Saturday, July 27, 2013


Every month has its collection of strange, weird, and obscure holidays—at least one per day—many of which are unknown to the general public.  And, needless to say, holidays that are not recognized as days when we would have a paid holiday at work, days that the schools and banks and government offices are closed and where there is no mail delivery. But still holidays to be celebrated and enjoyed in their own quirky fashion.

Here's a collection of obscure and unusual AUGUST celebrations.

Let's start with month long celebrations.  For August you have:  Admit You're Happy Month, Family Fun Month, National Catfish Month, National Eye Exam Month, National Golf Month (I'd better make sure my brother knows about this one), Peach Month, Romance Awareness Month, Water Quality Month, National Picnic Month.

And then there are the week long celebrations.  The first week of August is National Simplify Your Life Week.  The second week of the month is National Smile Week.  The third week is Friendship Week.  And the fourth week is Be Kind To Humankind Week.

And the daily celebrations:  I found it interesting that 10 of the 31 days in August have holidays connected to food (are we seeing an ongoing theme here?).  Some of the dates have more than one holiday attached to them.

August 1)  National Raspberry Cream Pie Day
August 2)  National Ice Cream Sandwich Day
August 3)  National Watermelon Day
August 4)  National Mustard Day (the first Saturday in August)
August 4)  U.S. Coast Guard Day
August 5)  Friendship Day (the first Sunday in August)
August 5)  International Forgiveness Day (first Sunday in August)
August 5)  Sisters Day (first Sunday in August)
August 5)  Work Like A Dog Day
August 6)  Wiggle Your Toes Day
August 7)  National Lighthouse Day
August 8)  Sneak Some Zucchini Onto Your Neighbor's Porch Day
          Apparently zucchini is one of the most prolific plants with a single plant producing what seems to be an endless supply of zucchini. By the time August arrives, gardeners have far more zucchini than they can possibly use. After giving away as much as they can to family and friends, desperate growers seek desperate measures to rid themselves of the overflow. And that gives us the name and reason for the holiday…sneak some zucchini onto your neighbor's porch day.
August 9)  Book Lover's Day
          Book Lover's Day encourages you to find a comfortable place, relax, and enjoy a good book. If you happen to fall asleep in that gently swaying hammock while reading, that's perfectly okay. There is some disagreement about when this holiday is celebrated. August 9th is the most widely accepted date. Some celebrate it on the first Saturday in November. My suggestion? Celebrate both days.
August 10)  Lazy Day
August 10)  National S'mores Day
August 11)  Presidential Joke Day
August 12)  Middle Child's Day
August 13)  Left Hander's Day
August 14)  National Creamsicle Day
August 15)  Relaxation Day
          For people with a hectic lifestyle, this is the day to kick back and do nothing…just relax. Take a break from your busy work and personal schedule. If something stresses you out, this is the day to ignore it.
August 16)  National Tell A Joke Day
August 17)  National Thriftshop Day
August 18)  Bad Poetry Day
August 19)  Aviation Day
August 20)  National Radio Day
August 21)  Senior Citizen's Day
August 22)  Be An Angel Day
August 22)  National Tooth Fairy Day (and/or February 28)
August 23)  Chinese Valentine's Day (7th day of 7th Lunar Month
August 23)  Ride The Wind Day
          This is a carefree day, a time to soar above the earth. Catch a ride on the breeze or float like a cloud. Summer will soon be over. Take advantage of this day to relax and leave your worries behind. Fly a kite. Enjoy the final days of summer.
August 24)  Vesuvius Day
August 25)  Kiss And Make Up Day
August 26)  National Dog Day
August 26)  Women's Equality Day
August 27)  Global Forgiveness Day
August 27)  Just Because Day
August 28)  Race Your Mouse Day (but in today's society are we   talking rodent or computer?)
August 29)  More Herbs, Less Salt Day
August 30)  Frankenstein Day
          There are 3 versions of this day. This one is in honor of author Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, who was born August 30, 1797. There is also Frankenstein Friday and National Frankenstein Day, both celebrated in October. Confused? Celebrate all 3 days.
August 30)  Toasted Marshmallow Day
August 31)  National Trail Mix Day

Saturday, July 20, 2013


I've done several blogs about various travel topics and locations, things of interest and places to visit that present the traveler with unusual experiences.

I recently saw a list of 15 natural wonders considered to be bizarre and definitely unusual.  And since they say a picture is worth 1,000 words, I'll save myself 15,000 words by including pictures. :)

Here, in no particular order, are 15 bizarre natural wonders.

