Can Tax Relief Be Scammed?

Business | Posted by admin
Mar 03 2014

tsIn the early days, there were not any tax relief companies. There were only loan companies that lend you money and they charge you interest rates depending on the purpose of your loan. Unlike top rated tax relief companies today, they could be cheated. What makes top rated tax relief companies good is they are proven and they give their company a good name because of their good service. Before, people could cheat their way to get a loan. They would most of the time get a tax loan and use it for personal vanities. Tax loans had low interest rates because of its purpose. Unlike personal loans, they have really low interest rates.

Top rated tax relief companies have low interest rates and have outstanding services. They are good in accommodating their clients and potential clients and the promised payments are always made on time. They cannot be scammed unlike before. This time, they make sure they make the payment directly to the bureau of tax and they send the receipt to the client as a proof that they have made the payment. One quality of a good tax relief company is keeping their promise by paying on time and showing the original receipt to the client.

How Can Getting IRS Tax Help Benefit Me?

Well, you don’t need to get an IRS tax help if you can have enough money on or before your tax’s due date. But in case you will need to use that saved money for personal use or emergency then getting assistance from tax relief is the right thing to do. It is easy to file for tax assistance especially when the due date is nearing. That is what keeps tax relief companies standing. And their profits are the interest rate every month depending on how fast you can complete the payment for the tax relief loan.

There are many forms that you need to fill out an IRS tax help but if you regularly file it every month whether you can pay the whole amount or not on or before the due date then it will surely benefit you. Whether you did or did not have the money for your tax payment on the due date, you don’t need to worry since you have filed a tax relief for your tax and the tax relief company will surely take care of it for you. That is one good benefit of filing a tax help. It is a win situation whether you make the payment or not.

Knowing Where To Get Affordable Recovery

Business | Posted by admin
Jan 13 2014

kgarIt is definitely hard to lose your files, but sometimes, finding where to get affordable recovery is confusing. There are a number of sources where you can get a recovery but you are not sure whether it is effective or not. To narrow your research, the first thing you have to do is to open your internet and find the nearest store for data recovery. Once you have the list for these stores, then it is important to know the services and prices they offer. Some stores can be found online only so be careful in every transaction you make. As much as possible, ask recommendations from your friends on where to get affordable recovery.

Compare the prices and always consider that the affordable cost does not always mean the best data recovery. You always get what you pay for so better research a lot or invest on a higher cost of data recovery. If it seems difficult for you to pay for an expensive data recovery, then consider a low cost one. Remember to secure all the data as soon as it is recovered so that the next time around, you will not be having difficult on where to get affordable recovery anymore.

Why It Is Important To Seek Professional Help To Repair Hard Drive Crash

It is very important to seek professional help when planning to repair a hard drive crash. The hard drive is the most important part of any computer system, because it is where files are stored. If it does not undergo a repair from an expert professional, it might be difficult for a computer system to function. This is the reason why you have to hire an expert professional technician for such computer concern. Basically, there are numerous companies these days offering repair hard drive crash services. However, you have to choose the best among these service providers in order to guarantee that you get back your hard drive again.

To make the selection process, you have to start by knowing the credibility of the company. Make sure that you are dealing with a computer repair shop that has years of experience. If you have chosen a company already, ask the credentials of the people who will be fixing your hard drive. Some reputable companies outsource from technicians who are new in the field. This can be a risky thing to do because you are not sure that you get the services right. Hence, ask a lot of questions before you try to repair hard drive crash.

T-Shirts Are Still Making A Killing, Without A Doubt

Business | Posted by admin
Aug 15 2013

Even though the “anything goes” approach to fashion will continue into next summer, retailers can still zero in on a few key items.

Summer is the time to stock up on cute little dresses, swimsuits and the ubiquitous T-shirt. Rather than looking to a few styles to guide this market’s trends, buyers can invest in items. Nothing better reflects the strategy than the fitted T-shirt. Although specialty and department stores have picked up on it, there’s no sign the trend is letting up, especially with more start-up companies coming on board. The success of the pioneer companies has been so great, the T-shirt zoomed right through the trend stage and into lifestyle or cultural phenomenon.

“The way women wear T-shirts isn’t the same as 10 years ago. How they wear them, say with a suit, might be a trend. But the T-shirt itself isn’t a trend, it’s secured a place in fashion now,” said Mitzi Prochnow, owner of Mitzi & Romano, a specialty store here. The new T-shirt look stems from Nineties lifestyle changes and the evolution from boxy and loose to sleek and sexy.

Many lifestyle elements originated in California, home to T-shirt companies like Juicy Couture, Michael Stars and Three Dots. Owners describe their products as very “California.”

The idea of California goes beyond healthy, body-conscious and active; it also means the ironic combination of luxurious and casual influences — a strong influence on Nineties fashions. Silicon Valley’s computer industry gave the nation another trend — casual workwear. No longer restricted by dress codes of suits and blouses, women have options of twinsets or a jacket paired with a fitted T-shirt.

