"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, May 25, 2017

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Entrance Fees Going Up

Above, trees ablaze from lava at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

As in other national parks, entrance fees are going up at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Hawaii News Now reported:
The cost to visit Madame Pele's home is on the rise. 
Beginning June 1, admission fees to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park will go up to $25 per vehicle per car. The fee for bicyclists and pedestrians entering the park will jump to $12 from $10, and motorcyclists will pay $20.  
The per-vehicle fee covers a pass that is valid for seven days. 

To read more, go here

Airport Security May Get Worse This Summer

Here we go again!

It looks like the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) may make going through airport security even more of a hassle than it already is this summer.

Travel + Leisure reported:
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is testing new security measures that would require passengers to remove even more items from carry-ons to go through airport checkpoints. 
Travelers are already required to take out liquids and laptops before passing through to their gates. They might soon be required to take out every electronic device larger than a cell phone, including cameras, game consoles, and iPads as well as any food items, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.
The TSA is currently conducting tests at smaller airports.

To read more, go here.

Header Reactions

When I switched to the new blog template weeks ago, I looked through what Blogger has to offer.

I already had the new header design in mind when I was looking. They had several new ones and the one I settled on was one of them.

During the process of selecting the template, I looked through many blogs on Blogger. For the most part, a lot of them were just dull-looking to me. Blogger has so many nice templates available, so I was surprised that many blogs did not take full advantage of them to create an attractive blog. I noticed that many blogs included photographs that were posted in small sizes. I don't know if they fear someone ripping them off or what, but, to me, why bother posting photos if they are in such small sizes?

I liked the blues in the new template as they would compliment the blue sky in the photograph of "The Mittens" in Monument Valley as well as the earth tones of the rock formations.

This birthday greetings by Kirk Hastings got me thinking about using a photo of "The Mittens" in the new header:

I looked at other photos I have on file and experimented with different ones, but I decided that one from Monument Valley would work the best. After which, I enlisted Asya to do the calligraphy and lettering.

I am very pleased with the end results of the template with the new header by Asya. She actually came up with two variations that I liked and will use both interchangeably. She did a great job!

So far, here's some of the reactions to the new header and template:

  • Nice!

  • Very pretty though!  Makes me think of all those lucky folks buying land in Sedona where the sky is apparently usually like that.

  • Wow!  You really redid it very nice!

Yellowstone Memorial Day Weekend Preview

Above, terraces of Mammoth Hot Springs. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The three-day Memorial Day weekend is almost here and people are going to be heading out to in droves.

The Yellowstone Insider posted a preview on what people heading to Yellowstone National Park should expect.

They begin with:
Here it comes. Memorial Day weekend, and the start of another no doubt record-breaking summer season in Yellowstone National Park
Flowers are blooming, bluebirds are flitting, baby bison are frolicking, roads are open and hotels and campgrounds are opening up. 
Here are a few things to know for heading into Yellowstone this weekend.

To read more, go here

Grand Teton National Park Foundation Celebrates 20-Year Partnership

Above, the Grand Teton mountain range. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The Grand Teton National Park Foundation is celebrating 20 years of their partnership with the national park.

According to Jackson Hole News & Guide:
In 1997 the Grand Teton National Park Foundation was created as the primary fundraising partner for Grand Teton National Park. This year the two organizations are celebrating the accomplishments achieved over the course of the last 20 years. 
Since the beginning of the partnership, the Grand Teton National Park Foundation has raised more than $65 million for Grand Teton National Park. The projects and initiatives it has funded have aimed to improve visitor services, preserve park resources and provide outreach to a variety of people that the park attracts.

Grand Teton National Park is the southern next-door neighbor of Yellowstone National Park.

To read more, go here

2 Million Threshold Crossed!

The ol' Rancho has crossed the 2 million page views threshold, so the new header has been installed.

The photograph was taken of "The Mittens" at Monument Valley by me last November and the calligraphy and lettering was done by Asya. She also did another version which will probably be interchanged with this one.

The header image had been reduced by 45%, but even with the reduction, it is still pretty large. I may reduce it down a little further later.

Asya is a very talented graphic artist who also does logos. I have added a widget for her under the title "Chakra Graphics". Click on the photo to go to her website and see her past work. But here is the direct link. Need a logo? See what Asya can do!

Elvis Week Tickets Now On Sale

Above, Elvis Presley's Graceland mansion. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

An email from from the nice folks at Graceland.com announced that tickets for Elvis Week are now on sale.
Elvis Week Tickets On Sale Now 
Join us in Memphis this August for Elvis Week 2017! Tickets are on sale now. Elvis Week will celebrate the King of Rock 'n' Roll like never before, with special events such as Elvis: The Wonder of You Concert Event, the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest, The Auction at Graceland, Elvis 101, The Official Graceland Insiders Conference, A Band of Legends Remembers Elvis Concert and much more. Our special guests include Priscilla Presley, Jerry Schilling, songwriter Mac Davis, Lisa Marie pilot Ron Strauss, Elvis' "Easy Come, Easy Go" co-star Pat Priest and more. Go to ElvisWeek.com to see a full schedule and a list of special guests.
Buy Tickets Now 

Elvis Week takes place August 11-19. 

