Journalist for Life

Tag: America

Relax and learn, where East meets West

The signs claim this 200-acre swath of serenity is in the unremarkable community of Delray Beach. But, in truth, the Morikami Museum does a marvelous job of re-creating a slice of Japan. True, it’s an idealized view: The Morikami (pronounced MOOR-ee-CAH-me) and its adjacent gardens […]

Share this mountain respite with the butterflies

PARIS, Ark. — Two-lane roads snake up, down and around hills and mountains of Arkansas. They lead to more than 50 state parks and countless recreation areas and boat-launch ramps. Along these roads, you traverse cattle pastures, forests and villages so small you wonder how […]

Disney does Alaska — differently

Juneau, Alaska — Larry Stauffer’s job assignment the past couple of years has been pretty straightforward:

Figure out how to make the standard shore excursions in the busy Alaskan market so special that passengers aboard the Disney Cruise Line’s first-ever trips there this summer will buy its pricier versions.

For Stauffer, that meant getting the lumberjacks, dog mushers, gold-panners, helicopter pilots, totem-pole carver, glacier guides, train conductors and fishing boat operators to come up with something distinctively better.

Disney passengers can dress in protective gear and get a helicopter ride to a glacier near Juneau, then set off with ice axes to explore.
To achieve that, the manager of Disney Cruise’s Port Adventures (the Mouse’s term for excursions) twice flew from Orlando to Alaska, sampling about 20 excursions, then meeting with the operators.

“I absolutely challenged them to come back to us with ideas that were different for Disney. I told them we would be coming with 1,000 kids, told them what we already do on our existing itineraries,’’ Stauffer told me as he led a media tour to the ports last fall.

The Disney Wonder begins the first of 18, one-week voyages May 3 from Vancouver. It will call on Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan. Here’s a sampling of the Wonder’s up-market excursions it terms the Signature Collection:

Ketchikan – A popular tour visits Totem Bight State Historical Park, for a walkabout and explanation of the symbolism represented by its 14 totem poles. The Signature Collection touch takes place at the adjacent Potlatch Totem Park:

Youngsters help create a new totem pole, portraying a sea monster. Each child will be given paints and a piece of wood bearing a stenciled design – either feathers or gills for the monster. Each newly painted piece will be attached to the 20-foot-tall pole, to be finished by the end of the summer season.

For something flashier, the long-running Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show is down-sizing logs and equipment, for shows performed just for Wonder passengers.

Youngsters get to try their hand at a special version of the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show, in Ketchikan.
The lumberjacks will select about 10 children — as young as 5 – to take part in pint-sized versions of several stunts.

Skagway — The famed White Pass & Yukon Route railroad, an engineering marvel when built between 1898 and 1900, carried about 365,000 tourists in 2010 on its 27-mile, narrated, trip.

For those Wonder passengers selecting to upgrade, White Pass will form special Disney trains, carrying up to 120. They will get the standard trip as the train chugs up the mountain pass for about 100 minutes.

But Signature Collection passengers will stay onboard for the return trip, rather than getting into buses. On the downhill ride, kids will be placed in their own railcar. They will get special activity books, including an I-spy bingo style game to keep them checking the slowly passing scenery.

The White Pass & Yukon Route railroad climbs through the same passes as it did when built for the Yukon gold rush.
There also will be a costumed character – either a railroad figure or a prospector — spinning tales of the gold rush era.

The passengers are then taken to train the attraction named Liarsville. Here, Wonder passengers will watch an exclusive performance of a puppet show and listen to costumed staff explain that the gold prospectors had to carry about a ton of goods to help them survive the harsh winter.

The kids will be sent on a scavenger hunt for those supplies, in the tent village that is Liarsville. Next, the youngsters will try panning for gold flakes, with help from the Liarsville staff – and Donald Duck, resplendent in a traditional and matching ear-flaps hat.

Juneau — Perhaps the most-spectacular of the Signature Collection trips occurs out of Juneau, atop the Upper Norris Glacier.

In a typical summer, helicopter operator Tim Cudney (cq) and 16-time Iditarod musher Linwood Fiedler (cq) will haul about 10,000 passengers up to the glacier and put them on two-mile loops around the glacier in dog sleds. According to Cudney, “It is a life-changing experience … We have people (saying) this is on their bucket list.’’

