Tuesday, December 30, 2014

On the Road: Hotel vs. Private Residence - Part 1

Photographed and uploaded by user:Geographer. ...
Photographed and uploaded by user:Geographer. Los Angeles Basin as seen from Mount Wilson at dawn, Dec 12, 2002 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
When I am staying in the Los Angeles area, I have a choice between a corporate hotel/apartment or a private residence. In this post I will discuss the hotel/apartment option, which is the one I have used most often in the past.

Los Angeles has thousands of hotel rooms, but I need one that has a microwave and refrigerator since I stay for several months. I found one place that gave me the option to rent on a month-to-month basis for the best rate I could find at the time. This hotel/corporate apartment complex had hundreds of rooms and suited my needs for many years. The property was beautiful and convenient, but also had bad aspects that I was willing to overlook at the time. However, after two years of significant rent increases, I decided I was no longer willing to pay more for a less-than-perfect situation.

A corporate place means vacationers will get their maintenance problems handled right away. Hotel staff are always around to help. In addition, many other people are living in the complex. Numerous opportunities exist to meet others and that can be important especially if a person is traveling alone. Since I always meet a lot of guests every year when I stay in hotels, I do not feel lonely when I travel.  In addition, having security personnel patrolling the property makes me feel safer.

On the bad side, this hotel is a favorite for college interns, and also for people who think they will be the next big star in Hollywood. Parents spend big money to send their children to Los Angeles to get the best intern experience, but what they do not know is these college kids spend a good deal of their time drunk or at the pool...or both. Sometimes I feel like I am living in a dorm when I stay at that complex. Loud parties and screaming are the norm and I get very little sleep sometimes.

Another group is the "showbiz kids" group, which is made up mainly of parents who think that the big break for their kid is just around the corner. Many families have a parent who has lived at the complex for years with the child while the other spouse remained at their home in another state working to get money to support the pipe dream. Some of these kids run wild with very little supervision from the parent. A favorite activity of this group is to run down the hotel hallways  and property yelling and screaming.

In addition to the noise problems, a hotel can have serious parking problems. Some hotels will charge guests a parking fee in addition to the cost of a room. Other hotels do not provide enough parking for their guests. Travelers would be wise to read the hotel reviews on as many sites as possible. These reviews provide insight into problems with location, noise factors, parking and other concerns. If I do not have time to read all the reviews, I read the negative ones so I have an idea of what I may encounter on the hotel property. In the end, one must research all options and pick the most comfortable one. Just know the pros and cons of each option.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Spurs, Bypasses and Beltways: Oklahoma and Oregon

Oregon_Coastline. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In Oklahoma the auxiliary interstates for Interstate 44 are both in Tulsa. Providing a bypass for Tulsa traffic is Interstate 244 , which travels along the western and northern sections of the city. This highway leaves I-44 at Exit 236 and travels west and then south to rejoin I-44. Less than three miles of Interstate 444 join I-244 with US 64.

In Oklahoma City Interstate 235, which is just over five miles in length, joins I-35/I-40 to I-44. Interstate 240 departs I-40 at Exit 165 and travels west for 16 miles and ends at Exit 116 of I-44. This highway provides a southern alternative route to bypass Oklahoma City.

Interstate 5 has three auxiliary highways in the state of Oregon. Interstate 105 is four miles long and joins I-5 In Springfield to OR 99. Interstate 205 connects Tualatin in Oregon with Salmon Creek in Washington. I-205 departs I-5 at Exit 288 in Oregon and rejoins it at Exit 9 in Washington.  Providing a bypass of four miles for I-5 in Portland is Interstate 405.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Travel Tales: Dirt Mulholland

When most people think of Mulholland Drive, they picture spectacular views of Los Angeles and amazing mansions on a winding road. That is one part of this famous drive. After it crosses the 405 and continues west, Mulholland Drive has an unpaved section that travels through the Santa Monica Mountains until it reaches Topanga Canyon. This section is known as Dirt Mulholland. The San Fernando Valley is on one side and the Santa Monica Mountains are on the other side. During the many times I had the opportunity to hike on it, I thought I have never encountered a more aptly named place.

(Photo credit: memyselfandtheinterstate.com)
During my last trip to Los Angeles, the area was suffering through a devastating drought. When I would be hiking along this stretch, the wind would blow up clouds of dust and I would be covered head to toe. That did not stop me from hiking in a great area where I would spend hours every week.

Some trails have parking lots, especially at Reseda Boulevard and at Serrania Avenue Park, and trails lead from these places to Dirt Mulholland. Other trailheads have street parking in residential areas. Greenbriar, Natoma, Winnetka, Corbin Avenue at the Corbin Canyon Park and Van Alden Avenue are examples of streets with limited parking availability. Located a short way from Van Alden Avenue are the Van Alden caves which provide a different hiking experience. All of these trails are much smaller than Dirt Mulholland itself. I stayed in a guesthouse in the general area, so I would walk on the residential streets until I reached the trailhead. I felt safer that way since I was by myself.

(Photo credit: memyselfandtheinterstate.com)
During the times I was going to hike by myself, I made sure to prepare by going over the sections of the trail I wished to hike by consulting Google Maps. I wanted to make sure I knew the area where I was going to travel. If I saw another way I wanted to hike, I would do so on my next visit after I had looked over that way on the map. I read many of the reviews online which were under the heading of Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. Sites to visit include www.nps.gov/SAMO and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy www.smmc.ca.gov. Also videos taken by hikers and cyclists are available on youtube.com

I did not plan on hiking during my trip, so all my accessories were back in Ohio. I had to buy hiking shoes, backpack, water bottle, etc. Hiking along this trail was extremely hot and I was warned that the drought and high temps could cause snakes and some animals to be active. Hiking in places like Corbin Canyon can be in extremely hot conditions, so I brought plenty of water. On my next trip I will be prepared to continue the enjoyable experience of hiking Dirt Mulholland.

