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Texas – The “Big” Wine Country

November 26th, 2020

I might have mentioned before that my wife and I are planning a late summer trip to Branson, Missouri. In order to get there, we must travel east through New Mexico before arriving at El Paso. Starting at El Paso, what lies before us is approximately 800 miles of travel across the great state of Texas. The primary decision factor will be whether to race through in 2 days or go more leisurely in three or more days. My wife got two votes, I got one vote, and consequently, I lost the election. If we were going to take several days, I felt that some pit stops to investigate the Texas Wine Country were in order.

Texas is huge! It is a land mass of over 262 thousand acres that is over 800 miles north to south and 733 miles from east to west. Guadalupe Peak at 8,749 feet is the highest point and the Gulf coast sea level the lowest. You can travel any where in Texas because it has a nation leading 305,951 miles of road. The state divides into four wine growing areas: Northeast Texas, East Central Texas, Southeast Texas and Western Texas. Texas has a long history of wine production starting near El Paso in the 1650’s. If you drew a line from Corpus Christi west to San Antonio, north to Wichita Falls, and follow the Texas state boundary east and south back to Corpus Christi, you would have a polygon containing most of the wine production. There are important but scattered wine growing areas in west Texas near the key cities of El Paso, Fredericksburg and Lubbock.

Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay are by far the key wines grown in Texas. Syrah, Tempranillo, Sangiovese, Viognier and Pinot Gris are also leading grape varieties. A total of 3,200 acres is currently under production. Nearly 2 million gallons of wine were produced in Texas in 2005, making this state the fifth largest producer in the United States. The University of Texas System is the largest wine producer with nearly 1/3 of all acres currently under cultivation in the entire state. The advent of Prohibition (1920-1933) in the U.S. virtually eliminated the Texas wine industry until a modern time revival in the 1970’s. The wine industry in the state still feels the effects of Prohibition with a quarter of the counties still having “dry laws” on the books.

The Texas Hill Country has become a major wine tour destination that is only rivaled by California’s Napa Valley. The area is characterized by rolling hills, small quaint towns, rambling old farmhouses, and scattered vineyards with up-and-coming tasting rooms. A great location to start an adventure in this area is Fredericksburg. You could do a drive-yourself tour or gather a group and take a luxury bus tour. Letting someone else drive, which allows you to have fun and try every wine you come across, makes a lot of sense. Many communities have their own wine festivals and people are attending them in ever-increasing numbers.

Many of us have danced the Texas Two-step. I found another Texas tradition, the Texas Two-sip. The Texas Two-sip is a challenging, blind taste test of a collection of in state and out of state wines. The goal is to use your taste buds to find the best. There are special rules and forms to fill out, but no specific rules on what food you can eat. Sounds like a party to me. The only caution I have is I did not find out the rule when you get to take your blindfold off. Be careful where you step.

When I was in the military traveling home on leave, I had car trouble in Fredericksburg. The people took me in, fed me and housed me, while the resident mechanic repaired my heap. When I was getting ready to leave, they gave me the gift of a thank you for my service and covered all my bills. Because of the wine growing there, I now have another reason to take a pause there. Look out Highway 290 here we come.

Party Bus Rentals for Your Next Party

November 3rd, 2020

If you reside in a big city chances are you’ve seen those giant buses that people rent for private use. Party buses are becoming very popular in Los Angeles, San Diego, Atlanta, Texas and most other big cities in the United States. Many smart partiers like to rent a party bus so they can get to their destination with class and of course safety. When you rent a party bus for your event you don’t have to worry about anything other than having fun!

How much does it cost per Hour?

That all depends what city you live in and what options you prefer. If you are in California and you want to rent a small 10 to 20 person Bus, chances are you can find something decent around $100 to $250 per hour. Another thing to keep in mind is if it’s a Vegas trip, you can split the costs between all the passengers to make things more affordable. We did that on our last trip to Vegas and we all had a blast. We ended up renting a Freightliner Bus since we had 34 people in our party. We split the costs between 30 of us and I can honestly say we would have spent more on gas if we all took our own cars instead.