National Geographic Guide To National Parks

Above, Yosemite's North Dome. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The Buffalo News has an article on the latest edition of the National Geographic Guide To National Parks.

The writer of the piece, Scott Scanlon, may have been in Yosemite National Park at about the same time as I was in 2015. He had lunch at the Ahwahnee Hotel, I opted for breakfast instead.

He wrote this about the book:
National Parks have the ability to astound, often greatly. I have learned that it pays to seek out the experts in places like Yosemite, Acadia and the Grand Canyon, not only after you arrive but preferably before you go. 
The eighth edition of the "National Geographic Guide to National Parks," issued to mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of the National Park Service, is an invaluable starting point to help you get the most out of a visit to the parks. A used edition can be found online at only about one-third its original cost. 
Its glossy pages boast more than enough tidbits to make its purchase on amazon.com a better and more reasonable investment than lunch at the former Ahwhanee. (Though, if you ever go to Yosemite, I encourage you to book a lunch reservation. It's much less expensive than dinner.)
His article recounts a visit to Yosemite by Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip in 1983.

To read more, go here

Missed It...Sorry

Above, a visitor off Malibu. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

A 3.3 earthquake hit around an hour ago off Malibu.

I didn't know about it until I read about it in the Los Angeles Times website.

They wrote:
A shallow magnitude 3.3 earthquake was reported Thursday morning 12 miles from Malibu, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The temblor occurred at 7:19 a.m. at a depth of 9.3 miles. 
According to the USGS, the epicenter was 12 miles from Westlake Village and 42 miles from Los Angeles Civic Center.
Maybe a gigantic sea creature is stirring?

To read more, go here

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Free Things To Do In Las Vegas

Above, a view of the Las Vegas Strip. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Admittedly, Las Vegas, Nevada is not my idea of a place to relax and unwind. As one who fondly remembers the city before it became the overcrowded zoo that it is now, I prefer to just drive through it while on the way to Utah (or other points beyond) or just stop there for fuel or food these days.

However, besides gambling, the city is known for shows and, in some places, some good food at prices that are easy on the wallet and nightclubs where people manage to get themselves drunk and make complete asses of themselves. And, no, what happens in Vegas doesn't always stay in Vegas, especially in these modern times where personal cell phones can snap pictures or, heaven forbid, shoot videos of you doing something that you wouldn't want your boss or parents to see posted on the Internet.

If you happen to be one who likes Las Vegas, but are financially tapped out of cash for various reasons, there are still some free (unbelievable as it may seem) things to do.

Travel + Leisure has a list of 31 things in Las Vegas that one can do that are FREE!

Before getting into their list, they wrote:
When you're a Las Vegas local, the clanging of slot machines in the McCarran Airport arrivals area signals you're home, but for everyone else it's a reminder that the city is engineered to liberate you from your dollars from the moment you land. Surprisingly, though, there are plenty of ways to entertain yourself free-of-charge in Las Vegas. Keep this list of free vegas attractions handy: It's great for both visitors who come on a budget and those who suddenly find their credit lines tapped out.

To see what they are, go here

Yellowstone Expects A Busy Summer

Above, Lower Yellowstone Falls. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Officials of Yellowstone National Park are expecting a big turnout of visitors during the summer season.

K2 Radio reported:
Yellowstone National Park officials expect another busy summer season and they have some tips for you when you visit. 
“More than half of the record 4.25 million visits in 2016 took place during June, July, and August,” Superintendent Dan Wenk said in a news release Wednesday. 
“Whether you are visiting Yellowstone for the first time or the fiftieth, we hope you’ll take the Yellowstone Pledge and plan ahead for a safe, enjoyable trip," Wenk said. 
Park officials said visitors should expect busy facilities and destinations, and delayed travel times due to heavy traffic and wildlife jams. 
They also suggest arriving early or staying late, and avoiding main attractions --  Old Faithful, Grand Prismatic Spring, Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, and Norris Geyser Basin -- during peak hours.

To read more, go here

Improper Gifts Received By Arizona Memorial Employee

Above, the USS Arizona Memorial. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

It does seem that there's nothing sacred these days.

The News & Observer reported:
HONOLULU - A National Park Service employee at the USS Arizona Memorial accepted gifts from tour operators in violation of ethics regulations, U.S. Department of Interior investigators said Wednesday. 
The gifts included a $50 jacket and golf course green fees valued at about $85, the department's inspector general said in a three-paragraph summary of their report on the case. 
Investigators didn't release their full report for privacy reasons and because it contained law enforcement information. 
The report says the U.S. Attorney's Office in Hawaii declined to prosecute. 
Investigators launched their probe after hearing a Park Service employee may have had improper relationships with tour operators to whom he distributed memorial tickets. The report didn't identify the employee or say when he received the gifts.

