Rant


Travel Rant

 

I’ve come to the end of another travel day and I can’t help it – I want to rant. Some days the people who cross your path are just too in la-la land I can’t imagine how they got this far.

 

#1 – My morning encounter was a lady in the breakfast room of the Wingate hotel in St. George. I spit a bagel and placed it in one of the toasters, the kind that you put on a wire rack on top and the toasted item comes out on the bottom . So my bagel is about to drop to the finished rack and  woman reaches in and takes the bagel. When I confront her I ask if she had sliced it and put it in the toaster. Her reply, “I thought it was automatic.” I guess she thinks everything is about her and when she enters the room it’s time for the toaster to get to work.

 

#2 – Memorial Day in Zion Canyon sees a steady stream of visitors and hikers in all the popular areas. A foot bridge crosses the Virgin River is wide enough to pass someone – unless, people decide to walk right down the center. We wait patiently while a steady stream comes towards us, sometimes in pairs, some stopping to take pictures,  until it is obvious we’ll have to be pushy to gain access in the opposite direction.

 

#3 – Driving towards Zion’s east entrance the road climbs with many switchback curves. On one curve there is a paved pull off on the inside of the curve. A car with a California license plate has stopped to take a photograph – not in the pull off but head on to  oncoming traffic. What are they thinking? Are they thinking?

 

#4 – As we’re checking into the Kanab Holiday Inn Express a couple is loading the only available luggage cart. Assuming (silly us) they will return it as soon as they unload we relax in the lobby with a warm fresh baked cookie. We finally decide to go ahead unload without a cart. We later meet them in the hall as they return the cart on their way to dinner – at their convenience. You can bet I had words for them.

 

Rarely does one day bring so many rude, thoughtless people. Thank heavens.

How Small Can They Get?

I admit this is a personal rant; but, here’s my beef. Many communities that depend solely or in large portion on tourism can’t get their act together to present a comprehensive website for activities, dining, events and lodging information. Each special interest presents a small slice of tCB Mountains with Wildflowershe picture. The potential visitor either has to be a world-class sleuth or already be familiar with the area to find all the meaningful information. I suspect in many cases the visitor gives up – either missing important parts of a visit or skipping the destination entirely because that small slice isn’t the right match.

What set me off? My pending weekend in Crested Butte, Colorado. We have family living in “The Butte” and have visited dozens and dozen of times in all seasons. Well, maybe not the spring mud season. I’m a travel writer, I’m on PR email lists, I know the area and I’m frustrated. Can you imagine how the first time visitor from Oklahoma might feel?

Google “Visit Crested Butte”, among the top choices will be www.visitcrestedbutte.com – a commercial site, www.gunnisoncrestedbutte.com – from the Gunnison – Crested Butte Tourism Association, and www.skicb.com – the site of Crested Butte Mountain Resort. Each site is totally self-serving. In an area of this size the likelihood of a visitor coming to CB and confining their lodging, dining and recreation to one provider is slim to none. Remember folks – Club Med failed here.

CB Downtown Going to Crested Butte and want to know what’s scheduled? Good luck! It’s actually the biggest weekend of the summer but you have to dig deep for a even a semi-complete picture.

The Community Calendar at www.visitcrestedbutte.com lists Active Isolated Stretching Class on Friday, July 30th. That’s it! Their last Mountain Bike Report update was July 5th; and, this is truly a mountain biking haven. Does this information make anyone believe anything else on the site is relevant or timely?

Over at www.gunnisoncrestedbutte.com the Crested Butte Art Festival is listed as a Featured Event. Clicking the name provides basic details and a link to the event website. Not bad. However, clicking on the 2010 Event Calendar takes me to a cumbersome listing of events with no links. The list is organized by the date of the first event; for example the Crested Butte Music Festival is listed under July 3 – Aug. 5 – Various locations. That’s all the information provided. They’ve put the money into lovely pictures and cute animation on this website but they only promote members.