Where can I find a reliable Limo/Bus rental company?

Your best friend should be Google or other search engines you like. You should do a local search with the keyword “Party Bus Rental” and contact couple of them and get more details and pricing.

Party Bus Rental Scams

Before I end my article I did want to bring another important matter to your attention. Be extremely cautious when renting a party bus for your next event. Always verify the limo company you are dealing with and make sure they are an “actual” business and not someone who is operating a “party bus” without all the legal permits. Cops are well aware of the problem and they are cracking down on the “Bandit Party Buses” but we the consumers need to be more alert and verify everything.

Can you drink in a Party Bus?

Why else would they call it a Party Bus if you weren’t allowed to drink alcohol? You can but as I mentioned before please make sure the company you are dealing with is licensed and bonded. You can end up getting in lots of trouble and end up losing lots of money if you end up hiring a person/company who are not properly licensed. So gather all your friends, rent a Party Bus and spend the night having fun and enjoy life a little!

Top 10 Things to Do in Houston, Texas

October 27th, 2020

1. Museum of Natural Science

The Houston Museum of Natural Science (HMNS) was established in 1909 and is now one of the famous in North America. It has a staggering collection of several antiques and classical items including mineral specimens, space station models, Quetzalcoatl’s and 60 large skeleton mounts.

2. Space Center Houston

Another interesting thing to do is to take a tour to the Space Center Houston. It is the official visitor center of NASA’s Johnson Space Center and this place has interesting facilities to see. Time spent here is a one-of-a-kind experience as you can even get to meet an astronaut alongside seeing their ISS Mission Control, Buoyancy Lab, Simulation Lab and lots more.

3. Buffalo Bayou Park

The Buffalo Bayou Park is a center of attraction covering a 160-acre of land in the city. It is considered a top natural precious center and features walking and biking trails, dog parks and numerous shady places to take a break. It is a home to a huge park of Mexican free-tailed bats with the slow moving waters at its heart.

4 Minute Maid Park

This is a magnificent stadium that offers beyond ordinary. It is air-conditioned and it is Houston’s first retractable-roofed stadium with a natural grass pitch. It houses 40,000 seats and offers a wide range of selections including ballpark classics, healthy side bars, and Astros Melt.

5. Children’s Museum

It was founded in 1980 by a group of parents passionate about raising early childhood development within the community. The museum exhibitions cut across subjects such as science, history and culture, technology, and lots more. This will be a plus for all kids as the museum features The Market, which is a place for kids to catch fun.

6. Discovery Green

Ever thought of a very much spirited community? Discovery green is one of such and it offers free yoga classes, toddler story times, regular concerts and movie nights. It provides an open air reading rooms, free WiFi, playground, and a place to borrow games and balls when you feel like letting off some steam.

7. Downtown Aquarium

The 500,000 gallon Downtown Aquarium is a mix of both an attraction center and a restaurant. It houses several interesting components such as Ferris Wheel, aquatic carousel, white tiger exhibit. Frog Hopper and more. It offers a spectacular wall to wall aquarium view. It is a splendid place for sightseeing as well as a place to have a dig of interesting food list.

8. Fast Track Amusements

This is a perfect place to show off your great skills, let off steam, and catch some all-round fun. The park is furnished with arcade games, miniature golf, laser tag and Formula 1 replica of go karts. You can also get to enjoy real time games including Godzilla Wars JR, Wacky Gator Super Speedway, Mortal Combat and more. It is a great place for the family to go and get active.

9. The Galleria

The Galleria was modelled after Milan’s stunning Galleria Vittorio Emanuele. It houses over 400 top selling stores, restaurant and food outlets, beauty salons, etc. The Galleria ranks first on the list of the largest malls in Texas.

10. Hines Water-wall Park

The Gerald D. Hines Water-wall Park features a 64 ft semicircular fountain which re-pumps a fixed amount of water per minute which flips up and down the inner and outer wall of the structure. This park is enclosed by 186 oak trees and is a unique point to enjoy games with friends, photoshoots picnic and get together.