(Photos taken in 2014)

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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Spurs, Bypasses and Beltways: Ohio for Columbus, Dayton, Toledo and Youngstown

Lane Avenue Bridge in Columbus, Ohio, near The...
Lane Avenue Bridge in Columbus, Ohio, near The Ohio State University campus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In Ohio are twelve auxiliary highways. In the last post were the first five and this post contains the other seven. Forming the beltway around Columbus is Interstate 270. This highway, which is 55 miles long, is crossed by I-71 on the north-south and by I-70 on the east-west. The western half is wider than the eastern half and the northern portion is almost twice the size of the southern part. At slow traffic times the major interstates provide a more direct route. Drivers should take the beltway during major sporting events for Ohio State. Interstate 670 is just over nine miles long and joins I-70 near the center of Columbus with I-270 on the east side of Columbus near Gahanna. In the Dayton area Interstate 675 travels for just over 26 miles joining I-75 near Miamisburg to I-70 near Medway.

Interstate 475 provides a north-south route along the western side of Toledo. This highway leaves I-75 and travels to the west for 17 miles before rejoining I-75. Also in Toledo is Interstate 280 which journeys just over 12 miles south after leaving I-75. It ends at I-80/I-90 which is the Ohio Turnpike. Interstate 680 in Youngstown connects I-80 with I-76 which is the Ohio Turnpike at that point. The highway of just over 16 miles provides a route through Youngstown. The last auxiliary is Interstate 470. This highway is seven miles in length and joins I-70 near Blaine with I-70 in Elm Grove, West Virginia.

Monday, December 1, 2014

On the Road: Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Usually I write about the places I see while I am traveling across the United States. I do not write about the attractions located near me because I am so used to being around them. Cuyahoga National Park is one of those places. Long before it became a national park, The Valley was a beautiful place for family and friends to hike, bike, sled and picnic.

(Photo credit: memyselfandtheinterstate.com)
This park, which is located between Akron and Cleveland, is the only national park in Ohio. This area became a national park in 2000 and has no entrance fee. One way to get an idea of the great beauty of the park is to take the train. The ride is reasonably priced and passengers can view rivers, swamps, forests and hillsides from the comfort of the train car which has refreshments available. Cyclists can get on the train with their bikes and pay $3.00 to ride the train one way. Then they can ride their bikes back to their cars.

A good place to begin a visit is in Peninsula. Signs will direct tourists to parking near the railroad track and river. The town has restaurants and small shops and also serves as a stop for the train. My preference is to go north from here. After viewing the lock for the old canal, visitors should turn around and hike the trail north without crossing over the bridge.

(Photo credit: memyselfandtheinterstate.com)

(Photo credit: memyselfandtheinterstate.com)

Rivers, swamps, old farms, covered bridges and old canal locks are just some of the attractions available for tourists. This park is a serene and a beautiful place to visit.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Spurs, Bypasses and Beltways: Ohio for Akron, Cincinnati and Cleveland

English: Blue Hen Falls in the Cuyahoga Valley...
English: Blue Hen Falls in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Ohio has twelve auxiliary highways divided among five interstates. In Akron Interstate 76 joins Interstate 77 for their journey together through the city. Before those two highways join, Interstate 277 leaves I-77 south of Akron from Exit 122 and travels west to join I-76 at Exit 18. Those drivers who wish to avoid any traffic in Akron can use the four miles of I-277 as an alternate route. In Cincinnati the 84 miles of Interstate 275 provide the beltway for the city. This interstate also travels to Kentucky and Indiana. The eastern side of the beltway is shorter; however, taking I-74, I-75 or I-71 during slow traffic times provides the faster route. Also in Cincinnati is Interstate 471 which uses its six miles to join I-71 to I-275. After leaving I-71 this highway crosses the Ohio River and travels into Kentucky.

Cleveland has three major highways traveling in a north-south direction. On the western side of the city is I-71. To the east of that road is I-77 which runs down the center of the city. East of those two highways is Interstate 271. The 40 miles of I-271 connect I-71 in Medina with I-90 in Willoughby. This interstate has a special feature for those driving through the area who do not wish to use any exit. Express lanes are the left lanes of each side as the highway travels through Cleveland. Drivers who utilize these lanes do not have to be bothered with the many vehicles coming on the road. Interstate 480 provides an east-west route along the southern part of Cleveland and its suburbs. Beginning at I-80, which is the Ohio Turnpike near Streetsboro, I-480 travels 42 miles and ends at I-80 which is the Ohio Turnpike near North Ridgeville.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

On the Road: Respect the Heat

On my trips to California I travel through the Mojave Desert and that is my favorite section of the trip. I try to travel through the desert early in the day because I do not want my poor Civic to have to work harder than it already has to do. Also the Mojave section of the trip west comes at the end of a cross country journey and I am unwilling to push the car more than is necessary.

Although driving through the desert is rough on the car, the experience can also have adverse effects the person driving the car. I try to be prepared for the heat. I dress in layers for the Mojave because I depart in the morning from Flagstaff which sometimes has snow on the ground. Even though I carry a lot of water in the car, I always stop to get some large cold bottles before I enter the desert. Since I get so dehydrated, I consume all the water by the time I get to Barstow.

As prepared as I am for this section of my journey, I do not exhibit such caution in regular life situations and I need to be better about that. I really try to keep hydrated, but sometimes I get caught up in projects and forget to have a drink. To solve this, I have taken to having bottles of diet green tea in the trunk of my car at all times. I prefer to drink cold tea, but if the bottle gets warm in the trunk, I can handle drinking warm tea better than I can handle drinking warm water. I also try to carry an energy bar with me. Sometimes I get involved in errands and forget to eat lunch. The bar is in my purse in case I need a small snack.

(Photo credit: memyselfandtheinterstate.com)

A couple months ago I was mowing the lawn and decided not to use the riding mower. I wanted to get some exercise and the breeze was nice. Near the end of the hour that I spent mowing I started to get sick and I could not imagine what was happening. My neighbor thought it might be heat exhaustion. When I researched the topic on the internet, I found my symptoms matched those for heat exhaustion. I forgot about that condition. I was prepared for the Mojave, but not for my own back yard!! The physical effects of dehydration and heat exhaustion are not limited to desert areas. These conditions can affect anyone at anytime if the person is not careful.

