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Tag Archives: Leisure

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Is your gun training perturbing enough?

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“I’m very perturbed about that” was a relatively common saying when I was growing up.

Today, when you say it, it elicits reminiscent smiles from those old enough to remember and confused scrunchy faces from most 20-somethings.

But did you know that perturbation is vital for effective self-defense firearms training?

Recovering your balance, realigning your muzzle after being bumped/struck, re-focusing after scanning your environment, re-aiming after glancing at the ground to avoid trip hazards, stabilizing vision when shifting focus between potential threats, and recoil management are all responses to perturbation.

How quickly we’re able to restabilize our balance, our vision, and our aim after being perturbed are some of the biggest differences between sterile range training and resilient self-defense training.

And it’s a huge difference between training to poke holes in paper vs. training to stop a lethal threat.

From a training efficiency perspective, perturbation will help you build skill quicker than sterile training.

How’s that?

Well, one of the key areas of the brain for high stress performance is the cerebellum.

One of the big things that the cerebellum does is error correction…or recovery from perturbation.

Put another way, if your practice isn’t challenging enough that you’re being perturbed and having to correct errors, there’s very little activation or skill building in the cerebellum.

Too much challenge, though, and training changes from building skill to creating emotional memories of the training.

The key is to keep the majority of your training 4% outside of your comfort zone.

That’s a ridiculously small amount, but 4% today, 4% tomorrow, and 4% the next day gets the cerebellum learning at full speed and skill, compounding quickly with minimal plateauing or yo-yoing.

So, how do you make it happen? How do you incorporate this into your training in a way that will give you optimal results…not too little and not too much, but just the right amount?

That’s a great question, and we go into the do-it-yourself option as well as a done-for-you, step-by-step option in this presentation.

Oh…and if you want to read up some more on the science behind this, you may want to check out these papers/studies. Fair warning…they’re pretty dense:

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Are you training too much at one time?

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There’s a natural assumption that if you want to get better at a skill, you should spend hours every day practicing it.

After all, we hear stories all the time about the best athletes in the world showing up an hour or two early for practice and being the best because they simply outwork everyone else.

But pros train different aspects of their skill than ordinary people.

Pros are able to spend so much time practicing because they’ve already mastered the fundamentals.

They’re not working on the fundamentals as much as working on brain and body endurance, and performing when exhausted.

I’ve used the example many times, but learning a skill is like sawing a board with a handsaw.

If you start slow and focus on precision early, you end up with speed and precision.

If you try to saw too quickly, too soon, you end up with lots of shallow cuts, no groove, and it takes longer to cut through the board or master the skill.

Speed is definitely the goal, but you don’t get high quality speed by forcing speed or focusing on speed…you get speed through paying close attention to what you’re doing and developing an efficient and consistent technique early on.

From a shooting perspective, when you push yourself too much mentally or physically while you’re trying to learn a skill, you’re not going to have as much mental bandwidth available for the actual skill.

With sawing, you get several sloppy cuts instead of a single, clean one. With shooting, it means shooting sloppy groups in sterile conditions instead of precision ones.

With sawing, if you start slowly, with a single cut, you end up with both speed and precision.

And, it’s the same with shooting.

Here’s the thing…when you’re working on learning or refining your shooting skills, it takes focus and attention.

A level of focus and attention that can’t be maintained for long periods of time.

And, if you train beyond when you’re able to focus and start getting sloppy, then you’ve switched from building skill to simply grinding out reps.

Here’s something that most people aren’t aware of yet…

When you practice with focus for 10-20 minutes and stop, the learning in your brain continues for 6-8 hours!

It’s pretty dense, but here’s a study that goes into more detail.

That’s a big deal, especially if you continue the training for three weeks. They’ve shown that if you do fast, short, focused bursts of training for three weeks, the skill — not just the head knowledge — will remain for up to eight weeks.

Now, when most people go to the range, there’s time and effort invested in getting packed up, driving, waiting, setting up, driving, cleaning, etc.

Since it takes so much effort to make training happen, it’s natural to want to do as much as possible while you’re there.

Same with dry fire that takes complicated setup.

If your dry fire takes 10-15 minutes of setup and 10-15 minutes of tear-down, it doesn’t make sense to only do 10 minutes of training. It’s understandable to want to do 30-60 minutes of training to make the setup and teardown worthwhile.

What about shooting as therapy, relaxation, and as a social activity?

Those are different than training for serious objectives like using a gun to save a life. Personally, I have guns that I train with for fighting, I have guns that I shoot for fun, and I reload and do precision rifle for relaxation. There’s carryover, but it’s a false economy to try to bundle them all together.

So, what’s the answer?

The science tells us that we should be doing a few minutes of focused training, a few times per week.

In order for that to make sense, we want our training to be deliberate, fun, have a LOT of variety, and take no more than a minute or two to set up and tear down.

So…when does it make sense to spend hours a day practicing a skill?

There are a couple of answers to that because of the fact that there are different stages of learning…there’s the initial learning phase, stress inoculation, contextual training, endurance, combining multiple skills, and more.

If you’re at a live training, you’re probably going to be spending all day practicing. Don’t think of that as skill building or practice. Think of that as learning head knowledge, an introduction to a skill, and a source of drills to do once you get home to build the actual skill you want to build.

If the skill involves mental or physical endurance, then practice obviously has to include endurance at some point…but you want to build that endurance on solid fundamentals and you don’t want to grind out meaningless reps for the sake of tick marks on a calendar.

Once you have a fundamental skill dialed in, you may be able to perform it at a high level in repeated spurts for hours at a time…the focus isn’t the underlying skill at that point, but contextual application of the skill, making the skill more resilient, and/or inoculating the skill to stress and progressively higher and higher cognitive loads.

An example of this is doing a few minutes a day of dry fire training…first static, then dynamic, and then with increasing cognitive load with the goal being able to do a multi-day force-on-force class where you execute all of the fundamentals automatically at a high level and are able to focus on tactics. Even in that force-on-force training, you may only really have 10-20 minutes of all-out execution of shooting skills over the course of an entire day of training.