How to Get to the Big Bend of Texas

October 16th, 2020

Big Bend is one of the most remote areas of the lower 48 states. Because of this, it can be hard to visit, unless you have a good idea of how to get here and how to get around once you are here. Traveling to the Big Bend can be part of your adventure, but that excitement soon fades if you haven’t planned your route well.

Driving Most people who visit the Big Bend drive to get here. Why? Mainly because of convenience, but also because of the lack of public transportation once you get here. This region is so large, it helps to have a personal vehicle to visit the many interesting place. Driving here will probably involve traveling via Interstates 10 or 20, and then taking US highway 385 to Marathon, or US 67 to Alpine.

Flying Flying to Big Bend can be somewhat difficult, mainly because the closest commercial airports are in Midland, which is about 3 hours from Marathon, and El Paso, which is about 4 hours from Alpine. So, you’ll most likely need to rent a vehicle to drive from these airports. Alternatively, you can travel via private aircraft to Alpine or Lajitas, both of which have paved airstrips. Several dirt strips are available in Terlingua and Terlingua Ranch.

Renting a Vehicle Renting a vehicle is easy, and if you arrive at the El Paso or Midland Airports, vehicle rentals are available right at the airport. Alpine and Terlingua have smaller rental operations that provide a local outlet.

Arriving by Train Traveling by train in West Texas is a long-standing tradition. Schedules can vary, but Amtrak’s Sunset Limited runs through Alpine 3 times a week from each direction. From there, you’ll probably want to rent a vehicle to continue south towards Big Bend National Park. It is wise to allow extra time and flexibility in your schedule if you are traveling by train, but the scenery will be worth it.

Taking the Bus Getting to Alpine via bus is easy, and service is available from the Midland Airport. This is not a scheduled stop, so visitors must alert the Midland Greyhound Terminal one hour prior to pick up. The drive takes about 4 hours. Options are also available from El Paso (2 departures per day) and San Antonio (2 per day).

Motorcycles One of the best ways to see Big Bend is from the back of a motorcycle or scooter. The region features hundreds of miles of scenic roads and winding curves. Traffic is usually very light, so bikers rarely have to worry. The weather is generally great for bikes year round. Most of the businesses in the area are motorcycle friendly, and Big Bend hosts several motorcycle events during the year.

Top 10 Things to Do in Dallas, Texas

September 27th, 2020

1. Dallas Arboretum & Botanical Gardens

This garden spans through 66 acre of land and offers interesting sites including the amazing 8 acre Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden as well as the Children’s Garden Cafe. The garden has a lot of picnic areas with well-trimmed grasses. However, no active sports are allowed in this garden.

2. Perot Museum of Nature and Science

The Perot Museum of Nature and Science is one good place to visit and it is a home to five floors of 11 permanent exhibit halls which encompass state-of-art video and 3D computer animations and real time simulations. It also features a children’s museum, a playground and walled enclosures for fun and activities

3. American Airlines Center

This is a multiuse arena which serves as home to the Dallas Stars and Dallas Mavericks. The arena has been in constant use for live plays and entertainments till date. It offers super clean facilities and is furnished with up to 21,000 comfy seating.

4. The Texas Theatre

This is such like a peak into Dallas history resuscitated back into life as it has gained historical recognition being the place of Lee Oswald’s hideout during his assassination of President John F. Kennedy and killing of police officer J.D Tippit. It is the first Dallas air conditioned theatre and is equipped with comfortable seating, state-of-art facilities and a very serene atmosphere.

5. Reunion Tower

This is an exciting place to have a compact view of Dallas along with its beauty from above. It is a famous tower and as such one of the top revered Dallas landmarks reaching a height of 561 feet. The Reunion Tower is the 15th tallest building in Dallas and has the renowned chef Wolfgang Puck’s Five Sixty restaurant located at the top of the tower.

6. Adventure Landing

This is an electrifying place packed with lots of fun for both kids and adults. The Adventure Landing comprise of three mini-golf courses, monster Video, speedway go-karts, Redemption Gaming Arcade and a laser tag room. The place offers a wide range of onsite food services along with a number of snack bars.

