"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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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Billy Holcomb Chapter, ECV Spring Clampout

Next week's Spring Clampout of the Billy Holcomb Chapter No. 1069 of E Clampus Vitus looks to be an interesting one, particularly the plaque/monument dedication.

To The Doctor's, Etc.

Above, back at the Keene Ranch near Tehachapi tomorrow. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

For the first time in ages, I will be in a doctor's office for myself. For the past few years, I have been in medical offices for others.

For the past two weeks, I have been plagued by congestion and a cough. At first, I thought it was my usual allergies, but it was more than that. It affected my sleep. I would average about three hours of sleep in the beginning. As far as I know, I didn't catch a cold. I tried Mucinex nighttime formula, but that didn't help. I tried a humidifier, that only made the congestion worse. Then, I went with NyQuil and that worked in getting me a full night's sleep. I actually slept 12 hours one night.

I decided that I've had enough so I am going to the doctor this afternoon to see if there's something that can knock it off. Since I have medical coverage, I may as well use it. I am hoping that it is something like bronchitis, which I know will resolve itself.

Tomorrow, Glenn Thornhill and I will be headed to the Platrix clampout at the Keene Ranch near the Tehachapi Loop for the weekend. Maybe some fresh mountain air will be some help.

Yesterday, Glenn and I mailed in our fees for the Billy Holcomb Chapter clampout that will take place the following weekend out near the Calico Ghost Town and Barstow.  So, we'll be camping out two weekends in a row. Nice way to start this year's camping season.

I hadn't been to Calico since the early 1990s when I attended a Boy Scout camporee. That was fun. I had a tent trailer at the time.

This will be the first Billy Holcomb clampout for me since 2007.

UPDATE (4/27/17):

I like my new doctor, Dr. Nguyen. He gave me a full exam and found that I have bronchitis.

At first, he gave me a scare as he was listening to my chest, He said he was hearing "something suspicious", which makes all kinds of things go through your mind.

The longest part was getting permission from the insurance people for a chest x-ray. Once permission was given, we proceeded to the x-ray room. As my mind was still on what he said, I didn't think to empty my shirt pocket.

After the x-ray was done, we went to his office to see the result. He said, "I see what the problem is, you have a cell phone in your chest!" So we re-shot the x-ray.

Nice to have a doctor with a sense of humor. A "Nguyen-Nguyen" in my book. (In case you don't get it, Nguyen is pronounced "win".)

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Hawaii Now Threatened By North Korea

Above, the Pearl Harbor Naval Base and nearby Honolulu would be prime targets. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Another national security failure of the Obama Administration appears to be getting worse by the day.

That is the failure to put a halt to North Korea's nuclear weapons and missile program. Now they are threatening Hawaii.

According to McClatchy DC Bureau:
WASHINGTON The Pentagon needs to consider deploying new anti-ballistic missile systems and a defensive radar to Hawaii to protect against a growing threat from North Korea, the top U.S. military officer in the Pacific told Congress on Wednesday. 
“Kim Jong-Un is clearly in a position to threaten Hawaii today, in my opinion,” Adm. Harry Harris, the chief of U.S. Pacific Command, told the House Armed Services Committee. “I have suggested that we consider putting interceptors in Hawaii that . . . defend (it) directly, and that we look at a defensive Hawaii radar.” 
The U.S. currently has anti-missile interceptors at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and in Fort Greely, Alaska. 
Harris was repeatedly questioned by lawmakers from Hawaii on the threat posed to their state. 
The current defense architecture “is sufficient to protect Hawaii today, but it can be overwhelmed,” he cautioned. “Somewhere, we would have to make a decision about which missiles to take out, and that’s a hard decision.” 
Harris warned that North Korea’s testing is picking up speed and becoming more aggressive; the country conducted more than 20 ballistic missile tests last year.
Meanwhile, we are doing our own missile testing. A Minuteman III missile was launched last night around midnight from Vandenburg Air Force Base.

Today, the Senate was called to a special White House briefing on the North Korean threat. For details, go here.

To read more, go here.

Hate and Intolerance In Kentucky

Looney Left Report

Former Los Angeles County Young Republicans Chairman Arleigh Kerr now is a Lexington, Kentucky resident.

Recently, he attended a townhall meeting of his area's congressman, Andy Barr, where he witnessed first hand the rudeness of the Left.

This prompted Kerr to write a letter to the editor of the Lexington Herald Leader:
I’ve only lived in Kentucky for a little over two years, but in that time I’ve found Kentuckians to be friendly, welcoming, polite. But Monday I saw a different kind of Kentuckian; rude, intolerant and consumed by hate. 
I went to Congressman Andy Barr’s town hall at Lafayette High School. I was appalled. Many of those in attendance not only wouldn’t listen to Barr’s answers to their questions, they tried to shout him down. I don’t care if they disagree with him, that’s fine, but let him speak. 
The Herald-Leader article identifies most of those there as Democrats, but these weren’t ordinary Democrats. When I entered the building, someone at the door was handing out red and green cards and asked if I was a member of Indivisible Bluegrass. I’d never heard of this group and I said no, so I was not given any cards. As it turned out, it was these card-waving people who spent the next 90 minutes interrupting with their loud, rude, narrow-minded shouts. 
I was outraged by their actions. I don’t know who these people are, but I really hope I never see them again. They are a disgrace to Kentucky. 
To see the letter at the newspaper's website, go here.

Prepping For The Clampout

Above, at the Malibu Creek State Park fresh water station. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Most of what I set out to do today in preparation for this weekend's clampout in the Tehachapi area with Platrix Chapter No. 2 has been done.