As I have mentioned many times, I also suffer from migraines related to glancing at the glare on the chrome of cars. That is the only time I ever get a headache. After I wrote my last entry about migraines, I received a message from a woman who told me the name of that type of headache is an ocular migraine. No doctor had ever given me that term in all these years! She told me where she found the information, so I will include a link to Healthline for those who are interested.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Spurs, Bypasses and Beltways: North Carolina

(Photo credit: memyselfandtheinterstate.com)
Interstate 40 in North Carolina has five auxiliary highways. Interstate 140 is seven miles long and is located in Wilmington. It connects US 17 to I-40. In Asheville Interstate 240 uses its nine miles to provide an alternate route through the city. I-240, which departs I-40 at Exit 46 and rejoins it at Exit 53, runs north of I-40.  Interstate 440 encircles most of Raleigh to form a bypass. It leaves I-40 near Cary and rejoins it in Raleigh after a trip of 16 miles. Interstate 40 forms the southern part of this circle. Running north of I-440 is the half circle of Interstate 540. It departs I-40 at Exit 283 and runs to the north and then to the east for 26 miles before joining US 64 at Knightdale. Almost six miles in length, Interstate 840, running in a north-south direction, joins I-40/I73 with I-40/I-85 in Greensboro.

Joining Interstate 85 in Charlotte with NC 115 in Huntersville is Interstate 485. This highway of 62 miles does not form a complete circle around Charlotte. It does not cover the northern section. Interstate 785 is just over two miles long and joins I-40 to US 70 in Greensboro. Leaving I-95 and traveling west is Interstate 295. It departs I-95 at Exit 58 and runs west to US 401. Interstate 495 is four miles long and joins I-440 in Raleigh to I-540 near Knightdale. Finally, Interstate 795, which is just over 25 miles long, connects US 70 in Goldsboro to I-95/US 264 in Wilson.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

On the Road: Stay Connected

People always ask me if I get lonely while I am driving by myself for 2500 miles. Oddly enough, I never have. I listen to music most of the time. When I stop for the night, I spend my time at the hotel in several ways.  I call people to let them know I have arrived safely at that day's destination. In addition, I check the internet to find out what I have missed in the news and just relax after a long drive. I am so connected to friends that I feel like they are with me.

I always take my laptop and my iPad with me when I travel. Plenty of places that have free Wi-Fi post a sign so travelers will know that it is available. When I am on the road, I do not take the time to stop during the day to try and find a signal. Since most hotels have free Wi-Fi, I check my computer when I stop for the night. When they need to contact me during the day, people usually call.

(Photo credit: memyselfandtheinterstate.com)

When I travel, I take my Mac so I can work on the blog and send email. I also have an iPad and use that for my HBO Go, books and games. I still take my Kindle because I can use it to read in the sun and at the beach. I would never leave any of them at home. Staying connected not only keeps me in contact with people, it also provides a valuable resource for me in researching my surroundings. For example, if I am not feeling well and need to figure what the problem is, I look up my symptoms on sites like Healthline or Livestrong. I also utilize sites like TripAdvisor to read the reviews of hotels I am considering. Google Maps lets me view areas where I want to walk, hike or shop.

I also have a smartphone, so I can use that if I need to check anything online when I stop for gas. When I first got an iPhone and was making a trip years ago, I did not have a car charger for the phone because Apple had not released them yet for that model. Fortunately, USA Today had an article about what to do with an old smart phone and offered a great suggestion. Since any old cell phone is capable of making 911 calls, I took my old phone and its charger with me. If I had been in an emergency situation, all I would have had to do is plug in the old cell and call 911 if my iPhone ran out of juice. Since my trip, Apple has now released the car charger, but I will still have the old cell phone with me on trips just in case.

(Photo taken in 2014)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Spurs, Bypasses and Beltways: New York I-90

View north on Interstate 390 from NY 36 near S...
View north on Interstate 390 from NY 36 near Sonyea, NY, USA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
New York is the only state to have nine auxiliary highways for one interstate. These roads are a complete set of spurs for Interstate 90, which is known as the New York Thruway. Interstate 190 is just over 28 miles long. It begins its journey south from Highway 405 in Lewiston at the border of Canada and runs to the east of Niagara Falls. It crosses the Niagara East River twice and continues south through Buffalo. It ends at I-90 in Cheektowaga. Also in the Buffalo area is Interstate 290 which is ten miles long. It connects I-190 in Tonawanda to I-90 in Williamsville. Just over six miles is Interstate 990 which is located in Amherst and joins I-190 to NY 263 by Lockport. This highway does not connect directly to I-90.

In the Rochester area is Interstate 390 which 76 miles to the west of the city. This highway joins I-86 to I-490. Interstate 490, which is just over 37 miles long, departs I-90 at Bergen and rejoins it at Victor. Finally, the short five miles of Interstate 590 connect I-390 to I-490. This highway does not connect directly to I-90.

Interstate 690 in Syracuse uses its 14 miles to join I-90 to I-481. It runs parallel to the south of I-90. Traveling for less than three miles in Utica is Interstate 790.  This highway connects I-90 to NY 5A. Connecting I-90 in Rotterdam to I-90 in Guilderland are the ten miles of Interstate 890.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

On the Road: Taking Many Many Photos

I have to be honest. I love taking photos. With digital cameras I can shoot as many photos as I want in any situation. When I am on a trip, I take all my cameras with me and I shoot hundreds of pictures. When I travel, I never know if I will return to the area, so I take the opportunity to photograph everything. I take my Big Canon with its two lenses and my little Canon. The Big Canon is the one I use when I know I am going to a scenic location. I take the time to shoot photos with each of the two lenses and really just play around to see if I can shoot a really outstanding picture. If I am going to an event where I do not want to take my camera bag, I take the Little Canon. This camera will fit inside my purse and I have had it long enough that I know its capabilities.

(Photo credit: memyselfandtheinterstate.com)
My newest camera is my Nikon which I purchased this year. We were going kayaking and I needed a waterproof camera. I figured the money was well-spent because I was also hiking in dusty conditions caused by the drought and I was afraid the dust could damage a regular camera. Fortunately, Target decided to mark down the model of camera I wanted to half-price. I purchased a floating camera strap for the Nikon, so my waterproof camera would not end up at the bottom of the Pacific. It has proved to be a great camera in rugged conditions.

