Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Travel Tunes - Week 9

Tim is picking this week's Travel Tune...

Golden Earring is a Dutch band from the 60’s and 70’s. Formed in 1961, they’re still around today, doing shows. My pick for this week’s travel tunes is their big 1973 hit “Radar Love.” Singer Barry Hay almost sounds pre-David Lee Roth in this song, a bit bluesy and urgent. A song with lyrics about driving all night hits home with me since we do a lot of driving on our trips. One trip in particular crosses my mind, our first trip to New York when our flight was delayed and we drove from midnight to 4 in the morning from New Hampshire to Connecticut.

“Radar Love” is what most people remember them for here in the U.S., but they are not a one-hit wonder. It took awhile, but they charted here again with the excellent “Twilight Zone” in 1982. A tragic fire at a concert in New Jersey in 1984 and MTV’s refusal to play their latest video (featuring nudity and mature subject matter) caused the band to pull back to Europe. They have not played a gig in North America since.

It’s also a go-to song for producers who like to use it as a background song for driving, much like Steppenwolf’s “Born to be Wild.”   Showing that the by this time...still have it, the performance below is from 2006.  The band pretty much look like the old men I see each Sunday in the donut shop, but lead singer Hay is a little more middle aged looking  Still sound great, though.  So, let me present to you, “Radar Love” boy The Hague’s Gelden Earring.

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia
Barry Hay under CC-BY license

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Best of 2009 - Accessible Destination

It's amazing how accessible this destination is.  All subway stations, train stations, and buses were accessible.  Curb cuts on every corner and smooth sidewalks.  Very walkable (or rollable) and easy to get around.  Heck, even some of the ancient buildings have had accessibility added to them.  It's Munich, the capitol of Bavaria in southern Germany.  The only kink in the armor that I could see is that maybe every third tram was an inaccessible older model but they come by every few minutes and most of them are accessible with ramps deployed behind the driver.

My favorite accessible transit feature is the elevator at the Marienplatz takes you from the platform right up into the plaza itself, just in front of the Glockenspeil.

I know there has been a dark history here regarding people with disabilities but walking around Munich today, you wouldn't know it.  Wheelchairs abound and the people are very accepting and accomodating. 

I wish I could find an American city that is this friendly for wheelchairs.  You can see our report on Munich here.


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Best of 2009 - Airline

Consistency, on-time performance, no hidden fees, friendly and helpful staff, comfort, good prices, and good equipment handling are longtime hallmarks of this year's Airline of the Year - Southwest Airlines.

Long known as a no-frills, budget carrier Southwest, by being consistent, has evened it up with the legacy carriers. On a flight back home from Charlotte on US Air earlier this year, I couldn't help notice how this carrier had actually sunk below Southwest's supposedly "budget" on board entertainment, no pillows or blankets (however you could buy a travel pack for $14), no food, no free checked luggage, and a very worn looking cabin. US Air on board and airport staff were very helpful though.

On the other hand, Southwest had clean planes, friendly cabin staff, the best baggage handlers when it came to loading our power chair, free checked luggage, free snacks - on the longer flights even approaching a light meal, free use of pillows and blankets, no delays, and low prices.

The only knock I can think of is that there is no assigned seating on Southwest and it can be a free-for-all to find a seat. Get there early if you don't qualify for pre-boarding to get one of the first boarding passed - Southwest has three tiers, A, B, and C, and are handed out first-come, first-served. A boards first, B second, and C last.

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia
Dylan Ashe under CC-SA license

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

TRAVEL NEWS - San Antonio River Walk Access Improvements

Good - San Antonio River Walk more wheelchair friendly

Travel Tunes - Week 8 (Christmas Edition)

This one is for my dad, who passed on around eight years ago.  Not a real music lover, this is one of the few songs he ever admitted to listening to, let alone getting to him.  Stationed in bitter cold of Korea just after the war, he'd hear this song while not being able to go home for the holidays and it'd just tear him up inside.

"I'll be Home for Christmas," of course, talks about how the singer will be traveling home and all the things they're looking forward to.  In a melancholy melody, we hear about the snow, mistletoe, and presents under the tree.  Pretty simple, straightforward lyrics.  It's the last line that grabs people's hearts.

