I didn’t really spend much time taking advantage of all the car could do, because my attention was fully on trying to find our destination and drive safely. For the first half of the drive, I was white-knuckled on the steering wheel trying to navigate through lanes on an unfamiliar Alabama freeway and make sure I didn’t miss a turn. I’m what you might call a defensive/anxious/uptight driver, so I don’t like to mess with settings on the car and be distracted while I’m driving. There wasn’t a great deal of time to stop and get familiar with the vehicle as we were on a schedule for getting to lunch and didn’t want to hold anyone up, but once we got off the freeways and into the countryside, we did make a few quick pit stops for photo opps!

Alabama countryside

Since this was my first time in the state, I thought it was great that we got to drive through the country and see things that I wouldn’t have otherwise. Although I didn’t take advantage of all the Sonata’s bells and whistles, it did leave an impression on me as a comfortable, easy-to-drive vehicle. It was smooth to drive and I didn’t have to worry about anything other than trying to figure out where I was – I thought that was a testament to it; had I hopped into a vehicle with poor visibility or unintuitive controls, it would have made the drive a lot harder.

Beeb in the Alabama countryside

There was a pit stop at Shaylee’s Place gas station where we enjoyed yummy sno-balls from NOLA Ice and switched places. Tonya drove us from the gas station to Pursell Farms, a beautiful property in Sylacauga.

Mooooooo!

We had a really great time at lunch – I ate fried pickles and chatted with my friends, who had me literally crying with laughter at their stories! It was the perfect way to relax after biting my nails during the first half of the drive, so when it came time for us to leave and drive the third leg of the journey, I was a lot more relaxed.

Driving the 2015 Hyundai Sonata Sport 2.0T: Leg 3

I drove my final leg of the journey from Pursell Farms back to Shaylee’s Place gas station in the 2015 Sonata Sport 2.0T. This model has a turbocharged engine and is a lot of fun to drive – I think part of that is user bias since the drive back was less stressful for me and thus more enjoyable by default, but the Sport 2.0T also handles very nicely and is just a nice ride in general. It was definitely my personal favorite!

Sheep

We stopped at a railroad crossing at one point during the journey, and while we were parked and waiting for the train, the people in the car in front of us did a less-dangerous variation of “Ghostriding the whip”, where the driver and passenger got out of the car, ran around it in a circle, and got back in. It would’ve made a perfect Vine video if we’d been fast enough to catch it. ;)

The long and winding road

I had more opportunity to use some of the features in the Sonata on the way home, so I did flip through stations on the Sirius XM/FM/AM stereo and managed to find one that had an interview with Adam Levine, because of course I did. With pop tunes going, I cruised through the winding country roads and had so much fun with Tonya. Our adventure was a true bonding experience! At one point, we were deep into a girly conversation about hair products when Tonya said, “Oh no, I forgot to tell you to turn!” We had gotten just a little bit distracted. ;) Fortunately, the highway we were on had many easy turnoff areas where you could make a U-turn and get on the other side, so I simply pulled into one of these. As I prepared to make my turn, I wanted to make sure I pulled out at an appropriate speed to keep up with traffic. In the Sonata base model, I noticed that it did take a little bit of a push to get up to speed, so I pushed the gas pedal down accordingly; however, the Sport 2.0T has no hesitation getting up to speed, so I completely peeled out and flew into my turn, tires screeching and literally burning rubber and leaving black marks on the highway behind me. We both started cracking up! Tonya, my condolences on being trapped in a car with me for that long! ;)

Beeb and Tonya

We made it back to our hotel and snapped one last pic in the car. What a grand adventure we had together! I’ll never forget my experience on this road trip, from driving out of the assembly plant to winding through country roads next to buzzards. Both the 2015 Sonata base and Sport models made it easy to drive and find my way in a new place. The handling is good – it’s the type of midsize car I feel most comfortable in, but with the leg room and spacious interior of a larger vehicle. Living in Seaside, Jai and I make a lot of short road trips similar in length to my Alabama drive – this week alone, Jai has made three round-trip drives to Portland and one to Seattle – so the route we took was actually pretty similar to much of the driving I do at home. I could definitely see us driving a vehicle like the 2015 Sonata in our day-to-day life!

What’s the most memorable road trip you’ve ever taken?