I also use the camera on my iPhone, but not as much as the others. I keep forgetting the phone has a camera!! Sometimes when I am out with all my cameras, I take photos of the same object with each different camera. I know the order in which I took the pictures, but no one else would be able to tell the difference because they are all of great quality.

Although I put all my photos on my computer, I never delete them from the cards. I do this just in case something happens to the computer. They are also stored on a hard drive. I still do these things even though the photos are in the iCloud. It is an old habit! I also do a big organization of my photos once year. At that time I email the photos of people I have met during that year to those individuals. I do this in case I forgot to send them earlier. Forgetting about the people I met on vacation is easy to do when I return to my regular routine at home. The yearly photo organization is a good way to bring back those vacation memories.

One last area is the camera bag. Every time Target marks down a camera bag to a ridiculously low price, I have to buy it! Each camera has its own bag, but this year Target marked down one of their large bags, so my cameras are all together with their accessories in a well-padded environment!!!

(Photo taken in 2014)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Spurs, Bypasses and Beltways: New York's I-78, I-81, I-85 and I-87

English: Sign for I-678 south on the exit ramp...
English: Sign for I-678 south on the exit ramp from I-278 east. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Interstate 78 has four auxiliary highways in New York. Interstate 278, which is 36 miles long, joins the Bruckner Interchange in the Bronx with US 1 in Linden, New Jersey. With just over two miles of highway, Interstate 478 connects I-278 in Brooklyn with NY 9A in Manhattan. Interstate 678 uses its 14 miles to link John F. Kennedy International Airport to the Bruckner Interchange in the Bronx. Finally, less than a mile of Interstate 878 joins I-678 to the JFK Expressway.

Interstate 481 leaves I-81 at Exit 29 in Syracuse and travels east and then south for 15 miles until it rejoins I-81 at Exit 16A. The five miles of Interstate 781 connect I-81 at Exit 48A to the main gate of Fort Drum. Near White Plains Interstate 684 travels 28 miles to join I-287 to NY 22. Interstate 287 connects I-95 in Rye with I-95 in Edison, New Jersey. Its 99 miles forms a partial beltway around New York City. Just over one mile long is Interstate 587 which links I-87 to NY 28 in Kingston. Connecting I-87 to the NY 7 in Green Island is the ten miles of Interstate 787.

Interstate 95 has four auxiliary highways in New York. Linking the Bruckner Interchange with NY 25 in Queens, Interstate 295 is nine miles long. Interstate 495 is 71 miles in length and links the Queens Midtown Tunnel in Manhattan to CR 58 in Riverhead. Connecting I-95 to I-295 in the Bronx is Interstate 695 which is just over a mile long. Also just over a mile in length is Interstate 895 which connects I-95 to I-278 in the Bronx.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

On the Road: Do Not Disturb

English: iphone Deutsch: iphone
English: iphone  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
When I am on the road, people like to call and check up on me. I am grateful for the concern, but I will not talk on the cell phone while I am driving through a city or through a tricky section of road. However, I am happy to talk to people when I am driving on a straight stretch. Although I have people who know the sections of the interstate I will be driving for the day, no one ever really knows when I stop for a rest or knows where I am at any given time. Most people do not know what time zone I am in and calls can come at an inopportune time. While communication comes because people are concerned, the calls can disturb my sleep if I stop early to get some sleep.

This situation has happened to me in the past, but not on my recent trips. Now I have the iPhone that has a "Do Not Disturb" feature which I was able to utilize on recent trips. I can set my phone to block calls for a certain length of time, but people who are listed in the Favorites section of my contact list will still have their calls sent through to ring. I made sure to have only my daughter in this section, so her calls or texts will always get through to me.  All other texts and calls will be displayed when I turn off the "Do Not Disturb" feature. For example, someone I knew sent me birthday wishes from Akron at just before 7:00 in the morning East Coast time. My phone received that message at 3:55 Pacific Time, but the text did not wake me because I had the "Do Not Disturb" feature activated.

While on the subject of the iPhone, I was able to take advantage of a great feature. On past trips I had to rely on someone to keep me informed about the weather. I do not text and drive nor do I try to read the screen of my phone while I am driving. I do that for safety reasons, but also because I am incapable of performing those two functions at once. With this phone all I had to do was press one button and ask, "Siri, what is the weather in St. Louis?" Siri told me what the weather conditions were. This was so great and really added to the safety of the trip. When I am traveling alone, I do not have another person to find information for me. Now I have Siri to serve as a valuable assistant.

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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Spurs, Bypasses and Beltways: New Hampshire and New Jersey

English: A view of the city of Manchester, New...
English: A view of the city of Manchester, New Hampshire when traveling southbound on I-293 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
When it journeys south in New Hampshire, Interstate 93 veers to the east to travel on the east side of Manchester and then returns to its original path. Taking its place for 12 miles is Interstate 293. This highway is part of the F. E. Everett Turnpike. When it becomes I-293, the turnpike does not have a toll. Interstate 393 is in Concord and its five miles connects I-93 with NH 9 in Pembroke.

In New Jersey three auxiliaries for three main interstates are located in the Newark area. Interstate 278 begins its journey east in Linden, New Jersey. It travels 35.6 miles to the Bronx, New York. The 18 miles of Interstate 280 run from I-80 east to I-95 and the Jersey Turnpike near Newark. Forming a partial beltway around New York City is Interstate 287. It begins at I-95 in Edison, New Jersey and travels 98 miles to I-95 in Rye, New York.

Interstate 195 travels across the state of New Jersey. This highway begins at I-295 near White Horse and runs east for 98 miles before ending at Route 34. The final auxiliary is Interstate 295 which begins at I-95 and US 1 and ends in Delaware in New Castle at I-95 and I-495. The length of this highway is 73.50 miles.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Travel Tales: Shopping in West San Fernando Valley

This year I had the opportunity to stay in the west San Fernando Valley. I used to shop in this area about once every six weeks when I stayed in Burbank, but now I had the opportunity to really explore it. The main mall in this area is Westfield Topanga which is a double-decker mall in Canoga Park that went through a major renovation about six years ago. Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Macy's and Target anchor the complex. Also located conveniently across the street is a Nordstrom Rack. When future expansion plans for this complex to link to others are completed, Topanga will be the largest mall area in California.

