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Kimee129
06-28-2008, 23:32
Hi, I just relocated back to the East Coast after ten glorious years in San Diego, Ca. I am putting out some feelers in the hiking community about the interest of a hostel in the NC/Tn area. I was thinking either in the Cherokee, NC, Gatlinburg, or Pigeon Forge areas. I would offer a shuttle to/from the Clingman Dome AT crossing or to whatever area would be closest.

I see in this thread much debate about hostels being a For Profit Business. I of course have to have my bills paid, but I also have a deep need to fill my curiosity. I love learning about different people and their cultures. I backpacked Europe alone in 1999 and had a blast. I know the American Dollar is weak now and there is more of a need to travel with a budget.

If you could design your ideal hostel that is hiker friendly, what would it be like? What are some absolute have to haves? What are some no nos? Which area of the above would you think is the best? So many questions so little time.

rafe
06-28-2008, 23:43
Check out the FreeState Hiker Hostel in Maryland (Wolfsville Road, just outside Smithsburg.) It's the nicest hostel I've seen on the AT; it's run by a 2006 thru-hiker. Here's a link (http://www.freestatehiker.com/). Ken and Janelle are great folks.

Trillium
06-29-2008, 00:01
check out the Hiker Hostel that Josh & Leigh run between Dahloneaga & Woody Gap. that is an awesome hostel!

Lilred
06-29-2008, 01:34
If I could design my own hostel it would have the following. HOT shower with a rain water showerhead. (hey, it's my design) Laundry facilities, short term resupply, Internet, sheets on the beds with pillows. No alcohol permitted and dogs outside. I would like it to include a breakfast fit for a king and free shuttle back to the trail. I would gladly pay $35 for all of that. The Gatlinburg area could use a good hostel, imho. Or, check out Townsend Tn, Wears Valley area.

Jack Tarlin
06-29-2008, 07:28
Lilred's dream hostel sounds great, but many people don't want to pay $35.00.

And some folks don't realize how much work goes into planning, shopping, prepping, cooking, and cleaning up for a big meal (and if we're talking Tenn/NC, then we're talking 15-20 people per day). So I wouldn't worry about the breakfast thing. I'd let people take care of their own meals; this would keep the daily workload down for the hostel owner, and would able the hikers to stay there for less money, which might encourage more folks to stay.

And I think the Gatlinburg area is fine, but then again, we're talking about a place where there are all sorts of inexpensive motels.

Best of luck with your plans.

Lone Wolf
06-29-2008, 07:32
the only way to do it is for-profit otherwise hikers will run all over you and take advantage of your kindness

MOWGLI
06-29-2008, 07:39
Cherokee is a little visited but interesting trail town. I'd look at that before the towns on the other side of the divide. Hikers would be able to see Elk when they return to the trail in the AM, and see a part of the park that they usually miss. I suggest you consider keeping your place alcohol free. That'll keep the problems down. A higher price will allow you to be more selective about your clientele.

Good luck.

generoll
06-29-2008, 07:41
You might want to get in touch with the folks at the Hike Inn near Fontana. They're not actively seeking a buyer as far as I know, but there's always the possibility.

Jack Tarlin
06-29-2008, 07:47
While a higher price may permit you to be more "selective" about your clientele, it will also guarantee you a much smaller one, too.

And Cherokee is a good bit further from the Trail than Gatlinburg; if memory serves, it's almost twice as far. With the price of gas being what it is, this is a consideration, as you'd presumably be offering a shuttle ride back to Newfound Gap, either included with your overnight or for a fee. If the cost for this was included with an overnight stay, you'd have to charge your guests more; if there was an additional fee involved, it'll also raise the cost of a visit to your establishment. There comes a point where people will do the math and say "I can get a motel for around the same price" and with local motel rooms available for around forty dollars, you can't be charging too much money for a hostel stay.

Unless of course, you want to be so "selective" with your guests that you don't have any. :rolleyes:

Frolicking Dinosaurs
06-29-2008, 07:52
The place most in need of a hostel in the TN / NC area IMO is the Gatlinburg / Cherokee / NewFound Gap (Highway 441) crossing on the AT. While most currently hitch to Gatlinburg for lodging and resupply, I would suggest Cherokee, NC, for the location of your hostel because the land in the Gatlinburg area is way overpriced and Gatlinburg is a tourist mecca.