Touring The Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama Plant

Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama

Travel consideration courtesy Hyundai.

At the end of June, I flew to Montgomery, Alabama for the first time to visit the Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama plant. This is the first Hyundai assembly & manufacturing plant in the US, and is also hailed as one of the most advanced. I was eager to get behind the scenes and see how their cars are put together – from start to finish!

Golf carts

Our group loaded into golf carts, donning safety glasses and a headset with an audio tour.

HMMA

Although HMMA is open to the public for reserved tours, photography is usually prohibited; but since we were members of the media, they allowed us to bring our cameras inside to capture a rare glimpse inside the plant!

Welcome Journalists

The tour starts at the stamping shop and winds through the welding and paint shops before stopping at general assembly, test track, and the engine shop.

Plant tour

Cars being made

Car being assembled

As we wound through the plant, we saw the employees working on each stage of the vehicle. We also saw some of the areas they have inside the plant for everyone who works at the plant, including a gym and cafeteria. The HMMA plant workers are rotated out of their post in the assembly line all through the day and switched to different tasks, which is done to prevent both repetitive stress injuries as well as boredom.

Assembly line

The employees work side-by-side with robotic machinery, which was really something to behold. We all know that the technology which goes into modern manufacturing is very complex, but you don’t often see it with your own eyes. Watching the robots at work was one of my favorite parts of the tour – check out this video I took during the tour. It looked like a scene out of The Matrix to me:

These little transport robots drive around the plant carrying parts:

As we finished our tour, we came to an assembly line filled with brand new 2015 Hyundai Sonatas. From here, we got into one of the cars and drove it fresh off the plant with nothing but a map guiding us to a mysterious location for lunch.

Brand new Sonatas

The assembly line literally started moving under my feet right after this photo was taken, so we quickly hopped into the car before it rolled away! ;) I drove the first leg of our journey, and I can’t think of a bigger adventure than stepping into a freshly-made car anddriving it off the assembly line into the countryside in a state I’ve never visited before!

2015 Hyundai Sonata

I have so many fun stories to share from our big road trip adventure, so stay tuned tomorrow for part two of my Alabama adventures with Hyundai!

Share Your Travel Disasters For a Chance to Win $10,000! #VacayGoneCrayCray


This post is brought to you by Choice Hotels.

Traveling is always an adventure, which means that every traveler has at least one nightmare vacation story. I’ve got a number of anecdotes from my trips, a few of which I share in the video above. Hint: It involves ants and a cheap hotel in Tacoma. If you get a kick out of hearing funny travel stories as much as I do, then you are going to love the Vacay Gone Cray Cray contest!

Vacay Gone Cray Cray is a new contest from Choice Hotels that calls on weary travelers to submit their worst tale of woe on the road. The most hilarious will be re-enacted by YouTube stars Rhett & Link on their “Good Mythical Morning Show” – I love watching actors re-interpret funny stories, so I think this is going to be hysterical! These highlights will be posted starting July 17th, with the contest closing for submissions on August 27th. To enter, just visit VacayGoneCrayCray.com to submit your story. The winner will be announced on September 4th and take home a cool $10,000 so they can have a vacation do-over!

And even if you don’t win big, you can still make up for a lousy vacation without having to break the bank thanks to Choice Hotels. I’m so excited to be partnering with them this summer and will be staying at one of their hotels later this month during a super fun trip that I am planning. 2014 marks Choice Hotels’ 75th anniversary, with over 6,300 hotels in their franchise in 36 countries and counting. And thanks to the verified reviews on their website, I can feel confident that the hotel I will stay in will be quality – and not full of surprises like that other hotel I found in Washington!

What’s the worst disaster you’ve experienced while traveling? Tell me in the comments below, and be sure to submit it to Vacay Gone Cray Cray for your chance to win!

Summer Travel & Fitness Apps for Windows Phone #WindowsChampions #VZWBuzz

 

Whether you’re hitting the pavement or taking to the air this summer, here are a few apps to make this summer the best yet.

1. Get Active

clip_image002Start this summer off on the right foot – literally. Stay on track of your healthy lifestyle with the Bing Health & Fitness app on Windows and Windows Phone. This app features great fitness and nutrition content, along with trackers, tools and other features to get the most out of your day – and your workout. By logging into your Microsoft account, the app syncs across all your devices so your content and info will always be there. If you’re traveling or on-the-go this summer, download Bodeefit on Windows and Windows Phone for high intensity workouts, or try Yoga.com on Windows and Windows Phone, which lets you keep up with yoga workouts at your own pace anytime, anywhere.

