Thursday, October 7, 2010

Top Destinations in the USA

Good Afternoon Ladies & Gentlemen,

Well, the weekend is finally here… and my dad arrives tomorrow morning for our dude’s weekend out including an Eagles-49ers game at Candlestick Park. It should be EPIC!!! You know, I’ve always had my suspicions since I moved out here that I was pretty much perfectly situated to enjoy a lot of what this great world has to offer. Well, now I have confirmation. You see, this morning, I received a pair of emails from coworkers… the first was from the Huffington Post, where Lake Tahoe was ranked #1 as the most beautiful lake in all of the WORLD!!! Check out some of the competition (including Lake Titicaca) that we beat out. Nice, right? Well, shortly after, this one was sent for Trip Advisor that listed the Top 25 Destination in the United States… and long story short, 6 of the top 12 are in Northern California including #1 – San Francisco and #2 – Lake Tahoe. Here’s the full list so that you can enjoy it as well…

  1. San Francisco – I think Bubbles would agree, there’s always something to do there. Besides, what place could possibly compare to Lake Tahoe? If I had to live in a big city, I could definitely see myself living in a city like San Fran. Very easily.
  2. Lake Tahoe – SURPRISE!!!
  3. San Diego– Ah yes, Heaven!!! Many a wonderful vacations to this beachly paradise and I really couldn’t argue if this were higher on the list. I mean… if you’re looking for beaches & sunshine EVERYDAY, this is where to go.
  4. Washington D.C. – Our nation’s capital city is pretty cool too. Been there twice in the winter, though seasonably warm. Lots of great monuments and things to do… and I always think of Forrest & Jenny when I tell people about our nation’s capital.
  5. Chicago – Never been here (except the airport a few times) but hear great things.
  6. Seattle – The Emerald City is really a nice place. I too could see myself living there… and you know how I love the rain.
  7. Big Sur, CA – Now, I may have to check this place out again because… the weather was bad when I checked it out last time… and it didn’t seem like much… but maybe I just wasn’t exploring the right places due to the weather.
  8. New York City – Skyscrapers and EVERYTHING!!! Been there twice too, great to visit, would never want to live there probably.
  9. Carmel, CA – Another stop on my road trip this last spring… and it’s amazing.
  10. Sedona, AZ – I’m sure it’s awesome by desert standards… but yeah, never been there.
  11. Monterey – Isn’t this place adjacent to Carmel? Also breathtakingly beautiful…
  12. Napa, CA – Should really plan a Wine Country trip out there with Bubbles one of these days…
  13. Austin, TX – I’m sure it’s better than Dallas… and I like what I’ve seen in Robert Rodriguez movies.
  14. Boston – Birthplace of our nation… and if it weren’t for those accents, it’d probably be higher on the list. Really cool place with a lot of history by U.S. standards.
  15. New Orleans – You know it would be higher on my list. THREE WEEKS AWAY!!!
  16. Grand Canyon – The only natural formation in America photographed more than Emerald Bay here on Lake Tahoe. Who would’ve thought a big hole in the ground would be so magnificent?
  17. Denver – Lived there for six months, lots of fun stuff to do, not bad for a city.
  18. Colorado Springs – No idea…
  19. Boulder, CO – Ugh… the definition of hippie college town. Love it.
  20. Charleston, SC – I really would love to go see this place. The stories on the news out of South Carolina never cease to amaze me, so it’d be great to meet the people.
  21. Portland, OR – I hear it’s like Seattle only… actually I hear it’s EXACTLY like Seattle.
  22. Anchorage, AK – The Last Frontier. Maybe be going on a cruise there soon… but yeah, seen “Into the Wild” so not really looking to get THAT out there.
  23. Santa Barbara, CA – As seen on the hit USA series “Psych”
  24. Rocky Mountains – If you like mountains, this is the place to be…
  25. Yosemite – Only three hours away… and magnificent.

