Interview: Badlands National Park’s rogue tweeter speaks
Fans of America’s national parks, including BudgetTravel.com editors and readers, have had a turbulent ride over the past few days, at least as far as their Twitter feeds are concerned.
NPS’s account deactivated. On Saturday January 21, the day after the presidential inauguration, the National Park Service’s official Twitter account was deactivated after the account had tweeted images comparing this year’s inauguration crowds with the larger inauguration crowds from 2009. The NPS account is now back in action, but the NPS has encouraged social media managers to post only about public safety and park information and to avoid commenting on policy issues. As all this was going on, our Budget Travel social media audience voiced its support and affection for NPS Twitter feeds as sources for weather, road conditions, special events, and especially for the gorgeous photography.
Badlands National Park goes rogue? On Tuesday January 24, the official Badlands National Park Twitter account seemed to be actively resisting the new NPS social media mandate. The park, a South Dakota favorite of Budget Travelers for its dramatic peaks, canyons, bison, and affordable local lodgings, appeared to post a series of tweets about climate science, including “Today, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is higher than at any time in the last 650,000 years.” Although the tweets shared basic earth science that high schoolers across America understand, the posts were seen by many as a purposeful challenge to the new president, who has criticized climate science and played down the need for the reduction of carbon emissions. Some Twitter users celebrated the posts as acts of political resistance, while others noted sardonically that the employee responsible would likely soon be out of a job. As if following a boilerplate thriller screenplay, the climate-science tweets then disappeared from the Badlands National Park account, sparking head-scratching and censorship concerns. Badlands officials told the press that the tweets were the work of a former park employee who should not have had access to the account, and that the tweets were taken down voluntarily, not as the result of a government order.
Meet the rogue tweeter. Things got even more interesting today with the debut of a Twitter account, @Badlands_NPS, which states that it is “unofficial” and has posted the climate-science tweets that were deleted from the official Badlands account. Curious, I reached out to the owner of the new Twitter handle, who participated in an email interview with me on condition that the “rogue tweeter” remain anonymous. I honestly don’t know whether the person I interviewed is, in fact, the former employee blamed for the Badlands climate-science tweets. But I do know that the BudgetTravel.com audience is a well-educated, open-minded, and voraciously curious bunch who will be interested in learning more about this new Twitter star.
Q: How has the work environment at Badlands changed since the new administration took office last Friday?
A: "I can neither confirm nor deny that the person or persons behind this Twitter handle are currently employed by the government. I think that everyone all around the country is in limbo concerning the new administration. No one knows what Trump is going to do, or why he is going to do it. We know he wants to privatize a lot of Federal land, and we are hopeful that he doesn't plan on privatizing the National Park Service."
Q: What was your motivation for starting this new Twitter handle?
A: "One of our greatest national treasures is our environment, park system, and federally owned land that is available for use by the public. It would be a travesty to allow private companies to take possession of our birthright as Americans."
Q: What do you think each and every national parks lover can or should do to protect public lands from privatization?
A: "I think that everyone who values our public land and park system needs to get out and vote. Protesting is awesome, marching creates community and engenders hope, but in order to change the new status quo, we need to vote. Vote for candidates in local and state level elections that support the environment. Make sure that they believe in climate change and understand that global warming is real and dangerous. We need to work from the bottom up, and effectuate change on a local level before we can turn to the federal level in 2018."
The opinions expressed by interview subjects on BudgetTravel.com are solely their own and do not reflect the opinions of Budget Travel, its parent company, or affiliates.
They Want to Suck Your Blood
What you'll find in this story: bed bug information, travel information, travel news, travel safety, hotel information They're a quarter-inch long and light tan to dark red in color, and at night they crawl out of hiding to look for warm flesh to feed on. When they find a host, they inject a numbing agent so that they can suck blood undisturbed. Most people never know that they've been bitten. After a half century during which they virtually disappeared from first-world countries, bedbugs are back. The National Pest Management Association says that bedbug activity in the U.S. has increased 500 percent over the past three years, and a few well-publicized lawsuits have some travelers paranoid. But what threat do bedbugs really pose? And what can you do to ensure that you sleep tight and don't let you-know-whats bite? The truth is, the chances that your room will be infested with the blood-feeding insects are extremely low (lodging owners say mice, ants, and roaches are far bigger problems, if that's any consolation). Still, it's possible to find bedbugs almost anywhere--skeevy motels and first-class resorts alike. There's no evidence that bedbugs spread disease or cause any serious harm to people, but just the idea of them can ruin a good night's rest. Here's what to do after you check in. Rip off the bedding: Examine the folds of the mattress and any crevices around the headboard area, where bedbugs have been known to hide out. Dotted brown-gray stains on the mattress can mean bedbugs are regular guests there. Examine the sheets closely: "Tiny blood spots on the sheets are their calling card," says Dr. Gary Bennett, a professor of entomology at Purdue University. Take a whiff: An infested room will have a sickly-sweet smell. Don't put luggage on the bed: Bedbugs spread primarily by stowing away in the baggage of oblivious travelers, so avoid helping them find a new home.
