Holiday Gift Guide for Travelers 2021

Every year we receive unsolicited books, as well as interesting service and product samples. We read and test them, and those we like are recommended here in our annual Holiday Gift Guide. 

Out of nineteen entries this year, we are pleased to present the following thirteen items for your gift-giving consideration in 2021.

Audubon NATURE page-a-day Photo Gallery Calendar 2022

From the National Audubon Society, this calendar showcases the splendor of the natural world through hundreds of breathtaking photos. Coated photos are presented in a clear plastic presentation box. This selection will be appreciated by all nature lovers on your gift list. Available from Amazon and elsewhere.

1000 Places to See Before You Die

In all 1216 pages, 1,000 Places is packed with sacred ruins, coral reefs, hilltop villages, deserted beaches, wine trails, hidden islands, opera houses, wildlife preserves, castles, museums, and more. Each entry tells why it’s essential to visit and includes hotels, restaurants, and festivals to check out. Then come the completely updated must knows: websites, phone numbers, prices, best times to visit, etc.

1,000 Places to See Before You Die is the world’s bestselling travel book and a #1 New York Times bestseller. 1,000 Places reinvented the idea of a travel book as both a wish list and practical guide. As Newsweek wrote, it “tells you what’s beautiful, what’s fun, and what’s just unforgettable—everywhere on earth.” Available from Amazon and elsewhere.


Working from Home

Another great page-a-day calendar, this one with tips for improving creativity, productivity, and work-life balance while working remotely. A smart gift for colleagues, friends, or for your own home office! 

Whether WFH is a blessing or a struggle or somewhere in between, Working from Home is the gift that will give a year of inspiration, practical advice, and quotes. Take it with you when you travel. Many tips: Did you know that research shows that doodling during long phone calls does not distract you, but actually enhances your ability to stay focused? Plus hints for working productively side-by-side with spouses and kids. 

Travel in 2022 is also about hygiene, pain relief, and safety.

PlaneAire is serious about hygiene.

A new woman-owned brand guided by science and nature, with plant-based hygiene products suitable for adults and children. Allows you to sanitize harmful bacteria and germs on the go.

We recommend PlaneAire’s Travel Essentials Bundle, which includes one PlaneAire Clean Surface & Air Mist, one PlaneAire Wipes box of 12 individually wrapped sachets, and a PlaneAire® Hands Hand Sanitizer Blend of your choice, would be a very practical gift for the travel enthusiast.

PlaneAire Clean is a surface cleaner that can be sprayed directly on surfaces, or in the air to freshen and deodorize. Inspired by air travel and ideal for everyday use. PlaneAire Clean is made from 99% plant-based ingredients including six essential oils. There is no added alcohol or ammonia and is not tested on animals.

There’s too much information to put in this guide so check out all the great PlaneAire™ products on their website HERE

CBD Living Travel Products

Pain relief is important if you want to enjoy all the pleasures of travel. We were pleasantly surprised with the effectiveness of these products — they really work. And they have solved the problem of travelling with liquids on airplanes:

Seasoned travelers all know the difficulty of trying to transfer their favorite products into TSA-approved containers without spilling, or worse, having to leave them behind.
For the millions of people who rely on CBD to manage their pain, anxiety, or other chronic conditions, this annoyance can translate into actual physical pain – the last thing you want to get in the way of enjoying your holiday. 
 
The CBD Living Travel Bundle is here to help, with handy travel-size versions of their most popular CBD products:
 

Read more about these great stocking stuffers HERE. Be sure to try the Freeze Roll-On!

ECOFREAKS Hygiene Products

Are you and your friends FREAKS for Scent Free? This is the gift for you! The Scent Free FREAK gift kit includes: (1) 12 OZ bottle w/ pump + (1) 6 OZ bottle w/ flip cap + (1) keychain bottle + (12) on-the-go sachets. All items feature their Scent Free formula and holiday packaging.

  • Made in the USA
  • Fast-drying, non-rinse formula
  • FDA Manufacturer Approved
  • Formula features Aloe for additional moisturizing
  • Active Ingredient: 80% Ethyl Alcohol Antiseptic
  • FDA Registered & CDC Compliant
  • Ships in a decorative drawstring bag for easy gifting 🎁
  • Check out the entire line at https://ecofreaksusa.com/

SEAT SITTERS Hygiene Travel Products

This is a hygiene product we introduced before the pandemic. With air travel picking up again it’s worth a replay.  

Here’s a way to make airline seats more sanitary. Let’s face it, airplane seats give everyone the willies — so we were happy to test this hygiene product on a recent flight.

It was also worth doing for the fun of watching the curious faces of our fellow passengers.

Seat Sitters has expanded its product line in 2020. Check out everything they have to offer on http://www.seatsitters.com 

HALOLIFE Masks

HALO Nanofilters™ claim to be superior to all other filters because they allow maximum airflow while simultaneously capturing maximum amounts of particles and pathogens in a paper-thin replaceable filter. Combined with the mask’s moisture-wicking bamboo lining, sweat and condensation are greatly reduced for easier breathing – even under vigorous conditions or long hours of wear. In addition, the nanofilter protects BOTH the wearer from outside dangers while protecting OTHERS from the wearer if they are unwell, test-positive, or at risk.

We have been wearing the HALOmask for several weeks and find they are more comfortable than other masks we have tested. We like the fit. Check out the information they provide on their website at http://www.halolife.io.

