Monday, October 29, 2012

Travel Tales: Short Trip to D.C.


In October we decided to take a short weekend trip to Washington, D.C. We had not been there in many years and we thought the beautiful fall weekend was the best time to visit. The trip along Interstate 79 in Pennsylvania and West Virginia was breathtakingly beautiful. I had to pull over several times because I could not pass up the opportunity to get pictures of the fall leaves at their peak.

We drove to the Silver Springs Metro station and took the subway to the Smithsonian station at the Mall. This station was conveniently located in the middle of the museums and we spent the morning visiting the exhibits at several of the buildings.

Our first new attraction was the National World War II Memorial which is located at one end of the Reflecting Pool. I love the use of water in memorials since I feel it adds a sense of life and movement. This memorial uses fountains, waterfalls, pillars and arches in a beautiful tribute to the soldiers and civilians involved in World War II. The Freedom Wall displays 4,048 gold stars. Each star represents one hundred soldiers who died in the war.


We visited the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall and the other monuments in that area. Next we walked over to the Tidal Basin to see two other attractions that had been built since our last trip. The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial was an impressive tribute which included famous quotes from Dr. King. Visitors enter the area through a split in a mountain. This design comes from one of Dr. King's quotes, "Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope." The stone of hope is the monument of Dr. King.


The last new monument for us was the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, which is located next to the King Memorial. This was an amazing place to visit. The accomplishments of Roosevelt in an extremely stressful period of American history are memorialized here. Once again water is a major component of this attraction and the waterfalls grow larger as one moves through each of the four outdoor rooms. This large memorial covers 7.5 acres, but we had no trouble walking around the entire area even though we had been walking all day. This memorial makes extensive use of granite which was also used in the Civilian Conservation Corps projects that I have seen in the Ohio area.

(Photos taken on October 21, 2012)

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Friday, October 26, 2012

Your Favorite Interstate Exits: I-40 in Tennessee

The Clingman's Dome Observation Tower rises fi...
The Clingman's Dome Observation Tower rises fifty feet from the pinnacle of Clingman's Dome, the highest point both in the state of Tennessee and along the Appalachian Trail, in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Interstate 40 travels across the entire width of Tennessee. This highway, which enters the state near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, joins the cities of Knoxville, Nashville and Memphis. The area is rich with historical attractions from the Civil War and also places of interest in the history of country and blue grass music. North of I-40 is the beautiful Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area.

Please share with other drivers your experiences as to which exits are best for single travelers or anyone for that matter. Reasons for the choice may include the safety of the surrounding area, the availability of good hotels and restaurants or proximity to the interstate. Please make sure to give the exit number or a description of the location. For example, when I discuss I-40, I would recommend Exit 145 in Oklahoma City. Many hotels and restaurants were located at this exit and I felt safe in the area. This exit was very convenient for easily continuing west without the hassle of dealing with early morning rush hour traffic.
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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

On the Road: Credit Card Fraud at Gas Stations

Thieves can place a device over the credit card reader of the gas pump. This device can skim the credit card number of any card. Travelers will not notice anything is amiss. When they swipe the card, the station will be paid, but the plastic device will also read the card number for the thieves. This happened to me on one of my trips. Ten days later unauthorized charges were made to my card. No one touched my card but me. It was always in my possession. I had no reason to be alert that something was wrong. Now every time I get gas, I look to see if any plastic is on the reader.

One way to avoid this situation is to always go inside the gas stations to pay. For my last trip I thought I had a great plan to get a Pilot gas gift card to protect the credit card number. When I went to the station to purchase the card, I was informed the gift card had to be used inside the station. That did not help. In that case I will just use the credit card. Another Pilot manager told me Pilot hopes to have a card for the pump soon. We will see!


I have one main credit card that I use for everything. I have another credit card that I use just for trips. If someone steals my credit card number while I am on a trip, I can cancel that card and get a new one without disrupting any accounts that are paid by that particular credit card. Setting up a new payment account while one is on vacation is a hassle.

In the future if I ever feel my credit card has been skimmed at the pump. I will just shut down that card and get a new one when I arrive at my destination.