As for amenities -
a shuttle to and from the trail (could have a specific time each day when people would be picked up from the trailhead (s) and a time when the shuttle would leave the hostel to deliver people to the trailhead(s) during the hiking season)
a shuttle to a good long-term resupply grocer if a location within easy walking distance cannot be found
a location within walking distance of food and beverage establishments
Hot showers with shampoo, liquid bath soap & towels / wash clothes supplied
laundry facilities with laundry soap provided
a clothes line suitable for hosing off and drying muddy tents, ground clothes, etc.
A microwave, stove and fridge for residents to use

Since dogs are not allowed in the GSMNP, if you like dogs and would want to provide kennel services, you could become a kennel for hikers who are hiking with dogs. Doing this would involve also providing daily shuttle and pick up / delivery of dogs to Fontana and Davenport Gap -- Doing that daily loop on a schedule during the hiking season would also make your services very attractive to section hikers who could leave their cars at your hostel, get a ride to Fontana, Davenport Gap or Newfound Gap and hike all or half of the Smokies - currently this is hard to arrange because only the Hike Inn (Fontana) and Standing Bear (Davenport Gap) are available and if they are already booked, you are SOL

Jack Tarlin
06-29-2008, 08:01
Running a boarding kennel is a great deal of work. And you better REALLY like dogs; really like the sound of barking 24 hours a day; you'd need additional insurance; and you better not have any neighbors within half a mile. Other than dog owners, I'm not sure many folks would want to stay at a place that was also a kennel. But other than all this, great idea. :rolleyes:

Another consideration: Gatlinburg has one of the better backpacking outfitter shops on the Trail, The Happy Hiker. Does Cherokee have a comparable facility? I know there are several outdoor shops on or near Rt 74, but I had thought they were geared more towards rafting.

Lone Wolf
06-29-2008, 08:02
no hostel is needed in this area

Jeff
06-29-2008, 09:26
Jack provided a very comprehensive list of the ideal hostel services on page #2 of this Whiteblaze thread: http://www.whiteblaze.net/forum/showthread.php?t=19948&highlight=hostel&page=2

Survivor Dave
06-29-2008, 09:46
Cloud 9 Hostel in Hiawassee Ga. is still for sale I think. If you are interested, call Fran and Laura. Last year they served almost 600 hikers from Jan. to May 1. A really cool place with an outdoor hot tub, trout pond, and other stuff hikers might like.

Jack is correct as far as the kennel thing. Hiker midnight is 9PM. Dog barking is annoying even if you like dogs!

Here's a link. There are good pics in some of the tabs as well.
http://www.upperhightowertrout.com/cloud9.htm

SD

Bulldawg
06-29-2008, 09:48
Cloud 9 is an awesome place IMO and in the perfect location less than 2 miles from the trail. It is also on a place on the trail where hikers very possibly could be ready to take their first zero.

Frolicking Dinosaurs
06-29-2008, 09:57
SD, excellent observation re: dogs and barking. Perhaps a hostel could arrange for boarding the dogs with a local kennel or vet and still provide the doggie transports to hikers?

Lyle
06-29-2008, 10:08
I guess, my opinion would be to keep it simple. The less work for you, the less chance of becoming burned out. Guess my list of must-haves (or should I say REALLY great to haves):

In order of importance to me.
1) Clean, dry place to sleep and tend to gear.
2) Access to re-suply. Either near-by or shuttle.
3) Access to meals - Home cooked great, but doesn't fit in with keeping it simple unless you really love to cook.
4) Showers
5) Access to laundry.
6) Shuttle back to trail. Not required, but kinda expected.

Beyond that, I consider anything else gravey. Nice to have, but not required at a paid hostle.
My one final suggestion, offer your services year round, or al least all hiking season. Several times on my recent section hike in May, some of the very popular hostels had shut down. There were still many thru-hikers and long distance hikers who needed services, but these hostels only operated during PEAK thru-hiker season. This was very disappointing, and inconvenient, and is why I say to keep it simple, maybe cut back services in off-peak times, but please don't eliminate them. Also, I would not be opposed to having the hikers do some chores before they leave in the AM. Sweep, mop, tidy the bathroom, etc.

