Travel Blog


Trucks never slow down

January 12th, 2014 ernie Posted in General Travel Stuff No Comments »

trucks never slow downWhy is it that tractor-trailers pulling huge loads never slow down regardless of what the road conditions are? Trucks never slow down regardless of the conditions. We just came back from traveling between Ottawa and Montreal on a very rainy day with lots of spray and poor visibility. We were passed by several trucks all going over the speed limit without any regard to traffic around them.

It is almost as if they are trying to push you out of the way. The spray from their tires can almost blind you in terms of being able to see the road. All of the rest of the traffic was traveling at approximately 90 to 100 kilometers an hour however the tractor-trailers have to go at least 105 110 kilometers per hour. That means they pretty much pass everything in front of them.

Trucks never slow down – Driving too Close

We saw a couple of cars almost lose it because of the spray from the tractor trailer tires and the slush on the road. These people had to be pretty scared. The other thing we notice is that many drivers of trucks as well as cars tend to drive too close to the next person. They have no time at all to react to any kind of situation and break to avoid chain reaction accident.

Even if you allow space, adequate space between you and The next car, they will always try to pass you and move in front. We try to drive defensively at all times and avoid being involved in a chain reaction accident, however on many roads especially in bad conditions no one slows down and is pretty hard to avoid being involved in a chain reaction accident. Better off to stay home and wait for conditions to improve.

 

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Travel Insurance

January 8th, 2014 ernie Posted in General Travel Stuff No Comments »

Travel Insurance We just purchased our travel insurance for our next trip, actually travel health insurance. Each year it gets more expensive and this is generally due to age and related health issues. We have found that if you have any existing conditions that are stable you can still obtain health insurance, although the price will be higher than it would be if you did not have the health issue. It is all about the risk of a claim and how much money they will be able to make off of you. They may not insure existing conditions, but then you do not want to travel without coverage.

Travel Insurance – Don’t take the Risk

If your particular health issue is not stable, your health insurance for travel purposes is going to be really high and depending on what it is, you may not be able to obtain insurance at all. This is one of the things that you have to deal with if you leave the province to another province or to another country, particularly the United States.

Answer all of the questions carefully and accurately. You do not want the insurance declined because you made a mistake about something. It could be a very expensive mistake!

Travel Insurance and travel health insurance are actually two different things. Travel insurance insures your travel expenses, while travel health insurance covers expenses associated with health claims if you need to go to the hospital or to a clinic. Having experienced major claims several times, we feel that travel health insurance is a definite must, compared to travel insurance.

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Winter Wonderland

December 20th, 2013 ernie Posted in General Travel Stuff No Comments »

Ottawa Canada Winter Wonderland is already here and it is only November. We have not had this much snow in a few years so early.

Winter WonderlandWhile New York City is basking in springlike temperatures, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada is enduring freezing temperatures with lots of snow. The Christmas lights look beautiful reflecting on the snow and the skiing is wonderful. However the snow began falling in November and never melted. It is now April and we still have all of this snow to deal with. It looks nice until you have to shovel the stuff. Fortunately I have a snow blower, but I feel sorry for the folks who must shovel it.

Winter Wonderland – Too Much Snow Already

Winter Wonderland Most of the snow showing on this picture and the previous one has fallen before winter even started. We have at least 3 feet of snow on the lawn, with some snowbanks pushed up by the snowplow by at least 8 feet high. If this keeps up it is going to be truly a long winter. Which is exactly what happened this year 2013/2014. It is early April now and we still have lots and lots of snow. The Canadian polar vortex stayed with us for a long time this year.

For more posts about Canada and Ottawa, click here.

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Snowbirds Taxed

July 25th, 2013 ernie Posted in General Travel Stuff No Comments »

Canadians traveling to the US and other countries need to understand the rules when they are out of the country to avoid having to pay a lot more tax than they should. Snowbirds taxed at higher rates make investments very risky as a result.  Here is what we have found and will update this as time goes on and more information becomes available.

Snowbirds Taxed – Substantial Presence Test

To meet the substantial presence test, you must have been physically present in the United States on at least:

  1. 31 days during the current year, and
  2. 183 days during the 3 year period that includes the current year and the 2 years immediately before. To satisfy the 183 days requirement, count:
    • All of the days you were present in the current year, and
    • One-third of the days you were present in the first year before the current year, and
    • One-sixth of the days you were present in the second year before the current year.

Here is the link

http://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc851.html

The page was last updated Dec 19,2012

 

Current Ontario rules allow 212 days out of province per year for Ontario with no consequences

Current US rules allow 182 days per year with a 3 year average of 120 days without need for visa or consequences

Read below for proposed changes and tax consequences within the USA. No real consequences regarding tax for Canadians who over stay just loss of benefits.

