Carpool Lane

January 29, 2009

In order to encourage people to share their car, Authorities implemented the carpool lane.  The rule is simple:  if you are 2 people or more, you can use the carpool lane (left hand side lane) during the comuting hours (5am – 9am) and (3pm – 7pm).  One exception to that rule is if you drive an hybrid car.  To take benefit of that exception, do the following:

  1. Purchase a Honda Insight, Honda Civic Hybrid or Toyota Prius. These are the only hybrid vehicles currently permitted in California.
  2. Fill out DMV REG 1000 form to apply for an HOV lane sticker for your hybrid. Your vehicle must have valid license plates before applying.
  3. Include the $8 fee.
  4. If you live in the Bay Area, you must also have a Fastrak transponder for bridge crossings to qualify for this sticker. See How to Register With Fastrack for more information. You will need a receipt from Fastrak to submit along with your DMV REG1000 form. If you have a Fastrak already, you must exchange it for a Hybrid Fastrak prior to submitting to DMV.
  5. Place the stickers on your car in the designated places.
  6. Save time by driving in the diamond carpool lanes and diamond freeway entrance lanes.

Tip: DMV will issue a limited number of these stickers, so you might want to get yours right away.  Also consider driving electric or compressed natural gas vehicles, which have fewer emissions than hybrids and also qualify for the HOV lane.


National Parks Visit

December 17, 2008

For those who love nature and would like to visit some national parks (Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon, Point Reyes, Channel Islands…), it is advised to buy the anual pass, for a $80 fee (available at any park entrance).  This pass was released last January 2007 and gives you access to all national parks (400!) and federal parks (like Muir Woods) across the United States for a one year period.   This pass is nominal (you write your name and the name of your partner) and gives free entrance for the entire car whatever the number of passengers.

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Otherwise, each time you want to enter a park, you pay a fee per car valid for a couple of days (between $20 and $25 for national parks and less for federal parks).  In other words, as soon as you visit 3 parks in a year, it is worthwile to subscribe to the anual pass.

Tip: In order to prepare your visits in the national parks, official web sites (National Park Service US departement) are gold mines.  Go simply to your favorite search engine, type in the park’s name and check that the address starts with www.nps.gov/


Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival

October 26, 2006

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                                                                                          Source: SFist

Half Moon Bay is famous for his Art & Pumpkin Festival. This WE event is held each year in October. This  Art & Pumpkin Festival includes a Great Pumpkin Parade, Haunted House, Pie-Eating Contest, Pumpkin-Carving Contest, Costume Contests, Arts & Crafts, world-class pumpkin carvers, homestyle food, wine and beer, and three stages of live entertainment.

Tip: The Belgian club meets this Saturday October 28th in Pastorino Farm for the Pumpkin Patch and other activities for your kids! Watch here to have the details.

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Source: SFist

Happy Halloween!!


Emergency number 911 is busy?

September 29, 2006

Everyone knows which number to dial if there is an emergency: 911. But what if this number is busy and you are put on hold (it’s often the case!)… I share with you some tips I received from “ICE Safety Solutions“, a company giving safety trainings.

1) If you dial 911 from a landscape phone (e.g. from home), you will be dispatched automatically to the nearest “Fire Emergency Line”. You will receive help directly and don’t have to wait.

2) If you dial 911 from a cell phone, the system doesn’t know where you are (as opposite with a landscape phone) and you will arrive to a Central Dispatching of Emergency. You have great chances to be put on hold because of huge traffic to this Central Dispatching. When you get someone, they will ask you in which State and City you are and then will dispatch you to your local “Fire Emergency Line”.

Two things you can do if you are put on hold:

  • Dial 411 (Directory search) and ask for the “Fire Emergency Line” of the city where you are. The number given to you is the DIRECT number of Fire Emergency Line and avoids you the Central Dispatching of 911.
  • Dial the DIRECT number of Fire Emergency Line that you previously put in your cell phone. For example, I already programmed in my cell phone the direct number of Fire Emergency Line of the nearest cities  where I live (San Jose- Milpitas-Sunnyvale) in case of I have an accident on the road in the neighbourhood.

