Tag Archives: travel

4 Scenic Drives You Can Take This Very Same Weekend

Summer is soon coming to an end and I am busy thinking of ways to enjoy these long days. Okay, perhaps the middle of August is too early for summer nostalgia, but it’s still good to plan ahead and make the most of this season. Road trips across America have always been a dream of mine and one day I will fulfill it, but for now I am at the planning stage and I want to share my favorite picks with you. Here are 4 scenic roads that I would travel in a heartbeat.

Maine’s coastline

Maine’s rocky coastline is just 228 miles, which could easily be traveled in a day or two. Yet if you have a few days on your hands and you wish to fully appreciate this state’s beauty, I would suggest paying a visit to some of its picturesque towns. If you are flying from out of state, the best place to start will be Portland. Portland is Maine’s largest city, but it counts less than 70,000 citizens and it summarizes what I love about the whole state – small towns full of history. Its most popular destination is the Old Port district which takes you back to the 19th century with its brick buildings, fishing docks and cobblestone streets. Other popular towns include Brunswick with its numerous historic districts, combining different architectural styles and Ben Harbor, which albeit small, once attracted affluent people such as John D. Rockefeller, Jr., J. P. Morgan, Cornelius Vanderbilt and President William Taft. If you have time to go south of Portland, don’t forget to pay a visit to the beautiful Portland Head Light, Maine’s first lighthouse, dating back to 1791.

metimbers2000 / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Historic Route 66

Route 66 played a very important part in U.S. History. Often called the Main Street of America or the Mother Road, Route 66 was originally a highway when it was finalized in November 1926. Back in the 1930s with the Great Depression looming high, it was the most popular route for migrating west, helping the economic recovery of the place it ran through. It spanned over 8 states or a total of 2,448 miles. Its decline started 30 years later when the Insterstate Highway Act was signed and the route officially lost its highway status in 1985. It is now off most major maps, but that shouldn’t stop you from exploring its beauty. In fact, its charm was preserved precisely for the reason that it became a secondary road. With its numerous side-road cafes, gas stations and motels, all reminiscent of a long-gone era, Route 66 is perfect for the nostalgic traveler, wishing to get a taste of a truly authentic American experience.

vladeb / Foter / CC BY-ND

Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway is another iconic American drive that’s not only picturesque, but perfect for outdoorsy people who can do frequent stops and enjoy its numerous hiking trails, picnic spots and breathtaking mountaintop views. Connecting Shenandoah National Park and the Great Smoky Mountains, the Blue Ridge Parkway runs for 469 miles, mostly along the Appalachian Blue Ridge mountain chain from which it gets its name. Even though it’s a popular destination, the road is never crowded and it doesn’t intersect major roads or interstate highways, so you can enjoy the view undisturbed. Yet Blue Ridge Parkway is hardly an isolated road. Numerous side roads spin off the main road and lead to local communities with unique history, such as those of Little Switzerland and Blowing Rock. If you need an escape from the summer heat, now is the best time to go. In fact, due to its mountainous terrain, portions of the road are closed in the wintertime.

Photomatt28 / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Historic Columbia River Highway

Perhaps I should have just named this post 5 Historical Scenic Drives to Enjoy This Summer, as this one has a lot of historical value as well. Historic Columbia River Highway was not only the first planned scenic highway in the States, but also the Northwest’s first paved road. It spans 75 miles along Columbia River Gorge, making it a perfect location for a day trip or a family picnic. The initial idea behind the construction of the road was to mimic European scenic roads and to boost America’s growing automotive industry. And to top it off, it’s the last stretch of Lewis & Clark’s expedition. So much history in just 75 miles. But don’t be fooled by how short the road is – you could spend days here if you wanted to as the place offers wonderful opportunities for cycling, hiking, sailing, photography and other outdoors adventures.

gmeador / Foter / CC BY-NC

If you are wondering which one of these four routes to pick for your next trip – don’t. You will not regret any of them. So hit the road and drive safely!

Ghost towns from a dream machine

Summer is slipping through our fingers but this is a trip that you can embark on at any time of the year – explore the wild American West. It breathes the air of old times drenched in whiskey, lust for gold and money, bloody violence and awesome ill repute. And much of it IS haunted.

Dennis Larson / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Many ghost towns stand as silent witnesses to that era when America was trying to get rich quickly.

Catapult yourself back to the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, and get immersed in a long lost spirit. Fly in to Arizona; it is a good starting point. Then rent a car and cruise to some of the neighboring states. Indulge. Get the wheels you have always wanted to test – a luxurious SUV, or something more elegant; or better yet – a convertible BMW hooligan.