That's certainly a very good way to mess up one's career and lose a job.

To read more, go here.

Preparing A RV For Holiday Travel

Above, The Beast's "maiden voyage" of the season was at the Platrix clampout in the Tehachapi area. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Have you ever taken a trip somewhere when a minor part's failure led to a near-catastrophic disaster?

By checking your RV before heading out on the road for the Memorial Day weekend, you may want to read an article from ABC 12 and take heed.

They wrote:
CLIO (WJRT) - (05/24/17) - This weekend kicks off the season where you'll probably be seeing a lot more of these things on the roadways. If you're one of the many getting ready to head out this weekend, you're probably wondering, how do I get my RV ready for it's maiden voyage of the year?' 
According to experts at Tradewinds RV in Clio, It usually just slips peoples minds.
My RV's "maiden voyages" have already been taken care of when I went camping in Tehachapi last month and near Barstow a week later.

To read more, go here

Half Dome Hiking: Not Until June!

Above, Half Dome. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

This should probably go into the "Aw, shucks!" file.

Memorial Day weekend visitors to Yosemite National Park expecting to be able to hike/climb Half Dome are sure to be very disappointed.

The Mercury News reported:
Yosemite National Park says hikers won’t be allowed on Half Dome for at least another week. 
The cables that help people walk up the last 400-foot stretch of granite are usually put up the Friday before Memorial Day, but because of heavy snowpack the estimated date has been pushed back to June 2.

To read more, go here

Zion Warns of Big Memorial Day Crowds

Above, Checkerboard Mesa at Zion National Park. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Memorial Day weekend traditionally marks the beginning of the summer vacation season, although it is still spring.

That means more people will be jamming into the national parks, and Zion National Park is one of them.

According to The Spectrum:
Zion National Park officials are warning visitors to be ready for some crowding over the Memorial Day weekend. 
The three-day weekend traditionally marks the beginning of the busy season at Zion, with officials expecting the crowds to approach or surpass last year’s counts of more than 70,000 people. 
Parking are expected to fill up by 9 a.m., with long wait times for those lining up to enter the park or board park shuttles.

To read more, go here

The Incredible Shrinking Airline Seat

Above, yours truly trying out an ANA Business Class seat at a travel show. 

You're not getting fatter (in some cases, maybe you are), airline seats are getting smaller. This is so that the airlines can squeeze more seats (i.e., more people) in an airliner.

This, naturally, is making flying a lot less comfortable.

According to Travel + Leisure:
What I'm about to say is far from news: Being a fat person on a plane is dreadful. 
As much as I would like to believe we're living in a more body positive world than in the past, there are some areas that have definitely not become more inclusive. We need to recognize the body discrimination taking place on airplanes across the country. 
Airline seats aren't comfortable for anyone — at least not anymore. Seats have gotten smaller since the 1980s to add more passengers to each aircraft. In 2014, author Bill McGee compared seat sizes from 1985 through 2014 on four major airline carriers: American, Delta, United, and Southwest. On average, economy class seat widths decreased 2 to 3 inches, and seat pitch (the distance between your seat and the seat in front of you) decreased 2 to 5 inches. 
And it hasn't stopped. Last year, United found a way to add the equivalent of 14 planes to its fleet by moving seats closer together on its existing aircraft. Earlier this month, American announced it will add 10 more economy seats on each new Boeing 737 MAX by reducing seat pitch. Slimmer seats are supposed to make up for that decrease, according to several airlines, but anyone who has flown recently would be skeptical.
I think the worst seating I've experienced was on a Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 to Japan in 2015. I felt scrunched in and was getting leg pains. It used to be that I would get up about every hour to an hour and a half to stretch my legs. I had to get up roughly every half hour. This is not something one wants to endure during a 11-hour flight to Japan!

To read more, go here.

7 Must-See Spots of Kiyomizu-dera

Above, people gathering at the Otowa Waterfall. The article states, "A sip of water
 from the waterfall here is said to purify your body and soul." 
Photo by Armand Vaquer.

One of the big attractions in Kyoto, Japan is Kiyomizu-dera. I have been there twice (2004 and 2015) and I have enjoyed seeing it each time.

Goin' Japanesque has an article on seven places (or features) of Kiyomizu-dera that visitors should not miss.

They begin their article with:
Do you know a Japanese expression, “Jump off the stage of Kiyomizu (Kiyomizu no butai kara tobioriru)”? 
The expression is commonly used in Japanese and people of other countries who are studying Japanese often ask its meaning. 
Kiyomizu-dera Temple has a stage half hanging out from a steep cliff’s top. As it would require great courage and determination to jump off the stage, the expression is used as a metaphor for “making up your mind on a big decision.” 
I am taking this opportunity to introduce to you about the very temple of Kiyomizu-dera and the interesting spots to check out as well as the features of the temple buildings.
To read more, go here

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Finding Good RV Parks and Avoiding Bad Ones

Above, The Beast at the Double J Campground in Chatham, Illinois, near Springfield. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Finding a good RV park and avoiding bad RV parks is less of a crapshoot today because of the Internet, where there are plenty of websites filled with reviews and information.

