Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Armstrong Redwoods...Part 2

Wandering down one path you can see new growth and lots of moss.

Look at the forest floor for new life.

Did anyone hear this when it fell?

I felt so small...

Monday, March 30, 2009

Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve

Delicate foliage of the Coastal Redwoods is almost lacy in appearance, with narrow, sharp-pointed needles growing one-half to three-quarters of an inch long. Cones from these giants are only about an inch long with 14 to 24 seeds. Redwood seedlings grow rapidly, more than a foot a year in good conditions.

In 1936 this magnificent grove was opened to the public as Armstrong Redwoods State Park. In 1964 the grove's status was changed to a State Reserve.

Sense the quiet as you walk trails through these giant trees, small streams, and tiny patches of sunlight.

As you can see, this tree is 1300 years old. Coastal Redwoods can live more than 2000 years. The high tannin content of the wood gives the trees remarkable resistance to fungus diseases and insect infestations. Their thick fibrous bark insulates them even more from forest fires.

A natural Coastal Redwood forest is a perfect recycling system. The soil contains few nutrients; most of the substance necessary for life is in the trees themselves, living and dead. If trees are removed from the forest instead of being allowed to die and decay naturally, many nutrients are lost from the cycle.
More photos later. It's so hard to capture their magnificence, size, and presence. And you feel so insignificant.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

There's a big world out there...

Mable watches birds out the front door.

Myron watches me out the back door,

Friday, March 27, 2009

More Free Travel Ideas

These folks are surfing...real boards, real waves coming...

Have you ever thought about couchsurfing? www.couchsurfing.com is an online hospitality club that lets you find a stranger's house or couch to sleep on. They have the most technically advanced search ability where travelers can view every possible open couch in a specified radius. Sound crazy? How about welcoming someone you've never met into your own home to sleep for the night?
Clubs like these are becoming popular among all ages and all countries. You get the chance to meet people who tend to be open-minded, curious, and generous.

www.hospitalityclub.org debuted in 2000 and currently has more than 328,500 members. It features the most comprehensive security procedures. Before being accepted as guests, travelers must first provide full names and passport numbers.
www.globalfreeloaders.com pushes their members not to accept a free stay unless they can host within six months.

For all three clubs, hosts and crashers are paired up based on profiles that include languages spoken, location and interests. Many members clarify what they don't want...drugs for instance. Although safety cannot be absolutely guaranteed, members post messages about their visits went. Read before you go.

Go on a road trip in someone else's car. Don't steal it...volunteer for driveaway duty. Driveaway is a situation that arises when a car owner needs his vehicle moved to a new location and either can't or doesn't want to do the driving. Rather than pay to ship the car, the owner signs his ride up for a driveaway program.
Drivers need to fill out an application form, present a valid driver's license, and references. Sometimes you will need to be fingerprinted and submit a driving history. For insurance reasons, drivers are usually required to be at least 23 years old. Usually the first tank of gas is free, the rest of the expenses are yours.

www.autodriveaway.com is the biggest player in the US with about 150 opportunities per month. Some offices will take requests for specific routes and call you when there is a match. There are some limits on mileage, time of day for driving, and duration. It would be a good idea to check your route ahead of time for construction detours, weather delays, etc.

Happy Trails...

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Free Travel Ideas

Want to score a free trip? Sure...who doesn't? Take a look at these tips. Just a warning...they're not for everybody. Research, timing, patience, luck, and sometimes sweat are required. But you can't beat the price.

Sister City Exchanges:
Sister Cities International is a nonprofit network that partners hundreds of US cities with international "sister" cities having similar climates, industries or populations (sister-cities.org). The local governments of sister cities might exchange ideas about health care, traffic, playgrounds, etc.
Participants are expected to be active in sister city projects and host counterparts when they come to town. Travelers should expect to run fundraisers for trips as most cities don't' foot the entire bill.

Hiking trail volunteers get the chance for reduced or even free cabins, bedding, food, or campsites. In return you are asked to clear debris, build rock steps, or reconfigure switchbacks, depending upon the trail.

The Continental Divide Trail Alliance runs two to seven day trips with catered meals at national parks such as Rocky Mountain, Yellowstone, and Glacier (303-838-3760 or cdtril.org).

The Pacific Northwest Trail Association focuses on a path leading from Washington's Olympic Mountains into Montana (877-854-9415 or pnt.org)

From Maine to Georgia volunteers can join one or two week trips organized by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (304-535-6331 or appalachiantrail.org).

Don't have a rich aunt in Tuscany who wants you to house-sit for six months? Look into a service that lists house sitting opportunities and chill out at a Caribbean villa, care for cats and chickens at a French farmhouse, or keep the moat clean at a castle.

Before signing up on any assignment, ask questions. Who pays the bills? How many pets? Any special needs? What attention does the garden or lawn or moat require? Ask for previous house sitters numbers and contact them about their experience.

Caretaker.org posts more than 1,000 house-sitting openings per year, most in the US. It will cost you $30 per year to see online listings.

Housecarers.com costs $45 and had a list of 298 openings, including 117 in Australia.

Sabbaticalhomes.com is a site where the houses are all left behind by academics on teaching assignments.

Stay tuned...more to come tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


First stop...Paraduxx Winery and four yummy wines for tasting. If you are unsure about a wine as you taste it, take a bite of either cheese or cracker and taste again. The taste of the wine will be different after you have that bite. I guarantee it. Try it...

Last stop of the day...Bouchon Bakery for a lemon tart and cappuccino. What a way to end the day.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

San Francisco

No tips today...just San Francisco photos.

