Saturday, April 19, 2008

When you begin your search for lodging near Yosemite National Park you will probably find a ton of misinformation from hotel and motel operators, many toting the fact they are located at the gates to the park. The truth is many of those businesses are close, if you consider 30 miles close to anything. However, I did find a lodge that is true to its words. The Yosemite View Lodge in El Portal is only a mile or so from the actual gates to the park, that is if you travel via highway 140 from the town of Mariposa. Yosemite View Park is actually a good place to stay without actually staying in the park.

The last time I stayed at a motel near Yosemite was in the town of Mariposa, again, thirty miles from the gates to the park. I stayed in a Best Western (same owners of the Yosemite View Lodge.) I was unimpressed; Yosemite View Lodge had changed my whole idea of overnight lodging near Yosemite. I stayed in room 2007, which had a loft with a pink spiral staircase (not my first choice of colors). The stairs lead to the loft which had a queen size bed and a television. The main room had a mini kitchen which is a plus when you have children and a flat panel television, not a good one, but nonetheless it was a welcome relief from the normal motel/hotel type televisions. You will be hard pressed to get any cell phone service so check with your carrier. The lodge doesn’t offer internet service, so the nearest internet hot spot is in Yosemite Valley (inside the park) about 14 miles away.

When you check into the lodge if you are looking for any special treatment, forget about it. They will check you in and move on to the next person. I wish I could give them high marks for personal service, but I’ve had better service in some of the smaller lodges I've checked into. Housekeeping appeared to have a shortage of face cloths because after housekeeping cleaned room 2007 they didn’t leave face cloths, only towels (apparently I drew the short straw) but hey, they did wash my dishes…. So, I put in an order for a few face cloths, after all, I had my two little girls with me ages 4 and 10 and needed clean face cloths… None appeared until housekeeping cleaned up the room on the next day, except this time they did not wash the dishes, so I guess you can’t have both.

I really like the Yosemite View Lodge even though it had problems with its service. The rooms are nice and clean, you can’t beat the views, and if you arrive in the winter you might just get to play in the snow. I will have to stay at Yosemite View Lodge in the summer and use one of their many pools; including the inside heated pool the lodge keeps open during those bitter cold winters. After all, you are two thousand feet above sea level. BTW: The entrance fee to Yosemite National Park is 20 dollars per car load, which is good for seven days and is worth every penny.

I was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania but grew up in a small city named Camden in New Jersey. When you enter Camden via the Benjamin Franklin Bridge or the Walt Whitman Bridge there are signs that read: “welcome to Camden watch our rebirth”…. Normally I write articles alerting you of great places one should visit...sadly this is not one of those stories. I really wish I could tell you Camden is a great place to visit and tour, but unless you like taking your life into your own hands, Camden, New Jersey probably should be avoided at all cost.

You see 40 years ago Camden, New Jersey was a rising star. I remember walking the streets in total safety; sometimes leaving the front door unlocked and not having a fear in the world, except for the occasional bully who thought it was fun to smack me around from time to time. I was proud to call Camden my home. I attended John G.Whittier Elementary School on Chestnut Street, moved on to Morgan Village Middle School, and finally graduated from Camden High School, the “Castle on the Hill.” I felt relativity safe attending all three schools. Now each of those schools are encircled by a fence, and by now when you enter my Alma Mater you are met by metal detectors and uniformed security guards.

I had to travel back to Camden this month (February) for a family emergency. My mother, who refuses to leave Camden because all of her friends live here and it is all she knows, had a heart attack and was admitted to Cooper Hospital in Camden. On the night I arrived, my flight touched down at Philadelphia International Airport at 11:02. I headed straight over the Ben Franklin Bridge to the hospital to check on her status and let her know that I was there for her. After visiting my mother I wanted (needed) to see if Camden had changed in any way, so I drove around the old neighborhood to get a firsthand look. Boy was I surprised at what I saw. At 1AM the streets were like a scene from the movie “Night of the Living Dead.” People were walking the streets trying to make eye contact with me or any other car as they passed by. I even saw one guy carrying a vacuum cleaner. Where he was going with a vacuum at 1 o’clock in the morning was a guess, but he didn’t appear as though he worked for a cleaning service.

If you drive around Camden in the daytime, you will see city blocks with either demolished buildings or abandoned homes everywhere. Now to Camden’s credit they are trying to change things. For instance, the city built an aquarium near the riverfront, which includes a symphony hall and an events center that was named Tweeter Center. The events center will soon be called the Susquehanna Bank Center. The old RCA Victor building is now loft apartments where the cost of the apartments doesn’t seem to match the economy of the city. But some of the lofts offer great views of the Philadelphia Skyline, even though they are a few blocks from the Camden County Jail and less than a mile from a state of New Jersey Correctional Facility, which was built on the same land one of my old houses, was located. But alas you can’t put lipstick on a pig and call it beautiful. I wish Camden City officials much luck turning my old city around, but to bring about a rebirth you will need to reeducate your residents. Since the beginning of 2008 there has been more than a dozen murders in Camden, the population of Camden is just over 80,000 residents… Scary!

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