(Photo taken in 2012)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Your Favorite Interstate Exits: I-40 in North Carolina

English: Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Français : L...
English: Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Français : Le phare de Cape Hatteras (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Interstate 40 begins its journey across the United States in Wilmington, North Carolina. It travels northwest to Raleigh and Durham and then continues west through Greensboro, Winston-Salem and Asheville. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Chimney Rock are located near I-40. While beaches such as Carolina Beach and Wrightsville Beach are near the beginning of this interstate, travelers should consider taking the time to visit one of the best places on earth. The Outer Banks are home to some of the most beautiful beaches on the East Coast. It is a place of exceptional beauty and the site of the Cape Hatteras lighthouse.

Please share with other drivers your experiences as to which exits are best for single travelers or anyone for that matter. Reasons for the choice may include the safety of the surrounding area, the availability of good hotels and restaurants or proximity to the interstate. Please make sure to give the exit number or a description of the location. For example, when I discuss I-40, I would recommend Exit 145 in Oklahoma City. Many hotels and restaurants were located at this exit and I felt safe in the area. This exit was very convenient for easily continuing west without the hassle of dealing with early morning rush hour traffic.
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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

On the Road: Choosing Gas Stops

Shorepower-L.W.'s Pilot Travel Plaza-Perry, Utah 1
Shorepower-L.W.'s Pilot Travel Plaza-Perry, Utah 1 (Photo credit: TruckPR)
The first few years I take any trip, I keep an eye on the gas prices as I near the half tank mark. I like to choose exits that have several choices for fuel. My favorite is Pilot Travel Plaza because I have to enter my zip code when I make a purchase at the pump. I like that extra measure of security. Another thing I like about Pilot is I can check the gas prices for all of their stations online.

I write down the location of the station, the number of gallons and the expense. Once I get the gas I still watch the highway signs to see if that was the best price available. If not, I note the exit number and watch for that station on the return trip. For example, I was coming up to Exit 277 in Arizona where I normally get gas. I started watching the prices as I was driving east and noticed when I got to that exit, the cost was higher than the cost at the other exits. I did not stop there and kept watching those numbers. When I got to Exit 16 in Gallup, New Mexico, I found a good price and got gas. I checked the cost at exits after that one and determined I had made the correct choice by stopping at Exit 16. That will now become my exit of choice.

Another way to check gas prices is to use a phone app like Gas Buddy. Since I am traveling by myself, I do not have that luxury. I do not use phone apps while I am driving.

After several years of making the same trip, I have compiled my list of stations where I will always stop. I take into consideration the location, the cleanliness of the facility, my feeling of safety and what food is available. Now I do not have to wonder where I will stop because I already know where I will stop. I usually chose exits with at least two travel plazas since I do not like to stop at the smaller stations. I feel safer with more people around me.

I try to get gas at the half tank mark for two reasons. The first is I like to make myself get out of the car and stretch my legs. The second reason is I try to keep the tank that full in case I get struck in traffic.
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Friday, October 12, 2012

Your Favorite Interstate Exits: I-39 in Wisconsin & Illinois

Inside Cave of the Mounds
Inside Cave of the Mounds (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Interstate 39 begins near Wassau and continues down the middle of the state of Wisconsin running to the east of Madison and Janesville. I-39 also travels through central Illinois and Rockford before ending near Bloomington. This interstate joins I-90 for a short distance and is crossed by I-43, I-55, I-74, I-80, I-88 and I-94. Points of interest near this highway include the Cave of the Mounds which is west of Madison and Devil's Lake which is northwest of Madison. The New Glarus area which is also known as America's "Little Switzerland" is also near I-39.

Please share with other drivers your experiences as to which exits are best for single travelers or anyone for that matter. Reasons for the choice may include the safety of the surrounding area, the availability of good hotels and restaurants or proximity to the interstate. Please make sure to give the exit number or a description of the location. For example, when I discuss I-40, I would recommend Exit 145 in Oklahoma City. Many hotels and restaurants were located at this exit and I felt safe in the area. This exit was very convenient for easily continuing west without the hassle of dealing with early morning rush hour traffic.
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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Preparation: Avoiding Tolls

Pennsylvania Turnpike toll plaza in Sommerset,...
Pennsylvania Turnpike toll plaza in Sommerset, PA, USA Français : Péage de l'autoroute Pennsylvania Turnpike à Sommerset, en Pennsylvanie (États-Unis). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
When I drive to Los Angeles, I travel on the Oklahoma Turnpike which is a toll road. Since that is the only time I pay a toll on my entire trip, I do not mind taking that road. I also feel that turnpike is the best option to get to Oklahoma City. In September I took a trip to Maryland and decided the best road to take was the Pennsylvania Turnpike. That was an expensive decision. My drive on 161 miles of road cost me $15.15.  On the return trip, I decided to avoid that highway.