General Disclaimer:

Please note that we have tested all the products listed here and were personally satisfied with their performance. However, we are not qualified to judge any of the claims made by these products or as posted on their websites.

This year’s unique books for avid travel readers

Mother Nature Is NOT Trying To Kill You

People are traveling again and many are deciding to spend their precious vacation time in the clean outdoor air. If you haven’t done it before there is much to learn about camping, hiking, and roaming the great out of doors. This book would be a worthy addition to your backpack and would be appreciated by any outdoors person.

The book is designed as a straightforward “what if” guidebook for encountering wildlife. It talks about the many animals that can harm you with emphasis on how to avoid the encounter in the first place. There’s a section on deadly plants and fungi, and the last section gives the basics of outdoor survival. It includes knots, knives, fire-starting, and shelter building.

Available from Amazon and elsewhere.

Mona Lisa in New York

This year we reviewed two books about New York. This one is a kid’s book about the Mona Lisa touring the many sights and sounds of the world’s most exciting city. A nice gift for a child.

Available at Amazon and elsewhere.

Weird but True

This book is from National Geographic Kids and is a great primer for your next visit to the Big Apple. Did you know that a recent survey counted 2,373 eastern gray squirrels in Central Park? We thought not. The world’s first escalator was created as an amusement park ride in Coney Island in 1895. Didn’t know that either? Well, there are lots of weird facts about New York for anyone with an inquiring mind that wants to know.

Available at Amazon and elsewhere.

Great Rivers of the World

Tourists love rivers and this book is full of interesting details related to the great rivers of the world. Since the earliest times, rivers have determined political and cultural borders. This book explores 18 legendary rivers across all five continents. It also studies the history, diverse life, and famous sights to be discovered around these river wonders.

Available from Amazon and elsewhere.

Travel Insurance

Our last recommendation is one that we recommend every year. 

Travel insurance has saved many a vacation for family and loved ones (including ours). Too many things can go wrong when you travel, and travel insurance is the best way to avoid major disappointments, financial hardships, and stress.

Travel insurance can cover most things related to your trip. Some examples are non-refundable tickets, travel interruptions, and medical expenses. Insurance can be complicated, and travel insurance is no exception, so talk to the experts.

Whenever we travel, we are protected by Allianz Travel Insurance. Be sure to ask about the facts and limitations regarding Covid-19 coverage.

Before you or a family member or friend travels, consider Allianz Travel insurance. It can be the best holiday gift of all.

Ho Ho Ho

So there you have it, friends. You can’t go wrong with any of the above goodies for yourself or those on your gift list.

Wishing you Happy Holidays, and a wonderful, healthy, and prosperous New Year!

Wayne and Judy

The opinions expressed in our articles are the journalists’ alone and have not been reviewed, endorsed, or approved by any entity. Other than the test samples, we are not compensated for our endorsement of products or services in the Gift Guide.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Plan your trips with Google Maps.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is 100 Years Old Today

It was on this day in 1921 that the United States interred an unknown soldier from World War I into the ground in Virginia. Many Americans have died for their country since that solemn event 100 years ago.

There are many historical destinations in the United States, but to Americans, few have the emotional relevance of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Located in our National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, the Tomb is dedicated to lost and missing American soldiers from all wars.

 he unknown soldier was laid to rest directly beneath a marble sarcophagus inscribed

HERE RESTS IN
HONORED GLORY
AN AMERICAN
SOLDIER
KNOWN BUT TO GOD

Subsequent burials from the conflicts of WWII, Korea, and most recently,Vietnam, were made near, but not under the tomb.

Due to the advancement of forensic science, the Vietnam era unknown was exhumed in 1998. DNA identified the remains of Lt. Michael Blassie, and he was subsequently re-interred near his family home in St. Louis.

The government decided not to replace the Vietnam soldier with non-identifiable remains. Instead, the original Vietnam inscription and the dates of that conflict have been changed to “Honoring and Keeping Faith with America’s Missing Servicemen.”

A sacred trust

Guarding the Tomb of the Unknowns is a solemn duty, reserved for our finest soldiers. Since 1937, the US Army has guarded the Tomb every minute of every day. On April 6, 1948, the permanent honor was bestowed on the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment. “The Old Guard,” is the oldest active-duty infantry unit in the US Army, and can trace its origins to 1784.

The elite soldiers chosen to stand watch at the Tomb are called Sentinels. They are generally men (there were 3 exceptions), and typically have the rank of Private First Class or Specialist. They stand between 5 feet 10 inches and 6 feet 4 inches tall, and must be proportionally built. They are on average 22 years of age.

The Sentinels do not wear insignia of rank lest they outrank the Unknowns -­ whatever their rank may have been.

Their uniforms are made of wool, and are worn through cold winters and hot summers on the Potomac. They are issued special shoes and sunglasses to protect their eyes from the sun reflecting off the many marble monuments, and their gloves are moistened to assure a firm grip on the ceremonial rifle stock.

Inclement weather does not affect the watch

The Sentinels have a motto, “Soldiers never die until they are forgotten – Tomb Guards never forget.”

Good Americans are like Sentinels­ and will never forget the sacrifices made by our armed services.

If you go

The cemetery and Tomb is situated directly across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., and near the Pentagon. During the summer months (April to October) the guard is changed every half-hour. During the winter months (October to April) the guard is changed every hour.

