Two and a half hours north on I-15, the state line between California and Nevada is monumented by three casinos, a couple gas stations, a roller coaster, a lottery store, and an outlet mall. Over the years, like most brick and mortar enterprises, the outlet stores have suffered at the hands of internet competition. In fact, during the last couple years, the Fashion Outlets mall attached to Primm Valley Casino and Hotel had more businesses leave than stay, resulting in a feeling of desertion and abandonment. That is about to change. Under new ownership and management, Fashion Outlets are being renamed the Prizm Outlets with the property being developed as a destination attraction. A massive interior and ex-terior art project is almost finished, a high-tech entertainment area should be completed in the new year, and new stores are signing leases. The art project is being produced by The Mural Co., an agency that specializes in creat-ing large-scale murals, graffiti art, street art, and urban contemporary art. They coordinate with customers and artists throughout the world in the commissioning of one-of-a-kind, hand-painted works. The Prizm Outlets is their first mall project. When finished, 126 surfaces - including walls, canvases, and custom-built structures - will have been painted, at a cost of over $3 mil-lion dollars, making Prizm a kaleidoscope of stimulation. Looking at the mall from I-15, one now sees bright colors and dramatic shapes and forms. Inside the mall, hand-brushed and spray-painted murals already adorn permanent walls, temporary walls, and custom-built structures. While all the scheduled artwork will be completed by the end of November, mall management says that the project will never be completely fin-ished. As new stores open, pieces may be moved; an exhibition hall may evolve. Future plans for the mall also include a trick art museum, escape rooms, and midway games. Trick art is a method of painting that results in the piece appearing to be 3-dimensional. At the museum, visitors will be encouraged to “interact” with the pictures - taking selfies and other pictures. But there’s no need to wait till then to start taking pictures. Next time you’re cruising up the 15, pull off at Primm and walk a quick - 1/2 mile - lap around the inside of the mall. You’ll be impressed by this one-of-a-kind art phenomenon.
October 1, 2019
Working to Keep Our High Desert Beautiful
In 2008, Scott Brown moved to the Desert Front Road area. Disgusted by the remnants of illegal dumping and getting no help from local and county authorities, he organized a neighborhood trash pickup day utilizing a dumpster provided by CR&R. Flashing forward to 2016, Scott’s vision expanded as he became aware of the condition of our High Desert. In December of ’16, he organized his first clean-up operation, and in 2017, as president and founder, he established The High Desert Keepers as a 501(c)3. Since then, he and his Trash Troopers have collected over 155 tons (310,000 pounds) of trash! Like the size of our desert, Brown thinks big. The mission statement of the organization is to maintain and protect the desert landscape by clearing and preventing illegal dumping throughout the Antelope Valley, Victory Valley, and Morongo Basin. Currently working towards that goal are 85 registered volunteers and additional occasional volunteers, ranging from students from our local schools to a geocache club. Lake Los Angeles’ I Heart LA and a new group starting in Joshua Tree are also coordinating with the locals here. As Brown has grown his organization, he has worked at enlisting support from local gov-ernmental agencies - such as Phelan Pinon Hills CSD, politicians - such as Supervisor Lovingood, and local businesses. Mountain Hardware has been a constant donator of consumables required for cleanups. Big Rock Inn and Wrightwood Blues Societies have sponsored fundraisers on the Keep-ers’ behalf. El Patron, Pizza Factory, and Subway provided food for work parties. And, of course, CR&R continues to play an integral role. “I am eternally grateful to everyone for their support,” states Brown. Large scale clean-ups, referred to as operations, entail an army of people and coordinated logistics. The Beast II, a ’96 Ford 350 4x4, transports equipment and pulls the new 12x4x4 dump trailer. There are volunteers who bring their own tractors for scooping trash into dumpsters, and folks providing food and drink for the “ground troops,” the Trashtroopers. One of 12 operations completed so far, Operation Baldy Mesa resulted in the removal of 36 tons of trash. In addition to the large operations, the Desert Keepers also perform smaller clean ups. When someone calls to report a smaller illegal dump, an appropriate-sized group will be dispatched. You can contact Scott at email@example.com. No matter what size the job, the group appreciates and needs support. Visit their sites on the web, Facebook, and Instagram. There you can see their work, their needs, and their plans. You can volunteer your time, materials, and cash. While their largest single cash donation was $3,000 from the Community Cabinet, every $10 help to cover costs ranging from gas for the Beast to insurance coverage for the Trashtroopers. One way everyone can help is to be careful who you hire. Brown says 70% of the trash they pick up has been illegally dumped by unlicensed “contractors.” Too many people who hire out their services to perform housing clean outs or property vegetation clearance with disposal of the debris, instead, just dump it. To prevent this from occurring he recommends paying a portion up front and then the remainder after the “contractor” returns from the landfill with a receipt proving legal disposal. On October 27th, The High Desert Keepers will kick off their season - which runs through May - with their Spaghetti Madness Fundraiser Dinner. Being held at the Phelan Community Center, the event will be an opportunity to learn about the group and how you can support their future ef-forts. As we have all seen, it is truly a battle and will take the efforts of many to protect and main-tain the beauty of our desert environs.