2. Get Planning

Have a bad case of wanderlust? What are you waiting for? The Bing Travel app, available on Windows and Windows Phone, helps you explore the world and plan a perfect trip. Get inspired by the 360-degree panoramas, slideshows, photos and videos of scenic spots around the globe. Once you decide on a destination and book your flight, keep track of your travel info until you’re sitting on the plane, no matter who you’re flying with – Alaska Airlines on Windows and Windows Phone, American Airlines on Windows and Windows Phone or United, also on Windows and Windows Phone. Complete your trip by booking an affordable, discounted room from Priceline Hotels on Windows and Windows Phone and cruise stress-free to your destination.

3. Get Going

clip_image004Once your feet are on the ground, you’ll need to get your bearings. Bing Translator, available on Windows and Windows Phone, is your companion when you need to overcome a language barrier. Want to make sure you hit all the best shops and restaurants? HERE City Lens, on Windows Phone, gives you an entirely new way to reveal what’s around you. Just hold up your phone like you’re taking a picture, and HERE City Lens overlays all the best points of interest right on your display – just tap the icon for more information

Three Portugal Beach Destinations That You Shouldn’t Miss

Tourists looking to avoid the conventional trips to Spain should look to the west and towards Portugal, a charming little country with a fantastic Atlantic coastline. Package holidays to Portugal that are organized by tried and tested tour operators are favorable summer options for those who want to unwind and relax in a place that is known for its beautiful sunshine and pristine beaches.

image
The Algarve
The Algarve is situated in the southern reaches of Portugal and consists of a large region of the country. It’s a popular hotspot for tourists and features a number of sun-stained cities and towns such as Faro (the capital), Praia da Luz and Lagos. It’s a relatively inexpensive area as well, populated with clean beaches and beautiful waters, making it an ideal holiday experience for all the family. As well as beach-fun, Lagos offers an inner look at the old remnants of the country’s rich history and is a charming, quaint town, adding a little extra incentive to visit.

Madeira & Porto Santo
Madeira is part of Portugal but sits in the Atlantic Ocean and is classified as an archipelago. The ‘Pearl of the Atlantic’ is a fascinating visit, full of rich, tropical wildlife and unmatched in terms of climate (in Europe, anyway). Its vast, mountainous terrain makes it perfect for hiking and those that decide to rent a car won’t be disappointed either. Porto Santo is an island in the north part of Madeira and features over nine-kilometers of beaches with tourism at the heart of the island’s income. The beaches here are the best in the entire archipelago and are said to have extreme healing properties as well.

Porto
Porto is a renowned city in Portugal and sits on the coast so those interested in visiting beach-bars and restaurants with exquisite views should head here on their holidays. Visitors should take a cruise up the river and a stroll through the beautiful, cultural city as well as ordering an exotic drink in one of the many laid-back beach-bars.

Portugal gives it all when it comes to tourism and with much of the country surrounded by coast, it’s a very attractive and enticing offer. Visitors should be sure to consider the islands off the coast, such as Madeira, as they offer a little extra alongside the city-breaks, emphasized by the likes of Porto and the capital city, Lisbon.

Dick’s Last Resort Gatlinburg Tennessee

Gatlinburg Tennessee is a great place to take your family and have a great time. There are so many different places to eat, drink, and be merry. Even Dick’s Last Resort can be a lot of fun if you’re willing to be insulted.

image

At Dick’s it’s all about having a good time, even for the waiters. They make jokes, insult you and tell you to go get your food yourself. Of course they are kidding and it’s all in good fun plus they have some really great southern bites to choose from.

Officially because everything is so official at Dick’s Dick is the ornery, politically incorrect curmudgeon who inspires his waiters to be outrageous, and surly. They dish out good grub, cold booze and heaping helpings of sarcasm. This is the place you actually get to spit straws at each other and get away with it. It’s a child’s dream location, even the grown up kind of child.

