Street View Goes To Antarctica!

The rumors are true, Google Maps has expanded their Street View into Antarctica! In Google Maps’ everlasting quest to photograph the world, all seven continents have now been invaded. Google built a special snow vehicle to carry around the 360 degree camera. While you do get the feeling you’re on a tourist expedition, street view Antarctica is awesome. You gotta check this out, just click the photo to see for yourself…

Click to see street view Antarctica!

Photo of the week: Hueco Tanks

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ChronicWanderlust contributor Jacob Pelham sent me this picture from Hueco Tanks, TX and I think it may be one of the coolest travel pictures I’ve ever seen… Jacob knocked it out of the park with this shot. He just finished up a rock climbing trip across the Hueco Tanks and took lots of amazing photos which will all be featured here shortly…

Hueco Tanks, Texas (Photo: Jacob Pelham)

History Channel’s Unintended Travel Show

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In a complete coincidence after writing my last blog about truckers and CB radios, I came across an awesome trucker-themed travel show… Ice Road Truckers: Deadliest Roads… ok, so maybe they don’t admit that it’s a travel show, but it is. In this reality show, portraying the sensationalized lives of Canadian bush truckers, 3 of the previous seasons’ most popular characters travel to northern India to tackle wildly dangerous mountain roads. They stick them in old Indian “Tata” trucks with a partner, or “spotter”, who speaks broken English and helps guide the truckers around narrow passes and blind curves while simultaneously providing inadvertent comedic support.

Himalayan mountain highway (Photo: Eddie C via Flickr)

Driving a truck from point A to point B is not exciting. However, when you have 3 goofy Canadian redneck truckers  freaking out while driving a dilapidated truck with fake chrome hubcaps glued to the roof through unfathomably steep mountain passes, it gets pretty damn interesting. There is plenty of well-earned suspense as they nearly crash every 2 minutes from crazy drivers or culture shock. While there is an unfortunate amount cliche reality show announcer voice, the show does a good job of showing a side of local culture rarely sees western eyes. It is fascinating to look into the world of Indian truck drivers, the silk roads in modern times, and beautiful Himalayan scenery.

Himalayan Mountain Road (Photo: History Channel)

It’s hard to tell that this show was made by History Channel, considering it’s a much better mach for Travel or Discovery Channel. I recommend you check this show out, an entire season might get old, but a few episodes are worth checking out. Deadliest Roads is an unintended travel show that does a good job of providing you with a look into a nation’s culture, not just the wild exploits of sexy Lisa and goofy Sanjeev’s Tata.

Lisa Kelly, the sexy and no-bullshit Alaskan trucker (Thanks History Channel!)

Talkin’ Like A Trucker

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Maybe I’m having a flashback to an old 1970’s trucker film, but I love my CB radio. I don’t go on a road trip without it. For the past few years, I’ve been eavesdropping on truckers crusing up and down the interstates and trying to figure out what they’re saying – that’s not always an easy task!

A CB radio can be an invaluable tool if you know how to use it. I’ve gotten out of many traffic jams by listening in, asking a few questions and joining a convoy… seriously. Most truckers have their radios tuned to channel 19, the unofficial “truckers’ channel”. It’s a public band, radio lingo for what is basically a trucker chatroom. They provide a good deal of valuable information and plenty of entertaining bullshit. Even if the highway doesn’t have a crazy traffic jam, it’s still a whole lot of fun to listen to.  

I became a CB radio beliver while driving through Pennsylvania a few years ago. A trucker chimed in that there was a big wreck and northbound traffic on I-81 was completely stopped. Since we were in the middle of nowhere, the news radio hadn’t picked up on the story yet. I listened in as the truckers started sharing directions and exited with a convoy of truckers taking a series of side roads around the wreck. We cruised through Hershey, PA (yes, it smells like chocolate) and back onto the highway, just clear of the now monsterous traffic jam. Had I not “had my ears on”, I would have spent hours waiting for the police to clear the wreck.

Photo: Dave Smith via Flickr

I’ve made a list, with some help from my good friend Wikipedia, of the key terms one may hear flying around channel 19. While you don’t need to be fluent to use channel 19, it does help so you can understand what the truckers are saying, especially when it comes to the cops.

