I’ve only ever left our continent twice before. In 2014 I was fortunate in joining my brother for an indescribably enjoyable trip to Japan, and in 2016 Touchwork sent me over to the USA on the most wonderful business/sightseeing trip that saw me spend time in both Anaheim and San Diego. Excitingly, in a few hours time, I’ll be embarking on my third ever overseas trip – it’s USA round 2!
I have mentioned before that a large portion of Touchwork’s business is in the United States, in particular in the higher education institution auxiliary services realm. To that extent, our US team tends to exhibit at related expos all year round, and as such, for this particular upcoming expo, I was asked if I wanted to join the team and then also deliver some Kinetica system training while I’m at it. Naturally, I JUMPED at the opportunity!
The event in question is the NACAS C3X 2019 Conference and Expo, which is being held in Phoenix Arizona. Before that though, I get to spend some time to do training and sightseeing with the guys in San Diego, and right at the start of it all, I’ve been gifted with a handful of days to play tourist in Washington D.C. – Lincoln Memorial, here I come!
I am of course beyond excited. 3 days in Washington D.C., 5 days in San Diego, and 3 days in Phoenix! I am away from home for about 14 days in total (sorry Chantelle), leaving on the 24th of October and only returning at midnight on the 7th of November, i.e. the date of my 10 year wedding anniversary (again, sorry my love!). Also, if you do the maths, then you’ll realize that I’m in transit for about 3 days. Can’t say I’m looking forward to ALL 52 hours or so that I’m going to be up in the air!
On the travel front I am flying out from Cape Town to Johannesburg and then from Johannesburg to Washington D.C. on SAA. From Washington D.C. I jump to San Diego on Southwest (with a plane change in Atlanta), and from San Diego to Phoenix also via Southwest. Then from Phoenix it is a hop back to Washington D.C. (with a change at Chicago) on United, before I finally depart from Washington back to Johannesburg and then on to Cape Town via SAA.
At this rate I’m starting to feel like a seasoned traveller! My camera phone is charged, I’m chomping at the bit, and as per usual, the best place to follow my travels will be via Instagram (at @craiglotter). Looking forward to what should be an amazing experience! :D
The city of Los Angeles’ Venice Beach is certainly a ‘colourful’ area to put it mildly (at least that’s what I thought when I strolled around there earlier this year), but despite its many eccentricities, there is no denying that this cultural hub is a global destination, registering millions of visitors each and every year.
Outside of its popular promenade, multitude of street performers, buskers and hustlers, handball courts, paddle tennis courts, skate dancing plaza, volleyball courts, bike trail and of course interesting businesses on Ocean Front Walk, Venice Beach is also home to probably the most famous beachfront gym in the world – Muscle Beach Venice.
The original Muscle Beach that started it all, was established just south of the Santa Monica Pier in 1934 – just 3 km up the beach from where Muscle Beach Venice currently stands, itself having started out when the first Venice Beach “Weight Pen” was installed in 1951 – eight years before the Santa Monica Muscle Beach closed due to administration problems.
While the original Muscle Beach (considered the birthplace of the physical fitness boom in the US during the 20th century) was really an area that became popular with gymnasts, wrestlers and local strength athletes (in fact, it was simply known as Santa Monica Beach Playground for the first couple of years, with the ‘muscle’ term only gaining traction come 1940), Muscle Beach Venice established itself almost from the start as the popular home of bodybuilding, thanks in no small part to the opening the first of an eventual nationwide chain of weightlifting gyms by famed pioneer gym chain operator, Vic Tanny.
Muscle Beach did a lot to popularize and legitimize fitness and bodybuilding competitions, and today functions as both a hub for weightlifting and fitness businesses in the area, as well as a popular tourist attraction.
(A lot of famous people/personalities have been regulars there, so you kind of understand the tourist appeal: e.g. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Danny Trejo, Chet Yorton, Dave Draper, Larry Scott, and Crips co-founder Stanley Tookie Williams to name but a few!)
The current facility consists of an open playground with a gated area that encloses weight lifting equipment, with a second area which is a sand box with gymnastic, rope climbing, and acrobatic bars.