Also, once you have the fundamental skill dialed in, some days you’re just going to be in the zone and don’t want to stop. On those days where the training is fun, easy, and high quality, sometimes you just want to let it ride and keep training. In these cases, you want to keep the challenge level so that you’re succeeding 80-90-ish percent of the time and make sure to switch to an easier activity and quit when your ability to practice at a high level drops off.

But it all starts with a solid foundation. Sometimes people are lucky enough to get to build a solid foundation from scratch. Other times, we need to jack up and shore up an existing foundation. Either way, this is the way to get ‘er done.

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Buying a new car in a COVID environment

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The Dilemma

If you appreciate an interesting predicament (or read my earlier article), I have been struggling with what to do when the warranty expires on my 2017 718 Cayman in July. I can’t possibly chance an uncovered Porsche, as the potential consequences can be fiscally catastrophic. So, I’ve been accustomed to flipping for a new one when it gets too close.

I’ve been leaning strongly toward the 718 Cayman GTS 4.0 — with that insanely delightful flat-six powerhouse producing nearly 400 ponies. I was raised on muscle cars, so I was also intrigued by the release of the mid-engine Corvette C8. And it wasn’t long before I was obsessed. But only one of these beauties could fit in my garage, or in my wallet.

Well, that all went sideways when the coronavirus arrived. And the lives of those of us fortunate enough to be spared a direct impact were nonetheless altered, affecting most aspects of daily reality. My perspective on almost everything was distorted rather abruptly, and transportation was no exception.

My wife and I are listed in more than one medical high-risk category, so we’ve been hunkered down and working from home since last February. We food shop at off-peak hours every other week, and doctor appointments are generally telemed. We haven’t seen any friends or family in person for almost a year — that’s just the way it is when you need to stay safe.

A New Strategy

A third car was added to our two-person family just prior to the pandemic — my wife graduating from a well-used Honda HRV to an Audi Q3. The plan was for me to drive the Honda to work and the 718 Cayman would be my first garage queen. But since last November I’d only put 200 miles on the Cayman, and not much more than that has been added to the other two.

It was initially a solid plan. Until I realized that we were dedicating space for three cars that could not be driven nearly as much as they once had. Even post-pandemic any driving meant vehicular dilution from a surplus of options. And although the Honda was now middle-aged, I hated for it to be slumbering in the driveway and blocking the exit for my 718.

When we went shopping for the Audi, we had first visited our local BMW dealer to check out the X1, 2 and 3. But like Goldilocks and The Three Bears, one was too this and the other was too that. Having been previous owners of a BMW 325xi that both of us enjoyed, we left a bit disappointed fully expected to drive home in one of them.

I did get a glimpse of a stunning late model M4 on the way out, so all was not completely lost. It was low, lean and meaner than a caged badger. I thought about that car all the way home and then into the next days and weeks. I started doing the math in my head and assessing alternatives. Google and YouTube only fueled this obsession.

The Hunt

Lost in online searches, I stumbled on the 2021 BMW M440i almost accidently. Unknown to me at that time, I studied the first renderings and I liked the aggressive design (including the controversial front grill). When the pre-production prototypes appeared, the Corvette and Cayman GTS began sharing the stage with an unlikely challenger.

No, this BMW is not a mid-engine design — an undeniable departure from my more recent fixations. But the all-wheel xDrive is rear-wheel bias and standard on the M440i coupe, making it seriously contending. It’s not classically a sports car, but it’s an athletic, purposeful coupe with attributes neither the Vette nor the Cayman can compete with.

Moreover, I needed this car to be a serious daily driver — without losing a mischievousness nature. And since the M440i comes standard with the exclusive BMW 48-volt hybrid assist, it satisfies not only a desire to move toward eco-friendly technologies and shrink our carbon footprint, but simultaneously increasing performance in all measurable categories.

Finally, an enormous upside of the M440i is its ability to play the part of an extremely fun to drive, potent (and dare I say) practical car. Where else can you cut a check for sixty grand and walk away with a fully optioned 4-seat coupe that produces nearly 400 horsepower — all with the infamous BMW maintenance-free warranty?

The Quest Begins

I checked the official BMW website every day for the new models to appear, but week after torturous week passed without a sniff. At long last, it suddenly appeared one morning, and I could now play around with the BMW configurator to create the perfect M440i just for me — a bit anticlimactic it turns out since it’s pretty well equipped right out of the box.

I saved my choices so I could go back and tweak particulars later, and during the closeout process a solicitation request appeared requesting a contact from my local dealer, BMW of Devon. Sure, how much risk is there in a phone call? Anyway, I would have bet no salesperson would even be aware of its release. And I would have lost that wager.

After a few email exchanges, I was directed to Hakim, a polite and quiet young man who impressed immediately — not just with his extensive knowledge of BMW, but his specific familiarity with this car. This purchase could be one of the last entertaining cars I’d ever own, so I appreciated someone who held a similar level of awareness to help me finalize the build.

As far as my intentions go, I was straight with him. The M440i would need to be a substitute for some of the utility and practicality of my Honda but challenge the spirit I’ve experienced in the Cayman. I also wanted to trade in both cars for a respectable price and have a touchless experience from sale to delivery — a tall order indeed.

My nature is to set expectations low, so I wasn’t really prepared to get a reasonable offer for both cars. But I did. Oh, I could perhaps have gotten a bit more for the Cayman if I sold it outright. But there’s an intrinsic cost of selling a car on your own, not to mention it’s a gigantic pain. Sight-unseen, they made a bid for the pair of them. And I accepted.

I was pleased so far. But remember that I haven’t even seen one in the wild at this point. The online build was perfect – Dravit grey with a mocha interior. Hakim persuaded me to select the Shadowline package, blacking out the grill and other trim components. He was dead on. Black wheels with all-season run-flats complimented the final product.

