Tag Archives: Travel

  • 0

Touring America’s musical instrument makers

Tags : 

{summary}

America’s musical instrument industry is humming right along. It netted $6.2 billion in revenues in 2018,with a profit of $341 million, according to IBISWorld, a Los Angeles-based marketing research firm.

A number of instrument makers across the country,including several of the world’s leading guitar and piano manufacturers, invite interested music aficionados to tour their factories and workshops.

Here are eight such manufacturers:

Conn-Selmer Inc., Elkhart, Indiana

This Indiana company expresses great pride at being one of the last manufacturers of band and orchestra instruments in the U.S. It has a pair of factories in Elkhart where its South Facility produces woodwinds — flutes, clarinets and saxophones — while brass instruments, including trumpets, trombones and flugelhorns are made at its North Facility.

Guided tours are offered on Thursday and Friday afternoons. Reservations for the hour-long guided tours must be made two weeks in advance.

www.conn-selmer.com, 574-522-1675

Fender Musical Instruments Corp., Corona,California

Fender is the world’s foremost manufacturer of guitars, basses, amplifiers and related equipment.With an illustrious history dating back to 1946, Fender has transformed music in nearly every genre: rock,country and western, jazz, rhythm and blues and others.

Some of the world’s most acclaimed performers have used Fender instruments, particularly the legendary Telecaster and Stratocaster electric guitars.Developed by inventor and company founder Leo Fender in the early 1950s, these innovative solid-body electric guitars created a revolution in popular music.

Tours of the Corona factory have been on-again and off-again in recent years but typically start at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday mornings. Call ahead to make a reservation.

www.fender.com, 844-202-0924

Taylor Guitars, El Cajon, California

Founded in 1974 by Bob Taylor and Kurt Listug,Taylor Guitars has grown to become the leading global builder of premium acoustic guitars.

Taylor’s git-boxes are widely considered among the best sounding and easiest to play in the world. The company pioneered the use of computerized mills, lasers and other high-tech tool sand proprietary machinery, and you can see it all inaction during a free 90-minute tour offered Monday through Friday at 1:00 p.m. (excluding holidays).

Simply check in with the receptionist a bit before 1:00 p.m. at 1980 Gillespie Way in El Cajon.

www.taylorguitars.com, 800-943-6782

Martin & Company, Nazareth, Pennsylvania

Another iconic American guitar maker, Martin was founded in 1833 by German immigrant Christian Frederick Martin Sr. and has been continuously family owned and operated for six generations.Martin’s acoustic guitars have inspired musicians worldwide for nearly two centuries with their unrivaled quality, craftsmanship and tone.

The list of Martin players, past and present, reads like a Who’s-Who of the music business and includes such legends as Elvis Presley, Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney and John Mayer. A guided factory tour follows guitars from rough lumber to finished product, a process requiring more than 300 steps.

Free tours are an hour long and are conducted at regular intervals between 11:00 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Guests can also visit the Martin Guitar Museum, housing more than 170 guitars that parallel the company’s history,and the 1833 Shop, featuring Martin & Company apparel, souvenirs, and, of course, guitars.

www.martinguitar.com, 610-759-2837

A Steinway retail location in California.

Steinway & Sons, Astoria, New York

Steinway is a name virtually synonymous with the piano — and it goes back a long way. Steinway &Sons was founded in New York City in 1853 by German immigrant Henry Engelhard Steinway.

Henry was a master cabinet maker who built his first piano in the kitchen of his Sessen, Germany,home. Through the decades, Henry and his sons developed the modern piano. The Steinway has become the choice of 98% of concert artists,none of whom are compensated to endorse the instrument.

Guided tours of the Long Island factory are offered from September through June, departing on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:30 a.m. until noon. Guests witness the entire process of creating a Steinway during this comprehensive tour. Advance booking is required, as is a $20 pp entry fee. Children under the age of 16 are not permitted on the factory floor. Similar age restrictions are in effect at most the factories described in this article.

www.steinway.com, 718-721-2600

The Reuter Organ Co., Lawrence, Kansas

Since its founding in 1917, the Reuter Organ Co.has designed and built nearly 2,500 pipe organs for churches, concert halls and residences. Organ-building occupies a unique place in the world of instrument making. It combines handcraftsmanship and computer technology to produce the largest and most complex of all musical instruments.

An hour-long guided tour of Reuter’s Kansas factory presents an overview of all aspects of pipe organ construction — engineering, woodworking, pipe making, voicing and assembly. Tours can be pre-scheduled for any weekday from 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

www.reuterorgan.com, 785-843-2622

The Original American Kazoo Company,Eden, New York

Although it is not taken seriously in some musical circles, the simple kazoo is an American musical invention that deserves more recognition and respect than it receives. For the many who don’t know what a kazoo is, it’s a musical instrument that adds a buzzing or timbral quality to a player’s voice when they vocalize or hum into it.

Technically, it’s a type of mirliton, a class of instruments that modifies its player’s voice by way of a vibrating membrane (most commonly made of waxy paper). Typically, a kazoo player hums into the instrument creating oscillating air pressure that makes the membrane vibrate.

The resulting sound varies in pitch and loudness with the player’s humming. It is easy to play, which helps explain its popularity among amateurs. The origin of the kazoo is sketchy but it was developed in America in the 1880s.

In 1916, the Original American Kazoo Company began manufacturing metal kazoos for the masses in a two-room shop in Eden, New York. By 1994, the company was producing 1.5 million kazoos per year and was the only remaining maker of the instrument — a distinction it retains to this day.