And that’s without the tourists’ getting to put booties on the dogs to protect their paws – just one of the add-ons fashioned for the Signature passengers. They will also select the lead dog, then help harness the dogs to the sled.

Finally, these passengers can take the place of the professional musher – though youngsters will be just holding the sled’s handles while the pro stands behind them on the runners. The trips will be doubled to about four miles.

Also, Fiedler said, “We’ll show them how 150 dogs and 20 people can live on the glacier in a tent city, without flush toilets and light switches.’’

For more information

For rates, sailing dates and more information about the Disney Wonder, consult a travel agent or go to http://disneycruise.disney.go.com.

End Bag, the new book from Bob Jenkins, collects his best stories from 19 years as travel editor. Available now on Amazon.com. View a sample at Smashwords.com. Read more about End Bag here.

A new walk on the wild side

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Acclaimed anthropologist Jane Goodall was a consultant as Walt Disney World Resort was building its fourth and largest theme park, Animal Kingdom. When the media previewed the park before its April 1998 opening, I asked Dr. Goodall what she thought […]

A place “so special in our history”

GETTYSBURG, Pa. — Every night, tourists in this farming community, site of the bloodiest battle ever fought in North America, stroll city streets on commercial ghost tours. But visitors don’t need to pay to hear about ghosts. They only need to walk the 6,000 acres […]

Grand Tetons: Wonders of the Wild

The people who take the time to catalog such things report that there are about 900 species of wildflowers in Grand Teton National Park. That’s good to know, because most of us are never going to look down while we are here: We are going to be looking up.

The Grand Teton range is a relentlessly spectacular, 40-mile-long series of serrated peaks. Jutting dramatically from the broad Jackson Hole (pioneers’ term for a valley), the Tetons may be North America’s most impressive mountain panorama. To stand awhile gazing at them is to ponder mankind’s tentative position in the planet’s scheme.

As with Yellowstone, just a few miles to the north, this park is the result of massive geologic activity: About 9-million years ago, two huge slabs separated, one rising to fashion the mountains, one dropping to form the valley.

While the tallest peak, Grand Teton, soars to 13,770 feet, it has to vie for attention with 11 partners that top 12,000 feet. Their jagged, gray granite faces are laced with patches of snow and with glaciers. Trees seem to quit their climb early on these slopes; even the valley’s green carpet abruptly halts to let the mountains rise.

Awesome yet approachable

But the Tetons can be approached and even scaled: There are more than 200 miles of hiking trails that wend around the sparkling lakes and up into the mountains.

For instance, you can circle pretty Jenny Lake in just six miles or take a turn-off at the south end to find the aptly named Hidden Falls, whose sound reaches the hiker’s ears long before the waterfall appears through the trees.

Two paved roads run north and south through the park, roughly parallel to the mountains on the west, and there are enough scenic overlooks to fill even a big memory card.

But for a languid look at the Tetons, get aboard one of the popular raft-floats on the Snake River, flowing about 6-8 miles from the mountains. The trip is calm, the young people handling the steering oars are full of history, corny jokes and naturalist lore. They are also quick to point out the eagles, ospreys, waterfowl, wading birds and beavers’ lodges on the river and its shores.

When people lived here

While several Indian tribes had migrated regularly through the flat valley, the first white settlers brought cattle herds here in the late 19th century. Just a trace of this pioneering effort remains, so it’s worth a stop at the Cunningham Cabin Historic Site, on the eastern edge of the park.

Pierce Cunningham had led the effort to have the area proclaimed a national park, which came to pass in 1929; more land was added in 1950, making the park 485 square miles.

Another remnant is the Menor’s Ferry Trail, where a half-mile path takes visitors to look at homesteading ways, including a replica of a turn-of-the-century ferry across the Snake.

Close by is the 71-year-old Chapel of the Transfiguration, a tiny church that features a special backdrop to its altar: a picture window showcasing the Tetons.

Horseback rides, lasting from an hour or so to overnight camping trips, are a special way to enjoy the back country, or you can pedal your bicycle along the paved roads – no bikes allowed on the trails.

For a brief foray on the water, check at the Colter Bay Visitor Center for the breakfast and dinner trips to an island in big Jackson Lake. The grilled steaks taste special amid the natural splendor. The wildlife enhances the meals: Rare sandhill cranes shatter the stillness as they call from their nesting area, and white-tail deer prance by the picnic tables.

