Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Travel Tales: Kayaking

(Photo credit: memyselfandtheinterstate.com)
Over the years I have been lucky enough to visit many attractions in the Los Angeles area. Last year my daughter thought of an amazing activity for us to experience. When we were in North Carolina, we went kayaking in Wrightsville Beach and we loved it. Now we would try kayaking in the Pacific Ocean.

We got up early and drove to Ventura to board the boat that would take us to the Channel Islands. We opted to have a guide since we had been kayaking only once in our lives. The trip was lengthy and we experienced large swells on the ocean. Finally we arrived at the Channel Islands. We made sure we had our water shoes and I had purchased a waterproof camera for the trip. The guides provided wet suits, helmets, Crocs and life jackets for us. Prior to entering the water, the guide went over safety issues. We would be entering caves and we were cautioned if a wave would push us against the wall of the cave, we should swim out of the cave and the guide would get our kayak for us. One person in our group went pale since he could not swim.

Kayaking 22 miles out in the Pacific is an incredible experience. The swells made paddling difficult, but not impossible. When we went in one of the caves, a swell came in and pushed someone's kayak against the wall. We were lucky to be able to get out of the cave without incident. When we paddled to the end of the island, we could see the swells were really high so we had to retrace our route. That was much easier since we were not paddling against the wind. When we returned to the point where we began our journey, our guide asked if anyone wanted to return to land. That was the only chance to do so before we started the second leg of the trip. Half of our party returned and our guide escorted them back to shore.

(Photo credit: memyselfandtheinterstate.com)
We were left with one other kayak containing a couple from Texas. Our guide had told us to hold onto the kelp until he came back. We were waiting for 45 minutes! Holding onto kelp in the cold Pacific Ocean in March is not easy!!! A seal popped up to see what we were doing and finally we decided to just hold the kayaks together. The woman in the other kayak noticed how far from shore we were. I think our guide noticed at the same time. He got back in the water and quickly rejoined us. We wanted to continue our journey and go around some large rocks down the shore. We could see the white caps breaking around the rocks, but our fearless leader said it would be okay. As we were starting, another kayaker paddled up to the guide and and quietly told him something. Our guide told us to stay there and he would be right back. Not again!! We waited and waited. The man from Texas mentioned the water was getting worse, so we decided to return to shore. One of the other guides onshore noticed us coming back and paddled out to us to lead us safely onto the shore.

Later we found out that several kayakers needed emergency help because they had gone around the rocks and could not paddle back against the waves. They were exhausted and our guide had to help them back to shore. That was the same area where we were headed. Extra guides had been on the island and they were able to communicate with all the other guides by using walkie-talkies. In retrospect, one of them should have been sent to be with us since no one in our group had ever been in a kayak in the Pacific. We were very lucky no one was hurt. Once we returned to the island, we hiked up to the cliffs to wait for the boat to depart for Ventura.

While we were hiking, we met a park employee. He asked how we had spent our visit and we told him. He asked if we had a guide for our trip and we said yes. He said that was a good choice on our part because in the past some people who did not have a guide had died in the water.  In our case, half a guide was better than none! Despite the challenges of the experience, kayaking in the Channel Islands was one of the greatest experiences in my life.

(Photo credit: memyselfandtheinterstate.com)

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Spurs, Bypasses and Beltways: Virginia

English: Sunrise at Virginia Beach
English: Sunrise at Virginia Beach (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The four auxiliary highways for Interstate 64 in the state of Virginia are each under 26 miles in length. Interstate 264 uses its 25 miles to travel from I-64 in Chesapeake to Parks Avenue in Virginia Beach.  The other highways in the Chesapeake area include Interstate 464. This highway of less than six miles joins I-64 to I-264 in Norfolk. The three miles of Interstate 564, which connects SR 337 to I-64 in Norfolk, provides a road to the Norfolk Naval Station.  Interstate 664 is 21 miles long. It leaves I-64 in Hampton and travels south by way of the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel to rejoin I-64 in Norfolk.This route runs to the east of the route of I-64 through Portsmouth.

Interstate 195 is located in Richmond. Its four miles connect SR 195 to I-64. Starting at Exit 177 on I-64 is Interstate 295. It travels to the east and then south for 53 miles before ending at Exit 46 of I-95 outside Petersburg. Interstate 395 begins its journey at I-95/I-495 in Springfield and travels 13 miles north to US 50 In Washington, D.C. The beltway around D.C. is Interstate 495 which does travel through Virginia.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

On the Road: Don't Talk to Strangers? Part 2

While vacationing away from home, some people can get lonely and needy. They might feel out of place and try to make a connection with someone just to alleviate their loneliness in an unfamiliar location. They need another individual to help them occupy their time when they get bored. People travel for many different reasons but not all of those reasons are good. When they stay in hotels, travelers can encounter people who should not be part of their lives.