Rather than head 25+ miles to Valencia to Camping World to use their holding tank dump station, I want 13 miles instead to Malibu Creek State Park to use theirs and to fill up the water tank. Even though to use the dump station at Camping World is free for members and it costs $12.00 at Malibu Creek, I opted to go to the closer facility. The added bonus was being able to fill up the potable water tank.

Above, after filling the fresh water tank. The entrance gate is in the background. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

After this, I headed to the local market to buy food and drink supplies for the weekend and then to get The Beast's gas tank filled up. At $2.79/gallon, it reminded me how much cheaper it was to fill the gas tank while on the trip to Metropolis, Illinois. Most of the states where I gassed up at had prices under $2.00/gallon. But that's California for you, and it's only going to get worse once that gas tax hike the Democrats passed recently goes into effect.

I decided to take care of most everything today since I have an afternoon doctor's appointment for a troublesome respiratory issue I've been having for the past two weeks. I don't know if it's some sort of flu bug or bronchitis, but I am seeing about it tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

2106 Back Taxes

First, there were emails from purported "Nigerian Princes", and now it is the "IRS" sending emails concerning delinquent "back taxes".

I received one the other day. It said, "2106 Back Taxes". I didn't bother to open the email.

Obviously, this was bogus as the email address wasn't an official government one. Plus, the year was almost 100 years off.

So, beware of bogus IRS "back taxes" email notices. As for this Bozo, who sent me this one for "back taxes" for the year 2106, I guess they'll have to wait a while.

Scott Baio: Too Blunt, Too Soon

Above, Erin Moran and Scot Baio.

If there ever was a case of "foot-in-mouth-disease", the recent uproar over an interview that actor Scott Baio gave on the death of former co-star Erin Moran is it.

Initially, Baio posted a heartfelt condolence message on the passing of Moran on Twitter, but two days later, he gave an interview in which he said:
My thing is, I feel bad because her whole life, she was troubled, could never find what made her happy and content. For me, you do drugs or drink, you’re gonna die. I’m sorry if that’s cold, but God gave you a brain, gave you the will to live and thrive and you gotta take care of yourself.

This interview was given was before it was announced that Moran died of stage 4 cancer.

However, the damage was done and an uproar exploded over Baio's remarks.

If there is a "proper" time to pontificate on the cause of someone's demise, certainly it should be after the cause of death was actually determined and announced at the very least. Baio admitted that some media sources speculated that Moran died due to drugs and he relied on those stories. Still, waiting for things to become crystal clear before making such insensitive statements would have been the more prudent thing to do.

Still, he was much too blunt, he spoke too soon and was wrong in speaking before the facts came out. He put his foot into his mouth and he is being mercilessly pilloried over it.

Since then, Baio has been trying to explain his comments and walk them back. But there's a great many unforgiving people out there. This is definitely a hard lesson he's learning.

Take To The Roads

Above, The Beast at Mammoth Mountain RV Park. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Driving an RV on the open highway or in the city can be intimidating to a newbie, but after a few hours behind the wheel, it becomes much easier.

Daily Press has some tips for the first-timer that will make things easier the first few times out.

They begin with:
An RV can be the perfect way to travel, but rookies might hit some speed bumps. To prepare for life on the road, start slow and ask for help, veterans advise. 
"Take a 'maiden voyage,' " says Donna Fout, owner of the Williamsburg KOA Campground. "Camp close to home as a practice run to prepare for a camping adventure, and keep a list of anything you've forgotten."
To read more, go here

National Park Visitor Spending Stimulated Hawaii Economy

Above, World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument Visitor Center Complex at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Visitor spending last year was a major benefit to communities near our national parks and the ones in Hawaii were no exception.

According to MauiTime:
Visitors to Hawaii’s national parks spent almost $400 million in the state last year. A new National Park Service report shows that in 2016, nearly 5.8 million visitors to national parks in Hawaii spent more than $394 million. That spending resulted in nearly 4,800 jobs and had a cumulative benefit to the state economy of more than $486 million. 
“The national parks of Hawaii attract visitors from across the country and around the world,” said Laura Joss, regional director for National Park Service’s Pacific West Region. “Whether they are out for an afternoon, a school field trip, or a month-long family vacation, visitors come to have a great experience, and end up spending a little money along the way. This new report shows that national park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy–returning $10 for every $1 invested in the National Park Service–and a big factor in our state’s economy as well, a result we can all support.” 
There are eight national parks in Hawaii including Haleakala National Park on Maui. Additional popular parks in the state include Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island and World War II Valor in the Pacific, which includes Pearl Harbor on Oahu.
I visited Pearl Harbor's World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument and took a helicopter tour of Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park last year.

To read more, go here.

Wheel Cover Done

Finally, after five months, The Beast has a new simulator wheel cover on that replaces the one that got thrashed in St. Louis in November.

I had Niel's RV in North Hills install it.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Elvis's Memphis First Look and Graceland

Above, Graceland. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

A couple, who call themselves "The Happy Wanderers", visited the new Elvis Presley's Memphis Museum that recently opened.

It was not yet opened when I visited Graceland last November (I actually don't remember seeing it).

Judging by the shuttle ride to Graceland, it appears the new museum complex is a bit down Elvis Presley Blvd. from Graceland. The tour shuttles appear to originate and end at this new complex, instead of directly across the street from Graceland (as was the case in November).

The Happy Wanderers were not too impressed with the new museum (well, maybe some of it) since, to them, the museum was disorganized and incomplete, yet charged the full admission price of $60. I would probably be a little annoyed being charged full price for an incomplete museum too.

