A New Way To Fly?

An interesting development is reported by the Sacramento Business News.  Surf Air, a private membership airline headquartered in Santa Monica and flying out of the old McClellan AFB,  is flying round-trips between Santa Rosa, Hawthorne and San Carlos beginning next month, and will add service between Monterey and Hawthorne and San Carlos in July.  On August 24,  they’ll begin round-trips between McClellan and Hawthorne, San Carlos and Santa Barbara. Then in November they’re adding service between Palm Springs and Burbank and Oakland.

A private airline? Affordable?? Well, maybe.  Surf Air’s customers pay a flat monthly fee starting at $1750 for membership and unlimited flights.  If you’re doomed to fly more than three or four times a month, it starts looking downright reasonable.  Add in the sheer pleasure of not having to deal with the major airlines and…well, I’d sure like to try it.

In another development, Pen Air, which is supposed to start service beween Crescent City and Portland later this year, is making nice with the Redding airport folks and has been heard to say they are interested in flying out of AVC.  We’ll see. Stay tuned. 

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The RCMF 2014

Before the memories have faded, I wanted to say something about the Redwood Coast Music Festival,  formerly the Jazz Festival,  that wrapped up a couple of weeks ago. This year we had the added pleasure of being able to show out-of-town friends why Humboldt is so special. 

The headliners were a mixed bag. Dana Fuchs was very theatrical, very talented but left us cold. Curtis Delgado,  on the other hand, was a complete knockout, and I can’t believe I’d never heard of the guy. He has several songs on You Tube. Other knockouts included the Au Brothers and Miskha Lake, both from New Orleans. 

Then there were the dancers. Ah, the dancers.  How do they learn that stuff? And the kids!  If I had learned to dance like that as a kid…You look around and there are a few faces missing from last year. But there are always the kids.  And there will always be more. 

The Music Festival is expected to raise $300,000 for local causes this year. What a wonderful way to spend a Spring weekend1  See you next year.

No Silver Lining

I was surprised,  as was airport management, apparently,  to hear that the Silver Lining restaurant at the Humboldt County Redwoods whatever airport is closed. That’s a big step backward for the folks who have been promoting the airport and while I don’t think many flyers would cancel a flight because their destination didn’t have a coffee shop, it still doesn’t say much for the infrastructure we offer our visitors.

According to the NCJ,  an attempt will be made to find another operator.  That might be difficult.  Most airport restaurants overlook a busy runway where diners can observe takeoffs and landings more often than four times a day. Maybe the County should contract with Dell’ Arte or Access Humboldt or someone else who can produce a light show to resemble a busy airport. At least it would LOOK like the return of normalcy. Stay tuned. 

The Durst Saga

I  got interested in the Durst story because he had lived in Trinidad, although I still don’t know where or for how long or whether he actually owned property there. Someone should do a book about famous people who have sojourned in Humboldt.  I know there was a MLB ballplayer who lived there for awhile, no idea who.

Anyway, I watched the entirety of the HBO series “The Jinx” just for that reason. It was an AWFUL series, well below usual HBO standards.  HBO has pretty much singlehandedly been keeping documentary alive in this country, but this was not a good series. It was BORING! How could such a compelling story be made boring? Too much focus on the producers, too much repetition. Sure enough,  in the middle of the last episode, I actually FELL ASLEEP and awoke to a sports show.  Luckily I taped it and was able to watch the end, which was what  the excitement is all about.  In the last couple of minutes, Durst, wearing a clip-on mike he had apparently forgotten about, visits the restroom and mutters to himself, “Yeah, I killed them all.”

To the filmmakers and to HBO this must have been manna from heaven, also for the prosecutors who wants another shot at him.  He’s in 71 now, so hopefully another charge would keep him locked up for what’s left of his bizarre life. I think it could be argued that a guy muttering to himself in a bathroom is not necessarily telling the truth about anything.  We’ll see how it shakes out.  Personally, yeah I think he did it.  So far he’s bought his way out.  This case will generate media frenzy such as we haven’t seen since Patty Hearst. Too bad they didn’t say more about Trinidad. Might have generated some tourist spending.  LOCO is carrying the links to the LA TImes coverage.