One such tool for finding good RV parks is RV Park Reviews. There, recent reviews by fellow travelers keep the site up-to-date. I am a regular contributor.

RV Life has an article on how to avoid bad RV parks while traveling.

They start with:
RVing is a rich and rewarding way to travel, but a nagging fear of “bad” RV parks can hinder the experience. If you’re too afraid to visit bucket list destinations after learning bad things about nearby RV parks, you’re shortchanging yourself. Before reaching a conclusion, take a minute to review our three RV trip planning tips to avoid bad RV parks and pick good, safe ones during your travels.
To read more, go here

Godzilla 2 Including "Old School Monster Effects"

Above, a scene from King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962). Toho Co., Ltd.

It looks like Legendary's Godzilla: King of the Monsters (or Godzilla 2) will be including some "old school practical monster effects".

According to Movieweb:
Godzilla 2 is finally shooting this summer after several years of impatient waiting. Gareth Edwards' 2014 Godzilla divided fans, but it was successful at the box office and revived the franchise. It looks like director Mike Dougherty, who is taking over for the next installment, is looking to make some fans of the old-school Godzilla movies very happy. How, you may ask? Well, he is going to include some practical monster effects in Godzilla: King of Monsters.
This'll be interesting to see!

To read more, go here.

U.K. Press Calling It What It Is

The following appears at The Drudge Report on the Manchester bombing:

Next Year's Trip?

Above, The Beast at the Elk City, Oklahoma KOA. It would be along the way home. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Since this year's long trip will be going north to see the eclipse in Idaho, I am already thinking about next year's trip.

I was reading an article at Do It Yourself RV on Fort Wilderness at Walt Disney World in Florida and that started me thinking.

They wrote:
Disney World’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground in Orlando, Florida might be one of the most unique places to camp in the U.S. Not only is this resort massive (it takes up more than 700 acres of the park), but it’s close to all the action while feeling like it’s in the middle of a pine forest, complete with non-animated deer and raccoons. 
The campground has private sites and features all the amenities of most resorts, as well as a few Disney specialties. This includes two heated pools that are open 24 hours a day, rental cabins, several restaurants and stores, a marina, playgrounds, tennis courts, horse and pony rides, a petting zoo, fishing, bike rentals, private carriage rides, and even Segway tours.
Actually, I started thinking about going there about a year or so ago. But situations change, along with travel focusing.

In looking over the map book, I figure on heading east along Interstate 10 with stops along the way including Carlsbad Caverns National Park, San Antonio (to see if there's a basement at the Alamo) and New Orleans (to try out some good Cajun foods) before reaching Florida. There seems to be a lot of nice RV parks along the way to enjoy.

For the return trip home, I will probably take Interstate 40 and see some attractions along that route including Atlanta, Nashville, Memphis (this time to see the new entertainment complex at Graceland) and Tombstone (I was last there around 1989).

Since I won't be in a hurry, I plan to confine each day's drive to around 350 miles or less as much as possible.

I have a while before deciding. 

Yosemite To Be "Extremely Busy" Memorial Day Weekend

Above, The Beast at North Pines Campground last year. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

If one is planning to visit Yosemite National Park this coming Memorial Day weekend, expect the park to be "extremely busy" with people.

According to the Sierra Star:
Yosemite National Park officials announced Tuesday that the park will likely have an extremely busy Memorial Day weekend. The park expects high visitation, especially from Friday, May 26 until Monday, May 29. Visitors are encouraged to arrive at Yosemite before 9 a.m. or after 4 p.m.. Once in the park, visitors are urged to park their vehicles at the Yosemite Village, Yosemite Falls, or Half Dome Village parking areas and enjoy Yosemite Valley by using the free shuttle bus service, bike paths, and hiking trails. Parking in Yosemite Valley is limited and parking is expected to fill early. 
All campgrounds on the reservation system are completely sold out for the weekend. The park’s first-come, first-served campgrounds are anticipated to fill early. There are a large number of campground and lodging options in the gateway communities surrounding the park.

To read more, go here

Prestige Mustang

When a vehicle gets older, it generally gets harder and harder to find parts for it.

After several years, vehicle manufacturers cease to make replacement parts and they aren't available from aftermarket part makers or dealers either. If that happens to be a case with a part one needs, the next best route is to buy from an auto salvage business.

This is happening to me on a more frequent basis. I recently had to replace accelerator/cruise control combo cables for my 1989 Mustang. During this, I found that I also needed to replace the accelerator/cruise control servo "canister" that the cables attach to. Unfortunately, my mechanic was unable to find these parts locally.