Written by Buck Ram, Kim Gannon and Walter Kent...and recorded just about every singer under the August, 1943, it's the original version we'll present this week by Bing Crosby, recorded in the fall of 1943 and peaking at number 3 on the charts.  Unfortunately, I can't find a clip of him actually singing it, so this montage will have to do.

Merry Christmas from The World on Wheels!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Best of 2009 - Hotels

Here are the best hotels we saw this year...

Best Chain - Springhill Suites by Marriott.  A two-room suite, a hot breakfast, good rates, and guaranteed accessibility.  We stayed at several locations and always had a good suite...a real suite too, I hate hotels that have a divider between the bed and sofa and call it a "suite" - a suite is more than one room, period...a good, hot breakfast with eggs; meat; very helpful and friendly staff, never more than around $20 more than Motel 6, decent locations, with all Marriott hotels...if an accessible room is available, you can guarantee it with a web reservation at 

If you need a roll-in shower, you'll need to call ahead of time to block it, so I'd deduct a half star for that, but otherwise, you really can't go wrong here.  Locations also have free wi-fi, and an ethernet connection in the room (also free) if the wi-fi is spotty. 

Best Independent hotel - Best Western Station House Inn, South Lake Tahoe, California.  I know Best Western calls itself the world's "largest hotel chain," but really it's just a confederation of independently owned inns.  Here in Lake Tahoe are about a half-dozen Best Westerns.  Some of you are already whining, "but it's on the South Shore!"  I'm with you's the best place to stay.  One block from the lake, with free beach passes; two blocks from the casinos; two blocks to the Heavenly Valley gondola and on a very quiet street - quite a rarity at this location.

Two-room suites with in-room spas are the prime rooms here and the management will provide a bath chair.  A large standard room with two queen beds is also available with a roll-in shower.
The best feature, even better than the heated pool and spa, is the restaurant.  Your room includes what has been called the best free hotel breakfast in the world.  It has been included in a number of top 10 lists.  You actually get to sit in the restaurant; get waited on by professional, experienced waiters; and get to choose from a number of huge breakfasts or choose that day's special.  The hotel, and the restaurant staff, are very proud of their breakfast service and it shows.  The rates are Southshore reasonable, the rooms very comfortable but I wish they'd have just one suite with a roll-in shower.  Still, the nicest place in Tahoe right now.

Honorable Mention - list thousands of private rental properties that you can search for wheelchair accessibility.  We got a gem of a flat in France with 3 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms, dining room, kitchen, living room, sattelite TV, wifi, two pools, free gated parking, two terraces in the heart of Cannes for $250 a nght (five people) and step-free access.  The only drawback is that you can't book on the site, your request is sent to the owner and you then negotiate with them directly.  I'd like to see you be able to book directly on the website.

Pictures courtesey Wikimedia
Terrence Ong under CC-SA license
Sidney and Russel Poore under CC-SA license

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Tim has started a new sports blog.  He'll still be contributing here also.  As some of you know, sports are Tim's passion and he got a degree in Broadcasting strictly to persue a career in sports media.  Til he gets another paying gig, he's going to be letting loose his passion on the new blog.

Check it out at Tim's Sports World.


Travel Tunes - Week 7

Willie Nelson is a well known wild man and is one of the founding fathers of country's Outlaw brand of music.  Famous for his hard living and endless days on the road, Willie put his experiences into song when recollecting a particularly hard tour with his drummer, Paul English.  It doesn't sound like it's giving too much away on the surface with lyrics like "almost busted in Loreto for reasons that I'd rather not disclose" but if you know anything about Willie, the next line does..."if you're staying in a hotel there then don't leave nothing in your clothes."  This is one of the great "lost weekend" variety of road songs, the title track of Nelson's "Me and Paul" album.

Last week I complained about the silly lyrics of  "Born to be Wild" but this week's song makes up for that.  You have the complete story by the end when you find out that they were too drunk at a show in Buffalo to even know if they went on stage or not.  This is the best video I can find of Willie performing it but it still seems like a lazy effort compared to the recording and other performances I've seen of it.  Still, you'll get the idea and if you want to here the polished result, you can download it here for 99 cents.