END

Dinner with Dogs??

Do you love dogs?  Sure.

Do you love OPD (Other Peoples’ Dogs)?  Uh, not so much.  

Well, as of January 1, California restaurants with patio spaces will be allowed to serve dogs right along with their owners, assuming the owners are human. This “change” will probably affect Humboldt less than more urban regions  because plenty of local eateries are already allowing dogs. The rules are that the patios must have separate entrances so that the doggies don’t enter the restaurant itself and they continue to be banned from food preparation areas. The new rule does NOT mandate that dogs must be allowed on patios; that’s up to the proprietors.  Nor does it change any of the rules on bona fide service animals. 

I’m a dog owner who does not envision taking my dog to a restaurant in this lifetime. For one thing, she’d eat everything in sight.  For another, she’d never be able to share space with one of those cute fuzzy little dogs that look and sound exactly like her squeak-toys. The other question is, do I want to share a table with someone else’s dog?  When MY dog drools  on the table, it’s cute. When YOUR dog does it, it’s disgusting.

I’m all in favor of consumer choice, so when I pass by a patio cafe where chows are chowing down in favor of a human-only environment, that’s a valid choice. I wonder how the majority of Humboldt diners will react to their new dining companions.

Aviation Update July 2014

Don’t read this if you’re looking for good news for airline passengers. A friend of the blog compiled the following links which show that no matter how bad it gets, there’s always room for worse.

1.  You’ve noticed the carriers imposing more and more fees along with the regular airline fares? Try 1200% in the past seven years, like from $2.4 B in fees in 2007 to $31.5 B in 2013.  More carriers are counted in the later figures but the fees are all coming from the same source: you. 60% of these fees are from the sale of frequent flyer points, 25% for baggage fees, the rest from such services as early boarding and extra-leg-room seating fees. Here, courtesy of Yahoo Finance is a full accounting.

2. I’m sure you’ve heard by now that TSA is also raising its fees. The current fee is $2.50 for non stop and $5 for a connecting flight. The new rate is $5.60 per flight with any connecting longer than four hours counting as a separate flight. That may not sound like much but it adds up, especially when you miss your connection due to delays  leaving  ACV and end up with a ten-hour layover at O’Hare. Here is an account from USA Today.

3. The impact of the war in Ukraine and its spinoffs will be enormous and it is probably too early to assess. The route changes resulting from the war are coming at a time when fuel prices are at an all-time high. When the carriers are squeezed, guess who they’ll pass the increase onto?  The Hindu Business Line newsletter carried an analysis but the link is no longer available. Time moves quickly in the Middle East. 

LOCAL UPDATE: The  Airport Advisory committee did not have its meeting as scheduled yesterday for lack of a quorum but Emily Jacobs reported that there was “some” interest in serving ACV demonstrated by other carriers at the confab in Edmonton. Someone reported that Santa Rosa is improving its runways in anticipation of DIRECT FLIGHTS TO HAWAII.  Wouldn’t  that be great? Yes, it would.  

The Timber Heritage Association-Sleeping Giant in Samoa

Speeder train at aSamoa

Speeder train at at Samoa

The last time I went to one of the Humboldt Bay Harbor Working Group’s monthly   community forums I noted how downspirited everyone was after listening to an hour of “no”.  No, the east-west train doesn’t pencil out. No, there isn’t enough identified freight to make it work. No, no, no. Yesterday’s meeting was completely different. The Timber Heritage Association reminded us that there are FEASIBLE projects to bring more jobs and more tourists, and everyone left in a good mood. There ‘s a lot of work ahead, but as someone said, there’s a light at the end of this tunnel.