Another lifestyle plus: T-shirts need no dry cleaning, ironing or excessive care.

“Today’s woman doesn’t have time to press a blouse in the morning. She’d rather put on a T-shirt and go,” said Pauline Sokol, owner of Lilla*p Inc., a T-shirt company based here.

Suzanne Lerner, principal of Lerner et Cie, a multiline showroom that represents Michael Stars at AmericasMart, agrees.

“Women with a `running around’ lifestyle aren’t going to give up the easiness [of T-shirts],” she said.

Beyond California’s influence, the impact of streetwear on mainstream fashion is strong. Although many T-shirt makers don’t like comparing the fitted T-shirt with the baby T-shirt, its influence is apparent, although the fitted T-shirt is less severe. Nineties’ minimalism provided the ideal setup for the T-shirt to take over.

“People get too confused about what to wear. That’s why we’ve created basics,” said Pamela Skist-Levy, an owner of Juicy.

Lilla*p’s Sokol focused on basics, too. After analyzing her closet and finding mostly T-shirts, she figured other women were the same. The T-shirt market didn’t escape retro-mania, either. Aside from iron-on decals, the sexy Seventies T-shirt made a comeback (think Suzanne Somers and Farrah Fawcett).

For Juicy’s owners, nostalgia played a very big part.

“We grew up in California in the Seventies and Eighties wearing Diddo’s and Tea, a very happening line then. They made a perfect French fitted T-shirt that we always wanted to bring back,” said Skist-Levy.

Juicy isn’t the only company out to make the perfect T-shirt; there’s stiff competition to make cotton stronger, softer and more resistant to shrinkage; to make colors more varied, fade-resistant and unique, and to make bodies trendier and more flattering.

“Competition forces us all to be better, and the consumer benefits,” said Michael Cohen, who in 1986 founded Michael Stars, which now offers 100 bodies and 20 to 35 colors each season. John Ward, president and designer at Three Dots, concurs.

“All the competition has made the category more important in fashion,” he said.

Whether the quality of any single company’s shirts is superior to that of another remains subjective. Most are cut from ring-spun, combed cotton, garment dyed and put through a series of finishing processes, so what the customer buys is what she gets, with no surprises. Sales are based more on consumer loyalty to a certain brand; the store’s level of commitment, especially in building full, colorful displays; quick response to reorders, and signature characteristics like a certain body, length or sizing options. Although some consumers look for novelty above all, most find a brand they like and stick with it.

Ward of Three Dots compares T-shirts to jeans.

“It’s like if a woman buys Levi’s or Diesel, it’s usually a lifelong choice,” he said. Loyalty is so great there’s little crossover among brands. Each company fills a niche, whether it be hip, misses’, designer or girlie. “The challenge lies in turning a customer on to a new line. But it’s fun to see them get hooked, when they keep coming back,” said Judy Rossignol, president of Yes Yes Yes showroom, which carries Leopold and A. Gold E., sportswear lines that specialize in T-shirts.

Many retailers describe consumers as addicted to T-shirt lines. Michael Stars calls them fanatics — women who have over 100 T-shirts. Three Dots reports the same phenomenon. Ward said his account, Peoples boutique, here, has a cult-like following; women get on waiting lists for certain colors or bodies and make multiple purchases.

Rexer-Parkes, a local specialty store, also keeps waiting lists, especially if a company can’t keep up with constant shipping demands.

But no matter how great the loyalty, retailers still want newness. Bill Hallman, who owns three specialty stores here, said customers always look for the new; he carries Juicy, but just picked up two other Los Angeles-based lines, Velvet and Skimpies.

“Our customer is fast. She sees the item in a magazine and comes in to buy it,” he said.

Ginny Feltus-Brewer, owner of Rexer-Parkes, finds the market so demanding and fast-paced that she’s hired a T-shirt buyer to comb the markets for the latest lines and stock inventory. Realizing the demand, Feltus-Brewer offers several lines — Juicy, Lilla*p., Michael Stars and Three Dots, which are stacked; as well as Leopold, Calvin Klein, Anna Sui and Tocca, which are hung near sportswear.

“These T-shirts sell themselves. It’s hard to keep them neat, though. We stack by vendor and color, but they sell down so quickly,” she said.

The front section of Mitzi & Romano is devoted to 15 bodies by Michael Stars and six by Three Dots. At customers’ requests, owner Prochnow will order Juicy at this market.

Mitzi & Romano is one of the top accounts at Michael Stars. The store began carrying the line four years ago and now sells an average of 100 shirts a week. She follows a merchandising method recommended by vendors. According to Lerner at Michael Stars, the more product you put out, the more it retails. Juicy bases higher sales on full, substantial color displays.

“A woman won’t buy a fuchsia suit, but she’ll buy a fuchsia T-shirt to put under a gray suit,” said Skist-Levy.

