Monday, August 31, 2009

Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe, a large freshwater lake in the Sierra Nevada mountains, is the largest alpine lake in North America.

This lake is 1,645 feet deep, making it the second deepest lake in North America. Crater Lake is the only lake deeper.

Formed about 2 million years ago Lake Tahoe is known for its water clarity. Of course the panorama of mountains on all sides makes Lake Tahoe one of the most picturesque scenes.

Some sources list Tahoe as the 8th deepest lake in the world while another source lists it at the 16th deepest.

At any rate, it's almost impossible to count all the shades of blue as you look out over the lake.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Sacramento Zoo

Her name is Shanti. She's a Snow Leopard.

And she is beautiful. You really should visit her at the Sacramento Zoo.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Credit Card Tips When Traveling

Before traveling abroad, credit card companies suggest you give them a call. After all, who wants a waiter telling you your card has been declined...when in reality your credit card company is just protecting you?

It's also a good idea to check your credit cards' expiration dates. If the date is close, give them a call to request a new one sooner. Some companies cut those dates pretty close. While you're at it, ask the company what is the best number to get a hold of them once outside the US. It's a good bet the 800 number on the back won't work after you leave the US. You could always put that number in your cell phone so you have it. Just list it under something you will remember and not the credit card company name.

Don't forget to save your receipts. You will probably never need them, but it's better to have them. If your bill looks high, you can always double check it against your receipts.

Did you know that many countries are switching to "chip and PIN' technology instead of the magnetic strip on the back of the card? With that in mind, some vending spots may not recognize the magnetic strip or they may have a minimum purchase on the transaction.

Solution...always carry some cash. You won't need much but some is definitely a good idea.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Photos of Summer

Aliki's Produce is literally just down the street from me. This doesn't really qualify as a travel destination...

These Heirloom Tomatoes weigh in at 2 1/2 pounds each. And check out the fresh figs in the background.

Seeds for this curly leaf basil were saved several years ago by Aliki and now she has "heirloom basil". I don't know if that is what it's called...but my house now smells like an Italian trattoria.

Baskets and baskets of fresh produce...paper thin skinned garlic, smooth globe shaped onions, peppers in an artist's pallet of colors, fat green pea pods and squash in shapes and sizes that just beg to be touched fill the table.

Melons so sweet...this may not be a travel destination...but the reward is just as great when I get home.

Dinner tonight...bruschetta with fresh tomatoes, basil and garlic, figs with goat cheese, melon salad with fresh mint leaves, and pasta with grilled peppers. Who's coming?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Frequent Flyer Miles

Do you have frequent flier miles accumulating and don't know how or if you can use them? Some programs are confusing and frustrating. But the airlines give away millions of trips and upgrades every year, so someone is cashing in on those miles. Why is that?

The supply of seats is constantly changing according to supply and demand according to the airlines. It makes sense that these award seats should be more available in a recession, but in's just the opposite.

Planes ran about 86% full in July of this year, leaving only a few seats for award travelers. Plus, airlines wait until the very last minute to offer award seats. They want their planes to be full.

Best advice I have been given when using award about 330 days in advance (when airlines make those seats available) OR book late (within 2 weeks of travel when airlines may release unsold seats).

Do NOT try to book popular destinations at popular times AND use award miles. Just won't work! Hawaii at Christmas...nope not going to happen.

I call the airline's reservation center to book my award trips. Sure, it costs me a $25 booking fee...but that's not bad for a ticket to my destination.

More tips tomorrow...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Random Tips

Traveling in the tropics or where you might encounter bugs? Use short bungee cords to wrap around your pant cuffs to keep bugs from going up your pant legs. This also works for long sleeved shirts.

Do you travel with a flat iron for your hair? Did you know they can be useful for getting out wrinkles in your clothes, too? Do check the TSA website as I don't believe they can be in your carry-on luggage.

Not sure you can remember what your rental car looks like when it "looks-like-every-other rental car" in the parking ramp? Take a photo with your digital camera. No camera? Pack a magnet and place it on a door or the trunk.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Tomato Days 2009

Cacti spilling out of an old wheelbarrow make an interesting display at Morningsun Herb Farm's Tomato Days. Tasting hundreds of tomatoes and then voting on favorites made for an exciting day.

Not tomatoes...but red hot chili peppers hanging around

Lots and lots of tiny tomatoes, still on their vines, filled box after box.

Pick a shape or size and there was probably a tomato or several that resembled it.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Check out this Integrated Travel Site

Check out this site for a new way of thinking about your upcoming trip.

GoWaza allows you to build a trip on a map and then send your friends the entire trip.