Tip: Program your local emergency phone number into your cell phone so you have it handy in case of an emergency. Look here to find the phone numbers (for the Bay Area only).

Tip: Before to call the 911 from a cell phone, be sure to know in which State and City you are (it will be the first question that the Central Dispatcher will ask you).


Employment authorization card

September 20, 2006

As my husband came here with a L1-visa, I received a L2-visa and was authorized to work. But therefore, I had to ask a work permit or the “Employment Authorization Card“.

– It takes usually 90 days to get the card.

– Process:

  • Fill in form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization). You will find the form and the instructions on the website of USCIS.
  • Make a check of $180 payable to Department of Homeland Security or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
  • Include a copy of form I-94 Departure Record (front and back).
  • Include 2 passport-style color photos.
  • Where to file varies by which category of eligibility applies to your case and where you reside (see instructions).

International call

September 15, 2006

To call a foreign country from USA, you should dial:

011 + Country Code + phone number

Some Country Code:

  • Belgium: 32
  • France: 33
  • Netherlands: 31
  • UK: 44
  • Spain: 34
  • Italy:39
  • Germany: 49

If you are looking for other country codes, click here.

Tip: If you are calling from a mobile, it is shortest to introduce “+” instead of 011. For example, instead to introduce:  

                            011 – country code – phone number

you can introduce:  +    – country code – phone number.


Hawaii : Big Island

September 11, 2006

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We just spent a wonderful week in Hawaii. We went in Big Island as we are told the nature is still unspoiled in comparison with the other islands. We took a flight from San Francisco to Kailua-Kona (on the West coast of the island). We booked a rental car for the week at Hertz (Alamo is less expensive but the service at Hertz is excellent and we have corporate rates with them). We drove directly from the airport to Hilo (2,5 hours drive) on the East coast.

At Hilo, we stayed 3 nights in Dolphin Bay Hotel (which is the best deal in Hilo according to Lonely Planet). This family-run hotel owns comfy apartment units with full kitchen. Fresh-picked fruit from the backyard and free morning coffee are available to guests. From Hilo, we visited:

  • Volcano National Park: we spent a full day in the park which contains Kilauea, the youngest and most active volcano on earth. The landscape is amazing with dozens of craters and hardened lava. To visit the park, you will drive 2 roads:
    • Crater Rim Dr circles the crater of Kilauea. The drive with stops will take you an hour.
    • Chain of Craters Rd leads to the coast, ending at the site of the most recent lava activity. It will take you 3 hours down and back, with stops along the way.
    • Tip: Go to the visitor center to ask updates on volcanic activity and trail conditions.
    • Tip: Don’t expect to see geyserlike fountains of lava. From near the end of Chain of Craters Rd, you might see ribbons of lava pouring into the sea or only steam clouds. If you go after sunset, you might see red lava in the night sky.
    • Tip: Don’t forget your binoculars.
  • Akaka falls: very impressive waterfalls.
  • 4-mile scenic drive: don’t miss the 4-mile scenic loop between Honomu and Hilo (on Hwy 19 between the 7 and 8 mile markers)
  • Rainbow falls is worth seeing for the massive banyan tree next to the falls.
  • Boiling pots: water cascades swirling in bubbling pools.

After 3 days, we went back on the Gold coast (West coast) which is reputed to be sunny the whole year. We were in Mauna Kea Beach hotel which owns the most beautiful beach of the island. It is a paradise for swimming and snorkeling. We saw sea turtles but missed manta rays. Mauna Kea Golf course ranks among the top 10 courses in the world.

Tip: at Mauna Kea Beach hotel, make the reservation by phone and ask for corporate deals. As our employer company is listed on their corporate list, we got a discount of 35% on a mountain view room. If you can afford for an ocian view room, we can tell you that’s worth!! You will have a full view on the beach and sunset…

Tip: Mauna Kea hotel is a sister hotel of Hapuna Beach prince Hotel. Guests may benefit amenities of both hotels. Free shuttles transport guests between the two (10 min drive).

Tip: If you play golf, don’t miss the Mauna Kea Golf course. Guests pay green fees of $130.

We didn’t get time to visit Mauna Kea (astronomical observatories) and Waimea Valley … maybe next time!

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