Sandos Resorts In Mexico – A Nearby Escape To Fun & Sun

20150903_143539One great thing about living in Texas is our close proximity to Mexico. This allows for quick flights to some of the best resorts in the world.  Pack your passport, some sunscreen, flip flops, and maybe a hat, and then head down south for fun in the sun.

My crew and I did just that over Labor Day weekend as we partied it up and do a live radio show from Sandos Caracol Eco Resort.  Sandos has four resorts in Mexico spread out from Cabo San Lucas to Cancun to Playa Del Carmen.  Working with the great Sandos staff we flew to Cancun and then took a short bus trip down to the Eco Resort in Playa.

Getting to Cancun (or most anywhere on Earth, for that matter) was simple as we booked travel through United Vacations.  With United Vacations’ low deposit payment plans, the guaranteed best prices on United Airlines flights, you know you’re getting a great deal.

United Vacations has a great feature called Premier Vacation Protection.  It gives you extra piece of mind before and during your vacation.   Benefits include baggage protection, medical coverage, cancellation for any reason and more.

I also like the fact that you don’t have to worry about waiting around for a lower price. If the price of your hotel stay goes down, you can be refunded the difference if you’re covered by Premier Vacation Protection.

It was less than four hours travel from the time we departed IAH to the time we checked in at Sandos Caracol. We were greeted at the resort with a frozen concoction of tequila or rum (does it really matter when on vacation?) and the most important item of our stay – a wristband that allowed for all the food, drinks and fun across the sprawling property.20150904_104133

The resort has 956 guest rooms with access to an all-inclusive food and beverage program featuring 3 buffets, 6 a la carte restaurants, 8 bars and 24-hour room service. We hit every bar and restaurant during our stay with our favorites being Las Mascaras (Mexican), La Riviera (Mediterranean), and La Toscana (Italian).  Fresh food and friendly service was abundant.  And did I mention tequila and rum?

This particular resort in the Sandos family is eco-focused to promote sustainable practices to their guests and suppliers.  Guest rooms are “green” by using certified materials, LED lighting, and a system for recycling gray and soapy water.

The property is family-friendly with an Adults Only section and several areas for kids and teens.  Even though I didn’t bring my kids on this trip I still found myself splashing around the Aquapark.   You just can’t keep me off a water slide.  There are 17 slides and a splash zone here.

20150903_184232The adults section features an exclusive guest reception, beach club house with private bar service, private pool and an adults only restaurant for breakfast and lunch.  This area was nice and quiet for lounging around during the late afternoons however we spent most of the day on the beautiful, palm tree-lined beach.

White sand and clear blue water borders the large property.  Beach chairs and day beds are pristinely lined up waiting for guests to do nothing but sit back, lie down and relax.  Beachside bars are no more than a few yards away and the large, main pool is nearby if you want a chlorinated dip and inviting party music.

Fans of water sports have many options to choose from with kayaks, boogie boards, snorkel gear and sailboats included in some of the guest packages. SCUBA dives and deep-sea fishing trips can also be planned.

And what is a resort vacation without a trip to the spa?  Spa Sandos has luxurious facilities with 16 treatment rooms, saunas and steam baths, gym and spinning room and a beachfront massage palapa overlooking views of the Caribbean Sea.

Sandos Caracol offers some unique things that I you must check out when visiting.  I partook in a unique Mayan therapy called Temazcal. This ancient tradition guides guests to different levels of heat and steam generated by volcanic rocks and medicinal herbs in a spiritual atmosphere.  My body, mind and soul were purified…at least until I found the bar later that night.20150905_130608

The Xcalacoco Experience allows guests to learn more about Mayan and Mexican culture with different daily activities.  Each day of the week is set aside to honor a different element.  Four live theatrical shows are performed on the property each week.  Make sure to catch at least one during your stay.