  • Eat, Drink And Be Wary!
  • Smart-Alec Funny Staff
  • Live Rock N’ Roll
  • Controlled Chaos!
  • All In Fun And Fun For All…Who Dare To Enter!
  • Located In Ole Smoky Moonshine Holler

image

 

I went here with my friends, my traveling buddies and had fried gator with japs.

image

Fried pickles with amazing dip

image

A moonshine drink called a trash can, and yes I was sort of trashed.

image

And I finished my meal with some salmon because I was trying to have something healthy with all that fried food. Then when it came to dessert I told the waiter to just bring one of each. And somehow I didn’t get a picture of any of them I just ate it all.

At Dick’s you really have to be prepared for the insults and be prepared to dish them right back at your server. They more you do the more fun you’ll have. It’s not a place for the uptight that can’t take a joke. It’s meant to be fun. And they do tone it down at your table if you have kids.

Exclusive Travel Coupon: Save in Gatlinburg Westgate River Terrace & Ripley’s Aquarium

As part of the trip I took to Gatlinburg a few months ago with Westgate Resorts I have a huge savings to share with you guys at the Westgate River Terrace. This is an exclusive special blogger savings on a Gatlinburg Getaway. The package includes:

DSC00405

  • Luxury stay at Westgate River Terrace

The 205-room River Terrace Resort & Convention Center is conveniently located in downtown Gatlinburg. The River Terrace lies next door to Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies and features majestic views of the Smokies and easy access to Gatlinburg’s wide variety of family attractions, specialty shops and fine dining.

  • Gatlin-Burger Grill
  • Duck Blind Lounge
  • Two heated outdoor pools
  • Trolley to Wild Bear Falls Water Park
  • Located minutes from the downtown Gatlinburg & Pigeon Forge
  • 4 Days and 3 Nights in Gatlinburg
  • 2 tickets to Ripley’s Aquarium
  • As low as $119
  • Additional Nights and Attraction Tickets Available

 

    DSC00387

This special offer also includes two tickets to Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies! A favorite attraction in the Gatlinburg area, Ripley’s Aquarium features 10,000 sea creatures representing more than 350 individual species. Explore a tropical rain forest, the gallery of the seas, shark lagoon, penguin playhouse, a coral reef, sting ray bay and much more.

 

DSC00401

I spent a few hours in the aquarium and liked it a lot better than I thought I would. There are so many different kinds of sea creatures that I’ve never seen before. I found huge crabs that made me think twice about ever eating crab again. I saw amazing fish and different species of sea horses, I never even knew existed. One of them looked like a dragon, so maybe dragons were real once upon a time.

DSC00406

In an attempt to ward off predators, schooling fish swim in groups or schools (pictured above), as a way to look bigger than just one fish. In the wild, schools of fish may contain billions of fish and stretch for many miles. The disadvantage of the schooling behavior is that the fish are easily caught in nets.


About 30,000 species of living fishes exist.

They represent 50% of all vertebrate species, outnumbering all mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians combined!

I also saw the WEEDY SCORPIONFISH This fish is a master of camouflage and its frilly appendages help it to blend in with its surroundings. Their dorsal spines are venomous and can be painful if stepped on. It’s a lot of fun and a great package offered here. It’s a great way to have a good vacation with your family because there is more than enough to do in Gatlinburg.

best-price-guarantee-round

Book your Gatlinburg Vacation Today! Call 1-877-288-7422
Join Westgate Resorts for your Gatlinburg Vacation.
Call Today to save up to 20% when you book by Phone!
1-877-288-7422

This official Westgate Gatlinburg Offer is exclusive to our Website Blog Visitors. Only eligible by phone!

Wyndham Vacation Rentals & National Vacation Rental Month #VRMonth

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Wyndham Vacation Rentals.

image

Going on a vacation is one of my favorite things to do. I love to travel so much and I love to take my family and choosing a place to stay can be challenging and expensive but it doesn’t have to be. It’s National Vacation Rental Month in July and that reminds me of how amazing it is to stay in rentals verses hotels. My favorite reason for staying in a rental property is because I can get the laundry done with the in-unit washers/dryers before I go home. I LOVE when we actually end up at home from a week long vacation and all our clothes are clean. My other reasons are because we save money with the kitchen by actually cooking meals instead of eating out for the entire vacation. And the price is usually cheaper than a hotel anyway and you all end up having your own rooms. This summer you can experience those benefits with savings of up to 35 percent off at WyndhamVacationRentals.com.

image

Wyndham Vacation Rentals have locations in many different popular destinations. They have a property in the Tennessee Smoky Mountains, a place I just visited with my friends and they have homes in other popular destinations such as Myrtle Beach, the islands of Charleston, the Emerald Coast and Hilton Head Island.