We arranged to drop off the trades the next day — a simple process pre-pandemic, but for us it required strategic planning. Completing the transaction outdoors minimized complications. We arrived and Hakim greeted us from a distance, masked as we were. Some signatures occurred over the hood of the Honda and we were on our way. So far, so good.

I admit I was taking a bit of a risk having not seen or driven this car. But having owned a BMW with xDrive (not to mention the research time I invested), I felt reasonably confident that we wouldn’t be disappointed. It was only the second time I’d have bought a vehicle without actually sitting in the driver seat. My very first car was the other, and it didn’t have one.

The Test Drive

Two interminable weeks passed, and I nearly forgot about it (I’m lying now for the sake of drama). But while taking our lunchtime walk through the neighborhood one afternoon, my cellphone buzzed. It was Hakim, and he wondered if I’d be interested in driving a demo model that had just arrived. Was that a rhetorical question? We hurried home.

Arriving at the dealership for the second time, the exchange was similar to the first — socially distanced and masked at all times. The M440i demo still had the protective sheeting on the hood and trunk, and it felt much like testing a pre-production stealth fighter. They sanitized the interior and off we went.

We only had 30 minutes or so as we were on our lunch break and both of us had afternoon meetings. I grew up in the area, so I knew the roads I wanted to play on. The first thing I noticed (with great relief) was zero turbo-lag. Whether it was the 48-volt hybrid assist or some other technical gizmo, this motor pulled alarmingly hard, smooth and strong.

Another surprise was the interior comfort. We deliberately kept the default settings so as not to be overly stimulated by any excessiveness. The seats had a snug grip with just the right amount of support and padding, and without the mushiness of a family room recliner. Things tighten up a bit in sport mode, but that’s no surprise.

Less than half an hour later, we exited the car and removed our driving gloves (of the medical nitrile variety), left the keys with Hakim and were on our way home. A completely contactless experience, this was definitely the weirdest but also the most exhilarating test drive I’ve ever completed — legally at any rate.

Anticipation

On the way home we discussed the raw power, road manners and cornering. There was a misty rain for the duration of our assessment. But perfect conditions are not desired for a test drive in a car like this. The BMW M440i proved itself to be the most balanced and surefooted car I’ve ever driven in the wet. My Cayman would not have managed as well.

So then now we would play the waiting game. There is nothing more interminably annoying than anticipation. The hourglass dropped grains of sand so slowly I could count them as they fell. I wandered aimlessly in my garage – the lingering echo conspicuously apparent, and the empty bay looked lonelier than a pointless punctuation.

I’ve been pestering Hakim for updates when the urge became too intense. And he has obliged with select milestones as he received them. But it’s all rather hollow when there is no context to a specific delivery timeframe. A recent text indicated my car was in the body shop and transport was pending from the factory. And then nothing more for what seemed an eternity.

Delivery

On Dec. 8 at 4 p.m. — 74 days and 10 minutes from my initial contact with the dealer, I got a call from Frank, the New Car Sales Manager. The vessel Manon was sailing into Port Bayonne harbor (New Jersey) and was scheduled to dock the following day. I logged onto VesselFinder.com and followed it for several hours until it reached the pier.

I had no idea how long the unloading and delivery process normally takes. I realize vehicle transportation is nothing like Amazon Prime and that there are customs, inspections and other logistics to contend with. Frank indicated this can take about two weeks — but I got a message from him late the next week indicating an imminent arrival.

There is no reason I should have expected the delivery to be that much more complicated than the first visits. Yes, there were several more sales related tasks to complete. The plan was to do as much of this activity ahead of time (dealer options, vehicle settings and such), so that there would be a minimum of contact.

We arrived as before and met in the transfer area outside — they are doing perhaps 50% no contact deliveries. The car was poised in seclusion, the black subdued wheels tucked inside the wells like the haunches of a panther straining to spring on its prey. We completed a visual inspection checking for imperfections. It was flawless, and my eyes watered.

The documents were prepared and reviewed on the phone with us that morning, and we signed off on them in the shadow of the coupe as the late afternoon sun faded. Less than an hour from arrival the process was complete. We parted and I drove home with my wife driving the Q3 in my rearview mirror.

Conclusion

I did not intend to provide a comprehensive review of my BMW M440i as part of this commentary — that is something I’ve promised for the early part of the New Year. I will need a chance to flog it around a bit under some diverse conditions. Initial impressions? It’s everything I expected it to be. Beautiful. Luxurious. Intoxicating.

I’ve appreciated every car I’ve owned for one reason or another, even some of our commuter clunkers. But I’ve truly treasured only a handful. The BMW M440i is such a car. I knew it would be the moment I configured it on the BMW website so many weeks ago. And it was well worth the wait.

Being a self-subscribed motor head has meant that I’m destined to pursue my next purchase. In the past my eyes have wandered to other tantalizing possibilities sometimes within months of a transaction. Perhaps that’s because I was always compromising for one reason or another. But now, just in time for the holidays, I have filled both the void in my garage and in my soul.

I will admit that I missed out on the typical car buying experience. This was the first, and I certainly hope the last time we have to complete a purchase in this way. The entire process was either remote or socially distanced. I agree that’s a bit peculiar, but given our relative health, we take this virus seriously. And we are thankful that BMW of Devon did as well.

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10 of America’s great campsites

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We’ve been able to stay at so many great parks that have wonderful views, hikes, and other activities. Many of these have good campsites, but this article features 10 outstanding campsites where you can sit with some privacy and enjoy a terrific view and/or observe animals or birds without having to travel to other portions of the park.

Given the coronavirus situation, these campsites can be an amazing place to stay. Of course, please check for current availability and status.

Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park, South Dakota

Frankly, the campsites are quite variable in quality. Many are for smaller RVs or tents. Some have electricity. There is no water, septic, or Wi-Fi here and the showers are pay. Don’t worry about that, but camp here for the fantastic view.

You can enjoy the amazing colors of sunrise and sunset on the rocks right from your campsite. During the day you can go to the visitor center, drive the road to the amazing overlooks, hike, and visit the nearby Minuteman Missile National Historic Site.