Our trip went by quickly before we hopped back on the short flight from Cancun to Houston.  The radio show went well with one of the most gorgeous backdrops we’ve ever had.  Our suntans should last a few weeks which will serve as a conversation starter with friends back home. And I now have a top-of-mind recommendation when I’m asked where to escape for a nearby vacation, incentive or wedding:  Sandos Caracol Eco Resort!

Click HERE to hear the radio show podcast from beachside at Sandos Caracol Eco Resort

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A Visit To The Cummins Engine Plant – What Will Drive The 2016 Nissan Titan XD

20150825_080117Nissan is excited.  Really excited.  The auto manufacturer will soon be launching its new 2016 Titan XD truck and they want the country – or at least the media here – to know about it inside and out.  I had seen photos of the body but Nissan could not be more proud of its relationship with Cummins as their engines will power this big boy.  So with an invitation I recently visited the Cummins Engine Plant in Columbus, Indiana, to see where the new 5.0L V8 turbo diesel engines will be built.








Nissan and Cummins were gracious hosts during an extensive tour of the plant floor where my group saw the process of how these powerful engines will roll off the assembly line.  Cummins has a long history in the engine business dating back to 1919 and provides everything from power generation to fuel systems to emission solutions.  The 500,00 sq. ft. facility was in a test mode that day as they fine-tuned the many work stations it takes to assemble the heavy duty turbines.

Cummins expects to produce 150,000 of these engines each year and Nissan certainly expects them to move off dealership lots beginning in late 2015.

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High-Tech Auto Reports – July 2015

Listen to the latest trends and news in the auto industry.  Michael Garfield covers all you need to know to keep up the rapidly changing world of cars and trucks.  Send questions or content suggestions here.





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Prime Living Magazine – July/August 2015

The latest edition of Prime Living Magazine is out just in time for mid-summer tips on backyard grilling and cooking.  Here is my column on some utensils to help with the preppin’.  You are now ready to do some eatin’.

Here are links to the featured products:

Backyard Flat Top Grill
Eva Solo Gravity Cookware
Breville Smart Convection Oven Plus


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Touring San Francisco – A Treat Indeed

I have been to San Francisco many times and – just like the song says – I have left my heart there each time.  The Golden Gate City is arguably the most unique city in the U.S. with its hilly terrain, sweeping views, late 19th century charm mixed with 21st century buzz, and different international-flavored neighborhoods everywhere you turn.

Why do I keep going back?  And why do I recommend it as a “must see” place for one’s bucket list?

Maybe it’s the weather.  Not so much the fog but the cool, dry air that makes me ask myself why I live in a hot, humid climate (oh yeah, probably the cost of the living).   It could be the food.   Within a few blocks walk one can dine on fresh seafood, authentic Italian, world-class Chinese and old-fashioned Mexican.

I believe the answer is all-of-the-above.  Like the city itself, I love the melting pot atmosphere of the residents and the tourists that come from all over the globe.  I recently spent a few days traversing the area by foot, go cart, subway, boat and bicycle.  I even threw in old school transportation with a ride on the famed cable cars and new school with an easy to grab Uber car.

So let’s go find my heart:

The first place I began my journey was online, of course.  Before your visit, take some time to plan your trip on San Francisco Travel, the city’s official guide for visitors and meeting planners.   Everything from activities to dining, nightlife to shopping, and even hotel suggestions are found on this website.  I knew I would be there for three nights so I made an itinerary that allowed me to play, eat, exercise and eat.  And eat.

My home base for my stay was Union Square.  I really enjoy this vibrant area as it is located near the city center with easy access to cable car lines, the underground subway, busses and trains.  It is an easy walk (despite some of the notorious hills) to get to Chinatown, the financial district and of course, all the shopping you can handle.

Yes there are high-end stores that can also be found in places like Manhattan’s Sixth Avenue and London’s High Street but I found many boutique shops and local hangouts with a northern California flair.  The fact that a pub or bar seemed to populate the area also added to my pleasure.

