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From New York City, the trip to Fire Island starts with catching the Long Island Railroad at Penn Station. Gay Bostonians hop onto a high-speed ferry for the ride out to Provincetown. In San Francisco, it’s possible to get to the gay getaway of Guerneville via public bus. Even car-crazy Los Angelinos have the option of riding the rails to Palm Springs — even if the Amtrak schedule is a bit sketchy.
”There’s no way to Rehoboth except driving,” says Jim Nastus, referring to Rehoboth Beach, Del., the favored summer spot with metropolitan Washington’s gay crowd. He adds a caveat about Greyhound bus service: ”It’s a nine-hour odyssey.” While not quite that long, theoretically, it is an odyssey via Wilmington — the existence of which could not even be confirmed by a Greyhound reservation agent.
But thanks to Nastus and three other gay Washingtonians — Mark Bromley, Till Bruett and David Salie — this summer will see a new option for weekend sea seekers. It’s called ”Rehobus.”
From its D.C. launching point, in front of the 18th & U Duplex Diner at 2004 18th St. NW, Rehobus is scheduled to depart around 6:15 p.m. starting Friday, May 25, delivering up to 55 people to the fire station in the heart of Rehoboth Beach. The bus will return to D.C. from the same spot, leaving around 5:30 p.m. Sundays, or Mondays during three-day weekends. The service will run through the summer.
”There’s satellite TV, XM Radio, computer power,” says Nastus, ticking through the amenities offered on Rehobus, which is being chartered from New World Tours in Bethany Beach, Del., using busses based in Manassas. The Rehobus crew won’t be offering any alcoholic beverages, but passengers may bring their own. Meanwhile, Duplex Diner will be selling meals-to-go for beach-bound trips, with Lori’s CafÃ© offering the same service for the return.
Nastus says he and his business partners have conducted a survey of potential riders in hopes of setting the tone appropriately.
”The majority of people have said they want to relax and socialize,” he says. ”We won’t be shoving entertainment in your face.”
As for cost, current pricing has the trip set at $39 each way, or a book of 10 one-way tickets for $320.
”There’s definitely a [financial] risk,” says Nastus of the set-up costs shared by him and his partners for securing the charter and paying for advertising. ”We did a pretty decent business plan. Our first year, we don’t expect to make a ton of money — if any. We hope it grows in years to come.”
Even if the venture loses money, Nastus, at least, seems pleased to have the option to take the bus himself, explaining how his work schedule often delayed the start of his partner Bruett’s weekend.
”We’ve known David and Mark for a little over two years now. They have a house at the beach and flexible work schedules. We all hated driving out there on Friday night, but I’d have to work Fridays, so Till would have to stay and wait for me.”
With Rehobus, Nastus says that he and others in his situation can simply hop on the bus and join friends who trekked out before rush hour.
Tyler McMillan of D.C., who has no association with the founders of Rehobus, says he and his partner visit Rehoboth sporadically and they like having their car with them. They just make sure to avoid the traffic. But even to McMillan, Rehobus sounds like a good idea.
”Traffic never dissuaded me from going, but if someone else was doing the driving, that would be great,” he concedes. ”And we have a lot of friends who don’t have cars. A bus service would allow a lot of those people to come to the beach.”
But McMillan wants to know what’s likely on the minds of most other potential riders: ”Does it have a bathroom?” Yes. And according to New World Tours, it’s large and ”meticulously clean.”
D.C. beachgoers are not, however, the only people who may be excited by the launch of this seasonal bus service.
Roger P. Roy, executive director of the Transportation Management Association of Delaware says Rehobus is a great idea.
”The traffic is pretty bad. There are some pretty decent backups,” says Roy of the weekend Rehoboth commute, adding that road construction throughout the summer on a stretch of Route 1 near the beach will just compound the problem. And that’s not to mention the sometimes tight parking in Rehoboth.
To get the Rehobus wheels turning, organizers are throwing a ”launch party” Friday, May 18, at the Duplex Diner, with drink specials, ”Rehobus models” and discounted ticket sales.
Nastus adds that the Diner will keep the Rehobus theme going all summer long with a special pre-boarding happy hour on Fridays dubbed ”Departure Lounge.” And if Rehobus exceeds the expectations of Nastus and his fellow bus boys, he promises that additional busses are standing by.
For more information or tickets, visit www.rehobus.com, or call 1-800-MY-RHBUS.