City of Rocks State Park, New Mexico

At City of Rocks, you can be up close and personal with the rocks. The campsites with power (no water or Wi-Fi) are nearby and are nice enough. The outstanding campsites have no amenities at all but are right among the rocks. Some campsites are quite large and most are very private.

You’ll soon be climbing rocks in your “backyard.” Have fun naming the rocks since their shapes are like clouds and open to interpretation. My favorite was Toilet Rock (though the park calls it a snail)! Be sure to enjoy the stars at night.

Our back window view at Fort Clinch State Park

Fort Clinch State Park, Florida

Florida is full of state parks with campgrounds near the beach. The state parks of Key West are great for sites on the water (our favorite is Long Key State Park) but it is very difficult to get reservations. For a great campsite with a view but an easier chance to get reservations, visit Fort Clinch is in the north part of the state.

The campsites are good size with water and electricity. The River Campground has sites among the trees with the river and a beach nearby. The Beach Campground isn’t on the beach (a very short walk away) but has otherworldly views of the sand dunes. The park also contains a fort to visit along with the chance to find fossil shark teeth on the beach.

St. Andrews State Park, Florida

This might be the busiest of the campgrounds, but there’s a reason it is popular. Here there are many campsites right on the bay. It is not unusual to watch herons and egrets from your campsite. The deer also like to walk through the campground.

The campsites have water and electric. The beach is within biking distance and is superb. Note that the number of available campsites is down due to Hurricane Michael.

Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona

The view of the Superstition Mountains from your campsite will encourage you to learn more about the stories of a lost gold mine and to explore the area. Many of the campsites have water and electric while some are dry campsites.

The hike to the top of Flatiron is tough and can take 5-7 hours but it is well worth doing this hike at least once in your life. Other trails in the park are shorter and quite enjoyable. Besides park offerings, downtown Phoenix and all it has to offer is only 45 minutes away.

The American Queen may pass your campsite at Tom Sawyer’s RV Park.

Tom Sawyer’s RV Park, Arkansas

I prefer state parks and national parks, but this campground is amazing. The campground is right on the Mississippi River across from Memphis. Get a campsite on the river and watch the river traffic as barges, boats, and ships pass all day.

Even if you don’t get those campsites, you can spend your time on the benches along the river or walking the trails. The campsites are full hook-up (water, electric, sewer, and Wi-Fi). The free laundry is an extra bonus. Memphis with Elvis sites and their amazing barbeque is a quick drive across the Mississippi.

Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Texas

We’ve stayed at two of the several campgrounds at this state park and both guarantee a wonderful stay. At Hackberry, we saw turkey and deer in our campsite. At Juniper, we saw road runners and turkey along with an incredible view of the colorful rocks from the canyon floor.

The campsites have water and electric along with being within walking distance to the start of some of spectacular hiking trails. A warning…the summer gets uncomfortably hot so plan your trip accordingly.

Coopers Rock State Forest, West Virginia

When you are tired of rock, desert, or water views, visit Coopers Rock to camp among a forest. The sites are good sized and have electricity. The campground is relatively small (25 sites) so quiet nights are the norm. The park has almost 50 miles of trails to explore. My favorites are Raven Rock Trail, Clay Furnace Trail, and the secret Haystack Trail.

A visitor to our campsite at Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

There is absolutely nothing like having a bison stroll through your campsite. If you don’t see them here, you can watch them at the river nearby. A drive through the park will show you bison, prairie dogs, Texas longhorns, and wild horses. The campground doesn’t have any amenities, but who cares when you have gorgeous views and impressive visitors.

Choke Canyon State Park, Texas

For the greatest variety of animals that can be seen from a campsite, Choke Canyon is amazing. We’ve seen javelina, rabbits, deer, bats, and turkey along with a variety of other birds while sitting outside our RV. At night you can hear coyote nearby. Elsewhere you may see alligators, armadillos, turtles, and feral hogs.

The coolest animal we saw was a bobcat sauntering through our campsite (we were safely inside and watching from the windows). The park has plenty of hiking trails to enjoy. The campsites are good size and have water and electric.

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An oldie but goodie for hunting: Remington Core-Lokt ammo

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Selecting the appropriate bullet for a particular hunt doesn’t necessarily have to be an expensive or time-consuming process. Indeed, sometimes the older and/or less glamorous choice is the best one.

For instance, the Remington Core-Lokt uses a really old design that first hit the market all the way back in 1939. However, it has proven to be extremely effective when used in a variety of hunting situations over the years.

Featuring a tapered copper jacket that’s mechanically “locked” to a solid lead core shaped like an hourglass, Core-Lokt bullets deliver rapid, yet somewhat controlled expansion and good weight retention. These bullets are known for rapidly mushrooming upon impact and quite often expand to about two times their original diameter.

Image: Remington

However, the hourglass shaped lead core and gradually increasing thickness of the jacket work to stop deformation in order to reduce the odds of the bullet expanding too rapidly and completely disintegrating. Those are both possibilities when using simple cup and core bullets in higher velocity cartridges like the .270 Winchester or 7mm Remington Magnum and can sometimes result in horrific, but very shallow flesh wounds on big game that aren’t immediately fatal.

As a result of those design features, the Core-Lokt is known for delivering a balance of massive tissue destruction and deep wound channels. This is why the bullet is sometimes referred to as the “deadliest mushroom in the woods.”

Remington Core-Lokt ammunition is also usually extremely common and very reasonably priced. Not surprisingly, it’s one of the most popular ammunition choices for deer hunters in North America.

It’s also available in an incredible variety of centerfire rifle cartridges. Of course, it’s an option for the most popular deer hunting cartridges, but Core-Lokt ammo is also available in a number of less commonly used ones as well.

