"There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn't mind who gets the credit." - President Ronald Reagan.

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Saturday, July 4, 2015

Yellowstone's Electric Peak

Above, a view of Electric Peak in Yellowstone National Park. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

One of our stops on a tour of Yellowstone National Park was at a large meadow. One of the views from the meadow was of Electric Peak.

According to summitpost.org:
Electric Peak is the most prominent peak in the northwest corner of Yellowstone National Park. With its dominating appearance over the surrounding area, the peak is often mistakenly believed to be the highest point in Yellowstone, but it is actually the 8th highest summit in the park. With an elevation of 10,969 feet it is the highest point in the Gallatin Range. Although much of the mountain and its common approach route lie in the state of Wyoming, the actual summit lies just over the border in the state of Montana.
Electric Peak is a popular peak for hikers. 


Review: Touring Yellowstone With The Buffalo Bus Touring Company

Above, before heading into Yellowstone National Park, the tour bus made a
restroom stop near the Imax Theater in West Yellowstone. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

When planning for our Yellowstone National Park vacation, I decided that it would be too much to unhook and rehook up the sewer, electric and water connections to the motorhome and then deal with traffic in the park and, quite possibly, a rampaging animal that could damage the motorhome.

So, I checked for Yellowstone tours in the park and in West Yellowstone (where we were staying) and settled on the Buffalo Bus Touring Company.

I figured that I did enough driving when we drove over one thousand miles from Los Angeles to West Yellowstone in two days (and repeat the process in going back home), so I elected to let someone else do the driving.

I remembered driving through Yellowstone 25 years ago and had to keep my eyes on the road instead of taking in the wonders of the park. By letting someone else do the driving, I would be able to enjoy the park so much more.

Above, the Buffalo Bus Touring Company bus. Photo by Armand Vaquer.
The Buffalo Bus Touring Company is located in West Yellowstone and they provide free pick-up from the area hotels, motels and campgrounds. The West Entrance KOA, where we were staying, was one of the first pick-up stops by the tour company. We had to be at the KOA's office building at 8:00 a.m. to be picked up. The tour bus was prompt both days.

The first tour we took was of the Upper Loop of Yellowstone National Park. The tour driver for that day was Graham. Besides being knowledgeable about the park, he had a great sense of humor and had plenty of bad jokes to share with the tour group. [Example: What do you call a bear with no teeth? Answer: A gummy bear.]

The second tour was of the Lower Loop of the park. This tour was led by Jay. He, too, had plenty of bad jokes to share.

Both tours ended around 5:30 p.m.

They recommend ordering box lunches through them for $10 each. Unfortunately, they goofed up our box lunch order on the Lower Loop tour (they also did on the Upper Loop tour, but we said something in time to get them before leaving West Yellowstone to tour the park), so we ended up going to the snack bar at the Old Faithful Inn for lunch.

The tour fees are:
  • One Loop: $74.95
  • Both Loops: $139.90
  • Seniors: $5.00 Discount Per Ticket
  • 15 & Under: $64.95
  • 15 & Under: $124.90
Additionally, if one doesn't have passes into Yellowstone, the Buffalo Bus Touring Company can obtain them for you. These are necessary to enter the park. The good thing is, the passes are good for seven days and you can use them to enter the park on your own.

The tour stops at most of  the major attractions of Yellowstone National Park. Their website provides and overview on what places they generally stop at. They are pretty laid back tours with plenty of stops for sightseeing and photography.

We enjoyed both tours and felt we got our money's worth. On the first day, we managed to see bears, bighorn sheep, bison, elk, deer and other wildlife. On the second day's tour, no bears were seen, but we did see the other animals. We were able to spend nearly two hours at the Old Faithful Inn and geyser. We departed after Old Faithful Geyser erupted.

If you prefer to just enjoy the ride by letting someone else do the driving, you should consider using the Buffalo Bus Touring Company. Their website is at: http://www.yellowstonevacations.com/. I thought the prices were reasonable.

My grade: A.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Fourth of July

Above, President Reagan in Fountain Valley, California. Photo by Armand Vaquer.
“Republicans believe every day is the Fourth of July, but the democrats believe every day is April 15.” ― Ronald Reagan

Richfield KOA

Above, the Richfield KOA office. Photo: KOA website.

When we left West Yellowstone, Montana to head home to Los Angeles, our plan was to take a little detour to drive through Grand Tetons National Park and, the next day, Zion National Park. We got up early to make the journey.

When we started out, we had no idea where we would be by late afternoon. As we planned to drive through Zion National Park the next day, we wanted to reach a campground in the vicinity of U.S. Highway 89. We decided to "wing it" and not make any reservations for any specific campground.

As it turned out, we were in the vicinity of Richfield, Utah in the late afternoon. It just so happened that there is a KOA Kampground in Richfield. So we headed there.

We reached the KOA in the late-afternoon/early-evening. The KOA is nestled in a residential area of Richfield, away from the beaten-path.

The campground is an average sized KOA and it had well-maintained grounds, clean restrooms and showers and plenty of shade trees. It also has mini-golf, pool, bike rentals and cable tv.

