"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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Monday, July 31, 2017

Eclipse or Zombie Apocalypse?

Above, Grand Teton National Park's staff ordered 200 extra portable toilets for the
expected crowds as the eclipse's umbra will cross the park. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

In 22 days, the Great American Eclipse will take place across the continental U.S.

Massive crowds along the path of totality on August 21 are expected. Preparations are being made as if a disaster had occurred.

According to Newsweek.com:
Port-a-potty shortages. Cellular blackout zones. Ambulances stuck in gridlock. These are the conditions emergency managers across the nation are expecting the week of August 21. 
No, a major hurricane isn’t forecast. This isn’t preparation for a cyberattack after someone tipped the FBI. Beyoncé isn’t doing a national tour—but the cause is a star of another kind. 
The upcoming solar eclipse—the first in 99 years to sweep across the continental United States—has so many fans that disaster-level preparations are being put in place because of the large number of travelers predicted to jockey for prime viewing spots. As many as 7.4 million people are expected to pack into a 70-mile-wide band across the U.S. to watch the moon’s umbra block out the sun for a two-minute window on August 21, according to solar eclipse education website GreatAmericanEclipse.com. The path of totality, the area where the sun is completely blocked out, stretches from Oregon to South Carolina.
To read more, go here.

Some are even likening the hoopla to the coming of a zombie apocalypse.

Fox News reported:
While you may have thought to grab eclipse-viewing glasses or make hotel reservations, the massive crowds expected all along the eclipse path could present challenges you haven't considered. 
"There are so many ways in which eclipse day is going to resemble a zombie apocalypse," Angela Speck, a researcher at the University of Maryland and member of the American Astronomical Society's eclipse team, told Space.com by email.
To read more, go here

Yellowstone National Park

Above, Old Faithful Geyser erupts. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

If there's a place to see that should be on everyone's bucket list, Yellowstone National Park is the place.

I have been there twice and look forward to visiting it again. It never fails to deliver on things to see. Although I will be in Yellowstone's vicinity next month for the eclipse, I decided to by-pass it as there will be huge crowds for eclipse viewing. (The path of the eclipse's totality will pass through neighboring Grand Teton National Park.)

The Daily Star has an article on visiting Yellowstone.

They begin with:
We had been waiting for a good 20 minutes— and nothing! The Old Faithful, as the famous geyser is called, remained silent. Hundreds of us tourists waited in the sun, holding our breath. And then, just when we were about to give up and leave, The Old Faithful came alive! 
Boiling water and steam shot up towards the sky, to the unanimous awe of its beholders. Like everything else in Yellowstone National Park, it was worth the wait. 

To read more, go here

Campground Etiquette

Above, The Beast at Blackstone North RV Park in Fresno, California. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

During my years of camping, tent and RV, I have experienced very little annoyances from the neighbors. Last year, a camper at a site a couple of hundred yards away started yelling in the middle of the night at someone. This lasted until the RV park's security people ejected the offending camper.

Outside of that, and people walking through my campsite, people have been generally good-mannered.

But, there are some knuckleheads out there and Do It Yourself RV has an article on campground etiquette.

They begin with:
I recently spent a weekend in a crowded campground where my neighbors obviously new nothing about campground etiquette. 
They stayed up late into the night yelling and hollering around the campfire, parked their second vehicle practically in our site, and let their dog do its business in our yard. It got me thinking, what does it take to be a good campground neighbor, and is it really that hard?

To read more, go here

Sam Shepard Dies At 73

Above, Chuck Yeager and Sam Shepard.

A couple of nights ago, I was in the mood to watch The Right Stuff (1983), that was based on Tom Wolfe's book on the Project Mercury program. (The movie skipped the X-15 program that was a big part of the book.)

While watching it, I marveled at the ease Sam Shepard played test pilot Chuck Yeager and thought that I hadn't seen him in anything lately. He was nominated for an Academy Award for his Yeager performance.

Sadly, I received my answer this morning.

Fox News reported:
Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and actor Sam Shepard, died at his Kentucky home Thursday, Fox News learned Monday. He was 73. 
A family spokesperson told us the Oscar-nominated actor and celebrated author whose plays chronicled the explosive fault lines of family and masculinity in the American West, died from complications related to Lou Gehrig's disease, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. 
The taciturn Shepard, who grew up on a California ranch, was a man of few words who nevertheless produced 44 plays and numerous books, memoirs and short stories. He was one of the most influential playwrights of his generation: a plain-spoken poet of the modern frontier, both lyrical and rugged.