(In view of the NCJ column by Marcy Burstiner regarding Brown Act violations, let me clarify that the meetings I attend on the fourth Wednesday of each month are the HBHWG’s PUBLIC forums and are not an inter-agency advisory committee subject to the Brown Act.  I do not attend the AHHA , don’t intend to , don’t know if anything will come of it.  The monthly forums are strictly informational, usually worth attending and represent a lot of hard work by Susanna Munzell and her committee. Glad we got that straightened out.)

Back to the THA which since 1977 has worked hard for a railroad museum and a round-the -Bay tourist train,  and is shortly starting its summer schedule of speeder rides (if you haven’t been on one, speeders are crew cars that look kind of like a caboose.) They run from the Samoa Cookhouse on a short run, only 20 minutes or so but by God, it’s a train ride. Your kids will love it and so will you. The speeder rides are in Samoa four times a year, in Old Town Eureka twice, in Fortuna for the Apple Harvest Days and and have recently started runs in Loleta (check the schedules on the website.)  The steam train rides at Ft Humboldt are all done by THA volunteers during the summer months. By now it should be clear that the THA is a major refuge for train nuts (like me) and they have rolling stock scattered around the county until a real museum can be organized. If you have never ventured down the road behind the Cookhouse, go check it out. They have several train cars right there, all of which are worthy of preservation.

Pete Johnston, who delivered the excellent presentation, pointed out that the Skunk is the major tourist attraction in Mendocino now and if we had a train museum and an opportunity for a train ride, that would be enough to get tourists to stop HERE, rather than shooting past us to Bend or other places with train-related attractions. Did you know the Samoa roundhouse is one of only four on the entire West Coast? That the THA is sustained by 6000 hours of volunteer labor a year?  That’s dedication and one day it will benefit the entire county.

So go ride the speeders and support the THA. I’ve donated before but never joined up but I have now, just wrote them a check for $25 and if I can do it , you can, and should.  They have a couple of fundraisers coming up and last year the Salmon, Oysters Ales and Rails BBQ in August was completely sold out (500 tickets.) Trains have been a big part of Humboldt County history and if the THA has its way they will be a part of its future, as well. .

 

Some Interesting Numbers for Redwood Coast Businesspeople

Here’s some food for thought. You might see a few surprises.

UNEMPLOYMENT RATE IN HUMBOLDT COUNTY(January): 7.9%

UNEMPLOYMENT RATE IN SAN FRANCISCO: 4.8%

UNEMPLOYMENT RATE IN MEXICO: 4.76% (December 2013)  (Time Magazine) Yes, Mexico

SHASTA COUNTY MEDIAN HOME PRICE JAN 2014: $180K  (DataQuick)

HUMBOLDT COUNTY MEDIAN HOME PRICE JAN 2014: $247K (HAR)

CREEPYIEST CREDIT CARD: Capitol One, which according to the LA Times, recently sent its cardholders a contract renewal authorizing the com[any to contact its cardholders by any means including visits to home and workplace, and gives permission to “modify or suppress Caller ID and similar services  and identify ourselves on these services in any manner we choose.” 

MINIMUM WAGE PROPOSED by LA lawmakers for employees in large hotels: $15.37/hour.

APPLE Computer now has more stores in Shanghai than in San Francisco. (Economist)

CHINA’S $3.3 TRILLION consumer economy is about 8% of the total, and is likely soon to overtake Japan as the world’s second-biggest consumer. Half of the world’s new shopping malls are being built in China. (Economist).

MOST CONGESTED HIGHWAY IN CALIFORNIA: I-5 in LA County. “In 2012 alone, vehicles spent an extra 6.6 MILLION hours on the road, due to heavy traffic.” (LAT).

PERCENTAGE OF AMERICANS WHO BELIEVE THE SUN GOES AROUND THE EARTH: 26% (National Science Foundation).

The Winter of Our Discontent-Trains to Vancouver, NVB is Sold and the Chinese are Coming, and Coming and Coming

Well, here we are in late January, freezing to death, looking at a drought and coming off a lousy crab season. There IS good news- getting to someplace even colder is now easier.

