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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Travel Tunes - Week 24

As travelers, we've all been there...the temptation to just pack a bag, jump in the car, and go.  No destination, you'll find that out when you get there.  We've actually tried this and, as romantic as it sounds, it rarely works out as well as a planned trip does.  The attraction is still there and this week's Travel Tune captures that wanderlust perfectly.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia
Jean-Luc under CC-BY-SA License
Talking Heads was formed in New York City in 1974 by David Byrne, Tina Weymouth, and Chris Frantz who all attended the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence.  The next year they added Jerry Harrison to the line up. Their first performance was opening up for the Ramones at CBGB's.  Not having much success, the band teamed up with producer Brian Eno in 1978 and came out with their first hits, a cover of Al Green's Take Me To The River and their own homegrown Psycho Killer.  Later albums with Eno produced such hits at Once In A Lifetime and Life During Wartime ("this ain't no party, this ain't no disco, this ain't no foolin' around")

After their collaboration with Eno ended in 1982, David Byrne increasingly exerted control over the group.  It was this period that produced some huge hits like Burning Down The House and And She Was.  In 1985 the band recorded the Little Creatures album which is where this week's tune is taken from

Road To Nowhere seems more like a life journey as you examine the lyrics but it fits a random road trip perfectly.  Byrne thought the song repetitious and monotonous when he first wrote it so he added the acapella chorus at the beginning to break it up.  It has an infectious beat and happy melody.  In particular, I like the zydeco accordion that is played on the track...it reminds me of a Cajun restaurant we used to spend our Saturday nights at.  Pop this one on as soon as you break loose of the city and you'll find yourself in anticipation of what the road will bring.
Enjoy!

-Darryl

Thursday, April 22, 2010

TRANSIT REPORT - LONDON, ENGLAND 2010

How about a new transit report? OK, here's London...
Picture courtesy of Wikimedia
Nevilley under CC-BY-SA license
You definitely do NOT want to drive in London.  The congested traffic is a nightmare and you will pay dearly for the privilege via the congestion charge.  It is much easier and cheaper in this very expensive city to go via a public transportation option.
The Underground. Commonly called the Tube, it is a subway system run by Transport for London. London invented the subway so naturally they have the world's largest system. If you're able bodied, it goes just about everywhere. If you're in a wheelchair, you can still get to a lot of destinations. Heathrow, Westminster, Tower of London, and Waterloo are just a few of the accessible destinations. Picadilly Circus and Hyde Park are a couple of examples where there is no accessible station.

Each station has a barrier-free map available, also available online, that shows all accessible stations.  Make sure you look at the back of the map,  page 2 of the link above, where each station's gap is listed.  "Mind the Gap" is a very famous warning given to Tube riders in each station.  It is the difference in height between the platform and the train's floor.  It can range anywhere from nothing to an impossible 12 inches, so study this part of the map too.  You can find a station with ramps or lifts all the way down to the platform and then be stuck because the gap is too large to overcome.

Full cash fares start at £4.00 (about $8 - told you it's expensive!) and go up to £10.80 for the longest journeys. A peak-time day pass goes for £7.20 to £18.00. If you can ride off-peak, it's £5.60 to £14.20. Either option will save you major cash. Passes are also good on the buses. 7-day passes are also available at approximately 3 times the peak day-pass cost.

There is no official way for disabled visitors to get a discount (you can apply for a Freedom Pass but the process seems way too cumbersome for a visitor) but, unnofficially, we've found that the attendants in the Tube stations will let wheelchair users through the turnstyles at no charge...your mileage may vary.
Buses.  Also run by TfL, the buses go everywhere and are completely accessible with the exception of two lines, 9 and 15, which are run as "heritage" lines with historic double deckers that are not accessible.  The modern double decker buses are accessible.  Wheelchairs enter through the back door which has a ramp that is only able to be deployed when the front door is closed (here are instructions).  Make sure the driver sees you, knows that you want to board, and then wait at the back door for the ramp.  The doors will close but that does not mean the driver is leaving you, the ramp will then be deployed.  There is a spot adjacent to the door where you need to move your chair to and sit backward against the board in the space.  There are no tie-downs like you'd see on American buses but the board keeps you from moving towards the front of the bus and a bar holds the side of your chair.

