Monday, September 28, 2009

The National Parks: America's Best Idea

Fifteen or more years ago, I was planning a trip to California, focused mainly on the Bay Area. A friend suggested that since we'd be a straight shot (ok, five hour straight shot) across the state from Yosemite National Park, that we should try to include it in our itinerary. How prophetic that suggestion was, because once I entered Yosemite, my life was changed forever. I had visited Great Smoky Mountains NP and Hot Springs NP as a kid but didn't appreciate them enough, and had a quickie of Acadia NP when I was at a conference in Maine, but nothing prepared me for this.

Seeing the breathtaking beauty of Yosemite's sweeping vistas and grand glacial granite formations, for the first time and every time, are moments where you feel the wonder of creation; and if you happen to believe in God as I do, it will inspire a deep feeling of gratitude for the creation he has bestowed upon us. Even an atheist or agnostic can easily appreciate the amazing marvels that nature has created, whether you think God had anything to do with it or not!

I have now visited Yosemite at least three times, as well as Mammoth Cave NP, Olympic NP, Yellowstone NP, Grand Teton NP, Zion NP, Bryce Canyon NP, Grand Canyon NP, Hawaii Volcanoes NP, Petrified Forest NP...many National Forests...quite a few National Monuments, including Wupatki, Walnut Canyon, Montezuma Castle, Sunset Crater, El Morro and El Malpais, Bandelier, Pearl Harbor, Fort Sumter, and others.

The first Mon Voyage Small Group Trip to percolate is a nine-day trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, timed to coincide with the peak of the annual Perseid meteor shower next August. Several people have taken advantage of my early bird discount offer and it looks like I'm down to about three rooms, which means the trip will definitely make!

The new Ken Burns documentary series on the parks is airing this week on most PBS stations and once it's done, all bets are off for 2010 summer accommodations at official park lodges. Below is the extended video preview (go to YouTube for the wider-screen version), and we've got the rooms. Grab 'em while they're hot!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Bollywood Road Trip: Part 3, Postscript

Just want to also publicly point out the chief offenders in this whole debacle, and that would be promoters Monty Syed and Rajender Singh. Nice going, guys. And a special bonus shout-out is sent to Jinesh Modi and Modi Creations, who spearheaded the souvenir photo effort.

The photos were promised in the hours and days immediately following the fair, once even accompanied by a promise of three hours!

I checked the photo website daily and nothing was there. Finally, attendees were notified at almost 11pm on Sept 5th, three weeks after the event, photos were now available. Instead of the $10 they were charging at the event, they were now listed at $18 (to include shipping, which we are forced to pay because they were not even available for pickup at the event). Just to add insult to injury, sometime between midnight of the 5th/6th and the afternoon of the 6th, they conveniently posted this message at the top of the site:
"Attn Houston carnival photo buyers: Due to high volume of images, we have to remove some images. So buy your photos on & before 5th Sept, 2009. After that each photo will cost $25. Sorry for inconvenience. All shipping will be processed on and after 1st Sept 2009."

Mind you, the photos were not even available for sale until almost midnight of the 5th/6th. So to top it off, they were multiplying the ripoff by implying that the photos had been available earlier.

The aforementioned message has now been removed, but ten days later (16 Sept, as this is finally posted), the PayPal link still doesn't work so you can't even buy the pictures. If you want to see mine, click here and then enter "saif kareena 92" in the search box. Someday i hope to be able to (grudgingly) buy the darn thing.