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Mad as a March Hare – March Comes in Like a Lion – March Madness

Posted: March 5th, 2014 by

More than likely you have heard of one or more of these phrases as we say goodbye to those wintery days and look forward to Spring.

hareIn the case of Mad as a March hare, it may be a reference to the erratic behavior of animals (or humans) in the month of March . . . what about March, coming in like a Lion and out like a Lamb . . . well, the Rev. Dr. David Q. Hall describes why “March winds are well known” in his blog, The Rev. Dr.s Musings on Nature, Life and Belief.

bbp 1The phrase March Madness actually pertained to the European Hare’s breeding season, but a more current (20th Century) reference is about Basketball. Fact is, March Madness became a nickname for the NCAA Basketball tournaments, which take place in the month of March. The tie in to tourism is simply that the tournaments take place in a variety of cities each March (and often go into early April), thus attracting a great number of basketball fans, supporters, etc. who not only fill sport venue bleachers and seats, but as is the case with out-of-town visitors, require overnight lodging, the requisite number of meals and an assortment of purchases; all which help to beef up the economical windfall for the lucky hosting city(s).

Photo shows Orville Wright in flight

Photo shows Orville Wright in flight

Tourism would be greatly affected today had it not been for the Wright Brothers and the first airplane flight on December 17, 1903 and although it took place in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, they hailed from Dayton, Ohio, called the birthplace of aviation, and the first stop for the ‘First Four’ at UD Arena in Dayton (March 18-19). Not only will basketball fans be treated to a heart-pounding, foot-stomping start to 2014’s March Madness, but there’s more to Dayton than just the hoops, like the world’s largest and oldest aviation museum, “National Museum of the U.S. Air Force” and the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historic Park.

The Birdwatcher In Us!

Posted: January 28th, 2014 by

Central Park

"The deceptively cute Gray Jay is one of the most intrepid birds in North America, living in northern forests year-round and rearing chicks in the dark of winter."  www.allaboutbirds.org

“The deceptively cute Gray Jay is one of the most intrepid birds in North America, living in northern forests year-round and rearing chicks in the dark of winter.” www.allaboutbirds.org

Let’s face it, there’s a little birdwatcher in all of us. Stop and think for a moment; do you remember when you looked skyward and wondered where that flock of geese was flying to as they headed southward? How about the time you saw birds of a feather swoop from one set of tree tops to another; or watched the antics of a Blue Jay taking possession of its space, or a Mother bird feed her young amid their gaping beaks, twitters and peeps. Yes, you were bird watching!

Mountain Desert Island, Maine - a year-round birding paradise - Wikimedia Commons

Mountain Desert Island, Maine – a year-round birding paradise – Wikimedia Commons

I’ve never actually considered myself a birdwatcher per se, but I do remember quite a few years ago, while touring the Florida Everglades, encountering a group of tourists who were actually on a bird watching tour. They disembarked quietly from their tour bus in single file with binoculars in hand. At first, I couldn’t help wonder what they were doing, but then it was evident as they dispersed and quickly raised their binoculars toward the tree tops. I could barely hear their whispers, but imagined they were pointing out one bird or another. You could see the fascination and quiet excitement on their faces. I watched three or four congregate near some Palmetto’s as they peered around the prickly green pointed Palmetto, and in hushed tones speak of some great feathered find.

The Dream Continues . . .

Posted: January 19th, 2014 by

Dr. Martin Luther King Memorial, Washington DC

Dr. Martin Luther King Memorial, Washington DC

2013 was the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s infamous “I Have a Dream” speech, a milestone marked by many remembrances and memorials. As we approach this January 20th, set aside to honor MLK, we are reminded once again that we should never give up on our dreams, which are as varied as the people who dream them.

Tower of old Jamestown Church, ca 1639, shown in  1854 image, Wikimedia comons

Tower of old Jamestown Church, ca 1639, shown in 1854 image, Wikimedia comons

. . . including dreams that go back as far as 1607, when the English (some 100+ men and boys plus 39 crew members) established Jamestown as the first settlement of the Virginia Colony, traveling across the ocean to fulfill their dream of religious freedom and a better quality of life. Today Jamestown, and nearby Williamsburg, are a testament to these early settlers’ fortitude, and what once was their first home reminds us of America’s early history, which have also become popular tourist attractions, drawing people from all walks of life.