***** *A proposed travel law going through the U.S. Senate could have serious tax consequences for Canadian snowbirds, experts say.

* * * *The good news is that the JOLT Act, (Jobs Originated through Launching Travel), would allow Canadian retirees to spend up to eight months, or 240 days, each year in the U.S. without a visa. That’s almost two months longer than the current 182-day annual limit. The bad news is that snowbirds who spend that long in the U.S. may be required to pay U.S. taxes.

“It looks like a great deal. I can be in Palm Springs for 240 days., but they didn’t tell you that it comes with a very high tax cost,” Roy Berg, international tax lawyer at Moodys Gartner Tax Law in Calgary, said in an interview.

The changes, part of a U.S. immigration reform bill introduced in the Senate on April 15, are likely to become law, but it is not clear when they would take effect, observers say.

Would-be holders of the so-called Snowbird or Canadian retiree visa could become subject to U.S. income tax and estate tax, “and would, therefore, inadvertently light the fuse on the Snowbird Visa tax bomb,” Berg wrote in a recent article.

Under the current rules, those who spend more than 182 days out of 365 days in the calendar year, or more than 120 days per year on average over a three-year period, may be considered a U.S. resident for tax purposes.

The U.S. also imposes an estate tax on the value of certain individuals’ worldwide assets owned at death, Berg said. The estate tax could take effect even for someone who lives in the U.S. for a brief time, depending on the circumstances.

Kevin Nightingale, partner at tax consulting firm MNP, a specialist in U.S. and Canadian tax, agrees that the consequences may be serious.

“Canadians who are going to take advantage of these provisions have to be careful because if they stay in the U.S. for long amounts of time, they will be treated as U.S. residents for tax purposes,” Nightingale said.

Staying out of the country for more than 212 days can also put eligibility for health insurance at risk in Ontario, he added.

Snowbirds are typically advised to file a Form 8840, Closer Connection Exception statement with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, said Michael MacKenzie, executive director of the Canadian Snowbird Association, which has about 75,000 members.

“Regular snow birds are very aware of the tax consequences with respect to the current situation, so I’m quite confident they would understand there would be an issue if they spent longer in the U.S.,” MacKenzie said.

He said that the association has been in discussions with U.S. lawmakers to ensure that tax changes would follow the proposed visa changes.

The aim of the bill is to boost the travel industry, which currently employs about one in eight Americans.

The expanded visa would be eligible to Canadian citizens who are age 55 or older, have a residence in Canada, own or rent a residence in the U.S., and will not work or seek social assistance benefits during their stay in the U.S.

Those who are outside of Ontario for more than 212 days in a 12-month period because they are studying, working, vacationing, or doing missionary work, can apply for continuous OHIP eligibility.

The Canadian Snowbird Association estimates that there are over 500,000 Canadians that spend the winter in Florida each year. It defines snowbirds as those spending 31 nights or more in a southern destination.

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Hermosa Beach California

April 19th, 2013 ernie Posted in General Travel Stuff No Comments »

Hermosa Beach CaliforniaWe visited Hermosa Beach in California in early April on a rather windy day. There were not too many people on the beach on this particular day, although there were a couple of couples surfing in the  water with wet suits. This is a huge beach that runs for at least a mile or perhaps longer with beautiful sand and very wide. There is also a wide sidewalk that runs along the length of the beach for people to ride their bikes and also stroll along enjoying the sun and the sites.

It can accommodate thousands of people easily.Hermosa Beach Hermosa beach is actually a suburb of Los Angeles and is about 20 minutes from LAX airport.

There is also a short street closed off to car traffic with many restaurants. Although we were there on a cool day, all of the restaurants were open for business and there seemed to be lots of local people who were out for lunch, having a beer and just relaxing over lunch. We can just imagine how busy this area is in the summer time when the beaches are crowded. There is a large selection of different kinds of foods at these restaurants, something for everyone.

Hermosa Beach California – Biking

The bike path runs along the beach and separates the beach from the houses along the beach from the beach itself. There are lots of really nice beach homes along the beach, some, I am sure well over a million dollars in value. We saw lots of people biking along the bike path as well as many people walking their dogs or just going for a walk. Looks like a great place to spend a week in the summer time.

More details for those people looking for General travel info, click here.

