Crazy for Parks

YOUR STORY on Death Valley ["128 in the Shade," July 31] was a great example of your enthusiastic (and downright crazy, in this case!) support for America's national parks. In fact, Steve Hendrix's July 3 story about the shuttle buses in Zion helped convince Congress of the value of this mode of transportation. Last week, it passed legislation to provide approximately $24 million annually for six years to develop new and expanded mass transit services, pedestrian walkways and bike paths. Not only are armchair travelers motivated by your reporting, but Congress, too.

Andrea Keller Helsel

National Parks

Conservation Association


This Gown for Hire

FROM L.A. and Big Sur to Milwaukee and Texas, I have been a ridiculously frequent bridesmaid and "wedding vacation" guest for the past three years. Your article made me appreciate that I'm not the only one who wants to see the sights everytime I go to a faraway wedding ["Bridesmaid Revisited," July 24].

Now the Business section needs to follow up with a piece on how to attend showers, parties and four to seven weddings a year and maintain a savings account. Style needs a protocol story on the "and guest" dilemma. And Metro needs a story on how to persuade friends to hold their wedding in Washington.

You identified with a large part of your readership with your story. It's certainly been the buzz around my 25- to 35-year-old friends.

Carrie Foster


Home Prep

IN "PREPPING Your Home for Vacation" [July 24], Margaret Roth quotes an employee of Fairfax Water as declaring that a vacationer should not shut off the water in his or her home, except for toilet valves and ice maker. This runs contrary to the advice of our plumbers and the Loudoun County Sanitation Authority, who state that a home's "main shutoff valve can be turned off while the property is vacant to prevent water damage that unforeseen leaks can cause."

This makes good sense. If an indoor pipe springs a leak, I would much rather that the damage be restricted to the limited amount of water already inside the pipes, rather than having a nonstop flow from the water main in the street that could flood the house during the course of our entire vacation. Would you please clarify this?

Howard Harvey


Author Margaret Roth responds:

Some water companies, including Fairfax Water, advise against turning off the water to your entire house because if a hot water heater is left on and the water remaining in it evaporates, serious damage can result.

Instead of turning off the water where it enters the house, they recommend instead turning off water to outlets that are most likely to leak, including toilets and dripping faucets.

Kings Dominion

MY WIFE and I excitedly took our 2-year-old granddaughter to visit the young children's areas at Kings Dominion after reading your article ["Being Patrick," July 10]. It ended up being a frustrating trip.

We arrived during a downpour, but the parking lot attendant took our $8, saying he had heard it would clear up shortly so there should be no problem enjoying the park. At the ticket window, we were told, "No rain check," and that all the rides were closed. The ticket taker said there would be no walking animated characters that day because their costumes are expensive and get destroyed easily.

At the service window, folks who had entered the park were told the shut-down rides were not going to reopen and that there were no rain checks. The crowd became unruly, led by a father who angrily declared that his family had just arrived one hour before, had paid over $300 to get in, and now was being told to go home.

We never did get to see the park. But we did see very angry patrons who were victims of avarice and profit-gouging at the hands of the Paramount Corp.

Don D. Roose


Trip Tips

THANKS FOR the article on fun tips to enrich any trip [Chat Scan, July 24]. I'd like to add one: Get your hair cut or styled when you travel abroad. It's an intimate experience and provides insight into the local culture.

In India, I found myself at a little salon in New Delhi. I was delighted to discover that the other customer was being prepped for her wedding.

Indian weddings are a big deal, with elegant saris, gold bangles, hands and feet painted with mehndi, etc. The bride willingly let me take her picture.

When I paid the bill (maybe $4), I realized I didn't know how much to tip, and asked the cashier what was customary. He replied with typical Indian charm, "As you wish." All in all, it was a great experience and one that I'd highly recommend.

Andrea Perr


Two Sides of Japan

THANK YOU for the article on Japan's international villas by Charles Lane ["Japan's Shiraishi: That Was Zen," Jan. 9]. We used the information to arrange for an amazing experience in April.

We stayed at the Hattoji Villa, a beautifully preserved traditional farmhouse located in a farming village in Okayama. The villa has tatami rooms with shoji screen walls. The surrounding area, complete with a Shinto shrine and Buddhist temple, looks and feels like a scroll painting.

We were the envy of our Japanese friends. The villas are open only to non-Japanese and any Japanese accompanying them. The prices are reasonable.

On the same trip, we had a wonderfully offbeat evening in Tokyo at Kagaya, a small bar. During the course of a laugh-filled evening, warm towels were delivered by a robot; drinks were served by a Noh dancer, a French artiste or Barbie; fortunes were told with sake cups. The food was tasty and the entertainment incomparable.

The trip allowed us to experience the beauty and serenity of traditional Japan as well as the exuberant, quirky joy of contemporary Japan.

Gail Tompkins


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