(Photo credit: memyselfandtheinterstate.com)
Since I drive by myself on these cross country excursions, I have to be careful. I have no problem with trying to be nice to people when I travel, but I do make sure to protect myself in several ways. First, I never tell anyone where I really live by giving the name of a big city in the area that I know well enough to confidently discuss. Next, I do not give out my real email address. Instead I give out the address of a junk account that I do not frequently use. That way if I have a problem with the person, I can just shut down the account. Under no circumstances have I ever permitted anyone to have access to my hotel key. Finally, I have never permitted anyone I have met on vacation to borrow or drive my car. (I know that seems logical, but some people have been really upset with me when I won't let them drive my car. ) One thing I will do is give out my phone number. I may need to text or call a person. Blocking the caller's number if a problem with that person later is easy.

One fault of mine when I travel is I am too nice to people. Hotel staffers caution me about this all the time. I have tried to curb this behavior, but I am from a part of the country where people are usually friendly. However, not everyone is like that. When I am away from home, I keep in mind that anyone can make a good first impression. In a couple cases I realized that somebody I met was not one whose company I would like to keep on a long-term basis. I had my plan to get out of the situation gracefully. When I first meet a person, I try to find out what bothers that individual. Later if I find I need to end my association with that person, I will exhibit that behavior. For example, if someone says, "I can't stand it when people text while they are having a conversation. That drives me nuts!" I will agree. If I decide I do not want to continue contact with that person, then I would start texting all the time while I was talking. I know doing that will irritate the individual who will then want to sever the connection with me. That way the person feels in control by rejecting me and will not feel upset. Works every time.

Some may wonder how being nice can cause a problem. When I stayed at the hotel one year, I lived next to a woman who had just lost her job. I sat down with her to show her how she could manage her money and live more frugally. She ended up saving hundreds a month. She was very grateful and would continue to call to ask me questions even when I went back home. Since she was out of work and had too much free time, she began meddling in the business of the hotel and some of its residents. She felt she had to call me to let me know everything she was doing. I told her I did not need to hear these things and asked her to stop calling. Later that year when I returned to the hotel, she began to stalk me. If I was walking somewhere, I would notice a car following me. Any time I would go to the grocery store, she would be there. I finally had to go to the hotel management. The whole situation was very frightening and I was involved just because I was trying to help her.

As I said in a previous post, travelers will always interact with other people in their journeys, but they should be careful to protect themselves from individuals who are very different from the first image they present. I would caution any travelers to be alert to warning signs and get out of the situation if they feel uncomfortable.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Spurs, Bypasses and Beltways: Tennessee and Texas

San Antonio Riverwalk
San Antonio Riverwalk (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The four auxiliary highways in Tennessee connect to Interstate 40 and each one is less than 20 miles long. The first is Interstate 140 which leaves I-40/I-75 near Farragut and runs south and then east for 11 miles to US 129 near Alcoa. At just over 19 miles, Interstate 240 leaves I-40 at Exit 12B/C and travels south and then west to rejoin I-40 at Exit IE. This highway provides a bypass for Memphis. Taking I-40 during slow traffic times provides a shorter route. In Nashville Interstate 440 runs for eight miles along the southern part of the city. It leaves I-40 at Exit 206 and travels south and then east to join I-24 at Exit 53. Providing a bypass for I-40 in Knoxville is Interstate 640. It leaves I-40/I-75 at Exit 385 and travels north and then east for seven miles before rejoining I-40.

The shortest of the auxiliary highways in Texas is Interstate 110 which is less than a mile in length. It connects I-10 to the United States/Mexico border in El Paso and provides access to the Bridge of the Americas across the Rio Grande River. Forming the beltway around San Antonio is Interstate 410. This highway is almost 50 miles long. The shorter half of the beltway is the section that runs along the southern edge of the city. At slow traffic times taking I-10 or I-35 would provide shorter options. Interstate 610  is 38 miles long and forms the beltway around Houston. The larger part of the beltway runs south of I-10. Drivers who want to avoid driving through Houston will find the northern section to be such shorter. At slow traffic times I-10 is the most direct route.

Interstate 635 provides a partial bypass for Dallas. This highway begins at SH 121 and travels east and then south around Dallas. Its journey of 37 miles ends at Exit 480 on I-20. Finally, Interstate 820 forms a partial circle around around Fort Worth. This highway, which is just over 35 miles, leaves I-20 and travel north and then west before turning south to rejoin I-20.