Police

  • “Bear” & “Smokey” – a police officer. This is used interchangeably with other forms like “Bear In The Air” (police helicopter), and “Bear In The Grass” (speed trap).
  • “County Mountie” – a county police officer, not to be confused with a “City Kitty” (local police).
  • “Evel Knievel” – Cop on a motorcycle.  
  • “Got Bit By A Bear” – Got a ticket.  
  • “Bear Bait” – A speeding driver that will attract police attention
  • “Bear Bite” – A speeding ticket.
  • “Bear with a Customer” – a patrol officer who has pulled someone over
  • “Takin’ Pictures” – A Speed trap
  • “Snake In the Grass” – police car radar usually hidden amongst tall cat tails.  

Vehicles

  • “Anchor Clanker” – Boat trailer.
  • “Bob-tail” – Semi-tractor operating without a trailer.
  • “Cattle Wagon” – Livestock truck.
  • “Buster Brown” – UPS truck
  • “Draggin Wagon” – Tow truck.
  • “Four-wheeler” – Any car that has 2 axles… basically what truckers refer to as anyone who isn’t them.
  • “Kiddy Car” – Refers to a school bus.
  • “Parking Lot” – A large car hauler (18 wheeler).

Photo: Sam Butler via Flickr

The Important Stuff

  • “Alice in Wonderland” – Someone who is lost or seeking directions
  • “Anklebiters” – Kids
  • “Back Door” – The area behind a vehicle or the last vehicle in a line.
  • “Knocking at your back door” – I’m approaching from behind.
  • “Big Road” – interstate highway, as opposed to smaller highways and city streets.
  • “Blinders” – High beams.
  • “Brake check” – a brief traffic slowdown.
  • “Breaker 1-9” – telling other CB users that you’d like to start a transmission on a channel. “1-9” is channel 19, the unofficial truckers’ channel.
  • “Bumper Sticker” – A tailgating vehicle.
  • “Cash Box” – refers to a toll booth or toll plaza
  • “Choke and Puke” – Roadside diner
  • “Come Back / Come On” – a request for someone to acknowledge a transmitted message or reply to a question.
  • “Driver” – a polite form of address used when you don’t know someone’s on-the-air nickname. It’s best used when you would normally call someone “sir/ma’am”
  • “Drop the hammer down” – Pressing the accelerator to full speed
  • “Ears” – CB radio (ex: ” got ya ears on?”)  
  • “Flip-flop” – the return leg of a trip. (ex: “Catch you on the flip-flop”)
  • “Gator” / “Alligator” – a large piece of a truck tire’s tread in the roadway.
  • “Got your ears on?” – asking the receiver if they are on the air and listening.
  • “Hammer Lane” – the far left lane (fast lane).
  • “Seat Cover” – an attractive female passenger in a vehicle.
  • “10-20” (more often simply “20”) – Denotes location, as in identifying one’s location (“My 20 is on Main Street and First”), asking the receiver what their current location is (“What’s your 20?”), or inquiring about the location of a third person (“OK, people, I need a 20 on Little Timmy and fast”).

So driver, if you’ve had your ears on, you’ll be ready to put the hammer down on the big road, avoid those snakes in the grass and flip-flop back to your old lady and anklebiters without a bear bite.

Photo of the Day: Chicago Bean

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ChronicWanderlust contributors James Pritchard and Jacob Pelham drove from Midland, TX to Chicago on an epic road trip to see a Chicago Cubs came. While wandering through Millenium Park, Jacob snapped this photo of one of the many visitors to the popular Chicago Bean…

Bird on the Bean (Jacob Pelham)

Low Cost Powerhouse: Southwest Merges with Air Tran

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Holy billion-dollar merger Batman! Southwest Airlines has bought AirTran for a whopping $1.4 Billion! In a public statement on September 27th, AirTran Holdings, the parent company of AirTran Airways announced that they have, “entered into a definitive merger agreement to be acquired by Southwest Airlines with the intent of merging the two airlines, combining operations and building the strongest and most diverse low cost, low fare airline network in the world.”