They said:
We toured the new attraction, Elvis Presley's Memphis which sits across from Elvis' Graceland home. While we were there, I was told to put the GoPro away for have it taken away. I was able to capture most of the new museum, which is FAR from complete, by the way. This new place is not done, doesn't have their act together, is very unorganized but still charges about $60 per person to tour this unfinished attraction. We still love Elvis and Graceland but the new experience was a real bad experience. We had been here twice before and it USED to be an awesome place to visit! They really screwed this place up when they made it so big and changed it so much. It used to feel intimate but now feels corporate and nobody here knows what's going on.
They stayed across Graceland at the Graceland RV Park, where I also stayed last November. Some great views of the campground come at the end of the video from a drone.

Here's their video:

If I remember correctly, much of the exhibits that are/were in what was the racquetball court building at Graceland have been or will be moved to this new museum complex and the racquetball court will be restored to what it looked like when Elvis used it.

Anyway, the above video is a first look at the new museum.

UPDATE (4/25/17):

Actually, the admission price of $57.50 gets the visitor the following:
  • Graceland Mansion Audio-Guided Tour with New Orientation Film
  • NEW - Full Access to all-new Elvis Presley’s Memphis Entertainment Complex, which includes:
  • Self-guided tour of Presley Motors Automobile Museum
  • Self-guided tour of Elvis: The Entertainer Career Museum
  • Self-guided tours of Elvis Discovery Exhibits
This isn't as bad as The Happy Wanderers indicated. For $5.00 more, visitors can also tour Elvis' two airplanes. 

For more on pricing, go here.

The website stated:
While the acclaimed Graceland Mansion tour will continue to present the personal and family side of Elvis’ life, -- including Elvis’ racquetball court now fully restored so that it once again looks exactly as it did when Elvis was last in the Racquetball Building -- “Elvis Presley’s Memphis” will tell the rest of the story, exploring the beginning of the incredible music and pop culture explosion that all started here in Memphis, with the greatest entertainer of all time. 

Patio Drop-Offs

Above, The Beast at the home base. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

My patio seems to be the drop-off point or dumping ground (take your pick) for United Parcel Service (UPS).

I was expecting a package from a Mustang parts vendor today via UPS, but I saw no package or no notice at my front door. I remembered that I was emailed a UPS tracking number last week so I looked it up.

Presto! UPS said that the package was delivered around 3:30 PM today. Scrolling down a little, it indicated that it was left in my patio.

So, I looked in my patio and there were two packages, one big and one small. The small one was from the Mustang vendor and the large one was the replacement rear wheelcover simulator for The Beast from Winnebago.

This time, I immediately opened the Winnebago package and it was the correct item.

It's a good thing that the Mustang UPS notice said the package was left in the patio, otherwise, who knows how long the Winnebago package would've sat there since I received no tracking number or notice.

Now to get both vehicles taken care of.

Public Comments On Bridalveil Fall Project Invited

Above, Bridalveil Fall at Yosemite National Park. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The National Park Service is inviting the public to submit comments on a proposed project to improve accessibility at Yosemite National Park's Bridalveil Fall.

According to the Merced Sun-Star:
The National Park Service is inviting the public to submit comments on a project to improve accessibility and services at the base of Bridalveil Fall, one of Yosemite Valley’s most iconic features. 
The Bridalveil Fall Rehabilitation Project will improve visitor services at the base of the waterfall, including restroom facilities, according to the park service. It also is intended to reduce crowding on the trails leading to the viewing platform, improve safety and protect natural and cultural resources in the area. 
The project will also work on improving navigation and reduce vehicle and pedestrian conflicts.
The public can submit comments up to May 26.

To read more, go here.

Government Shutdown: What To Expect

The Looney Left Report

The crybaby Democrat Party is threatening to shut down the U.S. government this coming Friday when the government's operating funds run out.

USA Today has an article on what to expect (i.e., what will be open and closed, what will be paid and not paid).

They begin with:
WASHINGTON — Funding to keep the federal government up and running will run out at midnight Friday unless Congress passes a new spending bill and President Trump signs it into law. 
If they fail, the result would be a partial government shutdown in which most services would stop except those deemed "essential" — such as national security work performed by the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI. Active duty military personnel would not be furloughed, but roughly 40% of non-defense employees would be. 
Every shutdown is different because federal agencies have quite a bit of leeway in deciding how to carry it out. 
Perhaps Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can employ the "nuclear option" and pass a budget without the Democrats? We'll see.

To read more, go here.

Perks of the National Parks Senior Pass

Above, the entrance to Yosemite's North Pines Campground. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Thanks to The Daily Courier of Prescott, Arizona, details on what people over the age of 62 can use the Senior Pass for has been posted.

They wrote:
It’s a pass that lasts a lifetime — well, beginning at age 62 and beyond, that is. The Senior Pass, offered through five federal entities, costs $10 and is good for as long as the person can use it. 
The pass gains free entrance to 417 national parks and monuments, U.S. Forest Service sites, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Reclamation, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers sites — any that charge an entrance fee. It also provides a 50 percent discount for fees at some campgrounds. 
Betty and Terry Wood, passing through Prescott this past week, stopped in at the Prescott National Forest office on Cortez Street looking for some good hiking trails. Visiting from Tennessee, the 70-year-olds utilize their Senior Pass wherever they go. 
“We got it a long time ago. It’s been the best thing,” Betty Wood said. “That was a happy day getting our pass.”

A possible price increase — up to $80 — may take place by the end of 2017 based on the National Park Service Centennial Act that Congress approved in December 2016. This Act raises fees and sets up an endowment to help pay for projects and visitor services, the National Park Service website states.
To read more, go here

Trump To Review National Monuments

Above, Joshua Tree National Park was a national monument for decades before being re-designated. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

President Obama ruffled some feathers in different states by naming different parcels of land as National Monuments without the request or approval of the states involved. President Trump is reviewing these to see if violations of the Antiquities Act were made.