To read more, go here

Sunday, July 30, 2017

1980 Republican National Convention

Above, Gov. Ronald Reagan delivers his 1980 acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention.

Earlier this month, I picked up a DVD copy of PBS's The American Experience episode on President Ronald Reagan.

While watching it, I noticed a scene during Reagan's 1980 acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in Detroit, Michigan in which the crowd was shown. At the upper right of the picture, I could be clearly seen sitting as a California delegate. I was at the ripe old age of 26.

I have circled myself (I had a bit more hair back then):

National Park Senior Pass Price Hike Editorial

Above, The Beast at Joshua Tree National Park. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

It is now less than a month before the national park lifetime Senior Pass jumps eight times from the current $10 to $80 on August 21.

The price hike may seem like a big jump (well, it is), but it is not unreasonable and is still a bargain. As one can imagine, there is a big backlog in purchases online.

The News-Review has an editorial on the subject and they begin it with:
Get your lifetime senior pass for the national parks and federal recreational areas by Aug. 28, or it’ll cost eight times as much, headlines have blared through the summer months. 
Everyone’s in a desperate hurry to snap up the $10 pass before its price jumps to $80 on that date, and some seniors just under the 62-year age limit naturally feel a bit resentful. If you’ve already got a pass though, don’t worry, it remains valid for life even though you only paid $10 for it. 
Not surprisingly, the federal government has a backlog of senior pass orders to process, as park lovers scramble to pick up their passes before the deadline. It’s recommending seniors purchase their passes at the first National Park Service site they visit rather than ordering online or by mail if they will need to use their pass in the next three months. Nevertheless, orders postmarked before Aug. 28 will be valid for the $10 rate.
If one doesn't want to pay $80 in one pop, there's an "installment plan" that works like this:
For seniors who don’t feel they’ll make enough park visits to be worth the new $80 price, there’s a new annual senior pass for $20. Buy four of those, and you’ll automatically be eligible for a lifetime pass without paying again.
The hike isn't unreasonable as it seems as it does go for a good cause. The price hasn't been raised since 1994 and three visits to a national park that charges $30 per carload will effectively make the pass pay for itself.

To read more, go here

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Grand Teton Prepares For Crowds On Eclipse Day

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

The August 21 solar eclipse will cross directly through Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming and park officials are planning ahead for the expected influx of visitors.

According to U.S. News and World Report:
MOOSE, Wyo. (AP) — Grand Teton National Park in northwest Wyoming will alter some road traffic and parking in order to accommodate an expected influx of people looking to view the total solar eclipse on Aug. 21. 
"A typical August day is a very busy day at Grand Teton National Park," park spokeswoman Denise Germann said. "This Aug. 21, the day of the total eclipse, we're expecting to be the busiest day in the history of the park." 
Fees will be waved at the Granite Canyon, Moose and Moran entrance gates to ease the flow of traffic. The park has designated five viewing areas — along the road to Kelly, the Gros Ventre Campground, the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center in Moose, Colter Bay and Jackson Lake Lodge.

To read more, go here

Autumn Bargains At Mt. Rushmore, Etc.

Above, Devil's Tower in Wyoming. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

About 27 years ago, I took the family on a vacation trip to Mount Rushmore, Devil's Tower, Crazy Horse Memorial and Yellowstone National Park. Those places were crowded, as one would expect since it was during the summer vacation season.

But, The Cross Timbers Gazette says people can wait until fall before heading off to those attractions.

They wrote:
Mt. Rushmore should be on every American’s bucket list, and judging by the crowds and prices every summer, it probably is. If you can wait till fall, though, you’ll find the crowds gone and hotel prices much more reasonable. 
My husband and I did just that, waiting until the third week in October. Yes, the Flintstone’s Village was closed as was the faux Independence Hall and some mining-themed amusement parks, but we didn’t miss them at all. The Mt. Rushmore National Memorial was open, as was the Badlands National Park, Custer State Park (including Needles Highway), and Devil’s Tower in Wyoming.

We stopped in at Flintstone's Village while in South Dakota. To me, it was "meh", but the kids loved it.

To read more, go here

Yellowstone Employees Under Investigation

Above, inside the Old Faithful Inn. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

At least 10 male employees of Yellowstone National Park are under investigation for complaints of sexual harassment and other charges.