TRAIN SERVICE BETWEEN EUGENE AND VANCOUVER, B.C.- it’s begun, and it’s a ten to twelve-hour trip with inconvenient departures although the website states in several places that the schedules are to be adjusted in the near future. The new Cascades line overlaps in places with the Coast Starlight, so don’t get them confused while reading the schedules.The State of Oregon bought the two trains with stimulus money and each carries 286 passengers, bicycle storage, outlets, wi-fi etc. The trains were built by Talgo, the US subsidiary of a Spanish company. The multinationals seem to have more faith in US rail than do the Neanderthals running Amtrak. Look at what Siemens is doing in Sacramento: building something like 30 locomotives of which two will end up on the West Coast (and creating thousands of good jobs). I hope to take this train over the summer but as you all know getting to Eugene from here involves either a four-hour drive and finding a place to stash your car OR a tortuous three-bus ride from Arcata to Redding then hooking up with the Starlight to Eugene. The best train seems to be the one that leaves Eugene at 2pm because it’s ALL TRAIN, no long bus rides.  It’s a 10 hour ride, all the amenities are promised, including a lounge car, and the fare is as low as $73.  Ticket sales are healthy and the State of Oregon did two smart things with this $38M purchase: they bought rolling stock designed to handle the higher speeds if/when high-speed rail becomes an option and they planned ahead of time for increased demand in 2017 when service increases between Seattle and Tacoma. Check out their website- even the food menus look good.  The North Coast Journal (Dec 12, 2013) did an excellent summary of the hassles involved in trying to get to Portland from here. Every little bit helps. And if you go all the way to Vancouver, don’t forget your passport (or birth certificate and photo I.D.) 

NORTH VALLEY BANK PURCHASED BY TRI COUNTIES: Effective in mid-2014, some of us will be sending our mortgage payments to Chico-based Tri Counties Bank, a merger that will result in a combined workforce of 1100 employees, and a network of banks stretching from Crescent City to Bakersfield.  With $3.5B in assets, $3.1B in deposits,  $2.2B in gross loans, and 80 branch offices, the new Tri Counties Bank will be the 26th largest in the State. The banks have issued the usual disclaimers about how this change will be painless to customers.

CHINESE TOURISM TO U.S. TO TRIPLE BY 2020: As I prepared to enter the China Buffet in Eureka, a group of Chinese diners emerged and zeroed right in on me. (They always do- I must look helpful.) None of them including their driver spoke much more English than I do Chinese, but they knew what they wanted. “Redwood Park”, they kept saying. “Redwood Park”.  Their van was labelled “Joy Tours:” but it was getting dark and I couldn’t figure out whether they would get more joy going south to Humboldt Redwoods State Park, or north to the National Park so I pointed them north, figuring they’d get a kick out of Paul Bunyan at Trees of Mystery. The next day I called Tony Smithers at the HCCVB and asked him about Joy Tours. He was aware of them but apparently the bureau has not specific outreach to Asian visitors.

I suspect that will be changing in the future. 1.5M mainland Chinese visited the US in 2012 and their numbers are expected to reach 5.7M by 2020. California is the most popular destination, followed by New York.  Relaxed visa restriction and rising household income are fueling the growth. The LA Times reports that Chines tourism to LA rose 21% in last year and that “Chinese tourists are the second biggest-spending foreign visitors to the U.S. – just behind Indians and ahead of Australians, Brazilians and Japanese- with a average budget of $4400 not including airfare.”  Meanwhile, U.S. hotels are not well-equipped for Chinese visitors, especially in terms of Mandarin-speaking staff and Chinese dietary needs. The Chinese tend to stay longer than other tourists (42 nights average) and 36% are here for conventions or business meetings. Talk about a bonanza being dropped in our laps! Gung Hay Fat Choi, everyone. And a Happy Year of the Horse.

REMINDER: Next Friday, January 31 is the deadline for applying for the Fisherman’s Terminal restaurant opportunity, details in our last week’s issue.