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Sun, Jun 29th - 2:26PM

Check out our latest video for Lonely Planet...

You've seen the "rough" version earlier from our Las Vegas trip (I know, you're sick of Vegas already!) but I just wanted to share the whole premise of this video.

Inspired by "Experimental Travel" (Rachael Antony and Joel Henry), a book that dishes out alternative and playful ways of making the travel experience unique, immersive, and to say the least, quirky.  Examples are exploring your own town by becoming a weekend backpacker - stay in a hostel, gallivant with other backpackers and see your town through their eyes, ...risk becoming either a local stranger or a strange local...?), or finding a dog and letting the dog take you for a walk!  Whether it's the Tenderloin or Tunisia, there are creative ways to explore and experience a place other than the classic travel routes.  

So, back to Vegas, one of the world's high-priced travel destination, and what did I do?

Spend as little -most cases none- as possible.  Now, on with the show...  Enjoy!

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* All photos and content unless otherwise stated copyright 2008 J. Reque and C. Foley.

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Thu, Apr 17th - 11:08PM

A Penny-Pincher's Guide to Flying The Strip
I am so proud of myself. Let me tell you why.

Before leaving for Las Vegas, I came across what seemed like a fun but high-priced idea. Soon as I got the chance, I came to Chris itching to reveal my exorbitant thought:

"Wouldn't it be grand...

to see Las Vegas...

at night...

on a HELICOPTER ! ! !"


Chris flashed a Quixotic smile. "You can do whateeever you want", he said with a slow up and down motion of his head and a sparkle in his eye.

Okay, maybe it sounds nonsensical, considering how much it cost and how short it all takes. But I was excited. For 10(ish) minutes you get to sit inside the best VIP helicopter equipped with comfy leather seats, wrap-around glass for outstanding visibility, and drink champagne -- all for a hundred dollars.

Needless to say Chris wasn't too thrilled. Besides, he will be in Mexico, he exclaimed. But this is Vegas. Thousands of people out here pop $100 in less than 10 minutes.

Then after some thought, a hundred bucks just so you can float above neon lights while you postpone your upchuck from that bubbly elixir you had before vertically taking off the ground can be way-out and... stratospheric. No pun intended.

Me wrestling with an 8-foot python on the strip 'cause a helicopter ride with free champagne was waaay too radical.

However, the Universe has a way of making sure things work out - especially if they were meant to be. Now in Vegas, after foraging the strip for the best bargains in almost anything from bottled water to breakfast buffets, to Broadway musicals, I bumped into John, who said for ONLY 20 DOLLARS I can be hovering above Sin City that same night. This deal was even sweeter than the last strawberry daiquiri I had for breakfast that morning!

A guy named John has the best deals under his sleeves. Look for him below the giant M&Ms. He certainly looks like one, too.

The catch was (hell yeah, there's a catch) I have to sit through a time-share presentation that includes:

1) free lunch

2) pick up and return

3) an hour and a half of one on one with a guy who looks like Gennady Zyuganov but with bigger eyes and long, graying eyebrows, who will scowl and try to convince you that you can save money by giving them your money ("and for two weeks a year, you can have the grand vacation of your life in any of our pre-selected destinations...").

John got me at "free lunch". Already practicing my "stare, smile, and nod a lot" routine, I say, "Let's go, I'm ready for some 'time-sharing'".

Two grueling hours later...

I got sidetracked inside the Bellagio's Conservatory and Botanical Garden watching two butterflies get their groove on. I'm sure that wasn't the proboscis I saw sticking out.

Another two hours later, it was dusk. I was hyper, chatty, and already admiring the leather handbag of the lady across from me as we waited for our pilot.

I made friends: Next to me are the dapper couple Brian and Laura. Her handbag sports a hardcore tattoo design!

Finally, the moment I've been waiting for...

It's true, some of the best things in life are free. But sometimes, the things you work hard for - the fruits of simple honest-to-goodness hard labor - can be the sweetest rewards in life.

I'll drink to that.

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* All photos and content unless otherwise stated. Copyright 2007 J. Reque and C. Foley.

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Sun, Apr 13th - 2:09PM

Aside from the herky-jerky internet connection (we were having problems with the satellite dish - I later found out this was the reason why), 12 days in the same place proved to be... challenging, at least for nomads like us who will do anything to be somewhere different all the time even if we had to drive a hundred miles, only to drive back home that night.

The Oasis RV Resort in Las Vegas is fabulous. Clean, well-maintained environment, modern facilities, not to mention HUGE! I was constantly getting lost - even in broad day light! PLAY the photos below or click View Album if you don't see it.

The sites have good spacing and offer full hook-ups for power, water, and drainage. So I'm all set while Chris is in Mexico, right? Wrong. Everything was available except the transportation - and I have this tenacious desire to explore the Entertainment Capital of the world. For those of you who don't know, I tend to gravitate towards sparkling objects. My favorite color in fact, is "shiny" :-)

Glitzy: The Oasis RV Park at night. At the end of the road and yonder, you can see the light beaming up from the Luxor, beckoning me to come and bring gifts of gold, frankincense & myrrh - but plain quarters for the slots will do.
The shuttle that takes guests to the strip (which is only 5.5 miles away) for some reason stopped running last February. Which meant I had to walk from the resort to the clandestinely marked bus stop across the highway, wait for the bus that will take me to the terminal where I can again wait for the bus that will take me to the strip. Sweet.