The cemetery is closed to the public from 7pm to 8am April through September, and 5pm to 8am October through March. When the cemetery is closed, the guard is changed every two hours.

The next time you are in Washington D.C., take your loved ones to see the Tomb and the more than 300,000 graves at Arlington. You and they will be inspired, and reminded that the freedom we often take for granted comes at a very great cost.

Safe travels!

**************************************************

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

Whenever we travel, we are protected by Allianz Global Assist travel insurance.

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

The opinions expressed in our articles are the journalists’ alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any entity.

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photo by L Emerson

“Howdy Pardner,” Welcome to Pioneertown

Last week the mid-day temperatures in the Palm Springs area of California finally dipped below 100 for the first time in months. We always tell people that even when the thermometer heads north of 100, it isn’t all that unpleasant. Low humidity makes the experience like a nice dry sauna and not at all like the “Flashdance Splash” people experience in tropical Florida in the summer.

That reasoning works until about 120 degrees — after that it’s just damn unpleasant.

Get out of town

Did you know that when you live in and around Palm Springs, or visit during the summer when it really heats up, there are nearby places to go for relief?

The Coachella Valley is surrounded by high mountains. You can cut 20 or more degrees off the day’s highs by driving a few hours from the Springs.

The top of the Palm Springs Tramway, the little town of Idyllwild, Big Bear Lake, and the old west movie set of Pioneertown are all nearby and easily accessible by car.

These places all have lower temps because of their elevation. While Palm Springs is at an elevation of 479 feet, the getaways we mentioned are located at elevations of 8,516 feet, 5,413 feet, 6,752 feet, and Pioneertown is at 4,000 feet.

Off to Pioneertown

By San Bernardino County Fire – Twitter (@SBCOUNTYFIRE),

One hot day we wanted to take a short ride to cool off. Pioneertown is the closest mountain destination to Palm Springs and it’s less than an hour’s drive. However, at only 4,000 feet we did not expect to experience the really cool temperatures of the higher elevations — but it was still more comfortable than the Valley floor.

Cowboys built it

This is a little-known but often seen town in western movies and TV shows after 1946. Back then, several cowboy actors including Roy Rogers and Gene Autry invested in a real rootin’- tootin’ 1870 era wild-west movie set, and called it Pioneertown.

The real thing

Unlike many other western sets, Pioneertown has complete buildings, not just faux facades. The original buildings were often used for various purposes by film crew members and their families during shootings.

There is even a bowling alley that can be disguised during filming. The building structure was built for the recreation of the movie crews and local residents. Roy Rogers bowled the first strike on the first throw at its grand opening in 1946 – in cowboy boots.

By San Bernardino County Fire – Twitter (@SBCOUNTYFIRE), Public Domain

The old structures still house tourist shops and a free museum featuring videos of the movies and TV shows filmed in the town. Some notable early TV shows include Gene Autry, the Cisco Kid, and Judge Roy Bean.

The movies filmed on location were not always westerns. A number of horror flicks and dramas were also produced there.

howling

In 2020, Pioneertown’s “Mane” Street area was recognized as a historic district by the National Register of Historic Places.

We met briefly with the mayor and his son..

Food and entertainment

Although Pioneertown has less than 500 residents and is somewhat in the middle of nowhere, there are two places that serve food.

Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, is a longtime local landmark built near the town’s only gas station. And YES it is true that Sir Paul McCartney DID perform a live concert on the Palace’s tiny stage before an audience of 300 ardent fans in October 2016. Why? You will have to ask him.

The other eatery is The Red Dog Saloon on Mane Street. The Red Dog is seen in many westerns. You can watch an episode of the Gene Autry Show featuring the saloon on the Red Dog website!

Both establishments serve liquor.

Accommodations

If you decide to stay overnight there is the Pioneertown Motel. We did not check it out.

If you go

For more information about Pioneertown click HERE.

Directions: From Interstate 10 in the area of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway find California highway 62 North and follow the signs to Pioneertown. It’s an easy 30-minute drive from the junction of Interstate 10 and 62.

Happy travels!

*************************************

“Get out there, but be safe and prepared.”

Whenever we travel, we are protected by AllianzTravel insurance.

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

The opinions expressed in our articles are the journalists’ alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any entity.

Copyright © 2021 Visit great vacation destinations with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos Copyright © 2021 Judy Bayliff unless otherwise noted.

Smokin’ Camels in the Nevada Desert

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Have you ever noticed that the beautiful state of Nevada has an abundant collection of oddities? Maybe that’s why we keep going back – there is always something fun, unusual, and quirky to write about in the wide-open Silver State.

Because of Covid, last year there was a significant annual event missing in Nevada. We are pleased to announce the event will be back in 2021.

The International Camel and Ostrich Races

The first International Camel & Ostrich Races took place in historic Virginia City, Nevada in 1959 and the tradition continues Sept. 10 – 12, 2021 with jockeys vying for the title and the ultimate bragging rights over the three-day event.

Races will take place Friday, Sept. 10 at 5 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 11 at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m, and Sunday, Sept. 12 at 12 p.m.

Here’s what to expect

In a previous article, we wrote about the recently re-opened Carson City to Virginia City line on the V&T Railroad. Riding in a vintage coach-car following the historic Steam Engine #18  is a Wild-West adventure and a big-fun way to get to the site of the annual International Camel and Ostrich Races.

The scenic 14-mile ride through wild mustang and mining country is a great segue into a day of amusement at the races in the old western town of Virginia City.