Visitors can watch metal kazoos being turned out, much the way they were from the start in 1916, at the company’s combination factory and museum. Guided tours ($2 pp) are available on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but please call at least one day ahead to schedule an appointment.

www.edenkazoo.com, 716-992-3960

Share This:


  • 0

A look at NEC’s enterprise solutions for hospitality businesses

Tags : 

{summary}

I recently met with the hospitality team of NEC Global Enterprise Solutions at NEC Corporation’s headquarters in Tokyo. The team gave me a brief introduction of what services NEC provides and a tour of the NEC Future Creation Hub, an interactive showroom for the company’s latest tech products.

The trip to NEC’s headquarters was, in fact, a follow-up visit after I met with the company’s hospitality team at HITEC 2019 in Minneapolis in June. After getting a sneak peek of what NEC offers, I wonder whether tech firms or hospitality companies are the force that drives the transformation of the industry.

The traditional business solutions offered by NEC

NEC Corporation was established in 1899 as a telecommunications company, which later introduced the first PBX (private branch exchange) system in Japan. Even though PBX is not as crucial in hotel operations of today, NEC remains a top service provider in IP (internet protocol) communications for major hotel chains around the world.

Additionally, NEC also developed an integrated PMS (Property Management System) called NEHOPS for hotels in the 1970s.

Today’s NEHOPS is a cloud-based system that focuses on both customers’ and employees’ experience. More than 500 hotels in Japan, or 60% of the market share for upscale hotels, are now using NEHOPS.

NEC’s new business solutions with facial recognition technology

NEC caught my attention at HITEC 2019 primarily due to its business solutions, which built upon facial recognition technology. During this visit to NEC’s headquarters, I was able to gain firsthand experience with a few products that utilize facial recognition technology at the NEC Future Creation Hub.

“One ID” for airports and resorts

One ID allows airports and resorts to utilize travelers’ biometric information for identification purposes. Using One ID, travelers can speed up the processes of security check and clearance of the custom at the airports.
They can also skip the standard check-in process in hotels, as well as access their guestroom and other hotel facilities/outlets without a room key, a credit card, or any devices, similar to Alibaba’s futuristic hotel without human workers.

Narita Airport in Tokyo, for example, is expected to enable One ID by spring 2020, right in time for 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Other major international airports in Japan, including Haneda Airport in Tokyo and Kansai Airport in Osaka, will also deploy the facial recognition system soon for custom baggage check and entry, and boarding at the gate.

Besides airports, NEC also works with airlines to speed up the check-in and boarding process with One ID, such as Delta Airlines at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport. More recently, NEC signed a partnership agreement with Star Alliance to provide the One ID experience to travelers of the Star Alliance network.

Additionally, One ID has also been tested in a resort destination in Japan. In the case of Shirahama, a coastal, hot spring resort town located about 62 miles (100 kilometers) south of Osaka, travelers can use One ID (also called IoT in this case) at the airport, hotels, restaurants, retail stores, and other tourist facilities in the area.

Retail stores with no staff

At the NEC Future Creation Hub, I also experienced NEC’s concept retail store with no staff, similar to Amazon Go stores in the U.S.

I first screened my face at the entrance (I also likely need to tie my One ID with a form of payment). Then, I entered the gate of the store that looked like a typical subway entrance in Japan.

As I walked into the store, a customized advertisement popped up on the monitor next to the shell space. In my case, I was recognized as a middle-aged, male customer, and the ad was about a cold, bottled green tea.

I then picked the items I wanted from the shell. I walked towards the exit, where I placed the goods on the checkout counter. A screen on the counter showed me a list of the items I wanted to purchase with the price. If I did not want to make any changes, I would proceed with the payment on the screen through a screening of my face.

Compared to the Amazon Go stores, NEC’s concept store requires one more step, where consumers must place the items on the checkout counter to process the payment. Nevertheless, I expect it will work well in retail outlets located inside an office building or a small marketplace in a hotel/resort.

I like the customized advertisement idea, but I am not sure if it works when many consumers with diverse backgrounds showing up in the store all at once. Moreover, I also encouraged the team to consider adding more variables to the algorithm, such as a consumer’s racial information.

On a hot summer day, for example, an Asian man might want to drink a bottle of tea from the fridge, but a European might want to drink a can of cold beer. On a cold winter afternoon, an Asian man might want to drink a heated bottle of tea, but an American might want to drink a can of hot cocoa or hot coffee. In another case, some consumers do not eat pork or beef.

Business solutions that can help solve public safety and other global issues

At the NEC Future Creation Hub, I also observed some demonstrations of how facial recognition technology was used to track traffic or movements of crowds in a public area. When the crowds are not moving as “usual” in a hallway (e.g., instead of walking at a normal speed on the left side — a custom in Japan — people suddenly ran away from a particular spot), an alert will be sent to the authorized personnel, asking them to check the place for accidents or any hazardous conditions.

Lastly, I also watched a few videos about the company’s satellite systems. Besides the services in communications and broadcasting, NEC satellites also process images about the surface of the earth and use the data for weather forecasting, climate change, fishing and agricultural purposes, etc.

Other tech firms that also play a critical role in the hospitality and tourism industry

Many tech firms, such as Google and Amazon, have not positioned themselves as a hospitality or tourism company. Nevertheless, the services they provide to the industry are transforming how the hospitality businesses are operated.

I wonder who drives the transformation of the hospitality and tourism industry. Tech firms? Traditional hospitality companies, like Marriott or McDonald’s? Or, must it come from both forces?

Share This:


  • 0

Infographic: Lifestyle creep and how to avoid it

Tags : 

{summary}

Getting a promotion or raise when you’ve been hard at work on your career is one of the most rewarding feelings. The extra income can even feel like you’ve finally reached the light at the end of the tunnel: now you can finally afford that long vacation, eat out a little more often, or invest in a new car.

For all the potential good that comes with increased earnings, there’s also danger in upping your spending to match your additional income. This phenomenon, called lifestyle creep, begins to happen more and more until expenses that were once considered to be luxuries or splurges suddenly feel as if they’re necessary.