Lilla*p’s Sokol also believes a T-shirt gets lost in the shuffle if not displayed correctly. Much of the advantage comes down to reorders; the demand is so high, companies lose out if orders can’t be filled, especially if retailers find a quicker resource. But even if a company can respond quickly to reorders, such as Michael Stars, one line is not enough to satisfy all customers, retailers said.

Reorders average every two weeks, with Three Dots and Leopold a bit slower to respond, said retailers. One advantage of a smaller line with fewer accounts, like Lilla*p, is that reorders can be shipped same-day service.

“We have no order minimums yet. All inventory is right here in my home. I can ship it the moment someone places the order,” said Sokol. Hers is a small-scale version of Michael Stars, which Lerner said is run like “a Swiss watch.”

Wholesale prices average about the same. Juicy’s cotton line ranges from $11 to $32; Leopold from $20 to $29; Michael Stars from $10 to $20, and Three Dots from $15 to $32. Lilla*p’s are lower, at $9 to $13, which Sokol thinks gives the company an edge by allowing the customer to buy one of each color.

Most of the companies are happy with their current pricing structures because they lead to multiple sales and allow greater variety.

Best-selling bodies in all lines include V-necks, three-quarter sleeves, boatneck collars and twinsets.

Mitzi & Romano orders its top seller, a white crewneck with capped sleeves by Michael Stars, 24 at a time.

“That one sells all day long,” said Prochnow.

Bill Hallman consistently sells out of Juicy’s V-neck, and boatneck with a sleeve pocket, which has been dubbed the “Helmut Lang” shirt. Lilla*p will expand its line, which now offers crewnecks with capped sleeves, to include two tanks and a V-neck in March.

Although the favorite bodies should do well again this summer, some new styles are expected to make their mark. Juicy’s Skist-Levy recommends staying away from long sleeves, instead buying baseball sleeves, the cuffed cardigan and the shrug. A new baby rib fabric will also be introduced this summer. Ward of Three Dots has seen a huge response to sleeveless bodies; they offer six bodies of camisoles/tanks.

“Every single one of my customers bought the sleeveless British T-shirt, with straps between a spaghetti and a cap-sleeve width.

Color is really where women have fun. Although white consistently sells best, colors will be brighter than ever this summer. Pink promises to be this summer’s hot color, replacing lavender. Hallman thinks it is a response to all the gray, and plans to buy all shades of pink. Ward also expects color blocking and “offbeat” brights to do well, with names like grass, cerise and dark iris.

Juicy’s Skist-Levy thinks women are sick of gray too. She’s banking on bright pink, yellow and turquoise. Michael Stars will release eight brights for summer, with midtones in the interim.

“Customers won’t buy brights until they see it them in magazines for at least two to three seasons. So they’ll be ready by summer,” said Lerner.

The one color to stay away from is black, which retailers say is not as strong now.

Even with variety and hugely successful sales, retailers don’t consider T-shirts anywhere near the bulk of their business, still accounting for only some 5 percent of total sales.

Running Can Help Your Body AND Mind

Health | Posted by admin
Jul 22 2013

Running provides two psychological benefits. First is improvement in mood. This short-lived phenomena, also called “runner’s high,” is caused when certain chemicals are released into the bloodstream by physical activity. For me, it inspires feelings of largess, which my kids often exploit. The second benefit is the long-term improvement it makes in self-esteem. But the greatest benefit for me is that running is an incredible source of creativity.

justcrazI’m not sure what the biological dynamics of this are (a client with an M.D. says running is a form of meditation), but I do know it has two dramatic results. One is the “Ah-Ha!” factor. I can’t tell you the number of times I have been stuck on a design or business problem, and after a nice long run, have returned to find a creative solution staring me in the face. Running is a way of tapping into the subconscious; it’s like “sleeping on it,” but much more predictable.

Running is also a great idea generator. During almost every run, new ideas on a host of subjects just pop into my head. They are not all great, of course. They’re also a lot like dreams – if I don’t write them down as soon as I get back, they vaporize and are gone. Noting them in my log when I return lets me go back later and weed out the silly items from those with substance.

My business partner saw me out running one day and told me that if I didn’t keep my head up, I might get hit by a truck. I told him that if I didn’t keep my head down I was sure to twist an ankle. It struck me that this, too, is true of product development. We work hard to keep our heads up, to spend time out in the field with end users, trying to really understand who we’re designing for and what the product needs to do. And we all have brainstorming sessions, trying to jump-start the creative process.

On the other hand, just as improvements in fitness come from sustained effort, some of our most creative breakthroughs come from plain old hard work. It is often the case that a few more hours, or days, focusing on a problem will yield that dramatic innovation our client is looking for. In many ways, managing the design process is about finding a balance between the two.

One of the most gratifying changes running has had on my lifestyle has been its effect on business travel. Rather than dash from car to plane to taxi, to hotel, to client conference room, I now inject a run into almost every trip. Trotting off to new places in new cities has given me remarkable new perspectives about life on the streets, ecology, architecture, and local culture. It has also scared the hell out of me when I’ve ended up lost in a place I don’t belong.

