Monday, August 28, 2017

Black Snow Apocalypse. Now.

Imagine bright, white snow, gently covering a mountain. Now imagine all that snow black, dirty. Melting hard ice, covered by an accumulation of pollution and dust from air. This is reality.

End of August is not great time to ski in the northern hemisphere. One of the few open places is Hintertux Gletscher in Austria. But even they have mostly melting ice and accumulation of dirt. Black snow.

In other news, my right leg feels finally OK to ski a bit on. However, I fell on top of my camera on the slopes, and now the left leg is very painful. I was unable to ski the next day. I succeeded in getting out of bed and sitting in a car seat, but it wasn't easy.

By the way, I can recommend once again the Spa Neu-Hintertux hotel. It is such a friendly place. Their pool are is wonderful, on the top floor with large windows giving a view to the forest-covered mountains around. And the saunas are even nicer: four different saunas, including a very hot Finnish-style sauna.

Further down in the slopes there's really only dark ice underneath. And it is difficult to distinguish the slope from the equally grey rock fields next to it.

Snow is stored under white plastic, and every night some of it is used to maintain the lower slopes:

Holding my leg after falling on top my camera on the top of the slope:

Further down in the valley, it was very nice!

The pool area at the spa hotel:

Photos and videos (c) 2017 by Jari Arkko. This blog is also available at TGR. Time blogi löytyy myös suomeksi Relaasta.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Underground Hotel Room

This is the world's oldest and biggest hotel room. And it is 64 meters underground, in a cave in Arizona. Sadly, we did not have money to for the night (850 USD) but we did get a tour.

The Grand Canyon Caverns are off the Route 66 south of the Grand Canyon. 35 million years ago water eroded cave passages on this high plateau, leading all the way to the Colorado river. The cave is one of the largest or perhaps the largest dry cavern in the world; there is no longer any water in the system. It is amazing that smoke tests have indicated an air path from the cave to Grand Canyon 97 kilometres away. For more of the history of the cave, see the Wikipedia page.

Interestingly, it estimated that there are about 1000 caves in the Grand Canyon area, but only a bit over 300 of them have been surveyed. And I did not learn how much of the Grand Canyon Cavern is surveyed.

We were busy driving from Flagstaff to LA that day, so we didn't have a whole lot of time to spend in the cave. In addition to the regular tourist tour (45 minutes, 21 USD) that we took, there are spelunking tours (2-3 hours, 100 USD) to the newer cave part discoveries. The maps that I saw were a tiny fraction of the reported length of 97 kilometres, I think that is merely the distance to Grand Canyon.

To get to the cave,  exit I-40 to Route 66 from either Kingman or Seligman. There's also a general aviation airport on site.

After visiting I realised that I had been here before, 35 years ago when touring the western US with my parents and little sister who was maybe seven at the time. I remember that we run into a local cowboy in the bar afterwards, and he gave my sister a small meteorite rock. (Not sure if it really is, but it was heavy, and had smooth metallic forms on the outside that is common in meteorites. Sweet gift in any case.)

Today, tourists enter the cave through an elevator. This is the original entrance to the cave:

The cave also doubles as an emergency shelter, here are the supplies:

A giant sloth was trapped in the cave thousands of years ago. It tried to crawl out, and even today the claw marks are visible on the rock:

A bob cat has also been trapped in the cave:

On the way to the cave, be sure to stop at the Roadkill Cafe. But don't order anything meat-based...

This blog article is also available at the TGR site. Tämä blogi löytyy myös suomeksi Relaasta. Photos and videos (c) 2017 by Jari Arkko. All rights reserved. The video editing and music is from Apple iMovie. For copyright of the music, see

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Sliding from the 70th floor

Take an outside slide from the 70th floor? Yes please. But, we were a bit disappointed when the slide didn't take us all the way down, just to the balcony one floor down.

The 310-meter US Bank Tower recently added a nice observation platform and a glass tube to slide from the 70th floor. Tickets are 19-25 $ depending on the time of your entry. In the middle of a week day there were almost no other customers, so you get the place for yourself. Nice views of the LA downtown areas!

On the way back, we saw aliens. Spot the real alien from the fake one:

Photos and videos (c) 2017 by Jari Arkko and Janne Arkko. All rights reserved. Music from Apple iMovies. For copyright of the music, see

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Mannerheim Bunker

A small announcement in the newspaper -- Mannerheim's bunker to open for visitors. Of course I had to go...

It is a small bunker, underneath the Tamminiemi museum. There's an entrance from the seafront, through the exposed rock face. There are also stairs to the main house. Or were, the house side of this entrance has been closed, and the wooden stairs have collapsed a long time ago.

A damp place. In the recent rains it had flooded. And earlier before they started the renovation, it was half-filled with water. Due to damage, the internal (wooden?) roofs of the bunker rooms no longer exist.

Still, this small bunker manages to pack an interesting maze of small corridors and closets in a tiny space six meters under ground. And the corridor towards the stairs to the house was off-limits, I went inside, of course. But Jarmo went even further and saw the stairs. Photos of them brought to you here in this blog, not for viewing even on the rare official tour!

Worth a visit though. Googling for when they've opened it, the last time was in 2011, so every five or six years there seems to be a way to come and see this.

Photos (c) 2017 by Jari Arkko and Jarmo Ruuth

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Santa Monica Beach

For some reason, one of my favourite places in the greater Los Angeles area is Santa Monica. Maybe it is because on my first trip I stayed there, various fun memories from all my time there. Or the beach.

In any case, Janne and I spent an evening walking on the beach and playing in the waves as the sun was setting. Fun!

We had not planned to do this, so we didn't have swimsuits, but it didn't matter - we went in with our city tour clothes, and it was even more fun that way :-)

Photos (c) 2017 by Jari Arkko

Falcon 9 Booster

When Janne and I were in California, we made a pilgrimage to the SpaceX headquarters. In front the building stands a used Falcon 9 booster. Impressive feat of space technology!

Photos (c) 2017 by Jari Arkko.

Space Shuttle Endeavour

Janne and I managed to see yet another space shuttle, the Endeavour at the California Science Center in Los Angeles. They also have the one remaining external fuel tank on display.

Interestingly, the museum is undergoing expansion, and their new building will house the shuttle, boosters, and the fuel tank fully stacked, in upright position. That will be amazing!

Photos (c) 2017 by Jari Arkko. New building schematics originally downloaded from strxur.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Damn Foot

Getting tired with my foot hurting. Another re-occurrence of the problem in May. For the last two weeks its been hurting again, on several days I've been unable to walk and on others it has been at least disturbing. All tests and X-rays show nothing. So maybe it just hurts...

Photos (c) 2017 by Jari Arkko. All rights reserved.