Happy 4th Of July 2021!

Wishing everyone a fun and frolicsome 4th of July as the country recognizes the birth of our nation.

We’ve come a ways from last July 4th, when travel was way down and gatherings were – at least supposed to be – kept within our pandemic bubbles.

This year, thanks to COVID vaccines, holiday celebrations can be safer and larger.

Here’s some stats on how far we’ve come:

• According to the CDC, 67% of U.S. adults have gotten at least one vaccine dose. Among Americans 12 and older, 64% have gotten at least one shot.

• According to the results of the Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index a year ago versus today in regard to how folks feel about returning to pre-coronavirus lives:

June 26-29, 2020: Large to moderate risk – 70%, Small to no risk – 29%

June 25-28, 2021: Large to moderate risk – 28%, Small to no risk – 72%

• AAA projected holiday travel this weekend will be almost back to pre-pandemic levels —  just 2.5% lower than in 2019.

• An expected 43.6 million Americans will drive to their destinations, the highest on record for this holiday and 5% more than the previous record set in 2019.

• And air travel is definitely bouncing back – TSA reports it screened more people on July 1 and 2 than it did on those dates in 2019!

Have an awesome holiday and make sure you tune in for PBS’ A Capitol Fourth tonight!

I’ll be holding down the fort at my backyard today 🙂

Pride Journey: Palm Springs

Joey Amato in Palm Springs (photos: Joey Amato)

Guest post by LGBTQ travel journalist Joey Amato

Palm Springs is one of those destinations that you never get tired of. I’m not sure if it’s the landscape, or the abundance of over-the-top gayness that makes the city truly magical. On my most recent visit to the desert gay mecca, I attended Palm Springs Pride, an event headlined this year by TLC and Kristine W. This year was the largest pride celebration in the city’s history. I even had the opportunity to meet Palm Springs Mayor Robert Moon.

First impressions are everything and I had forgotten how easy Palm Springs airport is to navigate. Within minutes after walking off the plane, you can be laying poolside at your hotel or shopping along the boutique and art gallery heavy Palm Canyon Drive.

I was visiting with my friend and fellow journalist Josh Rimer, who was named Mr. Gay Canada 2019. He and I met on a media trip in Phoenix/Tempe and have traveled to Columbus, Ohio together as well. Visiting a destination like Palm Springs is more fun if you travel with someone, unless you are an extreme extrovert, which neither Josh nor I are. Having traveled together in the past made this visit fun and enjoyable.

After checking in at Alcazar Palm Springs, we headed straight for the Opening Night Pride Party at Trina Turk, which was hosted by Brandon Liberati and Craig Ramsay. The party drew a who’s who of Palm Springs glitterati. Every year, Trina Turk donates a portion of proceeds from items sold during the event back to the pride organization.

Joey Amato with Mayor Robert Moon

Before heading out on the town, grab dinner a Trio, a staple in Palm Springs since 2009. In fact, the first time I visited the city almost a decade ago, I dined at Trio. Josh and I decided to share a few starters including the Coachella Valley Dates and Ahi Tuna Tower. We were both hesitant to order the dates as they are filled with blue cheese, which neither one of us are a big fan of, but they turned out to be delicious. The blue cheese complimented the sweetness of the dates which simply melt in your mouth. Trio also hosts one of the best parade-viewing parties in town, so if you come to pride in 2020, be sure to make a reservation.

Palm Springs nightlife is truly one of the best experiences in the country. There is a bar or club for every type of person, ensuring that whether you are LGBT or Q, you will fit in. Arenas Road has emerged as the epicenter of nightlife in the city with venues including Hunters, Chill Bar, Quadz, Stacy’s, The Eagle and BlackBook all within a 2-block radius. Other nightlife venues are scattered throughout the city and in neighboring Cathedral City.