Fare is £2.00.  Disabled riders are free, however your companions must pay the fare.  Fare inspectors frequently show up on buses and demand immediate payment of the £50.00 fine if caught without the proper fare (if you truly do not have the money, policy is to give you 21 days to pay...your fine is cut in half if you pay within that time).
National Rail is the umbrella company that oversees the many train companies working in Britain.  Trains make it easy to visit other towns, such as Bath, for a day trip.  You can look up fares and timetables at that link.  One big hurdle for disabled passengers is that you need to give 24 hours notice for guaranteed assistance at the station.  Doesn't sound bad but we thought we had done that, only to find out in Bath that our notice was only good for the training going there, not coming back.  We were almost denied boarding.  This compares to only 30 minutes notice for trains in France, a much more accomodating system in my mind.
Water Taxi.  Accessible boats ply the River Thames for a more leisurely way to get about.  There are two main companies, Thames Clippers and Thames Executive Charters.  Click on the links for more information.
Picture courtesy of Wikimedia
Unisouth under CC-BY-SA license
Taxis.  The ultimate accessible way to get around, all London taxicabs are required to be wheelchair accessible.  Hail from any location in the city.  Expect to pay a lot.  A trip from the airport to our hotel in Chelsea cost the equivalent of $110.

-Darryl

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Travel Tunes - Week 23

Trying to find a song to tie into this week's London theme was harder than I thought it would be.  The obvious choice, London Calling, is one that played in my head for weeks before we went on our first trip across the pond but doesn't really evoke the city for me now that I've been there.  The Pet Shop Boys' West End Girls is possible, but play it a couple of times and it soon gets tiring.  I love (I Don't Want To Go To) Chelsea by Elvis Costello but it might be a bit too obscure for some people.  One of my favorite movies set in London is John Landis' An American Werewolf in London, so Werewolves Of London by Warren Zevon was also considered.
Naw, when I think about it, the song that really evokes London for me is the Who's Who Are You which recounts a down and out drunks's attempt to get along without landing in jail with lyrics like "I woke up in a SoHo doorway, a policeman knew my name.  He said you can sleep at home tonight if you can get up and walk away."  Spend some late nights in London's pubs and you'll understand that line explicitly.

Anyway, here are Pete Townsend, Roger Daltrey and the late John Bonham and Keith Moon putting their lives in song for us here (warning - rough language)
 
-Enjoy

-Darryl

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Trip Planning 101 – The Final Chapter

See the previous installments:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Our Midwest baseball trip is coming together at a fast and furious pace.

We have now booked a rental car, which we will pick up in Cincinnati and use for the duration of the trip, which will finish in Kansas City. We’ve also booked hotel rooms at a Comfort Inn in Cincinnati, a Drury Inn in St. Louis and a Marriott Residence Inn in Kansas City. While the rental car and hotel reservations are an important part of a trip, they are not the only important element. The car, a full size, one-way rental, is costing $693.  I used a discount code that I found for Walmart shoppers that I found at Best-Car-Rental-Tips.com that got me a bigger discount than my dad's AAA card.

As of last Friday, the baseball tickets have been purchased. For all three games, I tried getting accessible seating as close to home plate as possible for one wheelchair and two companion seats. The surprising thing was unlike Angel Stadium, it was very easy to get more than one companion seat without any hassle at all. I just called each stadium and they were more than ready to help me out. Being an Angel fan, I can’t help thinking my own team screws me every time I want to buy seats there.