Flush2wice
06-29-2008, 10:31
Running a boarding kennel is a great deal of work. And you better REALLY like dogs; really like the sound of barking 24 hours a day; you'd need additional insurance; and you better not have any neighbors within half a mile. Other than dog owners, I'm not sure many folks would want to stay at a place that was also a kennel. But other than all this, great idea. :rolleyes:

Another consideration: Gatlinburg has one of the better backpacking outfitter shops on the Trail, The Happy Hiker. Does Cherokee have a comparable facility? I know there are several outdoor shops on or near Rt 74, but I had thought they were geared more towards rafting.

Cherokee is the same distance from Newfound as Gatlinburg. There is an outfitters store there but I don't remember the name and I didn't go in so I don't know anything about it. Your right- offering a kennel service would be a lot of extra work, but it would also be an excellent business model. Extra work = extra $. Think about all those dog hikers that would love to see their pooch at the halfway point. You'd make a fortune in shuttling. Example- hiker and dog get shuttle from Fontana to Cherokee and stay a day (or 2). Hiker gets shuttle to Newfound and hikes south to Fontana. Another shuttle to Cherokee. Hiker spends another night at hostel. Hiker shuttles to Newfound again and hikes to Davenport. Dog gets shuttled to Davenport. OR any number of variations of this.
The trick would be to find a way that the kennel is far enough away from the bunkhouse that the noise and smell wouldn't be a prob.

mountain squid
06-29-2008, 10:52
http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys/signs087.gifto WB, Kimee129.

Before diving into this endeavor whole-heartedly, I suggest volunteering as a caretaker at an already established hostel for a season or two. You won’t make any money, but you will gain valuable experience. You’ll see everything, not just the obvious stuff, first hand without having to fully commit yourself. (Example: hiker leaves your place and forgets something. Three days later you get a call from said hiker expecting you to mail him his missing gear to next town, etc.)

It is quite a bit different operating a hostel than it is being a hiker staying at one. Hikers can be very demanding when they get into town. As a hiker, it is all about yourself (I need to take a shower; I need to do my laundry; I need something to eat; I need to resupply; I need to get this funny rash looked at; I need this and I need that, etc, etc, etc...) And then, once all your chores are completed, you have the opportunity to relax.

As a hostel operator, all those needs of a hiker are directed at you. Instead of taking, you will be giving. Multiplied by 10 – 15 hikers per day during busy season. Hiker chores aren’t the only chores to do either. (If you think your kitchen/living room/bathroom is dirty now...) And, frequently, once you think everyone’s chores have been completed, someone will arrive late at night (just when you thought you might be able to relax), and if nothing else, will need a place to sleep. Basically, you will need to be available 24 hours a day (unless you have a caretaker who can help).

During your season as a caretaker, carefully consider the services that you would like to provide (if you do decide to open a hostel): shuttles to town, shuttles for slacking, preparing/serving meals, operating a small resupply store, television, internet, etc. Not all hostels provide all services. Of course, location might dictate what you provide. The areas you listed will require a lot of shuttling. A shuttle to Clingman’s Dome or even Newfound Gap would probably take 1-2 hours round trip (give or take a few minutes).

Good Luck with your plans.

See you on the trail,
mt squid

Bob S
06-29-2008, 11:23
My guess that after a few years of running one, you would end up with a much lower opinion of thru-hikers. Reading post here they want a lot and are willing to pay little for it.

rafe
06-29-2008, 11:28
My guess that after a few years of running one, you would end up with a much lower opinion of thru-hikers. Reading post here they want a lot and are willing to pay little for it.


Why not email BonePac at the FreeState hostel (bonepac@gmail.com) and pose that question directly to him. I'd be interested in the response.

Survivor Dave
06-29-2008, 11:39
I agree. Ask Josh and Leigh at Hiker Hostel as well. I think you'll be surprised.


Why not email BonePac at the FreeState hostel (bonepac@gmail.com) and pose that question directly to him. I'd be interested in the response.

Jeff
06-29-2008, 13:53
Bonepak said this in his Trailjournals posting:

Bob Peoples said it best when I spoke with him about his hostel (Bob's Kincora Hostel). He said, "I can't wait for the first hiker to arrive and the last hiker to leave."

Basically, happy for the thru season to arrive and happy for the thru season to end!!!!!