Being lost is not a good feeling, either in a strange city or in the design process. But will we get the results we seek by sticking to predictable paths? We use teams and technology. to reduce risk and get products to market faster and faster. But in such a controlled attempt to do no wrong, are we giving ourselves and our people every opportunity to get it right? Are we paying lip service to innovation, or are we really supporting it with time, tools, and money? Are we taking the quickest way out just because we’re uncomfortable finding a way through?

The ancient Greeks believed that art had a cleansing effect on the emotions of the audience; that watching a play or listening to an epic poem first generated feelings as dramatic tension built, then released them as the work achieved its climax. They called this process “catharsis,” but it’s something we all experience when we finish a particularly hectic project, or come up with a really good idea. Creative people, in particular, are catharsis junkies. For me, it’s a feeling much like “runners high.” So running not only helps come up with good ideas, it helps me appreciate the process.

I recognize that running is only one way to get these benefits and that there are many ways of jogging our creative impulses. Running does it for me, but if whacking a golf ball, or karate kicking rings your chimes, go for it.

Keeping Your Restaurant Clean

Business | Posted by admin
Jul 08 2013

cleaningupAs cliche as they are, videos work in providing consistent training. However, employees must be told that the video they’re watching is not mere entertainment, but an investment in their safety. “You have to put responsibility in their hands,” the floor-care source says.

A good training video should teach employees, among other things, to:

* Bend from the knees when wringing out a mop (to prevent back injury).

* Mop in an S-motion to make it easier on the arm and back muscles.

* Mop, rinse and dry-mop small sections at a time.

* Mop under equipment.

* And, above all, put up the plastic caution markers when mopping.

Floor-care training also includes a good measure of common sense. For instance, employees should be told to sweep up debris before they begin mopping, and to make sure the mop water and solution are fresh. “If the water and mop head are dirty and greasy, you’re not cleaning – you’re just relocating grease and grime,” says the expert.

Chemical cautions. Even though most floor-cleaning chemicals are mild acid-based compounds, improperly handled concentrate can still cause rashes and burns. In addition, ill-trained employees tend to overdo it on the solution. “They think if one glop is good, two glops are better and three are great,” the source explains. Meticulous training, or better yet, a system that dispenses just the right amount into the bucket, will help prevent chemical abuse.

Some operators skirt the issue by using mild, “environmentally friendly” products. The Story Inn, a restaurant and bed-and-breakfast in Nashville, Ind., uses such cleaners on its slate kitchen floor and hardwood dining-room floor, partly to ensure that the 100-year-old surfaces aren’t harmed, says General Manager Susan Barrett.

In the kitchen, employees first spray the floor with grease-releaser, then mop it with a mild solution, rinse and dry mop. Employees on mop duty are careful to clean inside the walk-in as well as the kitchen proper, Barrett says.

At the inn, the natural approach even works in emergency situations. Awhile back, someone spilled oil-and-vinegar dressing during a rush period, and there wasn’t time to clean it. A cook threw a handful of salt on the mess, which created traction on the spill and in fact made it easier to pick up later, Barrett recalls.

The mopping schedule. Operations such as McDonald’s seem to be constantly mopping, while the kitchen schedule and layout of a Chili’s unit allows mopping once a night. Spills, however, should be cleaned as soon as possible, and a thorough mop at closing is necessary. The closing-time mop should include scrubbing the floor with a deck brush to loosen ground-in dirt and a thorough rinsing to follow.

Although there aren’t any simple tests to tell whether a mopped floor is well done, the tile should look dull and dry.

Contributing Editor Lisa Bertagnoli is a former R&I managing editor who writes frequently about foodservice equipment.

IF SOMEONE FALLS….

The best way to handle slips and falls is to prevent them. Customers should be warned about freshly mopped areas with plastic markets. In addition, a cleaning compound just on the market gives floors traction even when they’re wet.

Still, these measures won’t prevent all falls. If a customer should take a spill, follow these guidelines to minimize the fallout, says a source at a large floor-care company.

1. Attend to the person’s injuries. Most injuries relating to falling in a restaurant are slight, the source says, with the majority of claims under $2,500. If the person isn’t injuries, the damage to his or her ego usually can be fixed with free food.

2. Document the accident. Inspect the are and write down what happened. Was the floor dry? Wet? Had something spilled? Usually insurance carriers will provide a form on which to detail accidents. And doing so is important, the source says. “Don’t rely on the memory of an employee who might not be around when the claim finally gets processed,” he says.

3. Don’t admit negligence. Off-handed statements such as “Boy, that floor is always slippery,” or “Wow, someone fell on that same spot just last week,” open the restaurant to punitive damages, “You’re saying you know you had a problem but didn’t do enough to solve it,” says the floor-care expert.

