Driving Across the United States is Surprisingly Fun and Educational

Formerly being a airline travel enthusiast, I never considered driving across the United States until an unfortunate incident forced my ex-fiance and I to change our travel plans. We had flown out to Las Vegas, to attend a business convention late one night. The next morning, I turned on the television, only to find that planes had flown into the World Trade Centers in New York. It was 9/11, which devastated us and everyone around us. At Caesar’s Palace, all the tvs were tuned to the tragedy, instead of the usual horse racing or other sporting events. You could hear a pin drop as everyone watched the tragedy unfold, live. The convention closed early due to the horrible tragedy. We were given t-shirts as we left the convention center, in memory to the people who perished in New York and Pennsylvania. Fortunately for us, my ex had already rented a van to get around with, as rental cars sold out quickly when all the planes were grounded. In Las Vegas, the airport is right in the city limits, very close to the Strip. With the planes all down, all we saw was an occaisional military jet fighter circling the city now and then. It was eerie and a reminder of the possible danger to the area. We left and drove over to Los Angeles.

In Los Angeles, our spirits lifted as we visited the coastline, stopping at lovely places like Balboa Island for lunch, Laguna Beach (full of interesting boutiques and restaurants) and Dana Point, where we stayed in a beautiful oceanfront hotel. Later, we went over to Burbank, and attended the second taping of the Tonight Show, with Jay Leno. The experience was surreal, nobody felt like comedy, so the show was subdued. Jay wheeled out a motorcycle that he was going to auction off for charity, and Arnold Schwartzenegger, Tom Cruise and others came to sign it. Being in the studio was fascinating, the temperature in the large room was cold, to keep the many hot stage lights from bursting, one of the producers told us. We had front row seats, because we got in line very early. If you go, make sure to go much earlier than told to, because it takes a lot of time to park, and the line to get in is very long.

After leaving downtown L.A. we drove around Beverly Hills and Hollywood. I liked Beverly Hills, seeing the beautiful homes was my favorite. Signs were posted everywhere saying that forest fires can happen and gave a daily rating to how much of a chance there was of having one. Interesting. Some movie stars’ homes were on regular streets like yours and mine. Others were high up in the mountains, shielded by gates, high walls and ominous “keep out” signs. I don’t blame them, with all the crazy people in the world. All the posh shops were nice, but a shopping spree there was out of the question unless we won the lottery and were rich like the Hilton family – one piece of clothing could be the cost of a new car or even, house in downtown Beverly Hills. Wow. We drove all over, taking pictures, stopping at fast food places like In and Out Hamburgers and Krispy Kreme Donuts. We also stopped in lovely ethnic restaurants to eat Mexican, Thai and Indian food. The Mexican restaurants were my favorites, most were authentic and gave large portions.

We drove through the desert, going back east, saw Hoover Dam, which was immense. Because of the tragedy going on in New York, everyone there was on edge, so we weren’t allowed to stop on the bridge, just drive past it and park elsewhere. It was very scenic to see the dam, built long ago, with Art Deco influence on the well-built bridge and buildings. It was incredibly hot but the heat was dry, not humid. We drank gallons of soft drinks and bottled water to keep from being dehydrated. The vistas of tall mountains and large amounts of water being pumped by this powerful dam were really fascinating for this midwestern girl.

Our next state to visit was Utah, land of amazing rock formations and mountains. We only saw the southern part but what we saw was breathtaking. Bright red rocks jutting out of the ground, tall mountains and an endless night sky full of stars. We parked on the side of the road and watched the sky for an hour, deep in the desolate parts of the mountains. Without city lights (or any other civilization, for that matter) we could see everything, including the Milky Way. It was both beautiful and surreal at the same time. Utah is loaded with natural wonders and incredibly scenic.

Next, we drove to Colorado. It was so scenic driving up and down the mountain roads of this colorful, beautiful state. The whole state is a photographer’s dream, especially with all the colors of the fall.The aspen trees were turning yellow, since it was now autumn, and the huge mountains all around us took my breath away. It felt and looked like the Old West to me. We stopped at an old mining town, even got to eat buffalo burgers (made of yes, real buffalo meat, which was good). If we’d had more time I would’ve spent a week there, but my ex had to get back to his job so time was limited.

Just east of Denver, everything got amazingly flat. Prairies are desolate and finding signs of life off the highway were few and far between. When we saw a gas station, we’d stop at it, because who knew how long it would be until the next one came along. People there were very friendly. We stayed overnight in a lovely old-fashioned hotel, and ate at the family restaurant next door. True Americana at its best.

We started seeing hills again in parts of Iowa, which we weren’t in for long. Next came Illinois, where we stopped in Chicago. Having been there many times in my past, we stopped at places I liked, like WaterTower Place, the theater and the art museum downtown. There is a lot to do and see in this impressive city, just do it during the summer, because the winters there are cold and brutal. Chicago is a big city, with a long skyline as you drive past it. Much bigger than my hometown of Cleveland.

