Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Living Desert

During the early part of May 2008, my husband and I decided to visit The Living Desert, located in Palm Desert, California. We hadn't been there in many, many years and had been hearing some great things about it from our son and daughter-in-law. Their little boys love going there to see all the animals...and the model train display.

The Living Desert is a combination zoo/museum, a nonprofit organization. The animals living there are ones unable to be reintroduced into the wild. Pathways wander from exhibit to exhibit where you'll find aviaries, gardens, a plant nursery, a wildlife hospital and conservation center. A map and various other information at The Living Desert website.

We took a lot of pictures and you can check them out at this link. Photos of The Living Desert

If you're planning a visit, remember this is in the Palm Springs area and it does get very, very hot during the late spring and in the summer. Plan accordingly. We were there the first weekend of May. Temperatures were in the mid-90s. Water fountains and restrooms conveniently located throughout the area. There are also several places to grab a bite to eat.

If you're not up to walking, there's a tram you can ride. Tickets are $12.00 per person. The tram makes frequent stops and one ticket gets you a ride all day. We purchased tickets at the recommendation of our daughter-in-law, but didn't use them. We like to walk and wander. But by the end of the day (and it was all day) we were feeling it. If you have children...take the tram.

It wasn't crowded the day we went, although the parking lot was full. We have no idea where all the people were, but we felt The Living Desert was laid out in such a nice flow that it handled the crowd without it being a crowd.

Animals living there are: zebra, giraffe, bighorn sheep, gazelle, ostrich, cheetah, mountain lion...we never did see the leopard. Because it was a hot day most of the animals were snoozing. I felt the coyotes and wolves were grossly overweight. We'd been warned that the mountain lion was aggressive. However, it was sound asleep the day we were there. Wires and plexiglass provide a barrier between it and humans. In 99% of the exhibits I felt there was enough protection...except when we got to the cheetah. No cage. No wires. No plexiglass. Just a short wall and a moat. I'm not a cheetah expert and I'm sure the people working there know what they're doing, but I still wasn't comfortable.

As you look through the pictures you'll notice rather quickly what held our attention the longest. You'll need to look very carefully at the pictures of the bighorn sheep. They are very well camouflaged. There are two sheep in most of the photos--male and female. The female didn't budge. The male finally stretched to his feet and gave us the beautiful skyline photo. I think he felt sorry for us.

Though we all might know how big these wild animals are, sometimes that information doesn't sink in until we see the animal in person. And so it was with the giraffes. There were three--a couple with a baby. The baby decided to come check out all the people watching. I was thinking, "Wow, they really are big." Then the mother came over the hill. Yep...WOW!

The golden eagle held our attention, too. You'll notice in some of the pictures it's holding something in its talon. It's a squeak toy. This eagle had been raised in captivity and didn't have the ability to hunt for itself. It was a beauty. Several great pictures here, but we could never catch it when its wings were spread.

My number one favorite exhibit was the model train display. This thing is huge with waterfalls, rivers, bridges, mountains...even the Grand Canyon. The trains are constantly running and make their depot stops. Very detail oriented. It made me want to come home and build a display for myself.

We thought we'd seen all we wanted to see. We didn't. There's Gecko Gulch and a petting corral, hands on fun for kids. There's a wilderness trail system with short, medium, and long hikes. There's the wildlife hospital and conservation center that gives presentations. There's a nursery where you can buy some of the plants that are on display. Lots of stuff to go back and see.

The Living Desert continues to grow. There are plans to expand its East African Savanna exhibit. If you're in the Palm Springs area during the fall, winter, and early spring, I would definitely recommend this as a place to see. Just make sure you plan for a full day.


Saturday, May 24, 2008

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

More Travel Tips


Be ready to go on a moment's notice

My 2008 calendar could put me on the road for 90 days.

From the BCS Championship in New Orleans, Louisiana, to the Summer Olympics in Beijing, China; from the Final Four in San Antonio, Texas, to the U.S. Open in San Diego, California, travel is a part of my everyday life. Add in those unexpected trips -- like a day on Capitol Hill for the Roger Clemens hearings -- and you'll understand if I forget whether I'm coming or going!