The Daily Mail reported:
  • At least ten male employees at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming are under investigation by the Interior Department's Office of Inspector General after a series of sexual harassment claims surfaced last year 
  • A female employee at the park alleged a 'men's club' was taking place on the grounds, as female colleagues were subject to unsolicited abuse  
  • As many as six women were exposed to verbal and/or physical abuse between the time period of 2010-2016  
  • Government-issued charge cards were being misused and were another source of misconduct at the park  
  • Park employees have been required to undergo sexual harassment training and will have an audit of their charge cards

To read more, go here.

Friday, July 28, 2017

National Park Service Brochures

Above, the Devil's Postpile National Monument ranger station. The
 brochure rack is below the "open" sign. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

While going through some materials that have accumulated from my RV trips, I noticed that I am starting to get a little collection of National Park Service brochures from different parks and attractions they administrate.

Generally, when entering a national park, visitors are handed these and other literature at the gate by the rangers. They can also be obtained at park visitor centers and in racks located at park attractions for free.

Above, the South Entrance gate to Yosemite National Park. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Most are for general park information, while others specialize in special and seasonal events, parking restrictions and maps.

These are what I have in the house (I have some more in the motorhome):

Above, some of the National Park Service brochures I have accumulated. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

While these brochures make nice souvenirs, they also come in handy for future reference for return trips (I visited Yosemite National Park twice last year) and use them for blog articles. 

Getting To Mount Fuji From Tokyo

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

For those who want to see Japan's symbol, Mount Fuji for either sightseeing or hiking but wonder how to reach the mountain, City-Cost.com has all the information needed.

They begin with:
Everytime I see Mount Fuji, I unconsciously gasp and marvel at the beauty and grandeur (and that almost perfect symmetry). "Magical (if frustratingly elusive)" is the only way I can describe this symbol of Japan. Granted, Mount Fuji stands at 3776 meters, spans the border between Shizuoka Prefecture and Yamanashi Prefecture and can be seen from hundreds of kilometers away, but there is something really special about seeing this mountain up close.   So where can we go around the area to bask in the glory of this iconic peak (other than top the top)?  We take a look at a number of best Mt. Fuji view points and how much it costs to get from Tokyo to the Mt. Fuji area.

To read more, go here

10 Most Popular Attractions In Yokohama

Above, Yokohama's Landmark Tower. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Yokohama's Minato Mirai 21 harbor area was featured in two recent (if one wants to call 1992 and 2001 "recent") Godzilla movies: Godzilla vs. Mothra and Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack. In those movies, the harbor area was reduced to rubble.

However, those were only movies and the harbor area is all intact. But, along with the Minato Mirai 21, there are other places to see in Yokohama and City-Cost.com lays them all out for everyone.

The begin their article with:
Yokohama could surely make a strong case of being the most well-rounded city in all of Japan.  The Tokyo neighbour has a bit of everything, from maritime vibes, an exciting history of swashbuckling trade, the largest Chinatown in Japan, fantastic parks and all the mod-cons that come with a booming modern Japanese city.  Actually such is the magnetic appeal of Yokohama's Minato Mirai port area, one might struggle to think of the 10 most popular attractions in Yokohama outside of this magnificent area. Anyway, we don't have to.  The Internet is littered with so many "Top 10" lists that it's easy enough to find one about Yokohama.  Japanese travel booking and community site Jalan (じゃらん) is local, popular and such a list about Yokohama.  Not that we need be too specific about the list as it's more than likely that the usual Yokohama attractions will feature.  What we want to be concerned with here is how much these attractions cost to enter and thus come up with some ideas for budgeting for trip and sightseeing in Yokohama.

To see more, go here

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Deaths In The Family

Above, my cousins Ralph, Rosemarie, Maria and I with Santa last Christmas
Eve. The record album was a present to me from Ralph. Photo by Ashley Kerr.

Our family suffered two losses this week. Both were totally unexpected.

My cousin Lucia's husband Jeff passed away on Sunday from organ failure. This was a shock as I just saw him on July 1 at my cousin Maria's party and he seemed to look better than he had for quite a while. He had a great sense of humor and we talked for a long while about everything ranging from cigars to recreational vehicles. He wanted to eventually get a RV to travel around. Services will be held this coming week. He will be missed.

Then this happened.