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Papaya Tree in Palm Springs

March 12th, 2013 ernie Posted in General Travel Stuff No Comments »

Papaya Tree in Palm SpringsThis Papaya Tree in Palm Springs was planted from seed in the backyard of someone’s home in Palm Springs along a golf course. The conditions are excellent for papaya’s with the warm sun and lots of water. They are watered from both the golf course as well as the watering from the persons property. They get the hot western sun every day and lots of sun, since Palm Springs receives more sun than just about any other location in the US.

Our friend had no idea if they would grow or not since they were planted from seed. They are not native to Palm Springs and they are not generally grown in the area. They grow in areas were there is a lot of natural rainfall and lots of sun which usually means more of a rainforest type of climate.

Papaya Tree in Palm Springs – Sex

These trees can be either sex, change sex and have both sexes on the same tree. This makes it ideal for this plant to actually have fruit growing on the tree. We have not found out how many fruit each tree will have each year and they only last a couple of years. This one has 42 papaya’s on it which is a lot more than any of the locals have ever heard of.

The fruit will be ripe once the skin begins to turn yellow. We cannot wait to give these gigantic fruits a try. We originally wrote this post when the papaya was green. Since then we have been able to actually try one of the papaya’s and found it to be excellent. Sweet, firm with lots of juice and no seeds. We ate the fruit in pieces as well as with cereal and mixed with other fruit. It was all good and we a re looking forward to trying a few more before we have to leave to head home.

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Sink Hole Swallows Man and House in Florida

March 4th, 2013 ernie Posted in General Travel Stuff No Comments »

Can you imagine sleeping in your bed and waking up as a sink hole opens up and swallows you, your bed and your house! The sink hole swallows man and house in Florida. This is what happened to one man and his body has not been recovered. In fact his house and the house beside it has been condemned because the sink hole threatens to engulf both homes as it continues to expand.

No one will go into the sink hole to recover the body because it is too dangerous! Most likely the family will erect a memorial nearby. They have lost everything including their family member! More information to come as this story develops.

Sink Hole Swallows Man and House in Florida

Turns out there are many different kinds of sink holes. The one that swallowed this man was formed by water seeping thought the limestone under his house for many years. This apparently a pretty common thing in Florida. There are many sink holes of this type every year in the state.

Other sink holes are formed by broken water mains that go undetected for months or years. They may have a small leak which gradually undermines the area around the leak until the surface gives way suddenly.

Sink holes also form when flooding undermines roads and parking lots. These are sudden and easily anticipated due to the massive amount of flooding that usually takes place from storms.

For more General travel information, click here.

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Safelite Autoglass Repair

February 4th, 2013 ernie Posted in General Travel Stuff No Comments »

Safelite Autoglass RepairJust had a stone chip repaired on my car’s windshield. The shop I went to was Safelite Autoglass Repair. I know it was a Monday morning, but they took me in at 9:00 am and I was finished 20 minutes later! This is the third time I used their services and I have been more than satisfied each time. They offer great service and each time, I was able to have my car serviced within 30 minutes of arriving at their facility.

I choose to go into their repair depot, but for $20 more I could have had their Safelite service at my location. Talk about service!

Safelite Autoglass Repair

Safetlie Satelite Auto Glass RepairThis repair is under warranty for as long as I own the car and if the windshield cracks, they will subtract the cost of the original repair from the cost of the new windshield. Coverage is across the US in all states and also in Canada at companies displaying the Safelite logo.  The warranty is excellent and since we have used this service multiple times we are more than satisfied with this company and their service.

If you are Canadian a new windshield is going to cost $850 in Canada, while in Palm Springs where these repairs were done, the cost is $247! Go figure! They are located at 1243 N GENE AUTRY TRAIL PALM SPRINGS CA 92262.
Tel. 760-779-5583

For more general travel stuff, click here.

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Writing on blogs

January 29th, 2013 ernie Posted in General Travel Stuff No Comments »

Writing on blogsA test of blogging using my iPhone. You can really do a lot with an iPhone including maintaining your blogs while doing the laundry or other activities that involve waiting for something to complete. In this case I was waiting for the dryer to finish its job, but just as easily could have been shopping with my wife and I could be blogging while I was waiting for her to make a decision on a pair of shoes or a new purse. This is a great tool for Writing on blogs.

Writing on blogs

Just trying blogging using my new iPad mini! Works really great! If you are a blogger earning your income from your web sites or just enjoy blogging, then the iPhone or the iPad, either the mini or the regular sized version are great tools of the trade. There is a wordpress app for these devices that let’s you monitor your blogs and makes the activity of reading comments, approving them or deleting them an easy process. Users can trigger updates to the wordpress engine or the plugins that you use as well as update and create new posts.