1870, Crouffit's Great Transcontinental Tourist's Guide, Wikimedia Commons

1870, Crouffit’s Great Transcontinental Tourist’s Guide, Wikimedia Commons

May 10, 1869 marked another milestone in American History, where the dream of the first Transcontinental Railroad was finally realized thereby enabling Americans to travel virtually from one coast to the other overland, connecting with the existing Eastern U.S. rail network at Council Bluffs, Iowa. The dream may have actually begun with Asa Whitney, the widely-traveled cousin of Eli Whitney (inventor of the cotton gin) who said, “[It] would bring all our immensely wide-spread population together as one vast city; the moral and social effects of which must harmonize all together as one family; with but one interest – the general good of all.” Others, like Dr. Hartwell Carver kept the dream alive, with an article published in 1832, where Carver advocated the building of a transcontinental railroad from Lake Michigan to Oregon.

Although the initial building of a transcontinental railroad was very much for commercial purposes, as it evolved it is also provided a means for tourism.

I Now Know What Sea Legs Mean . . .

Posted: January 10th, 2014 by

Sunrise in Cozumel, Mexico, from the bow of the Breeze

Sunrise in Cozumel, Mexico, from the bow of the Breeze

You probably guessed: I just recently went on a week-long cruise which I can easily describe as a dream vacation. You know, where the skies were pretty much sunny, the air was warm and a calliope of chatter (in about a dozen languages) and laughter filled the air wherever we were… the sights were fantastic, the food was hmmmm very good, and there was plenty to see and do.

swans 2As memories go though, there were three or four standouts. First, there were the towels mimicking various sea creatures. Yes, I did say towels! You see, each evening, when we came back to our cabin after the sumptuous evening meal, we were greeted by a clean room and a towel sea creature sitting atop the bed. As I remember correctly, we had a frog, a penguin, a sea turtle, a stingray and I presume a pelican. There was also two swans kissing, representing a heart, to celebrate my daughter’s birthday.
This simple gesture, provided by our daily housekeeper, who cleaned our room, not once, but twice a day, was actually something unexpected but eagerly anticipated after the first evening’s surprise. Although I am sure the overall cost of the cruise includes what some might think nonsensical; I on the other hand thought it to be a thoughtful and genuine state of hospitality, something often lacking in any vacation, be it on land or sea. By the way, the towel brigade was in full swing the morning of our final full day at sea when the pool deck had an array of towel-sea creatures sitting atop lounge chairs, much like I imagined soldiers would look, all bedecked in white uniforms, guarding their charges of blue.

Holidays: The Name’s the Same!

Posted: December 20th, 2013 by

It appears there are a number of cities and towns in the US with holiday type names, so how about a little trivia where the name is the same when it comes to holidays?

The Star of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania is easily visible 20 miles away

The Star of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania is easily visible 20 miles away

Probably the most recognized Christmas related town name is Bethlehem, and in the US there are (reportedly) eight to 12. I’ve discovered 9 of them: Bethlehem, CT; Bethlehem, GA; Bethlehem, IN; Bethlehem, KY, Bethlehem, MD; Bethlehem, MS; Bethlehem, NH; Bethlehem, PA; Bethlehem, WV, with Bethlehem, PA being the most prominently known.

It was on Christmas eve in 1741, when a group of Moravians founded the mission community of Bethlehem, which proved to be a town for the future when in 1762 it built the “first-water works in America to pump water for public use.”

After the Civil War Bethlehem became a city, and a center for heavy industry and trade during the industrial revolution, thus Bethlehem Steel Corporation was founded, becoming the 2nd largest steel producer in the US, and was also one of the largest shipbuilding companies in the world. Unfortunately they ceased their operations in 1995, after about 140 years of being in business.

Could it be the result of a grand ceremony on December 7, 1937, during the Great Depression, when the wife of Bethlehem Steel Corporation President, Charles F. Brown, flipped on the switch to turn on the new Christmas street lights and a large wooden star [that the city of Bethlehem still beckons visitors]? It was also at this time the Chamber of Commerce adopted the nickname ‘Christmas City, USA’. Today, that wooden star when lit up can be seen as far as Wind Gap, 20 miles away.

Bethlehem is also home to three large universities, including Lehigh University, and Money Magazine listed it at number 88 out of 100 ‘best cities to live’ . . .

ZOOrific Holiday Family Outings

Posted: December 4th, 2013 by

Flickr image by cliff1066 tm of Zoo Lights at the National Zoo

Flickr image by cliff1066 tm of Zoo Lights at the National Zoo

When was the last time you visited a zoo? If I am the example it more than likely was when you were a youngster, or your children or grandchildren were youngsters.

Flickr image by therichardlife

Flickr image by therichardlife

What could be more magical than Christmas at the zoo – with twinkling lights strung up along the walkways leading everyone to playful chimps, long-necked giraffes, big and fuzzy bears, or a magnificent tiger or two, amongst other creatures, sure to delight the whole family. More and more zoos decorate with lights and dazzling displays to encourage families to include animals in their holiday activities, be it Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza or any number of culturally traditional holidays during December and January.