Late at night, we arrived at my home, in the outer suburbs of Cleveland. The trip was a success, even if it was marred by tragedy, we made the most of the situation. It took us a week to get home, and someday I plan to do it again, but this time with more time on my hands. If you want to see what America is really like, rent a car (try not to use your own, due to the major wear and tear this kind of travel does to a car) and plan places to see before you go. We did this trip without planning and it was still a success. We’d driven through lovely state parks, past amazing scenery and met wonderful people. Next time I do this, I’ll go get a triptych at the auto club and plan it to see more of the off-the-beaten-path places like the Grand Canyon, Yosemite National Park and Napa Valley. Driving is a really great way to see the details of our great country up close and personal, so make sure to give it a try.

Exclusive Hotels In The States

There are many fantastic hotels across the United States. Places like San Francisco, Miami, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and New York have some of the most exclusive hotels in the world. These hotels are palatial structures complete with the best amenities, the latest high tech gadgetry, comfortable furniture, amazing food and an unbelievably high level of personal service. These hotels host kings, queens, sultans, world leaders, movie stars, captains of industry and many other multimillionaires who demand excellence and will pay any price to get it. And there are hotels that are willing and able to oblige them.

The first hotel ever built in the United States was the City Hotel in New York. Constructed in the 1790s, this hotel was dedicated to housing the world’s brightest and most affluent people. The City Hotel provided amenities then that are still considered the industry standard today. Many of the boutique hotels New York has today follow in that tradition. Luxury, sophistication and discretion are the watch words for these establishments. Some of the boutique hotels New York hoteliers have created equal royal residences in their commitment to providing unsurpassed quality, convenience and comfort. Rooftop pools, private gardens, centuries old furniture, world renowned private chefs, personal tailors and suites that encompass entire floors and offer spectacular views of the city are not unusual in the best boutique hotels in New York.

Los Angeles is used to stars who demand the best of everything. The city’s most exclusive hotels reflect this. From their location to the amenities they offer and the prices they charge, Los Angeles’ best hotels are not for just anyone. Patrons in multimillion dollar cars, wearing rare furs and diamonds the size of oranges that demand caviar and imported spring water for their pets, expect nothing less than the most posh of places to lay their heads. Los Angeles’ exclusive hotels provide hand carved furniture made of rare ancient wood, elaborate four poster beds replete with sheets made of imported silk or high count cotton as soft as the wings of an angel, bathrooms made with the best Italian marble and Oxford educated butlers to take care of their every need.

The great hotels in San Francisco, Las Vegas and Miami are no different. Their suites offer the world’s best furnishings, 360 degree panoramic views of the gorgeous cityscapes around them and superlative service. All designed to please their multimillionaire guests.

Online Dog Boutiques – How to Successfully Get Started!

Online dog boutiques have become somewhat of a trend in the past few years. Perhaps this is because of the wide-spread (although somewhat inaccurate) belief that the pet industry is “recession proof”. I consider myself to be an expert on this topic not only due to the fact that I own and operate a successful online dog boutique, but also because I supply product for hundreds of other online dog stores worldwide. On a daily basis, I talk with experienced boutique owners as well as those who are just getting started. In the past few years, specifically, I have noticed a difference between those that survive and those that vanish. In this article, I would like to share some of that experience with you.

In 2009, my company had nearly 2000 people register with us as either brick and mortar stores or online dog boutiques. Sadly, only one year later, I find that roughly 70% are already out of business. So much for “recession proof”, right? Well maybe… Here’s the thing… Most of the “newbies” entering into the online shopping realm for the first time will believe that the way to get started is to build a site and find a number of good suppliers and invest a bunch of time, energy, and money into launching your online boutique. After all, this sounds perfectly logical and 5-6 years ago, I would have thought the same thing. The problem is that the internet is so vast that it is nearly impossible for anyone to find a new website. So, these unsuspecting souls spend thousands on their site only to see a small smattering of sales and the monthly maintenance ends up costing more than the generated profits. Discouraging to say the least.

There is a solution to this problem, however, and those who discover it can survive their freshman and sophomore years. It is so simple, yet so overlooked- proper marketing strategy. Sounds too easy, but it’s true. Most people that start online dog boutiques do so because they love dogs, not because they love their computer! They are usually complete novices to online marketing. But alas, all is not lost. After all, there are hundreds of companies out there that, for a fee of $300 to $2000 per month will “get you to the top of Google”! Boy, I wish I had $5 for every one of those phone calls I’ve received in the past 2 years. What they really should say is, “For about $500 per month, we’ll do some stuff that might get you to page one if we do it for a year or so, but it might not. Oh, and most of the stuff that we’ll do is stuff that you could do for free”!

OK Greg, so now you’re saying that we need to market but what do we do?

Here’s my advice, and since my site ranks #1 or #2 in many keyword searches, I would say that it is sound advice.

If you want to start an online dog boutique, the first thing you should do is bone up on your internet marketing. You can take a class, maybe a few weekend seminars, or you could do what I did and join a mentoring program that allows you to work with top people in the industry on a daily basis. Most likely, none of these options will be free, but if you have an aversion to spending money on education, then you should stick to things that you already know how to do. Plus, educating yourself is far cheaper than paying other companies thousands of dollars for their promises. Now, once you successfully learn effective marketing strategies, then you go and set up your site. You will be able to build and market yourself at the same time and you should plan on putting MORE time into marketing than you put into developing your site.

Following this plan will give your online dog boutique a fighting chance of survival. I hate to see anyone fail or lose money. There’s enough of that going on in the world today, don’t become another statistic.

As always, I wish you the best of success!