Tennessee Viking
06-29-2008, 14:53
You might have to wait in line. Miss Janet is already calling dibs on the next hostel in East Tennesee.

Main thing you want to look at is what larhe sections are without a hostel/hiker services. Since you are looking at the Gat/Cherokee areas around the park. Your major AT business will be shuttle services into the park. Most of the thru traffic is going to keep going due to time restrictions on back country permits. You would only get jump offs here or there. And then you will be located in between Standing Bear Farm and the Fontana businesses, which hikers already favor.

Most of the existing hostel locations here in Tenn are already divided up in between from 1 to 2-3 days from another.

Might want to look at maybe Mountains to Sea Trail or BMT instead.

airhog794
06-29-2008, 15:55
sounds like a great idea. just dont get too close to erwin tn home of miss janets house. her hostel from what i hear is the best and i know it is one of the most popular. good luck tho.

airhog794
06-29-2008, 15:56
in response to buliwyf why would miss janet want to start another hostel?? when i hear her talk all she ever talks about is how busy she is.

dmax
06-29-2008, 16:14
Her hostel in Erwin is no longer in operation.

Appalachian Tater
06-29-2008, 20:02
If you're going to pick an area to build a hostel, do it where accommodations are scarce. As has been pointed out, there are too many cheap hotels in Gatlinburg for a hostel to make sense unless it were $20 or less a night. A lot of hikers are going to go into Gatlinburg because they want to see the place. I had planned to avoid it but had really bad weather and went into town and had a great time eating and watching the tourists.

You're getting some good advice and the best in my opinion is from mountain squid--go volunteer or work at one of the major hostels for a season. Which brings up another point--its' a very seasonal business.

I'm not sure how many hostel owners actually make a decent living at it--my guess is not very many. I know for a fact from talking to the people running several of them that they consider themselves fortunate to break even but most of those did not have set fees.

Tennessee Viking
06-29-2008, 20:31
in response to buliwyf why would miss janet want to start another hostel?? when i hear her talk all she ever talks about is how busy she is.
Where have you been lately Airhog? Miss Janet has for right now closed up shop; she is looking to move elsewhere in Erwin, babysitting a new grandkid, and hopefully reopen a new hostel in the near future.

Tennessee Viking
06-29-2008, 20:34
If you want the best experience of hostel working is...check Uncle Johnnys and Kincora.

Lone Wolf
06-29-2008, 20:38
If you want the best experience of hostel working is...check Uncle Johnnys and Kincora.

UJ is for profit. kincora is out of love. he and pat make nothing and are taken advantage of. bob knows this

peakbagger
06-29-2008, 20:47
Another thing to consider, which doesnt seem to be a priority at most of the hostels I have visited is making the facility comply with the various life safety codes. Most of the hostels in existing structures have no hope of complying with even basic safety standards. Why should the hostel owner care when there probably are not building inspections required in the entire rural county? The reason is liability on the owners part. Granted they think they can get away with only basic homeowners, or maybe with an excess liability policy but if its a "for profit" business, most insurance companies will gladly collect the bucks for years and then refuse a payout on the grounds that the policy was for personal use, not a business. Thus the frequent request for donations rather than a set fee per night by many hostels. Probably a bad thing to do is to get listed in hikers guides and list a cost per night as that implies that it is a business.

Ultimately it comes down to, do you want to be the unlucky hostel owner who gets sued by the 1 in 10,000 hiker that happens to get hurt while staying at your hostel? Or even worse, getting sued and losing everything to the family of a deceased hiker who managed to lose ther life at your facility. Even if there is no grounds for the lawsuit, the cost to defend yourself can get quite expensive.

The life safety code is quite extensive but here are some typical issues. No permanently wired smoke alarms, no exit signs. Loft or second floor accomodations without two egress paths that are isolated by fire walls to a dedicated exit. Lack of fire seperation between adjacent floors. Blocked exits, stuffing in more than the rated capacity, improperly installed woodstoves with inadequate clearances. Electrical issues. Now add in ADA to boot (talk to AMC about what they had to do to Galehead hut a few years back to make it "accessible").

Having to deal with and keep current on these codes out of the slim cash flow of a hostel is not going to work unless the owner cares to subsidize the hostel with other income.

Granted its not universal but the hostels run by larger organizations tend to be in better shape. Bears Den in VA is a great example.