One may wonder why I would continue to maintain a 1989 vehicle. Well, it is partly sentimental for me to maintain it as it was my dad's last car. Plus, it is a popular model. I have found several notes from people asking if I were interested in selling it.

Being retired and having plenty of time on my hands to do a search, I located a business who specializes in Fox Body Mustang parts.

What's a Fox Body?

From Dust Runners Automotive Journal:
A Fox Body Mustang is a Mustang produced anywhere from 1979 to 1993. It doesn’t matter if it’s a coupe, convertible, or a hatch. It also doesn’t matter what engine is has either, or transmission. As long as it’s between the ages of 1979 and 1993, it’s a Fox Body. 
Why is it called a “Fox Body”? I know, it’s a really weird name to give to a car. But, it’s called a Fox Body because it’s on the Ford Fox platform. Ford designed the Fox platform as a unibody chassis and used it across a wide range of Ford/Lincoln/Mercury vehicles. Ford’s main objective with the Fox platform was to downsize the massive cars they made in the ’70s.
Another reason to maintain it: It's a classic!

From Dust Runners Automotive Journal:
If it’s older than me, it’s probably a classic…. right? The Fox Body is now wandering into the 25+ year-old range depending on what year you own, which means it’s starting to become a “classic”. When cars start to be considered classics, their prices go up. CNN Money even mentioned the Fox Body Mustang in their “Top Ten Investment Cars under $5,000“. On top of it becoming a classic, it’s also facing a similar issue to the 240sx’s “Drift Tax”. Youngsters getting into hot rods are scooping up Fox Body Mustangs left and right, causing the prices to go up even more.

I called several Mustang parts suppliers and none of them had the parts I needed. Luckily, one of them recommended Prestige Mustang of Monroe, Georgia. I called them and found that they specialize in salvaged parts from Fox Body Mustangs (along with Mustangs from 1964 to 1973) and they had the parts I needed. Additionally, they were reasonable in price and were speedy in shipping.

So, if you happen to have a Fox Body Mustang and need parts for it, I would definitely recommend Prestige Mustang. Their website is at www.prestigemustang.com

Sir Roger Moore Dies At 89

Above, Caroline Munro and Roger More in The Spy Who Loved Me.

For some reason, I was in the mood to watch Roger Moore's 1979 James Bond movie, Moonraker yesterday. Although Moore was not my favorite James Bond actor, as many times he portrayed Agent 007 as a bit of a fop, but his movies were entertaining. For Your Eyes Only (1981) is my favorite of Moore's Bonds.

Today, it has been reported that Sir Roger Moore has passed away at 89.

From Variety:
Roger Moore, the handsome English actor who appeared in seven films as James Bond — the most of any Bond actor — and as Simon Templar on “The Saint” TV series, has died in Switzerland after a short battle with cancer. He was 89. 
His family issued an announcement on Twitter: “It is with the heaviest of hearts, we must share the awful news that our father, Sir Roger Moore, passed away today. We are all devastated.”
From actress Tanya Roberts on Facebook:
So sorry to hear about Roger's passing today. We had a lot of fun working on A View to a Kill together. He always had a joke to tell, and was a pleasure to work with, he was a terrific guy.

To read more, go here.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Bomb Set Off At Ariana Grande Concert, 19 Killed

Above, Ariana Grande.

At least 19 people were killed and others injured when a suspected suicide bomber attacked an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England.

NBC News reported:
At least 19 people were killed and about 50 others were injured in a suspected suicide bombing Monday night after an Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena in England, authorities said. 
Greater Manchester Police said the incident was being treated as terrorism. A senior White House official told NBC News that President Donald Trump, who is on a visit to Jerusalem, had been briefed. 
Police said the explosion took place outside the arena, which is near the Manchester Victoria transit station, as the concert ended at about 10:35 p.m. local time (5:35 p.m. ET), catching people as they exited.

Grande was not injured.

To read more, go here

Dollar Around ¥111.30 In Tokyo

Traders in Tokyo have the jitters over a budget proposal that will be unveiled tomorrow, causing a drop of the U.S. dollar against the Japanese yen.

Jiji Press reported:
Tokyo, May 22 (Jiji Press)--The dollar fell to around 111.30 yen in Tokyo late Monday, in a jittery mood ahead of the release of a U.S. budget proposal on Tuesday. 
At 5 p.m., the dollar stood at 111.29-30 yen, down from 111.46-46 yen at the same time Friday. 

To read more, go here

RV Parking Shortage On The West Coast

Above, The Beast at the Marin RV Park last June. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

There appears to be a shortage of parking areas for RVs along the West Coast that includes California, Oregon and Washington. 

Personally, I hadn't noticed this since I usually make reservations beforehand when heading out to a RV park or campground. And, I don't generally stay in a city in the RV.

