Hop on in – Uber now available in Front Royal

Front Royal resident Michael Williams holds his smartphone with an Uber map as he drives in Front Royal on Thursday. Williams is a part-time Uber driver who finds the job a good pastime for part-time money and opportunities to meet new people. Rich Cooley/Daily

FRONT ROYAL – Michael Williams is a man who wears many hats.

Although he left his post as Randolph Macon Academy’s director of student life last year after two decades, he remains the school’s baseball coach, football announcer, tutor, and occasional driver.

Still, some of his newly found downtime needed to be occupied. He loves people and driving; so, he tossed on another hat and brought Uber services to Front Royal.

“I’m just retired and need something to do…I’m just doing it because I’m having a good time and need something to do, and it’s fun,” he said. “Plus, I was driving my wife and son nuts being around the house so much.”

Williams does not know if he is the first Uber driver in the Front Royal, “but I think I’m the first one people know about because I made a big deal about it. Most people do it with the purpose of going into Dulles and D.C. and just staying there.”

Those who get a ride from Williams will be given three options: listen to music, chat, or be left alone.

No matter what option the passenger selects, he or she can enjoy a bottled water, and service animals are welcome.

While Williams’  Uber application is not online at all times, he encouraged those who need a ride to message him on Facebook. He will then turn on the app, and “there’s a 98 percent chance I’m the one you’re going to get.”

He picks up passengers in either a Subaru or a Ford F-150 truck, which he said both have “immaculate” cleanliness.

“You’re not going to smell one inkling of smoke in my vehicle, you’re not going to smoke in my vehicle, my vehicle will always be clean, and all the headlights will work,” Williams said.

In town, he drives the truck, which often proves to be popular among local passengers.

“There’s some sociology there because Front Royal is a good old boy truck community. So people think it’s kind of cool when they get an Uber ride in a truck instead of a cab car. So it’s kind of fun,” Williams said.

He became an Uber driver in November, and about 10 minutes after signing up a request for a ride arrived. It turned out to be a middle school family from Randolph Macon Academy who needed a ride to Tyson’s Corner for a Thanksgiving parade.

Upon dropping them off, he was inundated with ride requests. He stayed around Washington, D.C., that night and made around $300.

While driving around Washington, D.C., is more profitable, he would like the word to spread about Uber’s availability in Front Royal and surrounding areas.

“I would much rather take care of people in my town than people in D.C.,” he said.

He is also not opposed to driving in surrounding areas such as Winchester and Stephens City.

He said he is not trying to run any taxi companies out of business and realizes that older people may not be tech-savvy. He just doesn’t think the younger population knows the Uber option is available.

“I don’t want to take money away from anybody. But I want people to have an option, and if people would prefer to have some fun, fat bald guy drive them around town and joke with them, I’m happy to do it,” Williams said.