Make your first stop at Vulture Mine City, Arizona. This settlement sprang to life when a prospector named Henry Wickenburg arrived in New York from Prussia in 1847. He went to San Francisco but one time, during his travels to the “interior,” he noticed a quartz ledge not too far from the camp where he was staying in Arizona. Later he returned alone, and gradually began to work the mine.

Vulture Mine turned into the most important gold mine in Arizona, and would eventually spark the development of the city of Phoenix. But back then it wasn’t all golden nuggets and heavenly bliss, for the city did manage to live up to its eerie name. Today, a testament to the brutal violence there is an ironwood tree. It is said that, over time, 18 men were hanged on it for murder and rape or even stealing high-grade ore. The names of the men and their crimes are hardly remembered today because nobody kept a record. Yet witnesses have reported ghost sightings and strange knockings as proof that nothing is ever lost or forgotten.

Goldfield, Nevada

Dubbed “one of the seven portals to the Other side,” Goldfield was founded in 1902. In only six short years, its population exploded to 20 000 people and produced $11 million in gold. “Money was flowing like wine,” wrote one of the notorious Earp brothers who lived there briefly. So was blood.

Today, two of the early buildings are well preserved – the local high school and the Goldfield Hotel at Crook Avenue. It is said that the hotel is filled with ghosts. Legend has it that its owner, George Wingfield, frequented a prostitute called Elizabeth. She became pregnant and claimed that the child was his. When her pregnancy began to show, Wingfield worried that a possible scandal could affect his business affairs. Allegedly, he tied Elizabeth to a radiator in room 109; after she gave birth, Wingfield murdered her and threw the baby in a mine shaft.

On the brighter side, the Goldfield had the longest bar in the history of American mining towns for whatever that’s worth.

odonata98 / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

 

Frisco, Utah

And here you have it – the Wild Wild West at its finest. The story of Frisco started in 1875 with lots of silver. Yet somehow, the town’s fabulous past is widely associated with ramblers, gamblers, gunners and tramps. Records show that at some point the dusty streets were so littered with corpses that city officials had a wagon collect them in the morning. The solution came in the face of a tough marshal who had no intention of building a jail or making any arrests for that matter. He just gave the outlaws two options – either flee or die. He reportedly killed six people on his first night in town. After that shooting spree, things in Frisco seemed to cool down.

Tony Frates / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

 

Bodie, California

People say this old mining town is cursed. Its history began in 1859 with a great promise of abundant gold supplies. Its development was so rapid that in no time the town boasted a Wells Fargo Bank, four fire brigades, several daily newspapers, a railroad and even a jail. About 65 bars along Main Street encouraged midnight brawls and shootouts. Bodie even had its own Chinatown. However, by 1880, most of its inhabitants were lured by other prospects and many began to leave. The population declined.

By 1915, Bodie was already labeled a “ghost town.” Homes, churches and other once important buildings were deserted. Most of the furniture was left exactly where townspeople had left it more than a century ago. Rumor has it that if a visitor is ever tempted to take something from Bodie, he or she quickly return it once they find that the object is cursed. Stuff such as old bottles, rusty nails and parts of a clock have found their way back. They belong to the past.

How to Stay Safe When Driving This Summer

Whether you are planning to drive your own vehicle or rent a car for your summer vacation, you shouldn’t underestimate the dangers of driving in high temperatures, especially with the latest heat wave that hit much of the US.  While there might not be icy roads, or batteries refusing to start due to low temperatures, summer offers its own risks. Read on to avoid ruining a perfectly planned summer road trip.

likeaduck / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Before you leave

I know much of the excitement about road trips comes from a certain lack of planning, taking spontaneous detours and all that. While I am not arguing against that, it’s good to have at least an approximate idea of the duration of your trip and how much you can spend. It goes without saying that children need a whole new level of planning – games and toys, food and frequent breaks, among others.

Now for the technical part – there’s hardly a part of your car that isn’t affected by high temperatures. Get plenty of water to keep you and your car well hydrated. Except your car needs other fluids as well – fuel, oil, engine coolant, brake fluid, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, windshield washer – and all of them should be at appropriate levels.

We all know from 6th grade physics that matter expands when heated. The same is true for your car tires, so checking the pressure each time you set out on the road is a must. I am not even going to talk about the importance of a spare tire – a real one, and not one of these “donut” spare tires (beware, cars often come packed with them), which will generally not last for more than 70 miles. Same goes for all kinds of belts and hoses – there should be no visible signs of wear and tear. Even small cuts can be aggravated more than usual due to the heat.