Before I turn this into a whine fest, let me digress and continue with how the trip went. After Chris ventured to San Felipe, Mexico, my events started on a bad foot. Or should I say bad fridge. One morning the fridge door broke and as I swung it open to get milk for my cereal, the entire door unlatched and fell, bringing everything it can from inside with it.

Fox had mayo (light) in his dish, mixed with some apples, baby carrots and sugar peas, while cans of soda (thank god, sugarless) burst from the fall and started going off like manic garden sprinklers, covering everything with a nice splash of dark reddish-brown hue. Sure enough, Coke adds life to everything nice.

Fox was not amused. "I sure hope you'll put tuna in the mayo", he says.

While the fridge computer was smart enough to figure there was something wrong with its door (see 'd' sign above), it was not however intuitive enough to keep the food on its shelves, if the said door was to be tampered with. Hmm, maybe 'd' stood for Don't (open) or Danger, or...

Wait, what's that on the leather sofa? Mmmmmmm.... shiiiinyyyyy....

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* All photos and content unless otherwise stated copyright 2007 J. Reque and C. Foley.

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Mon, Feb 11th - 12:29PM

Saline Valley: A Remote and Allusive Passage to Death Valley

Saline Valley Road Map

Saline Valley welcomed us to the colorful and extremely fascinating desert Shangri-La that is Death Valley in the Mojave Desert.

Officially within the Death Valley National Park boundary, Saline Valley is mostly overlooked by those heading to its more arid and popular big brother Death Valley farther to the south and east. Saline Valley makes a great introduction to the park, for those with the time, and for those looking for an escape from civilization.

A huge dry lake with a salt marsh occupies the center of the valley, but most people come to see the sand dunes and of course, to soak and relax in the natural hot springs. That is, if you're not bashful about exposing skin (and I mean ALL of it) and don't mind the drive through dozens of miles of washboard roads to get there.

The lonesome road is perfect for four-wheelers, and on most occasions you can drive its entire length without seeing another vehicle (well, at least on land). But with scenery so delightful, the total experience is well worth the trek!

Hippies in the Hot Springs

In the 60s, Saline Valley Hot Springs became popular with nudists, and today, although nudity is against general Park regulations, it is now "clothing optional" and highly regulated. But for the sake of tradition (and the right to bare your assets) authorities and the eclectic - often eccentric - visitors maintain a civil relationship. However, the springs here do not appear on ANY National Park Service maps.

To be so free, stripped of your worries and disclosed to nature, soaking in medicinal water under the golden sun and the unclouded blue sky against rugged mountains - your mind can't help but wander until...

A Jet Flies By

A common sight in the valley, low flying jets (along with who-knows-what-else is "out there") maneuver in neck-breaking speeds. Just over the mountains lie a restricted U.S. military complex. The jets generally don't bother, nor scare people, in fact, Chris and I enjoyed the private show.

Antique Alien Space Modules?

Our love affair with the mountains, hot tubs, and supersonic fliers dissipated as we reached the center of the valley. Here lies a different kind of spectacle. Back in the early 1900s, salt was harvested from Saline Valley and transported across Inyo Mountains and Owens Valley to be milled and shipped to Nevada. They constructed tall tram towers connected with cables for gondolas carrying 800 pound loads of salt to traverse from one tram to another. Now, these ruins stand in eerie uniform distance to each other like giant characters from a Star Wars movie.

It seems ironic to call this a "dry" lake with its voluminous salt marsh, but its glassy and contemplative nature make this spot popular with photographers from sun up to sun down.

Charlie Was Here

Saline Valley also had a brush with evil back in the days. Cult leader Charles Manson (along with his helter-skelter followers) was obsessed with the springs and believed them to be "The Hole," a bottomless pit that leads to a secret city beneath Death Valley. Saline Valley was the fave hangout of this gruesome murderer before his 1969 arrest in nearby Panamint Valley.

Saline Valley is truly enjoyable, whether or not one knows its history. The Native American people who lived here during prehistoric times, the affluence of salt and minerals, the gold-seekers who became miners and drudged to make a living, the 60s mainstream expatriates and the cult members who chose to make this their sanctuary - these are stories obscured by wide open spaces, panoramas of leathery layers of mountains, sand dunes gracefully sculpted by wind and the elements, and a secret oasis for naturists.

There is no doubt Saline Valley is captivating, relaxing and beautiful, but if you think that jets are not the only flying objects here, or that the hot springs are actually portals to a Utopian underworld, I will just have to take that with a grain of salt.

Subscribe now if you haven't yet. Click the button above and enter your email address, then check your email for a confirmation. You only need to do it once and it's FREE!

* All photos and content copyright 2007 J. Reque and C. Foley unless otherwise stated.

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Sun, Jan 27th - 3:45AM

48 California State Parks at Risk of Closing - PLEASE READ

Rikki and Chris at Manchester State Park, May 2007

Please join us in protesting the potential closure of 48 California State Parks to help balance the state budget. Several of our favorite parks are set to close, including Manchester State Park in Mendocino County. It is our favorite rustic camping spot along the California coast.

We ordinarily keep our politics to ourselves; however, we hope you will join us in protecting the 48 state parks in California on the chopping block. Closing these parks would save nine million dollars, yet save only 0.1% of the state budget. The impact would be a loss of 20% of the state's parks.

Click the link below to learn more from Environment California about the proposed closures. At this link you can also sign a letter of protest to the governor.
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