I have only been using the iPhone for this purpose for the past two months to update myblogs. I really like the idea of being able to take a picture and have it on my blog within minutes. It is basically as soon as i can upload it to the blog.

If I do not have the time or are just not into it that day, I can also send an email to the blog with the picture and it will be posted on my blog as well. Now isn’t that neat? Well best be getting along now and doing some more blogs posts and updates to my other posts.

For more general travel information, click here.

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Living in a Foreign Country

January 21st, 2012 ernie Posted in General Travel Stuff No Comments »

Living in a Foreign CountryWorking and living in a foreign country can be exciting and rewarding while at the same time both you and your family will learn a great deal about how other cultures live,  work and play. With a little planning and knowledge of a foreign countries culture and way of doing business your time in the foreign country can be very successful and  rewarding as well.

Investing and Living in a Foreign Country

Here are a few things that you should keep in mind when you’re planning to do business and contemplate living in a foreign country.

Always investigate the number of state-owned companies and privately owned companies in the sphere of business that you plan to operate. Every culture is different and has a different view of when to do business.

  • Confirm the general business hours of your company as well as a country that you will be living
  • Confirm when lunch usually runs and how long business lunches are typically. Investigate how relationships in business are viewed and handled
  • Management contracts  and negotiations and
  • Social activity away from the job context.

Male-female relationships are often handled differently than your own country both on and off the job. Be very careful how you view female to male relationships in a foreign country. Investigate how and when you should use titles and surnames in business, in private situations as well as in public situations. Investigate the language that will be used for your business transactions.

How to Deal with Hierarchies

Every company as well as society evaluates people by their hierarchy in their business context. You should try to understand both if you will be the host in your country and your position. You also need to understand what the view is and how you should handle yourself in private life versus public life.

You may find that your working space is quite different from the working space that you had in your home country. Check with other in country expats to confirm standards.

Etiquette, protocol and dress code

Multinational companies and most business people are accustomed to dealing with foreigners. There are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Should you shake hands with everyone present in a group, both upon arrival and upon departure
  • At first acquaintance should you exchange business cards at the beginning of a meeting as an introduction or at the end.
  • Confirm the expectation with regards to punctuality and attending meetings
  • In many countries, meetings often begin when the main interested parties have arrived
  • Confirm the dress code for the company that you work with and where you will be conducting business
  • Evaluate when pressure for responses are acceptable and whether it should be subtle or direct
  • In many countries the prerequisite for success in business is to meet for drinks with your colleagues after work.
  • Often during business lunches, subjects of general interest will probably precede the subject of work. Business can usually be discussed at coffee time.
  • If you’re a senior executive, it may be appropriate to invite your staff home  or to a local bar for drinks.
  • If you’re invited to a social gathering you may want to find out whether it is acceptable to accept the invitation or reject it
  • Giving a gift within many cultures is interpreted in many ways. Always investigate when and how you should provide a gift
  • In many countries things are not necessarily as they appear. There will be a method and legitimate way of getting things done in spite of bureaucracy and regulations.

Checklist for living in a foreign country

  • Obtain telephone numbers and addresses of all global hotels shopping centers and service agencies
  • Investigate if there are any special precautions to be taken with regard to food
  • Investigate if there are any special precautions to be taken with respect to drinking the local water
  • Obtain addresses and telephone numbers for local restaurants
  • Obtain telephone numbers and addresses of theaters and museums

Check out personal security requirements

Security in every country, especially in large cities should be taken very seriously. Use common sense in avoiding risky situations, remember that you are in a busy city.

Avoid, especially at night, carrying valuable jewelry or carrying valuable objects. Your shoulder bag should always be worn in front of you. Try to remember that the assailant is probably as scared as you are and it will not hurt you if you give in to what he is asking for. If you see someone who has run into trouble, do not interfere, but try making plenty of noise to frighten the attacker away. If you think you are being followed, try to find a policeman. Remember also that children can be light fingered, so watch your wallets.

Avoid places such as tunnels, quiet alleyways, jostling crowds and dark corners. Stay away from the beaches at night and stay away from any slums at anytime of the day. You must investigate the expected behavior between women and men in your host country. You should also investigate social etiquette and protocol. The laws regarding alcohol, drugs and nightlife should also be well understood.

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Post 911 Security Tab – Are we being Efficient?

September 7th, 2011 ernie Posted in General Travel Stuff 1 Comment »

Over the past few days there have been more and more articles appearing about 9/11 and the World Trade Center plane crashes. We have watched these and in no way at condone this sort of violence and we do not condone any kind of terrorist action. Having said that, what caught our attention is an announcement by the Canadian Government that the 911 Security Tab was $92 billion on various forms of security over the past 10 years!