Today, I received a call from my cousin Ralph's phone. As I was driving, I couldn't answer it. Later I called back after arriving at In 'N Out Burger in Northridge. The connection was bad and I thought they said they were from a gas station who had his phone and were trying to get it back to him. Then the connection was cut off.

Several minutes later, I received another call from my cousin's phone. This time the connection was better and it was the sheriff's station. They said that my cousin Ralph had been found deceased in his room in Bellflower. They asked what my relationship was to him. I told them we are cousins. They asked if Ralph had any known medical problems. I told them that he had heart problems. I was asked if he had any children or other family. I told them no and that I will have his sister Rosemarie contact them. She's pretty much the head of their family since my Aunt Rose passed away last year.

Thankfully, my former roommate Jes was with me so she had a pen and paper for me to write down the detectives' information.

I then tried to contact my other cousins to get Rosemarie's phone number. After a couple of unsuccessful attempts, I reached my cousin Annette and got Rosemarie's phone number from her.

Then I had the sad duty to inform Rosemarie about Ralph's death and give her the sheriff's information. That was tough.

She later told me that the sheriff told her that there was no foul play involved and that Ralph passed away from natural causes. And, also, he had pre-arranged funeral plans already in place.

Up to now, that is all I know about the situation.

It took about a couple of hours for this to sink in. Now I am just stunned beyond belief. Ralph and I have been hanging out together for lunches and hitting used record stores such as CD Trader, Amoeba Music and others in Burbank for the past several months. Those were good times. We last communicated two nights ago and it was about Jeff's funeral services. He was like a younger brother to me and he will be sorely missed.

Having two unexpected passings in the family within a week is a double whammy, to put it mildly.

Two nights ago, Ralph said this about Jeff:
It is hard right now. Stay positive. Remember he's out of pain, in the Lord's hands. That's a good thing.

That now applies to Ralph.

The Easily Distracted RVer

Above, The Beast at West Entrance/Yellowston KOA in West Yellowstone, Montana. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

It is so easy to get distracted while packing up for a trip or departing a campground to continue on a trip that things get forgotten.

This had happened a few times for me. The worst was forgetting to roll up the awning before leaving a campsite (this is common, I've heard). Fortunately, I only drove a few yards before a neighboring camper flagged me down. I've never made that mistake again.

Do It Yourself RV has an article with tips on avoiding distractions and being organized enough so that nothing is forgotten.

They begin with:
Having an RV means that eventually you will do something not so bright as you prepare to hit the road.  It is not unusual for the average Joe or Jane to back out of a site without first retracting the awning or putting down the antenna.  The sheer number of things that have to be done prior to departure makes it inevitable that something will get forgotten at some point.  Those of us who are easily distracted find it even more challenging not to make a public spectacle of ourselves as we depart. 
Sometimes, the forgotten pre-departure tasks are minor – like leaving the lock open on the little door that conceals the city water hookup. Driving down the interstate you notice it flapping in the wind.  It’s an annoyance, but it’s really no big deal.  Sometimes those things are less minor, like when you forget to properly tighten a waste hose connection and then dump your black tank.  Fortunately, this is one thing most people don’t forget to do more than once. 
So what if you want to RV, but you are the type of person who finds yourself attracted to all things bright and shiny?  There is no magical spell to be cast upon you to keep you focused on your pre-departure tasks, but there are strategies that can help ensure you attend to all necessary chores.

To read more, go here.

Mount Rushmore

Above, Mount Rushmore in 1990. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

President Trump's joke about being added to Mount Rushmore reminded me of the following joke that circulated around during the time of one of the government shutdowns.

About Trump's joke, go here.

Over 18,000 Page Views Since Yesterday

For some reason, something has attracted over 18,000 page views on this blog since yesterday.

I checked the stats for the blog and it received over 7,000 page views yesterday and, so far, it received over 11,000 page views today.

Unless I go though the stats of every blog post I've made, I have no way of knowing what post(s) attracted so much attention.

Apparently, I must be doing something right.

NASA Issues Eclipse Safety Guidelines

Above, the solar kit by Celestron. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) has issued guidelines for eye safety while viewing the eclipse on August 21.

According to Fox News:
NASA has issued guidelines on how to watch next month's Great American Total Solar Eclipse. 
The government agency noted the only safe way to look directly at partially eclipsed or uneclipsed Sun are via special-purpose solar filters, including "eclipse glasses" or hand-held solar viewers.  
"Homemade filters or ordinary sunglasses, even very dark ones, are not safe for looking at the Sun," NASA wrote in its guidelines.