Indianapolis Zoo at Christmastime (photo courtesy Indianpolis Zoo)

Indianapolis Zoo at Christmastime (photo courtesy Indianpolis Zoo)

It seems the Indianapolis Zoo was the “first zoo (since 1957) in the U.S. to hold a holiday lights event.” Since then, Christmas at the Indianapolis Zoo “has become known for its spectacular holiday lights and Christmas displays,” making it a great place for holiday memories. Surely if there has been snow falling during this time, when evening comes and twinkling lights set the stage, it would indeed be magical!

Tis’ The Season to be Shopping . . . Fa La La La La … La La La La

Posted: November 21st, 2013 by
What can be more festive than a holiday bedecked mall - flickr image by e e paul

What can be more festive than a holiday bedecked mall – flickr image by e e paul

Although statistically speaking, it has been said that approximately 71% of Americans will do their shopping online this year, for many it’s just not the holidays without a mall visit. After all, the jingling of bells, the hustle and bustle of people mingling and jostling bags and boxes, the aromas of holiday treats wafting from various food vendors, decorative store fronts with tinsel and twinkling lights, Santa’s here and there, and just the happy chaos that is reminiscent of the past that many of us have not forgotten is reason enough to at least abandon our online shopping for one or two store bought gifts.

So where are the most popular shopping places anyhow? While Travel and Leisure listed 32 of the most popular shopping malls during the holidays, we’ll spare you all the details and list the top 5, although you can learn more about this phenomena here

Number 1 Shopping Mall during the Holiday Season

Number 1 Shopping Mall during the Holiday Season

No. 1 Mall of America, Bloomington, MN
Annual Visitors: 40 million
Year Opened: 1992

With more than 400 shops and a nice blend of retail and entertainment (a roller coaster inside no less) it is no wonder the Mall of America is at the top of the list.

Is that a snowman we see outside of Aventura Mall in Miami, Florida?

Is that a snowman we see outside of Aventura Mall in Miami, Florida?

No. 2 Aventura Mall, Aventura, FL
Annual Visitors: 28 million
Year Opened: 1983

Oh my, what isn’t good about Aventura Mall? Its located in sunny Miami, Florida and hosts special events like the Chocolate Festival and the Great American Bake Sale, plus has the added advantage of Gulfstream Park thoroughbred horse racing and championship golf courses among other features in its enclave.

By the way, if you’re in need of a good night’s sleep after you shop til’ you drop, check us out.


Reflections of the Past – Stepping Stones for the Future . . .

Posted: November 11th, 2013 by
Flickr image by cwwcoff1

Flickr image by cwwcoff1

Can we ever truly thank our veterans enough for their service to our country? Many have sacrificed their lives so we can continue to enjoy the freedom we Americans have come to know, and unfortunately often forget how fortunate we are.

Let us not just celebrate November 11th as a day to honor America’s veterans, active or deceased, but let’s aspire to acknowledge them on a daily basis. A kind word or an unexpected thank you will go a long way in showing a veteran that you appreciate their service, past or present.

I am always reminded on those occasions when we are honoring our veterans of the beautiful poem that LTC John McCrae, Canadian (1872-1918) wrote, and once again wish to share it with you.

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Ten Musical Reasons to Like Halloween Plus Some Travel Trivia

Posted: October 24th, 2013 by

mask No. 10 Head to the sunshine state, more so to Miami, Florida to soak up the sun by day and then by night dress up like your favorite zombie and head over to the Massive Ideas Masquerade. For family fun, the Miami Zoo can’t be beat for its free range where animals are grouped together based on their geographic territory and exhibits are entirely cageless. Afterwards try a Cuban sandwich at La Carreta, the original Cuban kitchen.

FALL: It’s All About Falling Leaves and Festivals

Posted: October 2nd, 2013 by

Fall in Aspen, Colorado is evident by the stark white bark of the Birch Trees and their brilliant yellow leaves sprinkled with radiant reds.  Flickr photo by snowpeak

Fall in Aspen, Colorado is evident by the stark white bark of the Birch Trees and their brilliant yellow leaves sprinkled with radiant reds. Flickr photo by snowpeak

Every October the same phenomenon occurs when leaves of the quaking Aspen glow in various shades of yellow, and the Beech dazzles with golden bronze while the Birch tree’s’ bark’ is as captivating as its leaves of golden-yellow brillance. Probably the most favored trees in the fall for resplendent foliage are Maple and Oak trees. Japanese Maple trees are drenched in bronze, purple and red leaves come October, and then there is the Paper Bark Maple with its bright red leaves, or one of my favorites, the Sugar Maple with its explosion of orange foliage and the silver maple with its shimmering yellow leaves.