One must not forget a nickname of San Francisco – “The City By The Bay.”  So it makes sense to get on the bay to view the scenery and cityscape from a different vantage point.  First-timers to the area will enjoy a dinner cruise on the Hornblower, a sightseeing ship with several decks for fine dining, weddings and parties, and perches with unrestricted views no matter which way you look.

This three-hour cruise departs from the Embarcadero not far from the Bay Bridge.  Guests are welcomed at their assigned tables with a glass of champagne and a four-course dinner menu.  Live entertainment and dancing will keep you having fun down below when you aren’t on the top deck looking at the beautiful sights.  The Hornblower breezes past Alcatraz Island, circles underneath the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge, all while delivering breathtaking views of the city.

San Fran (we are pretty tight so I can call it that) seems synonymous with fishing and seafood which is why a visit to the Wharf is a must.  Two cable car lines drop off passengers within walking distance of this area where cool breezes during the day and night may call for a stop at one of the many souvenir shops for a lightweight jacket.

No doubt many of the restaurants, stores and venues are geared to tourists but you can find some wonderful food and plenty of things to keep busy.  Lunch at Cioppino’s on Jefferson Street was a treat as I sat on the outside patio sipping a local beer.  The menu offers – what else – fresh seafood along with Italian fare that draws customers from blocks away with smells of garlic and clams.

It would be a sin not to get the clam chowder in a freshly made bread bowl.  The Dungeness crab cocktail is also very tasty but those appetizers only led up to the main dish of which this place is named.   Cioppino is the signature dish here.  A bountiful seafood extravaganza of Dungeness crab, clams, mussels, snapper, calamari, shrimp, and tomatoes braised in a fennel scented stew.  ‘Nuff said.

It is no secret that I try to keep in shape as much as I can so when I enjoy a fine meal I need to find a way to work it off.  A glance down the street found Bay City Bike Rentals & Tours.  I haven’t been on a bike in years but there was no time like the present to hop on for good exercise but also a fun way to see more sights.

Bay City Bikes rent several types of equipment for a leisurely or a high-performance stroll.  I opted for a lightweight, 21-speed model with a front camera bag, lock, water bottle holder and a map.  They also offer an electric hybrid bike with a battery and pedal assist feature lets riders experience the fun with less exertion.  I almost regret not choosing the hybrid but at least I worked off my lunch.

I opted for a guided tour and took my place amongst a dozen fellow tourists donned with bike helmets and spandex pants (No such pants for me.  Shorts will do just fine.)  We departed from the Wharf on a two-and-a-half hour journey that led us on paved trails and streets with sweeping views of the water.

The final destination of the tour would be in Sausalito, a small town just north of the bay filled with stunning sidewalk restaurants, shops and parks.  But to reach this point we would need to cross the water.  And the only way would be to bike across the Golden Gate Bridge.  Bam!

I have driven across this (arguably) most famous bridge in the world several times but traversing it on two wheels was almost an out-of-body experience.  An exclusive lane for walkers and bikers was crowded but allowed for a slow-paced pedal underneath the rust-colored towers of the bridge.   I had to stop a few times only to take in the view of the city to the south, Marin County to the north, and lots of water right below.

After crossing the bridge with high-fives amongst my fellow pedalers it was literally all downhill into Sausalito.  Part of this tour package from Bay City Bikes included a ferry ride back to the Wharf that allowed me to soak up the sights from the water again and rest up from the bike ride.

SF June 2015

Similar to dining at a restaurant, touring the city and visiting places can be done by itself (a la carte) or enjoying many things on an all-you-can-eat menu.  Like a buffet, the GO Card is a smart way to visit a variety of places across San Francisco and saves money in the long run.  A 1-day card can be purchased for $60 ($45 for kids) up to a 7-day card for $160 ($115 for kids) that gives entrance and discounts to over two dozen venues around the area.