Soleli Desert, Bolivia
Taking a trip across the Soleli Desert has been described as being like taking a trip through a Dr. Seuss book.  Strange rock formations, pink lagoons filled with flamingos, deadly geysers, an abandoned train cemetery, and the totally bizarre Uyuni Salt Flats.

Blood Falls, Antarctica
The Blood Falls emerge from Taylor Glacier and fall into Lake Bonney.  The red color of the waterfall comes from a buried saltwater reservoir containing iron.

Bowling Ball Beach, California
This is one of a very few locations anywhere in the world where you can find boulders of equal shape and size perfectly arranged in nature.

Hell's Gate, New Zealand
It was George Bernard Shaw who gave the Rotorua location its name of Hell's Gate.  You'll find bubbling mud ponds, smoking sulfur pits, and erupting geothermal pools. (Actually, it sounds a lot like areas of Yellowstone)

Great Blue Hole, Belize
The Lighthouse Reef ecosystem is home to this large submarine sinkhole which measures 984 feet across and 394 feet deep.  It is believed to be the world's largest sinkhole and is considered one of the best places in the world to scuba dive.

Snow Monsters, Japan
The so-called snow monsters are frost-covered trees on Japan's Mount Zao.  Heavy, wet snow solidifies to fir trees creating these alien looking creatures.

Wave Rock, Australia
This is one of the most beautiful rock formations in the world.  This tidal wave looking rock is 49 feet high and 328 feet long.

Door To Hell, Turkmenistan
This burning gas crater has been blazing for over 35 years.

Moeraki Boulders, New Zealand
These large boulders, formed from sea floor sediments, are 60 million years old.  The process is similar to the way a pearl forms inside an oyster.  The shape of the boulders is so perfect that they appear to be man-made.

Quinoa Forest, Cuenca
Claiming to be the highest altitude forest in the world, this mythical-looking location contains various Inca legends.  Due to the lack of soil, the twisting roots grow above ground.

Cano Cristales, Colombia
Referred to as "The River Of Five Colors," Cano Cristales is a clear river of vibrant greens, blues, reds, and yellows in many shades.

Tessellated Pavement, Tasmania
This bizarre natural formation in Eaglehawk Neck is made up of fractured stone created from a combination of stress on the Earth's crust, sand, and waves.

Spotted Lake, British Columbia
This 38 acre lake site is a rare natural phenomenon with one of the highest mineral contents in the world, which helps to form the spots on the lake surface.

Fairy Chimneys Of Cappadocia, Turkey
Strange rock formations are sculpted by wind and water and are best viewed from above such as from a hot air balloon.

Fly Geyser, Nevada
In the early 1900s, the owners of the land in the Haulapai Valley of Nevada were searching for water.  While drilling, they hit a geothermal pocket which created the geyser.  In addition to the vibrant colors, the geyser is continually growing in height.

The picture of the geyser totally grabbed my attention because of its similarity to the sight of the fountain in the lake at my mother's house one exceptionally cold winter (1989 to be exact).  The ice built up around the fountain until it reached a towering height with only the path of the water jets clear of ice, making it resemble a geyser.  

The three pictures here show it at its maximum ice, with a person to give it perspective, the fountain without any ice.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Sexiest Spies On TV And In The Movies

A few years ago TV Guide compiled a list of the top fifty sexiest spies on television and in the movies.  I do readily admit that this list might be a little out of date since it doesn't take into consideration the most recent movies and tv series.  For the sake of brevity, I'll only list TV Guide's top ten. TV Guide restricted their list to spies only, not super heroes and other crime fighter types.

10)     Daniel Craig (James Bond--movie)
9)       Tom Cruise (Ethan Hunt in Mission Impossible--movie)
8)       Diana Rigg (Mrs. Peel in The Avengers--television series)
7)       Robert Redford (Joe Turner in Three Days of the Condor--movie)
6)       Halle Barry (James Bond--movie)
5)       Pierce Brosnon (James Bond--movie)
4)       Jennifer Garner (Alias--television series)
3)       Harrison Ford (Jack Ryan character--movie)
2)       Brad Pitt/Angela Jolie (Mr. and Mrs. Smith--movie)
1)       Sean Connery (James Bond--movie)

Relating to the entire list of fifty, there are several things I found interesting.