Sorry to bring up reality in way of your dream.:(

Lone Wolf
06-29-2008, 20:50
Another thing to consider, which doesnt seem to be a priority at most of the hostels I have visited is making the facility comply with the various life safety codes. Most of the hostels in existing structures have no hope of complying with even basic safety standards. Why should the hostel owner care when there probably are not building inspections required in the entire rural county? The reason is liability on the owners part. Granted they think they can get away with only basic homeowners, or maybe with an excess liability policy but if its a "for profit" business, most insurance companies will gladly collect the bucks for years and then refuse a payout on the grounds that the policy was for personal use, not a business. Thus the frequent request for donations rather than a set fee per night by many hostels. Probably a bad thing to do is to get listed in hikers guides and list a cost per night as that implies that it is a business.

Ultimately it comes down to, do you want to be the unlucky hostel owner who gets sued by the 1 in 10,000 hiker that happens to get hurt while staying at your hostel? Or even worse, getting sued and losing everything to the family of a deceased hiker who managed to lose ther life at your facility. Even if there is no grounds for the lawsuit, the cost to defend yourself can get quite expensive.

The life safety code is quite extensive but here are some typical issues. No permanently wired smoke alarms, no exit signs. Loft or second floor accomodations without two egress paths that are isolated by fire walls to a dedicated exit. Lack of fire seperation between adjacent floors. Blocked exits, stuffing in more than the rated capacity, improperly installed woodstoves with inadequate clearances. Electrical issues. Now add in ADA to boot (talk to AMC about what they had to do to Galehead hut a few years back to make it "accessible").

Having to deal with and keep current on these codes out of the slim cash flow of a hostel is not going to work unless the owner cares to subsidize the hostel with other income.

Granted its not universal but the hostels run by larger organizations tend to be in better shape. Bears Den in VA is a great example.

Sorry to bring up reality in way of your dream.:(

there are no smoke detectors in The Place

Appalachian Tater
06-29-2008, 20:53
Another thing to consider, which doesnt seem to be a priority at most of the hostels I have visited is making the facility comply with the various life safety codes. Most of the hostels in existing structures have no hope of complying with even basic safety standards. Why should the hostel owner care when there probably are not building inspections required in the entire rural county? The reason is liability on the owners part. Granted they think they can get away with only basic homeowners, or maybe with an excess liability policy but if its a "for profit" business, most insurance companies will gladly collect the bucks for years and then refuse a payout on the grounds that the policy was for personal use, not a business. Thus the frequent request for donations rather than a set fee per night by many hostels. Probably a bad thing to do is to get listed in hikers guides and list a cost per night as that implies that it is a business.

Ultimately it comes down to, do you want to be the unlucky hostel owner who gets sued by the 1 in 10,000 hiker that happens to get hurt while staying at your hostel? Or even worse, getting sued and losing everything to the family of a deceased hiker who managed to lose ther life at your facility. Even if there is no grounds for the lawsuit, the cost to defend yourself can get quite expensive.

The life safety code is quite extensive but here are some typical issues. No permanently wired smoke alarms, no exit signs. Loft or second floor accomodations without two egress paths that are isolated by fire walls to a dedicated exit. Lack of fire seperation between adjacent floors. Blocked exits, stuffing in more than the rated capacity, improperly installed woodstoves with inadequate clearances. Electrical issues. Now add in ADA to boot (talk to AMC about what they had to do to Galehead hut a few years back to make it "accessible").

Having to deal with and keep current on these codes out of the slim cash flow of a hostel is not going to work unless the owner cares to subsidize the hostel with other income.

Granted its not universal but the hostels run by larger organizations tend to be in better shape. Bears Den in VA is a great example.

Sorry to bring up reality in way of your dream.:(That's a very important issue.

It is also true that a lot of people who do shuttles are running illegal businesses and do not have the proper insurance. If they have an accident and you are injured, good luck trying to get your bills paid. Of course, if you are the one shuttling illegally you could get sued in such a situation.

There is also the danger that you are discovered by or reported to authorities for not having a license or not paying sales or hospitality taxes or not reporting income. One bed & breakfast owner I spoke to said that the state wanted their hospitality tax money quite frequently (I believe it was monthly, not quarterly as I would have guessed) and sometimes audited the records to ensure compliance, and it was a significant percentage, something on the order of 20%.