At the end of the V&T line just outside of Virginia City, you can walk the short distance to town, or take the waiting shuttle trolley. You can also hire an honest-to-goodness full-sized horse drawn stagecoach. It’s a bumpy ride that will take you directly to town and the Silverland Arena fairgrounds, the site of the races.

Running a little late

The Race Boss had already begun his pre-race instructions to the jockeys before we arrived. His tone, mannerisms, and cautions left no doubt that this was serious business.

All jockeys and members of the press were required to sign waivers of liability before we were allowed to mingle with the livestock and get close to the action for photographs.

Waivers signed, the anxious jockeys headed for the waiting camels at the starting gate.

Photographers scrambled to find the best locations for taking pictures. If it were a football field, one of us was at the 50-yard line, the other at a goal post.

Let the excitement begin

It was a beautiful sunny day in Virginia City, and the bustling crowd was ready for action. Before long the national anthem signaled the races were about to start.

Not many lulls in the action

Once the races began, things moved swiftly. The entire event was extremely well planned and executed.

The contest started with a few exciting camel heats followed by speedy ostrich races and thrilling zebra races. The crowd cheered wildly with every new “They are off.”

Each race took between 30 and 45 seconds depending on the cooperation of the steeds. There were two fast straight-aways and one hairpin turn on the course.

Good sports all 

Each of the courageous jockeys gave his or her personal all, and the crowd hushed more than once as an unfortunate rider bit the dust in true rodeo fashion. It’s a long way down from the top of a camel. This is not a sport for the faint of heart.

The entire racing event lasted a little over 2.5 hours. At the conclusion, the assembled fans gave one last hoopla shout of appreciation, and then made their way up the hill and into town. It is just a short walk from the fairgrounds to the shops, restaurants, and many saloons along “C” Street.

Shopping the wooden sidewalks of Virginia City

We stopped for a bite at the Palace Restaurant and Saloon and followed it with a beer and live entertainment just across the street at the Bucket of Blood Saloon.

At the end of the day, everyone agreed this was first-rate family entertainment – done Wild-West style. It’s a nice change of pace to the more traditional ways to spend a holiday.

We would rate the Virginia City International Camel and Ostrich Races right up there with the annual Cave Lake International Bathtub Races – good clean fun for all to enjoy.

If you go

 

The Camel Races are an annual event. Check with Virginia City Tourism at visitvirginiacitynv.com  for details.

For information and days of operation of the V&T RR from the Carson City depot to Virginia City, look at their website at http://virginiatruckee.com or call 775.847.0380

For information about Nevada vacations in general, check with their helpful Commission of Tourism at http://travelnevada.com

Happy travels!

*************************************

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

Whenever we travel, we are protected by AllianzTravel insurance.

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

The opinions expressed in our articles are the journalists’ alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any entity.

Copyright © 2021 Visit great vacation destinations with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos Copyright © 2021 Judy Bayliff

Exploring the Oregon Coast

We haven’t beaten the Chinese Virus yet, but many of us are stretching and taking short trips to drive to places on our “must see” list. We spend our summers in Oregon and there is plenty to see along its rugged coast.

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Much of the U.S. Oregon coast is made up of miles of pristine sandy beaches.  For some, the flat seashore is the perfect place to relax. However, if you crave something a little more exciting, check out the 40 miles of shore line that begins in Waldport, Oregon, and pushes south along twisting Highway 101.

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It’s here that nature created Oregon’s most scenic headlands. Lofty volcanic outcroppings that plunge precipitously to the crashing Pacific several hundred feet below.

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The best of the stretch is at Cape Perpetua, where the views are so outstanding that the area has been designated a National Scenic Area by the federal government.

Local History

Captain James Cook discovered and named Cape Perpetua in 1778. The rugged territory remained virtually unreachable until it became part of the Siuslaw National Forest in 1908.

In 1914, the U.S. Forest Service carved a rough road around the Cape and joined the two small neighboring towns of Yachats and Florence by constructing a wooden bridge across the rushing Yachats River.

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By 1930, the road was improve and became part of historic Highway 101 that stretches 1,500 miles from Port Angeles, Washington, to Los Angeles, California.

Thank you CCC

Thanks to the Civilian Conservation Corps, Cape Perpetua has become an important travel destination for outdoor enthusiasts. The CCC was created in 1933 to provide manual labor jobs for thousands of unemployed youth during the Great Depression. They carved the American wilderness to create many of the parks we enjoy today.

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The work was hard but equally rewarding as the young participants experienced life in convivial communal encampments – the remains of which are still visible at Cape Perpetua in the forest near the sea.

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These were the lucky ones during those hard times. Although most of them are now departed, their lasting legacy of trails and shelters are still in use today.  We owe that “Greatest Generation” a debt of gratitude for so many things.

The Attractions

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There are three major natural water wonders within a short walk of the parking lot at the Cape Perpetua Visitors Center. Thor’s Well, Spouting Horn, and Devil’s Churn – the most exciting being Thor’s Well.

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In simple terms, Thor’s Well is a collapsed underwater volcanic cave that has formed a large round hole on the surface – think very large blow hole.

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The hole is about 20 across and 20 feet deep, and during incoming tides and rough seas, the water rushes into the submerged cavern and erupts into a mighty blast of foaming ocean that can easily knock down curious onlookers that venture too close. Immediately after the upward explosion, Thor’s Well dramatically inhales the ocean that it just expelled.