The Events Calendar at www.skicb.com notes the Arts Festival and Crested Butte Open Gala Dinner and Golf Tournament on Sunday at The Club at Crested Butte – a resort owned property.

Because I had a head’s up from a local I know there’s a Mountain Man RendezvousCB Mountains up Washington Gulch. By checking the Crested Butte Music Festival website I know when and where the free and ticketed events are this weekend. From the local paper, chamber of commerce, town and county web pages additional bits and pieces of information can be obtained.

Why not combine resources and offer a comprehensive site that visitors will truly find helpful. Quit being small town provincial and work together.

Our weekend will include lodging at CBMR, music, the arts festival, mountain man rendezvous, outdoor recreation, shopping and dining. We’ll have a wonderful time in spite of the tourism agencies.

 

It Happens

You know what “It” is. Our room phone rang at 7:01am. I’m thinking we didn’t request a wake-up call. “Is this Nancy? Sorry to bother you so early. What kind of car do you drive? It’s been broken into, if you can come down to the lobby the police are on their way.”

Welcome to Phoenix!

I throw clothes on from the night before and get downstairs pronto. The mind is whirling, “What did we leave in the car? How much damage will there be? How will this affect the trip?” The night  auditor insists on walking out with me. Broken glass covers the ground, items are scattered on the pavement.

Initial assessment is that it’s not as bad as it could be, a couple of tote bags are missing. The snack bag is gone - I hope the creeps like granola bars. I’m going to owe my public library when I get home, a bag with two books and two books on tape has taken flight – I hope they have a literary bent. The irony is that it was one of my favorite totes and was a gift a few years ago from the Arizona Tourism Office.

The hotel staff is terrific, from manager to maintenance, front desk to Starbucks barista. There are a couple of other victims as well. Police are called – the hotel placed four calls but  the police did  finally come and take a report. I know that in many cities that would not have been the case. Glass was swept, brushed and picked out of nooks. Lattes are provided while insurance company is contacted, glass company suggestions were made, schedules rearranged.

By mid-afternoon we were once again operational. The Desert Botanical Gardens were understanding and slid our entry ticket time from 8am to 4pm. By bedtime we realized a few more items were among the missing, three bottles of hard cider – I hope they were of drinking age, and $60 of speciality pecans – they better appreciate our gourmet taste. Sorry Pat P.

As disappointing and disruptive as this was to deal with we can’t help but realize it could have been a whole lot worse. One or two lowlife left a lasting impression about Phoenix but many more kind citizens did all they could to lend a hand. We’ll try to remember the positives.

Stellar Disappointment

whipple-mt-hopkins1

Whipple Observatory sits atop Mt. Hopkins in Southern Arizona

A visit to the Whipple Observatory Visitors Center brought the first major disappointment of our Southwestern Sojourn. The observatory is a facility of the Harvard- Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. We knew before our visit that we would not be able to go to the top of Mt. Hopkins where the major telescopes are placed. Tours start mid-March and run until late fall. At 8500+ feet in elevation winter conditions are unpredictable. Reservations for tours are essential, the daily limited number of positions frequently fill weeks in advance.

We drive eight miles from the I-19 frontage road  to the visitors center. Displays are minimal with several sporting “Out of Order” signs. The best exhibit in the facility is one by the Coronado National Forest of wildlife and nature features in the area. There is a well marked nature trail beginning just before the visitor center parking lot.

whipple-vc1A video was started because there was one visitor getting VIP treatment. We saw three segments, all amateurish and dated. One discussing new changes was dated 1990 and another had to be at least ten years earlier than that. The third had little narration. A avid amateur or professional astronomer might find something to gleam but for most of us it went right over our heads.

From observing other visitors  I sense we weren’t the only ones disappointed in the lack of information available. I think we all expected more from Harvard and the Smithsonian, we understand the primary mission is research; however, this is a lost opportunity to connect with an interested public.