As of late 2020, Remington Core-Lokt ammunition is currently available in the following rifle cartridges: .223 Remington, 6mm Creedmoor, 6mm Remington, .243 Winchester, .25-06 Remington, .25-20 Winchester, .250 Savage, .257 Roberts, 6.5×55 Swedish Mauser, .260 Remington, 6.5 Creedmoor, .264 Winchester Magnum, .270 Winchester, 270 Winchester Short Magnum, 7mm-08 Remington, .280 Remington, 7×64 Brenneke, 7mm Mauser, 7mm Remington Magnum, 7mm Remington Ultra Magnum, 7mm Remington Short Action Ultra Magnum, .30 Carbine, .30-30 Winchester, .30-40 Krag, .308 Winchester, .308 Marlin Express, .300 Savage, .30 Remington AR, .30-06 Springfield, 300 Winchester Short Magnum, .300 Winchester Magnum, .300 Remington Ultra Magnum, .300 Weatherby Magnum, .300 Remington Short Action Ultra Magnum, 7.62x39mm, .303 British, .32 Winchester Special, .338 Winchester Magnum, .338 Ultra Magnum, 35 Remington, 35 Whelen, .444 Marlin, .450 Bushmaster, and .45-70 Govt.

This ammunition also has a reputation for good accuracy in a wide range of rifles in all sorts of different cartridges. Core-Lokt ammo isn’t known for match grade accuracy, but it’s also rare to experience really bad accuracy with it either.

That said, this ammunition doesn’t use extremely sleek, aerodynamic bullets, So, while it’s great for most deer hunters out to several hundred yards, Core-Lokt ammunition is not the best option for hunters seeking ideal performance at extended range.

Even so, the widespread availability, reasonable price, and good terminal performance of Remington Core-Lokt ammunition makes it a very compelling choice for many deer hunters and explains why it’s still so popular to this day.

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The best places to ring in 2021 with social distancing

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New Year’s Eve is going to look a little different this year. Social distancing and roving shutdowns promise more subdued celebrations as organizers try to stage events that minimize the spread of the coronavirus. But that doesn’t mean the nation isn’t as eager as ever to rock out 2020!

Outdoor events, such as concerts, parades and fireworks, will take precedence, but mostly on a smaller scale than in years past. We’ve identified six NYE celebrations across the country that guarantee a good time while keeping partygoers as safe as possible.

Just remember to wear your mask and plan ahead so you know all the safety guidelines before you go out.

New York City, New York

This year, the granddaddy of all NYE celebrations is marking the 114th anniversary of the famous ball drop in Times Square. The annual descent of the 11,875-pound Waterford crystal ball is watched (live or streaming) by an audience of more than a billion people worldwide.

Tickets aren’t needed and admission is free — but beware, space is very limited (especially while social distancing). The drop can be best seen along Broadway from 43rd St. to 50th St., or along Seventh Ave. as far north as 59th St.

Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville’s traditional NYE Music City Midnight concert won’t be happening this year but there’s plenty else on tap to entertain holiday revelers. Music City is all about music, of course, and leading things off on December 31 is the Grammy Award winning band Old Crow Medicine Show at Ryman Auditorium.

New Year’s Eve at popular rooftop lounge UP will feature Davis Mallory from MTV’s “Real World” as DJ, while Redneck Riviera hosts a gala party with live music, champagne toasts, appetizers, desserts and favors. Lower Broadway restaurants, bars and honkey-tonks will be humming as well — all within limitations set forth in the city’s safety guidelines for COVID-19.

Miami, Florida

Miami has its own version of New York’s Ball Drop: Big Orange. While revelers enjoy live music and dancing at a free party in downtown’s Bayfront Park, a 35-foot neon sphere slowly rises — rather than falling. Fireworks erupt as Big Orange reaches its zenith at midnight.

Miami’s global superstar Pitbull and a host of other big name artists provide the sounds. Not to be outdone, South Beach hosts its own mega-party with yet another display of pyrotechnics. Remember, too, this is Orange Bowl weekend!

New Orleans, Louisiana

Mardi Gras is not the only mega-party in New Orleans. New Year’s Eve in the Big Easy is a fete to behold as well. Things get underway on the afternoon of Dec. 31 with a noisy parade along Decatur Street, while crowds cheer on the nation’s second oldest bowl game — the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

NYE celebrations center on Jackson Square in the heart of the historic French Quarter. Every year at 11:59 p.m. there’s a fleur-de-lys drop, not unlike the Big Apple ball drop. The evening culminates with a colorful fireworks display over the Mississippi River.

Las Vegas, Nevada

We can sum up New Year’s Eve in Sin City in one word: crazy. And we mean that in a fun way. Come NYE and the entire Strip shuts down to traffic and becomes one giant block party. At midnight, the casinos launch a choreographed fireworks show that’s claimed to be the nation’s largest.

Dozens of casino and nightclub shows feature the hottest entertainment acts in the business. As many revelers have discovered, there’s lots of action downtown as well — beneath the dazzling lighted canopy on Fremont Street where live bands entertain and fireworks explode across a gigantic Viva Vision LED screen.

Lake Tahoe, California/Nevada

For the more active types, skiers in particular, there is no better New Year’s destination than the snow-capped Sierras — and scenic Lake Tahoe. There are parties everywhere and one of the favorites holds forth at the CBC (Crystal Bay Club) where celebrants rock to the tunes of the California Honeydrops with special guests Sal’s Greenhouse and The Sextones.

Local ski areas get in on the act as well with NYE celebrations set for Squaw Valley, Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe, Northstar and Heavenly Village — where country superstar Jerrod Niemann headlines a talented cast of entertainers. Torchlight parades and fireworks shows round out the activities. Music lovers might want to come early for the SnowGlobe Music Festival, a three-day event taking place Dec. 29-31 in South Lake Tahoe. Performers scheduled for this year’s event include Skrillex, Gigantic Nightmare and Fisher.

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What to know about the best ammo for hunting thick-skinned, dangerous game

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Bullet selection is always an important consideration when preparing for a hunt. However, choosing the appropriate bullet literally becomes a matter of life and death if you’ll be hunting dangerous game like cape buffalo.