NASCAR for the Non-Aficionado
by Carol Bishop written March 20, 2019
What is NASCAR? It is the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing. (A stock car is an “ordinary” car that has been modified - such as with fuel injection - for racing.) With a 36-race-season held throughout the U.S., the annual local stop is down the hill in Fontana at the AutoClub Speedway. Over three days - five if you count the bumper days for the RVers, a variety of events and races take place. Beginning Thursday, fans with their motorhomes stream into the infield, parking and setting up their temporary homes within the D-shaped oval track. On Friday, fans and students from the area take part in activities demonstrating the physics of racing. Throughout the weekend, action on the venues, ranging from motorcycle stunt jumping to women’s lucha libre - theatrical “wrestling”! - entertain fans before the races. On Saturday, practice and cup qualifying sessions occur, with Sunday hosting the big race. The NASCAR Monster Energy Series Fontana consists of going around a 2-mile track 200 times. Counterclockwise. Race connoisseurs say the allure of watching cars going in circles 200 times is based on a number of factors. Fans watch for, note, and appreciate driving strategies and pit performance. Most have a favorite driver; those who like Kyle Busch were no doubt thrilled by his dominating performance and win in Fontana. And seasoned and neophyte fans alike share an interest in spins and wrecks. Not for the sensitive. The roaring motors of cars speeding at over 170 miles per hour carry throughout and can seriously damage one’s hearing. Fans who cherish their sense of hearing and that of their children come prepared with earplugs, or better, yet, quality noise-suppressing headgear. Fans must be ready to suck in the gas and burning-rubber tire fumes. Being in sunny California, sunscreen, hats, and other protective gear is a necessity. And being in Fontana, one needs to be prepared for gusty winds, also. The cost. Depending on which day you are attending, tickets range from around $50 to $2,977. Yes, that’s right; $2,977 for a VIP Hot Pit Pass. If you want to see more than just the top of cars speeding by in front of you on the nearby straightaway, get a seat that’s higher in the stands. The higher, the more you can see of the cars and track. From the seats at the top, one has a view of the entire track and infield. However, don’t spend all your money on your seat. Along with souvenirs, a large variety of food and drink is for sale. Bring cash; lots of it. Cart vendors can only deal in cash, and when time and product-availability become an issue, the consumer benefits by having flexibility when spending their hard-earned Jacksons and Benjamins. And don’t spend your money on too many brews; after the game police are stationed along all nearby roads. (FYI, the selling of beer cuts off when there are only 25 laps of the race left to go.) Arrival and departure. If you’re not staying for four days in your motorhome, you’ll need to face the daily raceway traffic. Fontana and a multitude of local law enforcement have constructed a traffic control maze that is incomprehensible to human and app alike. Don’t bother trying to get around the mess with Waze. It will futilely command its users to turn onto one blocked street after another. Experienced fans deal with the traffic by not dealing with it, but instead by tailgating both before and after the race, or by taking the MetroLink. This year, about 35,000 attended the cup race on Sunday, with some of those having attended events on all three days. Others, including the students, attended on Friday or Saturday. And then more, of course, watched it on TV. NASCAR would love to increase their attendance, so if this article has enticed you, not discouraged you, check out their schedule and make plans for next year’s race.
Antarctica, the Continent
Antarctica, the 5th largest continent, is covered by a permanent ice sheet leaving less than 1% visible as mountains and coastal features. (Photo by Carol Bishop)
When trapped air bubbles within icebergs dissipate over many years, light reflection causes them to appear blue. (Photo by Carol Bishop)
by Carol Bishop Written January 5, 2019
Antarctica is at the bottom of the world, not the top. It is the location of the South Pole, not the North. It is a continent unto itself, not an area of ice and landmasses belonging to different countries and continents. It has penguins, NOT polar bears. With an area of about five and a half million square miles, Antarctica is the fifth largest continent. For study and reference, it is often divided into two parts: Greater and Lesser Antarcticas. Scientists have dated metamorphic rocks found in Greater Antarctica back to the Precambrian and early Paleozoic times, from as much as 3,800,000,000 years old. Metamorphosed sedimentary rocks, volcano ash, and lava intrusions of Lesser Antarctica began forming around 200,000,000 years ago. Most of Antarctica is covered with a huge - averaging 8,000 feet deep - permanent ice sheet, leaving less than one percent visible as mountains and coastal features. The Antarctic - which includes Antarctica and its surrounding ice shelves, islands, and seas - was originally designated as being the whole area south of the 60th parallel. A more accurate “scientific boundary” was eventually established using the Antarctic Convergence. The convergence is a natural boundary where subantarctic surface waters and antarctic surface waters collide. Depending on temperatures, the convergence, and thus the boundary, varies throughout the year and from year to year. The water south of the convergence, known as the Southern Ocean, contains the coldest and densest ocean on Earth, and surrounds Antarctica. While Antarctica is so large a glacial landmass that its climate varies somewhat from area to area, overall it is the coldest, windiest, and driest continent in the world. It has so little precipitation, that it qualifies as a desert! The Antarctic ice sheet, which covers the continent itself, contains about 90 percent of the world’s ice. The sea surface around Antarctica freezes each winter. Saltwater freezes at 28.8 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. The higher the salinity, the colder it needs to be to freeze. Fast ice can form and eventually