Monday, November 30, 2015

Travel Ideas in San Diego - Ride the Coaster

OK, I admit this might seem like a simple idea.  But if you have not taken the San Diego Coaster from San Diego to Oceanside, you have missed a treat.  The ride is about an hour long.  It's a beautiful coastal ride on a quiet, comfortable commuter train.

I recently took the ride while visiting friends in the area.   I flew into the airport, but took the Coaster to Carlsbad, where my friends met me.  I so much prefer this over a taxi or just having them meet me at the airport.  The ride cost $5.75 one way.  There is also a fee of $2.25 for a shuttle bus from San Diego Lindbergh Airport to the Santa Fe train Depot.

But as a nice quiet journey to reflect, it cannot be beat.  Also, there is free wifi onboard.  That is a bonus.  Next time you are in San Diego, just take the coaster for a day trip.  Oceanside has lots of shops and restaurants in walking distance of the train depot.  The depot is also about two blocks from the beach.  It's a trip you will long remember.

For more information, go to:  www.gonctd.com/coaster.  Also, check out my YouTube video on the link below.

Leroy





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Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Greatest Photo I Ever Took. Paris Y2K Eiffel Tower Fireworks.

The recent tragedy in Paris got me thinking about my greatest conquest in the City of Lights.  As we #Pray4Paris, I want to share my experience in one of the greatest cities in the world.  Paris shall remain unbowed.  The citizens of France will not yield to fear.  Her greatness is manifest throughout the city.  In honor of the brave citizens of Paris, and in memory of the lives so violently touched, I share my story:



in the fall of 1999, the world was worried about the Millennium bug.  There were stories that computers around the world would not be able to process the change from 1999 to 2000 and fail.  In particular, there was a concern about the old computers controlling the missile silos around the world holding the most destructive weapons.

This being a concern, I decided to ride out the millennium in the coolest place i could think of, Paris, France.  It was here that I would take the greatest photo of Paris ever created.  Of course, I am biased, but I hope you agree, that it’s a pretty darn good photo.

My trip starts in Bamberg, Germany where I had served in the US Army several years prior.  I had not been there in awhile, so I thought, as long as I am on the Continent, I will visit some old friends from Christmas.  Since that is a different story, I will skip the merriment.  On December 30, I left Bamberg on the over night train to Paris.  

Arriving in Paris in the morning, I made my way to the Hotel Frantour Eiffel Suffren.  I was able to get a top floor room with a view the the Eiffel Tower.  Today, that hotel is the Hotel Mercure Paris Centre Tour Eiffel.  It has gone through a major renovation.  The location is ideal for enjoying Paris’ main attraction.  Once checked in, I walked around the area for a good vantage point. 

All of Europe had suffered severe rain this month, and the Seine was at incredible flood level.  I checked out several locations near the Pont de Bir Hakeim and Voie Georges Pompidou.  I decided the best spot would be Trocadero Plaza above the fountains.  I had packed food, and used the restroom before staking out my spot.  I was ready to spend the next 13 hours in that one spot, braving a cold drizzle until the fireworks began.  Six hours into my cold miserable wait, the Gendarmes came and rousted all tourists away from the Trocadero Plaza.  It seems, the media was also planning on using that spot and did not want any crowds in the way of their coverage.  

I was pissed and relieved. it was turning much colder, and I really did not want to spend the next few hours exposed.  I went back to my hotel and slept the next four hours.  I awoke with an hour before midnight.  Since it was already past midnight in Moscow, and the Russian missiles had not flown past us on the way to the USA, I decided to go out and find a decent vantage point.

I remembered the flooded Seine along Voie Georges Pompidou near the Bridge.  


I crossed the bridge which was not filled with hundreds of revelers.  There would be no decent vantage from the bridge to photograph.  I walked along the Seine away from the Tower until I saw the spot I had seen earlier that day.  There was a wall along the road down to the river level.  The road was flooded near the wall.  If I jumped up on the wall, I could walk down to the spot where the wall disappeared into the flooded Seine.  

