The West is on Fire: Here’s How Travelers Can Avoid the Burn

Google Map US wildfiresColorado has their most destructive wildfire on record this season, while a massive California blaze is currently threatening Yosemite National Park. Several of Montana‘s most scenic highways were closed this week due to fire conditions, rerouting many travelers and affecting local businesses. Other recent blazes have plagued Idaho, including the popular Sun Valley resort, and Utah. Travelers hoping to visit one of the many excellent national and state parks out west this summer can keep track of current wildfire conditions and closures with a Google Map.

Google’s Crisis Response project provides critical information to the public during a disaster. The wildfires map is regularly updated with info from the US Geological Survey and InciWeb, as well as local resources and shelter information. If you are traveling to an affected area, be sure to check the map as well check for park alerts.

Photo Of The Day: Santa Monica Pier, Transformed

Santa Monica Pier at night
HarshLight, Flickr

Our friends at AOL Travel just published the latest installment of their Best Beach Cruiser Rides, and it focuses on an 8½-mile journey from Santa Monica to Venice Beach in California. The Santa Monica Pier offers a pretty, scenic view of the Pacific Ocean during the day. But at night? The setting sun combines with bright paint schemes and flashy neon lights to create a feast for the eyes.

We’d love to feature your photos and videos on Gadling, so please add them to our Flickr Pool (with Creative Commons licensing!), tag @GadlingTravel on Instagram or email us at OfTheDay@gadling.com.

Breaking Bad Sparks Unlikely Travel Boom

albuquerque sign
Jimmy Emerson, Flickr

TV shows and movies have been inspiring people to travel for decades, and I’m sure many of us can relate to wanting to jet off to Paris or sip wine in Tuscany after seeing some on-screen character do just that.

But travel booms can also happen in the unlikeliest of places. Take for example the hit TV show Breaking Bad, which has sparked a surprising tourism boom in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The show about a high school chemistry teacher turned methamphetamine maker is not exactly a poster child for travel inspiration — in fact, the local tourism board didn’t even promote the show until it started filming its fifth season.

But while some locals dislike being associated with the show’s themes of drugs and violence, it’s hard to deny the boost the show has provided to the local economy. Restaurants where the show films are packed to the brim, candy shops sell rock candy that looks like crystal meth and local guides are run off their feet running Breaking Bad tours across the city.So what other unlikely cities have benefited from being featured on screen? We rounded up three destinations that became popular against the odds.

Detroit, Michigan: 8 Mile. This movie about white rapper Eminem’s attempt to launch his career attracted visitors to Detroit despite the film’s gritty portrayal of the Motor City. Tourists flocked to see the abandoned buildings, alleys embellished with graffiti and desolate landscape depicted onscreen.

Scranton, Pennsylvania: The Office. This long-running comedy was actually taped in California, but the tiny town of Scranton where the show is set experienced a surprising tourism boom as fans traveled to see their favorite landmarks from the show. The town of 76,000 fell on hard times after the coal industry collapsed in the 50s, but the recent TV-related tourism helped revitalize the downtown area with new restaurants and businesses.

Senoia, Georgia: The Walking Dead. This small town 25 miles south of Atlanta became a bustling tourist hub after a TV show about zombies was filmed there. Home to just over 3,000 people, Senoia attracted ten times that number in visitors who wanted to buy zombie-themed t-shirts and drink “Zombie Dark” coffee from the café featured in the show.

Have you ever visited a town because of a show that was filmed there?

The Love Boat Makes Final Voyage

Quail Love Boat
StefanoF, Flickr

The iconic MS Pacific, better known as “The Love Boat,” has made her final voyage.

Purchased for 2.5 million euro by a Turkish ship recycling company and taken to a scrapyard on the Aegean Sea coast of Turkey, the cruise ship will be stripped for metal and parts, as a renovation of the 42-year-old ship would have been too costly.

On the Aaron Spelling comedy, the Pacific Princess sailed between California and the Mexican Riviera from 1977 to 1986, with cruise director Julie, bartender Isaac and Captain Stubing at the helm. The actual ship had been decommissioned years ago and was languishing in Italy’s Genoa port, after sailing for Princess Cruises until 2002 and later Quail Cruises.Take a photo tour of the ship in its glory days here.

Related Stories:
2013 Cruises: River Cruising, Exotic Ports and More Trends for the Year
Seven Ways to Save on Your Next Voyage
The Margaritaville Diaries

The Plague Closes Los Angeles Forest

Angeles National Forest
CDC

Officials evacuated and closed parts of the Angeles National Forest after finding a dead squirrel that was infected with bubonic plague, the BBC reports.

Scientists are currently examining the squirrel to see if it died of the disease or of other causes. Park officials are using insecticides on squirrel burrows to kill off any fleas, which is how the disease spreads from one animal to another. The Twisted Arrow, Broken Blade and Pima Loops of the Table Mountain campgrounds are closed until further notice, although hiking is still permitted.

The plague killed about a third of Europe’s population in the 14th century but is not nearly as active these days. Only four people have contracted the disease in Los Angeles County since 1984. This map from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention shows each case of the plague in the United States since 1970. About 80% were of the bubonic variety and most cases were not fatal, since antibiotic treatment is usually successful. In related news, researchers at the Max Planck Institute in Germany are developing an easy test to detect the plague in its early stages.

As you can see, there are two main clusters. New Mexico gets about half of all the human infections in the U.S. In the 1980s, the worst plague decade, it had slightly more than a hundred cases. Worldwide, most plague cases are in south central Africa and east Asia. People tend to get it while engaged in outdoor activities.