According to the Bangor Daily News:
Maine’s national monument will be attacked on two fronts if, as anticipated, President Donald Trump orders a review of monument designations later this week, and Gov. Paul LePage testifies before Congress on May 1 against executive orders that create monuments without state approval. 
LePage will fly to Washington, D.C. to testify before a House Committee on Natural Resources subcommittee next week in opposition to national monument designations created by presidential order, the governor confirmed Monday during a press conference in Augusta. 
“The Legislature in Maine said [it] didn’t want a national park or monument and he [President Barack Obama] went ahead and did it anyway,” LePage said Monday. “I’m going to say he violated the Antiquities Act and it should be reversed.”
To read more, go here

National Park Service Started With A Camping Trip

Above, the Eastern Sierras along Tioga Pass in Yosemite National Park. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The start of the formation of the national park service began over 100 years ago when a president of the United States camped out with a well-known conservationist.

Quartz reported:
Picture the US president camping under the stars, huddled in blankets, sitting around a fire as a naturalist waxes poetic, explaining that Americans need the wilderness to retain their wonder and humility. But imagine this scene in black and white, or in sepia tone, because it happened long ago. 
In 1903, Theodore Roosevelt camped in the Sierra Nevada mountains with John Muir—father of the US National Park Service. “He met me with a couple of pack mules, as well as with riding mules for himself and myself, and a first-class packer and cook, and I spent a delightful three days and two nights with him,” Roosevelt recalled.
 Sounds like Roosevelt had a bully of a good time with Muir.

To read more, go here.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

L.A. Riots: 25 Years Ago This Week

In six more days, it will be the 25th anniversary of the L.A. riots. I remember that day like it was yesterday.

Five years ago, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary, I posted my recollections of that day.

Here they are:

The day the riots broke out, I was working in the Miracle Mile area of Wilshire Blvd. for Allianz Insurance Company (a sleazy company if there ever was one).  The day the riots erupted, I was at a business lunch on third street with my supervisor, Pete Fetzer.

After lunch, we headed back to the office and found it locked up.  We also noticed a lot of traffic on Wilshire Blvd., more so than usual.  One of the office managers came to the door and said rioting has broken out and they sent everyone home.  She let us in to get our belongings.  Once we did, we bee-lined it to our cars and headed home.

With Pete following me in his car (he lived in Torrance and I lived in Gardena) we headed south on La Cienega Blvd.  The traffic was extremely heavy.  We got to Rodeo Road and were stopped at a signal.  To our left, a dry cleaners and a 7-11 convenience store were in flames. To our right a Fedco was being looted by rioters and its tire service center on fire.  Looters were carrying merchandise and running between our cars.

Figuring that it wasn't a good sign, I grabbed my baseball bat from under my car seat and had it at the ready.

Eventually, I got home.  After viewing the television coverage of the riots, my wife and I decided to head out to the Colorado River the next morning in our motorhome (our companies were to be closed for the remainder of the week).  We were planning to go to a membership campground promo (free camping for listening to the sales pitch) that Friday, but decided to head out earlier.

The next morning, as we headed out of L.A. we saw many plumes of smoke all around.  I made sure that I had my .38 cal. revolver handy as we drove.

It seemed like the Watts Riots of August 1965 all over again (I was 11 at the time and remember it).

At least we had a relaxing weekend in Bullhead City as parts of L.A. burned.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

National Parks From Space

Above, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. NASA Photo.

NASA and National Geographic has released some fascinating photographs of several national parks taken from space.

DP Review has posted them at their website.

They wrote:
If you're unable to take advantage of free National Park entry this weekend, you can still enjoy the grandeur of some of the US's best-loved National Parks thanks to National Geographic and NASA. To celebrate National Parks week they've published some of their favorite photos of parks – from space.
Above, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park a little closer to the ground. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

To see them, go here

Friday, April 21, 2017

What's At Shibuya Crossing?

Above, Shibuya Crossing. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

One of Tokyo's favorite meeting spots is Shibuya Crossing. It is also the gateway to Tokyo's youth culture and where Gamera blasted a Gyaos (and Shibuya Station in the process) in Gamera 3 in 1999.

Japan Blog has an article on things to see and do in Shibuya, starting with Shibuya Crossing.

They begin with:
Shibuya Crossing may be a small area but it’s one of the most jampacked places in Japan every single day. As the world’s busiest pedestrian crossing, it accommodates thousands of people every day crossing from five directions. Additionally, the traffic lights have a two-minute cycle and the crowds thin out only after midnight when the Shibuya stations finally close.
To read more, go here

Grand Teton Visitors Has $597 Million Local Impact

Above, Grand Teton National Park. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Yellowstone National Park's next-door neighbor to the south, Grand Teton National Park, saw its visitors contribute to the economy of its gateway communities in 2016.

According to KIFI News:
MOOSE, Wyo. (KIFI/KIDK) - Visitors to Grand Teton National Park spent an estimated $597 million in local gateway communities last year.

A Department of Interior report said that had a cumulative benefit to the local economy of over $779 million and supported 9,365 jobs in nearby communities.

To read more, go here

12 Oldest National Parks

Above, Lower Yellowstone Falls. Photo by Armand Vaquer.
Did you know that there were 12 national parks in the United State in existence before the formation of the National Park Service?

Yes, this is true. Do you know which ones?

In case you don't, the Huffington Post has an article on the 12 oldest national parks.

They begin with:
The USA’s oldest national park, Yellowstone, is 145 years old this year. As a testimony to the kind of protection that national park status brings, Yellowstone remains one of the best wildlife habitats in the country. Not only are there both grizzly and black bears, here you can also find wolves, bison, elk, moose, several species of deer, mountain goats and mountain lions. 
Here are the 12 oldest national parks in the USA, all of which existed before the National Parks Service was formed in 1916.