Here I sat down, set up my tripod, and Olympus OM 10 camera.  I had a manual trigger cable, and I was shooting slide film.  I had experimented with night photography before, but I was out on a literal ledge with this project.  The challenge was to get far enough away from the nearby crowd in order to get the photos I wanted without getting bumped around.  Also, I was not sure about the timing of opening the aperture.

I took a couple of practice shots at openings of 4 seconds and 8 seconds.  Then I waited.  From the hotel to the location, it only took me about 30-40 minutes to set up.  It was about 10 minutes to midnight, so i was excited and anxious.  I noticed that there was a metro train crossing the Pont de Bir Hakeim.  The bridge was in the foreground with the Eiffel Tower looming behind.  If a train crossed while my aperture was open, it would be a complete blur.



Momentarily, it began.  The fireworks started low at first just above the lower observation deck.  The they worked their way up the tower.  Explosions of fireworks went off to the immediate right of the tower from my field of vision.  I began taking shots with varying times for opening the aperature; 4 seconds, 6 seconds and 8 seconds.  Soon there were gigantic booms large balloon like fireworks in the open space to the right of the tower, as flames of fireworks shot off the tower in unison.  Throughout my efforts, trains kept crossing the bridge.  Some would slow, but others did not stop.  I could only hope I could get one decent shot that was not a blur.



And then it happened.  As i was taking two shots back to back, a train crossed from right to left, and stopped mid way across the bridge.  I took a shot; six seconds.  I took a second shot 8 seconds.  Upon releasing the trigger from my second shot, the train started up again and continued its journey.  For a brief moment, I was able to capture two pictures of the Eiffel Tower in full fireworks illumination with the commuter train frozen in view.   What so pleased me about the photo, was that you could actually see the passengers on the train.



When the fireworks were over, the Eiffel Tower lit up with sparkling lights that stayed on all night.  On the observation deck level, the new year, 2000, was displayed in lights.  My friends from Germany had sent me on my journey with two bottles of white wine.  I could not wait to open the bottles and share my wine with 1.5 million of my new found friends celebrating the new century all over the city.  Well, not all 1.5 million; just the group along the Seine. 

I made my way back to my hotel a few hours later.  That morning, I went back to the Trocadero in order to get a photo of the Eiffel Tower displaying the new year.  It was my best New Year’s Party ever.  And the best part was that the millennium bug was just an excuse for the computer companies to sell us a bunch of new technology.  We were never in any real danger. 



I stayed one more day in town enjoying sites, then travelled by train to Salzburg, Austria.  Another favorite city from my past.  That, however, is another story.

Paris is eternal.  Until this madness stops, lets keep sending out #Prayers4Paris.

Leroy

The entire slide show can be seen on my YouTube Channel.  Click here:

YouTube Vid - Greatest Paris Eiffel Tower Fireworks photo I ever took

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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

I love Big Air Kiteboarding

I have been absent awhile. Lots of main job type work kept me off of blogger. I subsequently had a boo boo with my MacBook Pro, so I have not been able to work on videos.

For lunch today, I ran down to Kanaha Beach Park to watch the kiteboarders. Using my iPhone 6, I was able to catch a few kitesurfers catching big air. My clips are short, but I like this one the best. This guy flew nearly 50 meters on a big gust of Maui wind. 

I suppose I will have to start doing this myself. But I will wait until I'm ready to invest in a GoPro. By then, I will have no excuse to sit on the beach anymore. Enjoy this clip. 

Aloha.

Leroy




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Sunday, October 25, 2015

Wilie K sings If I Didn't Care at 2105 Maui Fair - Fan for Life.

This is a rather strange aside from all my other posts.  I wanted to focus on travels and people and places I visited and met.  I have not yet met this man, but I will share a small story about Willie K.

in 2005, I took a trip to Maui for a class.  The class was offered at the Ritz Carlton in Kapalua.  I was staying in town near the airport, so I had to commute to class.  It was my first trip to Maui.  I was able to see a few sites, but I wanted to get a feel for the local community, so I scheduled my stay to allow for an additional week beyond the class.