RV Life reported:
If you’ve gone RVing in California, Oregon, or Washington lately, you may have noticed some changes over the last few years. The West Coast’s lack of affordable housing is at epic proportions and if you roam near larger cities, your travel plans will be affected. 
America’s housing shortage is in crisis mode throughout the west. According to the 13th Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey: 2017, three west coast cities made it into the Top Ten least affordable cities in the world. People who can’t afford to buy or even pay astronomical rents in those areas are calling RV parks home. 
Visit any RV park that was once empty except for a few retired seniors, and you’ll find a bustling temporary community with kids, pets, and commuters. Spontaneously pull into any urban West Coast RV park and odds are good that you won’t be able to stay very long. As overnighters with reservations compete with casual RVers, campsite battles are heating up. Here’s how to make the best of the West Coast RV parking shortages if you find yourself in the region.

 To read more, go here.

Tokyo Skytree Celebrates 5 Years

Above, the Tokyo Skytree at night. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Today, the Tokyo Skytree tower celebrates its fifth anniversary.

From The Japan Times:
Tokyo Skytree, the world’s tallest broadcasting tower, marked its fifth anniversary on Monday. 
As of March, about 26 million people had visited the popular landmark, which is surrounded by the Tokyo Solamachi commercial complex, and around 180 million had visited the entire site, according to the public affairs office of Tokyo Skytree Town.
Above, the Skytree in 2014. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

I visited the Skytree twice. The first was in 2014, but I didn't go up to the observation deck. Then, in 2015, I went up to one of its two observation decks. The views were spectacular.

Above, the Tokyo Skytree under construction in 2010. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

To read more, go here.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Traveling In A RV Is Better Than Flying

Above, The Beast stopped at a Yosemite viewpoint. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Do It Yourself RV has posted an interesting article on eight reasons why RV travel is better than air travel.

Having done both myself, I tend to agree. Sure, you will get to a destination a lot faster by plane, but there's a lot of scenery that's missed. Why fly if one is not in a hurry?

It is also a matter of taste. One person may love air travel, while another detests it. The same goes with RV traveling. One may love it and another doesn't.

In my trips to Japan, I have chosen shinkansens (bullet trains) over commuter flying so I can see the countryside pass by my window, although prices are roughly the same (give or take).

The article starts with:
Airlines have made bad headlines so far in 2017. United sparked a worldwide uproar after dragging a passenger off a flight, then shortly after, made the news again when a scorpion fell from the overhead bin and stung a traveler. On top of that, riots broke out in Florida after Spirit Airlines canceled flights because of pilot labor disputes.

But things are different when you’re traveling in an RV. Of course, driving won’t get you there nearly as fast. But it will give you a more memorable experience in the long run. So the next time you’re planning a trip, consider hitting the road instead of catching a flight. These are just eight of the many reasons why you’ll be glad you did.

To see the eight reasons, go here

Brown and The Freeloading California Taxpayer

Governor Jerry Brown is one fossil that belongs in a museum.

Instead, he is governor of California who, with the help of his leftist buddies in Sacramento, passed the largest gasoline tax in the state's history. And, to make matters more insulting, he referred to the overtaxed California taxpayers as "freeloaders".

From Breitbart:
California Governor Jerry Brown referred to taxpayers as “freeloaders” last week for objecting to his new gas tax and car fee hikes. 
“The freeloaders — I’ve had enough of them … They have a president that doesn’t tell the truth and they’re following suit,” he said. Brown was speaking in Orange County, defending State Assembly newcomer Josh Newman (D-Fullerton), who is facing a recall effort after voting for Brown’s new transportation taxes in April. 
The new tax raises existing gas taxes — already among the highest in the nation — by 12 cents per gallon, with higher taxes on diesel, and slaps car owners with higher annual registration fees. Critics have pointed out that the burden of the tax falls most heavily on middle-class Californians.
To read more, go here

President Trump By Asya

Above, President Trump by Asya. Photo courtesy of Asya.

A few months ago, I sent a photo of an oil painting of President Trump to Asya (who painted my portrait last year) while she was back home in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Above, Asya at Gladstone's 4
Fish. Photo by Armand Vaquer.
She liked the portrait so much that she said it was inspiring her to do one of her own.

True to her word, she recently completed the portrait of President Trump that is pictured here.

She is currently trying to decide on whether to donate it to the White House or offer it for sale. (If interested, contact me at the email address provided at the "About Me" widget and I'll connect you with Asya. Serious offers only.)

The photo at top is of the completed portrait and the photo below was taken during the last stage of the painting process. (Her signature is at the bottom left in the red stripe.)

I am most impressed with the brush strokes she used for the hair. Nicely done!

Above, final stage of painting. Photo courtesy of Asya.

Taxi Hailing Apps In Japan and South Korea

Above, a Nihon Kotsu taxi in Roppongi, Tokyo. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

In this day and age, it seems that there's an app for just about everything. Now there's apps for hailing taxis in Japan.

