"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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Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy New Year!

Have a safe and joyous New Year's Eve and Day! Drive safely!

Haruo Nakajima's Birthday Tomorrow

Above, Haruo Nakajima taking a break during filming of Mothra vs. Godzilla in 1964.

Tomorrow, January 1, 2018, would have been Godzilla suit actor Haruo Nakajima's 89th birthday.

Unfortunately, he passed away August 7 of pneumonia.

He was born on January 1, 1929 in Sakata, Yamagata Prefecture, Japan. He began his career as a stunt actor in samurai films and went on to first portray Godzilla in the 1954 Godzilla. He went on from there to portray other giant monsters such as Rodan, Mothra, Varan, Moguera, Baragon, Gaira and others.

Above, Haruo Nakajima at G-FEST in 2008. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

His last performance as Godzilla came in Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972).

He spent the last 20 years appearing at monster and science-fiction conventions in the U.S. and around the world.

During your New Year's celebrations tonight and tomorrow, be sure to raise a glass in honor of Haruo Nakajima.

News From Graceland

Vote for Elvis Presley's Memphis
Graceland's new entertainment and exhibit complex, Elvis Presley's Memphis, is honored to be nominated for the Best New Attraction Award in USA Today's 10Best Readers' Choice Awards. The competition is fierce, and we need your vote! Go to Graceland.com/Vote now to vote once a day, per device, through noon ET on Monday, January 1. Thank you, thank you very much!
Graceland's Top 20 Moments of 2017
It's been quite a year at the king's castle! This year alone, we welcomed Elvis' white baby grand piano back to Graceland, hosted the biggest Elvis Week ever, kicked off our Graceland Excursions trips, added more awards to the king's collection and opened Elvis Presley's Memphis, our new exhibit and entertainment complex. Learn all about our fabulous year on this week's Graceland Blog.
Read the Blog
Celebrate Elvis' Birthday
We're a week away from Elvis' Birthday Celebration here at Graceland! We will celebrate the king's birthday January 5-8 with special guests and events such as Club Elvis, an evening tour of Graceland, the Elvis Birthday Proclamation Ceremony and much more. Tickets are on sale, and be sure to book your stay at The Guest House at Graceland.
Learn More
Online Bidding Now Open
The next Auction at Graceland will take place January 6, during the Elvis Birthday Celebration, at The Guest House at Graceland. Online bidding is now open! The lots - which are all from third-party collectors - include TCB and TLC necklaces, jewelry, furniture and more.
Get the Details
Experience 'Elvis on Tour'
Elvis on Tour: The Exhibition is now open at The O2 in London! The exhibition showcases more than 200 artifacts from the Graceland Archives, many of which are in the UK for the very first time. This exhibition ends in a few weeks, so be sure to get your tickets soon. Be sure to take advantage of a limited-time offer: two adult tickets for only $30.00.
Make Your Plans

Tokyo Sees First Snow of the Season

Above, snow in the street in front of my hotel in Tokyo in 2014. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

This story brought back memories of nearly four years ago when I was in Japan when two unusually heavy snowstorms hit Tokyo.

The Japan Times reported:
The capital saw its first snowfall of the season on Sunday as cold air gripped eastern Japan with the approach of a low pressure system, the Meteorological Agency said. 
Snowfall was observed in the Otemachi business district, where the Meteorological Agency is located, around 8:30 a.m.

To read more, go here

Indiana Supports RV Industry

Above, Marin RV Park. Indiana makes 85 percent of the RVs produced in North America. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Unlike the California state government, who is hostile to business and is driving companies and people out of the state with its tax and regulation policies, the Indiana state government is supporting its industries. 

Such is the case with the recreational vehicle industry, which is one of Indiana's biggest.