Three different actors made the top fifty list for portraying the same character.  Ben Affleck, Alec Baldwin, and Harrison Ford all played Jack Ryan in various movies from Tom Clancy novels.

There was one slot (#28) that included the entire cast of the television series Mission Impossible with special mention of Barbara Bain and Greg Morris.

All the James Bond actors made the list except George Lazenbe.  Timothy Dalton was #45, Roger Moore #27, Daniel Craig #10, Pierce Brosnon #5, and Sean Connery (not a surprise) at #1.

And other characters who were portrayed by different actors in the television series vs. the movie.  At #38 we had Ann Hathaway as Agent 99 in the Get Smart movie and at #24 we had Barbara Felton as Agent 99 on the Get Smart television series.  At #23 we had Uma Thurman as Emma Peel in The Avengers movie and at #8 we had Diana Rigg as Emma Peel on The Avengers television series.  At #22 we had a tie of Robert Conrad playing James West in the television series of Wild Wild West and Will Smith portraying James West in the movie version of Wild Wild West.

Who are your favorite spies in movies and television?  Is it because they're sexy?  Because of their bravery?  Their cleverness?  Their abilities to do their jobs?  Let me know.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

America's Greatest Train Rides

Train travel in Europe is very commonplace.  Whenever I travel to the UK, I always buy a Brit Rail pass before I go and use it for traveling all over Britain—day trips out of London and longer trips such as to Scotland and Wales.

And here in the U.S., with more and more restrictions and inconveniences put on airplane passengers and airlines constantly adding fees and surcharges on top of the ticket price, train travel has had quite a resurgence.  Warren Buffett recently made a $44 billion investment in a railroad company.  And with gasoline prices on the rise again (just in time for summer vacation), not surprisingly, the last two years have been the best in Amtrak's history.  With the increased amount of time you need to arrive at the airport prior to departure, the reduced number of flights which creates longer wait time when you need to change planes for a connection, even a short flight takes a lot longer than it used to.

The Travel Channel on cable television has a couple of shows about scenic train travel in America.

One of the nation's best rides is Amtrak's Southwest Chief that goes from Chicago to Los Angeles and gives the traveler a way to relive America's expansion west from the 1800s.  The train trip lasts a little over forty hours, traveling through Illinois, Missouri, Kansas and the famous wild west town of Dodge City.  From there it continues into Colorado and New Mexico.  Then across northern Arizona with the availability of a side trip to the Grand Canyon.  And finally into downtown Los Angeles' Union Station.

With only a few exceptions, this ride is on the same tracks that were once the Santa Fe Railway which was built along the old Santa Fe wagon train trail, a route that also inspired the famous highway of the days before Interstates criss-crossed the country—Route 66.

Here are five more long great rail journeys.

The West Coast's Coast Starlight is considered by most travelers to be Amtrak's most scenic route.  It runs along the Pacific Ocean between Los Angeles, California, and Seattle, Washington, traveling through some truly spectacular scenery.

From California, the classic route east is the California Zephyr, following the path of the first transcontinental railway between San Francisco to Chicago.  It visits such places as Sacramento, Reno, Salt Lake City, across the Rockies to Denver, through Nebraska and Iowa to Chicago.

By taking the Southwest Chief in one direction and returning on the California Zephyr, you are traveling what the Gilded Age tourists in the 1880s and 1890s called the Grand Tour of America.

If you want a ride that goes through the heart of the country, try the Texas Eagle starting in Chicago.  It crosses the Mississippi River at St. Louis, travels down through the Ozarks, across Arkansas into eastern Texas, and continues through Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, and to San Antonio where it connects with the Sunset Limited to Los Angeles.

The East Coast relies much more on rail service than the rest of the country, especially the heavily used tracks between Boston and Washington, D.C.

One of the country's first scenic rail routes is the Empire Service from New York City up through the Hudson River Valley where Washington Irving's Ichabod Crane encountered the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hallow.

And if you're on the East Coast and are heading to Florida, you can take the Auto Train where your car travels with you.  Passengers board just south of Washington, D.C. and their vehicles are loaded on the train.  The trip terminates just outside Orlando, Florida.

But maybe you're not planning a vacation by train, but would like the train experience.  There are lots of day trips in various parts of the country, including vintage steam and narrow gauge railroads.  My personal favorite is the Napa Valley Wine Train in California, which includes winery stops.  And Alaska Railway's White Pass & Yukon Route offers a three hour tour through some truly dramatic scenery.

Have any of you taken a train vacation?  A day trip train tour?