The GO Card can be used to access several museums from the Asian Art to the U.S.S. Hornet; even to Madame Tussaud’s and Ripley’s Believe It or Not!.  My favorite place to use the card was another way to tour the city…the GoCar Tour.  The card allowed for a 30 minute use of these yellow, battery-powered vehicles equipped with a GPS-enabled storytelling experience.

The GoCar is easy and fun to drive.  As you drive, it tells you where to turn and gives an audible story of sights like Ghirardelli Square, The Presidio, Cliff House and Golden Gate Park.  My personal highlight was driving the GoCar down the curves of famous Lombardi Street.

As if I hadn’t had enough touring – and one can never get enough in this city – I found an intriguing way to learn about the vastly different neighborhoods while experiencing the unique cuisine each is famous for.  The Local Tastes Of The City Tour makes it easy to learn, eat and explore within a few hours but an experience that lasts a lifetime.

Offering several tours daily one can hop on its decorative bus or choose to walk a late morning, early afternoon or evening stroll through a choice of celebrated districts.  I opted for a night walking tour of Chinatown and North Beach as I wanted to learn about these two different cultures but also chow down on some good Chinese and Italian grub.

Our small group was led by an exuberant guide that started at the foot of Chinatown.  We were led at our own pace while listening to the historic significance of the neighborhood and its architecture.  Walking creates an appetite so every few blocks we stopped to sample local cuisine.  A dim sum selection was offered at a local shop followed by samples of freshly-made fortune cookies at a baking company in an out-of-the way alley.

We spent about an hour leaning about tea while sipping several varieties at Vital Tea Leaf.  I have never been a lover of hot tea but after learning the health advantages of these drinks I found myself purchasing several bags to take home.  Tip: try the Pu-erh.

Before we found our way out of Chinatown we popped into Begoni Bistro Wok & Wine.  The stop was initially for a bit of wine but after seeing the prawn salad spring roll and grilled French rack of lamb we could not help but have a quick snack.  (Say hello to the gregarious owner, Ming, for me)

That snack tied us over only for the next two blocks as we entered North Beach, a vibrant district named after the part of town that used to be the northernmost section of the city.  The iconic pyramid-shaped TransAmerica Tower hovered over us like a welcoming concierge.  We meandered slightly uphill to pass inviting clubs, book shops and restaurants inviting us with tempting scents of Italian flavor.

A few slices of pizza and a glass of wine were waiting at final stop of this journey.  We tipped our gracious guide and then tried to remember the spots we had just passed to go back and enjoy a little more of the local sounds and flavor of these unique neighborhoods.

I could go back to San Francisco every year for the rest of my life and still be able to discover something I haven’t seen before.  Maybe a small park with centuries-old trees or an alleyway that winds its way out to a view of another part of the bay I have yet to see.

There is no doubt when visiting this great city that every one of all ages and from all places around the world will leave with several things:  great memories, suitcases of souvenirs, an appreciation for a beautiful cityscape and atmosphere, and recommendations for others to go back and enjoy.

Oh yeah, and you won’t leave hungry either.

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Golden Nugget Lake Charles Welcomes The High-Tech Texan (and all Texans)

When it comes to gambling, eating, sipping cocktails, playing in the sun or – heck – just about living life to its fullest, I am your man.  This fact is not hard to figure out since Las Vegas is my most-visited city in the U.S.  (confession – but don’t be a hater – I’ve already been to Vegas 4x this year alone).  But instead of hopping a flight for all this fun I may have found my new hangout just a few hours drive from Houston.

Golden Nugget Lake Charles Casino.  (PRNewsFoto/Landry's)

The Golden Nugget in Lake Charles, Louisiana, opened in December 2014, and I recently spent a Friday night at this palatial playground near the swamp lands.  My crew and I headed eastbound along Interstate 10 to broadcast my radio show from “the Nugget” and we experienced a wonderful time from arrival to departure.  The $700 million project came into view as we crossed over the I-210 bridge.  Thoughts of ringing slot machines and stacks of casino chips in my head had me more excited than seeing Space Mountain the first time I approached Disney World as a kid.

