Friday, July 23, 2010

The Tour de France

video 
My friend Shawn just arrived in Bordeaux, France and just sent me this video of the finish of Stage 18.    That is his mom saying "Is that all?".

They will undoubtedly see more at the time trial tomorrow when the riders go by one by one, or at the finale in Paris where they make several circuits on the  Champs-Élysées.

You may recall my role in planning their their trip.   It turns out he was able to land a First Class seat on the way over.




Friday, July 16, 2010

Triple Bypass Bicycle Ride

Yes, that is me completing the famed Triple Bypass bicycle ride here in the spectacular Colorado Rockies.   Sure, my blog boasts "Politics, Consumer Information, Travel, Aviation, and Humor from a Mile High perspective", but in this picture I am actually over two miles high, at the top of the 10,662 ft. high Vail Pass.   Vail is the third of the three grueling climbs that make up the Triple Bypass.   In total, there is over 10,000 feet of climbing in a single day, spaced out among 120 miles.   

I have been training for months for this event, which marked the fourth time I have ridden this ride.   This year, my training paid off as I was able to complete the ride in 11 hours without serious difficulty.    It was challenging, but I did not experience the sense of complete and utter exhaustion that I had in previous years.

3,500 riders participated in the event, which sold out in a matter of minutes.  The riders were from all over the United States, and I even met several riders from other countries.   It seems that bicycling is one of the reason people choose to take their Holidays in America.   

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Cruising In Europe

I have never been a big cruise fan.   I like to visit many of the islands in Mexico and the Bahamas that get visited by the cruise ships, but I am always glad I am staying there, and not just docking for a few hours.  It seems like many Caribbean cruisers don't stray too far from the boat, leaving them in clusters of tourist centers.

On the other hand, in Europe, Mediterranean Cruises are a different experience.   So many of the major sites in the Mediterranean are close to major ports.   In addition, hotel costs in Europe can be sky high.    Finally, getting around in Europe is typically done by trains, and it can be somewhat of a pain to carry your luggage around from train to train.    From what I have heard, a cruise there is actually a decent way to get around.   You avoid all of the hassles of checking in and out of various hotels, while having the time to see some great cities.

Just be sure to arrive a day or two early.    You want to get a head start on overcoming jet lag, while avoiding the risk of a delayed flight that would cause you to miss your boat.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Being An Amateur Travel Agent


In the old days, if you wanted to go somewhere, you would call up your travel agent.   They would use their fancy computers to find you flights, hotels, and otherwise build your itinerary.   The alternative was to make dozens of, then expensive, long distance calls yourself.   I remember booking business trips like this in the mid nineties.

Although everyone can be a travel agent these days, the Internet has made booking travel to be quite a challenge in many other ways.   I have taken it upon myself to become as much of a travel expert as I can be, considering that I can hardly call myself a frequent traveler.  

One of my tricks as been to volunteer to book travel for other people.   I was able to book some friends of mine a trip to see the Tour de France this year.    First I helped them book some super-cheap first class tickets.   Next, I helped them find a place to stay in Bordeaux, as well as some hotels in Paris city centre.   Finally, I have been offering these novice international travelers some tips on credit card usage in Europe, over at the blog I write for at AskMrCreditCard.com.

I like doing this for several reasons.   It feels good to use my knowledge to help my friends, and it is just plain fun to sort out travel itineraries.

So to paraphrase some pop culture, "If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find me, maybe you can hire... The J-Team."

Monday, July 5, 2010

Florida In 2010

While our news continues to be dominated by the gulf oil spill, it is easy to loose sight of just what has been affected and what hasn't.   Certainly the norther Gulf coast of Florida near Pensacola is being devastated by the spill.   On the other hand, the rest of the Gulf coast, such as Tampa, and the entire Atlantic coast also remains unaffected.   There may even be some great Florida holiday deals, especially to places like Orlando.   What often happens when there is a major event like the oil spill, is that people avoid an entire region.   While, that is unfortunate both for the local economy, savvy travelers will see this as an opportunity to travel at lower prices.  For example, tourists avoid countries anytime there is unrest, even if it is localized to areas hundreds of miles away from where they would normally visit.   Due to this phenomenon, I have stayed in empty hotels in Africa and the Middle East, and had a great time.

While I am not a huge Disney fan, Orlando is very convenient to the space coast. With a little luck, I am hoping to go out to see one of the few remaining SpaceShuttle launches latter this year or early next year.   Of course, neither Disney nor NASA are affected by the oil spill.  

Hot And Cold In Las Vegas

It was three years ago, when we were expecting our first child, that we went to Las Vegas in the middle of the summer.    We took one of those quick Las Vegas Holidays in order to give my very pregnant wife some needed relaxation. You might think that Vegas is the hottest place in the country this time of year, but in fact, in my memory, this was an extremely cold place to be.

At home in Denver, we rarely use our air conditioner, and are obviously very hot, yet in Vegas, our hotel was air conditioned so well, that it was like visiting a mountain top.   Spending a few days in a dry, air conditioned climate was a much need break from the hot house we live in, despite it being in relatively cool Denver.   A typical summer day in Denver may be "only" in the 90s, while a summer day in Vegas can easily reach 110!.   We relished the chance to enjoy the pool and actually experience some of the incredibly hot temperatures.   We didn't even need a towel, as the sun dried us off in seconds!

It is one of the ironies in life that Las Vegas in the summer can be one of the coldest places to visit.