Are We Spending Efficiently

This ranges from improved security at airports and border crossing points to enhanced CISIS and RCMP security initiatives online and many more that we do not even know about. The good news is that Canada at least  has not had any attacks since 911 and we have also thwarted a couple that could have had disastrous consequences. The bad news is that the tab of this level of security is $92 billion.  This number is probably a drop in the bucket compared to other countries such as the US, Britain, France and Australia.
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Posting by email

August 2nd, 2011 ernie Posted in General Travel Stuff No Comments »

Posting by emailThis is a new post to test the posting by email feature available in WordPress.  Seems to work well once you understand and read all of the details associated with this function. I have only tried posting by email a couple of times from my smart phone and it was really easy. My new smart phone has an app on it to record and convert my voice to text. All I do is make a recording, copy and paste it over to an email and send it. the new post is automatically created in WordPress and posted. Later I need to go back and update the post by adding tags and categories and maybe clean up the wording a bit.

Posting by email – Instructions

You must send the message in plain text which is supported by Firefox, however not sure about safari, or android. I also want to include attachments such as pictures. How do I do that?

The above picture is of a pool in Palm Springs California where we stay for the winter. This is one of my favorite pictures and where we spend a great deal of time.

We both love it there and that is why we decided to include it in this post about posting by email. I plan to soon start taking pictures and sending them by email as well to post on the blog as well as we travel about the country.

Smart phones are really great and one of the best inventions ever made. These phones are really more computers than anything else and they can perform as much as most computers do if not more.

I just recently purchased my smart phone an iPhone 5 and I must say I am super impressed with it. Wish I had made the move some time ago. It is one of the best purchases I have made in a while.

For more general travel information, click here.

 

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Our Travel Blog

December 3rd, 2010 ernie Posted in General Travel Stuff No Comments »

Travel BlogWe love to travel across the USA and Canada. We travel by car and meet many people doing the same thing as well as folks in RV’s and even on motorcycles. You can follow our travels via this blog as well as learn about places that we have been. Traveling is such an enriching experience. You learn how other people live, varying views as well as see exciting vistas, museums, parks and entertainment venues.

We are fortunate that we can take the time to travel and we love driving. For us this is the best way to really see the country and visit many places. Many of our friends think we are crazy, taking on these long driving trips. We think this is because many of them do not like to drive . Or they are the type that must get to their destination as fast as possible.

Travel Blog – Driving Styles

Consider that it takes about 50 hours of straight driving by car to get to California from eastern Ontario. This is assuming multiple drivers, with no storms or car breakdowns to cause delays and no major traffic snarls. Some people we know would do exactly this and not stop until they got there. If you do this type of trip it is going to be grueling and very exhausting.

Now if you spread your trip over ten days, you only need to drive and average of 5 hours a day which is not too bad and you have time then to sight see at places you stop, have a good meal, go for a walk and enjoy yourself. Some times you might drive 10 hours in one day and then stay at one location for a few days. We often do this, particularly when we are crossing the prairies.

Schedules

Avoid setting an aggressive schedule and allow for delays either by nature, man made or mechanical breakdowns. You might need to make reservations at some locations that are busy , however for the most part just stop when you feel like it. Even during the busy summer months you can do this, however it is a good idea to call ahead and make a reservations so that you do not have to search for a place to stay. This has happened to us on several occasions, so we try to decide by 2pm were we want to stay, and then call ahead to reserve a room. Works well for us.

Flexibility

Flexibility and compromise are the key words when you are traveling with a companion, whether it is a long time spouse or a good friend. Be ready to pull over if one or the other wants to stop for any reason, whether it is a bathroom break, time to stretch or they saw something that looks interesting and would like to spend a few hours sight seeing.

Safety

This is important for many reasons. Take your time , stop if the weather is bad, avoid traffic jams and heavy traffic by leaving late or starting early. Don’t leave anything in your car at night to attract thieves. Stay in a good part of town. If it looks sketchy, move on. When going into major cities, make sure you know were you are going, rely on maps and GPS devices.

Have a destination in mind. Be careful were you stop for gas or ask for directions. Always carry water with your, especially in desert areas of Arizona or California and west Texas. It can get pretty hot and if you are stopped for any reason , it can get pretty hot and dry. Carry something to eat with you as well, even if it is just granola bars.  they will not fill you up but they will keep you from being hungry.

There are lots more suggestions for traveling by car and we will add them from time to time. Feel free to add your own via comments that you have from your own travel experiences.

For more travel suggestions, click here.

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