After a night of partying, retire back to the Alcazar for a restful night’s sleep before heading out to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway to get a bird’s eye view of the city. I’ll admit, I don’t like heights nor roller coasters, so the tram made me nervous. The ten-minute journey to the top, aboard a rotation car is quite the experience. There are 5 towers along the way and as the car passes each tower it swings back and forth, sometimes slightly, other times, enough to make you a bit queasy. A little side note, the temperature is at least 20 degrees cooler on top of the mountain, so dress accordingly. Josh and I wore our traditional tank top attire and were a bit chilly to say the least.

Located adjacent to Arenas Road is Johannes, a lovely restaurant owned by chef Johannes Bacher. The modern décor is accented by the establishments menu which includes an assortment of house specialty Schnitzel. Hailing from Austria, Johannes brought his favorite dish to Palm Springs and it quickly became a favorite among the locals. Of course, we had to try some, and I can tell you, it does live up to the hype. I don’t remember the last time I saw schnitzel of any kind on a menu, outside of a German restaurant, which I learned is a different type of preparation. Another one of my favorites at Johannes was the Grilled Marinated Peaches & Burrata. I’d give that a try if you are looking for a lighter option.

Music lovers should also take note that Palm Springs is the gateway to Coachella and Stagecoach Festival, two of the largest outdoor music festivals in the country. Stagecoach has grown into the premier country music festival in the United States since its inception in 2007. The three-day event will take place April 24-26 and feature headliners Eric Church, Carrie Underwood and Alan Jackson.

Palm Springs is a destination that always lives up to my expectations. Whether you are looking to party until dawn, relax by one of the dozens of pools around town or go hiking in nearby Joshua Tree National Park, the destination really does offer something for everyone.

Enjoy the Journey!

Joey Amato is the publisher of Pride Journeys, a website dedicated to LGBTQ travel. Joey has spent over a decade in LGBTQ media and public relations and currently resides in Indianapolis, Indiana. He can be reached at joey@pridejourneys.com

News Round-Up: August 21, 2019

Some news items you might have missed:

Instagram: Hubby Michael and I (above) are traveling today to Barcelona for a few days before we head out on the Mediterranean via Atlantis Cruises. Long travel day from Sin City to Barcelona, but looking forward to playing in the ‘City of Counts’ again. I’ll be sharing the adventure along the way…:)

• kenneth-in-the-212: Every Wednesday, Kenneth has the goods to get us over Hump Day – #WrestleWednesday

Twitter: Donald Trump told reporters today his administration is “very seriously” looking at changing the Constitution through executive order. p.s. you can’t…

Geekwire: LinkedIn blocked or removed 21.6 million fake accounts on its platform from January to June of this year, a sign that the Microsoft-owned social network is actively fighting some of the same issues that have plagued Facebook, Twitter and others.

Boy Culture: Matt Rettenmund has more peeks at Renée Zellweger and Finn Wittrock as Judy Garland and Mickey Deans in Judy. The film lands in theaters September 27.

Good Morning America: GMA announced the next cast of Dancing with the Stars, which includes former ‘liar in chief’ Sean Spicer, Queer Eye’s culture guy Karamo Brown, Christie Brinkley, and more.

Icelandair Features Gay Couple In New Ad Spot

While Southwest Airlines has a few snags to work out in the way they deal with LGBTs, Icelandair’s new commercial makes it clear how important inclusive values are to the carrier.

The airline’s latest spot features a gay couple enjoying the culture and nature of the Nordic nation.

From the Iceland Monitor:

“Icelandair’s customers are as diverse as they are many. We think it’s only natural to reflect that in our marketing material and therefore aim for a marketing approach that reaches certain groups and is suitable for certain media,” explains Jón Skafti Kristjánsson, brand manager at Icelandair.

He says this ad is not aimed specifically at queer people. “We just think it’s natural and normal for advertisement to portray diversity. LGBTI+ people enjoy travelling just as much as others, of course. In fact, they might have a slightly higher frequency in traveling than other groups.”

Watch the ad below.

Funny: Actual Complaints From Dissatisfied Travel Agency Customers

Via Facebook, these are actual complaints received by Thomas Cook Vacations from dissatisfied customers:

1. “They should not allow topless sunbathing on the beach. It was very distracting for my husband who just wanted to relax.”