7. Dallas Zoo

The zoo is claimed to be one of only 10 zoos to have koalas in the United States. The park started with just two deer and two mountain lions in 1888 and is a home to over 2,000 animals today, being one of the biggest zoos in Texas.

8. White Rock Lake Park

The White Rock Lake Park is situated at 5 miles northeast of downtown and is a good place to work out your sneakers on the 9.33-mile track that brings you all around the beauty of the park. The White Rock Lake Park is a refreshing place to enjoy and feel nature in its best shape.

9. Galleria Dallas

The Galleria Dallas is an exception to any place described as dull as it is a mega-mall laced with several dots of entertainment and fun. It is one of the city’s most glamorous center furnished with four floors of boutiques, candy stores, restaurants and lots more.

Better School Bus Flashing Lights Needed

September 2nd, 2020

Each year we hear about a lot of accidents where vehicles have rear-ended buses who are parked at their stops with people attempting to board the buses. Sometimes these buses are School Buses without children aboard. One recent think tank participant mentioned this after reading in the local paper of three such incidents involving city buses in a two-week period. That is just to many accidents to accept.

Having been in the bus washing business along with other types of transportation vehicles for some 27-years this has always concerned me as well. I think this is especially happening in places with visual sensory perception overload, all the signs and lights drown out the carbon stained flashing bus tail lights. People who are driving are looking around at everything else and those lights are dull because of the soot build-up on the backs of buses from the diesel fuel smoke. I remember the bus washing contracts we always had to put extra care into cleaning them, other wise you could not see these lights very well.

It seems the flashing lights are a smart idea, yet perhaps there should be some moving parts back there on the buses too, you see moving objects attract the eye and thus all the local signage competing for the attention of the brain and the eye are not able to compete with innate characteristics to notice and register motion and moving objects you see? So be thinking on this in 2006.

Update: On September 2, 2016 it was noted that in Texas some 100,000 incidents of motorists were caught on bus cameras ignoring Bus lights saying “Stop” and it was also revealed that some 25-50 students are struck and killed in TX due to this problem each year. Sometimes it is the student’s fault but more often people running the warning lights on the sides of the buses. In a strict enforcement of this problem the Great State of Texas has gone ahead and wrote 10,000 tickets already and school only restarted from the summer last week. Will it work?

The Department of Transportation says it should and the media coverage also helps, the message of ’slow down’ appears to be working, now if we can get folks to stop text-messaging while driving even more pedestrians can be spared including some of our children. The DOT said; “It’s not just Texas where we have a problem, this is a nationwide challenge.”

Iraan, Texas – Wind Mills and Alley Oop

September 2nd, 2020

As our bus unloaded its forty passengers in front of Iraan’s Community Center, Iraan, Texas – not the country Iran, we cannot help but see what makes Iraan famous: a 112′ long windmill blade and statues of Alley Oop and his pet Dinny, the dinosaur. V.T. Hamlin, a newspaper reporter in town, conceived of the idea of a comic strip featuring the antics of a stone age caveman, Alley Oop. Its popularity rivaled Dick Tracy and Superman.

Iraan derives its unusual name from its founders and benefactors, Ira and Ann Yates, who struck it rich with black gold (oil). Because of their generosity to the boomtown, which grew up around them, the citizens honored them by naming their town after Ira and Ann.

Our real reason for taking the 262 plus mile trip Northwest from San Antonio, Texas was to see that 112′ windmill blade do its thing, make electricity from wind. CPS, City Public Services of San Antonio, sponsored this tour of The Desert Sky Wind Farm. Before meeting with these quiet giants we had to be put in the proper mood: full stomachs. Before boarding the bus at 7:00 A. M. at Fiesta Texas parking lot we gnoshed our way through breakfast tacos, juices and coffee. After a long four hour ride to our destination we were ready to chow down again: Texas style: all you could eat brisket Bar-B-Q, beans, mustard potato salad, sliced onions, pickles, jalapenos, and for dessert, banana cream pudding.

We were greeted by Roy Blackshear, the Desert Sky Plant Manager, who gave us an overview about the wind farm. After photo ops with the blade, Dinny and Alley Oop we boarded our bus for the farm.