The good news is that most of the big ammunition companies now offer several different lines of ammunition that are specifically designed for hunting thick-skinned, dangerous game. In particular, Nosler manufactures its Safari Ammunition line specifically for those hunters.

Before going into detail on Nosler Safari Ammunition, I’d like to provide a little bit of background on the sort of bullet performance hunters pursuing thick-skinned dangerous game (cape buffalo in particular) really need while they’re afield.

You’ve probably heard it before, but it bears repeating here: cape buffalo are really, really big and really, really tough. As a point of reference, a big bull can weigh twice as much as a mature bull elk.

Buffalo have thick hides, dense muscles, and heavy bones that are known for defeating lightly constructed bullets. Since buffalo are often encountered at close range and in thick cover, the margin for error is very small and more than a few hunters have lost their lives (or spent time in a hospital) as a result of poor bullet performance.

With this in mind, heavy for caliber, controlled-expansion bullets are essential for hunting buffalo. In short, you want a bullet that will reliably expand to a certain point in order to cause lots of tissue damage, but not expand so much that it won’t reliably penetrate deep enough to reach the vitals.

At the same time, most professional hunters recommend chambering a good quality expanding bullet for the first shot and loading non-expanding bullets for all subsequent shots. This is because the first shot will most likely be taken at a broadside or slightly quartering angle.

Since those shooting angles minimize the distance a bullet must penetrate to reach the vitals, expanding bullets are better choices because they make a larger wound channel, cause more damage to the internal organs of the buffalo, and are less likely to exit and unintentionally wound another buffalo in the herd than non-expanding bullets.

However, follow-up shots will most likely be taken at less desirable angles and expanding bullets do not typically penetrate quite as well as non-expanding bullets of the same caliber and weight. For this reason, non-expanding bullets are better choices for follow-up shots because they can be relied upon for the necessary amount of penetration to reach the vitals from non-ideal angles.

So, most dangerous game hunters need a mix of good quality controlled-expansion bullets and non-expanding solids that shoot to the same point of impact. Fortunately, product lines like Barnes’ VOR-TX Safari, Federal Premium’s Safari Cape-Shok, Hornady’s Dangerous Game Series, and Nosler’s Safari Ammunition are all designed to provide that sort of performance.

Image: Nosler

Nosler worked in partnership with Norma Precision to manufacture its Safari Ammunition. This ammo pairs their legendary Partition Bullet with Nosler Safari Solid bullets of the same weight that also shoot to the same point of impact.

On one hand, the Partition delivers rapid and violent, yet controlled expansion that is deadly on all manner of game from impala and whitetail deer all the way up to moose and eland. It’s also a good choice for initial shots on buffalo.

On the other hand, the Nosler Solid bullets are tough, flat-nosed, homogenous projectiles that can be relied upon for deep, straight-line penetration through thick muscles and heavy bones of even the largest creatures. These projectiles are wonderful choices for follow-up shots on buffalo as well as for shots on smaller game like steenbok and duiker to minimize damage to the hides.

Nosler Safari Grade ammunition is currently available in the following cartridges and bullet weights: 9.3x62mm Mauser (286gr), .375 Flanged (300gr), .375 H&H Magnum (300gr), .404 Jeffery (400gr), .416 Remington Magnum (400gr), .416 Rigby (400gr), .450 Rigby (500gr), .458 Winchester Magnum (500gr), .458 Lott (500gr), .470 Nitro Express (500gr), .500 Nitro Express (570gr), 500/416 Nitro Express (400gr), 500 Jeffery (570gr), and .505 Gibbs (525gr).

So, if you’re looking for the right ammo to take on safari with dangerous game on the menu, then you should really consider using Nosler Safari Ammunition. This is some versatile rifle ammunition that you can depend on when the chips are down.

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Can leisure and work-from-home demand stimulate extended-stay hotel growth beyond COVID-19?

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The lodging industry is still struggling to fill empty rooms in 2020. For months, U.S. hotels have been running at an occupancy of 50% or lower.

Not every segment in the industry suffers the same impact from the pandemic, however. Demand for home-sharing facilities had already bounced back over the summer. Airbnb reported a higher booking rate than last year. Marriott’s home-sharing arm is also doing well, seeing a sevenfold increase in booking over last summer.

Similar to what a residential rental or home-sharing facility offers, guestrooms in extended-stay hotels also feature a full-size kitchen or a kitchenette. Extended-stay hotels are designed for travelers who want to stay at a “home” when away from home.

Extended-stay hotels vs. home-sharing facilities

Because COVID-19 is primarily transmitted through direct or indirect human contacts, people are highly encouraged to avoid unnecessary human interactions, leading to more contactless self-services across all service sectors. The lack of human interactions may also change the pros of staying in an extended-stay hotel vs. a home-sharing facility.

Pros of staying in an extended-stay hotel

  • Staying in a place with enhanced cleaning standards reinforced by the hotel chains. Airbnb also introduced enhanced cleaning standards, but hotel chains have more control over the franchisees than Airbnb has on the individual hosts.
  • Collecting travel reward points and enjoying the exclusive perks offered to frequent travelers by chain hotels. Many home-sharing platforms like Airbnb have not designed a loyalty program to reward their loyal customers yet.
  • Easy access to the amenities inside a hotel, such as a gym, meeting rooms, business centers, spas in some cases, etc.
  • 24/7 on-site customer support.
  • Easy reservation process with a few clicks. Reservations for a home-sharing stay require the blessing/approval of the hosts.

Pros of staying in a home-sharing facility

  • Gaining eccentric experience in unique listings, such as a castle or luxury home, although hotels are also adding more luxury homes into their home-sharing listings.
  • Prices could be cheaper than hotels because home-sharing hosts are not as professionally trained as the hotel revenue managers in price positioning or dynamic pricing.
  • Staying in a residential neighborhood instead of commercial or tourist areas. Travelers are more likely to experience a destination as locals.
  • A possibility of developing a lasting friendship with the local hosts, although social distancing and minimum human interactions are still in place in many tourist destinations.