Walking into the hotel was akin to entering one of the glitzy hotel casinos in Las Vegas.  That is a high compliment from me as I have been in many casinos around the world that looked similar to my upstairs poker room at home.  The marble floor and high ceiling gives the lobby and casino a roomy feel.  Several retail shops dotted the aisles and I caught a glimpse of several restaurants throughout the ground floor.  More on this later as restaurants play a large part of the Golden Nugget since it is owned and operated by Houston billionaire Tilman Fertitta.  Yes, that Tilman Fertitta of Landry’s Inc. fame and fortune.

Check in was quick and simple probably because I was staring at the large window behind the counter which overlooks the H20 pool and bar.  It was a Friday afternoon and the outdoor area looked rocking as tanned guests were wading around the swim-up bar.

My pool view room with balcony overlooked this same scene and I could not wait to get down there to sample the libations and do a quick site check for my radio broadcast location the next day.  But I spent a while in the nicely appointed room looking at the many features.  500 square feet of space included a large soaker tub, king size bed, 42″ TV, stand-up shower and a dining nook.  I’m not sure how many guests utilize the small table and chairs to eat as we soon found out there are so many things to do to keep you downstairs.

The pool scene was indeed loud and fun.  Cabanas are spaced around the adult pool and bar (21 and up) with a large stage for DJs, concerts and other entertainment.  A lazy river is adjacent to the adult pool winding its way around a waterfall and under foot bridges.Golden Nugget photo4

Back to the restaurants.  It is hard to determine whether this facility was built around the restaurants of Fertitta’s empire or the hotel/casino just happened to place a Fertitta-owned restaurant every few feet along the spacious corridors.  Familiar brands can be found throughout the grounds including Saltgrass Steakhouse, Grotto, Landry’s Seafood House, and Cadillac Mexican Kitchen & Tequila Bar.  We wanted to go all out for dinner so we opted for Vic & Anthony’s, a top steakhouse with locations in Houston and Las Vegas.

V&A General Manager Craig Harrington was inviting and worked the elegant dining room filled with guests dressed in sport coats, blue jeans and even shorts.  An order of maple glazed quail and a jumbo lump crabcake started us off.  Those appetizers quickly gave way to a table full of prime porterhouse, organic lamb chops, blackened scallops and grits, and of course there was a lobster tail.  The wine list is extensive and – my personal affection to a bar – the bourbon collection was first rate.

Golden Nugget photo2Once our bellies were full and happy it was time for one of my favorite ways to kill time and money (or hopefully make money)…the casino.  The Golden Nugget has 70 gaming tables and 1,600 slot machines.  This Friday night seemed busy and it took a little while to find an open spot at a craps table.  But once I realized there was 20x odds on the numbers all was well.  A large bar sits in the middle of the casino floor which makes for a nice place to relax and meet on the couches or tabletops.  A high roller section is situated in the back of the casino with its own bar and higher minimum tables and slot machines.  I did not notice a VIP lounge on the casino floor but, alas, there may be one somewhere for actual VIPs.

The staff was friendly whether they paid you winnings or took your losses.  This was a real Vegas “feel” which is hard to replicate outside of those large Nevada casinos.

Saturday morning found us broadcasting my radio show back to Houston (KPRC 950AM) and the world (iHeartRadio app).  The marketing staff found a wonderful location for our booth with a backdrop just a few feet away from the sparkling water and in-pool lounges.  My guests on the show included the property’s executives from the resort, operations, and beverage departments as we learned some of the interesting facts about the gleaming property.  [Note to self:  I need to visit again soon to play the recently-opened Country Club 18 hole golf course]  And our good friend Craig Harrington stopped by to bring some more delicious snacks from Vic & Anthony’s.