KPC News reported:
Increasing sales for the recreational-vehicle industry had a number of its major players in northeast Indiana expanding production capacity this year, and the Indiana General Assembly took steps to support its continued growth in the state. 
The passage into law of an Indiana sales tax exemption for RV sales to out-of-state consumers was a highlight of the RV Indiana Council’s legislative efforts this year, according to Ron Breymier, its executive director. The exemption will be phased in over the course of two years. 
“The industry greatly appreciates the role Indiana Senate President Pro Tempore David Long (R-Fort Wayne) played in pulling together RV industry leaders and legislators to legislatively help the industry to continue its growth of RV sales in Indiana due to this new exemption,” he said. 
A bill grandfathering Tesla’s ability in the state to sell directly to the public while blocking other auto manufacturers from the practice of direct selling was passed into law. RVIC made certain the law will continue to protect the ability of Indiana’s RV manufacturers to sell directly to consumers. 
Strong consumer demand for recreational vehicles was evident in the attraction of more than 36,000 interested consumers at the five RV shows produced by the association this year, Breymier said.
That was an increase of more than 3,000 over the 2016 attendance level, he said. The Fort Wayne RV & Camping Show set an all-time attendance record this year, drawing a crowd of 12,644. The 2018 Fort Wayne RV & Camping Show will be held Feb. 1-4 at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne.
The success of the recreational-vehicle business is important to Indiana because it is among the state’s key industries.
Indiana makes 85 percent of the RVs produced in North America.

To read more, go here.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Inside The Lucky Dragon No. 5

Above, the bow of the Lucky Dragon No. 5. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Many of us, particularly Godzilla fans, are familiar with the story of the ill-fated crew of the Lucky Dragon No. 5 (Daigo Fukuryu Maru No. 5) tuna fishing boat. 

Articles have appeared over the years in print (including G-FAN) and online describing how the boat got caught in a rain of nuclear fallout from a H-bomb test in 1954. Many of these articles included photos of the boat.

Above, the forward deck. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

I visited the Lucky Dragon at the Dream Island Park exhibition hall in Tokyo in 2007. The photographs that accompany this blog post are from that visit.

What people have rarely seen are photos of the interior of the Lucky Dragon.

Thanks to Kyodo News, we now have a chance to see what the interior of the boat now looks like.

Above, the port side of the Lucky Dragon No. 5. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The article that accompanies the photos begins with:
A tuna fishing boat hit by the fallout from a U.S. hydrogen bomb test in 1954, and preserved since the 1970s, was recently opened to Kyodo News reporters for a rare view inside the vessel that is otherwise off limits at an exhibition hall in Tokyo. 
The Fukuryu Maru No. 5, with 23 fishermen onboard, was exposed to the radioactive fallout of the test conducted at Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands on March 1, 1954.  
The wooden vessel was decommissioned in 1967 and abandoned until the Daigo Fukuryu Maru Exhibition Hall was set up in Tokyo to put it on public display in 1976. 
The bow of the wooden vessel has been refurbished but the original hull remains intact. Kazuya Yasuda, chief curator at the exhibition hall, says the boat is an unusual example of a well-preserved vessel.
Above, the stern section. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

To read more and to see the photos of the interior, go here

Tips For Stress-Free RV Travel

Above, early morning drive in Arizona. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Being a solo RVer has its advantages. I am an early riser and like to get on the road early. But on occasion, I've had someone with me who either likes to sleep late or is inexperienced for "RV moving day" (getting out of the campground and getting on the road).

Fortunately, Do It Yourself RV has some good tips on getting back on the road easier and stress-free. I usually pack many items the night before. (This is also one of their tips.)

They begin with:
There was a time when moving day for our family meant a frantic morning rush to get out of the campground in time. We are not morning people, and the fact that we had to be unhooked, hitched up, and out the gate by 10am or 11am was difficult to handle at first. 
On top of that morning rush, we also found that the travel itself was often stressful. More than once we found ourselves on the side of the road with a tire blowout, and I can’t even begin to count the number of times we had to make bathroom stops only minutes after pulling out of the campground. All of this meant longer days and grumpy moods all around. 
Fortunately with practice comes improvement, and we have gotten smarter (though certainly not perfect) about the whole ordeal. Below are our top tips for ensuring your RV travel days go smoothly.

To read what the tips are, go here

Seeing 2018's First Sunrise In Japan

Above, the Tokyo Skytree during sunrise. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

If you happen to be in Japan on New Year's Day, there is one activity that the locals like to do: viewing the first sunrise of the year. There is also a reason for it.

There are several special vantage points that are recommended in an article by Gaijinpot.

According to their article:
According to belief, Toshigami, the god of the new year, harvests and spirits of ancestors arrives when the sun rises on New Year’s Day. If you stand outside and make a wish during the sunrise, you will be blessed by Toshigami and your dream will come true. 
Whether you believe that or not, seeing the sun rise on New Year’s Day in Japan is indeed something special — if you can see the sunrise that is! Many people say that the view of the dawn from the summit of Mt. Fuji is the absolute best place for hatsuhinode, but there are dozens of incredible places to see it all across Japan. Here are my top five picks for hatsuhinode spots across Japan.

