Pictures from Carol’s close call (See Story below)



We all know that Travel is an adventure. Sometimes more than others.

I decided this November was the time for me to finally see Death Valley. Many of you have talked about it but I had never been. Death Valley – the lowest, driest, and hottest place on the Continent. About ten days before my arrival I had heard that they had had a lot of rain so some roads would be closed. Mother Nature was not done yet.

I came in the West side – from the town of Lone Pine – highway 136 which joins in to highway 190. There are a number of summits one must cross and all of them were encased in clouds. No view from the top. Was delighted to run into four coyotes in one flat area that still had water lying. The furry creatures put on quite a show for the tourists. Camped at Stovepipe Wells (just a parking lot really!) Sunday morning I drove north, past the sand dunes and on up the road to Scotty’s Castle. The highway had a lot of debris on it in places where it had clearly been flooded previously. Camped at Mesquite Spring – a very nice campground next to a dry wash and down quite a hill from the highway above. It was a lovely Sunday morning and I decided to wait till Monday to visit the Castle.

Clouds blew in and over the course of the day we had several rain showers – nothing much. Just before dark I walked to the wash as I could hear rushing water. The wash was a raging torrent of muddy water. Amazing. Just after dark there was a knock on my door and it was a Ranger telling me that they were asking people to evacuate the area and move on down to Furnace Creek as there were flash floods in the area. Well I do not like to drive at night but decided I had best suck it up and get out. I never want to drive another road like the one exiting that campground. It was covered in mud and rocks and a rushing river. By now it was pouring down rain with lots of thunder and lightning. Actually the lightning helped you to see the road!! The sixty miles to Furnace Creek was a very LONG drive – lots of bad spots on the road. Sheet lightning everywhere which only made the night darker when it stopped.

I was told by the Emergency workers at the road closure spot near Furnace Creek that I was the last vehicle to make it out of the campground before the road washed out. The rest of the campers and Rangers were stuck there.

Now Furnace Creek is 190 ft. BELOW sea level. I have much to learn but I do know water finds the lowest point so it seemed like a good idea to leave here. Several roads out were closed but I was directed to go a rather long route to get to Pahrump. Even that way did not work as there was a river rushing across the highway. The Policeman said this was the first of five crossings on this road so it was not going to be open for quite some time. And that would be if the road was still there to open!! Back I went to the Armagosa Opera House corner. They thought that #190 might open later in the day or tomorrow. I am in no hurry -I will wait. Later that afternoon we were told we needed to evacuate the area. Highway 95 was now open to Vegas with Pilot Car service. It was still closed to the north with five wash outs and a chemical fire caused by lightning! There were many semi-trucks waiting at the Pahrump intersection. I presume they were headed north where they could not go.

Taking a very long way around I arrived in Pahrump just before dark. I can say I have been to Death Valley but I have a hard time buying the “Driest place” description. There are no words to describe the sheer force of water on the land. It was a site I will not soon forget.

All is well that ends well. I have met some of the Solos group here and they have been very welcoming. Dottie arrives on Sunday as planned and we will all journey back into Death Valley for the 49ers celebrations in November.

Life is good.

Travel Alert — Bluetooth ATM Skimmers

While many of us are planning for the upcoming snowbird season, others are planning to take advantage of our need for cash while travelling.

If you use ATM machines, here’s yet another scam designed to empty your back account.

Brian Krebs — the guru on cybercrime — recently spent 4 days in several resort areas of Mexico researching one of the latest ways to relieve you of your money.

I spent four days last week in Mexico, tracking the damage wrought by an organized crime ring that is bribing ATM technicians to place Bluetooth skimmers inside of cash machines in and around the tourist areas of Cancun. Today’s piece chronicles the work of this gang in coastal regions farther south, following a trail of hacked ATMs from Playa Del Camen down to the ancient Mayan ruins in Tulum.