To see what the other 11 national parks are, go here

National Park Visitors Spent $1.6 Billion In Utah

Above, Zion National Park. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

A new report shows that the state of Utah obtained great economic benefit from tourists who visited the state's national parks last year.

According to the St. George News:
DENVER – A new National Park Service report shows that 14,409,742 visitors to national parks in Utah spent more than $1 billion in the state in 2016. That record visitation and spending supported 17,914 jobs and had a cumulative benefit to the state economy of $1,597,500,000. The results represent a whopping 25.5 percent increase in visitor spending and 21.2 percent rise in visitation over 2015. 
“From Arches to Zion, the 13 national park units of Utah attract visitors from within the state, across the country and around the world,” NPS Intermountain Region Director Sue Masica said. “Whether they are out for a weekend, a school field trip, or a month-long vacation, visitors come to have a great experience, and end up spending some money along the way.
To read more, go here

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Yosemite Brought In Over Half Billion Dollars To Local Communities

Above, Half Dome. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The national parks had a banner year in 2016, due in part to the centennial celebration of the National Park Service. The big surge in visitors benefited their local communities.

The local economies surrounding Yosemite National Park were no exception.

My Mother Lode reported:
Yosemite, CA – A new National Park Service (NPS) report shows Yosemite brings more than half a billion dollars to nearby communities. 
As earlier reported here, Yosemite National Park already smashed its previous visitor record by 21 percent with 5,028,868 visitors coming through its gates in 2016. This reports looks at what that number means for the Gateway communities along the Highway 120, Highway 140, and Highway 41 corridors. It found that visitors to the park spent $520,629,100 in communities near the park, which supported 7883 jobs in the local area and had a cumulative benefit to the local economy of $686,339,500.
I visited Yosemite twice last year.

To read more, go here

Local Communities Received $680 Million From Yellowstone Visitors

Above, businesses of West Yellowstone, Montana. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Like Joshua Tree National Park (that was reported on earlier), the surrounding communities of Yellowstone National Park reaped the benefits of increased visitors with their spending.

The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported:
Big crowds mean big money, and the towns on the outskirts of Yellowstone National Park reaped the economic benefits of another year with record visitation in 2016.  
A U.S. Department of the Interior report released this week said that Yellowstone visitor spending contributed roughly $680.4 million in the park’s gateway communities in Wyoming and Montana in 2016. That’s roughly $42 million more than 2015, and more than $100 million more than 2014.

To read more, go here

National Parks To Get EV Charging Stations

Above, a Sinclair gasoline pump at Yellowstone National Park. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Charging stations for electric vehicles (EV) will be installed at 100 locations in U.S. national parks.

According to The Drive:
BMW is teaming up with the National Park Service and the Department of Energy to expand America’s EV charging network. Out of America’s 417 national parks, up to 100 new charging stations are going to be installed. BMW says these stations will be compatible with every electric car sold in America. 
Ludwig Willisch, the head of BMW Group Region Americas said in a press conference, “I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the next 100 years of both the BMW Group and National Park Service than by making America’s national parks more accessible to drivers of electric vehicles.”

Specific sites are still to be determined. They will be taking a look at all 417 national parks and figure out where charging stations "make the most sense."

I would guess that Yellowstone National Park would be a logical national park to have charging stations, considering its size and that it has gasoline stations (Sinclair Oil Co.) in the park. Another park, Grand Canyon National Park, would be another logical choice for the same reasons.

To read more, go here.

Joshua Tree National Park Neighboring Communities Saw Economic Benefits In 2016

Above, the south entrance sign of Joshua Tree National Park. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

A new report by the National Park Service shows that the surrounding communities of Joshua Tree National Park saw great economic benefits in 2016.

Highland Community News reported:
A new National Park Service (NPS) report shows that 2,505,286 visitors to Joshua Tree National Park in 2016 spent $123,304,500 in communities near the park. That spending supported 1,701 jobs in the local area and had a cumulative benefit to the local economy of $164,529,900. 
“Joshua Tree welcomes visitors from across the country and around the world,” said Superintendent David Smith, “We are delighted to share the story of this place and the experiences it provides. We also feature the park as a way to introduce our visitors to this part of the country and all that it offers. National park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy, returning $10 for every $1 invested in the National Park Service, and it’s a big factor in our local economy as well. We appreciate the partnership and support of our neighbors and are glad to be able to give back by helping to sustain local communities.”
To read more, go here

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Report Spotlights Overcrowding Woes At Yellowstone

Above, a boiling hot spring at Yellowstone. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

With more people going to our national parks, problems relating to overcrowding are rising accordingly. Also, incidents of utter stupidity by stupid people also are rising.

A new report from the University of Montana sounds a big warning.

The Yellowstone Insider reported:
A new report from the University of Montana paints a stark picture of overcrowding in national parks like Yellowstone. 
According to the Missoulian, Norma Nickerson, director of UM’s Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research in the College of Forestry and Conservation, recently published a report in Montana Business Quarterly, “Montana’s Crowded Parks,” which evaluates the short-term spike in visitation and its deleterious effects on places like Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks—and offers potential solutions going ahead, should visitation continue to mushroom. 
2016 saw a bevy of bad tourist behavior in Yellowstone National Park. Indeed, the antics of those four men from High On Life, who were either convicted or took plea bargains after walking on Midway Geyser Basin, are still fresh in the minds of Yellowstone residents and enthusiasts. Or when a 23-year-old man died after venturing hundreds of yards off the boardwalk in Norris, falling and dissolving in a hot spring. 
And don’t forget about the bison debacle, where a tourist picked up a red dog after it was separated from its herd, leading to rangers having to put the bison down. Or the time a tourist was fined $1,000 for walking on Mammoth Terraces to collect thermal water. But the effects go beyond bad behavior. 
To read more, go here

Get Rid of That Wallpaper!