But I wouldn't trade my job for anything, so I've found ways to make the travel process easier, regardless of where I'm going, how soon I need to leave, or what I have to do to get there.

Click on the above link to read the rest of the article.


Friday, May 16, 2008

Five common ticketing errors -- and how to avoid them

More travel tips....


Five common ticketing errors -- and how to avoid them

As far as mistakes go, the one Janet Gordon recently made didn't seem like a big deal. She booked an airline ticket from Toronto to London under the name "Jan."

Read Article

Thursday, May 15, 2008

5 mistakes women make at the doctor's office

This is from this morning. I thought it was worth sharing.

You'll need to click on the link to read it all.


For 10 years, Barbara's gut told her she needed to get a new doctor for her daughter, and for 10 years, she didn't listen, even as her daughter got sicker and sicker.

Read article

Friday, May 2, 2008

Travel Tips And Suggestions

I can't say I've become a seasoned traveler over the years. The best I can hope for is that I've managed to survive traveling. Now with the airlines cutting us down to one checked bag instead of two (unless you want to pay the fee for the second bag), things might be a little trickier for those who are traveling for more than a couple of days. So I thought I'd share a few tips that work for me (more or less). I've also collected a few articles for you as well.

I try to book a flight as soon as my travel dates are firmed up. This sometimes gives you more options for arrival and departure times. Booking early also allows more seat selections for you. This is especially important to me since I suffer from motion sickness. I've discovered the ideal spot on the plane for me to lessen the effects. I also make sure I take two 24-hour Dramanine tablets prior to my departure. If I suspect I'm going to be doing other traveling during my stay (taxis, buses, boats -- okay, any moving vehicle), I'll continue to take the same dosage every day just in case.

I check in and print my boarding pass before I leave for the airport. This allows for great ease once you get to the airport. This is easy to do when you have access to your home computer, but you might find it just as easy when you are staying at a hotel since most hotels have business centers where you can do this too.

I always dress comfortably for the plane trip, and I always take a light jacket or sweater in the event I get cold (which is frequent and unpredictable). We are restricted to those small seats for hours and the last thing you want is to have your clothes confining you as well. Elastic waistbands are wise. Shoes and socks are wise. If you are wearing sandals, there is always the risk of something dropping on your foot, someone stepping on you... Let's face's just not safe. You also want shoes that will help you walk the distance in the event you have a long hike from gate to gate or gate to baggage claim.

I also try to choose a layover airport I'm familiar with. This saves stress when you know where everything is. It's much easier when you have a general idea of where the gates, shuttle trams, restrooms, and your favored food places are located.

I no longer worry about wrinkles when I'm packing since every hotel does have or can provide an iron and ironing board (generally speaking). I've discovered the small, zippered travel bags are very handy for organizing your items inside the suitcase. I'm sure it makes it convenient for security as well since the inspectors don't have to wade through your loose clothing. I try to take only what I need. The problem is deciding what I need. :) I've also discontinued use of my hard-sided luggage. Zippered luggage is more lightweight and easier to keep secured. Few things are more scary than to see your hard-sided luggage rolling down the baggage claim conveyor with half the clothing hanging out because the inspectors couldn't latch it.

Wear a fanny pack on the plane and make sure it has items in it you might want access to so you don't have to drag out your carry on -- wallet, identification, breath mints, glasses, etc. Make sure your prescription medication is in your carry on. Find an under-the-seat carry-on that rolls. It'll save your body a lot of wear and tear.

I generally stick with one airline and I've signed up for their frequent flyer miles programs. Whenever I fly on any airline, I also sign up for these programs because you can never tell when you might collect enough miles for a free trip. The same goes for hotels in which you stay. If they are a chain, check to see if they have a rewards program. Sometimes you can transfer one program's reward points to another program. For instance, Hilton Honors Rewards to American Airlines.

Here are a few other tips:

Travelers' mantra: Pack light, pack light, pack light

Get the most out of your frequent flier miles

Surviving the red-eye flight

How to pack for a business trip

Happy traveling!