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Wednesday, April 25, 2012


When visiting my favorite city of San Francisco you cannot help but look out into the bay and see Alcatraz (Spanish for Pelican....named by explorer Juan Manuel de Ayala who discovered the "Rock" in 1775) Its been used for many things from a lighthouse during the California gold rush (1849) because of the increased shipping traffic. A fort during the American Civil War (1861) to protect the city from Confederate Raiders. A prison for soldiers convicted of desertion, theft, assault, rape and murder, and also by the army who used Alcatraz as a place of incarceration for Hopi, Apache and Modoc Indians captured during the many Indian Wars. But it was in 1934 is when it opened up as a Federal Penitentiary that most people know it as. It was a place where most of the 1545 inmates where considered "problems" in other prisons (from many escapes or troublemakers) To quote rule #5 "You are entitled to food, clothing, shelter and medical attention....anything else you get is a privilege" so as you walk the grounds you can sense that it was a place that would defeat your soul. In 1963 because of increased costs and maintenance the prison was closed and is now a National Park for all to take in this piece of iconic American history . So don't be disappointed as you need to book early, especially the spooky night tours either on-line, through your travel agent or if in the city you can go to Pier 33 near Fisherman's Wharf. Some interesting facts that i learned while touring the Rock; A) The Alcatraz lighthouse was the first on the Pacific Coast and has been in operation since 1854 B) After the great earthquake of 1906, 176 prisoners from San Fransisco jails were temporarily housed on Alcatraz C) Al Capones cell is unknown as part of his 4.5 years were spent in a hospital isolation ward D) Robert Stroud (Birdman of Alcatraz) had canaries at Leavenworth Penitentiary but never had birds at Alcatraz E) There were no executions on the Rock.....5 suicides and 8 murders F) Prisoners remained on Alcatraz on average 8-10 years G) Deer Mouse is the only land mammal on the Rock H) The sharks that swim around the island are sand sharks and not "man-eaters" KeyTip... to really enjoy the history experience, take advantage of the audio tours that is provided in all languages with individual headsets!!

D Block of Jail Cells

Administration Building

Friday, April 6, 2012

Las Vegas

Inside Circus Circus

The Mirage and its volcano show

Large aquarium in a casino lobby to view

Inside the Mandalay Bay Casino
Well fellow travelers, just got back from Sin City and here is my observations plus a few tips to save you some money & headaches. Now Vegas for me is the best and worst of America, first the good things are the locals showing their entrepreneurial skills, technology everywhere, engineering & architectural marvels, etc Then to the dark side.......on the strip it seems like everyone smoking or drinking no matter what time of the

Getting ready for the free fountain show at the Mirage
day, the hustlers who keep coming at you and of course the gambling with all its noise, no clocks and lack of daylight.  But look beyond that and you'll find some wonderful shows to attend and be in awe. I witnessed Elton John at Caesars Palace w/ his 8 piece band, one word.....magical.  Then at the Mirage took in Cirque du Soleil  production of the Beatles Love Songs ( winner of three Grammy Awards) a must for any fans of the Fab Four.  There is so much going on with these talented performers as they put their spin on the lyrics of Lennon & McCartney it almost takes you into their world of make believe. Finally to the other end of the spectrum, went and saw Motley Crue who played at the Joint inside the Hard Rock Hotel. What a great arena for anyone who likes this genre of music as there is lots of floor space, seated areas or even balcony table sections with bar service. Now i picked up some of my tickets through StubHub to be sure to get a seat, but if undecided what you want to see (as every Casino has shows) you will find on the strip legit vendors that sell the half price/sameday tickets for most of the events.

Everything BIG in Las Vegas hahahahha
Also just walking into the lobbies of most hotels or casinos you will find lots to see and do, some examples; Bellagio art collection, Caesars Palace fountains and aquarium, Excaliber's fun dungeon, Mirage and it's volcano show and so on and the best part? It is all for free.
Now when using taxi's find out from your concierge approx. how much to your venue as you don't want to be "long-hauled" (lol) as the locals call it. For example when i went to the Hard Rock it was under $10, but when i tired to return the driver said $20 flat rate! (so found a car who would use his meter) Also with hotels anything off the strip will be much cheaper and your "only" in most cases 1 to 2 blocks away from all the action so keep that in mind when booking. As for fine dining/shopping everyone has different tastes and spending limits, but i always check the local feed into your hotel TV and then the free literature available in the lobbies. Remember there is lots of sellers competing for your dollars and hey half the fun is sniffing out the deals!     KeyTip.... Finally because of the ebb and flow of so many people to the area any credit card purchase you do will need proof of  ID, so perhaps a drivers license which is much safer than your passport. In closing, enjoy your time in the desert and take advantage of what it has all to offer
Looking up.......on the ceiling of my hotel, way cool stuff

The strip from my helicopter returning from the Grand Canyon

Everything is easy to do in Vegas with money lol
Walking the Strip