Sunday, August 31, 2014

Vegas Casinos

I am not much of a gambler but I do enjoy walking through the casinos. If you stay here long enough, I believe you will see just about anything you can imagine. In the past week, I have noted the following:
  1. Most of the individuals that I have talked to regarding their luck at the tables or slot machines have told me that they were "up a little or breaking even". For the life of me, I cannot understand how Vegas was able to build these billion dollar casinos with so many people breaking even. There must be one very large loser out there somewhere.
  2. In as much as breakfast at the casinos is a pretty good value, I generally eat there several times a week. I have been amazed at the number of people gambling at 7:00 o'clock in the morning. Sometimes, it is the same person sitting at the same slot machine. When do they go home?
  3. One of the sadder observations is the surprising number of senior citizens in wheel chairs, breathing oxygen from a bottle, playing a slot machine and chain-smoking. How many bad habits can one person have?
  4. Lastly, my eyesight is not what is used to be and I realize this is horribly sexist but the cocktail waitresses are not as attractive as I remember them in past years. I even read that Vegas is losing some of its best strippers to North Dakota due to the oil money. To me this is as good a reason as any to build the Keystone pipeline.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Government Taxes/Fees

In my opinion, a significant number of Americans believe our government wastes a lot of taxpayer dollars. What I find interesting is that a growing number of businesses are recognizing this and as a not-so-subtle form of protest are finding satirical ways to refer to taxes in their online advertising.

Examples: The Heart Attack Grill (which is about as politically incorrect as it gets) states there is a "8.1% tax for our wasteful Government to squander".  Spirit Airlines refers to federal excise taxes, security fees, passenger facility fees and segment fees as the "Government's Cut".

I know it is completely delusional to think that politicians and bureaucrats will get the message and start cutting taxes & spending but I do hope more businesses will join the protest.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Vegas Baby

I am back in Las Vegas. It was a little warm this afternoon at 102 degrees but they tell me it is a dry heat (yeah, right). In as much as today is my birthday, I decided to go all out and treat myself to a nice dinner. After perusing the local restaurant guide for fine dining establishments, I chose the Longhorn Casino where I had a steak, lobster tail, baked potato and steamed vegetables for $9.99. Move over you high rollers, there's a new "big spender" in town.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Pacific Coast Highway

It has been almost fifteen years since I drove the Pacific Coast Highway. I am happy to report it is still as magical as the first time, albeit, with a little more traffic. It is something everyone should do at least once. The following photos were taken between Monterey and San Simeon...

Lone Cypress

It takes Michigan farmer money to live here

Gray whales migrating south for the winter

Photo opportunities everywhere

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Car Commercials

After three years on the road as a full-time RVer, I find myself looking at car commercials and trying to identify where they were filmed. In a Mercedes ad this morning, there was a brief scene where the car drives by a rock that I photographed recently. Can you tell me where this rock is located...

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest

Bristlecone pines are some of the oldest living organisms on earth. Trees have been found whose rings indicate they have been around 3,000-5,000 years.

Today's adventure began with the drive up the mountain where you climb from 4,000 feet to 11,000 feet via a narrow, twisting road; the temperature dropped 30 degrees in about 25 miles. If you visit the park, be sure to bring plenty of water and be prepared for significant changes in weather.

I hiked the Bristlecone Cabin Trail loop from the new Schulman Grove Visitor Center. It takes you by some old mining cabins that date back to the 1860's and continues on to the Methuselah Trail. I did not venture up to the Patriarch Grove as the dirt, washboard road looked like it would loosen the fillings in my teeth.

Trees almost as old as my cousin Chris

The resin on the pine cones looks like icicles

Old mining cabin

Friday, August 15, 2014

Inconsiderate People

Hey, I am a relatively nice guy. I hold the door open for tall, blond, Swedish bikini models. I brake for nuns and orphans. So, it's a little disheartening and a lot aggravating when I see people do things without any regard for others.

Case in point: Last night around midnight, I am awakened by a French couple pulling into the site right beside me and setting up camp. I know they are French as they are continually talking while erecting their tent, blowing up the air mattress and slamming their car doors repeatedly. Now, if this is not bad enough, four young German men in a motorhome pull in next to them and much to my amazement, start a bonfire. It's one o'clock in the morning, there is no one to complain to and a confrontation will probably only make matters worse. So, I close my windows, pull down the blinds and eventually fall into a fitful sleep.

At best, people like this are simply unaware of what they are doing and at worst, they simply do not care. Either way, perhaps, this explains why we have some of the problems we have in the world today. And as I once told Forest Gump "that's all I have to say about that".

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Mono Lake Tufas

Mono Lake is known for its tufas. What is a "tufa" you ask. It is essentially common limestone. What is uncommon about this limestone is the way it forms. Typically, underwater springs rich in calcium (the stuff in your bones) mix with lakewater rich in carbonates (the stuff in baking soda). As the calcium comes in contact with carbonates in the lake, a chemical reaction occurs resulting in limestone. The limestone precipitates around the spring, and over the course of decades to centuries, a tufa tower will grow. Tufa towers grow exclusively underwater, and some grow to heights of over 30 feet. The reason visitors see so much tufa around Mono Lake today is because the lake level fell dramatically after water diversions began in 1941.

This is another one of those places where you cannot stop taking photos; it's like trying to eat only one potato chip. These photos were taken on the south side of the lake...



June Lake Loop

If you are ever in the Lee Vining, CA area, I would recommend taking the June Lake Loop (Highway 158). It is a scenic drive that features beautiful lakes and towering mountains. I think it would be even more impressive in the Fall when the leaves turn or the Spring with snow on the mountains.



Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Bodie Ghost Town

Bodie State Historical Park is one of those places I had never heard of but turned out to be a very interesting site to visit (serendipity). It is an old gold-mining community that was abandoned nearly intact and then converted into a state park. Plan on spending several hours there and be sure to have a large memory card for your digital camera.





Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Yosemite

Yosemite is one of the most beautiful and unique places on the planet and in my opinion, should be on everyone's bucket list. However, like most of our national parks, you need to be prepared for crowds, traffic, road work and rude tourists (other than that, how did you like the play Mrs. Lincoln).

I had planned to spend several days exploring the park but today's experience was simply too frustrating to want to go back any time soon. Here's one of several traffic jams that I ran into...

25 minute wait for road maintenance

Monday, August 11, 2014

Lower Lee Vining Campground

After several weeks of "civilization", I have moved back into the "boonies". Using www.rvparkviews.com, I found a great national forest campground about 12 miles east of Yosemite via Tioga Pass. In addition to being very peaceful and serene, it's only $7/night with a senior pass.

Nestled amongst the pines

By a babbling brook

Watching the bears... wait, what do they mean "BEARS"