become attached to the shore, extending 60 - 120 miles into the sea. In spring and summer, the warmer temperatures break up the fast ice. Because the rate of accumulation of sea ice during fall and winter is slower than the rate of decay during spring and summer, overall the ice of Antarctica is slowly melting. Ice conditions affect habitat. Seals, depending upon their species, live on or about pack ice. Emperor penguins need fast ice; some penguins need pack ice; and others do better with more water. Seabirds use ice for roosting and/or a base for hunting. Krill - a crustacean that is a cornerstone for the entire Antarctic food chain, including penguins and whales - are declining in numbers in part to ice cover and ice-algae (their food source) loss. In June of 1961, the Antarctic Treaty was ratified by 12 countries which had operated scientific stations there. It proposed that the continent should be open to all nations for the pursuit of scientific and other peaceful activities. Over the years, additional agreements have been added, and it is now known as the Antarctic Treaty System. Currently 53 countries are Parties to the Treaty System. The 1991 Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty added specific measures such as requiring all human activities to be planned on basis of environmental impact assessments and to comply with regulations on waste disposal and marine pollution. It applies to tourism, non-governmental activities, and governmental activities. One article of the treaty pertains to territorial claims. Before the Treaty was written, seven countries had made official territorial claims to segments of Antarctica. The article states it does not renunciate the claims, and that no new claims can be made while the treaty is in force. Nowadays, no country officially owns any part of Antarctica, and all are tasked with working together to understand and preserve the pristine continent it is. (Reference: Quark Expeditions’ Antarctic Reader) Part II, An Expedition to the “7th Continent,” (yep, that’s Antarctica) to follow
Using Travel Industry Disruptors; A Customized Trip to Croatia, Part 1
by Carol Bishop
Traveling, as a result of various industry disruptors, is better than ever, or more work than ever - depending upon your outlook. In the past, one would turn to travel industry professionals and businesses for booking transportation and lodging. As the internet evolved, the individual traveler willingly - or reluctantly - began taking on more control and responsibility for planning and booking trips. Nowadays, anyone with access to the internet and a credit card can plan and customize their travel throughout the world.
Internet booking engines (IBE) cover almost every aspect of travel and have disrupted the involved industries as once practiced. Once the domain of travel agents, the air travel marketplace now has individual travelers making their own bookings directly with airlines, through consolidators, and with travel websites offering competitive routes, times, and fares. Local and regional ship, train, and bus services throughout the world are published on-line, and often tickets can be booked and bought ahead of time. Not sure how to get from place to place? Go on Rome2Rio, and it’ll produce a variety of transportation possibilities (It even gives a 5-hour, 29 minute 4-bus route to Disneyland from the Community Center in Wrightwood!).
Lodging once basically consisted of hotels and hostels. IBE’s, such as booking.com and Airbnb, have facilitated the exponential growth of lodging opportunities through the rental of rooms, apartments, houses, boats, castles, and whatever else can serve as an income-generator for the owner and a roof-over-the-head for the guest. Residences in remote areas have become tranquil guesthouses; spare bedrooms or even couches are inexpensive accommodations in urban centers. While some lodgings provide entry through impersonal codes, others have owner-operators who meet and host their guests offering local suggestions and information. As the number and range of lodging possibilities increase, availability and cost has worked to the traveler’s advantage.
Along with guidebooks - be they in the old-fashioned paper format or on-line, the internet, providing access to a plethora of platforms, is a great source of ideas for places to go, things to see, and activities to do. IBEs like TripAdvisor and GroupOn, and websites of state and city tourism councils all provide recommendations. When in doubt, google your query, “What to do in San Diego? Paris? Kathmandu?”
As data regarding travel offerings has increased, so have the reviews. Airline delay and safety statistics are available. Customer reviews are included on or linked to many websites. While opinions differ and life is not static, making informed choices can result in a more successful trip.
While everything still comes with a price, literally, paying that price has gotten easier over the years. Depending upon your level and place of travel, credit cards and cash are accepted. If it’s a credit card, your US-issued card will work. If it’s cash, just hit an ATM. ATMs are now found around the world and give you a better rate and flexibility than exchanging money at a bank or money changer. Just make sure to check before you leave that your debit/ATM card is accepted in the country. Cirrus and Plus are generally found throughout the world, while Allpoint is not.
Finally, fortunately for us, English is the international language of travel. If you find a booking engine that’s primary language doesn’t happen to be English, you can usually just hit the “English” select button. Once you physically get to a country, you’ll usually encounter English-speakers working wherever tourists may be found. If not, there’s always apps like Google’s Translate to facilitate communication.
Whatever your needs, there’s a myriad of IBEs and other technology available to give you information and help you make reservations. Dependent upon the size and popularity of the areas, locations, and activity, your main limitations may be the time and effort needed to decide the best options for you. Persevere, and you may have the best trip ever.
In part 2 next week, I’ll describe how, by using IBEs, I organized a custom trip to Croatia last spring.
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