Tolls are a necessary evil in traveling in some parts of the nation. However, sometimes careful planning can help save some money. In my case for my return journey west, I decided to take Interstate 70W until it joined with Interstate 68W. I drove the entire length of I-68W and then turned north on Interstate 79. After turning onto I-376N, I left the interstate for Highway 51N which took me back to Ohio. I had never driven this way before and the scenery was beautiful! The trip took a little longer, but my total savings in tolls was almost seventeen dollars for one way. The difference in gas was one gallon. (I can make it to Baltimore on one tank of gas. Thanks, Honda Civic!!) Since I will be traveling this route multiple times in the next few months, I will be saving a lot of money.

I will have some time before I travel to Maryland again, so I will research to see if the roads I chose for my return trip were the best option. Part of that research is the article linked below this post. After reading that article I now know that the tolls will be raised again next year. That means that finding a route other than the turnpike is essential.
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Friday, October 5, 2012

Your Favorite Interstate Exits: I-35 and I-37 in South Texas

Corpus Christi Bay - Corpus Christi Bay (right...
Corpus Christi Bay - Corpus Christi Bay (right), Nueces Bay (top), and Oso Bay (bottom) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Interstate 35 continues south of Austin and intersects I-10 and I-37 in San Antonio. This highway ends its journey in the town of Laredo at the border of Mexico. Interstate 37 is a short highway that joins the cities of San Antonio and Corpus Christi. Attractions near I-35 include the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, the Alamo mission, Six Flags Fiesta Texas,  SeaWorld in San Antonio,  Natural Bridge Caverns and Canyon Reservoir. In Corpus Christi the places of interest include the USS Lexington Museum and the Texas State Aquarium. The beautiful Padre Island National Seashore is well worth a visit.

Please share with other drivers your experiences as to which exits are best for single travelers or anyone for that matter. Reasons for the choice may include the safety of the surrounding area, the availability of good hotels and restaurants or proximity to the interstate. Please make sure to give the exit number or a description of the location. For example, when I discuss I-40, I would recommend Exit 145 in Oklahoma City. Many hotels and restaurants were located at this exit and I felt safe in the area. This exit was very convenient for easily continuing west without the hassle of dealing with early morning rush hour traffic.
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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Travel Tales: Short Trip to Baltimore

English: Baltimore Harbor as seen from World T...
English: Baltimore Harbor as seen from World Trade Center. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I had the opportunity in September to spend a weekend in Baltimore. Since my bags were already partially packed for California, I had to repack one of them for the quick trip. Fortunately, my packing list is on the computer so it was easy to modify it to include only the items that were needed for a short journey. (I have several packing lists which are modifications of the original. The lists for beach vacation, camping, and lengthy California trip have been joined by the one for big city vacation.)

Most of our time was spent in the Inner Harbor and Fell's Point area. What a great place to visit! The weather was beautiful and thousands of people were walking around the harbor area enjoying the lovely fall weekend. The area has over a hundred bars and pubs and numerous shops. Dozens of small dragon boats were among the many types of vessels that were afloat in the harbor.  A Coast Guard cutter and the U.S.S. Constitution were available for tours. The National Aquarium is also located in the Inner Harbor.

We were barely able to scratch the surface of all the area had to offer. We hope to see more of Baltimore and the D.C. area in future trips over the next few months.

A photo of the Baltimore National Aquarium tak...
A photo of the Baltimore National Aquarium taken July 3, 2010 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This trip was just for the weekend and the weather was warm. As I was leaving the house, I thought I would leave the water on because I was going to be gone for such a short time. I am glad I changed my mind at the last second and turned off the water. When the toilet developed a leak while I was gone, I did not have a huge water bill because I had taken that precaution. I always take great care to prepare for a long journey; however, I need to take equal care when leaving the house for just a few days! Never know what might happen when the house is unattended!!

(HBJ)
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