Between retail therapy and trying to keep up with peers, that extra income can quickly go out the window. To avoid the pitfalls of lifestyle creep, setting long-term financial goals, automatically saving your raise (so that you’re not tempted to spend it), and learning to treat yourself wisely can help.

To tell whether you’re in danger of lifestyle creep and to learn more about how to combat its negative effects, see the infographic from Intuit Turbo below.

Image: Intuit Turbo

Share This:


  • 0

Making the ‘Snap’ decision to double down on authenticity

Tags : 

{summary}

Authentic. Transparent. Real. Those are three words we’re not really accustomed to seeing these days, what with fake news, secret backgrounds and hidden motives.

Yet, for the savvy businessperson, these same three words could be the ace in the hole when it comes to successful marketing. In a world where everyone is hedging their bets and playing it safe until the odds are more promising, now is the time to double down on authenticity.

Some people just hear the word marketing and their skin starts to crawl with skepticism. This may be from being burnt on a misleading Facebook ad or receiving a less-than-satisfactory product from Amazon, but the trust factor in today’s consumerism is huge. Knowing which companies are reliable and trustworthy is now a daunting task that every consumer must shoulder, but as a responsible marketer, you can fight that skepticism by showing your hand.

Take, for instance, Snapchat — the social media networking giant known for coining disappearing conversations and posts. In the beginning, that concept alone bred fear and mistrust in potential users and skeptics, but eventually, quick, timely and disappearing posts became the norm across most social media platforms.

The reason for Snapchat’s early adoption and success was that, in the early days of disappearing content, most social networks were offering a more permanent user experience — meaning what you posted was there forever, a digital footprint that was all but impossible to erase. To the younger generations, that concept was too far off the mark of the anonymity they were seeking, and thus created the success that is Snapchat today.

So, while other networks quickly shifted to fall in line with the needs of the youth, Snapchat had to think of new ways to attract and retain users, all while maintaining its authenticity. This lead to genius marketing ploys such as geofilters and AI facial recognition, with the latest hit being the gender swapping/age manipulation feature it rolled out in May 2019.

Snapchat’s latest move to drive home their authenticity was also quite clever. After seeing its competitors struggle with privacy issues and algorithm changes that focused more on the advertiser and less on the user, Snapchat doubled down against copycat competitors by launching a global marketing campaign touting the importance of “Real Friends.” The focus of the campaign is to show that Snap is interested in developing close-knit, real relationships between real friends rather than fake lifestyles promoted by paid influencers.

So far, the Snap decision seems like a smart move to get and keep more users, but the question remains: Will the move pay dividends and make a lasting impact on Snap’s user base, or will it simply fade away like its users’ snaps?

Either way, it should be interesting to watch, and there are tactics from this smart move that you can mirror in your own marketing plans:

Know how to play the hand you’re dealt

Before your company embraces the idea of playing the authenticity card, the first thing you need to do is have a clear understanding of who your company really is and how you want to convey that message to your customers. Doing this is simple in a complicated sense.

First, go back to your original mission statement. What is it you wanted to accomplish when you started your business? Are those goals still the same, or has your company grown into something more?

If it’s grown, it’s time to rethink your mission and start from square one. Once that’s determined, you can approach your marketing strategy from the viewpoint of who you are and how you want to grow.

This also means you must be hyperaware of what your competitors are doing so you’re not falling into their shadow and just checking their hand all the way to the river. Authenticity is about being real, true to your company, to your brand. By knowing what you stand for and where your competition falls, you are better prepared to tell your whole story in a way that puts you back in the lead.

Thoughtful relevance is king

According to a recent Sprout Social report, consumers say brands are most credible when an issue directly impacts their customers, employees and business operations. With that in mind, choose what issues or causes you support wisely.

Does it play to a larger role in the betterment of your customers or employees? Is it something that’s just here today gone tomorrow? Is it a cause you truly believe in and that stands up against all scrutiny?

If so, showing support can work in your favor of proving your company’s authenticity. The transparency you provide when sharing information about the issues your company is involved with will play more in the favor of positive marketing than jumping on a bandwagon cause that has nothing to do with who your company is or what it stands for.

In this game, bluffing doesn’t pay

The whole point of authenticity is to keep things real, but that point gets lost with a lot of marketers because they put too much focus on repeated spin to get people to point, click and buy.

It would’ve been incredibly easy for Snapchat to switch formats to compete on a different scale with Facebook and Instagram, but what would we have ended up with? Three networks that offer the same experience that ultimately lacks what most people seek these days: authenticity.

Share This:


  • 0

Travel2020: Overtourism, safety, climate change now top concerns for travelers

Tags : 

{summary}

The results of a recently released annual survey paint a picture of rapidly changing priorities among travelers, driven by growing concerns over safety, more conscious travel values, and the quick adoption of new platforms in the sharing economy. The research hails from the 29th annual MMGY Travel Intelligence report: The 2019 Portrait of American Travelers survey.

According to the data, collected in February from 2,971 U.S. adult travelers, those who are traveling this year intend to spend about the same on travel in 2019 ($5,025) as they report having spent in 2018 ($5,038). While they plan to take slightly fewer vacations (3.2 in 2019 vs. 3.5 in 2018), travelers anticipate spending 17% more than they did at this same point in 2018.

This is in part a reflection of a shift in the age of those who are most likely to travel in the coming year.

The travelers surveyed had taken an overnight trip of 75 miles or more from home during the previous 12 months. The range included 2,013 households with an annual income between $50,000 and $124,999; 725 households with an annual income between $125,000 and $249,999; and 164 households with an annual income of more than $250,000.

