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I was fortunate enough to have a private tour (November 17, 2013) of the Mauna Kea Observatory complex by the ex-director of the facility. It was a fascinating experience that included private access to much in the complex as well as chatting with the astronomers (intermittently) as they tracked live Comet ISON.
I drove to the 9,000 foot level, took a break for thirty minutes acclimation at the professional astronomers' facility, before our guide took us up to the 13,700 foot summit and complex.
The access road from the 9,000 foot level is rough and it really requires a 4WD to go further. Apparently many people have managed to ascend to the summit but have been unable to restart their cars (not enough oxygen) for the descent, or have burned their brakes out on the descent. Most of the Big Island rental companies void insurance for this excursion!
If you do go up to the summit the use of low gear (rather than constant brake use) is essential especially on the descent. Losing brakes on the descent could be the end of you!
Better still take the trip with a guide (or tour company) who will make the trip far less harrowing!
At the summit you will experience oxygen deprivation even if you feel fine. People react differently to this including falling asleep, breathlessness, nausea, and in some rare cases, violence. At this altitude you are losing brain cells and it can be hard to breathe. The best way to handle this altitude is to breathe in deeply, hold your breath as long as you can, and then exhale slowly forced through pursed lips. I tried this and the little bit of dizziness I felt went away. Although the altitude did not affect me typically (unlike my companions – which they put down to me being a runner!) I think I must have used every restroom in the complex. Fortunately I was with someone who knew where they all were!
The few hours I was there before and after noon the weather was glorious as you can see from the images. There is a visitors’ center at Mauna Kea for the public that explains the different observatories. I was lucky enough to see inside many of them including Keck One and Keck Two whose primary objective lens are made up of octagonal mirrors.
There is also a traditional Hawaiian spiritual significance to Mauna Kea that predates any other human endeavor here. I will not try to explain in this review, but it does give this volcanic area a truly mystical atmosphere.
On the way down, I stopped off again at the astronomers’ facility at the 9,000 foot level for thirty minutes acclimation to the lower altitude. This is where many of the astronomers stay to avoid full de-acclimation before returning to work on the summit.
If a trip to Mauna Kea is something that interests you, remember to research it well beforehand including a view on the weather, bringing along warm clothing, and stopping at the Visitors’ area off Saddle Road to acclimate. If you do go without a guide, use a 4-wheel drive and use low gear especially on the descent (on automatics that's the 'L' position, on manuals drop to three or two). Also you may not see the stars clearly at night until your eyes (and body) get used to the altitude!
Hope this helps!
I must admit I’m partial to the Marriott chains of hotels, and this particular hotel is no exception. Located in central SW downtown this is yet another Marriott brand ideally situated to take advantage of the business market; although ideal too for travelers who desire just a little bit of luxury, or even locals taking a night out on the town.
The rooms are very comfortable, quite luxurious, clean, and on the higher priced floors can give you a good view of Portland. Amenities include a fitness center and room service, and restaurant. Parking and wifi is for a fee. There is a sports bar and lounge library.
As a Marriott Reward member I have come to expect a certain standard both from the staff and the quality of appointments and style. This Marriott is no exception, although an indoor swimming pool/spa would have made it even better!
Still if the ultimate downtown location is important to you, then this it!
Located on Highway 26 (Powell Blvd.) just down from SE 82nd, the Briarwood Suites is a pretty good, clean, well run motel. The motel is in easy reach of downtown Portland and is close to the I205 and the way to the airport.
Set in not too bad of a neighborhood (a number of parks), the motel offers comfortable lodging for a moderate price. The hotel itself, with two floors - which you access from the outside, has comfortable rooms with microwaves and refrigerators.
Included in the rates is a free breakfast, wifi, and motel parking. There is also a business center and laundry facilities.
The lobby is clean and equipped with a first rate security system that maintains surveillance on the property. Quite fascinating and probably necessary in this neighborhood. The manager is courteous, professional, and I think he likes to explain his security system. At least he did for me!
If you were intent on staying in this part of town for business or just stopping over for a few days, this would be a good choice.