4. Assume the fall is legitimate. Some con artists make a decent living “falling” in public places, then suing for damages. However, assuming the customer on the floor is a scammer when he or she isn’t can only worsen the situation.

What’s 31 Feet, Has Wheels And Eats Gas?

Travel and Leisure | Posted by admin
Jul 02 2013

Seven years ago, when someone first suggested that my family and I embark on a recreational-vehicle vacation, I laughed. RVs, after all, were for footloose retirees, not for young families. And who wanted to travel like a turtle, carrying their home with them? That I’d never tried it and had based my reaction solely on misconceptions nearly prevented me from discovering one of the best-kept secrets in the world of great vacations. Fortunately, my husband, son, and two daughters had the good sense to embrace the idea with unbridled enthusiasm – so off we went.

effigyToday, our five-some has traveled some 25,000 miles through 32 states in search of America. We’ve rolled along back roads and superhighways, taken in nature, history, sports, and adventure. And we have found exactly what we were looking for in the likeliest and the least expected of places. More than anywhere else, our journey through the Midwest in a borrowed, 31-foot motor home showed us what’s memorable, quirky, and moving about America and about traveling together as a family.

On the Road in the Land of Lakes

I shouldn’t have told Hutch, age five, that Minnesota is the land of 10,000 lakes.

First, recent surveys put the number closer to 14,000 to 15,000. Second, he boldly attempted to count them. Every one. Whether you believe the storytellers’ tale that the lakes were created by the mammoth hooves of Paul Bunyan’s companion Babe the Blue Ox or favor the geologists’ contention that retreating glaciers get the credit, it is easy to be seduced by the constant blue-and-green play of light on water across Minnesota’s rolling landscape. But few lakes awe as Superior does, whatever its prevailing – and ever-changing – mood.

Camping northeast of Duluth, we arrived on Lake Superior’s inhospitable shore during a gale-force storm. Not that camping in a storm is a problem in an RV. As we snuggled in our respective beds (our home on wheels had room to sleep seven), the storm outside fostered an inside sense of cozy togetherness and shared adventure that is unique to “RVing.” Still, the weather’s sunny turn the next morning was fortunate, for we had scheduled a kayak tour of the harbor with the Outdoor Program of the University of Minnesota at Duluth. By then Lake Superior’s waters lapped lazily at sandy beaches as though the raging the night before had never transpired.

Duluth is home to the world’s largest inland freshwater port and the massive cargo ships that slide under its aerial lift bridge turn kayaking into a humbling experience. Our half-day tour, however, won a unanimous thumbs-up, especially for its waterline view of the William A. Irvin, an ore boat and former flagship of U.S. Steel’s Great Lakes fleet. A smaller version of the Edmund Fitzgerald, the last great ore transport to sink on Superior (in November 1975, with 29 hands lost), the Irvin offered something for everyone: history for fourth grader Molly, big equipment (the anchor alone weighs three tons) for Hutch, a sense of drama for our teenager, Kira.

Snaking Though Iowa

What do we remember about Iowa? Snakes. Big snakes, little snakes, wrap-around-your-wrist snakes found by chance at Effigy Mounds National Monument, prehistoric earthen mounds set along 300-foot-high bluffs above the Mississippi in the state’s northeastern corner.

One of the great benefits of RVing is that it doesn’t tie you to hotel reservations. Unless you’re trying to get into a national park in high season, it’s likely you’ll find a campground to accommodate you – even on the spur of the moment. Which is why we felt confident enough to make a spontaneous detour 150 miles out of our way in order to reach Effigy Mounds. But before we could hike the trails to the mounds, we were waylaid in the Visitor Center by a National Park Service ranger who just happened to be giving a lecture about snakes. Reptiles crawled out of his pockets, sleeves, and shirtfront. The faint of heart paled and ran. We stayed and were offered our own nonpoisonous snakes to hold – several of the 27 varieties Iowa is blessed with. (Hutch created “living handcuffs” out of his.) It was a day to remember – a bit of serendipity on which lasting vacation memories are often founded.

In an RV, though, memories do not just come from the places you visit. They come from the travel itself, mostly because RV vacations give families something that’s all too rare these days – time together. Time to talk and time to eat dinner as a group every night. Time to sit long into the evening playing cards or searching the skies for constellations and planets. Time to just be there, adults and children, in the moment. Claustrophobic? Hardly. Close? Absolutely, in the best sense of the word – which is not to say we agreed on everything all the time.

Meandering in Missouri

In July, Missouri can be hot. Beyond hot. And to be honest, none of the kids wanted to go to the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum, in Independence. But Bill and I ignored the whining and forged ahead. And we were glad we did.

Molly and I lingered over the exhibition “Dear Bess: Love Letters from the President,” a collection of handwritten letters that follows Bess and Harry’s courtship and 53-year marriage. My children snickered at the idea that people once watched TV on a contraption like the box they saw in the 33rd President’s replicated Oval Office. Was that what it was like for you in the olden days? Hutch wondered.

