Saturday, February 25, 2017

The 2017 Philadelphia Car Show!

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2017 Philadelphia Car Show

     The 2017 Philadelphia Car Show!
     The peak time of year for new car shows runs from just before the holiday season till early summer.  This long season covers the times of year when consumers do the most shopping for cars.  The Las Vegas SEMA Convention has to be the one of the greatest car shows of them all and it kicks off the auto shopping season in October each year.  Automobile manufacturers pull all the stops for this giant extravaganza.  Just about any custom manufactured concept car and new model imaginable can be found at the SEMA Convention in Vegas.
     Similar big car shows quickly move on down the line to major metropolitan areas that have strong auto sales markets.  For example, the 2017 Philadelphia Car Show took place in late January and was soon followed by the Chicago Auto Show a few weeks later in February.  Another highly anticipated event is the New York Auto Show, which is scheduled for mid April.
     As one can see, the major auto shows are organized just like a big time rock 'n' roll band on tour!    Each automobile manufacturer and dealer that participates in the car show tour literally runs a "no holds barred" road trip that requires plenty of organizational planning.  Crews that set the auto showcase stages and sound systems can be likened to rock star roadies.  This analogy is apropos, because car manufacturers use every trick and lure imaginable to draw attention to their merchandise.
     The different modes of the manufacturer displays is an interesting topic in itself.  Some manufacturers, like Cadillac, design a display with the intention of targeting a completely new demographic sector of the nouveau riche when they unveil a new model.  A manufacturer like Jeep, actually sets up a vast obstacle course inside the convention center, just to take interested onlookers on a wild test ride.  Japanese economy car displays are usually designed to appeal to those who have a modern efficient outlook on future transportation needs.  Muscle car manufacturers like Dodge, layout all sorts of powerful eye candy that represents their championship drag strip heritage.  Dodge Ram, Ford and Chevy always proudly display the latest strongest new pickup truck models in an effort to appeal to those who want to proudly own the baddest truck on the block!
     High end sports cars and luxury cars, like Bentley, Maserati, Ferrari, Rolls Royce and McLaren usually only allow access by dealer invitation only.  I was lucky enough to receive a Rolls Royce display area pass from a relative that owns one of the supercharged models, so I had access to the cars that most people can only view from a distance.  I spent time checking out the big Alpha Romeo sports cars, because I am a Dodge owner and it is rumored that the next series of Vipers will be based upon the Alpha chassis.  According to arm chair high performance sports car enthusiasts, the Italian Alpha based Viper will be powered by a Dodge Hemi that puts out nearly 1,000 horsepower.
     Yes, attending a car show is a great way to get caught in the manufacturer's rumor mill.  The Ford and Chevy factory reps sure did some talking about the new Mustang, Camaro and Corvette.  Every one of the factory representatives had an ace up their sleeve.  Dodge kind of used a different strategy.  They put plenty of new Challenger models on the showroom floor and just let the Challenger owners do all the talking.  I literally had a blast standing around and talking with fellow Challenger owners in Philly.  I finally got a chance to talk with the Dodge reps and oddly enough, I could not pry any information out of them about the upcoming new Demon trim version of the Challenger.  Basically, they said that the all new Demon will be unveiled at the upcoming New York Auto Show in April and only hints about what the Demon details will be released by Dodge each week until then.  Suspense is definitely part of the hot muscle car marketing game!          
     There is something for old car buffs at the major auto shows too.  Each major auto show features rare classic cars of the past and famous cars from Hollywood movies.  Local car clubs and custom manufacturers also show their stuff.  Rare exotic sports car fans get a chance to see some of the fastest cars ever built.  Highlights from the rare collectable section at the Philadelphia Car Show included the original Batmobile, the one an only Mosler Raptor and an old Auburn Boat Tail Speedster.
     The food at just about any convention center is not really worth mentioning, but there are usually great local places nearby that cater to conventioneers.  For example, the Philadelphia Car Show was located across the street from the Reading Terminal Market, which happens to be one of the biggest food markets in America.  Every ethnic food, snack food and gourmet street food item that can be imagined is made in the little restaurant shops inside this gigantic food emporium.  I purchased a Train Wreck Hoagie at Beck's Cajun CafĂ© inside the Reading Terminal Market on the way out.  All I can say is that munching on great street food is simply the best, especially after looking at new cars all day!
     A national car show circuit event provides a whole day of entertainment for adults and children of all ages.  These big events usually take place inside gigantic convention centers, so it is a great opportunity to escape the cold winter weather or the heat of summer.  The low ticket price for a major auto show is a real bargain in this modern age.  Going to a big time auto show really is a fun way to spend a day and being one of the first to see the new models is always a thrill.  If you happen to be a big time car fan, then the auto show is the place to go, go, go!      