That second week, Kathy Collins was doing a comedy show at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center.  It was walking distance from where I was staying, so I decided to attend.  She had legendary falsetto singer, Uncle Richard Hoopii open for her.  It was my first time enjoying his stylings.  He greets you with a prayer, and his voice is a beautiful deep resonating welcome.  But once he starts singing, he hits and holds notes that will shatter a wine glass.  Smooth, melodic and very high in the octave range.  I was dutifully impressed.

Kathy's concert was fun, silly and very entertaining.  She knows her audience and plays well to the crowd.   Good jokes and even better talk-story made for an intimate, warm and welcoming evening.  She broke her concert into two parts, and asked the Barefoot Natives to entertain at intermission.  At the time, this was a partnership between Eric Gilliom and Willie K.  The music they shared blew me away.

They sang a version of Watching the River Run, by Kenny Loggins.  Eric asked the audience to watch Willie K's fingers carefully as he increased the pace of the music to match the flow of water increasing from creek to rapid river.  Willie K's guitar and ukulele skills were beyond amazing.  I had never seen them play prior to this performance, but I knew I would soon be a fan.  I bought their CD and started playing it over and over.

Within six months, I had relocated, at least part time, to Maui.  I returned in time for the 2005 Maui Fair.  Willie K was performing.  Once i saw him perform, I knew I was a fan for life.  He took the audience on a musical journey from blues, to latin to opera to traditional Hawaiian.  I have since seen him more times than I can remember, and have introduced my friends and family to his live music.

At the 2015 Maui Fair, we got good seats and I decided to record the concert.  I like the footage I was able to get, so I uploaded a few songs on my YouTube channel.  But this is a song I really like.  He performed a version of, "If I Didn't Care" by the Ink Spots.  He performs it in the style of blues artist, Nina Simone.   I grew up hearing Redd Foxx as Fred Sanford make fun of the song impersonating Bill Kenny of the Ink Spots.  It was more comic relief.  Willie K infuses soul, into his rendition in a manner both unexpected and humble.  His is an homage you will appreciate again and again.  Enjoy it here.






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Thank you. 

Leroy Phoenix

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Silly Cat Tosses Chew Toy

Ok. I'm not ashamed to admit that my motivation for entering the world of online posts is to upload a video that could go viral.  And, yes, I am pandering to the animal lovers out there who must upload hundreds of cat videos daily. 

So here is my entry into the fray. While visiting a friend recently, I noticed that their cat was normally quite calm until you tossed him his favorite chew toy.  He seemed to enjoy batting it around and tossing it. Here is a short clip of Hyper Cat tossing his favorite chew toy. 




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Thank you. 

Leroy Phoenix

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Flight to Los Angeles with escort plane

By now I should be used to flying and seeing other planes. It's been awhile since I've flown into Los Angeles. So seeing another plane flying nearby as we approached the airport caught me by surprise.

There are plenty of runways, so there really was no issue. But I decided to record it anyway just because it was also an unusually clear day for Los Angeles. Known for the smog that can obscure the city, LA had recently been blessed with two days of much needed rain. 

The flight in was clear and smooth. So please enjoy my short clip of our escort as we approach Los Angeles airport. AKA LAX.




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Leroy Phoenix. 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Muscle Beach traveling rings. Travel to Santa Monica, CA.

I spent a few years of my youth in Santa Monica, CA.  I remember my older siblings being quite proficient in doing the traveling rings. Today, they call the area south of the pier muscle beach. I'm not sure it had that moniker in the 70's.

Going there recently, I was impressed with the renovations to the beach toys, gym equipment and restroom facilities between the pier and the old Synanon building at Pico Boulevard. Today that building is called Casa Del Mar hotel, and it's a great place for dinner and drinks with an ocean view. 