Finally, check the performance of your AC, especially if you are riding with people who are sensitive to heat or have medical conditions. But it’s about more than that. On most new cars, the serpentine belt that gives power to your AC gives power to other important parts like the water pump. If the belt goes down, you might start sweating from more than just the heat.

Ryan Stone / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

On the road

Unsurprisingly, the months from July through October are statistically the most dangerous to be driving. Other people want to enjoy a good drive just like you, so expect less of those it’s-only-me-and-the-road-ahead situations and prepare for some traffic congestion. That includes people on motorcycles and bicycles, which don’t exactly have a reputation for safe driving. School is out, so be prepared for the riskiest of them all – teenagers and college students. So drive carefully, don’t “overheat” and get yourself into a road rage situation.

Speaking of overheating, checking coolant levels is not enough. You should monitor the engine’s temperature while driving and pull over and let the fan cool it down a little bit. If the problem persists, look for signs of leakage, usually in the form of wet or white stains on coolant hoses. Don’t underestimate the issue – damage due to overheating will not only leave you stranded by the side of the road, but can cause permanent damage that is expensive to fix.

Nothing is as romantic as driving at dawn or dusk. But that time also happens to be most dangerous for sun glare. Always keep a pair of sunglasses close to you, better yet if they are polarized. As for lenses that darken when exposed to the sun, count those out, as your windshield will filter almost all of the UV light. Clean up all smears on your window-shield as they will help increase the glare.

ashley.adcox / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

 

Finally, summer-grade fuels are a bit more expensive than winter-grade ones, so here’s a few tips on fuel efficiency in the summer. Don’t use open windows to keep yourself cool because they increase the drag. For the same reason, put all roof luggage in a roof box. Your AC is also fuel thirsty, so you can turn it off once it reaches a comfortable level and turn it back on when it starts getting hot again. Now all you need is good company and a destination and you are ready to go!

 

Florida: Key West Fun Facts

keywestIf visiting Key West is part of your places to visit before you die, we think it’s important that you just a little bit more fun information besides the usual guidelines on where to eat and where to bunk beds.

We all know that Key West is a quirky little town filled with quirky personalities. Sure enough, there are a number of quirky little tidbits that are interesting enough to know just for the heck of it. So below is a list of not-so-useful information that we think you might enjoy:

 

  • If you want to see about 40 polydactyl kitties, you’ll find some at the Ernest Hemingway Museum. In case you guys were wondering, polydactyl cats are cats with 6 toes. Neat, eh?
  • At Sloppy Joe’s Bar, you’ll spot on their wall 2 of Ernest Hemingway’s uncashed checks!
  • One of the main roads, Duval Street, was named after Florida’s first and longest serving governor of Florida. It’s also the “world’s longest street” which runs from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Inhabitants of Key West are called Conchs (pronounced as ‘conks’). People who weren’t born in Key West but have lived in the town for 7 years or more are called “Fresh Water Conchs”.
  • The term “conchs” came from people with European ancestry that moved from the Bahamas. They say that a conch shell is placed outside their doorstep when a baby was born.
  • Robert the Haunted Doll, which was once owned by the artist Robert Eugene Otto, was said to be possessed by evil spirits. Today, the doll can be seen at Fort East Martello and Gardens.
  • The reason and history for Robert the Haunted Doll’s reputation was because, as they said, the doll was a gift to Eugene by a Bahamian servant who was skilled in black magic. The family said that they would see the doll changing expressions, moving from window to window when the family was out, or even threatens to kill its child owners at night.

It may be few, but these tidbits may just be that much needed push for you to finally search the net for the best rental car rates to get you to Key West from the airport in no time. Don’t forget to be extra careful in taking a photo of Robert the Haunted Doll, we don’t want him visiting you in your hotel room at night!

Orlando Sites: Disney Top Tips

disneyworldIt is part of every family’s bucket list to have Disneyland or Disneyworld be crossed out from their list of things to do and places to go; it’s every adult’s favourite childhood memory, and every child’s dream come true. Vacations taken with children is always a different story, you need extras for everything – extra clothing than usual, extra snacks, extra water bottles, and extra patience plus energy to keep up with them. This means, setting the kids free to run around and explore in the most magical theme park in the world requires more preparation than usual.

So before you head on out and hop on one of the best Orlando car rentals, read on through to see what tips you need to remember during your 1-3 days in Disney!

 

Go during off-peak seasons

This is before or after Christmas, usually the months of October or February. Never go during peak season as Florida’s heat is something else during those times. You’re bound to experience a meltdown, and if adults can feel really tired and dehydrated under the sun, imagine how much more that meltdown will be on your kids. So play it safe and never go during peak season.