(Photo Credit: memyselfandtheinterstate.com)

Traveling west on Victory away from this mall, shoppers will encounter the Fallbrook shopping area. This is not as fancy as the mall, but it does have probably the largest TJ Maxx in the Valley. Trader Joe's, Kohl's, Ulta, Walmart, Burlington, Home Depot and Target are also located in this complex. Home Goods is located across the street.

One of the cool aspects of the Woodland Hills side of the Valley is that Goodwill has taken their considerable number of books and put them in stores devoted entirely to books, cds and dvds. Three of these stores are located near the mall. The best of these is at 6415 Platt at the intersection of Platt and Victory. Travel west on Victory away from the mall. At the intersection of Platt, drive through the intersection and turn into the small plaza on the corner. The store is nicely designed and organized as a small bookstore and is a delight for shopping for books.

For those who desire an outlet mall experience, drive west through Calabasas and Thousand Oaks on the 101. Get off on the Las Posas Road exit and turn left and go over the bridge. At Ventura take a right and the Camarillo Premium Outlet buildings will be on the right. We always park at the newer section that has the Neiman Marcus Outlet and walk over to the older section. On a crowded day the older section which is designed like a figure eight is a nightmare for parking.

Ventura Blvd. has many unique shops along its entire length. Major stores like Marshall's are also located on Ventura. The T.J. Maxx in Tarzana is in a great complex with Whole Foods and has a convenient parking deck with free parking in the back.

Driving south on Topanga as it winds its way to the Pacific, one will encounter some small and unusual shops in the canyon. Topanga ends at Pacific Coast Highway and vacationers can visit the many shops in Malibu and along the coast.

(Photo taken in 2014 in Santa Monica Mountains)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Spurs, Bypasses and Beltways: Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska and Nevada

The Missouri River at Omaha, Nebraska, USA Pho...
The Missouri River at Omaha, Nebraska, USA Photo by Scott Redd (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Mississippi has two short auxiliary highways. Interstate 110 uses its four miles to connect Interstate 10 to Biloxi. In Jackson Interstate 220 leaves I-20 at Exit 41 and travels north for 12 miles to I-55 at Exit 104.

Interstate 115 in Montana is just over one mile in length and joins I-15/I-90 to Iron Street in Butte. Connecting I-15 to Business I-15/US 89 is the mile of Interstate 315 in Great Falls.

The three auxiliaries of Interstate 80 are in Nebraska. Just over three miles of Interstate 180 depart I-80 at Exit 401 and travel south to Lincoln. Interstate 480 leaves I-80 at Exit 452 in Omaha and travels north and then east for five miles to end at I-29 in Council Bluffs, Iowa. The longest of these three is Interstate 680. It leaves I-80 in Omaha at Exit 446 and travels north and then east for 43 miles before crossing the Missouri River and ending at Exit 61 on I-29 in Iowa.

The Las Vegas area has the two auxiliaries of Interstate 15. Joining I-15 at Exit 34 in Paradise with I-515 at Exit 61 in Henderson is the 13 miles of Interstate 215. It travels in an east-west direction. The 21 miles of Interstate 515 connect US 93 in Henderson with I-15 in Las Vegas.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Travel Tales: Shopping around the East San Fernando Valley area

For the last ten years, I have been staying in Burbank or Los Angeles when I vacation in California, so I have done a lot of shopping in the eastern San Fernando Valley area. Other travelers always ask me where to shop to save money, so I thought I would provide a quick guide.

I shop at three places for groceries. First is Trader Joe's on Riverside in Toluca Lake. The parking lot is small, so I park on Forman, which is the next street to the west. This grocery store is within walking distance of the hotel where I stay and I get most of my food here. Another place where I buy groceries is Sam's Club. The best Sam's Club is located in Santa Clarita which is north of Burbank. It is right next to a WalMart SuperCenter. (Go north on the 5 and then take the 14. Get off on Golden Valley and turn left. Eventually it will be on the left.) The final place I get groceries is Target. The selection of groceries at the Targets in this area is much better than what we have in some of the  Targets in Ohio.

Santa Clarita (Photo Credit: memyselfandtheinterstate.com)

My main place to shop for most things I need is Target. Many locations are available in this area, but the one with the most beautiful view is located in Santa Clarita. (Use the same directions given above, but turn right at the Golden Valley exit. Target is in the shopping complex to the left.) The view of the mountains from the Target parking lot is amazing and benches are provided. The above photo was taken in that parking area. This is one of two Targets in the Santa Clarita area. In Burbank the Target is located in the Empire Center. This one is convenient, but also the most expensive one. A triple decker Target is located in the Glendale Galleria mall. Another store that is located at Victory and Vineland is not as crowded as some of the other Targets. Finally, a double decker Target is located on Van Nuys just north of the Burbank Blvd. exit on the 405.

Our favorite place for clothes is Nordstrom Rack, which is the outlet for Nordstrom. One is located at the Empire Center. Target, Lowe's, Marshalls, TJ Maxx, Nordstrom Rack, Best Buy, Ulta and Michael's are all located at the Empire Center and that is very convenient. One word of caution for this center is to expect problems with parking. Finding a spot can be nearly impossible on the weekends. Also the traffic in and around the area is heavy and slow on Saturday and Sunday.

Those in the mood for shopping at a mall should head for the Glendale Galleria. This mall has been recently renovated and is home to Bloomingdales, Macy's, Penny's and the triple decker Target. Across the street from the mall is the Americana. This upscale shopping area has a beautiful fountain with water that dances to the music and a trolley car that runs on a track around the area. Kate Spade, Nordstrom and Tiffany's are some of the stores in this beautiful complex. Shoppers pay for parking at the Americana, but parking is free at the Galleria which is just across the street.

I always make sure I check directions before I go shopping in any large city and travel at a time when I can avoid the heaviest traffic. I like to keep shopping as stress-free as possible, so I am willing to research the situation ahead of time.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Spurs, Bypasses and Beltways: Missouri

English: Aerial view of Kansas City, Kansas, l...
English: Aerial view of Kansas City, Kansas, looking southwest. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The auxiliary interstates in the state of Missouri are located in the St. Louis area and in the Kansas City area. Interstate 170 in St. Louis is just over 11 miles long and leaves I-270 at Exit 26A to travel south to I-64 in Richmond Heights.