Along with getting rid of Obama government holdovers, President Trump needs to get rid of the gawdawful wallpaper.

President Trump has made some changes to the Oval Office decor, but I've been appalled seeing the wallpaper Obama installed on the walls still there. For more on Trump's changes so far, go here.

Below is a comparison of Barack Obama's Oval Office decor and Ronald Reagan's (from the Oval Office replica at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library).

Above, Obama's Oval Office.

Above, Reagan's Oval Office. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Motorhome For Sale!

Just perfect for those spur-of-the-moment getaways is this 1980s vintage Dolphin micro-mini Class C motorhome on a Toyota chassis by National RV.

It is for sale at $3,200 or best offer. It just needs a little cleaning up.

National Parks Added $34.9 Billion To Economy

Above, Lower Yosemite Falls. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Besides preserving our nation's natural wonders, the national parks also contribute to the economy.

The Washington Examiner reported:
National parks are pulling their own weight by raising $34.9 billion in 2016 for the nation's economy, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced Wednesday while pitching the need for much-needed upgrades to support the parks' success. 
That marked a $2.9 billion increase from the previous year, Zinke said in issuing a new economic report to mark National Parks Week. 
The report showed that spending supported 318,000 jobs in 2016, created $12 billion in labor income, $19.9 billion in value-added revenues, and $34.9 billion in economic output to the U.S. economy.

To read more, go here

Nature Center Sells Out of Lifetime Senior Passes

Above, Yellowstone's Old Faithful Inn. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

It appears that people aged 62 and over are gobbling up the lifetime senior passes to the national parks.

At least this is the case in Wichita, Kansas.

According to The Wichita Eagle:
Lifetime senior passes – that are $10 right now – for those 62 or older to U.S. national parks may be hard to find in the Wichita area. 
Great Plains Nature Center said on its Facebook page on Monday that it was sold out of the passes, which are scheduled to increase to $80 by year’s end. 
The center said it will be receiving a large shipment next week, and will be getting more later this week.
They're getting 'em while they're hot!

To read more, go here.

The Draft Lottery

Above, yours truly on Catalina Island in 1974.

A discussion on the draft in a RV forum I belong to got me to take a look at how I fared with the draft lottery system.

According to the Selective Service website:
Administrative processing number (APN) denotes the highest lottery numbers called for each table year. The APN (highest number) called for a physical was 215 for tables 1970 through 1976.

The last draft call was on December 7, 1972, and the authority to induct expired on June 30, 1973. The date of the last drawing for the lottery was on March 12, 1975. 
Registration with the Selective Service System was suspended on April 1, 1975, and registrant processing was suspended on January 27, 1976.

Registration was resumed in July 1980 for men born in 1960 and later, and is in effect to this present time. Men are required to register within 30 days of their 18th birthday.

For my birth year, 1954, the lottery was held on March 8, 1973 for the 1974 Random Selection Sequence. But the Viet Nam war ended two months prior.

Even if the United States were still involved in Viet Nam, I wasn't worried about being called up for service since my lottery number was 150 for my birthdate.

Somewhere around here, I still have my draft registration papers.

Japan Visitors Lured By Cleanliness, Safety

Above, Asakusa, Tokyo. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

One of the first things I noticed about Japan when I first visited there in 2001 was how clean the country was.

Despite the difficulty in finding trash cans in Tokyo, I thought it was amazing that the city streets and sidewalks were so litter-free.

This is one of several factors that attracts visitors from Taiwan to Japan.

According to Taipei Times:
Japan’s safe, clean and orderly society is the country’s greatest attraction to travelers from Taiwan, according to the results of a survey released by online travel search company Skyscanner on Tuesday. 
One of the most popular overseas destinations among Taiwanese, Japan had 4.26 million visits from Taiwan last year, accounting for 29.4 percent of all overseas trips by Taiwanese, Tourism Bureau statistics showed. 
In the survey, which was conducted last month among nearly 1,000 Skyscanner users in Taiwan, 86 percent of respondents said they like traveling in Japan.

To read more, go here

Sequoia and Kings Canyon Digital Park Passes

Above, the General Grant tree at Sequoia National Park. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

In these days of Internet and cellular technology, new means of ordering tickets, passes and other goods and services are making life easier.

The latest is purchasing national park digital visitor passes.

Yahoo! Finance reported:
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks have partnered with digital government services provider NIC Inc. (EGOV) to offer digital park passes to visitors through “YourPassNow.” YourPassNow provides an option where visitors can now purchase their park entrance pass online. 
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, which lie side-by-side in the southern Sierra Nevada in Central California, serve as a prime example of nature’s size, beauty, and diversity. Over 1.8 million visitors from across the U.S. and the world visit these parks for the world’s largest trees (by volume), grand mountains, rugged foothills, deep canyons, vast caverns, the highest point in the lower 48 states, and more. Sequoia and Kings Canyon join several other National Parks to launch YourPassNow, a digital solution that provides an alternative to the traditional paper-based purchase method. 
Visitors can now use their personal computer or mobile device to purchase an entrance pass online, at no additional cost. Once purchased, the pass can be used immediately, stored on a mobile device or printed for later use.
To read more, go here

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Roads Opening In Yellowstone

Above, vehicles driving in one of Yellowstone's valleys. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Yellowstone National Park is beginning to come out of "hibernation" for the upcoming tourist season as more roads in the park are opening to cars.