Going by donations only might keep the government off your back but it won't keep you out of court. Bad thing all the way around.

Lone Wolf
06-29-2008, 21:07
there are no smoke detectors in The Place

update. just came back from there. there is 1 detector on the 2nd floor at the top of the stairs. it doesn't work. battery is dead

Kimee129
06-29-2008, 21:41
Thank you Terapin. I have emailed him and am awaiting his response. So many things to think about and consider. I will also have to make a trip up to the Cherokee, Gatlinberg area and see what they have in the way of outfitters. Thanks for all your responses.

Wilson
06-29-2008, 21:53
update. just came back from there. there is 1 detector on the 2nd floor at the top of the stairs. it doesn't work. battery is dead

The church trustees should talk to the Fire Marshall having jurisdiction, and Building Inspector if you have one.

Ever seen the unedited "Station Rhode Island" fire video?
Not as much risk in a hostel, but still have potentially drunk people in unfamiliar surroundings.

Wilson
06-29-2008, 22:01
update. just came back from there. there is 1 detector on the 2nd floor at the top of the stairs. it doesn't work. battery is dead

That would meet the old code pre 2002, for a Private Residence R-3 smoke detectors. The change to a R-2 (Transient lodging) would require a permit.

Tennessee Viking
06-29-2008, 22:05
UJ is for profit. kincora is out of love. he and pat make nothing and are taken advantage of. bob knows thisAnd thats why I love Bob and Pat. Especially love how Bob bargains with people to come maintaining for a ride into town. Thats why we get so many for Hardcore.

But they are probably the best examples of hostels on the opposite sides of the spectrum. Got to share the love then run a business for the money.

jesse
06-29-2008, 22:29
If I could design my own hostel it would have ...free shuttle back to the trail...

With gas prices above $4 I think hostels owners are crazy to give away transportation, and hikers, should not expect it anymore. The only way to give away transportation, is to overcharge on other services. You should expect to pay for what you get.

Personally, I don't see why anyone would want to carter to the hiking community. But if you do, Lone Wolf said it right. Make it a for profit operation, and don't be ashamed to do so. Don't let anyone talk you in to work for stay.

Appalachian Tater
06-29-2008, 22:32
I have been thinking about this more and Mountain Harbor Bed & Breakfast with the hiker barn might be a better model than a straight-forward hostel. At least that way you're not relying on a bunch of $15 or $20 a night hikers for a few months a year to try to earn a living. Plus that is a fine breakfast spread they serve!

Slo-go'en
06-29-2008, 22:42
I don't see where there is any need for another hostel in that streach of trail. 20 years ago yes, but now there's one every 3-4 days apart. If anything, there are too many now.

A nice B+B in Manchester, VT with reasonable hiker rates would be nice...

George
06-29-2008, 22:50
A hostel that includes transportation in and out of a national park requires some type of vendors permit and insurance policy that means a lot of red tape this has been an issue with shuttles in shenendoah

angewrite
06-29-2008, 22:51
I don't see where there is any need for another hostel in that streach of trail. 20 years ago yes, but now there's one every 3-4 days apart. If anything, there are too many now.

A nice B+B in Manchester, VT with reasonable hiker rates would be nice...

Would never happen in Manchester. That's a high rent district and buinsnesses have no need or desire to cater to hikers.

I'd like to see one of the many ski areas do something...

rafe
06-29-2008, 22:54
A nice B+B in Manchester, VT with reasonable hiker rates would be nice...

Frank Sutton still in business? He had a nice place (http://gallery.backcountry.net/at-vt-2002/abg), back in 2002. I have no idea if he's still around.

Jack Tarlin
06-29-2008, 22:57
Tater's recent comment about Mountain Harbor (near Roan Mountain, TN) made a good deal of sense. This is a really great place.

CaseyB
06-30-2008, 00:33
Seemed to me like there was an abundance of hiker services GA----North.

Lone Wolf
06-30-2008, 00:34
Seemed to me like there was an abundance of hiker services GA----North.

correct. no more are needed

CaseyB
06-30-2008, 00:40
Business model gets all screwed up with all of the 'labors of love'. Folks got to pay the bills somehow. Wonder why these hostels seem to come and go (exceptions noted) so frequently?:rolleyes: