Want a Better Travel Experience? Five High and Low Tech tips.

Diane White

Traveling can be stressful. What can you do? From apps to therapy dogs, I’ve put together a list of my favorite high- and low-tech travel tips for getting there, getting around, and getting a better travel experience.

Beyond the basics travel apps. If you are a frequent traveler, you may already have these basic apps on your phone: Google Maps, Kayak and your airline’s app for mobile boarding passes and travel alerts. Beyond those, here are three apps that may help your travel experience.  (More…)

Tornado on the Way!

Diane Russell

What started out as a pretty, warm day in northern Iowa ended as a dangerous night when a tornado formed suddenly in southern Minnesota.

In August 2017, my husband and I were in northern Iowa with some fellow roller coaster friends to ride the coasters at Arnolds Park Amusement Park on Lake Okoboji. The nearby towns were so tiny that we had to stay at a small motel in Spencer, Iowa, 30 minutes south.  (More…)

Come wiz Me to ze Casbah!

Shelly Belzer

One of the phrases people of a certain age have imprinted on their memory was not spoken by Charles Boyer in the movie “Algiers,” which he made in 1938 with Hedy Lamarr, although comedians continued uttering it in a bad French accent for years afterward.  “Come wiz me to ze Casbah” was probably most famously spoken at the movies by Bugs Bunny.

“Algiers” was an American remake, down to some of the same camera angles, of the 1937 “Pepe le Moko,” starring the French film icon Jean Gabin.  With scenes of those movies in my mind’s eye, I set foot in the Casbah in Tangier in April.    (More…)

Cape Cod: Finding Her Secrets

Judy Huge

On hearing I was fresh from building a house on Cape Cod, the first 84 people I met after moving to Wisconsin 18 years back broke into huge grins as they leaned in to confide, “You’ll love Door County. It’s the Cape Cod of the Mid-West.” There was no doubt they felt proprietary. I guess that’s the way I feel about “my” Cape and why I’d like to make a few introductions.

The Cape I know is a bit shy. She hides her secrets on winding dirt roads, in the hollows of dunes, deep in the coolers of one-named ice cream stands or high on the shelves of artists who craft each coffee mug so the warmth you feel holding it on a winter morning seems to have come directly from the hands of the one who shaped it.  (More…)

Soviet Women in the Brezhnev Era

Diane Russell

“Do you have any abortion pills?” Marina whispered. Stunned, I answered a vehement “Nyet!”

For seven months from September 1979 through March 1980, my first husband did research for his doctoral dissertation in Tbilisi, Georgia. I learned firsthand about the Georgian woman’s lifestyle, which contrasted with the image presented in Soviet propaganda. Georgia lies 1,000 miles south of Moscow, bordering Turkey and the Black Sea, and was one of 15 republics of the former Soviet Union. Americans recognize Georgia as Joseph Stalin’s birthplace.

As a 27-year-old American woman with knowledge of conversational Russian, I befriended several young Georgian women who wanted to improve their English. However, my friends preferred learning about the American woman’s lifestyle.  (More…)

Lightning Strikes Twice with Dick Van Dyke

Diane Russell

When my beloved GreGra, my dad’s mom, asked me if I wanted to go to Disneyland, I shouted, “Yes!”

As a 10-year-old, I had watched episodes about Disneyland on Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color on Sunday nights at 6:00 p.m. for years. My dad, a free-lance cartoonist, had visited Disneyland when he went to the yearly convention of editorial cartoonists two years earlier. He had even met Walt Disney!  What’s more, he had met an employee at Disney Studios. Mr. Reddy offered to give GreGra and me a personalized tour of the studios during our stay. Maybe we would catch a glimpse of Walt himself.  (More…)

Rocket in the Desert

Joyce Carpenter

As he drops us off at the Camel Safari, Mr. Sharma, our Rajastani guide, smiles wearily. We are spending several days in the Thar Desert in Rajastan, India, and he is charged with driving us to and from our various activities. Our hotel is near the town of Jaisalmer, formerly the massive fort dwelling of the Rajput ruler, Jaisal, and now the residence of one quarter of Jaisalmer’s population who live and work inside its substantial walls. We have spent the day exploring the town’s temples and its labyrinthian, crowded streets. We have left the clamor of town and are now ready for the anticipated calm of the desert. After our camel ride and the dinner and dancing program which follows, Mr. Sharma will have to return to collect us. It’s already been a long day for him.

“Have you ever ridden a camel, Mr. Sharma?” I ask.

“Never Madam!” he replies, and, as he escapes to the solitude of his van, the thought bubble trailing in his wake clearly reads, “You must be joking, Madam!”  (More...)

Oregon: a Geographic Kaleidoscope

Amy Smetana

When I was a child growing up in Illinois, my imagination of Oregon was limited to the “Oregon Trail” computer game we played in school. It was a far-away, desolate land marred by a never-ending dirt trail littered with sun-bleached ox skulls. Who would want to brave treacherous river crossings and cholera to go there?

It wasn’t until years later that I discovered that the Oregon Trail ends in a nature lover’s paradise – a geographic kaleidoscope.  (More…)

Enjoy the Ride!

Diane Russell

At Busch Gardens Tampa during the holidays, the wait time for Cheetah Hunt was 50 minutes. It was 35 minutes for Cobra’s Curse. The Quick Queue shortens wait times by allowing guests to pay to bypass lines.

What if you could bypass long lines for roller coasters anywhere in the country or world? You can.  The American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE) organization exists to find ways for its members to ride roller coasters without waiting in line    (More…)

Angkor Wat via Viet Nam

Catherine Mitchell

I hadn’t planned to go to Vietnam.  What I really wanted to see was Angkor Wat in Cambodia. And I wanted to get there before I was too old to climb all those steps.

However, the company I usually travel with, both because it features groups of from 14 to 16 maximum and doesn’t charge single supplements, didn’t have such a trip. Most of their trips included Thailand, but I had visited Thailand twice already, once very recently.  But, there was a trip to Vietnam with an add-on to Cambodia.  So off I went.  (More…)