According to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle:
Yellowstone National Park announced on Monday that the following roads will open to cars for the season on Friday, April 21: 
n Mammoth Hot Springs to Norris 
n Norris to Madison 
n Madison to West Entrance 
n Norris to Canyon Village 
Other roads will remain closed until next month. More roads are to open on May 5, May 12 and May 26.
To read more, go here.

Mount Fuji, Japan's Enduring Powerful Force

Above, a view of Mount Fuji from a shinkansen. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Mount Fuji is a near-perfect volcanic cone that last erupted in the 1700s, the mountain means a lot more to the Japanese than just a volcano.

Smithsonian Magazine has an interesting article on what Mount Fuji means to the Japanese.

They begin it with:
It’s dawn on the first day of January and a crowd in the hundreds has gathered at the base of Mount Fuji to watch the rising light of hatsuhinode—the maiden sunrise—usher in the new year. The Ainu, mainland Japan’s ancient indigenous people, believed that the sun was among hundreds of gods, and one of the most important. To witness a hatsuhinode is considered a sacred act. 
Against a brilliant blue sky, the sun crests near the peak of the country’s tallest volcano and shimmers like a gem. When it aligns perfectly with the summit, the rare sight is called Diamond Fuji. On a hillside redoubt in nearby Fujinomiya-shi, a tour guide named Keisuke Tanaka marvels as the snowy peak, sharp against the horizon, grows indigo, then plum before retreating behind a curtain of cloud. “On clear days you can see Fuji-san from Tokyo, 60 miles northeast,” he says. 
On dim days—which is to say most days—it’s less a mountain than an allegation, obscured by fog and industrial haze even 60 feet away from the summit. Many cultures hold mountains to be sacred—the ancient Greeks had Olympus; the Aztecs, Popocatépetl; the Lakota, Inyan Kara—but nothing equals the timeless Japanese reverence for this notoriously elusive volcano. Parting earth and sky with remarkable symmetry, Fuji is venerated as a stairway to heaven, a holy ground for pilgrimage, a site for receiving revelations, a dwelling place for deities and ancestors, and a portal to an ascetic otherworld.
Known as "the shy mountain", Mount Fuji is usually obscured by cloud cover. I have been to Japan eight times and it was only during my 2015 trip to Japan that I was able to see it clearly during the day from a distance. That took place during a shinkansen trip to Osaka.

To read more, go here.

Tokyo To Get 45 New Skyscrapers By 2020

Above, a view from Tokyo City View in Roppongi Hills. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

It looks like Godzilla will have more toys to play with the next time the monster pays Tokyo a visit.

According to The Japan Times, 45 new skyscrapers will dot Tokyo's skyline by the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

They wrote:
Tokyo’s skyline is set to welcome 45 new skyscrapers by the time the city hosts the Olympics in 2020, as a surge of buildings planned in the early years of Abenomics near completion. 
The capital will see nearly 50 percent more new high-rise space in the next three years than it did in the preceding three, Toyokazu Imazeki, chief analyst at office leasing and consulting firm Sanko Estate Co Ltd., said in an interview. He said the increase was fueled by the fiscal expansion and monetary easing under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s economic program, launched after he took office in late 2012.

To read more, go here

RV Maintenance Tips

Above, The Beast at Deer Creek Valley RV Park in Topeka, Kansas. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

If you are an RVer and take a trip somewhere and after setting up camp, you find that something doesn't work or is sticking, it means that proper maintenance wasn't done.

The Mountain Grove News-Journal has posted three tips on RV maintenance. I regularly do all three on a monthly basis.

They begin with:
(NAPSI)—In order to truly enjoy the great outdoors, routine RV maintenance is essential. These three tasks will help extend the life of your RV, quiet squeaking parts and prevent breakdowns. Check your owner's manual because timing and instructions vary by vehicle.
The first of the three tasks is to check for squeaks and sticking:
Here's a good way to tell your rig's slide-outs, windows and doors aren't getting the care they need—they squeak and stick! Avoid wear and tear by regularly lubricating your rig's moving parts to prevent costly repairs. 
Restore quiet to the campground by using the new 3-IN-ONE RVcare Slide-Out Silicone Lube to lubricate, waterproof and protect against rust, corrosion and squeaks! The 3-IN-ONE RVcare Window & Track Dry Lube leaves a clear, protective film that reduces friction without attracting dirt and debris, which can clog tracks over time. Both products are safe to use on metal, wood, vinyl and most plastics.
To see what the other two maintenance tasks are, go here

Monday, April 17, 2017

Japan Info: 10 Fantastic Spots for a Photographer on Tokyo’s Sumida River

Above, the control room of the Kachidoki Bridge. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Japan and photography pretty much are "a match made in heaven". Anywhere in Japan provides plenty of sights to see and photograph.

This is also true of the sights along Tokyo's Sumida River.

Japan Info has an article on ten fantastic spots for a photographer on the Sumida River. Two years ago, I took a Sumida River cruise and photographed many of the things the article described. The article is a walking tour along the river.

Of course, the Sumida River is an important draw for Godzilla fans, even though it isn't listed as one of the 10 "fantastic sights". In 1954, the great monster toppled the Kachidoki Bridge into the river. So, for our purposes here, let's call it fantastic sight number 11.

They begin the article with:
The Sumida River (Sumidagawa 隅田川), one of Tokyo’s classic waterways, is a photographer’s dream. With waterside terraces, appealing atmosphere, and breathtaking views, it’s a definite “must” on any tourist’s list. Yet sadly, many fail to take advantage of this fun, free opportunity. 
Originating in Chichibu (秩父), Saitama (埼玉), the Sumidagawa breaks off from the Arakawa River (荒川) at Akabane-Iwabuchi (赤羽岩淵) in Tokyo’s far north. Passing attractions such as Asakusa (浅草), Tokyo Skytree, and Nihonbashi (日本橋), it neatly divides Tokyo before flowing into Tokyo Bay. During the Meiji (明治) period, the threat of floods forced the government to split the river, sending most of the water into a manmade channel. This new riverway retained the name Arakawa. The water that continued to follow the original Arakawa route was named the Sumidagawa.
Above, an upriver view of the Sumida River from the Tokyo Skytree. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

To read more, go here

Joshua Tree National Park: What Are You Waiting For?