I must admit a certain trepidation about entering this motel. Located in one of the worst areas of Portland (SE 82nd), the Aaron Motel is the model cheap budget hotel. It would certainly be competitive in the Portland sleaze contest!
The atmosphere of the motel was unfriendly which was complemented by the complete lack of eye contact and disrespectful demeanor from the Manager. The rooms were smelly and not up to standard based on other budget motels in different areas reviewed. The rates were far too high for what was being offered a few miles away and the amenities included free off- street parking (it’s a motel!), a microwave and refrigerator.
The hotel is centrally located on SE 82nd and there are some shopping advantages in the area. Nothing more can really be said about this motel other than expect a nightmare if you are unfortunate enough to need to stay there!
This is a very impressive Inn which has been beautifully constructed in the modern elegant efficiency style.
Despite the area, which is a little depressed and rough just off I84 and 82nd avenue on Wasco, the Inn manages to give a sense of respite. The atmosphere is dominated by the atrium style lobby (with a maybe a too huge chandelier) and is complemented by a staff that is very professional and clearly excited about working there. For the area it almost seems out of place!
The rooms are very comfortable in the Danish style and include microwaves, refrigerators and wifi. Included in the rate is a complimentary breakfast, free parking, and use of a fitness center, indoor pool and spa.
This is a genuine business hotel with meeting rooms, a business center, and laundry facilities.
The hotel is in easy reach of all the main Portland places with PDX being just five minutes away!
I really liked this hotel for its restful modern atmosphere and clean line architecture!
Highly recommended if you are in the area!
Although in the Portland area, this hotel is located in Gresham about fifteen to twenty miles east of downtown Portland, and maybe seven miles east of the airport on I-84. Just off the very busy industrial NE 181st Avenue it is not easy to find. However if you have to be in the area, you will probably not be disappointed with this big ‘Holiday Inn’ like hotel.
What you get here is the efficient comfort of a moderately priced hotel in inner Portland at rates that reflect this outer Portland area. Although this is primarily a business hotel, interstate travelers coming from the Columbia River Gorge on I-84 may find this a good deal.
Included in the room rate are a complimentary breakfast, wifi, and the use of an indoor swimming pool, Spa (Jacuzzi), and fitness center. The pool and spa being a highlight of this hotel!
The staff were professional to a point without much grace, and the atmosphere in the hotel was casual without being cozy. However, the suites are clean with microwaves and refrigerators. Maybe one of the better hotels in this area!
Located on SW Capitol Highway and Barbur Blvd, close to the I-5S ramp, the Hospitality Inn is centrally located in a very busy SW Portland neighborhood about five miles from downtown Portland.
As such it is within easy distance of all the main attractions of the Portland area , the I-5, and Portland Community College.
The Inn is a dated 50’s type hotel on the interior with the customer service flare and eager hospitality of those times to complement. This is a very clean hotel with not a lot to offer in terms of aesthetic comfort either in the hotel or surrounding it.
The rooms are clean and comfortable but not special as reflected by the moderately priced rates. Breakfast and wifi is included in the rate as is the use of a spa and fitness room.
The staff is really professional and warm, and I sensed a lot of pride in the hotel.
I would say this hotel is most suited to business travelers, but anyone would feel comfortable here. It’s a very ordinary hotel that has been made interesting by the customer service of the staff. Good choice if you need to be in the area!
This modern hotel set in SW Portland just off Barbur Blvd on the approach to Tigard, is for the business guest and the traveler requiring more comfort than the usual offerings in this area.
Suites are very clean, quite large and include a refrigerator and microwave; some with a Jacuzzi tub. The atmosphere is subdued business, but I think it would be very good for families visiting the area who do not want the cost of staying at a downtown hotel.
Rates are very reasonable and moderately priced and include wifi and breakfast. There is also a lovely indoor swimming pool and hot tub, and a fitness center.
The staff is very attentive, professional, and eager to please. I sense this is a comfortable, not super luxurious business class hotel.
The hotel is just off the main drive down in to Tigard from Barbur Blvd to Pacific Highway, and the junction of I5 and 217. This is a convenient spot if you are on business in the outer SW area of town or are stopping over in transit from the I-5.
I definitely feel comfortable here!