According to Nikkei Asian Review:
TOKYO -- Nihon Kotsu, a leading taxi operator in Japan, and South Korean information technology company Kakao will make their ride-hailing apps compatible with each other by the end of the year, a partnership that will benefit foreign tourists in each country. 
South Korean visitors to Japan will be able to use Kakao's KakaoTaxi app to get cabs registered with Nihon Kotsu's ride-hailing app. The pickup point, destination and other data for these travelers will be relayed from one app to the other. The data will flow in reverse when Japanese visitors to South Korea use Nihon Kotsu's app.

To read more, go here

Saturday, May 20, 2017

CNN Host Has Meltdown

CNN's anchors' skins must be getting thinner by the day.

From Infowars:
CNN anchor Kate Bolduan had a meltdown on live TV on Tuesday after one of her guests questioned the validity of CNN’s anonymous sources. 
Navy Seal Carl Higbie, a supporter of Donald Trump, said CNN’s “anonymous sources” reporting on last week’s Trump-Russia meeting should come forward and name themselves if they want their anonymous accusations to be taken seriously.

To see the exchange, go here

California Democrats: NOT A Class Act!

Above, a Tweet from AP reporter Jonathan Cooper.

Just when you thought that the Democrat Party couldn't stoop any lower than they already have, they manage to pull a rabbit out of a hat to surprise everybody.

This is what took place at the California Democrats State Convention.

The Gateway Pundit reported:
California – The classless Democrats gathered in Sacramento for a state convention on Saturday. They had some harsh words for the President as they chanted, ‘F*** Donald Trump!’.

From the Associated Press:
In a sign of the vigor of the party’s distaste for the president, outgoing party Chair John Burton, a longtime Democratic lawmaker and powerbroker known for his blunt and profane manner, extended two middle fingers in the air as the crowd cheered and joined him. 
“F— Donald Trump,” he said.
 Aren't they a real class act, folks? Well, it shouldn't surprise you since this was a gathering of California Democrats.

As far as I am concerned, they are providing us with plenty of ammo for the next election cycle. Can you spell backfire?

To read more (including videos), go here.

Zion-Mount Carmel Highway Closed Due To Slides

Above, the east tunnel entrance of the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway. The rock and
sand slides are located near the west entrance to the tunnel. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Continuous sand and rock slides have closed the main highway through Zion National Park.

According to U.S. News & World Report:
ZION NATIONAL PARK, Utah (AP) — Heavy sand and rocks are falling down along the main road through Zion National Park in Utah. 
The National Park Service said the hazard has forced the closure of the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway until further notice. 
Officials said Friday that the debris is falling continuously near the west tunnel entrance of the highway.

To read more, go here.

UPDATE (05/20/17):

The Zion-Mount Carmel Highway through Zion National Park has been reopened.

Yosemite: "Wettest Year Ever Recorded"

Above, Yosemite Falls in 2016. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

More on Yosemite National Park's waterfalls.

The blog, The Manual, posted that this year's snowpack in the upper reaches of the Eastern Sierra is the result of the wettest year ever recorded.

The wrote:
California’s Yosemite National Park spans nearly 1,200 square miles of diverse terrain including towering granite peaks, verdant valleys, wildflower-covered meadows, and breathtaking waterfalls. Avid hikers spend a lifetime hiking its trails and barely scratch the surface. Now, thanks to record snowpack last winter, dozens of “secret” waterfalls are emerging throughout the park.
To read more, go here

Yosemite's Waterfalls Are Back With a Vengeance

Above, the additional water has "burst out and created countless other small, new
waterfalls along the cliffs", according to the article. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Thanks to the almost twice as normal snowpack in the Sierras, waterfalls in Yosemite National Park are back with a vengeance.

According to Atlas Obscura:
Yosemite National Park is one of America’s most beautiful natural landscapes but years of drought have seen many of its rivers and waterfalls lose some of their majestic power. But thanks to heavy snowmelt, many of them are back with a vengeance, and so are the visitors. 
According to NBC Bay Area, the waters in the park haven’t been this powerful since 2010. 
To read more, go here.

Camping: What You Need To Know

Above, camping on the Keene Ranch near Tehachapi. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

With Memorial Day weekend and summer vacation season just around the corner, many people will be heading out into the wilderness.

The Visalia Times-Delta has an article on what you need to know (and bring) when camping.

They begin with:
Camping checklists usually require a tent, hiking gear, fishing equipment, non-perishable food and now-- technology. 
With Memorial Day just around the corner, summer activities such as barbecues, roadtrips and camping are sure to get people outdoors. Millennials are the generation most excited. 
The 2017 North American Camping Report said 97 percent millennials of are enthusiastic about spending time participating in outdoors activities. Those activities include camping, fishing, hiking, kayaking or rock climbing.

To read more, go here

Narita Airport To Open New Visitor Service Center

Above, the arrival lobby of Narita's Terminal 1. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

A new visitor service center will be opening this fall at Narita International Airport in Terminal 1.