Leisure travel and work-from-home support the growth of extended-stay hotels

Companies are cutting budgets for business travel. People are also advised to avoid any unnecessary travel. Still, people want to travel, and many leisure travelers make trips to destinations within driving distances. When traveling with kids, it would be nicer to stay in a place with a larger space and a full-size kitchen, or at least a kitchenette.

Additionally, more companies are letting employees work from home permanently. Hotels want business from those working from home. For instance, Marriott debut three promotions last week:

  • Day Pass, allowing guests to work in the hotel from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Stay Pass, where guests can extend the day pass with an overnight stay.
  • Play Pass, targeting the work-from-home workers who may want a getaway with their family in luxury and resort locations.

When work-from-home workers travel with their families for a longer period of time, they may also like to have a larger room with a functional workspace and a kitchen/kitchenette. Extended-stay hotels will be a good option for frequent travelers who also want reward points and perks.

How are extended-stay hotels doing during COVID-19?

According to a recent national report, extended-stay hotels experienced the smallest RevPAR (revenue per available room) decline since COVID-19 hit in March. Extended-stay hotels maintained 54% occupancy in June, compared to all hotels’ average occupancy at 42.2%. The economy extended-hotel segment even reported a 75.4% occupancy, higher than any other category by more than 20 percentage points.

Another report released by STR in June, a leading data analytics provider for the lodging industry, also reported a similar trend.

Lower costs to build and operate an extended-stay hotel

Besides high occupancy, extended-stay hotels can be built and operated at a lower price as well. For example,

  • According to a newly-released cost survey in hotel development, the median cost per room for limited-service and midscale extended-stay hotels (e.g., Home2 Suites by Hilton) is in the mid-$130,000s. The median cost per room for upscale extended-stay hotels (e.g., Residence Inn by Marriott and Homewood Suites by Hilton) is $184,000. By comparison, the median cost per room for select-service upscale hotels (e.g., Courtyard by Marriott and Hyatt Place) is $204,000.
  • When people stay for a longer period (usually the case for extended-stay products), a hotel can hire fewer front desk staff to perform check-in and check-out tasks, regardless of more travelers opting for mobile check-in and check-out.
  • A hotel may also hire fewer housekeepers because there is no need to change the linens every day for stay-over guests.
  • Fewer requests from the “regulars” for customer service often means lower labor costs and lower variable costs.

More extended-stay hotel brands and properties are entering the market

Extended-stay hotels definitely appeal to hotel developers. There were 525,952 extended-stay hotel rooms in the market as of mid-2020, an increase of 8.2% from last year. According to the American Hotel & Lodging Association, there are over 54,200 hotels with 5 million guestrooms in the U.S. Approximately 1 in 10 guestrooms in the market is at an extended-stay hotel.

A few weeks ago, Red Lion Hospitality, the owner of such brands as Americas Best Value Inn, Knights Inn, and Red Lion Hotels, announced that it would reposition its GuestHouse International chain as GuestHouse Extended Stay at an upper-economy price.

Aimbridge Hospitality, a hotel management company, also added 16 Extended Stay America properties recently to its portfolio, representing 1,775 extended-stay hotel rooms.

Concerns about the growth of the extended-stay segment?

Extended-stay hotels seem to appeal to both travelers and investors. As long as the demand can sustain its growth, there is probably not a big concern. What do you think?

If the demand for extended-stay hotels continues to grow, is it time for the existing non-extended-stay hotels to consider converting some of their guestrooms for long-term-stay travelers?

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Handling money while RVing

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No one talks about it much, but handling money is a part of traveling. You need to decide how you want to manage your financial affairs during an extended RV trip. Adjust the hints below based on your comfort level with the internet and philosophy on money.

Bills

Paper bills in your forwarded mail may be delayed for weeks. Instead, plan to use the online billing option for everything you can. Use the automatic payment option when you can, too, so you won’t accidently miss a due date.

We don’t like to automate credit cards so we can check for errors or someone using our card number. But for most other bills, we automate the billing if the company has that option.

Bank

ATMs are useful for cash or deposits (watch for added fees). Yet there are times you need a physical bank and your local bank will most likely be far away. It is best to open an account in one of the big banks. Wells Fargo has the most branches in the U.S. but is not in some states. Chase and Bank of America are also popular.

Learn how to use the online banking app for your bank. You can check your accounts, balance your checkbook, and transfer money easily. You should also learn how to use the online check deposit option that most large banks have on their phone app. This will save you a trip and is quite easy and safe.

Cash

The first assumption is that you have a credit card or two. These should be used for most purchases. There are people that like to use cash as much as possible, but, frankly, it can be difficult if you are traveling the country in an RV (though not impossible). On the other hand, the world of camping uses cash more than you expect.

You will want to stock some cash in your RV for those times when you can’t reach your bank or ATM. Having several hundred dollars in $20s hidden away can be very helpful. Make sure you also have enough $5s and $1s for things like toll roads.

A roll or two of dimes and nickels are good to have but are not as critical as quarters. Having $50 to $100 of quarters sounds like a lot, but they are handy for laundry. Most RV parks can sell you a roll of quarters, but it can be more difficult at other parks. Plus, having quarters in your RV is more convenient.

Note that theft is rare in camping. Most of it involves things left outside the camper. Of course, you should make sure you lock your RV when you leave the campsite. Just in case, there are lots of cubbyholes in an RV that may not be obvious to a thief where your cash can be hidden. Storing money in those spots may be more for peace-of-mind but it doesn’t hurt.

Taxes

Doing taxes in an RV isn’t that different from your process at home. Set up a folder in your RV to collect tax information. If you will be away from your home during tax season, make sure you have the years documents with you when you need it.

You can use tax software like TurboTax or every town has an accountant or tax firm that you can visit. Once you are done, submitting your taxes online is easier and more convenient than printing and mailing your forms. You will also get a refund quicker this way (best to have it deposited directly to your bank account).