And yes – if you are brave or ripped enough, you can in fact buy a day pass and work out with the pros if that’s the kind of thing that you are into…
(Naturally, bodybuilding is a lot of work. There are probably easier ways to get a little in shape – the guys behind dietsinreview.com certainly seem to think so.)
I visited this place in July this year, and honestly, it felt a bit weird seeing these people strutting about, pushing weights, and doing their thing – all for the attention of everyone around them! Seriously, posing for photos with random strangers is as much a part of the workout routine as are the actual weights!
Anyway, here’s the map if you want to place it in the world:
Hospitals don’t often make the list of buildings worth seeing when you are out in the world travelling, but the 286-bed Harlem Hospital Center in the United States of America’s iconic New York City certainly now belongs there – thanks to its striking 2012 addition, The Harlem Hospital Center Mural Pavilion.
What sets the $325 million healthcare facility expansion apart from the rest is the very clever, block-long glass facade which is adorned with massive (60-foot tall) historically significant Works Progress Administration murals.
The six-story, 195,000-square foot Pavilion connects two major hospital buildings, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Pavilion and the Ronald H. Brown Ambulatory Care Pavilion, creating one large, integrated campus for the 286-bed Harlem Hospital Center. The Mural Pavilion houses a number of suites to serve the hospital’s 232,353 annual outpatient visits, including the Bariatric Center of Excellence, surgical clinics, women’s imaging department, and pre-admission testing suites.
The Harlem Hospital already has a history with art, and as such the Mural Pavilion is no different, featuring a special public art gallery space to showcase the hospital’s historic Works Progress Administration’s Federal Art Project (WPA) murals.
Originally created in the 1930s, these powerful artworks were the first major commissions awarded to African-American artists by the U.S. government. These works, by artists such as Vertis Hayes, Alfred Crimi, Georgette Seabrooke, Elba Lightfoot, and Charles Alston, have all now been fully restored and are on permanent display in the hospital’s Mural Gallery.
The glass facade is of course the most striking feature of this new building, and the panels making this possible are themselves quite a feat of engineering ingenuity – after all, each panel essentially needs to solve six problems in one solution: a long-term UV stability of the image; the option to replace individual components if damaged; the ability to produce image in single glass panels up to 12’-0” long; transparency allowing daylight in, views out, and a glowing image at night; energy conserving assembly; and impact resistance.
The end result?
Something rather special.
(Note, hospitals are intended for people who are actually sick. If you are just looking to lose weight, don’t bother them and rather just eat less. Something any health guide reviews site should be pointing out.)
As per usual when you fly with Emirates, the trip gets split into two segments, the first being the 9 hour long flight from Cape Town to their massive home base hub at Dubai International Airport in the United Arab Emirates.
Apart from the length of the flight, the first leg went well for me. Loads of in-flight entertainment to pick and choose from on Emirates’ ICE system, food as always was decent enough, and thanks to my strategy of picking aisle seats in order to give me the most leg space with my still not 100% leg, I sat pretty comfortably for the most part.
Happily, I wasn’t completely out of my element once in Dubai International Airport, having learnt a lesson or two from the last time that Ryan and I had found ourselves there.
For starters, I didn’t get lost and successfully navigated my way around the massive complex (Ryan would be amazed), secondly, I didn’t have anything in my luggage that would set off flags during the security check (again, Ryan would be amazed), and most important of all, I was in my designated boarding area with plenty of time to spare!
Of course though, the real test of the journey was now here. That 16 hour long flight from Dubai to Los Angeles.
Yes, the Airbus A380-800 is certainly a comfortable plane to be flying in, but 16 hours? Now there’s a long time to be stuck in a confined space! (Incidentally, this route is currently the longest distance commercial A380 route in operation).
Nevertheless, similar to the first leg, this second half of the trip went pretty smoothly for me as well, and as an added bonus, the fact that we flew over the North Pole region to get there was a pretty cool thing too!
Touchdown. I was in the United States of America.
Naturally, it didn’t take long for the first Stars and Stripes flag to make its appearance, and a relatively quick and painless trip through security and customs had me collecting my bag and stepping out of the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX and into Los Angeles.
Well not really, no.