Providing a bypass for St. Louis is Interstate 270. Interstate 70 dips south into St. Louis. Those drivers who are passing through the area and wish to avoid the city should travel I-270 which runs north of the city from Exit 232 on I-70 in Missouri to Exit 15 at I-70 in Illinois. That is not all for this highway. At Exit 232 I-270 also continues south completing its 51 miles at the juncture of I-55 and I-255 near Mehlville. Another highway that joins I-270 to complete a beltway around St. Louis is Interstate 255. It travels 31 miles from I-55/I-270 near Mehlville to I-270 near Pontoon Beach, Illinois.

Kansas City is crossed by many interstates in both Kansas and Missouri. Interstate 470 leaves I-70 at Exit 15 A/B and travels south and then west for 17 miles before ending at I-435. With less than three miles Interstate 670 joins I-70 in Kansas City, Missouri with Kansas City, Kansas to provide another route across the Kansas River near the Kemper Arena.  Interstate 635 is 13 miles long and connects I-35 with I-29. Forming the beltway around Kansas City in both Kansas and Missouri is Interstate 435 which is 81 miles in length. Finally, north of Kansas City Interstate 229  forms a 15-mile bypass for St. Joseph.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

On the Road: SigAlerts and Helicopters

Most major cities will have websites and apps to let motorists know when a traffic situation or accident will disrupt the flow of traffic for a lengthy period of time. In cities like Los Angeles and New York City, SigAlert will let drivers know the location of the problem and how far the backup extends. Other options for a traveler to use to check a route are the traffic section of Google Maps or a traffic app like Waze.

Consulting apps and websites before embarking on a journey may not be able to show a driver an accident that has just happened. That is why motorists should keep an eye on the sky. In Los Angeles another signal to alert drivers that something is wrong is the presence of helicopters. Traffic copters will circle around an accident area, so I always dread when I notice helicopters over the interstate. If I see them in time and notice the slowing of traffic, I will get off the highway at the next exit so I will not spend my time sitting in traffic congestion.

(Photo credit: memyselfandtheinterstate.com)

Car chases occur frequently in California and are televised by helicopters. These chases also cause traffic problems. One day I was watching television and recognized the area where the car chase was taking place near Santa Clarita. I decided to watch the situation as the police continued to follow the car. I kept the tv on while I did other things. After a while, I heard the helicopters overhead. When I looked at the television,  I noticed the car chase was on the street where I was staying. I went out on the balcony to look and that was when I heard the gun shots. The police were shooting at the motorist. The street was closed down and traffic around the area came to a halt.

I have seen quite a few other traffic situations that have impeded the flow of traffic and brought out the helicopters. If they are after a fugitive, the police will send a copter to hover over the area to give them any assistance they may require. One night I was staying in a really nice neighborhood and heard the helicopters overhead. The police were on a speaker telling the person in a neighboring house to come out with his hands up in the air. This situation went on for over an hour and prevented vehicles from entering the neighborhood. Another example of the use of helicopters in California is to help fight and monitor fires. Any situation involving firefighting will seriously affect traffic in the area. Once again the presence of helicopters should alert any motorist to be vigilant that something is wrong in that area. While keeping eyes on the road is a good idea, drivers would be wise to check the sky as well!

(Photo taken in 2014)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Spurs, Bypasses and Beltways: Michigan and Minnesota

English: Lighthouse of Benton Harbor and St. J...
English: Lighthouse of Benton Harbor and St. Joseph (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Detroit area in Michigan has the most auxiliary highways. Interstate 275 begins at I-75 north of Monroe and travels 35 miles north to I-96 near Farmington Hills. Interstate 375 uses its one mile to link the Civic Center near the Detroit River to I-75. Interstate 696 is just under 30 miles long and leaves I-94 at Exit 229 to travel west to I-96.

In Flint Interstate 475 leaves I-75 at Exit 125 and travels to the east and then south for 17 miles. It rejoins I-75 south of Flint after passing over I-69. Interstate 675 in Saginaw leaves I-75 at Exit 155 and travels southwest and then east for eight miles before joining I-75 at Exit 150. The 12 miles of Interstate 496 in Lansing begin their journey at Exit 95 on I-96. I-496 travels directly east and then takes a turn directly south at Red Cedar. It rejoins I-96 at Exit 106. Finally, Interstate 196 begins its journey west and then south when it departs I-96 at Exit 37 in Grand Rapids. It travels 81 miles and ends in Benton Harbor where it joins I-94.

Three of the four auxiliary interstates in Minnesota are located in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. Interstate 394 is ten miles in length and links I-494 to 4th Street in Minneapolis. Leaving I-94 at Exit 216 is Interstate 494 that travels to the south along the western side of Minneapolis before making a right turn to the east at Eden Prairie. After taking another turn to the north at the Mississippi River, this highway rejoins I-94 at Exit 249. At this exit I-494 becomes Interstate 694 which travels 31 miles north and then west to join I-494 at Exit 216. The two together create a beltway around the Minneapolis/St. Paul area with I-494 on the Minneapolis side and I-694 on the St. Paul side. Interstate 535 in Duluth uses its three miles to connect I-35 to US 53 in Superior, Wisconsin.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

On the Road: Know the Old Roads

Last week I went to do some shopping and took the interstate to get to my destination. After a couple exits the traffic began to slow down significantly.  Then I saw the sea of red tail lights ahead of me and decided I needed to take an alternate route since I absolutely hate waiting in traffic. Fortunately, I was by an exit so when the traffic stopped completely, I was able to get off the interstate and take the back roads until I could get back on the interstate at another entrance.

Before the Interstate Highway System was built, drivers had other highways they utilized to get to their destinations. Most of these highways still exist and in some places they run parallel to the interstates. Before I travel, I look at the atlas to determine which interstates I will be traveling, but I also check to see what other highways run in the same direction. An accident that involves a fatality or a semi that has jackknifed can paralyze interstate traffic for an hour or more. When I have many hours to drive before I stop for the night, I do not want to spend my time sitting in traffic. I need to be aware of alternate routes.