To read more, go here

Tokyo Revitalizing Water Transportation

Above, the "Hotaluna" cruise boat on the Sumida River. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Tokyo is preparing for the 2020 Olympics in numbers of ways, one of which is water transportation in the city.

Japan Today reported:
TOKYO - Tokyo is stepping up efforts to revitalize water transportation in the capital to draw foreign tourists as well as to respond to an expected rise in traffic during the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics. 
The metropolitan government has been conducting a series of social experiments since fiscal 2015 aimed at resuscitating water transportation routes. 
This year, trial cruises were operated on five routes, including a combined tour on the Sumida River in the eastern side of the capital followed by a performance of a Kabuki play in Ginza.

To read more, go here.

Roswell UFO Festival

Above, the first newspaper report on the crash of a flying saucer.

Once I am moved to Jamestown, New Mexico and settled in. I should be able to enjoy the scenery and events that the state of New Mexico has to offer.

One such even is the 2018 UFO Festival in Roswell, New Mexico. Each year, people gather in Roswell to commemorate and celebrate the crash of a UFO in 1947.

According to the Roswell government website:
In July 1947, something happened northwest of Roswell during a severe thunderstorm. Was it a flying saucer? Was it a weather balloon? What happened?  
Above one of the books on
UFOs I've read over the years.
The answer is, nothing for many years, until leading UFO researcher Stanton Friedman came across the story in the early 1980s and began the search for information and witnesses. That research brought him to Roswell looking for the public information officer who had been at Roswell Army Air Field in 1947. That officer was Lt. Walter Haut. He still lived in Roswell and remembered the press release and the orders from his commanding officer.  
Friedman's investigation also led to many others, both military and private, who had information to add to the Roswell Incident story. Stepping into the picture very strongly in the late 1980s were Don Schmitt, Kevin Randle and Tom Carey. since then, Schmitt and Carey have dedicated their research to Roswell.  
The debris recovered by rancher WW Mack Brazel was gathered by the military from the Roswell Army Air Field under the direction of base intelligence officer Major Jesse Marcel. On July 8, 1947, public information officer Lt. Walter Haut issued a press release under orders from base commander Col. William Blanchard, which said basically that we have in our possession a flying saucer. The next day another press release was issued, this time from Gen. Roger Ramey, stating it was a weather balloon. That was the start of the best known and well-documented UFO coverup.

Once it became public, the event known as The Roswell Incident - the crash of an alleged flying saucer, the recovery of debris and bodies and the ensuing cover up by the military - was of such magnitude and so shrouded in mystery that, 70 years later, there are still more questions than answers. Books have been written and TV documentaries have been filmed. Witnesses have come forward. Skeptics have issued rebuttals to the Incident, and the debate continues.

My great-uncle was a high-ranking official of the U.S. Army hospitals in New Mexico at the time and he told my mother years ago that the Roswell incident really did involve a crashed UFO and alien bodies were recovered. He said the balloon story was a cover-up.

It will be fun to attend the UFO Festival in Roswell. It begins on July 6 to July 8.

For the festival's website, go here.

Newsmax's 15 Top News Stories of 2017

Above, the "diamond ring" phase of the Great American Eclipse. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

News media sources are posting their top news storis of 2017.

This also includes Newsmax.com. They have posted their list of 15 top news stories of 2017. One of them that made the list was the Great American Eclipse that took place on August 21. I was fortunate enough to travel to the state of Idaho to see the total eclipse for myself.

They wrote:
14. "The Great American Eclipse" —Billed as a once-in-a-lifetime viewing experience, the U.S. was treated to a total solar eclipse over the summer, the first time such an event has been visible from the entire contiguous United States since 1918. 
People traveled to prime viewing states, held eclipse parties, bought out stocks of eclipse viewing glasses, and Bonnie Tyler even performed her hit "Total Eclipse of the Heart" aboard Royal Caribbean's Total Eclipse Cruise to make for a truly memorable national event.
To see what the other top stories were, go here.

Water Pump Failure At Grand Canyon South Rim

Above, Hermit's Rest at Grand Canyon National Park. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Oh-oh! It looks like there's a major water problem at the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park.