Some of their unique features include:

* You can upload your contacts to find hotels, restaurants and events close by
* All of your travel items are integrated in one dashboard and map
* Each item you add becomes an anchor you can click on to update the entire search
* Distances are automatically updated every time you click on a new anchor
* You can select any two anchors to get pop-up directions

I can't wait to try it out for myself. Give it a look...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Airfare Tips

Did you know that traveling on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday will save you money on air travel, and that connecting flights are often cheaper than non-stops? And did you know that airlines raise fares for travel during peak holiday periods and for last-minute travel? And were you aware that when shopping you should check fares from all airports that are a short drive from your nearest airport?

In addition, has gathered some additional advice that might save you money next time you’re shopping for a plane ride.

Check fares often
Airfares fluctuate like the stock market so you need to check them every day, or better still several times a day, if you’re serious about saving money. Airlines can update domestic fares three times a day during the week, and once on Saturday and Sunday. International fares tend not to change as often, but can be updated up to 5 times daily. Also, even if the fare itself hasn’t changed, seat availability at the lowest fares can change, so there might be just one seat available at 10 a.m., but the airline will open up more cheap seats later in the day.

Try a flexible fare search
If you’re at all flexible, you can sometimes save hundreds by adjusting your travel dates. Travelocity will search most domestic fares and many international ones over a 330 day search period; Orbitz and Hotwire cover nearly all routes from the U.S., but only over 30 day periods. also has a good flexible date search function.

Sign up for the airlines’ e-mail feeds and frequent flyer programs
I know you probably get too many emails, but this one could save you dollars.

Sign up for fare free alerts
Most airfare web sites offer these, and they all have something to offer. lets you track your specific itinerary, down to the flight number and dates of travel, and will let you know if the airline owes you a price-drop refund. Travelocity’s easy-to-use FareWatcherPlus lets you track up to ten routes and you can choose to be notified either when a fare goes down by $25 or more, or when it goes below a price you choose. Orbitz and Kayak also offer alerts, as does Bing Travel. But since all of these sites use the same airfare data provided by the airlines’ computer systems, they won’t include discounted promo code fares, and most don’t include Southwest Airlines. does provide promo code and Southwest alerts, although it covers far fewer routes than the above-mentioned sites.

Search airline sites individually
Some airlines have “private” sales, reserving their very best fares for their own sites. These are different from promo code fares. Airfarewatchdog fare searchers often find lower fares on, even without discounts such as a recent system-wide 20 percent off promo code, than on third-party sites. International airlines such as Aer Lingus, Iberia and Qantas regularly offer lower fares (i.e., $100-$400 less) on their own web sites compared to what you’ll find on Kayak or Orbitz.

Buy hotel + air packages
It could be significantly cheaper to buy an air plus hotel package rather than airfare alone.

Use Priceline for last minute trips
If you don’t have a 7, 14, or 21 day advance purchase window to buy your fare, your best bet is the “name your own price” feature of True, you won’t know the exact flight times or airline you’re flying until to pay for your trip, but you can save 50 percent or more.

Combine two separate fares rather than buying one fare
If you’re flying to a destination in Europe, you might save money by purchasing one fare from the U.S. to, say, Dublin, and another from Dublin onward.

Buy tickets on an airline that will refund the difference if a fare goes down
Currently, the “nice” airlines are JetBlue, Southwest and Alaska.

Don’t listen to airfare pundits who predict airfares
Airlines are unpredictable creatures. With that in mind any airfare expert who claims he knows that airfares will be lower or higher in the coming months is just trying to snag some publicity. No one can accurately predict where airfares are heading.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Let's Go to the Boardwalk at Santa Cruz

Here they come...

There they go...

The Giant Dipper Roller Coaster celebrates 85 years of fun and thrills in Santa Cruz, CA. This wooden roller coaster is my personal favorite. Not only do you hear the clack, clack of the wooden track but you have quite the beginning to this ride.

Hop in a car (front is best in my opinion), listen as the attendant releases the brake, and off you go... into an immediate sharp down turn with the wind blowing in your face and then...blackness so black you can't even see who is sitting beside you as you head into a tunnel before heading up the steep slope.

How many roller coasters have a view like this from the top of the big hill? On the Giant Dipper you can see for miles over the ocean.

Thrills and a great doesn't get any better than this for a roller coaster ride.

Just when you've recovered from the tunnel and are looking out over the Pacific...your view disappears from sight as you get hurdled down the big hill.

Finished with rides as the sun starts to sink a little lower in the sky?

Plop your beach chair in the sand and stay awhile for the nightly summer music on the Boardwalk. What a way to spend a summer day. It just doesn't get much better than this.

Monday, August 17, 2009

NIKE Missile Site, Pt. Bonita

On our way to Pt. Bonita Lighthouse, we passed through a restored Nike missile site.

This valuable historic site is the only restored Nike missile site in the entire country.

During the tense years from 1953 to 1979 the US Army built and operated 280 Nike missile firing batteries in the United States.

