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Sun, 26 May 2013

Our Visits to US National Parks/Monuments

Over the last few years we have developed an appreciation of the national parks in US.I'm allergic to pollen so my outdoors tend to be limited and generally under medication.
In most summer vacations for my kid we have tried to cover various national parks.With the amount of retirees we see in our visits to national parks , we are pretty sure that we will cover most national parks in our lifetime, stretch goal would be to see all monuments too  :-).

Also if you visit any of these places I highly recommend buying the Annual pass($80 for general population) @

National Parks
Here is a good collection of list of national parks.

We have covered the following national parks so far, sorted by State
  1. Saguaro National Park
  2. Grand Canyon
  3. Yosemite
  4. Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park
  5. Lassen Volcanic
  6. Crater Lake
  7. Zion
  8. Bryce Canyon
51 more to visit :-)

National Monuments
We have also started to visit a few national monuments in US.
List of national monuments in US

We have visited the following list of monuments
  1. Montezuma Castle
  2. Tuzigoot
  3. Walnut Canyon
  4. Sunset Crater Volcano
  5. Wupatki
  6. Pinnacles
  7. Muir Woods
  8. Lava Beds
93 more to go :-)

posted at: 23:23 | category: /travel | permanent link to this entry | Donate via Bitcoin

Mon, 27 Dec 2010

Road conditions for I-80 for skiiing in Tahoe(or anywhere in California)

As more people will be driving down to the Tahoe in the next couple of weeks some of these sites can help making the travel smoother as lot of people in bay area are scared at the thought of snow chains like me, we are so spoiled living in the bay :-)
You can check all advisory for I-80 and other freeways @ Caltrans  website.
You can also watch a Caltrans live camera of major points on various freeways including various skiing resort locations like Soda Springs/Truckee/Squaw/Northstar and others.
Last but not the least be sure to dial 1-800.427.7623 where in you can get the status of various roads by dialing in their numbers.
One more tip considering most of us going to Tahoe etc will probably have to cross any toll bridges I would highly recommend people to get Fastrak toll tags , it will make your drive smoother/faster and in many cases will get you discount on toll.I bought(or rather i should say rented) from Costco.
Have a safe journey this Winter season.

posted at: 18:39 | category: /travel | permanent link to this entry | Donate via Bitcoin

Fastrak , Electronic Toll Collection of California

Even though I don't have a commute route which needs Fastrak, I went ahead and bought Fastrak toll tag from Costco for my once in a quarter or a year usage on one of the toll bridges.
In any case after having it I have used it on various bridges and saved some cash as there is always a discount for Toll tag users like on GG bridge or on Benecia bridge there is a dedicated carpool lane which needs Fastrak to use it and zoom thru it.Now you can travel like a pro and zoom thru traffic.
In fact on our current planned trip(had to cancel due to storms) to San Diego we were planning to use the Fastrak toll tag in Southern California and as far as i know the Fastrak toll  tags can be used everywhere in California.
Also you can use it anonymously
So overall if you intend to use it atleast once  a year(requirement to keep toll tag) then I would recommend you get this toll tag.

posted at: 18:37 | category: /travel | permanent link to this entry | Donate via Bitcoin

Tue, 21 Dec 2010

Carnival Paradise : OK experience with our first cruise experience

So after couple of years of  reluctance on going on a cruise due to motion sickness etc we finally decided to take a short 3-day cruise to Ensenada, Mexico.
We booked the cruise from December 17th-20th  for $285 per person for 3 nights(roughly $95 per night) which is a decent deal considering if you book say 6-12 months in advance you get it for $70 per night.So after all the taxes etc it came to about $957 for 3 people.

Hotel Stay in Long beach
We didn't want to make it very hectic and so we decided to drive upto LA on Dec 16th and stayed in a small motel called Tower Motel Long Beach for $49.99 for a night and you can get a 10% discount if you use the coupon , so in all we paid about $50(including tax etc) for a place to crash in the night.
The Tower motel has check out at 10:30 AM and that day it was raining heavily so we decided to directly go to Long Beach Cruise Terminal and hang out there as the cruise doesn't start boarding to 12:30 PM PST.