Pack on the extras

Pack extra shirts, extra shorts, extra socks, extra underwear too if you must. Pack everything extra as there are plenty of rides where there are chances of children getting wet – not just from water rides but also from perspiration. It’s a hot day with a lot of running around, getting wet is bound to happen. And since you’re all perspiring, packing on extra water won’t hurt as well. If you don’t want the extra weight, all counters at Disney gives out free ice water, all you have to do is ask for it.

Wear comfortable shoes

There would be so much walking, running, and probably even jumping, that to wear flip flops, sandals, or even heels would be the worst mistake you’ll ever make.

Souvenirs as the last stop

Refrain from dropping by the souvenir shops too early in the day or else you’ll end up with less cash for more important things like food or beverages, less space in your backpack, and more junk that you and your kids might not really need. The best time to drop in at a shop is right before you watch the fireworks or right before you leave the theme park.

New York Sites: Statue of Liberty Fun Facts

If you have read our previous post, you’ll know that we talked about a couple of fun and interesting fact about the Empire State Building. Of course, if you’re doing a clean sweep of New York’s finest attractions and dining, it’s inevitable that you also visit the lovely lady Liberty herself!

Mounted on Liberty Island, formerly known as Bedloe’s Island, is the 305 feet and 6 inch tall statue from the French. Given as a present, this statue is that of the Roman goddess, Libertas who is known as the goddess of freedom, holding a torch and a tabulas ansata which had America’s independence date, July 4, 1776, inscribed on it.

What most people don’t know is that at the bottom of Lady Liberty’s feet are broken chains and shackles that symbolize freedom from oppression and tyranny.

The conception and creation of the Statue of Liberty began in the 1870’s where Frederic Bartholdi first constructed the statue in France. He then disassembled it to ship it to America and re-assembled it back up again.

The color of Lady Liberty was not painted green on purpose. The statue’s original color was that of dull copper. It changed into green because of years of weather changes has affected the coat to corrode which resulted to the ‘patina’. The US Congress has authorized to re-paint the statue but due to public dislike, they preserved the green patina instead.

Also, as an added tidbit, the copper skin is only 3/32ths of an inch thick (or thin). This copper sheeting’s thickness is less than that of 2 US pennies combined.

Frederic Bartholdi also stated that he designed he patterned Lady Liberty’s face by using his mother, Charlotte Beysser Bartholdi, as the model. He also mentioned that he created an uncomplicated silhouette on the statue which would take great effect because of the statue’s great placement on the harbour. Any immigrants or visitors to come towards the Americas would notice a changing perspective on Lady Liberty as they approach Manhattan.

Admittedly, that last tidbit of information isn’t so common as the first few and chancing upon this makes seeing Lady Liberty in possibly a whole new light as well. If this piqued your curiosity, and that vacation to see the Big Apple has got you excited, better make sure you double check your car rental rates so you’re sure to have a way to get to Liberty Island soon!

New York Sites: The Empire State Building Fun Facts

Surely there are most of you who have already looked up some interesting facts and trivia regarding New York City’s Empire State Building before hopping on to your Enterprise car rental with your camera and your change for the tower viewer. But for those who still don’t have an idea, here is a couple of fun information you might have never known about the tallest building in the city:

Top of the World

Back in 1931, the Empire State Building was the tallest building in the world. Today, it’s been bumped down to the 4th tallest building with 1,860 steps from the ground up to 102nd floor which is the top most floor of the building.

Cloud Nine

On every 14th of February, there are a group of couples who get wed on the 80th floor of the Empire State Building. To be able to do this, you must first send an application indicating why you want to get married there. Couples are chosen based on their creativity and their originality. The couples who have gotten married on the Empire State become members of the Empire State Wedding Club where they are freely admitted into the observatories every 14th of February.

Bright Lights and Shining Stars

Besides being seen on the movies Sleepless in Seattle, An Affar to Remember, etc, the most popular movie where the Empire State was seen was first seen was in the 1933 classic, King Kong. Also, other popular celebrities that have been noted to visit the building was Fidel Castro, Queen Elizabeth, the band KISS, and Tom Cruise to name a few.

Statistics and Numbers

Here’s a quick statistic of the basic numbers involved in the Empire State Building:

Total budget: $40,948,900.00

How long it took to build: 1 year and 45 days

Number of workers on the building: 3,400 people at peak times

Simple Travel Tips To Remember

It’s not always easy to plan a travel itinerary especially when you’re traveling alone. Sometimes even if you’re just traveling out of town, a couple of tips here and there could be a great help to get the ball rolling in arranging itineraries, lodging, and transportation.