I bought a Celestron Solar Shades kit a few months ago. Celestron is a trusted name in astronomy products.

To read more, go here

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Frugal RV Guide

Above, barbecuing a steak at Brown's Town Campground. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

During my three-week trip to Metropolis, Illinois (and points in-between) last year, I rarely went to dine in restaurants. I cooked most of my meals in the RV. My RV freezer was fully stocked when I left home. For cheaper grocery shopping while on the road, I shopped at Walmarts.

That is one way to save money while on a RV trip. There are 19 more tips on how to travel frugally in a RV from Do It Yourself RV.

They begin with:
There’s no denying that taking an RV trip can be far more economical than other methods of travel. If you add up the cost of airfare, rental cars, eating out for every meal, parking, attractions, souvenirs and more…the cost of campground fees and fuel for the RV pales in comparison. 
But that doesn’t mean we can’t still strive to save some dough when RVing. Check out these 20 money saving tips for frugal RVing – because everyone loves a deal.

 To see their money saving tips, go here.

Eclipse Viewing: Camping May Be The Answer

Above, the eclipse's path of totality will cross Grand Teton National Park. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

After a couple of tries, I managed to secure a reservation at a campground in Idaho to use as my base camp for watching the eclipse next month. But that was a few months ago.

Many places are booked up, but Sky & Telescope says there's plenty of places to set up camp still available.

They wrote:
Think the total solar eclipse is "sold out"? Think again — and grab your camping gear. Private campsites and RV parks within the long path of totality are still available. 

If you believe everything you read, you might think the August 21st total solar eclipse is already sold out. But of course it's not. Are you going to find a cheap motel within the path of totality? No. But anyone who says there's no space––or that gridlock is inevitable––is wrong. 
The increasingly negative narrative around the eclipse threatens to dissuade people from the incredible experience of totality, for no valid reason. Crossing the country from Oregon to South Carolina, the path of totality is 70 miles wide and more than 3,000 miles long. That's more than 200,000 square miles that will see a total solar eclipse. According to my research for the USA Eclipse 2017 Camping & RV Guide, there's never been an eclipse path as full of opportunities to camp or park an RV.

To read more, go here

Trump At The Boy Scout Jamboree Unhinges Left

Looney Left Report

President Donald Trump appeared yesterday at the 2017 Boy Scout Jamboree in West Virginia. His remarks were well-received by the throngs of scouts, despite the hysterical screams of the fake news media. (I saw videos of his appearance and one could not have seen and hear a better response to his remarks.)

But that's natural for the Looney Left, for they hate the Boy Scouts and have worked over the years to undermine scouting. Some compared the Boy Scouts to the Hitler Youth (see below) and insinuated that the scouts were "forced" to cheer the President. They seem to forget how schools had schoolchildren sing Obama songs. Convenient, eh?

This isn't the first time a president of the United States has appeared at a Boy Scout jamboree. Scouting magazine's blog has a history of Presidential jamboree appearances.

To see it, go here.

16 Reasons Why You Must Visit Japan

Above, the price list of an Osaka love hotel. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Do you need a reason for visiting Japan? Probably not. But just in case you need reasons for going, on the other side of "the pond", the United Kingdom's The Telegraph has provided 16 reasons "why you must visit Japan."

They start with:
More people visited Japan last year than ever before: 24.04 million. Combining ancient culture with exquisite natural landscapes and dazzling modernity, the Asian nation is stirring an increasing number of travellers’ souls, and, over the last three years, the number of visitors here has more than doubled. Here’s why that might be.

To see what the 16 reasons are, go here

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Japan's Shotengai

Above, the entrance to Nakano Broadway. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Hardcore Godzilla (and other kaiju) fans have known about buying collectibles in different places in Japan.

One of which is Nakano Broadway in the Nakano section of Tokyo. It is a Japanese form of shopping mall, but it has a specific name.

According to CNN Travel:
(CNN) — Tired of buying all your vacation gifts for the folks back home at the same old touristed-out temples and corporate malls when you're in Tokyo? 
Then try some of the most unusual, storied and just plain odd shopping streets -- called shotengai.

To see Nakano Broadway and other shotengai, go here

Ex-CIA Director Calls For Coup If Trump Fires Mueller

The Looney Left Report

It is probably a good thing that we have the Second Amendment as the Looney Left is calling for a coup should President Donald Trump fires special prosecutor Robert Mueller, who is "investigating" the phony Russian collusion charges.