According to U.S. News & World Report:
GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK, Ariz. (AP) — Grand Canyon National Park has imposed mandatory water conservation measures due to a water pump failure. 
With the pump inoperable, park officials say water is not flowing to the South Rim so conservation guidelines were implemented for all consumers on the South Rim, Desert View and Hermit's Rest. 
Crews are expected to begin repair work next week.

Most likely, this water conservation measure also affects Mather Campground and Trailer Village even though those places aren't mentioned in the article.

To read more, go here

Huell Howser Marathon On New Year's Eve

Above, the late Huell Howser.

If you happen to have no plans for New Year's Eve or just staying home and a travel fan, you may want to catch some Huell Howser travel programs.

KNBC Channel 4 in Los Angeles reported:
Indeed, the KCET Huell Howser New Year's Eve Marathon is now part of the last day of the year for many of his fans, the people who dig budget travel, colorfully spun yarns, and, above all, the congenial and conversational Mr. Howser. The television host passed away near five years ago, in January 2013, but his positive-spirited legacy lives on through his public television presence and many on-the-road travelogues. 
Seven of those travel-oriented episodes, including popular outings and a few "rarely seen" treats, will air on KCET beginning at 7 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017. On the roster? A visit to the Hollywood Sign, an adventure in Joshua Tree National Park, and a spectacular saunter at Hearst Ranch, just to name a few destinations. 
"California's Gold" and "Visiting with Huell Howser" will both be featured in the Huell-happy line-up.

I was fortunate enough to meet Huell Howser years ago a the Campo de Cahuenga adobe near Universal Studios Hollywood.

To read more, go here

Friday, December 29, 2017

Pricing Auto Tranporters

Above, the 1989 Mustang. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The past two hours have been taken up with checking prices with several car transport companies for shipping the 1989 Mustang to Jamestown, New Mexico.

The prices ranged from $424 to $938. 

Some of them I've spoken to directly and am narrowing the "finalists" down to three. I will chose one from those three. 

It also helps checking online for reviews of each company from past customers. Some with bad reviews (even though their price was good) were eliminated. (Some, who gave me somewhat of a high price quote weren't automatically eliminated due to good reviews either.) I don't need the headache in choosing a company who could bungle the job. 

We'll see.

Diamond Lake RV Park

Above, the spacious site I was assigned. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Last August, when I took my Great American Eclipse trip, I went to Crater Lake National Park for the first time since I was 17.

I didn't camp in the park, but instead, stayed at Diamond Lake RV Park, which is five miles from Crater Lake's North Entrance.

Above, The Beast at Diamond Lake RV Park. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

During the time I was there, there were fires around Crater Lake and within a couple of miles from Diamond Lake was a firefighter camp. The area in general was smoky.

Diamond Lake RV Park is a nice campground in a forest setting with plenty of pine trees for shade. There's no amenities to speak up except for restrooms, showers and laundry facilities. But the sites are spacious with full hook-ups. Each site has a picnic table, fire ring and a concrete pad. It is a short drive to Diamond Lake. However, there is no Wi-Fi service at the RV park.

Each guest is escorted to their site.

Above, another view of the campsite. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

I have read that there are lots of mosquitoes at Diamond Lake RV Park, but I saw none during my stay.

The cost to camp was $39/night.

My rating: B+ (they would have scored an "A" had there were Wi-Fi and a fully stocked store available).

To access their website, go here.

New Year's Crowds Jam Joshua Tree National Park

Above, The Beast at Cottonwood Campground. This and other campgrounds
within Joshua Tree National Park are full this weekend. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

It may be nice and sunny during the day at Joshua Tree National Park, but be prepared for chilly nights. If unprepared, there's going to be a lot of cold people there this weekend.

According to U.S. News & World Reports, New Year's holiday crowds are jamming into the park this weekend.

They wrote:
JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. (AP) — Holiday crowds are jamming Joshua Tree National Park and authorities are urging visitors to have a backup plan, including other locations in the deserts of Southern California. 
Park officials say wait times to enter the park can be as long as an hour and all campgrounds within Joshua Tree are full.

To read more, go here

New Year's Day In Little Tokyo

Above, taiko drum performers in Weller Court. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

It seems that each time I've attended the Oshogatsu New Year's Day celebration in the Little Tokyo section of Los Angeles I manage to have a good year. I've also been able to have reunions with my former boss, ex-Assemblyman Paul Bannai while there.