We parked our car at the parking lot which charges a flat rate of $15 per night at the terminal regardless of when you checkin in the day.So our parkig charges would be $45 for 3 nights.

To our surprise they told us that we can do an early checkin at RMS Queen Mary   and then checkin the ship early on but rooms would not be available till 1:30 PM.
So we did an early checkin and then boarded the ship by 11:45.The ship was huge and it was our first encounter with such a huge ship .It was more then 10 story tall and was very beautiful inside.
The ship really didn't have good maps or directions at each floor and for the first day there were a lot of  employees there to answer all questions etc so it was helpful.
Since we had boarded early we were asked to go directly to the Lido deck to have Lunch.There were lot of counters and cooks who would make the food right in front of you and serve it hot.Since we are vegetarians we didnt have much food choices and had to get a vergetarian burger .The burger was cooked very well and we liked it.
In the meantime we told some of the  carnival people on the deck that since we are vegetarians we would prefer to get vegetarian food in the night for dinner and they said that they can provide us Indian food in the night daily .So we were pretty happy about it and told them that book us for all 3 nights dinner as vegetarians.

We got our rooms at about 1:45 and they were not ready as yet but in any case we told them that we just want to drop our luggage and then hang out in the ship.

The ship was going to start sail at about 5:30 and so till that time we familiarized ourself with the ship and registered our kid with Camp Carnival.the camp carnival wouldnt open till later that evening after the ship were to sail.
most of the amenities etc were closed until the ship would actually sail so there was not much to do until it actually started sailing .

Camp Carnival
This is the place on the ship where you can drop off your kids for a few hours.
Overall the place was clean and they took good  care of our son and he had a good time.
I felt that this place was a little mis-managed in the sense that there was paperwork to signout/signin the kid  and would take them a few mins where they could have automated it considering that we all had Sign and sail cards.
I also felt that the timings of camp carnival were not good and there was no conitnuity.

Before going there we printed a map of Ensenada
We already knew that this was probably not the best touristy ports but in case we wanted to venture out and see the city.So we walked to the city ourselves and did not book any excursions.
There were lots of ATV and Moped rentals available right out of the port and a typical ATV rental would be $25 per hour and they said that they can take us on the beach by driving the ATV on the road in less then 5 mins.But we didnt want to do ATV that day and so we just were hanging around on the city streets.

Pretty much the signal lights etc were like US .We walked to the main street and there were lots of shops and people selling things on the road.We didn't find too many unique things and most of the things on the street seemed to be mass produced.we defintely felt safe around the touristy spots.There were lots and lots of cars on the street with California license plate so it seems quite a few people drive there from California.

Fun day at Sea
On the last day the ship does not go anywhere it just stands stilll in the waters and it seemed to be somewhere near Los Angeles where the ship was stopped.It was raining and very windy that day so could not do much on the deck etc.So had to be pretty much indoors playing ping pong etc.

Food food everywhere
It seems that the biggest selling point of cruises is abundance(rather overload)  of food.For us there was not much to eat as we are vegetarians so sometimes we would request the cook to make us something vegetarian for lunch etc.Also we felt that the cruises wastes a lot of food and it felt a little sad to me that a lot of food was thrown away etc both by the employees and people.

Internet & communications
There was access to both mobile phones and internet but it woudl break your bank to use it since it was via satellite and the rough cost would be anywhere between $1-$3 per minute to use it.So obviously we stayed away from it and it was nice to be disconnected to the outside world for a few days.

We went with the prepaid gratuity of $10 per person per day.

Overall Summary
We had an OK time on the cruise and would recommend it to people as a good short vacation.

posted at: 14:04 | category: /travel | permanent link to this entry | Donate via Bitcoin

Mon, 18 Oct 2010

New Car-Share Law Spurs Bay Area Business


If you have a car.preferably one that.s insured, reasonably new and clean.starting in January, it could make you money every time you park. All you have to do is let a few strangers drive it. This kind of car-sharing is not unheard of in California, but a new state law is about to make it easier to rent out your car when you don.t need it.