In Cincinnati, we will be going to a day game against the Chicago Cubs. We will be sitting along the first base side behind the Reds dugout, very close to the field. There will be a Mothers’ Day scarf giveaway that day. In St. Louis, we will be going to a game against the Houston Astros. We will be sitting in the Infield Redbird Club, which includes access to the Redbird Club, which seems to be a private restaurant and bar for this area. It’s kind of like sitting in a large suite, as I can gather. There will be no giveaway for that game. In Kansas City, we will be going to a game against the Chicago White Sox. We will be sitting in a dugout box very close to home plate. There will also be a women’s T-shirt giveaway as well as a postgame fireworks show, so it should be fun.

The most expensive ticket was $57 for the Redbird Club in St. Louis. This compares to the $60 I spent on pretty lousy seats at Seattle a couple of years ago so the baseball games…all with great seats…seem to be a bargain.

In addition to the games, we are also planning on seeing the Louisville Slugger Museum in Kentucky and the Indianapolis Raceway where the Indy 500 takes place.

Now everything is in place. The only thing left to do is go. I hope you’ve enjoyed this series and that it helps you to see how to plan your own trip. Don’t let your disability get in the way of seeing the world, I don’t and I enjoy every minute I’m on the road.

So, how does it all stack up to our original plans and budget?

Airfare: original budget $975 flying from LAX to Lousiville, KY. Final price: $861 flying from Ontario, CA to Cincinnati, OH. $106 under budget.

Hotels: original budget $1,130. Final price: $1,328. $198 over budget but each hotel includes a full breakfast and evening cocktail hour so we’ll make up the difference there.

Train tickets: $78 (from St. Louis to Kansas City). Will not be using the train. $78 under budget.

Rental Car: $693. Not in original budget but would replace flying from Cincinnati to St. Louis and the train plus it gives us a means of transportation at each location.

Baseball tickets: Original budget $180. Final price: $400. Was originally planning on buying cheap tickets but since I was able to get such premium seating at good prices, I decided to splurge a bit here.

The total cost, for three people over 11 days, is $3182 (not including food).  That works out to less than $100 per day for each person.

Thanks for joining me. I’m now very excited…this trip can’t come fast enough! It’s only three weeks away! Follow us on Facebook while we’re gone and watch for the trip report when we return.

-Tim
Copyright 2010 – Timothy Musick

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Travel Tunes - Week 22

Last week's New York trip was fantastic.  We've never had a bad time in this great city.  This week's tune is a tribute to New York, written and sung by the pride of Hicksville, New York (on Long Island), Billy Joel.
Picture courtesy of Wikimedia
minds-eye under CC-BY-SA license
Joel was a piano player at the Executive Room, a lounge on Wilshire Bl. in Los Angeles, when he started to get noticed.  It was this stint at the piano bar that inspired the song Piano Man.  After three years on the West Coast, he moved back to New York and wrote a whole album's worth of songs reflecting his feelings about going home.  This became the Turnstiles album, which went platinum.

Not big hit at first, New York State of Mind became a lot more popular after the 9/11 attacks.  Listen to this song and you're in the city.  Here he is, in concert at the old Yankee Stadium.  Enjoy.
-Darryl

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Travel Tunes - Week 21

John Fogerty took a 9 year break after his first unsuccessful attempt at a solo career following the breakup of Creedence Clearwater Revival.  When he finally came back with his Centerfield album, he was...as he says..."ready to play."

The acrimony wasn't completely behind him, however, as the song Zanz Can't Dance resulted in a lawsuit from Saul Zaentz, his former manager, suing him because his new song, Old Man Down the Road, sounded too much like his old CCR song Run Through the Jungle which Zaentz owned the rights to.

This led to an ironic twist...a songwriter (Fogerty) was being sued for plagarizing himself.
Fogerty took the stand with his guitar and played some selections to the jury demonstrating that songwriters just tend to have a style.  The case was dismissed, but that was not the end of it.

Fogerty countersued for attorneys fees and at first was denied because the court determined that he had not been sued in bad faith.  Appeals were filed and went all the way to the Supreme Court, who decided that the case was indeed frivolous and awarded the fees.