Photo: Mike Fisher via Flickr

Dollars and Cents

In AirTran’s public statement, they went on to explain that under the definitive agreement, “shareholders will receive between $7.25 and $7.75 in consideration per share of AirTran common stock subject to certain conditions based on the Southwest share price at closing. Currently, the transaction price would be $7.69 in cash and stock for all outstanding shares of AirTran Holdings, Inc., subject to regulatory review and approval of shareholders. This is a 69 percent premium over the September 24, 2010, share price of AirTran stock and is valued at more than $1.37 billion in equity based on more than 178,000,000 outstanding shares. Including existing AirTran Holdings, Inc., indebtedness and capitalized aircraft operating leases, the aggregate transaction value is approximately $3.42 billion.”… in other words, lots and lots of money is being thrown at this.

SWA in ATL? Atlanta might be SWA's next stop (Photo: Chuck Koehler)

What’s Going to Change?

  1. So Long Orlando! – Air Tran’s HQ in Orlando will be moving to Dallas, where SWA calls home. This means that Orlando no longer has a major airline to call their own. Not many details have been released about the move or what will happen to their training centers at MCO.
  2. Hello Atlanta! – With AirTran’s resources, SWA can now move into Atlanta, a major market for any airline. AirTran already has 200 routes through Atlanta, giving SWA room to start moving more flights into the city. SWA said they want to bring low-fare competition to nearly all large carrier hubs it doesn’t serve now.
  3. What about the employees? – AirTran hasn’t said exactly what will happen to their 8,000 employees, but does believe they are in better hands with a well-funded airline like SWA. An AirTran memo which was released to all employees says that the merger will have no immediate effect on their jobs.
  4. More LUV – SWA plans to move into most, if not all, of AirTran’s markets. Since this is all breaking news, SWA hasn’t given full details of their entire plan.  The airline predicts growth in flights, jobs and service – all great things for Orlando (if operations increase). SWA announced “significant opportunities to and from Atlanta… as well as Washington, D.C. via Ronald Reagan National Airport. The acquisition also allows [SWA] to expand  presence in key markets, like New York LaGuardia, Boston Logan, and Baltimore/Washington.”
  5. Goin’ Global – SWA plans to broaden their international flight offerings, most likely using AirTran’s routes to the Caribbean from Orlando. In SWA’s press release yesterday morning, they explained that they have, “access to key near-international leisure markets in the Caribbean and Mexico.”

Photo: Josh Hallett via Flickr

Opinions Matter

Travel pundits, bloggers and analysts are already speaking up, voicing their concerns and preaching their praises for the new mega low-cost carrier…

  • Tad Hutcheson, a spokesman for Orlando-based AirTran, called it “a great day for AirTran Airways and Southwest Airlines.”
  • Southwest CEO Gary Kelly believes that, “The acquisition of AirTran represents a unique opportunity to grow Southwest Airlines’ presence in key markets we don’t yet serve and takes a significant step towards positioning us for future growth.”
  • George Hobica, founder of Airfarewatchdog.com said the merger, “spells bad news for low fares, since both airlines were leaders in the low fare space and had frequent, almost weekly, sales. I can only imagine that now pressure is on for American to find a partner, and also US Airways, and that will lead to even less fare competition.”
  • AirTran spokesman Christopher White explained that the deal will, “bring a level of competition to Atlanta that has never been seen before.”
  • “Southwest had been waiting to expand this past downturn and I think this acquisition proves that substantial organic growth is a thing of the past,” said Morningstar equity analyst Basili Alukos.
  • “No low-cost carrier can match the global access we bring to Atlanta,” said Delta spokeman Kent Landers.
  • Rhona Cook’s headline from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution says it all… “TRAVELERS CHEER SOUTHWEST-AIRTRAN DEAL”

Photo of the Week: Amsterdam

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Dutch is such an easy language to learn… it just rolls right off your tongue in a delicate and beautiful way. Street signs are straight-forward and easy to understant. I could sit all day and listen to gentle whispers of sweet nothings in Dutch. NOT! I found myself getting lost quite a bit my first few days in the country because I simply had no clue what the signs meant. In Israel, you begin to remember the different symbols for things like EXIT and RESTROOM, but in Holland, good luck with that. At least most of their signs have translations.

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