Not a bad list, right? A few places that weren’t included… Salt Lake City (or Utah period), Los Angeles, Miami, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Vermont, Twin Falls… and most surprisingly, NO LAS VEGAS!!! Why do I mention these? No reason. Then again, Yosemite BARELY made it onto the list. Thank you Trip Advisor. Though I do wonder if you’re headquartered in California or Colorado…

Some other big news on the vacation front is that I will again have a three week hiatus around my birthday where I will be unemployed during the “shoulder” season here in the Tahoe area. What does this mean? Well… besides that I’ll probably have to deal with the BS of filing for unemployment if I choose to do that this year, it means that I’ll have three weeks to do whatever and go wherever I want (or rather can afford to go). Here are some options that instantly popped into my head:

  1. Another EPIC Road Trip down the Pacific Coast – This time though, maybe I’ll have some more company, like Bubbles hitching a ride down through Napa, Monterey, Carmel, Big Sur, Hearst Castle and Hollywood, then fly back as I continue onto Mexico or something. You never know.
  2. Another EPIC Road Trip down the Pacific Coast - This time though, maybe I’ll go north towards Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, Whistler, etc. and come back through Spokane, Calgary, Idaho, Montana, Yellowstone, etc. on the way to Utah.
  3. European Vacation – I did say that Amsterdam for the 30th birthday would be the dream… and while over there for a few weeks, I could use the train & ferry system to stop by Brussels, Copenhagen, Berlin, Oslo, Prague, wherever else I can work into that time. Again, company would be nice…
  4. Family Cruise – During the family reunion last month, we reminisced about our cruise a few years back from LA to San Diego, Catalina & Ensenada. I think that we need to do something like this again… but this time, I’m thinking we need to up the stakes. I’m thinking… leave from the Port of New Orleans (after a few days of the Big Easy) on a Caribbean cruise to places like Costa Maya, Belize, Isla Roatan or over to the Bahamas. The best part… they have those cruises there during that time. It’s quite doable.
  5. Recharge the Batteries – Anything is possible… even sitting at home without a care in the world and just relaxing. Though this is probably the least likely of the options thus far, if the company’s nice… you never know. Since hiking in the mud and kayaking on snow runoff are the options around here though, it’s highly unlikely.

So yeah, I have six months to figure that part out… but first thing’s first. Football & male bonding this weekend, hopefully a date (and female bonding?) later in the week, get things squared away for the upcoming winter season, spend a week hanging out with Filly & Friends in New Orleans. Not a bad way to spend the month. Anyway, enough of that… here’s some news…

This Week at Auction How much would you pay for this vase? By the way, I pronounced that “vace” not “vaaaz” or whatever. If I said a few hundred bucks, have I lost you already? It’s pretty nice, right? What if I were to tell you that it was from the Qing Dynasty? Does that mean anything to you? Didn’t think so. In this case, it just means that it was made in the 18th century during the last dynasty of China. Now do I have you bidding in the thousands? Yeah? How about a million bucks? Would you pay one million dollars for this vase? No? Sigh… well, you just missed on a golden opportunity because this Chinese Qing dynasty vase sold for HK$253 million ($32.4 million) in a Sotheby's sale in Hong Kong on Thursday, a world record at auction for any Chinese porcelain. "This is definitely a milestone," Nicolas Chow, the Deputy Chairman of Sotheby's Asia told Reuters. "Chinese works of art took their place on the world auction stage today." While segments of the Chinese art market cooled substantially during the financial crisis, especially once white-hot Chinese contemporary art, older paintings and imperial antiques continued to generate solid demand and prices, though fewer quality works surfaced as sellers stayed away on still fragile sentiment. In Sotheby's current autumn sales, however, a selection of rare works from four major private collections and a flood of free-spending Chinese millionaires, contributed to what many called one of the best sales of Chinese ceramics in recent years. In a packed auction hall filled with applauding mainland Chinese buyers, a bidding war saw the rare Qing vase finally go to Alice Cheng, a Hong Kong collector and sister of renowned octogenarian Chinese art collector and dealer Robert Chang. "I'm very happy," said Cheng. "As long as you like something, even if it's expensive it's worth it," she told reporters. Truer words may have never been spoken. The price was more than the about $28 million paid for a 14th century blue and white porcelain jar sold by Christie's in 2005, though less than a calligraphy scroll by Song dynasty poet Huang Tingjian (1045-1105 AD) that sold for around $64 million at a June Beijing auction by Chinese auctioneers Beijing Poly. Repeat: A nearly thousand year old calligraphy scroll sold for around $64 million. The globular yellow-ground Qing vase, decorated with flowers and golden emblems for longevity, is an exemplar of the so-called "famille rose" family of Qing vases that have been among the most highly sought after works among wealthy Chinese in recent years. "It's astounding," said veteran New York-based dealer James Lally. "I feel this is not a bubble. We've seen so much depth to this market. We're stunned because there's no precedent for it." Fired in the 18th century during the Qianlong period of the Qing dynasty, the gourd-shaped vase has an impeccable provenance and put up for sale by longtime collector J.T. Tai. "I can safely say there has not been a famille rose vase of a finer quality in the last 10 or 15 years," said Sotheby's Chow. In other signs of the Chinese art market's ebullience at the top end, a pair of famille rose "floral medallion" vases sold for HK$140 million ($18 million) while a Qing white jade "Xintian Zhuren" seal, sourced from a reclusive overseas Chinese collector, made $16 million, a world record for an imperial seal. A collection of Ming imperial bronzes from the collection of Tuyet Nguyet and Stephen Markbreiter, also performed strongly, with a seated Tibetan gilt bronze figure fetching $3.5 million. "Every so often something like this happens," said Nader Rasti, a London art dealer. "A psychological barrier has been broken," he said of the blockbuster prices. Sigh… you know where a LOT of that money that China has is coming from, right? Well, it’s still amazing what people will pay for old pots & pans. Oooh, it’s a 400 year old porcelain vase that was once owned by a child emperor. Whoopty-doo… I can go to Pier 1 Imports and get something exactly like that for about $40. They’re still in business, right? Haven’t done a lot of decorating lately. Anyway, hopefully Ms. Cheng doesn’t have buyer’s remorse already. Congratulations on your monumental purchase! Sigh… what am I going to do for Christmas?