Zero Hedge reported:
In the most vocal opposition to president Donald Trump yet, former CIA Director John Brennan said that if the White House tries to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, government officials should refuse to follow the president orders, as they would be - in his view - “inconsistent” with the duties of the executive branch. 
"I think it's the obligation of some executive branch officials to refuse to carry that out. I would just hope that this is not going to be a partisan issue. That Republicans, Democrats are going to see that the future of this government is at stake and something needs to be done for the good of the future," Brennan told CNN's Wolf Blitzer at the Aspen Security Forum, effectively calling for a coup against the president should Trump give the order to fire Mueller.

This is being discussed as I type this blog by Rush Limbaugh. It is about time these Deep State wackos are brought on sedition charges.

I must remind you of something. Former CIA Director John Brennan voted for the Communist Party candidate in the 1976 presidential election.

To read more, go here.

DOT Fines 3 Airlines For Violating Passengers' Rights

Three airlines were smacked down with fines for violating passengers' rights, according to an article in Travel + Leisure.

They wrote:
On Friday, the Department of Transportation (DOT) fined Frontier Airlines, American Airlines, and Delta Air Lines for violating various consumer protection rules, Reuters reported. 
According to the DOT, the largest fine was given to Frontier Airlines, which was fined $400,000 for violating oversales and disability rules, while American Airlines was fined $250,000 for failing to make timely refunds to passengers. Delta Air Lines was also fined $200,000 for filing inaccurate baggage reports.

To read more, go here

Admission Prices To Kyoto's Top 10 Attractions

Above, Kinkaku-ji "Golden Pavilion". Photo by Armand Vaquer.

There are a number of temples, shrines and other cultural places to visit in Kyoto and it would help visitors to know ahead of time how much it costs to enter each.

Thankfully, to help in travel budget planning, City-Cost.com has the top ten attractions in Kyoto listed with information on admission prices and the cost to get to each.

They start with:
There are myriad lists out there in the ether documenting the most popular temples, shrines and other attractions in Kyoto.  Whatever the order or rank however, it's likely that any list of 10 Kyoto attractions will feature the usual suspects with perhaps one or two curve balls thrown in.  This is the case with the list that we referenced in order to put together this post about how much it costs visitors to enter these top spots.  We went with that produced by Japan online travel booking site "Jalan" (じゃらん) - it's local, widely read, and the list is based on user rating.  Anyway, we could have used another list or just given it our best guess.  The point here is about how much Kyoto's marquee attractions cost to get in.  We also look at how much they cost to get from the major travel hub of JR Kyoto Station.  While we understand that travellers will not be going back and forth between this station and each site, the aim to give some background as to the potential travel expenses.  We look at Kyoto travel passes at the bottom of the post. 

To read more, go here

Monday, July 24, 2017

Classic "Soviet Fashion Show" Commercial

Back during the Cold War, particularly during the 1980s, the Soviets were occasionally mocked.

A classic hamburger commercial by Wendy's back in the 1980s was one that poked a lot of fun at the Soviets. It depicts a Soviet fashion show emphasizing the point that there's no choices in the Soviet Union, but at Wendy's, people have choices in hamburgers.

Do you remember it?

I wonder if many people in Western countries actually thought Russian women all looked like what's depicted? Allegedly, the ad was banned, but I don't believe it was as I saw it many times.

Obviously, Asya (from St. Petersburg, Russia) who painted my portrait doesn't fit the stereotype:

Joshua Tree National Park To Be Designated International Dark Sky Park

Above, Cottonwood Spring at Joshua Tree National Park. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Here is something amateur astronomers and night sky photographers should take notice of.

Joshua Tree National Park is about to receive the designation as an International Dark Sky Park next month.

According to The Desert Sun:
Joshua Tree National Park will join Galloway Forest Park in Scotland, Warrumbungle National Park in Australia, Yeongyang Firefly Eco Park in South Korea and dozens of other parks across the U.S. and the world next month when it is officially designated as an International Dark Sky Park. 
To receive the distinction, a park must possess, “an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and a nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, educational, cultural heritage, and/or public enjoyment,” according to the International Dark-Sky Association. 
Other International Dark Sky Parks in the U.S. include Glacier National Park in Montana, Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, Capitol Reef National Park in Utah and dozens of other national and state parks and monuments. 
A dedication ceremony will be held Aug. 12 at Copper Mountain College in Joshua Tree at 5 p.m. 