The city at night

Entrance to China Town

View from a Cable Car

Even Spys need to eat

Self explanatory


Ferrari Store...need anything?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Save Money While Traveling

Perhaps you want to sample the local food. Get a real feel for what the locals eat.

Search out street fairs to purchase a locally made trip souvenir. Often these are less expensive than what you find in "tourist shops".

Take a ride on the F Line Trolley car in San Francisco. When you get home, frame your ticket and a photo of you with the trolley car for an inexpensive memento.

Again, sample some local food at a farmer's market. If you are thinking about an expensive restaurant, check our http://www.restaurant.com/ and buy a $25 gift certificate for only $10. Look at any day or time restrictions, but usually these are a great deal.

Cash in any hotel reward points quickly. Don't save for a "foggy day".

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Ferry Building in San Franciso

Take a stroll to the Ferry Building along the bay and munch your way through the whole building. These are just a few of the places you can satisfy your cravings...

Fruits and vegetables...

Maybe caviar is more your liking...

Try the olive oil...

Stay tuned...more delights will follow.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Jade Coast

California's coast is often called the Jade Coast. For one thing, the emerald green waters can look more like jade than emeralds. Mainly because jade has many different hues of greens, blues, and even whites...much like the coastline.

Another reason is the jade found along much of the coast. Knowing that there are several types of jade in multiple colors has brought gem hounds from all over to search for this beautiful stone. Divers have secret coves off the coast where they bring up jade. Some spots are off limits unless you're registered.

But...by Bodega Bay all you have to do is walk the beach. Small, various colors of polished jade stones get washed up here. Probably not large enough or high enough quality for gem stone collectors, jewelry makers or carvers it still is fun to come across your find of "gems".

Quite the collection...for starters. I've now been bitten by the "jade bug". Must go back to search for more...

Monday, March 16, 2009

Whale Watching...or not

Whale watching along the California coast in March is popular. This past week-end found us traveling along California Highway 1 by Bodega Bay. Our goal was to watch whales as they migrate north, some with calves in tow.

The whales perhaps did not know we were there as they didn't cooperate. Or at least they didn't let us know they were there. So, we amused ourselves with other spectacular scenery as only the California coast can provide.

Nothing like a sweeping view of coastline, waves, and sand on a March day.

Water forms interesting passageways through the rocky cliffs. The surf on this one almost got me.

High Tide coming up.

After a tough day at the beach looking for whales, refreshments were in order. This magnificent Pinot Noir from Gary Farrell soothed our souls.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Customer Service Sites and Numbers

Spring is definitely here.

How do you get someone, a real person, on the phone when you're calling to find your lost luggage, help with frequent flyer miles, or return that piece of luggage which looked so good on your computer? Better yet, how do you find the phone number you need without going through pages and pages of computer text? Budget Travel has given out these sites previously. I think they bear repeating.
Go to www.contacthelp.com and type the company's name you are looking for in the search box. This will give you the correct number to call.
If a company isn't in their database or you need extra help, go to http://gethuman.com. You not only get the phone numbers, but which button to press to reach a live customer service agent. This one is especially good for travel related issues.
Happy traveling.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Tide Loads of Hope

Today's blog is a little unusual but for a great cause. Read about a program P&G has started called Tide Loads of Hope.

P&G has asked us to help get the word out about their efforts to raise money via T-Shirt sales to support families that are affected by disaster in this one-of-a-kind program. The shirts are vintage-looking and support a great cause. Shirts can be purchased through this link: http://tidetshirts.pgvillage.com/c-9-show-all.aspx?_vsc=tide4

This is directly from their site:

Tide Loads of Hope helps in the aftermath of a natural disaster by providing clean clothes and a sense of comfort to families in need. Partnering with Feeding America, we travel to disaster affected neighborhoods with the Tide Loads of Hope truck or vans, our free mobile laundry service.

Tide Loads of Hope truck:32 high-effiency washers and dryers stationed on the truckCan do 300 wash and dry cycles a day - equal to one year's worth of laundry for a single family.
Will wash about 9,000 loads of laundry over a four-week periodLeveraged during massive disasters where electricity is unavailable in the region.

Tide Loads of Hope vans:In partnership with a local laundromat, the Tide Loads of Hope vans provide free laundry service at the same load rate as the trucks.
Leveraged during disasters where neighboring communities still have a source of electricity.
To date, Tide Loads of Hope has washed more than 35,000 loads of laundry for over 20,000 families.
Most importantly, the Tide Loads of Hope program means we're equipped to take action whenever and wherever there is a need in our country.
Tide Loads of Hope Vintage Tees:Tide Loads of Hope can also be supported through the purchase of a Tide Vintage Tee.

All profits go to support families affected by disaster.Where it all started In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the need for clean clothing became critical, and Tide found a way to help. So in November 2005, the Tide Loads of Hope truck headed to Camp Hope in the Metairie, LA area and cleaned over 10,000 loads of laundry.
The spirit of this first venture informs and inspires everything Tide Loads of Hope program does.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

San Francisco Chinatown

The first Chinese immigrants landed in San Francisco in 1848; two men and one woman.

The Chinese were the first immigrants to rebuild after the 1906 earthquake and fire.

In 1908 the Chinese Chamber of Commerce was established.

Chinatown in San Francisco is now home to over 1.5 Million people of Chinese descent.

Saturday is when the locals shop. Chickens and ducks are a common site. Spend some time wandering along the streets where you will find produce, animals, and oddities you didn't know existed in any other market.

Or head over to 56 Ross Alley and pick up some fortune cookies at the Fortune Cookie Factory. Yes, there really is such a factory.