Given the Bay Area.s widespread culture of alternative transit, from bikes to buses to BART, it.s no surprise that car-sharing, or car rental by the hour, has been popular across the bay as the service has come into vogue over the last decade.  But new legislation stands to help California.s car-sharing industry live up to its name. Starting January 1, individual car owners will be able to share their own vehicles directly with other drivers.and make a few dollars in the process.

 Read more @

posted at: 05:03 | category: /travel | permanent link to this entry | Donate via Bitcoin

Sat, 02 Oct 2010

Faster light rail trains debut Monday

Finally the VTA have listened to their riders , that the ligth rail has to be faster then currently its snails pace.

Faster light-rail trains will begin running Monday down the median of Highway 87 during commute times, shaving six to eight minutes off a trip between South San Jose and downtown.

As changes go, this may seem trivial. After all, it's just a few minutes.

But symbolically, this is big. It's the first major change to speeding up the valley's slow trolley system since its inception 23 years ago, and it's a preview of changes to come.

Read more @

posted at: 21:47 | category: /travel | permanent link to this entry | Donate via Bitcoin

Sat, 15 May 2010

VTA Solicits Advice from the Public

San Jose, Calif. . The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) is looking for ways to entice more residents to give up their cars and ride public transit, and they are .going to the source. asking non-riders to share their ideas for improving VTA.s bus and light rail system.

VTA has launched a .New Rider Ideas. Forum on the VTA website which poses the question: .What would it take to get you to ride public transit?. This interactive forum provides people an opportunity to submit ideas for improving transit service. The public is encouraged to submit ideas and then vote on their top choices for what changes would make them give up their car.

Read more @ and share your ideas @

posted at: 18:14 | category: /travel | permanent link to this entry | Donate via Bitcoin

Sun, 25 Apr 2010

EcoPass - Nice offering from bayarea public transit agency

Eco Pass is good for unlimited use of VTA Bus and Light Rail services, seven days a week.
Benefits for employers include:

    * Low cost, tax-deductible, employee benefit
    * Employees arrive at work less stressed
    * Reduced demand for on-site parking
    * Less traffic congestion and air pollution

Benefits for employees include:

    * Emergency Ride Home Service for emergencies
    * Freedom from traffic jams and parking hassles
    * Reduced commuting costs and less automobile wear & tear
    * Potential for lower auto insurance rates

If your offices are located near public transit please bring this to your employers notice .More details @
This benefit is no longer just limited to companies , your residential apartment complex also can enroll , more details @

Now only VTA could add more lines and frequency , currently my commute will become almost 1 hr 10 mins each way if I ride public transit compared to less then 20 mins in car.

posted at: 16:19 | category: /travel | permanent link to this entry | Donate via Bitcoin

Mon, 15 Feb 2010

Translink , Bayareas smart card for local/public transit

Ever been to San Francisco and didnt have the right amount of change for the bus fare ?? Felt intimidated or lost when understanding various free transfers etc from Bart to  Munii.
Felt the need for a universal card which could be used for public transportation in Bayarea ?
If you answered Yes to any of the above then the answer to that is using a Translink card.
I ordered a translink card online with the auto load as with Auto load you get the card for free.Otherwise you need to pay $5 for the card at places like Walgreens.
The minimum amount to auto-load is $20.But the good think is that they don't  charge you the auto-load amount until you actually use the card for the first time.

Currently I think the biggest problem is for getting a Tranlink card for youth/Seniors and disabled as there is only one place in San Francisco where you can get the card validated with a government issued proof of validation of Birth.I still havent figured out a good way for getting a youth card for my kid.

If you live in an area serviced by AC transit you can get the translink card free and on top of that they will add $5 to it also.You can get that deal @ ACTransit
Overall I feel this is a good move by our local transit agency to smoothe the ride :-)

posted at: 20:02 | category: /travel | permanent link to this entry | Donate via Bitcoin

Fri, 01 Jan 2010

Mumbai international Airport(Chattrapati Shivaji International airport) sleepers lounge

There is a very comfortable sleepers lunge in Mumbai airport.It is located near gate 15/16 in international terminal and is available free of charge and it has really long and nice chairs which can be used for sleeping.

posted at: 04:03 | category: /travel | permanent link to this entry | Donate via Bitcoin

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