The KOA is family-owned and operated by Mike and Julie.

What really impressed me with this KOA is that the showers had great water pressure and easy to operate. This was the best campground shower I ever experienced!

As we arrived in the late-afternoon/early-evening, I did not take any photographs. But it is an attractive campground with grassy sites.

For more information on the Richfield, KOA, go here.

My grade: A.

West Entrance KOA, West Yellowstone, Montana

Above, the store and office of the West Entrance KOA. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

25 years ago, we took a vacation trip to Mount Rushmore and Yellowstone National Park. My daughter Amber was just three at the time and has very few memories of that trip. We decided to go to Yellowstone for the first real vacation in our new Winnebago. We stayed at the West Entrance KOA in West Yellowstone, Montana.

Above, the bicycle rental kiosk. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

We decided to stay again at the West Entrance KOA on this trip. We weren't disappointed.

The KOA is one of the biggest I've seen and the 3-4-foot tall pine trees in 1990 were fully grown 25 years later and provided a lot of shade. The campground is located 6 miles from Yellowstone National Park's West Entrance. It is also a stop for the Buffalo Tour Company.

The campsite we were assigned was a large grassy back-up site with its own wooden border fence. We did not feel at all claustrophobic there.

Above, our campsite at West Entrance KOA. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The campground has a pool, playground, and latte booth (open in the mornings) and bike rentals. If one doesn't feel like cooking, the campground has breakfast and dinner service. There is also a big (by KOA standards) gift store and convenience market. Nearby, there is a horseback riding stable (a 13 min. walk). The campground also has clean restrooms and showers.

The campground is owned and operated by the Steve Linde family. They also own the nearby Mountainside KOA. They have owned the campground since 1982.

When I was making my reservations for this year's stay, I mentioned to Steve Linde that we stayed there 25 years ago. He asked if I had any photos of the campground from that visit. I did and sent him some.

Above, a well maintained road. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The West Entrance KOA is located at 3305 Targhee Pass Highway. West Yellowstone, MT 59758. For more information, go here.

This KOA is my favorite of all the KOAs I've stayed at over the years.

My grade: A+.

Beaver, Utah KOA

Above, the office and store of the Beaver, Utah KOA. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

During our recent trip to Yellowstone National Park, we stayed at KOA Kampgrounds.

First, while en route to Yellowstone, we stayed at the Beaver, Utah KOA, which was about halfway to our destination from Los Angeles. Second, our base of operations while visiting Yellowstone was the West Entrance KOA in West Yellowstone, Montana. Third, and the last, was the Richfield, Utah KOA.

Above, our campsite at the Beaver KOA. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

This blog post will be the first of three reviewing the KOA Kampgrounds we stayed at. I should mention that each KOA is franchised and privately owned.

The Beaver, Utah KOA was located in a nice are of town with plenty of shade trees. The campsites tended to be a little on the narrow side, although they can accommodate RVs up to 90' maximum length. The grounds were nicely maintained.

The campground has a playground, pool and other recreational things to keep yourselves occupied.

Additionally, the restrooms and showers were very clean, which pleased my daughter Amber very much.

Another view of our campsite. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The campground is owned by Michael and Stephanie Joyner and is located at 1428 Manderfield Road, Beaver, UT 84713. For more information on the Beaver KOA, go here.

Above, the pool and playground area. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The Beaver KOA is one that I would not hesitate to stay at in the future.

My grade: A.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Sinclair Oil "Dino" Stuff

Along with the Sinclair Oil Corporation's plush "Dino" Bronto toy, I bought a couple of Sinclair's hitch covers for the motorhome (I bought two in case I lose one). They are the trapezoid logo hitch covers.

Here they are:

I'll have to meet up with Don Glut to get his Dino to him.

"Darth Vader's Helmet" At Zion National Park

Back in 2003, my mom, daughter and I went to Zion National Park in Utah during Labor Day weekend.

While there, I took this photo of a mountain wall in Zion that seemed to have an image of Darth Vader's helmet:

The photo was used as the background for this blog's "title card" for several years.

On Monday, my daughter and I drove through Zion while on our way home. I took the following photo of the same mountain wall:

Improvements Japan Can Make To Attract Foreigners

Above, the Niigata City Performing Arts Center. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

It boggles my mind at how some people are afraid to visit Japan due to language and other alleged barriers. Some of those fears are a bit overblown.

I have visited Japan seven times since 2001 and never had any difficulty in navigating around the country or even ordering food at a restaurant. Besides, there's always someone around who can assist.

Japan Today has an article by RocketNews 24's Casey Baseel on what Japan need to improve on in order to attract more foreign visitors. Sure, there is some room for improvement, but Japan is not as difficult as some people think. (Well, that's my opinion, anyway.)

As you may be able to tell, I do have some disagreements with the central premise that Japan is a difficult country for foreigners.