In front of hacked ATM in Playa del Carmen

In front of hacked ATM in Playa del Carmen

As I noted in yesterday’s story, the skimmers that this gang is placing in hacked ATMs consist of two Bluetooth components: One connected to the card reader inside each machine, and another attached to the PIN pad. Both components beacon out a Bluetooth signal called “Free2Move.” The thieves can retrieve the purloined card and PIN data just by strolling up to the hacked ATM with a smartphone, entering a secret passcode, and downloading all of the collected information.

You can read the rest of this article on his blog.

Take a read through the comments below his article and you’ll find a partial list of the compromised ATMs that Brian found.

A word to the wise: Don’t think that because you’re not travelling to Mexico that your money is safe. Successful techniques like bluetooth skimming are bound to show up in other areas soon, if not already.

Snowbirds Currency Exchange — Is it for you?

3b806c47-c762-4ca3-a4fe-d0732f778f9aAre you a member of the Canadian Snowbird Association?  If you’re not, now might be a good time to check out all the programs and benefits they offer Canadian Snowbirds — like their Currency Exchange Program.

Today the U.S. dollar is trading above $1.32 Canadian dollars (or 0.7575 CAD/USD). (From the Bank of Canada.)

That’s approximately 20% more than the exchange rate we experienced last year around this time:  $1.09 (or 0.9174).

What does this mean for you?
Everything that you will purchase in the U.S. could be 20% more expensive this year, over last year, based on the USD/CAD exchange rate alone. **

We recommend that our members consider enrolling in the Snowbird Currency Exchange (SCE) Program. 

The program offers preferred exchange rates and minimal to no-transfer fees, depending on your CSA membership type.

If you compare the rates over the last year, you’ll notice the SCE rates have been consistently over 200 basis points better than the average of the competition — 3 leading Canadian financial institutions.

Savings example:
If you had transferred $2,000 last month, you have saved approximately $40 on the exchange rate alone PLUS all the savings on the different types of transfer fees.

SCE Fees:

  • CSA Members — $2 per transfer
  • Non-CSA Members — $5 per transfer
  • Lifetime Members — Free

When compared to other methods of exchanging and transferring funds to the U.S., we believe that the SCE Program offers the best solution and value to our members.

In addition to excessive exchange rates and transfer fees charged by the competition, some banks in the U.S. will charge an international transfer-in fee, typically a $15 charge.

Transfers received from the SCE Program WILL NOT be charged international transfer-in fees — it’s that good!

There’s still time to enrol in the SCE Program before the October 1st transfer.

To enrol, please contact our office toll-free at:  1-800-265-3200, or visit to download a SCE Enrolment Form.  


Bob Slack
The Canadian Snowbird Association
The Voice of Travelling Canadians

** Please note:
This email and information contained herein is not a guarantee, prediction or an estimate of future exchange rates or the performance of the Snowbird Currency Exchange Program. The purpose of this email is to compare approximate current USD/CAD exchange rates to the exchange rates experienced around this same time last year

September 2015 Lunch

The September lunch saw a good crowd gather at Nick’s Steak House in Calgary.

Gerry and I haven’t been to an event in awhile — it was fun to see so many familiar faces and to meet some of the new folks.

Our lunch hosts, Fay & John, also organized a tour of Ronald McDonald House after the lunch.

“Seventeen people attended the tour and it was really interesting,” said Fay. “There are 23 suites — each with at least 1 queen bed and an attached bathroom. There is a waiting list all the time.

“The cost per room for the residents is $12.00 per night. The cost to keep the room open for Ronald McDonald House is close to $200.00 per night, so they appreciate all the help they get.

“Some families have stayed for a year or more. Various groups come in each evening to make a meal for all the families, with leftovers providing the lunch the next day. Breakfast is made by the residents, with food that has been donated.

Ch 44 Prez John“There is a play room for young kids, an arcade for teens, and an exercise room for the adults. We were told the furniture is large so parents and kids can cuddle. There is lots to do when the children feel well enough — books, movies, games and a kitchen to bake in.

“We turned in our pull tabs and learned that they are sold and the money is used for whatever is needed in the home,” said Fay. “Thank you to all who help with collecting them.  We turned in over 65 pounds.”

The next lunch is October 14 in Okotoks. Hope you can make it!