“While there may be some economic clouds on the horizon that could slow down travel spend, we see signs of cautious optimism among travelers in the near term — but not from the generations from whom we have seen historic growth in the past,” said Chris Davidson, EVP, MMGY Travel Intelligence. “Instead of a younger audience, it’s Gen X and Boomer travelers who are driving this optimism when it comes to anticipated spending in the next 12 months.”

Other highlights from the 2019 travel survey:

Conscientious Consumerism

Today’s traveler is influenced in many different ways. There are more choices, more information and more complex motivations for how, why and where people choose to travel. Some of the more recent factors affecting these decisions are concerns about tourism overcrowding, climate change and its impact on destinations, and how travel service providers demonstrate responsibility in addressing these new challenges.

Overtourism: 60% of American travelers believe tourism overcrowding will have a significant impact on destinations they choose to visit within the next 5-10 years.

Climate Change: 48% of travelers agree that climate change will have a significant influence on what destinations they want to visit in the next 5-10 years.

Corporate Responsibility: 13% of American travelers indicate they have selected a travel service provider based on perceptions of sustainability and environmental considerations during the past 12 months, up from 8% in 2018. Millennial families are driving this increase.

Corporate responsibility creates brand loyalty. 62% of travelers indicate corporate responsibility as a reason for loyalty to airlines, with 60% believing the same for hotels.

Image: MMGY Global

Embracing the Sharing Economy

The sharing economy continues to disrupt the travel industry, and its growing appeal shows no signs of slowing down. The percentage of American travelers using sharing economy accommodations increased 45% in just the last year from 20% to 29%.

It is expected to increase again in the year ahead, with 34% of respondents saying they are likely to use sharing accommodations during a future vacation. Factors such as cost and the allure of staying somewhere unique are motivating travelers.

Road Trip Trends: Of Wings & Wheels

Following a trend released in last year’s survey, the Great American Road Trip continues its surge in popularity. Since 2015, there has been a 64% increase in respondents reporting they have taken a road trip. This year, 63% of travelers told us they intend to take a road trip in the next 12 months.

It’s a common misperception that the primary appeal of a road trip is the potential it offers to save money on the vacation. In fact, those who have taken a road trip intend to take more vacations and spend more money on vacations in 2019 than those who have not taken a road trip. The primary reasons respondents mentioned for taking a road trip are the ability to make stops along the way and the ability to pack everything in the car.

This stands to reason since significantly more road trippers than non-road trippers are motivated to travel by the prospect of exploration, the likelihood to enhance existing relationships, and the potential for self-discovery along the way. 77% indicate going on vacation brings their family closer together.

A popular variation on the traditional road trip is in motion where travelers fly to a starting point and road trip from there.

This is a new segment that is being propelled by millennial families who believe road trips evoke a sense of nostalgia and are a means of family bonding that stimulates the creation of valuable vacation memories. 57% of millennial families took road trips that began from another city, compared to just 41% of singles and 28% of couples. And, 71% of these travelers agree with the statement, “Giving my children the opportunity to see the world makes me feel like a better parent,” compared to just 57% of the road trippers who originate their travel from home.

Concerns for Safety Rise

Safety is becoming more important to travelers when choosing destinations to visit, as well as deciding whether or not to travel internationally. In fact, cost and safety are the two most significant barriers to international travel (both short-haul and long-haul international travel) for Americans.

These are significantly more important obstacles than concerns about language and communication, travel time to and from the destination, and access to quality health care while traveling. In particular, millennials’ desire for safety in a destination rose the most this year, up six points from 79% in 2018 to 85% in 2019.

Share This:


  • 0

What to upgrade, eliminate and replace for a better RV

Tags : 

{summary}

RV manufacturers want to make a profit, but the way they skimp on costs is a pain to consumers. The average new RV is $100,000 to $150,000, yet we still have to upgrade an RV after we purchase it.

Here’s my list of items that can be eliminated and replaced or should be upgraded in new RVs.

1. Upgrade window blinds

Current blinds are almost see-through. They don’t stop heat, cold, or very much light. A better blind uses the same labor to install and will be greatly appreciated.

2. Eliminate fake leather upholstery

We know this isn’t real leather, so how about just using material that will last? Soon after the one-year warranty ended, our fake leather started to peel.

Searches online show this is a common problem. Many people spent hundreds of dollars to reupholster or even replaced the furniture to solve the problem.

3. Eliminate folding doors/replace with curtains

The concept of an accordion type folding door sounds good but actually using it is a pain. We had folding doors to shut off the bedroom.

It didn’t stop sound or even all the light and it was very noisy to open and close. We installed a dark curtain instead, so we could go to bed at different times or use the bathroom in the middle of the night without making a lot of noise.

4. Eliminate the cab curtains/replace with window inserts

You know those curtains that they give you to mount above the front cab that you never use? We found they allowed the cab to overheat and the design made it so you couldn’t physically use the cab area when you were camping.

We cut insulated foil to cover the windows instead. It didn’t take any longer to install during our camping stays.

5. Eliminate plain microwaves and gas stoves/replace with combination ovens

Instead of both a microwave and a poorly functional gas stove, just install a single combination oven that microwaves, bakes, and broils. It saves space and works better.

6. Eliminate extra cupholders

Our last RV had cupholders everywhere. Two were behind the couch and impossible to use without hurting your back. Two were on the dining table that we only used to hold the TV remote. Only install them where it makes sense.

7. Upgrade mattresses and cushions

Our first purchase for our last RV was a mattress topper since the master bedroom mattress was incredibly uncomfortable.

Within a few months we had to buy an extra mattress so a guest could sleep on the couch comfortably. The other “beds” had hard cushions, so we never used them as beds.

8. Upgrade electrical system

I’m not talking about anything major. How about outlets on the dining table to plug in our computers? Whenever we boondock, we had to unplug the TV and send an electrical cord to one of the two outlets connected to the inverter.

