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.