Back in the day, we were told to avoid getting too close to the building or we might get kidnapped into a commune and have all our hair shaved off. 

We lived in Hotel Monica, the big blue box by the sea. Today it is painted yellow, and the replacement structure is called the Sea Castle. It was here that I made my pilgrimage to enjoy the beach at sunset. And here, a new generation of ring enthusiasts ply their skills at the New Muscle Beach. 

So with that introduction, I'd like to share this video of one of the more artistic rings gymnasts. Please enjoy. 




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Thanks. 

Leroy Phoenix 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride - Kite Surfing in Maui

The kiteboarding video I put up got me thinking about a song from a Disney movie.  The song, Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride from the movie Lilo and Stitch seemed to beg for the footage I created.  The only issue is that the music has a copywrite.  I can have limited use on my YouTube page.  So what I did was create two versions of the same thing.  One uses the music that has a copy write.  

The second uses music in the public domain.  Here is the first one using Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride.  I hope you enjoy it.



YouTube Video - Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride Kite Surfing

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Leroy Phoenix

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Singing Chef makes Fire Onion Volcano on Grill

Today is an interesting day.  I just found out that you can now sing Happy Birthday to you in a film or TV show and not pay royalties.   It's kind of funny because I had a cool video of a chef making a fire volcano on a teppanyaki stove for dinner.  He breaks into the happy birthday song, but I did not think it could be uploaded because of copywriter infringement.

Guess what?!?  Happy Birthday is not in the public domain. 



Enjoy:

YouTube Video - Chef makes Onion Fire Volcano on Grill

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Leroy Phoenix

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Elephant Ride in Thailand

In May of 2015, I spent a month in Thailand. It's not my first trip to Thailand, but I really wanted to do things not done on the other visits. 

This time it was riding an elephant. I must say that there are several options available. There are the Eco-tours that allow you to feed and care for elephants over a period of time. There are day trips and half day trips. 

I chose a half day trip that included an elephant ride and a trip to a floating market just outside of Bangkok. I'll share more on the floating market later.  But the ride was well worth the effort. 

We were able to purchase bananas before we were escorted to a canopy covered chair aboard the elephant. There is a nice jungle trail we are escorted through by an experienced guide. He even fed the bananas to our elephant, Kyoko.  

All in all, I can think of zero people other than my travel partner who have ridden an elephant. So I have to say, the experience was priceless.  Here is a short clip of the ride. 





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Leroy Phoenix 




Saturday, September 19, 2015

Old Faithful Geyser Erupts


A while ago, I took a road trip with my dad through the northwest. We visited quite a few spots, but a surprise was Old Faithful Geyser in Yellowstone National Park.

Did you know that it erupts every 90 minutes, and has done that for about 100 years?  It's actually pretty cool to see.  Travel is educational as well as enjoyable. 

Here's a link to the video. 




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Leroy Phoenix

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Travel Idea in Thailand: Ao Nang Island Hop

In May I took a month long trip to Thailand. I stayed in Bangkok for a month. While in Bangkok, I was able to make a long weekend trip down to Krabi and Ao Nang. I have travelled to Thailand before, but this trip was special.

In Ao Nang, my partner and I decided to rent a long boat and find an island. We wanted something private without the crowds. Our boat captain took us about 45 min out to sea where we found a small island. He found us a small stretch of sand where we could set up a picnic on the beach. 

We did a bit of swimming and found fish just off shore that swam around us. Later we enjoyed a stroll along the beach, a picnic and a nap. Our boat captain then took us to another small scenic cove where we could swim a bit more before heading back to the mainland. 

The island we visited is a part of the Phi Phi island group. It was private and pleasant. I recommend you try that when next in Thailand. 




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Leroy Phoenix



Bison Sniffs Butt

This is my first post on Blogger.  It was the funniest thing I've seen in awhile.



YouTube Vid: Bison Sniffs Butt

Do you agree?

By Leroy Phoenix