The controls to our radio were in the back bedroom though the speakers are outside. When it was raining, it was difficult to hear the TV from its speakers. However, there were speakers above the couch across from the TV, but they weren’t connected.

As a short person, I had to step on the couch to press the button to the TV antenna amplifier. The overhead light switch was on the floor. This is easy to switch when you are coming in the door but hard to use any other time. RV designers need to live in an RV before they sell them.

9. Upgrade major components to handle vibration and real life

In our first year of a new RV, the microwave, and the DVD player failed once while the stove and mattress failed twice. Each had to be replaced. Why not install quality components the first time and save money over the long term?

10. Others

We had to install better vent covers when the factory vents leaked. There was no storage for silverware and utensils other than the oven. To boondock, we had to install a second battery.

The bathroom sink water goes to the black tank instead of the gray tank. Insulation was poor for both cold and hot days. The RV manual was a joke. We can do better.

The problem, of course, is that we all continue to buy new RVs even though we hear the horror stories about cheap components or have experienced them ourselves. Some issues are hard to find even with an inspection.

For instance, maybe we need a test and rating for an overall insulation value. Maybe there can be a quality rating on RVs based on the average amount of repairs done within the first year. Do you have any suggestions for a better RV?

Share This:


  • 0

TPWD’s drawn hunts offer a variety of opportunities for sportsmen

Tags : 

{summary}

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) recently began accepting applications through its Public Hunt drawing system for the 2019-20 season.

Completely separate from the Big Time Texas Hunts that hunters may also apply for, the hunts offered through the Texas Public Hunt System are great opportunities for sportsmen and women to hunt big game, small game, waterfowl, and upland bird species at over 70 different hunt areas in Texas.

Specifically, the Texas Public Hunt System offers permits to hunt alligator, whitetail deer, mule deer, feral hogs, javelina, pronghorn, turkey, bighorn sheep, aoudad, gemsbok, scimitar-horned oryx, axis deer, sambar deer, quail, squirrel, waterfowl, and pheasant.

Just like the types of game offered on these hunts, the locations the drawn hunts take place at are extremely varied ranging from wetlands on the Gulf Coast, to the piney woods of East Texas, to the mountains of West Texas. Additionally, some hunts are fully guided (to include food and lodging) while others merely offer the successful applicant the opportunity to access a certain area to hunt.

Application and permit fees also vary as well. Depending on the specific hunting category, application fees for adults are either $3 or $10 and permit fees are either $80 or $130 for the regular drawn hunts. However, youth-only hunts (under 17 years old) do not have any application or permit fees.

Likewise, there are no permit or application fees for E-Postcard Hunts and U.S. Forest Service antlerless deer hunts. However, applicants for those categories must purchase an Annual Public Hunting Permit for $48 to apply (more details on the Annual Public Hunting Permits here).

Last year was the first year TPWD allowed hunts on the Powderhorn Wildlife Management Area (WMA). Those hunts for axis, sambar, and whitetail deer last year were extremely successful and the state is expanding the hunting opportunities for that WMA for 2019-220. Additionally, TPWD is adding some new muzzleloader and upland game hunts for the Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge this year.

Application deadlines vary, but the first deadline is Aug. 1, 2019, for the alligator, alligator management, private lands dove, private lands pronghorn, pronghorn, and youth-only alligator categories. Deadlines for the other categories occur on Aug. 15, Sept. 1, Sept. 15, Oct. 1, and Oct. 15. For details on all the hunt application deadlines, visit this webpage.

TPWD typically holds drawings the next business day after each deadline. After applying for a hunt, you can check the status of your application through the Texas Public Hunt System web site. Selected applicants will be notified via email.

Visit the drawn hunts webpage to browse the full catalog of available hunts for the 2019-20 hunting season; to view permit application statistics and success rates from previous years; or to actually apply for a hunt. TWPD only accepts hunt applications submitted online.

Good luck!

Share This:


  • 0

An adventure on Arizona’s amazing Apache Trail

Tags : 

{summary}

We left Tombstone on a Thursday morning with our destination a little over 200 miles north. Along the way, Gypsy gave us a few scary moments, and we kept getting an overheating transmission fluid signal on steep inclines. Arizona Highway 77 is a very scenic roadway but it does have some mighty long uphill pulls.

In Globe, I made a few calls and learned the problem was probably my oxygen sensors, or Gypsy has a burnt ignition wire. It’s an easy fix.

Later in the day we discovered an RV park near Roosevelt Lake called Tonto Creek Trail. Weekly rates were very reasonable, it’s relatively small with well-maintained sites, comfortable, convenient, quiet and very clean. The couple that manage the park are very friendly helpful people. There is an abundance of bird life, including our favorite, the Gambel Quail. The morning call of the quail and dove woke us to a bright sunny day.

We love the rugged, wild and untamed country of Arizona. People talk of visiting foreign lands, and I agree that such trips are thrilling.

As a young lad in the Navy I visited many a foreign port, and had trips to countless far-off cities and hamlets, the isles of the Caribbean, and even the ice fields of the Arctic. It was a thrilling time but it was nothing compared to the magnificent beauty of my own country.

It’s a Saturday morning, and the song birds are outside our window calling to us to get up and start the day. I check the clock; it’s time to get up: 5:10 in the morning. The warm sun is peeking its face over the Sierra Ancha. Time to brew the coffee! The weather report is good, a sunny day with an expected temperature of 83 with humidity of 5%.

Several years ago, we spent a short visit here in Tonto Basin and promised to return. There is so much to see and do.

Today, we will pass along the Apache Trail. In the early 1800s, various Apache tribes used it while moving to the cool forest of the Sitgreaves. In later years, the trail was a stagecoach route through the Superstition Mountains and Four Peaks Wilderness Areas.