Above, daybreak at Cottonwood Spring. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Rocklin & Roseville Today has posted an article on the closest national park to Los Angeles: Joshua Tree National Park.

The title of the article is, "Joshua Tree National Park: What Are You Waiting For?"

It begins with:
Roughly 130 miles east of Los Angeles or 500 miles from either San Francisco or Sacramento, this massive National Park is within an relatively short drive for many. 
Surprisingly, many native Californians have never given a second thought to checking out this desert paradise. That's great news for those lucky souls that undertake the pilgrimage. Joshua Tree NP is a place where it's easy to avoid the mass of humanity that overwhelms parts of Southern California. 
At over 1,200 square miles in size, visitors to Joshua Tree can barely scratch the surface in exploring this land where the Mojave and Colorado Deserts meet. (It's larger than the state of Rhode Island!)

To read more, go here

T + L: United Crew Can No Longer Bump A Boarded Passenger

Above, a United Airlines Dreamliner at LAX. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

United Airlines has stared public outrage in the face and that has now resulted in decision to change its policy in dealing with boarded passengers.

Travel + Leisure has posted an article on United's policy change.

They reported:
United Airlines will no longer bump passengers who are already onboard to allow crew to ride on flights, according to an internal memo shared with TMZ and verified by The New York Times. 
The change in policy comes following backlash toward United after the airline forcibly removed a paying passenger from his seat to accommodate a crewmember. The passenger suffered a concussion and lost several teeth, according to his lawyer. Video of the incident quickly went viral, causing international outrage.

To read more, go here

Kentucky Civil War History

Above, a view of Paducah, Kentucky across the Ohio River from Fort
 Massac State Park in Metropolis, Illinois. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Last November, I drove from Los Angeles to Metropolis, Illinois to attend Noel Neill's celebration of life services. While there, I stayed at the Fort Massac State Park campground. The state park is situated at the Ohio River. 

Across the Ohio River is Paducah, Kentucky. I drove through Paducah while en route to Memphis, Tennessee (it was about a 3 1/2 hour drive from Metropolis).

A longtime friend, Arleigh R. Kerr, now lives in Lexington, Kentucky and recently completed a class on the Civil War history of Kentucky. He sent a general email to several of us history buffs and I received his permission to post it here. Paducah gets a mention in his email (highlighted by me).

He wrote:
Just finished a four day class on the Civil War in Kentucky.  Learned lots of interesting stuff — some of which follows.  Three of the four classes were in a “class room”, fourth and last was a walking tour of the Perryville Battlefield — the decisive battle in Kentucky that saved Kentucky for the Union. 
First off, did you know that Kentucky was neutral during the Civil War?  Yup.  Fort Sumter incident was on April 12, 1861.  In May 1861, Kentucky legislature declared neutrality and refused to assist either side or supply troops.  Even though slavery was legal in Kentucky, the population and the legislature were decidedly pro-Union, while the governor was pro-Southern. 
Sept 4, 1861, Confederates were to the first to violate Kentucky’s neutrality by invading western Kentucky and building Fort DuRussy near Columbus to control the upper reaches of the Mississippi River.  Two days later, Union forces under General Ulysses S. Grant crossed the Mississippi and entered Paducah, Kentucky.  Three days after that, Kentucky Legislature voted resolution ordering the Confederates to withdraw, but only the Confederates.  The governor vetoed the resolution.  Legislature overrode the veto and ordered the US flag to be flown over the capitol.  Sept 18, 1861 Legislature voted to end neutrality and took the side of the Union. 
Over the next year, there were a number of Confederate attempts to invade Kentucky, none of which were successful.  The south desperately wanted Kentucky.  Kentucky was the economic center of the area.  They even reserved the center star in the Confederate battle flag for Kentucky.  The North too, saw Kentucky as the key to control the west.  At the beginning of the war, Lincoln is supposed to have said, “I hope to have God on my side, but I must have Kentucky”. 
Fall of 1862, the Rebels made another attempt to take Kentucky.  They easily defeated Union forces at the battles of Richmond and Munfordville.  They captured Lexington and the state capital of Frankfort.  Then they tried to install a puppet pro-Confederate governor, only to have the inauguration ceremony interrupted by Union cavalry.   
About an hour southwest of where I live in Lexington is Perryville.  And it’s there where two armies converged on October 9, 1862.  55,000 Union troops versus 17,000 Rebels. 
After an afternoon of fighting, Confederates had pushed back the Union forces about a mile.  Fighting stopped for the night, by morning the Rebel army had withdrawn — they discovered fresh Union troops were arriving.  Confederates retreated into Tennessee and never again threatened Kentucky. 
Interesting little tidbits.  Kentucky U. S. Senator John Crittenden had two sons: Thomas, who became a Union general and George who was general in the Confederate Army.
Above, the Interstate 24 Bridge that connects Metropolis, Illinois and Paducah, Kentucky. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

According to stateparks.com:
[Fort Massac] served briefly as a training camp during the early years of the Civil War, marking the last time U.S. troops were stationed at the site. The fort was abandoned after a measles epidemic in 1861-62 claimed the lives of a substantial number of soldiers of the Third Illinois Cavalry and the 131st Illinois Infantry, who were using the fort as an encampment.

It is interesting that Gen. Grant's forces entered Kentucky at Paducah. 

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