After the 2 hour show it was time to pack up the radio gear and change into swim gear.  We hung out the rest of the afternoon in a cabana which I recommend reserving if you have several people in your party.  It provided a nice place for shade with couches, small refrigerator stocked with bottled water, and a TV.Golden Nugget photo1

Our quick 24 hour visit left a great impression on us and many of my radio listeners.  Lake Charles has become a booming destination for entertainment for southerners but especially with Texans who daily cross the border in hoards.   Until Texas approves legalized casino gambling (hint: do not hold your breath) this will continue to be a hot place to visit.  The Golden Nugget is shiniest new star in the area and I can’t wait to go back.

Listen to The High-Tech Texan Show podcast from the Golden Nugget:

Hour 1

Hour 2

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Review: Simplicam

There are many webcams on the market and most are easy to setup and monitor.  When looking to purchase a webcam you need to look at the different features each one offers.  One killer feature on the Simplicam is facial recognition.

Simplicam can be placed most anywhere as long as it can be plugged into a standard power outlet and within range of a WiFi signal.  It can be used as a baby or pet monitor, home or business security detection, and even welcome the kids home from school via the two-way talk feature.

The facial recognition feature lets you create up to 10 profiles for your camera to recognize. Imagine getting a text alert letting you know your son came in past his curfew.  Priceless.  $149


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Review: Arccos Golf GPS + Tracking App

I am always looking for ways to improve my golf game.  In addition to spending more time on the driving range I am now getting immediate feedback from a tiny device attached to each of my clubs.

The Arccos Golf GPS + Tracking app tracks every shot, every distance and every hole on your iPhone.  There is no need to input anything as each shot is recorded and measured by a virtually weightless sensor that attaches to the end of each club.

Just pair each sensor once and follow your analytics on the free app in real time.  It hasn’t shaved many strokes off my game yet but at least I know how poorly I’m playing. $399

Arccos Golf

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Review: Samsung Gear Circle

It seems a new headset or wireless earbuds come out every day and most of them are personal preference based on the style you are comfortable with.  I prefer lightweight Bluetooth-enabled earbuds and I am very impressed with Samsung’s near Gear Circle.

The unit weighs just a few ounces and securely fit in my ears thanks to several earbud sizes that come included.  They charge quickly and the battery power lasts quite a while.  But my favorite feature is the magnets built into the tips of the buds. When not in use they securely clasp together and can be worn like a necklace.

Oh…the sound is great and the unique touch-style volume control works well which reduces the number of buttons.  $99


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Everything You Need to Know About Dominican Republic – DATE 2015

DATE 2015, the 16th edition of the Dominican Annual Tourism Exchange, took place April 28-30 in Punta Cana.  We hit the road (and the air) once again to see everything that the Dominican Republic has to offer to the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) market.DATE_Dominican_logo

DATE is the Dominican tourist sector’s most important international fair organized by the Dominican Republic’s Association of Hotels and Tourism, Inc. It has been created to provide a professional atmosphere for business exchanges between international tour operators and travel agents and the suppliers of the Dominican tourist product.

Here is a look at the some of the exhibitors at the convention:

Every year it is attended by hundreds of tour operators and travel agents –mainly from the United States, Canada, Europe and South America. Ever since its first edition in 2000, DATE has been able to establish itself as “the official event of Dominican tourism.”

According to data of the Central Bank of the Dominican Republic, the number of non-resident foreign visitors who arrived in the country by air from January to September of this year has grown 9.99%, registering a total of 3,414,551 arrivals. North America has contributed 58.04% of the foreign tourists arriving through the Dominican Republic’s airports; Europe 25.42%; South America 11.84%.DATE repeat banner

Our stay at the Barcelo Bavaro Beach was convenient to the onsite convention center and allowed plenty of opportunity to play, eat and – yes – drink some of the local favorites.  My new cocktail is the Mama Juana – a mixture of rum, red wine, and honey to soak in a bottle with tree bark and herbs.  Couldn’t get enough of that stuff.

Looking forward to going back to this fun locale and country with large groups of people who want to have fun in the sun.

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