After breakfast we left camp, travelling south along the shores of the lake on Arizona 188 towards the Roosevelt Lake Marina. Crossing the Roosevelt Bridge and turning onto Arizona 88, we immediately realized this was no ordinary state highway. The pavement ends less than one mile from the bridge head at 88.

The road meets our expectation, it is very narrow in spots, only allowing one vehicle at a time to wind down along a steep wall of rock. There are no safety barriers and many blind and sharp, tight curves.

Diane asks, “Is this one way?” I believe not, I replied; so, we just keep moving hoping another vehicle is not coming up the incline. Bouncing up and down, the road is a washboard of bumps and foxholes with dust rising everywhere.

Several hundred feet below the road’s edge, a blue green waterway leads into the canyon opening and Apache Lake. We are thrilled, this is great; today will be a grand adventure as we head out into the Superstition Wilderness. The road limits your speed to about 10 to 15 mph.

This is not a road for modern RVs or fancy sedans and SUVs. Vehicles coming the opposite way do throw stones and dust can be thick.

The first five miles we rode along a river of crystal-clear water. Many fishermen are after the catch of the day. The beauty of this canyon is stunning, a blue water lake ahead and below, massive desert mountain peaks on both sides, beautiful wildflowers and cacti in full bloom and impressive song birds everywhere.

It is hard to describe this land; Arizona has many faces. I think my friend Lannie would really enjoy this terrain; it would be like he died and went to picture heaven.

We visited several campsites; there are many, very primitive and designed for outdoorsmen, people who enjoy roughing it, being in nature under canvas, and cooking by campfire. Whatever you might need, you must pack it. There are no stores, lodges or washrooms.

I find it difficult to finding the proper words to fully describe a trip down the Apache Trail. At times you are close to danger and need to focus clearly, and then the next few minutes you are visiting a mountain vista with peaks reaching into the blue.

You travel open areas of green mesquite, rocky cliffs, and narrow canyons of tall cottonwoods. Just beyond Fish Creek we drove directly towards a rock cliff; I figure the road must turn to the left after crossing the creek, but no — it swings right and we began an exciting drive up the face of this mountain, a road cut into the cliff face. It is a narrow, steep, winding and rock-strewn road, with rocks that move and shift as you ascend towards the top.

The views from the top are fantastic. Standing on a rocky ledge 5,000 feet above the valley below makes me feel so small, insignificant and just another creature of no consequence in God’s creation.

Our 45-mile trip through the wilderness took us over four hours, stopping at three lakes along the way and exiting at Tortilla Flat, a canyon oasis for travelers. The hot, hazy Valley of the Sun and the enormous city of Phoenix lies ahead.

Share This:


  • 0

Visiting America’s industrial past

Tags : 

{summary}

If you’re growing tired of conventional vacations — the beach, mountains, amusement parks, etc. — here’s an option to consider: exploring abandoned factories and industrial sites. Yes, it sounds a bit wonky, but an increasing number of folks are doing it.

Industry has been at the root of American progress since prerevolutionary days, when factories popped up throughout the colonies to produce goods — from clothing to cannonballs — needed by a fledgling and soon to be independent nation.

As the industrial revolution gained momentum in the 18th century, developments such as the steam engine, electricity, mechanized textile looms, the cotton gin, and other inventions permanently changed American society.

Unfortunately, much of the nation’s early industrial infrastructure became victim to the wrecking ball. Superseded by advancing technology, outdated forges, furnaces, factories and mills across the country were demolished.

A small number were merely abandoned and have survived to the present day. There has been only limited interest, however, in the preservation and restoration of these structures and sites that many historians view as vital landmarks of American history.

One organization is trying hard to do something about that. The Society for Industrial Archaeology (SIA) seeks to help preserve the nation’s industrial heritage by sanctioning and salvaging important manufacturing sites.

The National Park Service has done its part as well by recognizing and preserving some of these industrial works as National Historic Sites or Landmarks.

“Such sites not only illustrate America’s former manufacturing way of life,” says SIA’s Executive Secretary Steven A. Walton, “they also tell us stories about the toils of our own ancestors and how their work made us what we are today.”

Walton, who also serves as a history professor at Michigan Technological University, adds that these old factories can provide us a better understanding of production. “Even in a gutted factory,” he says, “bolts and stains and tracks on the floor, conveyors and overhead cranes reflect the division of labor — of thousands of people working in a coordinated symphony.”

Based on suggestions from SIA’s Walton, here are a half-dozen abandoned factories and industrial sites open to the public for exploration and, in most cases, guided tours.

Packard Auto Plant, Detroit, Michigan

Most notable of America’s vacant factories and, in fact, the world’s largest abandoned factory, is the Packard plant in Detroit. The sprawling 3.5 million-square-foot complex employed as many as 40,000 workers turning out luxury automobiles from 1903 until 1956.

Now in the hands of a private developer, the old plant is slated for a $350 million makeover, aimed at bringing in mixed-use tenants including a brewery, restaurants, retail outlets and apartments. In the meantime, a tour program has been initiated to guide visitors through the decrepit, thoroughly vandalized remains of what was once the most modern car plant in the world.

The raw, rusty environs have been unintentionally enhanced by graffiti applied through the years to nearly every vertical surface. Tours, conducted by Pure Detroit, are 90 minutes long and cost $40 per person. Participants must be at least 18 years old and capable of walking up to two miles on uneven surfaces. Closed-toe shoes are a must as are provided hard hats.

www.shop.puredetroit.com/packard-plant-tours, 855-874-7873.

The brothers’ old red brick building, part of the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park.

Wright Cycle Company, Dayton, Ohio

Most famous, of course, for their aviation achievements, brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright operated a successful bicycle business at several different locations in Dayton, Ohio from 1892 until 1909 when they turned their attention to building airplanes. In fact, the Wrights used profits from Wright Cycle Company to finance their aviation experiments.