Back at the Colter Bay Visitor Center, make time to visit the well-done Native American art. Creativity and craftsmanship are the focus. The center also shows films on wildlife and on Native American history.

Best of all, when you step back outside and turn around, those marvelous mountains are there, defining the horizon and encouraging you to dream.

If you go

Grand Teton National Park is on the western edge of Wyoming, just north of the city of Jackson, which has commuter plane service.

The park is open year-round, but visitor centers and concession services in the park close in the late fall through the winter. Snowshoe and snowmobiling trips are available in the winter.

For information about Grand Teton National Park, call (307) 739-3300 or go to www.nps.gov/grte/index.htm.

The park has five campgrounds with 865 sites, and five hotels that offer rooms and rustic cabins. For information on accommodations, contact the Grand Teton Lodge Co., (800) 628-9988 or go to www.gtlc.com.

For lodging in Jackson, a few miles to the south, go to the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce site, www.jacksonholechamber.com/lodging/hotels-motels-lodges.php.

End Bag, the new book from Bob Jenkins, collects his best stories from 19 years as travel editor. Available now on Amazon.com. View a sample at Smashwords.com. Read more about End Bag here.

Tour of Jack Daniels Distillery? You can’t drink to that

A visit to the Jack Daniel’s Distillery in Lynchburg, Tenn., is equal parts history, science and language lessons. “We want the ladies to sit down first and if y’all don’t find enough seats, we want the men to hold on tight to the seat rails,” […]

Mountains of memories

DENALI NATIONAL PARK, Alaska — Time and the forces of nature will decide if Mount McKinley is immortal, but it’s so mighty that it seemingly decides when to display its 20,320-foot-tall majesty. The mountain is also called by its American Indian name, Denali, meaning the […]

Why you should be going to Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — This city has made its mark on America.

It gave us Walt Disney and Walter Cronkite, Jesse James and Joan Crawford, Count Basie and Calvin Trillin. It’s where Rival created the CrockPot, where McDonald’s invented the Happy Meal.

Hallmark Cards and Applebee’s have headquarters here.

But none of that is likely to draw more than casual attention from a tourist. Nor are the 100 barbecue joints or 200 fountains the city boasts.

Rather, it’s the wealth of memorable museums that forces the visitor to split the available time, and maybe to regret not planning a longer trip.

To save you some of that angst, here is a guide to just four of the special museums.

Treasure under that field

Dressed in a plaid shirt, hands tucked into the pockets of his workday slacks, Bob Hawley clearly hasn’t let his find of treasure go to his head. He or one of his sons still greet visitors at the Arabia Steamboat Museum and tells them how they became sunken-ship salvagers – in the middle of a farm field in the middle of America.

“They say the Missouri River (he pronounces it Miz-ZURE-uh) is too thick to drink and too thin to plow,” said Hawley, whose family has a refrigeration repair business.

Son David had been on a service call at a farm on the Kansas side of the river when he heard a story that apparently had been making the rounds for more than 130 years, about how a steamboat was buried beneath the farm – more than a half-mile from the river bank.
David told his father and brother. They decided to dig up the ship and whatever treasure it had gone down with. (David sometimes lets on to the visitors he greets that, “We just wanted an excuse to drive heavy equipment.”)

A wall map in the museum shows the sites of 162 steamboats sunk between St. Louis and Kansas City in the mid-19th century, when the way to move goods to the frontier was by riverboat.

The fact that the Arabia was now under farm land was one of those peculiarities of the Earth’s constant reshaping of itself. The Missouri had carved a new course through the farmland and then through recurrent flooding, covered the land with what turned out to be a 45-foot-deep layer of rich silt.

A film relates that the pdaddlewheeler Arabia, 171 feet long, 54 feet wide, was loaded in late August 1856 with about 220 tons of goods to be delivered to 54 merchants as far north as Nebraska.

But the ship hit a submerged tree trunk and sank. All 130 passengers got off; the only fatality was a mule, tied on deck.

The Hawley team had to sink 20 wells to drain enough of flowing underground water to accomplish the recovery.