This week's song is the title track, Centerfield, which was Fogerty's way of, literally, telling us he's back and wants to be put in the game.  It's one of the great baseball themed tunes and you'll here it at many ballparks.  Describing a perfect sunny day at the ballpark and ready to play, it evokes just what so many of us like about the game. Today, it serves as our song as we celebrate the opening of the season with baseball trips taken and other trips to come.  Here is Fogerty, who uses a custom made baseball bat guitar, and Keith Urban singing Centerfield.
-Darryl

Sunday, April 4, 2010

BIRDS AND BLOOMS - Groundshaking Report!

On the day of the huge Easter quake down south (luckily, it seems there are few injuries and minor damage), we had 26 different birds today.  Nothing new compared to the last couple of lists, but here's some pictures.
This is the front yard rose garden which is filled with color right now.
Out back, here is a house finch hanging out with white capped sparrows.
Letty planted some basil in our whiskey barrel.
Here's a western bluebird that Letty is hoping will move into the bird house we put up.
This is an unknown miniature single rose next to our "Mr. Lincoln" rose.
This rose sprouted up as a volunteer (a weed that you decide to keep), we figure this is the bastard child of "Mr. Lincoln."
The hooded oriole has decided he can come to the feeder while we're on the patio now.  It took three weeks for him to get brave enough.
A goldfinch gets lunch at their feeder.
And we'll finish up with a new rose bloom that is perfect for Easter.  It's called "Peace."  And peace be with you, Happy Easter.

-Darryl

The Cocktail Hour - Skid Row Wine Bowl:Round 1


Welcome to the first round of the Skid Row Wine Bowl where we take an ultracheap wine...Two Buck Chuck (Charles Shaw)...and put it up against a higher rated moderately priced wine of the same variety.  We take the name for the cheap wine you'd get in the bad liquor stores along Skid Row.  At two dollars a bottle, Charles Shaw is cheaper than bottled water but it has a fairly good reputation among the public.
Made by Bronco Winery under owner Fred Franzia...Ernest Gallo's nephew...the grapes are sourced from wherever the company can get a good deal, transported to the winery in Napa, California (accounting for the Napa on the label), and made in huge quantities so they can be sold cheap.  They are exclusive to Trader Joe's and cost just $1.99 for a 750 ml bottle on the west coast.  Back east, the chain charges a dollar extra.

Truth be told, I've liked some of the Two Buck Chuck varietals over the years.  The Merlot and Syrah are not bad but most of their wine is mediocre and inconsistent.
Watch the Video - See Who Wins

For round 1, we are tasting Chardonnays.  Up against Chuck is the Northwoods Chardonnay, sourced from the Lodi and Delta areas of Central California and rated 82 points at corked.com.  We are doing a blind tasting, meaning we do not know what is in each glass.  I pour for Letty and she pours for me.  After the tasting, we reveal what is in each glass.  The wine is not swallowed so that our taste is not effected by the alcohol.  Each bottle was stored in the refridgerator for 20 minutes before being opened.

Charles Shaw is available at Trader Joe's for $1.99 or $2.99, depending on your location.

Northwoods is available at Fresh and Easy for $3.99 or $4.99 depending on if it is on sale.

So how did it go?  Watch the video above to find the winner of our first Skid Row Wine Bowl taste off.

(for those of you who are wondering why the credits are the way they are on the video, it is a tribute to  Engine Company 9 of the Los Angeles Fire Department.  See their "Skid Row" truck at the link.)

Cheers!

-Darryl
Copyright 2010 - Darryl Musick

Saturday, April 3, 2010

COMING SOON

Upcoming on The World on Wheels -
Starting tomorrow, we'll have two weeks of all new content with two extended Trip Reports, Cocktail Hours, Travel Tunes, and more.
Also, we have at least five trips planned for the remainder of the year, God willing and the creek don't rise.  If all goes well, we may even end the year (or maybe start the new year) with another new international trip.
We'll be leaving in a few days on the first of these trips and hope to have the Trip Report with video soon after we get back depending on typing and editing speed.
Thanks for visiting.  Please come back and stick around, and have a Happy Easter and Passover!

-Darryl