An old red brick building at 22 South Williams Street — the original location housing a Wright bicycle shop — has been preserved as part of the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park.

The last location of their bicycle business, a building on West Third Street, was where they also constructed their first airplane (the Wright Flyer). Henry Ford purchased that building in 1937 and moved it to Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan.

NPS rangers conduct free guided tours at 10:30 a.m. daily that include the Wright Cycle Company, the Wright Memorial and Huffman Prairie Flying Field where the Wrights flight-tested their early aircraft designs, including the 1905 Wright Flyer III. A replica of that airplane is on display at the park.

www.nps.gov/daav. 937-225-7705

The Carrie Furnaces, viewed across the Monongahela River.

Carrie Blast Furnaces, Rankin, Pennsylvania

Declared a National Historic landmark in 2006, the Carrie Blast Furnaces are a rusting remnant of U.S. Steel’s legendary Homestead Steel Works — and a solemn vestige of the Pittsburgh area’s 20th century domination of the steel industry. The furnaces are a unit of the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area encompassing eight Western Pennsylvania counties that are home to “Big Steel” and that at one time comprised the most powerful industrial heartland the world has ever seen.

During a two-hour guided tour, visitors hear stories about the site’s technology and the culture of its workers. They also learn about the iron-making process, from the movement of raw materials to the tapping of the furnaces that produced fiery molten iron. Morning and afternoon tours are offered from May through October and are priced from $14 to $25.

www.riversofsteel.com, 412-464-4020.

Saugus Iron Works, Saugus, Massachusetts

Watching the process of primitive iron-making may not sound all that exciting, but the Saugus Iron Works gets high marks from visitors who find great fascination with the tours and exhibits at this National Historic Site nestled along the Saugus River about 10 miles northeast of Boston.

The site presents a reconstruction of the first integrated iron works in the New World. It produced wrought iron and cast-iron products from 1646 to 1670, utilizing the most advanced technology available in early Colonial times. The site is seen as nationally significant because it is considered the birthplace of the iron and steel industry in America.

The nine-acre site consists of a museum, authentically reconstructed industrial buildings, working water wheels, a blacksmith shop, a 17th century home, a nature trail and a picnic area. Guided tours of the museum, industrial site and the Iron Works House are available at no charge, Wednesday-Sunday from June 1 to Oct. 31.

www.nps.gov/sair, 781-233-0050.

The Sloss Furnaces opened to public tours in 1983.

Sloss Furnaces, Birmingham, Alabama

Another important chapter in the development of America’s iron and steel industry was writ large in Birmingham, Alabama, where Sloss Furnaces were pioneers in the process of smelting pig iron. Established in 1882, it was this iron industry that prompted Alabama’s largest city to grow around it.

People once gathered in the smoke and fumes along streets near Sloss to watch the molten iron and burning slag pour from the furnaces that filled the sky with a fiery orange glow. The collective memory of Birmingham is filled with stories of furnaces belching fire and smoke and of men who toiled and all too often died — due to the intense heat and back-breaking labor.

Nowadays, Sloss tells a different story. The furnaces were shut down in 1970, lost to obsolescence and declining markets for pig iron. But that wasn’t the end.

The towering furnaces and massive old steam engines have been preserved as an unusual new museum — one that tells the stirring tale of an industry that built a city. Proclaimed a National Historic Landmark, the site was restored in 1983 and opened to public tours. Free self-guided tours are available throughout the week (closed Monday) and there are guided tours ($2 per person) on most Saturdays and Sundays.

www.slossfurnaces.com, 205-324-1911.

Gas Works Park, Seattle, Washington

One of the country’s most unusual industrial sites — reclaimed in the early 1970s as a city park — contains the remnants of the sole remaining coal gasification plant in the United States.

The plant operated from 1906 to 1956 when the city of Seattle bought the 20-acre site on the shores of Lake Union for the purpose of creating a park. Soil and ground water contamination forced extensive remediation to “clean and green” the site before local landscape architect Richard Haag set out to design the park.

His unique approach to the park — which merited an Award of Excellence from the American Society of Landscape Architects — utilized numerous elements of the old gas plant. Some stand as ruins, while others have been reconditioned, brightly painted and incorporated into a children’s “play barn,” constructed in part from what was the plant’s exhauster-compressor building.

The park features an artificial kite-flying hill and it serves as a popular setting for concerts and political rallies. It’s also the starting point for Seattle’s annual rendition of the infamous World Naked Bike Ride.

www.seattle.gov/parks, 206-684-4075.

Share This:


  • 0

Travel2020: Global Entry program heads south, leaving travelers in a lurch

Tags : 

{summary}

For me, it started with a simple email. I was given a courtesy warning by the Department of Homeland Security that my Global Entry privileges were expiring. I had been a member of Global Entry since it launched in 2008, so I was not about to let my certification slip away.

I clicked on the link to start the “re-application” process — apparently “renewals” would no longer serve — and that is when my nightmares began.

The nonintuitive, if not purposely stonewalling, website kept taking me to the same place: the wall. Perhaps our current wall-obsessed regime was finding other ways to keep travelers guessing.

I would land on the spot, say three or so pages deep, where my ask “Trusted Traveler” ID would be requested. It would then populate fields with my passport information. If something was not right, this was the page on which to fix it.

Something was not right. My passport expiration date was listed as my birthdate and that did not sit well with computer bots that somehow sensed my passport should expire 10 years after issuance, not many decades before.

So I fixed this matter and went on with the process. But the item would not correct and the field kept showing up with my birthday no matter how many times I would correct, save and try to exit forward.

Before I started pulling my hair out, I tried different browsers, different computers, different IP addresses, even different countries. Six hours of my initial looping woes and… nada. I would be condemned to long immigration lines behind bands of sleepy children, groggy parents, mules, distracted millennials, and the world’s travelers trying to get into the U.S. As I travel frequently, often abroad, for a living, this was not a reality I could abide.