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Cleveland Clinic - Lou Ruvo Center For Brain Health ~ Las Vegas Architecture!

     Cleveland Clinic - Lou Ruvo Center For Brain Health ~ Las Vegas Architecture!
     The winter of 2017 has blanketed many areas of the Southwest with snow this year.  As a result, many travel destination articles have been put on hold, especially ones that feature scenic places in high elevations.  Publishing a travel article that has bright sunny pictures of a travel destination from a day when the weather was warm, which is currently under blizzard conditions, can lead to frustration.  When it snows in the wide open spaces of the Desert Southwest, the danger level increases dramatically, because help can be hundreds of miles away.  There have been road closures in Utah National Parks, the Grand Canyon and even Death Valley this year, because of heavy winter weather.  That is three big western states and I have at least 50 travel destinations to write about in these territories that will have to wait till the weather warms up a bit more.  Fortunately springtime comes early in the Southwest, so the wait will not be long.
     In the mean time, featuring resort destinations and winter destinations is a safe bet.  For the most part, Las Vegas has had a mild winter this year and temperatures reached the 70's this month.  Las Vegas is the worlds number one gambling and decadence destination, but this city also has unique cultural sites that are often overlooked in travel brochures.  There are people that travel to Vegas just to visit Chinatown, museums and do some antique shopping.  Some people do culinary tours of Vegas and a few years ago there was a group that actually visited every gourmet cupcake shop in the entire valley.  There are also people that only make a trip to Las Vegas just to see the modern architecture.  The mega-casino resorts on the Las Vegas Strip are truly a marvel to see.  Off the Las Vegas Strip is like a history book of architectural styles that range from the early 1900's through the modern contemporary period of the 1960's.  Many of these buildings have been featured in previous Las Vegas travel articles in this website.
     "I wonder how they built that?" is a question that is overheard from onlookers just about anywhere in Las Vegas.  This question definitely applies to the Cleveland Clinic - Lou Ruvo Center For Brain Health on West Bonneville Avenue in downtown Las Vegas.  I honestly have seen people stand across the street at the Prime Outlet Mall and stare at this building in disbelief.  Droves of visitors take photos of the Cleveland Clinic - Lou Ruvo Center For Brain Health everyday.  The reason why is easy to understand.  There simply is no other architectural design like this on earth!     
     Weird, strange and bizarre are descriptions that are overheard from onlookers that see the Lou Ruvo Center For Brain Health for the first time.  Those who are in the construction business simply stare at this modern architectural masterpiece with a smile on their face, because being involved with an interesting construction project is like a dream come true, especially after building one "cookie cutter" house after another.
     Architects worldwide visit the Lou Ruvo Center For Brain Health too.  This building was designed by the legendary architect Frank Gehry, so a visit to this place can be compared to studying the architectural works of Frank Lloyd Wright, who was far ahead of his own time.  Frank Gehry accomplished a difficult surrealistic theme when he designed the Lou Ruvo Center For Brain Health and this building truly is a work of art.
     The photos in the slideshow date back to just after construction began on the Cleveland Clinic - Lou Ruvo Center For Brain Health.  In fact, I was living nearby when this site was just an empty lot.  At that time, I used to catch a city bus to work across the street at the Clark County Government Center, which is a marquis example of modern Southwestern desert architecture in itself.  While sitting at the bus stop each week, I watched the weird looking building across the street take shape, piece by piece.  The sight was interesting to say the least!
     Of course, unique architecture is only part of the Cleveland Clinic - Lou Ruvo Center For Brain Health.  The Cleveland Clinic is famous for being a leader in modern medical research and practice.  This medical facility is renowned for breakthroughs in finding cures for neurological disorders and many firsts in the urology field have been credited to this clinic.  In effect, it is only fitting to have a world famous architectural design for a building that houses world class medical services.
     When visiting Las Vegas, take a little architectural sight seeing tour to the intersection of West Bonneville Avenue and South Grand Central Parkway.  The World Market Center, Prime Outlet Mall, Clark County Government Center and the Cleveland Clinic - Lou Ruvo Center For Brain Health are all at this location.  Each of these sites offers grand architectural designs that are well worth checking out.  By far, the surrealist Lou Ruvo Center For Brain Health Building takes the cake for one of the most complex architectural designs on earth!  

Monday, February 6, 2017

Antelope Island State Park, Utah!

