Solar Airplane Completes First Leg Of Cross-Country Flight

Solar AirplaneSolar Impulse, the solar airplane that was set to fly across the United States, has taken off and completed the first leg of the journey from California to Arizona. Averaging an altitude of just 10,000 feet and a speed of 40.6 miles per hour, the flight took most of a day to complete. Technically, 14,000 people were on board, albeit virtually via streaming video.

Launching the “Clean Generation” initiative by completing the first leg of their 2013 Across America mission, Pilot Bertrand Piccard took off from Moffett Airfield at NASA’s Ames Research Center early Saturday morning, arriving at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport 18 hours and 18 minutes later.

Promoting greater investment in technologies for sustainable energy production and use, Piccard and Solar Impulse co-founder André Borschberg will alternate flying the five legs of the trip.”We’ve been dreaming about crossing the United States for years – the land of scientific research, innovation and aviation pioneers – and it’s hard to believe it’s really happening.” said Borschberg and Piccard as they walked down the runway in Phoenix.

Coming up in mid-May, the second leg of the journey will fly from Phoenix to Dallas/Fort Worth before continuing on to St Louis then Washington, D.C., before completing the first crossing of the United States by a solar-powered airplane at New York’s JFK airport.

[Photo credit – Solar Impulse]

Haunted Houses Back In St Louis To Kick Off Halloween Season

Haunted Houses

Kicking off Halloween season, haunted houses around the United States are opening their doors to brave travelers who come to experience spooky, scary things that go bump in the night. Between now and October 31, a variety of events around the country make for a great weekend diversion or road trip. Centrally located St. Louis is an easy drive from most mid-west states and offers Scare Fest, a trilogy of terror with three haunted attractions known as some of the best across the nation.

The Darkness is a two-story haunted house in downtown St Louis. Now in its 19th year of screams and scares, The Darkness has flying and flesh-eating zombies, Hollywood-quality sets and animated zombie effects and more. Included is admission to their Monster Museum and TerrorVisions 3-D, one of America’s first 3-D haunted houses featuring freaky crazed clowns in a 3-D environment where the walls appear to be moving, floors are floating and everything is right in the face of visitors.


The Haunting of Lemp Brewery takes visitors several stories below ground into real caves and caverns, just a block away from the Anheuser-Busch Brewery. In an interactive pre-show, sprits and ghosts of brewery founder William Lemp come back from the underworld to warn visitors of demons that haunt the caves under the brewery.




The Screampark in Fenton has the longest maze of scare inducing “hauntings” in the country that last more than one hour and feature more live actors than any other haunted house. New this year are Twisted Torture 3D, Demons Dominion, Grisly’s Gore Zone, the Zombie Town theme for the haunted hayride and the world’s largest Famous Faces Pumpkin Display.


Find zombies, ghosts, haunted houses or more at HauntWorld, a site that has listings for the United States and Canada as well as international attractions in the UK and other parts of the world.

[Flickr photo by dehub]

Empty auto dealerships mean new attractions for travelers

Auto dealerships, smacked by the recession, have shut down across the country, but many of those buildings are coming back to life. These large, empty buildings have become restaurants, schools, yoga studios and even art galleries. It’s not just empty dealerships – shuttered businesses of all kinds are giving way to new attractions that can add color to any trip. Just down the road from me, an empty commercial spot on Central Park West became home to a 10-artist exhibition for several weeks. These are the surprises that can turn any vacation into something truly memorable.

The opportunities aren’t just in New York; you can find them around the country. Art students from the Columbus College of Art & Design in Ohio have taken advantage of an empty local dealership to bring a new energy to an empty space. The school has invested $8.3 million in the space.

If you find yourself needing a yoga fix in Los Angeles, check out the Golden Bridge Yoga Studio, which occupies an empty dealership. You can dine in one at NEO in St. Louis.

[Photo by David Hilowitz via Flickr]

NYC tops U.S. list of most expensive cities

It’s not exactly shocking to see that New York City is the most expensive city in the United States. Groceries, gasoline and other items tend to run a tad more than twice the national average. Whether you rent or buy, you’ll spend a fortune in this city, where the average price for a home is $1.1 million and an apartment, on average, will cost $3,400 a month.

So, how can so many bloggers live here? Remember: these are averages. That means someone has to be on the underside of them.

Housing prices were also among the reasons why San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. worked their way into top spots on the list. Average home prices shot past $600,000 in all four of these cities. In Austin, the average home price is a much more modest $226,998, and it’s even more comfortable in Nashville, at $201,020.

The measure used to determine the cost of leaving in each of the cities is based on expenses in six categories: groceries, housing (rent/mortgage), healthcare, utilities, transportation and miscellaneous items. The prices of 57 goods in these categories were used.Six of the most expensive cities in the country are in California, with four of them among the top 10. Texas has four – Austin, San Antonio, Houston and Dallas. Most of the costliest cities are on the two coasts, though Chicago (14), Las Vegas (18), Phoenix (25) and St. Louis (35) made the top 40.

The most surprising appearance on the list of most expensive places to live is Detroit. Even though it’s plagued by unemployment of 16.7 percent, utilities are expensive. Electricity costs an average of $243.56 a month, compared to a mere $141.64 in Atlanta.

The ten most expensive cities on the list are:

  1. New York City
  2. San Francisco
  3. San Jose
  4. Los Angeles
  5. Washington DC
  6. San Diego
  7. Boston
  8. Philadeplhia
  9. Seattle
  10. Baltimore

Check out the full list here.

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[Photo via MigrantBlogger]

Passenger alleges TSA harassed him, records questioning with iPhone

iPhone – a tool for freedom?

When Steve Bierfeldt was pulled aside and questioned by Transportation Security Administration at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport in March, he activated an audio recording application on his iPhone and recorded the entire conversation. Bierfeldt was carrying $4,700 in cash, campaign donations for Ron Paul, and contends that the TSA both harassed and unlawfully detained him.

Bierfeldt was taken to a windowless room and questioned for nearly 30 minutes. A partial transcript of the interrogation shows Bierfeldt continually asking his legal rights, while agents continued to press him. At one point an agent says, “You want to play smartass, and I’m not going to play your f**king game.”

Though Bierfeldt was eventually allowed to leave and catch his flight, American Civil Liberties Union have filed a lawsuit against Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, using his recorded questioning as evidence of unlawful detainment and harassment.

[Via CNN]