But it was not a situation I could fix, either. Off I went to LAX, where a Customs and Border Protection office at TBIT, the international terminal, was usually open. It was late, around 10 p.m., and I was trying to catch a flight to Bangkok.

An officer was shooting the breeze with another gentleman. I rarely see officers actually working there but, then, I do not know what “work” is for this office. I told him my problem and got what I guessed was a familiar stare before he launched into his script.

“We can’t help you here,” he said. “We are short-handed and I can tell you this. Even if you do find your way through this system you will still have to have an interview and that could take six months!”

He handed me a brochure, which he promised had all the information I needed and even a phone number I could call that would have real people answering.

While I failed to see the logic of his short-handedness as there did not seem to be any work happening in the office and I was the only customer, I did take the brochure, which did not have the promised phone number in it but did have a website — a website I had consulted during my looping day that led to more walls. He did suggest I check with the CBP inside the terminal once I landed back in the U.S. I did. Nada. “Good luck!” an officer offered, waving me onward.

Global Entry was a kindness bestowed upon travelers at a time when the economy was in the dryer and hackles were up over a continued threat of air-focused attacks. We were still in the code orange and red days and having a “Trusted Traveler” ID cut the lines, the waits, the inconveniences of going through security enough to make an investment of $100 for 10 years of shorter lines worthwhile.

On return from trips abroad I would bypass the long, snaking queue through immigration and head to the Global Entry kiosks where I would slide in my passport, answer some questions, allow scans of my fingers for my telltale prints and be on my way, often more than a half-hour before any luggage hit the carousel.

The certification also allowed me to skip the exit lines of crowds loaded up with their luggage. Rather, I was allowed to enter a dedicated Global Entry line to get out of the airport. I was a citizen traveler and it felt good.

Eventually, the card started costing $100 for five years, but with the simple re-upping involved, it was worth it. However, in my current state, a $100 would not even buy me a serious conversation at the airport.

In a note to the public, the U.S. Travel Associate issued a warning last week that the CBP has been cancelling many scheduled Global Entry enrollment appointments due to the reassignment of staff to the U.S.-Mexico border. While there is no threat there per se and airlines are scrambling to re-route over the Middle East where a real threat exists, I and many U.S. travelers were supposed to feel comforted.

A CBP spokesperson said at that time that the office is temporarily reducing staff at Global Entry enrollment centers nationwide in response to the “ongoing humanitarian and security crisis on our Southwest border.”

The U.S. Travel Association criticized the decision. Executive vice president for public affairs and policy Tori Barnes called the Global Entry program “a critical tool for both travel facilitation and travel security.”

“Interruption of Global Entry interviews is an unsettling sign that resources for Homeland Security functions are not keeping pace with the shifting array of challenges that face the agency’s important work,” Barnes stated. “We need a broad and comprehensive national conversation about the reforms and investments that are needed to properly secure our entry points and transportation systems. It’s not just security that’s at stake, but economic growth as well.”

CBP recommended that impacted Global Entry applicants reschedule for a later date “with the expectation that availability for appointments will be limited through Sept. 30, 2019.”

I did not find this OK. I live in Los Angeles, a very crowded and impacted area for demand of this service. I sought answers from the one phone number I did have: an outside office near LAX.

When I called it, I did not expect an answer. But someone did answer accidentally. There was silence as the call was received. I shouted into the phone, hoping to be heard enough to get a “Hello.”

A startled female voice took the call — clearly, I was another broken record reciting the same problem. But something switched in her when I told her about the computer glitch. She admitted she had no ability to help me with that and, in fact, no officers in the department could …except possibly one. And she transferred me.

There are times — when you just miss an having an accident or you almost get on the wrong train or plane — and you know you have an angel somewhere. This was one of those times. I was connected to a woman who recognized my problem and offered to help if I could get there in an hour.

Rushed and ready, I swooped up my computer and headed off the outer wastelands of LAX and the Office of Homeland Security. When I arrived, I found a small room packed with people and families who were deadened by the process but determined to make it through. Guiltily, I bypassed the hordes and opened the door to my newfound savior: an unassuming woman in uniform sifting through a formidable pile of handwritten phone messages from frustrated trusted travelers hoping to get called back.

I opened my computer and we got down to business, which, I assumed, would be quick. With the officer at my side I waded into the website, taking several trials to even log in and once in, arrived right at my familiar digital wall.

We corrected it … and corrected … and watched the site just loop and loop. I was beginning to lose hope that she could help me — that this whole era of privilege would pass like the wind.

But then she looked at my passport and pulled up a database on her own computer. She made a correction there and, voila! — it only took me about three or four repeated motions per step on the public website and I was through, only two hours later. The secret, she said, was re-entering and re-entering all your data every step of the way.

If the system won’t take it and won’t move you forward, just keep going over the same steps. “It takes a while for the system to register it,” she said. (And people get paid to develop websites like this, I thought). Still, in my case — she admitted there was no way I would have been able to proceed no matter how many times I looped and re-entered unless she had corrected my information inside the official database.

And while I paid my $100, I am not home free. There is still that nasty interview to go, when I will become another face in the horde at that office — which will likely not happen until 2020. But, she noted, because I started the application process before my certification expired, my status would remain current for a full year.

“We’ll see,” I said, leaving the crowded office with many of the same people still waiting for their intake. “That’s depends on what glitches await next time I try to climb through customs.”

The Trusted Traveler Program’s website includes Global Entry and is running an alert warning applicants that the “extended partial government shutdown has resulted in a backlog,” of applications and renewals. Global Entry applicants can complete their interview without an advance appointment at any of the 50 airports with a Global Entry Enrollment on Arrival program.

Share This: