Kevin Nelson

Great Stories Found Here

Category: Travel

‘Who wouldn’t be a mountaineer? Up here all the world’s prizes seem nothing.’

Victoria Lakes, near Victoria Pass, off Highway 395 in the eastern Sierra of California. The scene is God’s creation; the words belong to John Muir.

My Adventures with Pixar Studios

It was one of those phone calls you always love to receive as an author. Pixar Studios was on the line, and they wanted to take a meeting with me.

“Sure,” I said. “Love to.”

            The meeting occurred ten days later at Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, a small city across the Bay Bridge from San Francisco and about forty-five minutes by car from my home. The studios are behind a gated entrance. I parked and walked into a lovely amphitheater and open space where Pixar employees take lunch and hold company events and meetings. In a courtyard was the famous lamp, which is the company symbol and always makes an appearance in the credits at the start of every Pixar movie.

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Ziplining through the redwoods

There is a wealth of things to do in California’s wine country. Here is an activity you may not have thought of: Ziplining through Sonoma’s coastal redwoods.

A boy in flight.

My son and I took a “flight” through the forests of Occidental in Sonoma County, about two hours north of San Francisco. I’d heartily recommend it for families or anyone who is looking for something a little different than the usual Sonoma and Napa Valley pleasures of wine tasting and dining. Continue reading

6 Truths We Can Learn From Marcus Samuelsson

Marcus Samuelsson

Born in Ethiopia and raised in Sweden, celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson is the owner-chef of Red Rooster Harlem, Marcus National Harbor, and an upcoming new eatery planned for the Overtown district of Miami. A TV star and best-selling author, his life story has truths and insights for anyone who eats and cooks in today’s world—which is, after all, all of us. Here are six of those truths: Continue reading

Visit Luther Burbank’s Home and Gardens in Santa Rosa

Luther Burbank was to plants what Steve Jobs was to computers. A creative genius who could take a thing and combine it with another thing, and in so doing make the original thing better and even sometimes new.

Luther Burbank, left, and Henry Ford.

At the time of his death, in 1926, Burbank was one of the most famous men in America, certainly the most famous horticulturalist. Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Helen Keller, Jack London, John Muir, and other luminaries of the time visited him at his home and gardens in Santa Rosa, about an hour north of San Francisco, to see him and a few of the wonders he had created such as the spineless cactus.

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What the heck is he thinking about?

People have been asking this question ever since Auguste Rodin’s monumental sculpture, “The Thinker,” debuted in Paris in 1904.

Is he contemplating the great questions of God, existence, mortality? Did he get jilted by a girl and is wondering how to get her back? Is he trying to remember what he needs to pick up for tonight’s dinner?

Although a formidable six feet six inches tall (not counting the pedestal), The Thinker is a kind of Everyman. Like all great art, what we see in it is a reflection of ourselves. Our own lives, our own thoughts. Continue reading

Fastest Cars at El Mirage, Then and Now

The races at El Mirage, circa 1948, compliments of the SCTA.

Fastest Car” is an entertaining automobile racing series that premiered on Netflix in the spring. Each hour-long episode pits a production supercar such as a Ferrari or Lamborghini against three “sleeper” cars built by garage mechanics. The cars square off in side-by-side drag races with the winners meeting up in the climactic finale at El Mirage dry lake in the high deserts of southern California.

During my research a few years ago for Wheels of Change, my friend Bob Newlon and I ventured out to check out the scene at El Mirage. It’s a fantastic place, and if you’re into cars, it’s worth a trip to see one of the SCTA-sanctioned races held there. The Southern California Timing Association has been running races there for half a century, and it is a first-class organization. The day we were there, we saw a car  break the 300 mph barrier. It was…MOVING!

The heyday of El Mirage and racing on the dry lakes was the 1940s and ‘50s when teenage hot-rodders such as Dean Batchelor and his buddies were running their fast cars there. From Wheels of Change, here is a little taste of the dry lakes scene back then: Continue reading

Travel, and Other Writing

Besides writing books and blogs, I have a reporting background. I am a former newspaper reporter and magazine editor. Additionally I have contributed to a variety of online and print media.

In recent years I have done a lot of travel writing. My travel pieces for Examiner.com were consistently ranked in the top 25 nationally for writers contributing to the site. And FlipKey By TripAdvisor rated my Napa Valley-Sonoma blog as a top Wine Country site. Continue reading

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