Trying to elicit information about the tours was fruitless from the elderly lady behind the counter. They are approximately six-hours long  and you need to bring your own lunch. But I was unsuccessful in finding out what they cover. If they are no better than the visitors center I wouldn’t bother. But, they do book up so there must be something worthwhile.

2009 is the International Year of Astronomy and the 400th anniversary of astronomical telescopes. From our experience we’ll head to Kitt Peak or Lowell Observatory for an astronomy fix.

The best I can say is that someone is doing a good job keeping the restrooms clean.

More Shame for the State of Illinois

There are times when I’m embarrassed to admit I’m from Illinois. My ancestors moved westward with the frontier in the early 1800s from Virginia, through Cumberland Gap, stopping in Ohio and Indiana before finally settling on the Illinois prairie. Reality is that Central Illinois was a great place for growing up and gave me a firm basis for the values I hold and who I am today. However, the shameful political history is an embarrassment and against all values learned on Illinois soil.

As if the recent governor debacle isn’t bad enough when I sat down to write about my visit to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum I made a new discovery. The Governor’s Office under the orders of now – thankfully -ex-governor Rod Blagojevich  has closed 25 historic sites and state parks including four designated National Historic Landmarks. Reviewing the list I see that none are in Chicago or Cook County, the great sinkhole of state funds goes untouched while places like the Carl Sandburg home, Fort Kaskaskia (Illinois’ First Capitol), Kickapoo State Park and the Vandalia Statehouse are shuttered and barricaded. Any member of the public entering the closed parks or sites will be arrested and charged with trespassing. Now, isn’t that a friendly use of taxpayer money?

Sites directly connected with Abraham Lincoln are among those closed. Just in time for the 200th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth. Vandalia Statehouse was the location of most of Lincoln’s time as a member of the Illinois state legislature.

lincoln-log-cabin-2Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site was the location of Thomas Lincoln’s farm from 1840 until his death. While Abe never lived on the site he owned and maintained the farm for his stepmother, Sarah Bush Lincoln, after his father died in 1851. He stopped to visit Sarah in early 1861 on his way to his presidential inauguration.

Located eight miles south of Charleston, Illinois the historic site encompasses a replica of Thomas’ log cabin surrounded by a subsistence farm with heirloom crops and cattle breeds. The Stephen Sargent home, reflecting the practices of successful cash crop farming in the 1850s, is also part of the site. Nearby is the Reuben Moore Home where Lincoln and Sarah met for a final time. A living Abraham Lincoln never returned to Illinois.

The need for a replica log cabin holds quite a story. In 1893 the original cabin was disassembled and shipped to Chicago for the World’s Columbian Exposition. Somehow after the exposition the cabin was lost – perhaps used as firewood. Many photographs existed and a replica was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1934.

Before the Blagojevich closing both the Lincoln and Sargent farms supported an active living history program. I’ve visited many such programs around the country and this was absolutely one of the best. The participants weren’t actors or characters, they lived life as the original families would have – growing crops with tools of the period, raising cattle, mucking out the barns, cooking over wood-burning stoves, eating with crude utensils. Authenticity went right down to the hand sewn period underwear worn by the interpreters. This was the only site in the state of Illinois to offer regular first person interpretation.

lincoln-log-cabin-kids1In 2008, volunteers gave over 13,000 hours of their time to ensure that Lincoln Log Cabin was open and accessible to visitors from all 50 states and many other countries. Volunteer support enables the Fifth Grade Live-In and Summer Youth Educational Programs.

The Lincoln-Sargent Farm Foundation is a nonprofit private group that supports the educational programming at Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site. Foundation board members are evaluating what potential exists for the foundation to assist the site during the forced closing. Please consider making a donation to help support the efforts of the Foundation in maintaining educational programming and the preservation of rural heritage. Click here to download a form for mailing.

I’m betting the hard working, dedicated volunteers will find a way to overcome the obstacles created by “their” state government. Plus, my check will be in tomorrow’s mail.

 

 

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