The Asahi Shimbun reported:
NARITA, Chiba Prefecture--Foreign tourists can experience Japan’s “omotenashi” hospitality culture as soon as they land at Narita Airport this fall with the opening of a new Visitor Service Center. 
The facility will bring together the airport’s numerous visitor services in one place, at arrivals in the airport’s Terminal 1, with the aim of improving the inbound customer experience. 
“We want to create an area that will serve as the ‘starting point of their trip to Japan’ for each and every visitor,” said a Narita International Airport Corp. (NAA) official. 
NAA announced that the new facility is designed to improve convenience for the increasing number of visitors to Japan by providing a one-stop information and service center to offer a greater sense of reassurance and comfort during their stay in Japan.

To read more, go here

Friday, May 19, 2017

Celebrities Get Own Private Terminal At LAX

Above, Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Photo by Armand Vaquer.

If they already don't think that they're "America's royalty" and that their sh*t don't stink, now our pampered celebrities have their own terminal at LAX away from the "messy masses", they now will.

According to Condé Nast Traveler:
This month, Los Angeles International will unveil ‘The Private Suite’—a luxurious terminal for the rich and famous. 
Paparazzi shots of celebs curbside at LAX might soon be few and far between. The airport, which is no stranger to the rich and famous, is set to open a new private terminal (far removed from the highly-trafficked public ones) called The Private Suite on May 15. Taking luxury VIP experiences like Heathrow’s Windsor Suite one step further, The Private Suite offers members complete luxury from the car to the airplane. 
“It typically takes 2,200 footsteps from car seat to plane seat. For members of The Private Suite, it’s 70 footsteps,” the new suite's website says. And my are those 70 footsteps fancy.
One thing, though. "The Private Suite" is going to cost them.

Go here to find out more.

One Year Ago...

Above, The Beast at Ventura Beach RV Resort last year. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

It is hard to believe how fast this past year went by.

It was one year ago today that I went to Ventura Beach RV Resort for some badly-needed R & R after days of turmoil. Instead of re-capping what went on, just go here.

I liked the park so much that I declared it my getaway "Camp David" whenever I just wanted to get away from it all. I've been back several more times.

Above, the playground and propane tank. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

I've been "itching" to head back there, but, unfortunately, the nearby Ventura River overflowed its banks during a storm in February and the owners have been working to get the RV park back in shape in time for its re-opening on July 4th weekend.

They wrote on their website:
We are currently accepting reservations starting on June 30th (4th Of July weekend). Due to the flooding of the Ventura River on February 17, 2017, we will be closed until said date above (June 30th, 2017).  
Look for an announcement soon with additional details. 
We will be sending a notice out to those with currently booked reservation who will be impacted by this closure.  
Thank you for your patience and support as we work to re-open as quickly as possible.
As soon as they have re-opened, I'll be heading over there.

Here's my review of Ventura Beach RV Resort from last year.

Japan Cheapo's Hiroshima Guide

Above, the Atomic Bomb Dome. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Many foreign visitors to the Kansai region of Japan generally include Hiroshima in their travel itineraries. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Museum is the biggest draw, but there are other things to see and do while in the city.

Japan Cheapo has posted an article guide of things to see and do in Hiroshima.

It begins with:
Hiroshima is known for one thing, and is on most people’s Japan itinerary—but besides visiting the museums, what can you do there? Our Hiroshima guide will outline all that there is to do, see and eat for a full day of discovery. 
Hiroshima has history, and although it is an important part of the city’s memory and legacy, it is also a place of renewal and beauty. No doubt it will be on your list if you’re traveling in Kansai, and so it should be. But in addition to the memorials to the atrocities of the past, there are plenty of things to enjoy as well as learn from. Only 1 hour and 20 minutes from Osaka by bullet train, Hiroshima is the perfect day trip, and the perfect double-day trip when combined with nearby Miyajima. Allowing for personal preference, it seemed to suit Hiroshima’s legacy to start with the museum and memorial, followed by the beautiful gardens and natural beauty which has re-grown, as it allowed for reflection and consideration.

To read more, go here

Joshua Tree Setting Visitation Records

Above, morning at the Cottonwood Spring Oasis. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

2016 was a record year for visitors to Joshua Tree National Park. 2017 may well surpass 2016 in visitors.

According to the Hi-Desert Star:
JOSHUA TREE — The long-eared native jackrabbits and otherworldly Joshua trees keep young Julie Engelinger and her father returning to Joshua Tree National Park. 
They’re not alone. The park set a record for annual visitation in 2016 of more than 2.5 million. If the number of visitors for the first quarter of this year is any indication, Joshua Tree will be posting another record year. 
“The community is very pleased business-wise with the increase,” said George Land, a public relations official with Joshua Tree National Park.

To read more, go here

A Grand Canyon Day Trip, Part 2

Above, the South Rim Visitor Center. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Here's a video of a day trip to the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park by Nomadic Fanatic and featuring Caravan Carolyn and Panda Monium.

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