I was driving through Indianapolis late one night. I saw a highway advisory sign that said when the lights were flashing, motorists should turn to a certain radio channel. I realized the lights were flashing, but by that time I had driven past the sign. When I am driving by myself, I cannot try to quickly find a radio station while trying to drive safely in the dark. All cars were directed off the interstate at the next exit and since I did not know which way to go, I followed the truckers. We went through small town after small town and I did not feel safe enough to pull over to check the map to see where I was. I had to trust that the truckers knew what was happening. After a long time of driving, the truckers all made a turn and I followed them back to the interstate.

When I got home, I checked the map to see what road I had to travel for the detour. It was US 40 which is a highway that that runs from New Jersey to Utah. Sometimes this highway runs parallel to the interstate and sometimes it runs as a part of the interstate. Motorists can tell by the addition of a highway sign with the interstate sign. I-70, I-64, I-68 and I-95 are all involved at some point with US 40 which is sometimes known as the National Road. In the photo one can see that Interstate 70 runs south of US 40 at some points and in other areas north of it. In the future all I have to do is check the map quickly to see which way I need to turn at the exit if I ever have leave the interstate in case of a backup or closure. I already know that US 40 is an option for me if I need to use it.

In South Carolina, motorists had to use US 21 before construction of Interstate 77 was completed. This highway was a more direct route, but ran through many small towns where drivers had to significantly reduce their speed. US 21 still provides an alternate route for I-77 if a situation warrants the use of it. At various points in Georgia and South Carolina US 17 runs close to Interstate 95.

Every state has alternate routes to the interstate that drivers can use. When I travel I prefer to use the interstates, but I always research before each day's drive to have a working knowledge of what alternate highways I can use if I need to do so.

(Photo taken in 2014)

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Spurs, Bypasses and Beltways: Massachusetts

The Harbor Towers (far right) are very promine...
The Harbor Towers (far right) are very prominent in the Boston skyline when viewed from Boston Harbor (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Interstates 90, 91 and 95 all have auxiliary highways in Massachusetts. The longest of these is the 121 miles of Interstate 495 which is the bypass for the city of Boston. I-495, which departs from Interstate 95 as soon as that interstate enters Massachusetts, travels to the west of I-95 and links the cities of Lawrence, Chelmsford, Hudson, Franklin and Middleboro. It crosses I-95 in the south and continues east ending at I-195. Interstate 195, which is 40 miles long, begins in Providence, Rhode Island at I-95 and ends at I-495 near Wareham. Beginning at I-95 in Warwick, Rhode Island is Interstate 295 that travels 27 miles to the west of I-95 and ends in Attleboro, Massachusetts. Interstate 395 runs 66.63 miles from I-90 in Auburn to I-95 in East Lyme, Connecticut.

Interstate 190 is just over 19 miles and connects Route 2 in Leominster with I-290 in Worcester. The 20 miles of Interstate 290 connect I-90 to I-495. Finally, the last two auxiliary highways are very short. Interstate 291 is just over five miles long and joins I-91 to I-90. Linking I-91 to High Street in Holyoke is the less than five miles of Interstate 391.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Travel Tales: One Little Change & Sunglasses

The time has come for me to make a decision about this blog. All the interstates with one or two digit numbers have been covered and those with three digits have sixteen posts left.

I have been posting twice a week since December 19, 2011. Although this blog is fun to do, it is also hard work. Since I hate to see the blog be completed by the end of December, I am going to make a change. Starting today, I will post on Tuesdays, but not on Fridays. That change will give me at least five additional months of posts.

(Photo Credit: memyselfandtheinterstate.com)

When I buy sunglasses, I go to TJ Maxx or The Rack and pick up a pair I like. I also buy extra pairs of the same type since I wear sunglasses everyday. Over the years I had forgotten how important polarized sunglasses are especially when driving in the desert. When I went for my annual exam, the doctor suggested I wear the polarized type especially on my travels since they really cut down on glare. Glancing at shiny chrome triggers migraine headaches for me and that affects my vision. Although I am lucky I have learned the warning signs of a migraine, I still get nervous when those signs appear and I know I have about twenty minutes to eat a chocolate bar and take some Aleve. These sunglasses have really made a difference!!!

(Photo taken in 2014)

Friday, July 25, 2014

Spurs, Bypasses and Beltways: Maryland and Washington, D.C.

Interstate 95 is the main highway running through the Washington, D.C. and Baltimore area. Many auxiliary highways branch off I-95. In the Washington area Interstate 495 is the beltway around the city. This highway is 64 miles long and travels through Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. Traffic is this area is a nightmare at almost all times of the day. Drivers coming in on Interstate 270 will find taking the western side of the bypass to be the shorter option. Cutting across the eastern side of the Beltway is Interstate 295. This eight mile long highway stretches from Exit 2 of I-495/I-95 to I-695. Beginning at US 50 is Interstate 395 which travels for 13 miles to I-95 in Springfield, Virginia. Joining the Beltway north at Bethesda is Interstate 270 that travels 35 from I-70 at Frederick. This highway also has a spur of two miles by Bethesda. Finally, leaving I-270 and heading east for three miles is Interstate 370 which is located near Gaithersburg.

Jefferson Memorial (Photo Credit: memyselfandtheinterstate.com)

The beltway around Baltimore is Interstate 695. This highway of just over 51 miles connects outlying areas such as Carney, Towsen, Pikesville and Catonsville. Connecting Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport to I-95 is Interstate 195. This highway is five miles in length and ends near Catonsville. I-95 is linked to the Inner Harbor area by the two miles of Interstate 395. Joining the Baltimore Beltway to MD 140 in Reisterstown is Interstate 795 which is 9 miles long. Finally, at just over 11 miles, Interstate 895 joins I-95 at Elkridge with I-95 in Baltimore.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

On the Road: Defending Oneself

(Photo: memyselfandtheinterstate.com)
Fortunately, I have never been attacked while traveling, but many have been. In the past I have not carried a weapon of any kind and maybe that was foolish. The following are examples of what steps other travelers I have met on the road have taken to protect themselves.

One man kept a heavy pipe under his seat. He figured if anyone bothered him, he would use the pipe. If he were ever questioned by the police, he would just say he was just on the way to a hardware store to find pipe that was the same size as the one he had. He had never used the pipe, but it gave him peace of mind.