The article begins with:
TOKYO —Japan’s National Tourist Organization recently released its statistics on the number of overseas travelers who visited in the country in 2014, and we’re proud to say that 13,413,467 of you came to visit. That number represents almost a 30% increase from the number of foreign tourists Japan received in 2013, and a whopping 60% jump compared to 2012. 
Still, Japan only ranks 27th globally in its ability to draw travelers from abroad, making it eighth in Asia, behind world No. 22 Korea and No. 4 China. 
So what’s holding Japan back from becoming an even more popular international travel destination? RocketNews24’s non-Japanese staff put our heads together, and after getting over the initial pain from our foreheads violently colliding, came up with the following list of areas Japan could do better in that foreign travelers would definitely appreciate.

 To see what improvements Japan can make, go here.

In Case Anyone's Wondering...

Above, Sinclair Oil's Dino stuffed toys. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

A few days ago, I mentioned seeing stuffed Dino toys advertising Sinclair Oil Corporation at a gas station in Yellowstone National Park.

I also mentioned that dino exprt, writer, director and Godzilla fan Donald Glut would like one, should I find any on our way back home.

Well, after several stops at different Sinclair gas stations in Wyoming, Idaho and Utah, I succeeded in picking up a couple.

As soon as it can be arranged, I will meet with Glut to present him with his Sinclair Dino.

Yellowstone's Old Faithful Inn

Above, the driveway approach to the Old Faithful Inn. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Before heading to Yellowstone National Park last month, one item on my mental list of things to see at the park (besides the natural wonders) was the Old Faithful Inn.

The Old Faithful Inn is an impressive structure to behold, both inside and out.

Above, the fireplace chimney in the Inn's main lobby. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

It was built when the 20th Century was only a few years old and welcomed its first guests on June 1, 1904. According to a handout flyer on the Inn's history, it has "survived severe winters, a 7.5 magnitude earthquake and the fires of 1988."

Above, the main lobby. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

It was bestowed a National Landmark Designation in 1987, which "recognizes the Inn's national influence on architecture and construction."

Above, the Crow's Nest above the main lobby. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The Old Faithful Inn was designed by Robert Reamer, a 20-year-old architect from Ohio. Local materials were used in its construction, including lodgepole pine and rhyolite rock. Reamer also designed the Inn's East Wing addition (1913) and West Wing addition (1927). The Inn originally contained 140 guest rooms.

In the Dining Room, Paco Young's painting, "Old Faithful" hangs on the fireplace chimney (above photo).

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel

Above, the approach to the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel from the east. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

In fifteen years, the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel in Zion National Park will be marking its centennial.

The 1.1 mile tunnel was built in the 1920s and was completed in 1930. It was dug into the mountainside for vehicle traffic so that people can have easier access to Bryce Canyon National Park.

At the time of its construction, the concept of modern monster-sized motorhomes never entered the engineers' minds. Today, due to the size of modern Class A and Class C motorhomes (and other vehicles), the National Park Service has to provide one-way access for these oversized vehicles.

According to the National Park Service's website:
Before 1989, large vehicles, including tour buses, motor homes, and trailers, were involved in more and more accidents and near misses in the tunnel due to an immense increase in the volume of traffic and in the size of vehicles passing through the tunnel.  
A study by the Federal Highways Administration in early 1989 found that large vehicles could not negotiate the curves of the tunnel without crossing the center line. To ensure safety, the National Park Service began traffic control at the tunnel in the spring of that year. 
Rangers posted at both ends of the tunnel convert two-way tunnel traffic to one-way for larger vehicles, ensuring safe passage. This service, for which a $15 dollar tunnel permit fee is charged, was provided for over 27,874 oversized vehicles in calendar year 2011.
If one is entering Zion National Park from the east entrance, on top of the $25 park entrance fee, visitors need to purchase a tunnel permit for an additional $15. So, to enter and enjoy Zion National Park from the east entrance, visitors have to hand over $40 at the gate. At the park's entrance gate, after paying the tunnel permit fee, the visitor's receipt and permit are taped to the vehicle's windshield on the inside on the passenger side.

Above, the east ranger tunnel gate shack. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

When we entered the tunnel, we managed to be the lead vehicle of the caravan of vehicles.

Above, the height signs show another reason why motorhomes have to drive
 in the center of the roadway inside the tunnel. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

As the above photo indicates, pedestrians and bicyclists are not permitted inside the tunnel. It is very narrow inside.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Zion National Park Red Permits and Shuttle

Above, Zion's West Temple and Sundial Peaks. Photo by Armand Vaquer.
When we arrived at Zion National Park's east entrance, I asked if it were possible to drive to the Lodge for breakfast. The ranger at the gate said that Zion Canyon is off limits to visitors' vehicles without a "Red Permit".

What's a Red Permit?

According to the National Park Service's website:
Q. What is a red permit? Do I need one?
A. Red permits are issued for overnight guests of the Zion Lodge. They are required to park in the lodge parking lot.
This is what the NPS has instituted since 2000. This system of eliminating vehicle traffic in the canyon is enforced from April through October.

People with confirmed reservations may drive and park at the Lodge, everyone else has to take the shuttle bus from the Visitor Center. The cost of the shuttle is included in the park entrance fee.

For more information on the park shuttle, go here.

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