You don’t want to be on the ride back to the sea!

Trails

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The paths adjacent to the Visitor’s Center are paved for ready access by all. There are a total of 11 trails that offer 27 miles of hiking adventure in this wilderness. It’s about an intermediate level hike across the rocky shoreline and up through the spruce forest to the outlooks. Do it if you can!

If you go

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If you drive, there are many fine hotels in the area. If you fly, the nearest reasonable airport is in Eugene – about an hour drive from the quaint little town of Florence on the coast.

Happy travels!

*************************************

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

Whenever we travel, we are protected by AllianzTravel insurance.

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

The opinions expressed in our articles are the journalists alone and have not been reviewed, endorsed, or approved by any entity.

Copyright © 2021 Visit great vacation destinations with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos Copyright © 2021 Judy Bayliff

You, the Stars, and Vasquez Rocks

100_2071With the Covid virus keeping us housebound for a year, and judging by the huge increase in streaming TV subscribers, we have all viewed more than our share of TV shows and movies. It’s time to get active.

We know from past correspondence that many of our readers are interested in the locations where movies are filmed. When we ran across an unusual LA County Park where dozens of movies and TV shows were made, we wanted our subscribers to know about it. It’s in the high desert of Southern California, and for us, it was an easy drive from our winter home near Palm Springs.

The place is the 932-acre Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park located in Los Angeles County, California. This park and its unique rock formations may be the one outdoor spot listed on the National Register of Historic Places where more movie stars and entertainers have clocked in for work than any other non-studio location.

100_2079The photos of the landscape should be familiar. Throughout the years, the “Rocks” have appeared in films when rough, desolate, and foreboding terrain is required as a backdrop.

The park’s TV credits are impressive

Here are just some of the Who’s Who of westerns and adventure series that have filmed episodes at Vasquez Rocks:

CSI, The Medium, Monk, 24, NCIS, Alias, Saving Grace, Twilight Zone, Buffy, The Lone Ranger, Wild Wild West, Have Gun Will Travel, Gunsmoke, Man from Uncle, Maverick, The Rifleman, Mission Impossible, Bonanza, Outer Limits, The Fugitive, Alias Smith and Jones, Hunter, MacGyver, Rat Patrol, Charmed, Friends, Fear Factor, Lassie, Las Vegas, Logan’s Run, Zorro, Voyagers, Daniel Boone, Alien Nation, Rin Tin Tin, The Big Valley, The Cisco Kid, High Chaparral, Six Million Dollar Man, Bionic Woman, Battle Star Galactica, Street Hawk, and of course – Star Trek.

How’s that for a walk down action TV’s memory lane!

About the movies filmed at the park

We did some research to try to find when the first movie was filmed at the Rocks. We read several articles asserting that a silent action movie starring Rudolph Valentino was made there in 1905. Unfortunately, the reports are all false since Valentino was born in 1895. We never did identify the first movie.

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We do know that the classic 1931 Dracula, starring Bela Lugosi, was filmed in part at the Rocks, and was followed by dozens of other notable movie productions such as, Apache, Hondo, Cheyenne, Laramie, Laredo, and Blazing Saddles. Also included – Werewolf of London, Planet of the Apes, Star Trek, Austin Powers IMM, The Flintstones, and Short Circuit.

Let’s not forget the music videos

Music producers also find Vasquez Rocks a worthy setting. Michael Jackson did a famous dance sequence with American Indians at the Rocks for the hit music video Black or White, in 1991.

Millions of years in the making

The park’s ominous looking 45-degree toothy rock outcroppings are siblings to the San Andreas Fault. They were formed by a series of violent earthquakes over many millions of years. The jagged peaks rise 150 feet above the surrounding sandy desert floor.

If you decide to go

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Vasquez Rocks Park is off the beaten path, but its raw beauty is worth planning a day trip to visit when you are in the Los Angeles area.

If you would enjoy a walk where Hollywood celebs have walked, the Rocks are the place. Park your car in the lot and take a short hike. Enjoy the desert beauty that has inspired the stars.

A few words of caution: There are scant facilities at Vasquez Rocks. The weather is subject to rapid change, so be prepared. Take great care if you plan to wander beyond the parking lot – there’s a lot of inhospitable desert out there.

The park is open to the public year round. There are several hiking trails, and the cliffs are accessible to climbers.

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The park is located just north of Los Angeles, at 10700 Escondido Canyon Road in Agua Dulce, California, Take the Hwy 14 exit from Interstate 5, and drive about 20 miles east.

Happy travels!

*************************************

“Get out there, but be prepared.”  Wear a mask and social distance when it makes sense to do so.

Whenever we travel, we are protected by AllianzTravel insurance.

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

The opinions expressed in our articles are the journalists alone and have not been reviewed, endorsed, or approved by any entity.

Copyright © 2021 Visit great vacation destinations with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos Copyright © 2021 Judy Bayliff

A Tribute to Cruise Attendants

Did you know that the people in the travel industry have suffered greater ​financial ​losses than any other ​organized ​group during the pandemic?

Thanks for the memories

This article is a ​special tribute ​to the hard working ​cabin and service attendants of the cruise industry. Delightful people who hail from faraway places like Indonesia, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Mexico and Bulgaria.

These ​industrious people are so grateful for work that they spend most of the year away from their loved ones so they can earn a living to support their families thousands of miles away.