I told him to ask his father.

Having left the Interstate behind, we passed through farmland and hilly bluff country along the Missouri River. It was in Jefferson City that we discovered Binder Park, a bucolic campground with friendly hosts and spacious, shady sites on 154-acre Binder Lake – a place that, like many RV campgrounds, offers a welcoming sense of small-town-America. Kira was happy with fishing in spite of the poor catch; Hutch preferred to stalk tadpoles. In the sultry Missouri afternoon, Bill and I plugged into the camp’s electric grid in order to air-condition the RV. Molly played with newfound friends from Arkansas. When they weren’t swapping stories, they chased blue-tailed lizards and collected and set free doodlebugs.

Lush countryside surrounds the town of Branson, 150 miles south of Jefferson City. Not that the macabre and whimsical institutions along the garish strip like Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum don’t appeal. Who could resist watching the video of a man pulling a truck with his tongue? Had we skipped our visit, we might never have learned that an early-1800s earthquake reversed the flow of the Mississippi for three days, a fascinating factoid my kids like to recall.

But our hands-down favorite activity was Ride the Ducks, Second World War amphibious vehicles that travel with a roar and a splash from traffic jams on Branson’s strip onto the relative tranquillity of Table Rock Lake. Kids can try steering on the water and the fun-loving guides offer a perspective on this area, a vacation haven for Midwestern families long before it became a mecca for country music. Just off Branson’s bustling strip, the densely forested Ozarks beckon, as does the blue expanse of lakes that have brought families here to play and cool off summer after summer.

Which is just what we did. After nearly two weeks on the road, we took a weekend break from our motor home and cooled our heels at the Bradford Inn, a friendly B and B high on a hill above the action. The inn’s proximity to Silver Dollar City, Branson’s theme park, allowed us to simultaneously cool off and scare ourselves silly on water rides.

By the time we left Missouri, we had each found our own piece of America. It was in the chilly waters of Superior and the sweltering humidity of Branson; friendly campgrounds and family-run inns. It was in lazy afternoons fishing and playing with new doodlebug-collecting friends. It was about nature, and about history – Presidents, ore boats, and river traffic. Mostly, it was about something for everyone.

Old School RVs Keep People Comfortable

Travel and Leisure | Posted by admin
Jun 14 2013

If you think that the golden age of antiquing – when collectors could descend from their grandparents’ attics or walk out of a neighborhood garage sale with an undiscovered treasure in hand has long since passed, take heart. Vintage recreational vehicles and old-fashioned camping gear provide abundant opportunities for collectors in search of a new niche. Articles of nostalgia may be found in every part of the country, priced low or even offered “free for the taking.” These RV’s, trailers, camp furniture, and other items may not be around for long, though – not because they’re being snatched up, but, as David Woodworth, of Tehachapi, Calif., says, because “they’re all being thrown away.”

Setting Up Camp

Woodworth, with 30 pre-1937 RV’s in his possession, has the world’s largest collection of antique camping vehicles. His odyssey into the world of “auto camping” began 18 years ago when he first took his two young daughters on short one- and two-day trips in a Model A Ford he owned at the time. “I then started buying some old trailers, a couple campers,” he says. “Nothing significant.” But when a curator from the Smithsonian Institution, in Washington, D.C., called him 12 years ago and asked to borrow his gear for an exhibition on American travel and camping called “At Home on the Road,” Woodworth says, “I got a big head and decided to look into my hobby seriously.

“My goal now,” the collector explains, “is to build a collection that will stand alone as a museum of the history of auto camping in the United States.” Ideally, he would like to restore his 30 RV’s (about half are currently restored) and then make them the focal points in a series of permanent re-creations of period campsites – complete with all of the props of the time, from folding chairs to toothbrushes. His ambitious goal: to create showcases that – if you took a black-and-white picture of the setting – would make viewers think they had a period photograph in hand.

Americans Hit the Road

For the museum, Woodworth plans to spotlight models dating to the heyday of early auto camping – which began with the sinking of the Lusitania. When a German submarine torpedoed the British ocean liner in 1915, wealthy Americans began to see overseas travel and the traditional European grand tour as a dangerous venture and chose instead to travel the United States. They took advantage of the freedom offered by the increasingly popular automobile, packing in as many of the comforts of home as they could.

In the years after the First World War, the auto camping phenomenon was further supported by the transformation of municipal wagon yards into auto camps. During the 1800s, many cities and towns had set aside parcels of land outfitted with leantos, shelters, outhouses, and fire pits for the benefit of farmers who had to travel from the outlying countryside to do business. The automobile shortened many of these farmers’ trips, making it possible for them to travel in a matter of hours a distance that would have easily taken a day or two by horse-drawn wagon. So just when the wagon yards were being made obsolete by the horseless carriage, the automobile put them to new use. By 1922, The New York Times estimated that more than 15 million auto campers – traveling with trailers, in motor homes, towing “fifth wheels,” or simply packing tents in their cars – were streaming across the nation’s roads, looking for safe places to park for the night.