Santa-Free Christmas? – Could you imagine? Christmas without Santa Claus? Then again, it may be a Godsend in these tough economic times. Think about it. We just… forget about Santa, focus the holiday on helping others rather than buying tons of useless crap for one another… and Christmas is super awesome again. In Germany, a group of Catholics wants to do away with Santa Claus because of the fictional figure's commercial hype and replace him with St Nicolas and the selfless giving they say he represents. Even before shops fill with Santa-themed goodies, the Bonifatiuswerk of German Catholics -- a Catholic aid organization -- has begun calling for "Santa Claus-free zones." The organization sees Santa as "an invention of the advertising industry designed to boost sales" and as "a representative of consumer society" who has little to do with the historical figure of St Nicolas (wait until Easter rolls around and they can attack the Easter Bunny). Its website describes Nicolas, the patron saint of children, as "a helper in need who reminds us to be kind, to think of our neighbors, and to give the gift of happiness." The campaign is supported by several German celebrities. "Unlike Santa Claus, Nicolas wants to give children inner riches and not just encourage them to strive for material wealth," German TV presenter Nina Ruege was quoted saying. David Hasselhoff has yet to be reached for comment. So what do you think? Sure, Santa is fun… and who doesn’t want to sit on his jolly fat lap once in a while (right Bone Jr?) but… is he taking the focus away from the Spirit of Christmas? Of giving? I know that personally, I wouldn’t mind going without a single gift this Christmas other than a hug from loved ones. I would much rather bring a smile to somebody’s face by giving them a warm meal and a hot shower than a brand new Lamborghini (that I honestly couldn’t drive around here half the year anyway). Will it catch on? It really has the potential to… but I doubt it. Even in Germany where logic & beer are king & queen. Still… it’s a nice idea. It also makes me think about my family & friends back in Utah and all around the globe. I’m glad that I’m able to visit them a few times a year, including Christmas. I can’t wait to see you all again this coming holiday season. You have no idea how much you all mean to me.

On that note, I’ll call it a day. I’m sitting here staring at my postcards of some of the places I’ve been… and it’s really getting the creative juices going on where to spend the next epic journey in April now that I know that far in advance. If anybody out there is interested in joining me, please let me know and we’ll get it crackilackin’. Man, I haven’t used that word in the longest time. That’s Ice Cube / Westside, right? Geez, that takes me back to high school. By the way, when the hell did Ice Cube go from “Straight Outta Compton” to “Are We There Yet?” Was it a smooth transition or did it just happen all of a sudden on March 14th, 2003 or something? Anyway, have a great night everybody!!!

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