My SuperShuttle bus arrived right outside the terminal, meaning that I didn’t technically step out into Los Angeles. Still, I got to see the dreary grey concrete that makes up most of Los Angeles from the shuttle’s front seat (I lucked out in getting that), so that counts, right?
(Hint, Los Angeles is not particularly pretty. Large swathes of it is in essence a slab of concrete, which you’ll see as you head out down the highways.)
Nevertheless, I was in full on tourist mode, my mouth wide open as I took in all the sights of the area as our bus whizzed on down towards Anaheim, the real destination for the actual business part of my being here in the first place.
Eventually we turned into South Manchester Avenue in Anaheim (early evening if I remember correctly) where I hopped out the bus, thanked the driver for his wealth of local information, and headed into the Holiday Inn Anaheim Resort Area , my home base for this first leg of my trip.
(In case you are wondering about the unwieldy name, it’s because we’re in Anaheim which houses both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park. In other words, prime hotel estate, and thus multiple Holiday Inn establishments in the area!)
Greeted by a entrance wall decked out in original Disney artwork, I checked in, unpacked my bag, took a quick peek around the hotel and its amenities (nice pool, small gym, cool adjacent sports bar/restaurant called Burger Theory) and then hit the road, eager to properly stretch my legs and take in some American sights before the darkness descended!
So I took a leisurely stroll down Katella Avenue, one of the main roads leading up to Disneyland and also the Anaheim Convention Centre (where the expo was to be held), enjoying the beautifully maintained sidewalks and taking in all the interesting… Americanisms around me.
I turned around at the giant Moreton Bay Fig outside the convention centre, and because at this stage I was still walking around blindly (i.e. I hadn’t yet checked out any maps), headed straight back down the same way that I had come.
For some reason I decided that my first meal in America should be a fast food item, and as things turned out (i.e the restaurant was slap bang at the end of my route), this then would be a burrito from Del Taco – for which I was mercilessly teased for the rest of the trip by Johann and Carl.
Following that, and now eager to sample a selection of commercial beers and snacks in the comfort of my room before turning in for the night, I then hopped into this dodgy little Chinese-run shop (called Satellite Market), which ended up being a place that I would visit more than once whenever my snack supply started running low!
And of course, as expected following that 5 km walkabout after all those hours upon hours of travelling… I slept like a log. #USA2016
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(This is where the hotel is in case you’re interested)
Related Link: Holiday Inn Anaheim Resort Area
I lucked out a bit this year. Touchwork does a lot of its business in the United States in the University realm, and as such, tends to be quite visible on the relevant expo circuits. Occasionally the boss sends a team member up to join our American team for at least one of these expo appearances a year – basically whenever we get the funding from the DTI to do so.
Now normally this perk falls to our COO and customer liaison Rory Florence, but this year (much to his chagrin) he couldn’t go – which then meant that as the next longest standing member of current Touchwork SA team, I got asked if I wanted to go.
Hell yes, USA here I come! :)
So this all happened in July this year. I left for the USA on the 11th and arrived back in South Africa on the 22nd of July, making for a whirlwind trip of around 10 days.
Of course, technically this was a business trip, but in essence it was only business for about 2 of the days (and even those two days were peppered with touristy things) – the rest were all proper sightseeing days, made all the more enjoyable thanks to my brilliant Touchwork USA hosts Johann Leitner and Carl Mostert, who literally went out of their way to show off their part of the magnificent piece of paradise that is California to this USA (and travel for that matter) newbie!
The expo that we were exhibiting at was NACUFS Idea ’16, the 2016 national conference for NACUFS (National Association of College & University Food Services), held at the the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California.
Anaheim, other than being the base of the Mighty Ducks, is of course most famous for being the home of Disneyland, Disney’s landmark first ever theme park that opened way back in 1955! Following that, I would then travel with Johann to his home base of San Diego (home of Comic Con and of the world famous San Diego Zoo!), for a couple of tourist days there, before heading back out the same way I came in – i.e. via Emirates through the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX, Los Angeles!
So, not a bad destination for only my second ever trip overseas eh? (The first being of course that amazing trip to Japan that my brother Ryan and I embarked on in 2014. At this rate, Chantelle is just about ready to murder me with jealousy! :P)
Right. I’ve got an amazing 23 or so photo galleries to sort through, post and write about, so plenty of USA 2016 content coming up in the pages of An Exploring South African over the next little while then!