In the distance we could see hundreds of three blade wind mills slow dancing in the West Texas hazy sky. As we climbed to the top of Indian Mesa and drove among these mills, our jaws dropped at their size. We were told that the tower rises 213 feet into the sky, plus 112 feet more for the blade. What looked like a slow dance was really the tips of the blades going more than 170 mph, one complete revolution every three to five and a half seconds. The hub housing can hold three adults with room to spare and the housing for the turbine generator, computers, and drive shaft is larger than a forty-foot motor home. We were allowed inside the base of the tower, seven of us at a time to view the wiring, panels and ladder to the top. Climb it? You jest.

Outside the only sound is the wind. The mill barely whispers and generates electricity for forty homes. The 107 windmills of Desert Sky provide the energy for 40,000 homes in San Antonio. Desert Sky is not the only wind farm in the area. Others provide power for Dallas, Houston, and other cities. Economically speaking, they do not produce energy at rock bottom prices. Each mill cost about 1.2 million dollars to build and has the life expectancy of twenty years. The wind, however, is renewable energy and as the technology improves, which is happening, the initial cost will be reduced.

In conjunction with the new Stillwater Wind Farm and the solar panels around the Tower of the Americas, renewable energy accounts for ten percent of the power supplied to San Antonio. Most of the towers are manufactured in Germany, while a growing number are coming out of Minnesota. American Electric Power owns and operated the farms and sells the energy to CPS. The Enron Symbol you see on the housing refers to the days when Enron operated the mills.

Marketing, Promoting and Advertising Your Business

February 28th, 2020

One thing that goes without saying in today’s business world, is that regardless of the nature of your home based business, a website is an absolute MUST. Whether you have a product or service to sell, whether local or global, your business will go nowhere fast if you don’t have an online presence. If you need internet marketing help, you’ve landed on the right article. I’ll give you some home based business marketing ideas that will help you promote your business successfully.

The first step is choosing a domain name and getting it registered. You can build your own website (if you have the time) and host it yourself or you can have everything done by another company (if you have the money). Either way, you have many options and tools at your disposal that can align with your business plan and budget. Also note that you can still start your own home based business even if you don’t have a product or service to sell. There are thousands of individuals and companies that have products you can sell for them while earning a commission, called affiliate marketing.

Of the many business marketing strategies known to man, internet marketing is, hands down, the best strategy to use for promoting a home based business as it is the cheapest method and has the potential for reaching millions of people all over the globe. Driving traffic to your site through online resources is like killing two birds with one stone. You can tackle print advertising by writing articles and publishing them to directories and ezines and by submitting ads to the many available (and most of them free) classified ad sites. Online media advertising encompasses writing press releases and distributing them to press release sites. One of the biggest and most popular online advertising trends today is via social media advertising through sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn where you build relationships with your customers. Forums and communities are also great ways to build relationships which helps promote your home based business in the long run. Simply Google your market or industry with the word ‘forum’ or ‘community’ behind it and search for one or two that seem to be the best fit for you.

All of these methods of online advertising contribute to search engine optimization (SEO), which is to say improving your online visibility and escalating in the search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing. Your goal is to claim the #1 spot in the organic search results (the results on the left, not the right side which are paid ads). This is where your traffic will come from. If you are 800 in the list of search results, no one is ever going to see your site because very few people have the time or patience to scroll through 800 search results. Research shows that people typically won’t even scroll past 4 or 5 search results, let alone 800.

Can you grasp the importance of internet marketing for any business? If you are new to the internet marketing phenomenon and don’t know exactly where to start, there are many great programs or systems online that walk you through every aspect of marketing your online business. A lot of these systems were created by online entrepreneurs who have spent thousands of their own dollars trying to figure it all out over the years and finally DID. Their sacrifices have made it easier for newbies to become successful at their own online home based business. If you are new to running your own home based business, I recommend you find a great system (do your research, read reviews, ask questions in forums) and start marketing your home business from there. Don’t waste the time and money that so many of us have in going it alone, without a proven system, as it will just set you back further and hinder your progress.