Wyndham

Celebrated during the most popular month to stay in a vacation rental, National Vacation Rental Month honors a better way to get away. And with a Wyndham, you get the added bonus of hotel-like amenities at many of its properties such as shuttle service, a concierge desk, and housekeeping. It’s the best of both worlds! You get the benefits of a hotel and of a house. Have the maids clean the house so all you do is enjoy yourself. I mean it’s up to you if you want to get your laundry done or not. And you have some protection with your vacation. With Wyndham Vacation Rentals, you can book knowing your vacation is backed by the Vacation Rental Bill of Rights, an industry-first service pledge that says you’re stay will be covered from start to finish.

 

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Wyndham Vacation Rentals.

Tracking Pixel

Where to Stay In The Tennessee Smoky Mountains: Westgate Resort Spa & Water Park

Tennessee was never really thought of as a vacation place for me but I had never been to Gatlinburg before either. Gatlinburg is a family city set up in the Smoky Mountains and is full of things to do. You could do a different thing every day and still not see everything in a two weeks time span. And while you’re in Tennessee enjoying all the things to do you need a place to stay. Why not stay at The Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort Spa and Water Park?

image

I had an amazing view from my room. I could see the mountains and noticed how smoky they were. I never realized they got their name by the clouds that just rest against them like smoke. Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort & Spa sits on approximately 255 acres, with 55 acres developed, adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the largest national park East of the Rockies.

DSC00380

We had a tour of all the room options and it’s quite impressive how many of the rooms connect. Not all rooms connect but you can have quite a large group as even one room can sleep up to eight and then think of all those people you could add to your room by combining rooms. Plus they are nice rooms. I turned on the fireplace and enjoyed my Jacuzzi bathtub that I somehow didn’t get a photo of.

DSC00386

This photo is of one of the rooms we toured. This room has a smaller bathtub than my room had. My room had a bathtub and a separate shower and my shower had like three different places that water came out of. As you can see in this tub there are two. It’s fun taking a shower with water coming out of different directions. Plus the water pressure is amazing. That’s important to me when I travel, I really love it when I have water pressure.

DSC00388

 

Westgate’s Wild Bear Falls is the latest expansion to Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort & Spa in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. This mountain-themed world-class family indoor water park features a state-of-the-art retractable roof, taking Mother Nature out of the equation! It’s really large and made for families. I wish I had my kids with me on this trip they would have had a blast at the water park every day.

DSC00439

 

Even if my kids spent the whole day in the lazy river or going around under the water dump structures they would have had a blast. I think they might have even found of of the smaller slides to ride on with dad.

DSC00434DSC00433

The room is warm as the water is kept warm and the roof is retractable to let in a little air.

DSC00440DSC00438

And I did visit the spa too but let’s just say that deserves a post of it’s own. Overall it’s a great place to stay. You can get 3 days and 2 nights starting at $149. One thing that Westgate specializes in is events. Book an event with them and your stay is included in the price of the event. It’s a fantastic deal. You don’t have to be an owner to book an event just visit Westgate Events and or Westgate Resorts for your stay!

B&O Railroad Museum to Edgar Allan Poe’s

The Poe House, A National Landmark where Poe once lived from 1833-1835 with his aunt, grandmother and two cousins, will be re-opening to the general public on Saturdays and Sundays, from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m., May 24 through December 28, 2014. statue

Visitors will experience the re-installed exhibits that share Edgar Allan Poe’s life and death story in Baltimore. During the self-guided tour, visitors will also stumble upon significant artifacts including china and glassware that Poe used when living with the Allan family in Richmond, Virginia and also Poe’s portable writing desk, chair and telescope. telescope

 

Admission for adults is $5 and $4 for seniors, active military and students (ages 13-21). Children 12 and under are free when accompanied by an adult. Tickets are available at the door or can be purchased in advance by the following link:  http://reservations.baltimore.org/6691_attraction-tickets_a1385.html.

DSC_0015_poe

For more information on the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum, visit www.poeinbaltimore.org