Above, former Assemblyman Paul Bannai and yours truly at the 2014 Oshogatsu.

Such was the case of last year. So, I am planning on heading over to Little Tokyo on Monday to attend the 2018 Oshogatsu celebration.

Above, the Nisei Week queen and her court in 2017. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

There, vendors set up tables of Japanese food and goods (including Godzilla toys) for sale to attendees. They also have performers at Weller Court.

The events are free to the public and it is a good event for the whole family.

Tokyo Sky Tree Preparing For New Year

Above, the Tokyo Sky Tree. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

New Year's is a big holiday in Japan and workers are preparing to meet the new year at the Tokyo Sky Tree. The celebration is called Oshogatsu.

NHK reported:
Workers at the Tokyo Sky Tree landmark tower have cleaned an observation deck in preparation for the New Year. 
The deck is 350 meters above the ground. The workers used long brushes to dust wooden decorations atop the giant windows. 
They also put up New Year decorations and displayed the "Happy New Year" message on some of the windows.
Above, inside the Sky Tree observation deck. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

To read more, go here

"How To Catch The Keisei Line From Narita"

Above, the Keisei Line ticket counter below Terminal One at Narita Airport. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Whenever I book a room at my preferred hotel in Tokyo, the Hotel Asia Center of Japan, I generally take the Narita Express to Tokyo Station rom Narita Airport to catch a connecting subway to my hotel. If no rooms are available there (due to different reasons), I have stayed in the Ueno or Asakusa areas of Tokyo. This happened the last two times I visited Japan. If this is the case, I would take the Keisei Line from Narita to Ueno Station and take a quick cab ride to my hotel either in Ueno or Asakusa.

Above, the Keisei Skyliner. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The most memorable ride I had on the Keisei Line was in February 2014 when I was stuck nearly for 24 hours on a Keisei Line train midway between Narita Airport and Tokyo due to an unusually heavy snowstorm that arrived almost at the same time as I did.

Above, the Keisei Line train I was stuck in due to a heavy snowstorm. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Tokyo Cheapo has an article on "How To Catch The Keisei Line From Narita".

It starts with:
If you’re going to be taking the Keisei Line from Narita Airport to your accommodation in Tokyo, you might want to give this walk-through a read first. To make your experience as smooth and stress-free as possible, we’ve put together a guide on getting from Point A (the Arrivals hall) to Point B (your destination). Let’s go! 
What a lot of travelers to Tokyo don’t realize is that Narita Airport is actually in Chiba—that’s the next prefecture over. Getting from the airport, which is out in the sticks, to the big city can take a little longer and be a bit more complex than expected. Luckily, both the Keisei Line and Japan Railways run trains throughout the day, including dedicated airport expresses. If you’re happy to pay for speed, Keisei’s fastest option, the Skyliner, can get you to downtown Tokyo in as little as 41 minutes. There are also a number of other ways to get from Narita to Tokyo.

To read the article, go here

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Tarzana Black Bear Diner Visit #2

Above, there's plenty of bear pictures inside the Black Bear Diner. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Well, I gave the new Tarzana Black Bear Diner another try and it went much better than the first, service-wise.

I was immediately seated and right away, a waitress came by and took my drink order. A couple of minutes after my drink was brought, the waitress took my dinner order. I elected to try their bacon and cheddar burger. The side dish I chose was potato salad.

The food was good (and rather sizable). Still, I had enough room to try their peach cobbler for dessert. It was good, but I still prefer my Dutch oven peach cobbler.

My ratings this time: Food, 9; Service, 10.

Here's some pictures of the decor inside the restaurant and my meal:

Hawaii 2018 "Storylines" To Follow

Above, a crescent moon over Waikoloa on the Big Island. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

For those who are contemplating a vacation in Hawaii in 2018, there are some "storylines" that they should keep an eye out in order to get the most vacation out of their dollars.

This includes what travel agents are saying to one another and what developments that are occurring.

Travel Agent Central posted:
As we head into the new year, it’s time for Hawaii specialists to begin compiling a business strategy for selling the Aloha State in 2018. 
Allow Travel Agent to assist as we tip you off to the hottest storylines advisors should be following in order to fully capitalize on Hawaii sales.

To read more, go here

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