Printing

Very occasionally you may need to print something. Some people have printers in their RV. If you don’t, many times an RV park will let you print something free or for a small fee. Most libraries will print what you need for a fee even if you don’t have a library card. Make sure you have a memory stick along with you to transfer the files for printing.

The more you plan for your financial needs before you leave on your trip, the better.

A summary:

  • Use online billing and automatic payment whenever you can.
  • Open up an account with one of the big three (Wells Fargo, Chase, Bank of America).
  • Use the internet for everything you can.
  • Have a credit card and use it.
  • Have some cash with you.
  • Keep your tax records organized.
  • Own a memory stick/USB flash drive.

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New DC hotel targets powerful women

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#MeToo is not dead, it is sleeping — at a new hotel that hopes to attract the bold and the beautiful, if not the most powerful women on the emerging political landscape.

Viceroy Hotels & Resorts is changing the conversation in Washington, D.C., and beyond, with the opening of Hotel Zena, a brash new cultural magnet giving special attention to the accomplishments of women and their enduring struggle for gender equality. It’s an interactive venue where every architectural line, material and art installation have been thoughtfully designed and curated to send a message of female empowerment.

Located in the vibrant Logan Circle neighborhood along renewed 14th Street in downtown D.C., the 191-room hotel is not only a story about women. It’s also a celebration of people who work together to achieve fundamental civil rights, in a warm, dynamic, and inviting hotel with comfortable spaces featuring artwork commissioned to create a message of struggle, empowerment and hope.

Drawn up by Dawson Design Associates (DDA), every area was designed to lead to another moment of discovery for those with the time to explore. Provocative art and design are at the core of Hotel Zena, where guests are immersed in over 60 pieces of gallery-quality artwork created specifically for Zena by artists from around the world invested in the cause of human rights. The art revolves around the courage of some of the world’s most notable people and their fight for inclusivity and change. All the pieces are original and painted, photographed, sculpted and stitched by feminists of both genders with powerful stories to share.

“It is a simple story, and long overdue,” said Andrea Sheehan, DDA’s founding principle and art director. “This is our “Female Z,” and the first Z Hotel on the East Coast. We wanted to make it a powerful statement. Given its strategic location and our society’s current state, it just made sense to us to take a public stand central to its creation. We both believe in the power that art can play in bringing people together.”

The hotel opens at a pivotal time in the nation’s history. Its lobby is dominated by an extraordinary portrait of the late, honorable Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Its pointillist concept, conceived by Andrea Sheehan and produced by Julie Coyle Studios using 20,000 hand-painted and repurposed tampons, is a contemporary, intimate spin on this classic art form. This unique portrait honors both Justice Ginsburg’s life-long dedication to women’s rights and equality and her humor in the most personal and intimate form. Another iconic installation, a curving wall layered with 8,000 protest buttons representing generations of marches and events promoting the feminist movement, pays tribute to America’s 100th anniversary of the Women’s Right to Vote.

The “Portrait Gallery” in Hotel Zena’s lobby features the stories of female warriors. It displays artwork celebrating ten powerful women, in addition to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who have made significant contributions in the struggle for Women’s Rights and Gender Equality. Additional portraits include the indomitable Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman elected to the United States Congress and the first woman Democrat to run for President of the United States. It is one of two pieces of art inspired by the late Congresswoman; the other is a hanging installation constructed of painted folding chairs in celebration of her famous statement: “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.”

Numerous art pieces created by regional artists were brought forward by local curator Jason Bowers to supplement the artwork from other parts of the world. They can be found throughout the hotel, including the mural of female warriors standing as sentinels on Hotel Zena’s exterior designed by D.C. based art director, muralist, designer, and illustrator Cita Sadeli, more popularly known as MISS CHELOVE. Her vision for Hotel Zena’s mural was to create an atmosphere of intrigue composed of a pair of fierce yet curious warrior-sentinel women protecting the sanctity of the space.

Dining and Conversation

At the heart of Hotel Zena lies “Figleaf,” the spacious bar and restaurant designed to inspire creativity and ignite conversation in an area surrounded by the hotel’s signature art pieces. Figleaf is an ideal space for an intimate yet socially distanced get-together. It is a unique area to work remotely or provide a venue to feature a speaker series and creative events. Executive Chef David Sears looked to the modern wellness movement for crafting a menu of approachable, locally-sourced shared plates and entrees, and a Drinks Menu that embraces bold flavors in mocktails and cocktails.

“Hedy’s Rooftop” will be coming to Hotel Zena in Spring 2021. Hotel Zena’s upscale rooftop lounge will serve up cocktails, mocktails, and select small bites. Guests will be able to sip and savor in the poolside sun or in the comfort of one of the hotel’s private cabanas painted by artist Rose Jaffe including her Dancing Druids mural celebrating the rights of fertility and spring. A six-foot-tall, internally lit Venus, a replica of the Venus icons of paleolithic tribes, will spread her soft glow in the night.

Power Naps

In each of Hotel Zena’s 191 guestrooms and suites, a sleek and progressive design featuring soft, warm hues provides a tranquil atmosphere in which guests can relax. Art secures the guestrooms in the form of a translucent portrait of the Greek goddess Artemis, quiver in hand, protecting those within.

The hotel offers 3,500 square feet of flexible meeting and event space, indoor and outdoor options, on-site catering, and more, interwoven with venues aptly named after and inspired by women who have affected historical change. Perched on the hotel’s highest floor, Belmont pays tribute to Alva Belmont, a significant figure in the American women’s suffrage movement known for a willingness to challenge convention. Set under the stars, Hedy’s Rooftop has a breathtaking view of The District and is an ideal destination for intimate weddings and small private events.

Hotel Zena practices all Viceroy cleanliness protocols, including physical distancing and mask requirements, hand sanitation stations, and guest rooms disinfected with hospital-grade products, plus thoughtful amenities such as in-room touchless, voice-controlled Google NestHubs virtual concierges. Hotel Zena is also part of AHLA’s Safe Stay® cleaning and safety program, the industry’s adopted program, and processes for maintaining and ensuring all guests’ and associates’ safety.

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