Many women carried pepper spray. Having the spray on their keychains made them feel they had a small chance against an attacker. They also felt that pepper spray was easily available to the public and thought they were well within the boundaries of the law to carry it.

Then I met the those individuals who felt it was necessary to carry a knife or a gun. I was getting my oil changed to return to Ohio last year and a casting agent was at the service station. We were talking about the recent incident of a woman being attacked at a nearby hotel in Los Angeles. The agent mentioned that she carried a gun in her purse. She thought I was foolish because I did not carry one especially since I drove cross country by myself. The woman had never used the gun, but having the gun in her car made her feel more secure.

Another guy from a small town in the South was scared to death to come to Los Angeles and had brought an arsenal of weapons with him. He was at the hotel pool bragging about how well prepared he was. I made it a point to steer clear of that guy!

This year I was once again having my car checked to drive back to Ohio. Another customer, who was a transpo driver in the entertainment industry, overheard the mechanic discussing my trip with me. He asked what I carried with me to defend myself. When I said I did not have anything, he insisted I get some pepper spray at the very least. He was genuinely concerned that I was unprepared to protect myself. His concern spurred me to action and I went to the store and bought pepper spray and a Swiss Army knife. Maybe I was foolish in the past, but now at least I have a little bit of protection. (By the way, the photo is not the best picture of the knife. I took this photo to show the knife and the beautiful flowers on my California guesthouse deck, but mainly to remind myself how great my nails looked on this last trip!)

(Photo taken in 2014)

Friday, July 18, 2014

Spurs, Bypasses and Beltways: Kentucky, Louisiana and Maine

Aerial view of Interstate 275 in the city of S...
Aerial view of Interstate 275 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The two of the three auxiliary highways in Kentucky are in Louisville. Interstate 264 is 23 miles long and links I-64 with I-71. I-264, which forms a loop around the south side of Louisville, is also known as the Georgia Davis Powers Expressway and the Henry Watterson Expressway. To the south of I-264 is Interstate 265. This highway, which is 24.48 miles long and connects I-65 with I-71, runs along the southern section of Louisville. It is also known as the Gene Snyder Expressway. The last route is Interstate 275. This highway of 82 miles is the beltway around Cincinnati, Ohio. The route of I-275 takes it to Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.

Interstate 220 in Louisiana is 18 miles in length and provides a bypass for traffic in Shreveport. It leaves I-20 at Exit 11 and travels north and east of I-20 before rejoining that interstate at Exit 26. Interstate 10 has several auxiliary highways. Interstate 110 is nine miles long and travels in a north-south direction. It begins at US 61 in Baton Rouge and runs south to I-10 joining it at Exit 155B. Providing a bypass of just over 12 miles in Lake Charles is Interstate 210. This highway travels south of I-10. Interstate 310, which is just over 11 miles long, begins at US 90 and ends at I-10 near Kenner. In New Orleans are several short highways that connect to I-10. Interstate 510, which is five miles long, connects LA 47 to I-10. At a length of just over four miles Interstate 610 provides an alternate route when I-10 dips to the south. Interstate 910 begins its journey of ten miles at US 90 Bus in Marrero and ends at I-10 in New Orleans.

Three of Maine's auxiliary highways are five miles or less each. Interstate 195 uses its two miles to connect I-95 to SR 5 in Saco. The five miles of Interstate 395 join I-95 to US 1 in Brewer. Interstate 495 is almost four miles and connects I-95 in Portland with I-295 in Falmouth. Finally, Interstate 295  provides an alternative to the Maine Turnpike. I-295 runs parallel to the southeast of the turnpike for 52 miles.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

On the Road: Love for the Honda Civic

Honda Civic
Honda Civic (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Driving cross country is not easy. I have to be vigilant about weather conditions, road conditions and the actions of other drivers. I really put my car through a lot. However, the real stress for my car begins when I arrive in the Los Angeles area. The question is will my Honda Civic return with me to Ohio?

One day this past winter it happened again. As I walked to my car, I noticed the note. I did not have to read it. I already knew what it said. The message was the same as all the other notes. The individual wanted to know if I would sell the Civic to him. I am grateful these people always respectfully ask to buy the car and they do not decide to steal it.

At first I was confused when I first got the notes. Why would anyone be interested in a Civic? I went from two Mustangs to a VW bug convertible to a minivan to an Explorer. After losing the Explorer in an accident, I wanted to get a more fuel efficient vehicle. The best cars at that time for that purpose were the Corolla and the Civic. I found a really good price on the Civic and the car had a sunroof which was important to me since our dog would be traveling with us. I remember when I bought the car that I was disappointed because the car seemed so plain. I wished it had been sportier looking, but at least I was saving money on gas. The hardest part of finding the car was getting a color other than white or silver, but after a lengthy search, I was successful in finding an extremely low mileage one in a nice color.

On every trip to California I would find notes on the car from people who wished to purchase the Civic. I could not understand why they would want it. When one person at my hotel saw me with my car, he asked if I minded if he drove it. Really? I hardly know you and you want me to just hand over the keys? He said he just wanted the opportunity to drive a Honda Civic on the highways in Los Angeles.

The notes and the requests happened so often that I decided to google to find out the attraction of the Civic....and there it was. The fans of The Fast and the Furious love the Honda Civic. Racing Civics is a big activity in California. I am glad I researched this because now I know if I need someone to shoot at a car behind me, all I have to do is open the sunroof for the passenger to fire. I also did not realize the Civic could fit under a semi. Learn something new everyday. Now I appreciate the coolness factor of the car.

I do want to point out that the Civic in the photo is not my car. My Civic has been an amazing car on my trips and I hope to keep it for several more years. Even though it is not a flashy car, the Civic is the best car I have ever owned. Over the years this car has saved me a lot of money on gas. On the highway I get 40 mpg. During the time I have owned this car, I have learned that the gas mileage is more important the the appearance of the car. My next car will also be as fuel efficient as possible. Someday I may decide to call the phone number on the next note that is left on the car. With my luck I feel fairly sure that when I finally decide to sell my car, no one will leave a note and I will just have to trade in the car!