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Caesar’s Things

May 19, 2024

When I was young, Kennywood was a far different experience than today. Back then you could walk into the park for free. There was a HUGE swimming pool where Old Kennywood is today.

The area just outside the gate, behind Noah’s Ark, was a parking lot. It cost $2 to park there. The huge lot across the road was free. There was no ski lift shuttle. No under-road tunnel. It was not one price for all. Back then riding took either two or three tickets. Tickets were ten cents. My grandparents gave me $10 for a book of tickets and usually $10 for walking around money. A new outfit and a day out cost probably under $30. The only time my grandmother ever went to Kennywood with me was in 1966, the first year the Turnpike ride was there. We rode twice. The pool is gone. Free parking is gone. (Not sure if parking at the top of the hill where the ski lift goes is free). The Turnpike is gone. Free entry to the park is gone. Today you pay a one-price entry fee and it is WAY more than $30. Times have changed. Lots of things have changed like this, big and small.

For instance, I remember a time when I could drive to Canada for a visit to Niagara Falls. We had to go through customs whether driving or walking over the bridge, but it was free and relatively easy. That is no longer the case either. Today, you need a passport to visit Canada. (The same is true for Mexico).

We had passports for a long-ago trip to the Bahamas. Rough small vacation. I had pneumonia and enjoyed very little of the trip. Never used the passports again. They expired within the last couple of years. Niagara Falls is the only trip I really want to make again but now there is a ‘barrier to entry’. My wife and I do trips like this… four or five hours from home. At our age, we were a little ambivalent about getting new passports. They are only $130 but a little hard to justify with our plans for no more international travel. Affordable, but why?

Someone clued us into passport cards. They are only $30 apiece. The difference is access. With a passport book, you can go anywhere. With a card, you are limited to trips that cross only land or water borders. Think Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas, etc. Passport cards are also good for domestic flights. They are basically laminated ID cards, a little more convenient than carrying a passport book around. They will also get you into a federal building if you don’t have a Real ID.

You still need a passport photo. You can take these yourself. There are websites explaining the process and tips for clothing, background, etc. You can submit your photo to the site and they will tell you if they are acceptable or not. You can also go to CVS or other places to get a ‘professional’ photo, which is what we did. The cost there is under $20 per picture and is guaranteed to meet all requirements. I’m disappointed with my card. The picture was OK. Not sure what they were thinking when they created the card. If it works, I’m fine with it.

The other of Caesar’s things we recently got was personalized license plates. These are strictly for vanity. Show off your creativity. They cost just under $100 per plate and have several requirements:

“…may contain up to seven letters and numbers in combination. One hyphen or one space is permitted, but not both. Special characters are not available. A personal motorcycle registration plate may contain up to five letters and numbers in combination…”

If you want a plate that reads ‘Eat Poop” or “Bite Me” you’re going to be disappointed. You can’t have things that are ‘profane, lewd, lascivious, vulgar, excretory reference, etc. People WILL be checking for clever verbal sidestep gymnastics. Rejecting them. Some messages WILL be canceled.

“PennDOT staff utilizes many resources in reviewing personalized license plate requests, such as an Internet Acronym Dictionary, Slang/Euphemism Dictionary, translations from foreign languages, an upside down or reverse reading of the requested configuration, etc.”

There is a “Do Not Issue” list of words others have either tried or PennDot anticipated for rejection. Personally, I would LOVE to see the upside-down list.

I considered several alternatives should my first choices have been unavailable.

“No Muss” and “No Fuss” for example. (“No Fuss is already taken).
“No One” and “Is Home” are available if you’re scratching for ideas.

There is some wiggle room too. Turns out zeroes look almost exactly like the letter O. I find the same thing true of the letter Q. Let your creative flag fly.

There are web pages devoted to clever PA plates others have concocted. I know you’ve seen some. Some examples:


I often see custom plates and it is fun trying to figure out what they are saying as people often rely on us mentally filling in blanks, missing letters, etc. to get their message. (Mine don’t require any effort to translate.)

There is an availability tool to see if your gem is available. If what you want is available, it will be locked in by PennDOT upon receipt of payment and completed application. Once you have a plate, it is yours unless you give it up. (Note. The cost of the plate is separate from the normal registration fee.)

I did not NEED a passport card or custom license plate. The card opens visits again to Canada. My personalized license plates add a little fun to travel. I’m not revealing what my plate messages are but I am really happy they were available. They say a bit about me and my wife. We hope others get a kick out of them too.

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