These missile sites were put in place as the last line of defense against Soviet bombers.

Today a dedicated group of volunteers works in partnership with the Golden Gate National Recreation Area on the continuous task of restoration at site SF-88, which has been turned into a museum.

Impressive now, I can only imagine what they looked like with big guns coming out. If you get the chance this is a really great way to see the tools of the Cold War up close.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Pt Bonita Lighthouse

The US Coast Guard built a lighthouse on this point due to the fact that over 400 shipwrecks had occurred here or nearby.

Point Bonita Lighthouse, located at the end of Point Bonita, is a sharp rocky peninsula that extends into the Pacific Ocean from the Marin Headlands not far from San Francisco.

Access to the Point Bonita Lighthouse, which was originally via a narrow frequently eroded trail, was improved when a hand carved tunnel was dug through 118 feet of rock over 6 months in 1856. It is thought that Chinese workers carved this tunnel.

The original lighthouse keeper's quarters were destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. Both the original and replacement lighthouses survived the quake but the original was later torn down.

A suspension bridge was added by the Coast Guard in 1954. This suspension bridge was made to resemble the Golden Gate Bridge, visible to the east on a clear day.

Wild cabbage, originally planted by the keeper, now clings to the rocky soil around the lighthouse and the trail leading to it.

Our hike was slightly foggy but the Golden Gate Bridge was still visible.

Unless you are at this site, you won't get a view of this side of the Golden Gate.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Green Tip

Even though this is not a travel tip nor a destination idea...check out this blog... or you can go to

She gives interesting tips on saving our environment, fabric bags, and lots of other good ideas.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


In many countries the local or national taxes you pay on certain goods will be refunded to you at customs, as long as you fill out the proper forms, save your receipts, and document your purchases.

Check with the tourist board, and for major purchase, double-check with the merchant you're dealing with.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Check out these 5 Simple Rules to Get Through Airport Security Faster

We know these guys aren't going anywhere soon, but you may be...


It’s best to know the up-to-date rules for airport security and be prepared to follow them. Not sure what they are? Go to the TSA web site for some good tips.

How many times have I heard "Why can't I take my 20 oz. bottle of soda with me?" Know the rules about liquids and gels. Remember 3 oz./100 ml or less is ok...more is not, regardless of how expensive the product. Did you know pudding is considered a liquid?

But what might catch you off-guard are some simple items that are prohibited entirely: gel shoe inserts and snow globes are absolutely prohibited from carry-on luggage. Who would have guessed that?


It seems everyone wants to be a carry-on traveler. Put things that security might want to double-check in your personal item, purse or briefcase. Since it’s usually a smaller bag things are easier to find. This might include your ipod, mobile phone, anything else electronic or that has a cord, and your bag of liquids and gels.

You'll still have to take your laptop out of its case and put that into a separate bin, but if you have all your other things segregated into a single, smaller bag, it will make your life easier.

Shoes and Jackets

Flip-flops make a lot of sense at the airport security line. They're easy to take off to send though the x-ray. Best of all, you won't have to sit down to put them back on. Shoes are the big time-consuming obstacle at security for most people, so it does make some sense to wear shoes that are easy to remove and put back on.

Since jackets have to be put through the x-ray machine, it might make more sense to pack your jacket or cardigan in your carry-on bag. And if you are wearing a belt you could pack it in your bag. You can always put it back on later.


The time to keep your collection of coins, two money clips, and a bunch of keys is not in your pocket when you are getting ready to board a flight. And even though they look good, it is not the time to wear seven metal bracelets.

Simplify your experience, and that of those behind you, by taking off your watch and metal jewelry and taking your change from your pockets before you go through the security line. You could put all your metal in a zipped pocket in your carry-on and then send it through the x-ray machine. This process also makes it harder for thieves if everything is put safely away deep in your carry-on.

Keep your wallet safely in your pocket or purse. Unless you're carrying a piece of metal, it won't set off the detector.

ID and Boarding Pass

You need to show only two things to get through security at the airport…your government-issued photo ID and your boarding pass. If you don't have both of these things handy, then perhaps you should stand aside before entering the line.

Once you reach the metal detector, you only need your boarding pass. On domestic flights they no longer check your ID again at the gate at U.S. airports. Before boarding an international flight you will need your passport. Some other countries have secondary security checks at the gate, and in these places you may have to produce your ID again.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Week End in Healdsburg

The menu is fuzzy but the wine and food were great at Peterson's Winery.

Sunset was colorful

Haydon Street Inn is a B & B in Healdsburg with great rooms, awesome breakfasts, and comfortable surroundings.

We had the Turret Room.

Apricot scones and strawberry, peach compote...YUMMM

Grapes are turning colors in the vineyards

Pinot Noir clusters

Don't these look like they will make great wine someday?