To read more, go here.

Red Skelton Autograph

Above, Red Skelton and Lucille Ball.

It is surprising that I haven't posted a blog on one of my favorite comedians of the 20th Centrury: Red Skelton.

A Facebook friend posted the following video of Red Skelton with Johnny Carson in 1983 that I shared. It has garnered a number of comments and likes. Skelton kills it.

I had the honor of meeting Skelton in 1972 at the Century Plaza Hotel where a big Re-Elect The President dinner was being held. I also got his autograph. Thank goodness that I had some business cards with me. I still have it (one of my prized possessions) and here it is:

The Perfect Night In Tokyo

Above, the article includes a link to romantic waterfront hideouts in Tokyo. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Just because Japan is the "Land of the Rising Sun" doesn't mean that once the sun does set, there's nothing further to do. Especially in Tokyo.

Time Out Tokyo has a feature article on nightlife in Japan's capital city.

They begin it with:
The best bars, waterfront spots and romantic restaurants, plus superb musical hideouts, seductive cats and other curious characters – read on for everything you need to plan an unforgettable night out in Tokyo, be it on your own, in the company of friends, or with that special someone. And if you need more restaurant or bar suggestions, check out our picks of Tokyo's 100 best restaurants or see our complete best bars in Tokyo page.

To read more, go here

Sunday, July 23, 2017

National Parks To Get $50 Million For Maintenance and Infrastructure

Above, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and Lower Yellowstone Falls. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The national parks will be getting more than $50 million for maintenance and infrastructure funds.

Fox21 News reported:
ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK — More than $50 million will be distributed to high priority maintenance and infrastructure projects at 42 parks in 29 states, including Colorado. 
While visiting Rocky Mountain National Park, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and Colorado Senator Cory Gardner announced Saturday Rocky Mountain National Park will receive $200,000 in federal funds matched by $200,000 from the Rocky Mountain Conservancy to reduce deferred maintenance on the Alluvial Fan Trail. 
It’s all thanks to Congress, who provided $20 million for the projects as part of the Centennial Challenge program, which will be matched by $33 million from more than 50 park partners to improve trails, restore buildings and increase visitor access to parks.

One such project the funding will go towards is improvements of the overlooks of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

To read more, go here

Lap Up The Madness and Magic of Tokyo

Above, Shibuya Crossing (or Shibuya Scramble). Photo by Armand Vaquer.

It is interesting to read of the different perspectives of people from other nations who've visited Japan.

In an article in The Scottish Sun, a couple from Scotland visited Tokyo and have written about their experiences and impressions.

They begin with:
THINK of any movie, cartoon or wacky story you’ve ever seen about Tokyo.
Then times the bonkers factor by ten, and you’re still not close to how mad the Japanese capital is.
Every day in the larger-than- life city is an experience and around every corner is something wilder than the last. 
We spent a magical week in the futuristic hub, and we barely scratched the surface.
Getting there is easier than you think — we travelled with the superb Turkish Airlines who took us in comfort and style. 
We landed in Narita late at night and took the express train into the city, before transferring to the subway. 
Travelling around Tokyo is a piece of cake. It is really well geared up for tourists so all the travel maps and vending machines are in English. 
Tokyo doesn’t have a centre. It is such a vast city that it’s portioned up into areas, each famous for different things.

To read more, go here.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Monster Japan Travel Guide Reached Facebook 500 Likes!

The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan Facebook page has hit, and passed, the "magic" number of 500 likes today. I didn't know about this until I saw the above graphic posted on the page by Facebook.

I am planning to get seriously cracking on getting the updated edition started following my August trip to see the total solar eclipse. Too many life things had interfered with my earlier plans.

Thanks to all!

News From Graceland

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Even More Special Guests Added to Elvis Week Line Up
The list of Elvis Week guests keeps growing! Elvis' TCB Band guitarist James Burton; gospel artist Joanne Cash; Elvis' "It Happened at the World's Fair" co-star Gary Lockwood; songwriter David Porter, Imperials member Armond Morales; and Bill Black's daughter, Nancy Black Shockley, will all share their memories of Elvis during Elvis Week. Learn more about them and buy your Elvis Week tickets now at ElvisWeek.com.

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New Blog - Elvis and Hawaii
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