In 1919, a group formed by those smitten with auto camping – the Tin Can Tourists of America – was founded. Identified by an empty tin can mounted on the exposed radiator cap that graced the hood of their vehicles, members of this nomadic band made their winter camp in Tampa, Fla.’s De Soto Park and their summer camp in Traverse City, Mich. The name “Tin Can” was derived from their hood ornaments as well as the fact that the Tin Canners often lived off canned food and, as RV technology progressed, lived in vehicles that were themselves reminiscent of tin cans. By 1963, the club’s bookkeepers claimed a membership of 100,000.

“The things that drive the RV industry today are the same as in the ’20s,” says Woodworth. “Behind the wheel of their own vehicle, people didn’t have to deal with inflexible train schedules or rude porters – they could go where they wanted to and stop when and where they wanted.” Plus, he adds, they could carry with them many of the comforts of home. “As I travel around the country,” he says, “people look at modern RV’s and say, ‘That’s not camping. It’s too comfortable.'” Yet in 1924, the collector notes, campers would bring along such luxuries as bathtubs (sometimes made of canvas) and “Imperial Toilet Tents” – two-seater outhouses made of canvas. (Such things may seem primitive to us now, but at the time, they were often comparable to what the travelers had at home – many still used outhouses and heated their bathwater on the stove.) They would even cart along their massive radios and fly kites with wires attached to serve as antennas. “People are always trying to be comfortable,” says Woodworth.

As the 1920s drew to a close and the Great Depression took hold across the country, the auto camping industry took on a new role. At first, laid-off workers who had saved up some money before they lost their jobs used the opportunity their time and cash allowed to take a vacation and see the country.

As the Depression deepened, though, trailers were often the only homes many families could afford to maintain. During the Second World War, production dropped off as industry was redirected and travel and metal were restricted, bringing an end to the golden era of auto camping. But by the 1950s, auto camping experienced a boom that echoed the fascination with camping that had occurred after the First World War, 30 years earlier.

Collecting Now

“Antique RV’s can be found all over the United States,” says Woodworth. “There’s not a place in the country without them.” In California, Woodworth has found Michigan-made campers, and in Pennsylvania, he bought a California-made Pierce-Arrow motor home. “I know of more units now that are available than I have money for,” he says. “So, I look for eye appeal and interesting history.” One of his more unusual pieces is a 1950s Compact, an all-fiberglass trailer with a detachable boat for a roof.

This 60s Clark Cortez is a classic.

This 60s Clark Cortez is a classic.

So how do you find the antique RV’s? Woodworth comes across most of his finds by chance. “I quit looking for things and said, ‘I’ll take whatever I can,'” he says. “At the RV and sports shows, people will tell me about available trailers. They say: ‘It’s a shame to see this thing destroyed. I want to see it have a good home, since we had such a good time in it.'”

Models from the 1950s and ’60s are easier to find than those built before 1940, especially because so many of the early pieces were at least partially fabric-covered, and so deteriorated easily. “You never find them in good condition,” Woodworth warns, adding that while the initial purchase isn’t all that painful, “it’s the restoration that’s a killer.” Woodworth recently purchased a 1921 Lamsteed (a Model T Ford with a special camping body that was built by Anheuser-Busch during Prohibition) for $4,000, then spent nearly $40,000 on restoration. His advice to prospective collectors? “Have a lot of money and a solid marriage, because both will become shaky,” he says, joking. “At least my wife knows that I can’t afford to have an affair!”

Right now there’s almost no market for antique RV’s, so any money you put into one is more than it’s worth on the market. “There’s a market for old cars, but not for old campers,” Woodworth says. “They don’t travel fast, they’re heavy to tow, and compared to modern RV’s, they’re uncomfortable to live in. Models from the ’30s and earlier were not insulated and miserable in hot and cold weather.” Storage of antique RV’s is likewise impractical, as most travel trailers and campers won’t fit into the average garage. (Until he’s ready to build his own museum, Woodworth is solving his storage problems by loaning out pieces to trade shows and exhibitions.) But perhaps as the number of antique RV owners increases, so too will the market. Woodworth estimates that probably a dozen other collectors in the United States each own an antique unit or two. “Nobody has 30!” he laughs.

Traveling With Pets? Know This…

Travel and Leisure | Posted by admin
Jun 01 2013

In his travelogue Travels With Charley: In search of America (1962), John Steinbeck writes of his cross-country jaunt with his brainy black poodle. “Now, Charley is a mind-reading dog. There have been many trips in his lifetime, and often he has to be left at home. He knows we are going long before the suitcases come out, and he paces and worries and whines and goes into a state of mild hysteria, old as he is.” As Charley surmises, sometimes pets must be left behind, but there are a surprising number of hotels, motels, campgrounds, cabins, and inns that welcome well-behaved, housebroken, leashed, flealess furry friends.