Ever behind the scenes

They clean our cabins, wash our clothes, bus our tables, serve our food, take our pictures, and make funny towel animals to amuse us – all the while managing to remain virtually invisible so they do not intrude upon our ocean-going vacation.

Service above self

Cruise ​attendants are generally courteous beyond norms and ready to smile regardless of their personal burdens.  They take a lot of abuse because there are people in this world who give it. They genuinely strive to please those that are placed in their care, week after week, month after month, cruise after cruise.

Waiting to serve

They are home now. Waiting for the end of a pandemic that has severely impacted their dreams.

They are from poor countries and therefore their suffering is greater than those of us from wealthier nations might ever imagine.

There are tens of thousands of these honest and diligent men and women waiting for the cruise industry to get back on its feet.

Awaiting your welcome

While we pray for an end to the pandemic so we can get back to pleasures like world cruising, let’s all look forward to greeting our next stateroom server’s smile and that first “hello, my name is…” and remember when it comes time to tip at the end of the cruise — be generous.

Happy travels!

******

Whenever we travel, we are protected by AllianzTravel insurance.

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

The opinions expressed in our articles are the journalists alone and have not been reviewed, endorsed, or approved by any entity.

Copyright © 2021 Visit great vacation destinations with Wayne and Judy Bayliff.

Photos Copyright © 2021 Judy Bayliff.

Getting Back Into Travel Adventures Post Covid-19

When you decide you are again ready for a new travel adventure, and you have already tried sky diving, hot air ballooning, and maybe white water rafting – look to the sea, and consider swimming with the sharks.

After you read our story and are raring to go, check out the new entry protocols required by the Islands in the Bahamas. You will find them at the end of this article.

Our personal favorite locations for diving with the sharks are off the beautiful islands of the Bahamas, which are an easy plane ride from the US mainland. We particularly like the island of New Providence which is home to the town of Nassau where 80% of the Bahamians live. At the opposite end of the island from Nassau is Stuart Cove’s Dive Center – one of the very best in the business.

Distinguished divers

Stuart Cove has been involved in the making of many underwater film segments including those from the popular James Bond series, For Your Eyes Only, and Never Say Never Again. Stuart personally certified Sean Connery (who lived in the Bahamas) and Kim Bassinger for their underwater scenes in the latter movie.

Through the years, Stuart has been host to a long list of celebrities and prominent world figures including Diana Princess of Wales, and the Princes William and Harry.

Friendly sharks

Next to the stingrays in the Cayman Islands, the Caribbean Reef Sharks in this part of New Providence waters are probably the closest thing to a trained fish that you will find anywhere on the planet. They are fed regularly by the shark dive tour operators and know exactly when to congregate for feedings.

During a shark feeding, all divers are required to kneel on the bottom in a semi-circle with their arms folded. The divemaster, outfitted in a chain-link suit, kneels in front of the group and dispenses large pieces of fish to the swarming sharks from a bucket via a metal pole. The process is often quite orderly with each shark waiting its turn for a tasty gobble. The rhythmic motion of the feeder and sharks is somewhat reminiscent of a matador finessing a cape across the horns of a passing bull.

Not for everyone 

Organized shark feeding is not without its critics. There are those that believe that any form of unnatural feeding of animals in the wild should be banned. However, we have never observed any behavioral differences between these local sharks and those of the same species in waters where there are no recreational feedings. We hasten to add, however, that we are not naturalists or shark experts.

A thrill like no other

As interesting as shark feedings are to watch, we have the most fun well before the feeding when we swim among the gathering sharks. Their eerie luminescent lime green eyes follow divers as they swim past. They seem to be as curious about humans as we are about them.

Fear dissipates quickly when you swim among sharks and learn to appreciate their grace and beauty.

Pick your sharks carefully

Of course, not all sharks are created equal. The favored Caribbean Reef Shark runs in size from five feet to nine feet, is olive-gray to grayish-brown in color, and is quite inquisitive, but not particularly threatening.

Play it safe and dive with experts

If you decide to try a shark dive holiday, your expectation and affirmation of safety lie in the fact that professional dive tour operators have been dispensing electrifying experiences to eager divers for years – and as far as we know – there have been no tragic consequences.

You need to be a certified SCUBA diver in order to participate in shark dives, but most warm-water resorts – and many cruise ships – offer certification courses that will have you trained and ready for action within a few days.

If you want more information

Check out Stuart Cove’s website at Special Offers – Stuart Coves – Bahamas Dive Shop & Tours. Then read and be ready to comply with the following important government rules.

The Islands of The Bahamas just announced streamlined entry protocols that will enable visitors to better and more seamlessly enjoy a Bahamas vacation experience. For detailed information regarding the new requirements please visit https://www.bahamas.com/pressroom/islands-bahamas-announces-updated-travel-and-entry-protocols.

Happy travels!

© 2021 Travels with Wayne and Judy

Photos © Wayne and Judy Bayliff

A Tour of Pearl Harbor: Remembering December 7, 1941

The USS Arizona Memorial is a national monument honoring those who served in the Pacific Theatre during and after the Japanese naval assault on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

The memorial structure is built on and directly over the rusted remains of the sunken battleship USS Arizona. This is the final resting place of 1,177 Americans killed when a bomb penetrated the deck above the ship’s munitions magazine during the Japanese air attack on Battleship Row.

The loss of life on the Arizona represents more than half of all the Americans killed on December 7, 1941. It also represents the greatest number of casualties on any American warship in history.