A film shows the men pulling odd items encased in mud. Cleaned and restored, thousands of everyday items that pioneers needed to live on the frontier are now in floor-to-ceiling display cases:

Here are whale oil lamps, 1,200 shoes, ink wells, mirrors, cuspidors, schoolroom slates, utensils, gun parts from Belgium, beads from Italy.
B
ut the salvors did find money: a coin purse that held 25 cents, and also a single penny.

War to end all wars

Hundreds of thousands of doughboys passed through Kansas City’s huge Union Station railway hub after the United States entered World War I. Within two weeks of the Armistice in November 1918, the area’s populace agreed to contribute $2.5-million to build a Liberty Memorial to the soldiers’ sacrifices.

In 1926, President Coolidge dedicated the imposing hilltop plaza and its 217-foot-tall Memorial Tower.

After taxing themselves for a multimillion-dollar refurbishment in 1998, residents passed a bond issue to raise $102-million to construct, and acquire artifacts for, a World War I museum.

Built beneath the memorial, the National World War I Museum opened in December 2006, designated by Congress as the nation’s official WWI museum.

It’s spectacular.

Visitors enter by walking on a glass floor above 9,000 artificial red poppies, each representing 1,000 dead soldiers. Presentations range from newsreels to recordings, from interactive exhibits (make your own propaganda poster and e-mail it home) to more than 50,000 artifacts.

An opening film explains the shifting power, disparity of wealth and erosion of monarchies throughout Europe. In booths, visitors can hear American fighter pilot Eddie Rickenbacker describe a dogfight, or listen to period music.

Visitors can pass through a clever, if chilling, series of life-sized constructions showing how wretched trench warfare became.

On the walls are quotations, including:

“It cannot be that 2-million Germans should have fallen in vain . . . No, we do not pardon, we demand – vengeance.”

– Adolf Hitler, 1922

“If we don’t end war, war will end us.”

– H.G. Wells, 1935.

Dual destinations

About six blocks from the intersection of 12th Street and Vine, made famous in the rock ‘n’ roll song Going to Kansas City, is a pair of museums enshrining Americana:

– The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum utilizes period photos, uniforms and equipment to explain a facet of segregation that probably escaped the notice of most whites, then and still.

From the late 19th century past the middle of the 20th century, thousands of young black men played baseball, for money, on hundreds of teams. Except for the rare exhibition game, even the best of these men never played against whites.

This compact museum recounts the long journey to equality via a film and 12 galleries that roughly circle the clever centerpiece – a mock baseball field with life-sized statues of legendary players, in action poses at their positions on the field.

– Popular music has long transcended the nation’s racial divide, and no part of popular culture is more uniquely American than jazz.

When the Depression shuttered much of the nation’s nightlife, political “Boss” Tom Pendergast simply decided he wouldn’t let it close down his city. He ordered public works projects to keep people employed and he ignored Prohibition to keep them content. More than 100 nightclubs, dance halls and vaudeville houses featured blues and jazz.

Bands were formed and legends made. Regulars included Louis Armstrong, Big Joe Turner, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and a local fellow, Charlie Parker.

Within the Jazz Museum, visitors can listen to Armstrong, Ellington, Fitzgerald and Parker, each of whom has a separate gallery. One of Parker’s special saxophones is on display.

The museum shares the building with a nightclub, the Blue Room; the Baseball Museum is just up the block.

If you go
– The Arabia Steamboat Museum, 400 Grand Blvd., in the River Market. Open daily except for major holidays. (816) 471-4030.
– The National World War One Museum, open Tuesday through Sunday except for major holidays. (816) 784-1918.
-The American Jazz Museum and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum share the address 1616 E 18th St. Both open Tuesday through Sunday except major holidays. The Jazz Museum is at (816) 474-8463; www.americanjazzmuseum.com. The Baseball Museum is at (816) 221-1920; www.nlbm.com.

End Bag, the new book from Bob Jenkins, collects his best stories from 19 years as travel editor. Available now on Amazon.com. View a sample at Smashwords.com. Read more about End Bag here.

We know Hawaii — but then, we really don’t

HONOLULU — It is one of the most famous vacation destinations in the world. Conventioneers wearing name badges gulp down mai tais at the nightly luaus. Tourists with colored tour-company stickers on their shirts giggle as they try the hula. Pro and amateur surfers paddle […]