Confessions Of... A Vegas Massage Therapist
Our anonymous confessor has been a massage therapist for six years, including the past three at a spa inside a premier hotel in Las Vegas. A spa is not a "massage parlor" The most common question massage therapists get asked is whether we are propositioned. Being a professional, I usually give a vague answer and move on. The truth is, it happens all the time. Las Vegas is a place where people feel they can disregard boundaries, but if you get a massage in a spa at a major hotel, rest assured your therapist is not a prostitute. The insinuation is a huge insult. That hasn't stopped people from making offers ("I'll give you $100 to finish me off"), exposing or even touching themselves, or grabbing me. If you do anything along these lines, realize that everyone on the hotel staff will know about it before you've left the spa, that your massage will come to an abrupt, unhappy ending--and yes, you will pay for the full hour! GET EXPERT TRAVEL TIPS AND DEALS WITH OUR FREE E-NEWSLETTERS! Hygiene, hygiene, hygiene We are happy to massage you after you've spent two hours in the gym...once you've showered. If you have something contagious, such as athlete's foot, disclose it up front. Likewise, it is never OK to come in for a massage in the throes of the flu. Your body aches and a massage sounds heavenly, but it's wrong to expose your therapist and other guests to a disease. We are paid a commission for each massage, and when we're sick, we have no income. And FYI: Your flu symptoms will feel much worse in the hours following a massage. Common courtesy You're sharing the facilities with others, so shut off your cell phone. And due to the revolting behavior we sometimes witness, it needs to be said: Don't be disgusting. I'll skip the graphic details, but suffice it to say guests have done things in the showers and the whirlpool that are so unsanitary it's necessary to shut them down. A classy spa doesn't guarantee classy clients. Tips are not comped Hotels offer high rollers complimentary gifts, or comps, in the form of casino credits, rides in hotel limos, meals, and spa treatments. The comp covers the service, not gratuities. Tips are a big part of our income, and it baffles us when comped guests fail to tip. What's $25 when you've just had a $120 massage at no cost? (The standard tip is around 20 percent, preferably in cash or casino chips, and you can put it in an envelope at check-out or hand it directly to us, whichever you prefer. Tipping with a credit card is typically fine, but some spas add tips to our paychecks and deduct taxes.) Beware that some spas automatically add a gratuity to non-comped guest bills. The spa should disclose this when your appointment is booked and again upon check-in. However, if you really appreciate the work (say, the migraine that's been plaguing you disappears) give a little extra. Only part of the automatic gratuity makes it into my hands; the rest is spread among changing room attendants and the concierge. When we say deep... Many guests, men in particular, don't think a woman can give a good deep-tissue massage. They'll even cause a stink when there's no male therapist available. Big mistake. That female therapist will likely go to the extreme and give you a painfully deep massage. (We know what hurts.) The guest usually whines that the pressure is too much-or is too macho to admit it, and spends what should be a blissful hour in wretched discomfort. For that matter, guests who try to direct their therapist's every move will likely end up disappointed. Have faith that your therapist is qualified to know what needs work and what doesn't.
Picking the Right Spanish Parador
As the renovation project continues, it may be difficult to discern which paradores underwent a carefully considered redesign, and which merely got new curtains and carpeting. How do you find the gems? Do your homework online At parador.es, the official site, search by style (monastery, castle, historical site) and/or services (pool, playground, tennis). "Modern" style means the building isn't old--therefore, no palaces or castles. To find a recently renovated centuries-old building, cross-search something like "convent" with a modern amenity, such as a pool. Each property has a gallery of photos. Skip them at your peril. Go to the source "Contact the paradores' main office and ask when the hotel was redesigned," says designer Pascua Ortega. Make inquiries with the reservation center, either by e-mail (email@example.com) or phone (011-34/91-516-6666). Play favorites Designer Jaime Beriestain also renovated the Parador de la Seu d'Urgell, and Ortega had a hand in the more modern ski chalet Parador de Vielha. (Both are in the Pyrenees.) Call in help Marketing Ahead, the U.S. marketing firm that works with the parador system, can make your reservations and plan itineraries for no additional fee (marketingahead.com, 800/223-1356). Shop for discounts Many paradores have rates as low as $109. (The ones in this story start at $133.) You can do even better. At parador.es, click on Special Promotions for discounts such as the five-night card: You pay $515 for five nights at any of the 89 participating hotels, whether it's a five-night stay at one parador or consecutive one-night stays at five different ones.
How to become a travel blogger
Why write a blog about your travels? Maybe it's because you want a chance to win $500 in our "Blog-Off Contest." Or maybe it's because you eventually want to become a professional travel writer like Rolf Potts, who explains how he jump-started his career in this blog post. Or maybe you just want a more intense travel experience. At least, that was the case for friends Holly Corbett, Jennifer Baggett, and Amanda Pressner, who hit the road for a year to blog about their round-the-world travels. They call themselves The Lost Girls, and here's how they describe the main appeal of blogging a trip: "The simple process of articulating a personal travel moment and sharing it with strangers all over the online world can make you more appreciative and grateful for the opportunity you had to take the trip in the first place." For 10 tips on how to start a travel blog, click here to read an online Q&A; with the Lost Girls. And if you have a favorite "non-professional" travel blog (even if it's your own), let us know by posting a comment.