Now a garden setting

If you have not been to the memorial lately, you will be much impressed with the park like setting at the Pearl Harbor Visitors Center.

While at the Center, be sure to see the 23-minute film and audio tour that brings that fateful morning at Pearl Harbor to life.

Well done

The exhibits at the Center are designed to pull visitors deftly into that specific moment in history, as they relive the politics and events leading up to the Japanese attack.

The presentations are poignant – be prepared for a holistic experience you will not forget.

A solemn journey

When their background education is refreshed, visitors board a launch operated by the Navy and are ferried across the harbor to the waiting memorial. It is a short and quiet ride.

After pulling alongside the monument, passengers disembark and walk up to the cenotaph resting on the Arizona.

At the far end of the memorial, look for the Wall of Honor with the names of those that gave their lives on the ill-fated Arizona. They are now resting beneath your feet.

Visitors speak in whispers, tears are visible, eyes are cast downward into the entombing water, and minds imagine the confusion and utter chaos of that December morning so long ago. It all seems surreal to the observers who now stand in the gentle Hawaiian breeze – safely atop the remains of the Arizona.

The ultimate sacrifice

One can only wonder what life might have held in store for the one-thousand plus soldiers and sailors below – if they had not been aboard the Arizona on that fateful day. Had they lived, what famous Americans might they have fathered for our generation, what greatness might they have achieved? America moved forward, one-thousand heroes remain at their post.

The tears of the Arizona

Seventy-five years later, oil still seeps from the sunken battleship. It randomly appears on the water’s surface – then like a spirit – it floats slowly away. Observers have named the oil manifestations “the tears of the Arizona.”

Be sure to visit the USS Arizona Memorial

Save a day during your vacation on Oahu and take your family to see the USS Arizona Memorial. For some, it is an awakening and first time realization about the many Americans that have sacrificed everything to keep our nation free.

The USS Missouri

The Arizona Memorial is now symbolically guarded by the ever-vigilant USS Missouri battleship. “Big Mo,” is permanently docked in Pearl – just up-harbor from the Arizona. The Missouri fought in and survived WWII and her deck was the historic site of the official surrender of Japan in 1945. It seems fitting that a battleship that participated in ending the war in the Pacific, should rest near the dreadnought that was the earliest casualty of the conflict.

The great Missouri went on to fight in Korea, and Operation Desert Storm. She was decommissioned in 1992, and took up her post as silent sentinel for the Arizona in 1999.

The USS Missouri has the distinction of being the last active battleship in the world.

If you go

The USS Arizona Memorial is located in Pearl Harbor, which is two miles west of the Honolulu International Airport.

Look *here* for more information about the USS Arizona Memorial, and *here* for the USS Missouri Memorial.

Heroes are still being interred on the USS Arizona. This video explains – You Tube

Happy travels – Remember our troops, not only today, but always.

Note: During the pandemic face masks are required for the Arizona Memorial Tour as well as other places in the park. The park is also limiting the number of passengers on the boats going to the memorial. Safe distancing is in place throughout the park. For regular updates check out http://www.nps.gov/coronavirus.

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“Get out there, but be prepared.”

Whenever we travel, we are protected by Allianz  travel insurance.

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

The opinions expressed in our articles are the journalists’ alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any entity.

© 2020 Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Judy Bayliff

 

How to Plan a Storybook “Christmas in Connecticut” 2020 Style

We originally researched and published this article in 2012, and it has proven to be a winter holiday favorite among our readers ever since. We believe there is magic in the air in the small towns of Connecticut at Christmas time. See if you agree. Here is our story:

Note: We check every year to make sure the facts in the story have not materially changed. Because of the pandemic, none of the communal indoor gatherings are taking place in 2020 but more outdoor activities have been added on weekends.

Victoria Kolyvas, the owner of the Tidewater Inn, is still successfully cheerleading for Madison in these trying times.

Merry Christmas and God bless us one and all.

In 1945, Hollywood coined the phrase “Christmas in Connecticut” after the movie of the same name. Since that time, romanticists around the world have dreamed of spending at least one winter holiday in a quaint Connecticut hamlet complete with a town common crowned with freshly fallen snow and carolers strolling by storefronts and elder homes.

The scene that is presently in your mind’s eye is not a figment from a Currier and Ives print – it actually exists – and we found it.

Our research

We spoke with tourism friends and officials in Connecticut and asked for the names of towns that would fit the homey Christmas characteristics of Bedford Falls, a fictitious town in another popular holiday movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

In particular, Janet Serra, with the Connecticut Visitor’s Bureau, provided us with valuable holiday tips for our project. She also gave us several places to consider for our base. After reviewing what each location had to offer by way of Christmas spirit and activities, we settled on the little town of Madison.

Arriving in winter

We landed at JFK airport on a cold day in early December. We rented a car and headed for nearby Connecticut at a time when many small towns and villages throughout the area are preparing for the upcoming holiday season.

Driving to Madison

First settled in 1650, Madison was renamed for President James Madison and incorporated in 1826. Madison is a pleasant little community along historic Route 1, the Boston Post Road in the “Connecticut Shoreline Area.” The town lies approximately equidistant between New York City and Boston. Yale University is just 20 minutes away.

By the time we arrived in Madison, the small shops that make up the bulk of retailers in the village center were ready for the holidays. Most were sporting holiday decorations and touting special sales – many to benefit local charities and civic projects. 