Just think about the heroine of Kay Thompson’s Eloise (1969), who lived at the Plaza, a hotel in New York City. “I have a dog that looks like a cat,” says Eloise. “His name is Weenie.” Size is, indeed, one of the restrictions for pets who sleep over at the Plaza – the animals must weigh 16 pounds or less. Visitors with acceptable pets must sign a short waiver form when they check in. After that, the staff says that it’s up to the pets’ owners whether or not the animals sleep on the beds, but adds that most people bring their own bedding. Room service says that they don’t offer pet food, but would be happy to supply a bowl. And before you ask – pets are not allowed to dine in the Oak Room.

weird-pet“The Plaza is the only hotel in New York that will allow you to have a turtle,” said six-year-old Eloise, who kept a turtle named Skipperdee. These days, that’s not the case. The Waldorf-Astoria allows pets as well, and the front desk staff notes that they don’t know of any kind of pet that isn’t allowed. No weight restrictions apply, but the pet must be in a carrier when you enter the hotel and when you want your room serviced (unless the pet is small and you are there to watch it while the staff is in your room). Just like at the Plaza, guests must sign a waiver declaring that they accept liability for property damages or injuries caused by the pet. And, they prefer that pets don’t sleep on the beds. “We’re not really thrilled about that, to be quite frank with you,” says one staffer. “The comforters and the spreads are quite expensive and, in all honesty, pet hair never comes out.” Room service, though not geared toward pets, is flexible. “We don’t carry dog food,” they say, “although I’m sure the chef would be happy to make something.”

“We have lots of guests who bring their pets to our hotel,” says the concierge at the Four Seasons, in Chicago. The room service menu includes a “doggie pet menu,” and they bring amenities like big bowls of water and either dog or cat treats to the room. Travelers should give advance notice, as certain rooms are designated specifically for guests who are staying with pets. The weight restriction is 35 pounds, and though they see mostly dogs and cats, they say they would deal with other types of animals on a case-by-case basis.

Pets are allowed in hotels throughout the Four Seasons chain, as they are in many other nationwide chains. The important thing to remember is to call well in advance, so that you and your pet won’t be left out in the cold.

That’s how Heather MacLean Walters, a consultant for the Pet Channel, got into the pet travel field. After spending a long night searching for a hotel that would take dogs, Walters realized others must be having the same problem and decided to write Take Your Pet Along: 1001 Places to Stay With Your Pet (MCE Press; $16.95; 800-932-3017), which lists pet-friendly lodgings across the country. And since she enjoyed activities with her dog, she wrote Take Your Pet Too! Fun Things to Do! (MCE Press; $14.95), a guide to pet-targeted events and places as well as towns that have plenty of pet-friendly shops and restaurants. Some of her favorites:

BAR HARBOR, MAINE “Beautiful coastal scenery is the hallmark of any visit here,” Walters writes in Take Your Pet Too! The area owes its charm to the harbor’s namesake sandbar, which allows access to an island at low tide, numerous tidal pools for wading and swimming and pet-friendly shops, galleries, and restaurants where you can have a lobster dinner with Fido. Also here is Acadia National Park. By the way, the National Park Service says that “Pets are usually permitted in parks providing they are either restrained on a leash (not exceeding 6 feet in length), caged, or crated at all times. Pets can be restricted further by specific park regulations. Please check with the park(s) of your interest.”

CARMEL/MONTEREY, CALIF. Quiet and picturesque, Carmel is also close to outdoor attractions such as often-photographed Route I, giant redwoods, and Big Sur. Both Carmel Beach and Delmar Beach allow unleashed pets, and the Cypress Inn, run by Doris Day, welcomes pets and has a helpful concierge who can direct you to other pet-friendly restaurants and activities in the area.

NILES, MICH. Those looking to pamper their pooch can try the Doggie Drive-Thru. In addition to a dog/cat wash, a canine swimming pool, and a nanny service for those who need to shop without their pets, the menu offers a selection of fast food only a pet could love, including doggie burgers, beef-flavored fries, wheat pizza, and even chicken- or liver-flavored Italian ices.

Packing Your Pet’s Suitcase

Six things to bring along to make the trip more pleasant for both of you.

1 Fresh water

2 Your pet’s regular food: an abrupt change in diet can make your pet ill

3 Grooming supplies

4 First-aid kit

5 Beach towel: in case your dog wants to swim

6 Sunglasses and hats: models made to fit animals can prevent premature aging of pets’ eyes (but then again, not every pet wants to look like a movie star)

Travel With or Without Pets: 25,000 Pets-R-Permitted Accommodations, Petsitters, Kennels & More! (Annenburg Communications; eighth ed.; $13.95; 310-374-6246) is a sort of Yellow Pages of hostelries in the United States, Canada, and Mexico that, under certain circumstances and with advance notice, accept pets