First off is thinking of an ideal vacation spot to spend a luxurious weekend at. It doesn’t have to necessarily be a plane ride and a number of hours away; it could be as near as a couple miles away from home. You can check for cheap sale flights or search online for cheap car rentals that offer the best deals. Once you’ve had that targeted, it’s time to move towards your lodging.

If you’re fine with practicality and just the right amount of comfort and leisure, hostels are always the best choice. It’s comfortable enough with clean sheets, a clean bathroom, and great fellow travellers to meet, interact with, and be friends with. They’re also the best people to ask suggestions of where to go next, what to do and what else there is to see.

checklistLastly, the itinerary is what makes your entire travel vacation memorable. There are some people who prefer to just go with the flow, walk the streets and let the adventure come to them. That could work too, but taking into consideration some of the others who can’t function without an ideal plan, researching on the internet what ideal attractions to visit and which restaurants serve the best food. Arranging it beforehand, about a week before leaving, saves you all the time and stress than doing everything last minute. Also, purchasing tickets for either shows, a theme park, a museum exhibit or concerts a couple of days earlier always saves you more money than purchasing tickets at the establishment itself.

Also ask around or research on which places to visit for food, whether it’s for proper dining or street food goodness. Some travellers say that food is always what makes or breaks a vacation; it’s the ultimate adventure to try out those grilled chicken intestines or frog legs on sticks. And of course, the most important thing to never forget is your camera. Take photos of your travels, capture moments in a photograph and when bad days come along, although you can’t just hop in a car and leave, you can always go back to the memories through these photographs and feel instantly better.

 

New York Dining: Little Italy

So you’re on a vacation to see the great big city of New York but you don’t know where to experience that street food style of dining. If you have got a day to spare and a lot of courage reserved,  hop on your car rental service vehicle and then head on out to New York’s Little Italy by Lower Manhattan and experience something new and exciting.

little-india

 source: SeriousEats

Although many say that Little Italy’s food isn’t as authentic as it used to be, and neither does it have any real New York Italians residing within the area anymore, there are still a couple of food establishments who remain strong and as Italian as Italian cuisine could be.

According to an article written by SeriousEats, there are a couple of top picks that you could find at Little Italy. Most of the food establishments could be find clustered around Mulberry Street, and as you walk along, you’ll encounter a lot of hawkers who are paid to convince customers to come in their respective restaurants. Don’t be convinced too easily, reserve your appetite for some of the better stuff that the place could offer!

Let’s start off with the simple things like visiting an authentic Italian bakery, Parisi Bakery, and Italian market, Di Palo’s. Parisi is a family owned bakery known for their sandwiches, cold cuts, parm, and lard bread. Meanwhile, Di Palo’s is a specialty shop that’s famous for their cured meats, antipasti, really good cheese, and other pantry goods. Visit these two shops if you wish to take home some of these goods to share with your family, or if you just want something to munch on as you travel.

For a little more on the finer side to dining, try calling in for a reservation at Torrisi Italian Specialties for a more refined menu but if you’re game for something simpler, try this well-known sandwich shop, called Parm, that specializes in turkey clubs, parm sandwiches, and their ice cream cake.

The one restaurant that tops the list for SeriousEats though is Rubirosa. It boasts of classic New York Italian cuisine that serves exquisite pizza, housemade mozzarella, and authentic pasta. If you’re visiting with your family, Rubirosa is a great place to bring the entire family to.

Avis Offers Special Rental Car Discounts for Travel to Hawaii

Although prices have come down quite a bit in recent years, it’s still not cheap to take a vacation in Hawaii. Because of the island paradise’s relative isolation, it simply costs more for many things in Hawaii, especially when it comes to staples like food and gas. So if you are looking to save a little money on your next Hawaiian vacation, Avis is offering some special discounts to go along with their low rates. All you need to do is show your Avis car keys or rental agreement, and you can enjoy savings at a variety of businesses on the Big Island of Hawaii, Kauai, Maui and Oahu. You’ll find discounts on a variety of restaurants and attractions, plus coupons for free items like T-shirts and mugs (which will save you money on buying souvenirs for friends and family).

There is no purchase necessary for many of the special deals, so head over to the Avis website to check out all the coupons and print them out before your trip.

These discounts are valid with any Avis rental booked through RentACarNow.com, so if you want the lowest rates on rental cars in Hawaii, we are ready to help. We have great rates on rental cars in Honolulu, Maui or anywhere else in Hawaii.