Modern sports stadiums are often architectural masterpieces, and are almost all now without fail seen as much tourist attractions as actual sporting event venues! The city of Arlington, a principle city in the U.S. state of Texas is certainly home to one of these modern sporting marvels – the stunningly beautiful AT&T Stadium!
Owned by the city of Arlington, the massive 80,000 seat stadium was first opened in 2009, following a construction period of 4 years, as the Cowboys Stadium, and carried that name until 2013 when the giant that is AT&T bought out the naming rights.
Home to the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys (whose cheerleaders are probably just as famous a franchise as the American football team!), the AT&T Stadium was built to replace the partially covered Texas Stadium, and these days acts as a multi-discipline venue, hosting events such as concerts, basketball games, college and high school football contests, soccer matches, motocross and Spartan races, as well as the odd WWE wrestling spectacle or two!
The stadium’s current construction cost is estimated to have been around 1.15 billion US dollars, making it one of the most expensive sporting arenas ever built. It’s main party trick is of course its fully retractable roof, which therefore allows play no matter what weather condition Arlington currently finds itself experiencing!
It is also home to one of the worlds largest high definition video screen, which hangs from 20-yard line to 20-yard line.
As you might imagine, and whether your enjoy American football or not, this beautiful example of modern engineering is quite the sight to behold and is definitely worth making a stop at should you ever find yourself anywhere remotely near the area!
(That said, you may as well fly business cheap and get there in style if you aren’t nearby!)
Oh, and an added bonus. There is a brilliant Stadium Art Programme attached to the venue as well – meaning that you don’t have to be a sport nut to get something out of a trip to this massive Texan landmark!
If you are down in California, paying a visit to San Diego, and perhaps have just the slightest of interest in all things military, then it would be particularly foolish to skip out on making a trip down to the USS Midway Museum!
The massive decommissioned aircraft carrier USS Midway, previously America’s longest-serving aircraft carrier (1945-1992) is now a dedicated museum ship, housing an extensive collection of naval aircraft and over 60 ship exhibits brought to life by a self-guided audio tour.
Exhibits range from the crew’s sleeping quarters to a massive galley, engine room, the ship’s jail, officer’s country, post office, machine shops, and pilots’ ready rooms, as well as primary flight control and the bridge high in the island over the flight deck.
Included in the ships restored aircraft inventory is a cornucopia of naval fighters stretching from World War II to Operation Desert Storm. Expect to view planes like the SBD Dauntless dive bomber, the TBM Avenger, F9F Panther, F-4 Phantom, A-6 Intruder and F/A-18 Hornet just to name but a few!
The museum is berthed at Navy Pier which has more than 300 parking spaces. It also is within walking distance of public transportation and other downtown San Diego waterfront attractions.
Opened on 7 June 2004,d by 2012 the USS Midway Museum’s annual visitation exceeded 1 million visitors. As of 2015, Midway now also boasts the tag of being the most popular naval warship museum in the United States!
In other words, a massively popular attraction.
The smallest of Yellowstone’s geyser basins, Midway Geyser Basin (also dubbed “Hell’s Half Acre”) actually contains two of the park’s largest hydrothermal features: Grand Prismatic Spring and Excelsior Geyser, which dumps 4,000 gallons of water a minute into neighboring Firehole River. The spring’s psychedelic coloration comes from pigmented bacteria in the surrounding microbial mats. The amount of color in the mats depends on the water temperature and the ratio of chlorophyll (green pigment) to carotenoids (yellow to red pigment).
In the summer, the mats burn orange and red, while winter turns them a dark green. The spring’s lurid blue “eye” remains sterile because of its extremely high heat.
Named after the Hawaiian word for “spewing,” the mythical home of the volcanic goddess Pele rises 4,190 feet from the southeastern part of the Big Island.
One of the world’s most active and perilous volcanoes, Kilauea has been erupting for more than three decades, fitfully coughing basaltic lava into the Pacific Ocean below. You can easily spot the billowing plumes of scorching gas in the daytime. But if you can, visit after sunset, when the lava flows glow more visibly, creating a beautifully infernal light show.
Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kilauea_Volcano