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     Antelope Island State Park!
     The Great Salt Lake presents many unique wildlife habitats in a vast surreal landscape.  The Great Salt Lake is the remnant of a giant ancient ocean that has disappeared over time as this region rose to a high elevation.  As the water level of the Great Salt Lake fluctuates, vast outlying areas become dry salt beds and salt crust peninsulas link nearby islands to the shoreline.  Antelope Island is one such place.
     Antelope Island is the largest island in the Great Salt Lake and it is located near Salt Lake City.  The southeastern shoreline turns west near Salt Lake City, so Antelope Island can be viewed anywhere from north of the big city to Ogden and west of the city along the Interstate Highway 80 corridor.  
     Back in the 1840's, the Fremont western expedition was headed by the legendary mountain man, Kit Carson.  Fremont and Carson made peace with the local natives in this area and they heard stories about the big island at the southeastern end of the lake.  The Fremont expedition depended on wild game for food, just like the natives.  When the explorers heard about the good hunting on the island, they set off across the salt crust peninsula to the island in search of easy prey.  The trek across the salt crust was treacherous by horseback, but they made it across somehow.  The stories of abundant wild game were true and after bagging an Antelope (Pronghorn) for food, they were so happy to get food in their belly that they named the island after their first kill.  
     As mentioned before, the salt crust peninsula to Antelope Island was accessible only when the water in the Great Salt Lake dropped below a certain level.  This means that plenty of animals were landlocked on Antelope Island between years of drought and wet weather.  Antelope Island has a few mountain peaks, but most of the island is covered with grassy plains and meadows.  This means that this large island could sustain plenty of wildlife.  
     Even way back in the late 1800's, everybody agreed that Antelope Island was such a special place that is needed to be preserved for future generations.  Many people sought to give Antelope Island a National Park status, but the efforts fell short of the mark due to local ranching and industry pressure combined with land ownership rights.  Eventually the State Of Utah successfully purchased one large tract of land after another, till Antelope Island could be given the protection of Utah State Park status.  Antelope State Park is now a model for all public inspired conservation efforts nationwide. 
     In modern times, visitors no longer have to make the perilous journey across the salt crust peninsula to get to Antelope Island.  In the 1960's, a long causeway was built that connected the island to the mainland.  Rock was quarried from Antelope Island for both the causeway and to raise the land for the nearby Interstate Highway 80 project.  As folks soon found out, raising the land a few feet for a roadway was not enough, because a few years later the level of the Great Salt Lake rose and the causeway road was submerged.  Locals then nicknamed the causeway as "The Road To Nowhere."  
     During the time that it took to rebuild the causeway, access to Antelope Island was closed and the landlocked wilderness area was returned to its natural state.  The herd animals that had been depleted by too much hunting were restocked.  The bison herd that was introduced in the early 1900's proved to be valuable breeding stock that helped this majestic species survive in other regions of the west.  In fact, the bison herd project was so prolific that the herd had to be culled, so other herd species like Mountain Sheep, Pronghorn and Mule Deer could survive after being reintroduced.             
     The drive to Antelope Island is easy to navigate from Salt Lake City.  The causeway from the mainland ends near the Antelope Island Visitors Center and this is the best place to find information about the scenic sights in this State Park.  There are several historic points of interest and unique geographic features on this island that can be accessed either direction that one travels on the scenic view drive.  
     Antelope Island is a beautiful place to visit during the winter months.  The tall snow capped mountains that surround the Great Salt Lake provide a panoramic backdrop for nearly every view of the grassy plains where the buffalo roam.  Visitors do not have to go far to see one species of wildlife after another on Antelope Island.  As can be seen in the slideshow photos, Buffalo and Mule Deer were out in great numbers.  I spotted a large Coyote hunting for small game after a few Magpie Birds took flight.  Everything from Porcupines to Pika can be seen moving around in the rock outcrops near the meadows.  Seagulls, Terns and wading birds often fly into view long after their calls are heard.  
     The view of the vast Great Salt Lake at the northern end of the island is enough to let a visitor know just how small the world they normally live in really is.  The waves and the salt air can cause the imagination to roam and before long, reminding oneself that this is not a seaside resort in a foreign country is necessary, especially on a chilly overcast winter day.  The majestic snowcapped mountain backdrop on the mainland even looks like somewhere in Alaska after a while.  A visit to Antelope Island in the winter will take a person to places that they never imagined that they would see!
     The only let down that I experienced at Antelope Island was when I discovered that every photo that I shot that afternoon was while my Nikon D-90 SLR Camera was on a custom setting that I programmed for night time fireworks shows.  At first, I thought that the photographs were a complete loss.  Every photo was jet black and it took many hours of photo editing to get the exposure level to a range that looked like the photos were taken shortly before dusk, which was the time I was there.  Initially I debated whether to publish the photos at all, but the effect that the dimmed exposure ratio created was a very realistic effect, which enhanced the feeling of the Antelope Island experience on an overcast winter day.  There really is something special about Antelope Island and the mode of the recovered photos proves this point. 
     When visiting Utah, keep in mind the one National Park that almost was.  Antelope Island has always been revered as a very special place throughout history and making a trek to this Utah State Park wilderness area is well worth putting on the lifetime travel destination list, especially during the winter season!