The Tidewater Inn

Before we walked the entire town, we decided to check into our chosen lodging for our time in Madison. We had searched for a place that was like a relative’s warm and inviting home – an inn that properly fit into our pastoral Christmas picture. The Tidewater Inn (circa 1928) is a bed and breakfast that proved to be exactly what we wanted, and it was an easy walk to downtown Madison.

Meet the Innkeeper

Congenial Victoria Kolyvas, is the owner of the Tidewater Inn, and she was the perfect personality to help us with an itinerary that would give us a flavor for all the seasonal activities and events that would be taking place in and around Madison during our brief stay. She pretty much planned our visit for us, and we could not be more grateful. We will also mention right here and now that Viki is a superb host and cook!

Innkeeper Kolyvas already had the Tidewater spruced up for the holidays. A beautifully decorated tree sat next to a cheery fire in the hearth in the dining/tea-room.

We ate some bountiful breakfasts and had friendly afternoon chats accompanied by local wines and cheese at a large table in that same room.

Staying at the Tidewater Inn is very much like going to grandma’s house for Christmas. It provides a feeling of sanctuary – of returning – coming home. Each of the nine guestrooms is pleasantly decorated with beautiful antique furnishings and other tasteful décor. Our room was cozy and warm, and we slumbered each night in luxurious comfort.

The events of Madison

After a sumptuous gourmet breakfast at the Tidewater, we took our air with a brisk walk to the center of Madison. We visited a number of shops and craft fairs and found one event particularly delightful – the “Décor Encore” at St. Margaret’s Church. It was advertised as the place to find “previously loved Christmas decorations revived and ready for a new home.” The fair also featured beautiful homemade quilts for sale. What a treat!

Parade day

In early December, the Madison Chamber of Commerce has a homespun Holiday Parade that brings out the entire citizenry.

Some colorful participants and unusual costumes and floats gave us big smiles. It was a wonderfully crisp winter day, perfect for this wholesome family entertainment.

Santa, his wife, and a comely elf stopped by a local café to chat with the kiddies. Donations for the needy of non-perishable food items were accepted to help the Madison Food Pantry.

We also dropped by the local bookstore to watch Santa Letter Writing – great fun.

Tour of Madison historic inns

During parade day, the Tidewater Inn, along with one other local inn, provides a Christmas Open House and Tour of Madison’s Historic Inns via a horse drawn wagon that clops from place to place, and stops for passengers to imbibe on Christmas cheer and sweets – all for the benefit of local charity.

On to the Shoreline Soul Concert

Later that afternoon, we enjoyed the “Soul Concert” at the local First Congregational Church. It featured holiday songs sung by an accomplished volunteer choir in a beautiful church. The entire scene was truly inspirational.

The singers were led by a highly talented conductor who had the choir and audience hand clapping and singing along. This is an annual event you do not want to miss. Any freewill offerings from the event went to support the Village Mountain Mission. 

The tree lighting

As dark descended on the expansive town green, it was time for the annual Christmas tree lighting. Three, two, one – Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah!

Families and friends gathered around the lighted tree to drink complimentary hot cocoa and watch the children wonder at the magnificent tree and colors.

Everyone was holding candles and having fun talking with their neighbors. It was a scene right out of Norman Rockwell, and we could not help thinking that once upon a time, much of America celebrated Christmas in just such a grand manner.

Saving the best for last

Victoria told us that we would run out of time before we ran out of things to do in and around Madison – at any time of year. We found that during the holiday season she was most certainly correct. Fortunately, she planned enough time in our itinerary for a wonderful event.

Ahavah: A Christmas Story

We had never heard of Ahavah, which is the Hebrew word for love, and we soon learned that it was also an original ballet about a young girl’s search for the true meaning of Christmas. It is performed annually in early December by the Christian Academy of Dance at the Morgan High School in nearby Clinton. Do not be put off by the venue. This is excellent entertainment professionally written, choreographed, and directed.

Photo: Ahavah by Christian Academy of Dance

The talent that appears in this ballet is exceptional. We found this Psalm written in the program handout:

“Let them praise his name in the dance: Let them sing praises unto Him with the timbrel and harp. For the Lord taketh pleasure in His people.” The young performers in this ballet seemed to take the ancient words to heart.

A bittersweet farewell

God willing we hope to return to Madison and the Tidewater Inn for another winter holiday very soon. Once the pandemic is under control we hope you will join us in enjoying another traditional Christmas in Connecticut.

When you go

The website for the Madison Chamber of Commerce is www.madisonct.com

Look *here* for more information about the Tidewater Inn.

To learn more about Ahavah – A Christmas Story, click *here*

Happy Travels – Happy Holidays – Remember our troops!

To read more of the journalists’ articles about Connecticut and great places to stay, click on the abbreviated titles below:

Enjoy the fall colors of New England

Visit Kent Falls, Connecticut

A family budget hotel in Shelton, Connecticut

A historic inn in fashionable Westport, Connecticut

An intimate B&B on the backroads of northwestern Connecticut

The countryside elegance of the Mayflower Inn and Spa

The Delamar luxury hotel in the Greenwich harbor

© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos © Wayne and Judy Bayliff – Ahavah photo by Christian Academy of Dance

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

Whenever we travel, we are protected by Allianz Global Assist travel insurance.

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

The opinions expressed in our articles are the journalists’ alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any entity.