Without further ado, here's Willie Nelson and "Me and Paul."


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Travel Gear - The Christmas List

The conclusion to our European trip report will be posted tomorrow, in the meantime, here are some goodies we use that make our travel easier and more enjoyable.  They also make great Christmas presents.  The text links will take you to vendor sites.


The Flip UltraHD Camcorder is probably the hottest item for many people this year, with good reason. With 2 hours of recording time, no tapes or disks, extremely easy to use, this camcorder does some remarkable things at a great price. Great high definition pictures with one button use, this pocket-sized camera has been our go to camera for the videos on this site. Movies are easily downloaded via the pop-out USB jack that plugs into your computer. This also charges the onboard batteries...those batteries can also be replaced by normal AA batteries in a pinch.  I love this camera, especially being able to download and edit while on the road. The only downside is that you cannot use an external need to be within about 6 feet of your subject for decent sound, which brings us to our next item...

The Kodak Zi8 HD Pocket Video Camera is the next hottest camera out there.  This is at the top of my Christmas list.  Pretty much does everything the Flip does but add the bonus of being able to plug in an external mic for better live sound.  I've got one on order and I plan on this being our main camera with the Flip used for second unit photography.

Sima Universal Mini Tripod is great for traveling. Notice that everything on this page is pocket sized? That's essential for traveling, especially air travel when space is extremely limited. This little tripod is sturdy, has telescoping legs, and attaches in seconds. Put the legs together, and you've got a quick & dirty steady cam grip.

Adobe Audition 3 Upgrade this is the audio editing software we use on our videos.  Notice that this is the upgade edition, make sure you qualify before you buy.  The full version is quite expensive.  I love this for audio work, you can edit literally hundreds of track at a time for some deep, rich sound.  Many filters and restoration tools are included to polish up less-than-perfect sound.  A much stripped down alternative is Audacity, which you can download for free but beware of its bugs and limitations.  If you use Audacity, save your files often.


Apple iPod is Tim's favorite way to pass time either on the road or on the plane. He's got close to 700 songs on his and has only used up about 1/3 of the 8Gig capacity.

Inflatable travel pillow Neck Rest Support Cushion is nothing fancy, but great for the plane.  In our case, it also comes in handy as a back booster when Tim needs a little extra help to sit at the table for eating.

Microfleece Travel Blanket is handy since airlines don't like to hand out blankets and pillows any more. Besides the plane, you'd be amazed how often this comes in handy. Also good for a privacy screen when you've ended somewhere very public and no private facilities are available.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone.  May your shopping and traveling be stress free!


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Travel Tunes - Week 5

UPDATE:  On Christmas Eve we were visiting with our cousin Henry, who told us he got to meet Mr. Fernandez just a few days ago.  Henry shares this picture he took with Vicente Fernandez at Citywalk here in Los Angeles.

Picture courtesy of Henry Melgarejo
If you've only heard the tired, out-of-tune mariachis at a place like Olvera Street, you don't know how good the genre can be.  Mariachi is a type of Mexican music from the state of Jalisco.  It can be as simple as a couple of guys with guitars or can be as elaborate as a complete symphony orchestra.  When it's good, it's darn good.
One of our great memories is the duo that played for us at El Set Restaurant in Puerto Vallarta.  Very simple, but these two were just fantastic as they serenaded our party as the sun set.
By now, I'm sure you've guessed this week's tune is a mariachi tune.  It's one of the most famous songs of the type, "Guadalajara," which can easily be the official song of the capitol of Jalisco.
When I think of the first time we went to Puerto Vallarta, I'm reminded of the bus trip we took over the mountains to Guadalajara.  It starts off in steamy jungles, stops off at a bus station in a high mountain village for lunch (with some of the most nuclear salsa I've ever had), cruises through Tequila, before ending at the mammoth bus terminal in Guadalajara.  It's thrilling, scary, and beautiful.
This song reminds me of that trip.  Here is a full-orchestra treatment of the song, sung by a true Mexican national treasure with some great vocal theatrics, here's "Guadalajara" by the great Vicente Fernandez (click on the picture below, link opens new window - video is not embeddable).
Guadalajara by Vicente Fernandez

- Darryl