2. “On my holiday to Goa in India, I was disgusted to find that almost every restaurant served curry. I don’t like spicy food.”

3. “We went on holiday to Spain and had a problem with the taxi drivers as they were all Spanish.”

4. “We booked an excursion to a water park but no-one told us we had to bring our own swimsuits and towels. We assumed it would be included in the price.”

5. “The beach was too sandy. We had to clean everything when we returned to our room.”

6. “We found the sand was not like the sand in the brochure. Your brochure shows the sand as white but it was more yellow.”

7. “It’s lazy of the local shopkeepers in Puerto Vallartato close in the afternoons. I often needed to buy things during ‘siesta’ time — this should be banned.”

8. “No-one told us there would be fish in the water. The children were scared.”

9. “Although the brochure said that there was a fully equipped kitchen, there was no egg-slicer in the drawers.”

10. “I think it should be explained in the brochure that the local convenience store does not sell proper biscuits like custard creams or ginger nuts.”

11. “The roads were uneven and bumpy, so we could not read the local guide book during the bus ride to the resort. Because of this, we were unaware of many things that would have made our holiday more fun.”

12. “It took us nine hours to fly home from Jamaica to England. It took the Americans only three hours to get home. This seems unfair.”

13. “I compared the size of our one-bedroom suite to our friends’ three-bedroom and ours was significantly smaller.”

14. “The brochure stated: ‘No hairdressers at the resort.’ We’re trainee hairdressers and we think they knew and made us wait longer for service.”

15. “When we were in Spain, there were too many Spanish people there. The receptionist spoke Spanish, the food was Spanish. No one told us that there would be so many foreigners.”

16. “We had to line up outside to catch the boat and there was no air-conditioning.”

17. “It is your duty as a tour operator to advise us of noisy or unruly guests before we travel.”

18. “I was bitten by a mosquito. The brochure did not mention mosquitoes.”

19. “My fiancée and I requested twin-beds when we booked, but instead we were placed in a room with a king bed. We now hold you responsible and want to be re-reimbursed for the fact that I became pregnant. This would not have happened if you had put us in the room that we booked.”

Two men find a way to work around excess baggage fees on airline

So – crazy or genius?

Two men flying from Singapore to Sydney were stopped at the airport check-in counter and told their luggage was over-weight and they would have to pay a $130 fee to check the bag.

“Totes no prob” the guys said.

The two stepped to the side of the counter and began putting on as much of the excess clothing as they could. From Yahoo Travel:

Piece by piece, the men started taking items out of their bag and putting them on.

In the end, the boys were wearing multiple layers of underwear, sweaters, jackets, and hats.

Our favorite part is the pair of shoes tucked into one mans pants.

After all was said and worn, their bag was lighter, and they were spared the extra baggage fee.

After their shenanigans, an airline staff member warned the pair and was overheard saying, “I am going to come to the gate and make sure you are still wearing everything.”

Alex Chacon’s epic 360° “selfie” from over 36 countries in 600 days

World traveler Alex Chacon

36 countries, 600 days, 5 motorcycles, and 125,946 miles.  That’s the basis for the most epic travel “selfie” compiled by hottie Alex Chacon.

The footage, taken with a GoPro camera and a stick, is gorgeous.  The three minute video  opens a window to what must have been an amazing adventure.

From the YouTube description: Alex Chacon is on a Modern Motorcycle Diaries driving his motorcycle over 200,000+ Km crossing 75+ borders around the world to the most remote and undiscovered places on earth on this charitable expedition.

Find more about Alex and his travels at www.ModernMotoDiaries.com

Miami Beach says ‘Hey!’

Hubby Michael and I on Miami Beach for a moment.  Merry, merry everyone!

Only found about 20 minutes to enjoy the actual ‘beach’ at Miami Beach this trip, but it was beautiful weather.

Nice company, too.

Watching the snow in Chicago now on layover as United Airlines pulls a light bulb from a plane so we can take off and get home.  Delayed two hours so far.

More wine!