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On the Road to “Sweet Home Alabama” . . .

Posted: May 13th, 2011 by


Hot air balloons like these are seen at the Alabama Jubilee in Decatur - Flickr image by ericlbc

Imagine discovering a treasure trove of ideas for a fun weekend, or a mini-vacation, an extended leisure trip or even an educational adventure, at no cost to you.  Just stop by any Alabama Welcome/Visitor Center and you’ll find rack after rack, on every wall and in every nook and cranny, filled with maps, guides, special event calendars, photo journals, booklets, pamphlets, discount coupons, and so on to help you on your merry way through Alabama, the Beautiful!

US Space & Rocket Center, Huntsville -- Flickr image by bryce_edwards

Check this out:

Madison County features the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, Huntsville Botanical Garden and Huntsville Museum of Art, which offers something for everyone, from youngsters to folks well into their retirement age . . . or you could check out the Official Visitors Guide to nearby Decatur where you can sail away at the Alabama Jubilee Hot-Air Balloon Classic held over Memorial Day weekend – for more information log onto www.NorthAlabama.org

    • Pick up your Alabama 2011 motorcycle map and log on to www.Motorsycle-Maps.us – an Internet site highlighting  motorcycle roadways and more
    • Visitor – The must have guide to the Alabama Gulf Coast features an annual calendar of events plus special a Mardi Gras calendar; fact is, you won’t to miss the 7th Annual LuLu Palooza, taking place in Gulf Shores Homeport Marina on May 30th
    • Visit www.yearofalabamamusic.com for a complete listing of venues, attractions and festivals, like the Johnny Shines Blues Festival in Tuscaloosa on August 27t


    • Ave Maria Grotto in Cullman, AL - Flickr image by southerntabitha

 Don’t wait til’ Oktoberfest to visit Cullman, a city filled with adventure, history, nature and faith . . . where the Ave Maria Grotto, a 4-acre site, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has more than 125 miniature replicas of famous churches, shrines and buildings from around the world thanks to Brother Joseph Zoettl, a Benedictine Monk, who was born in Bavaria in 1878.  Brother Zoettl arrived at the Saint Bernard Abbey at the age of 14, and in 1958, at the age of 80, built his last minitature model, the Basilica at Lourdes.  Visiting the Ave Maria Grotto is like taking a trip around the world, in minature . . .

  • There simply is not enough room to list all of the great places Alabama has to offer, so we’ll finish our blog with the Hank Williams Trail, beginning in Mount Olive and Georgiana, then travel up US Highway 31, “the highway Hank traveled” to Montgomery, where Hank is in his final resting place at Oakwood Cemetery

Look for “Historic Alabama” an A to Z guide to Landmarks and Events at an Alabama Welcome/Visitor Center or log on to www.alabama.travel to request your copy. Even arm-chair tourists will enjoy reading about Boaz to Eufala to Hayneville to Loachapoka to Nauvoo to Pickensville to Sylacauga, and Wetumpka.


Posted: March 15th, 2011 by

A typical Spartan? Statue of King Leonidas at Sparta, Greece - Wikimedia Commons

Did you think we meant Sparta, Greece? 

There are a total of 28 towns named Sparta in the U.S., plus one in Canada and two in South America.  Although Sparta, Greece would provide the most historic significance, our travels are taking us to the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, and to the town of Sparta, North Carolina, about six miles to the famed Blue Ridge Parkway.

Don’t overlook places you’ve never heard of as they could be that diamond in the rough, like the sleepy little town of Sparta, tucked away in the midst of the Smoky Mountains, near its State Park and many other beautiful tourist areas: nature at its best. 

View from the east ridge off Blue Ridge Parkway, near Sparta looking toward Pilot Mountain - Flickr photo by billkrisjacob

Folks around Alleghany County say that Nature created Sparta, and if you visited their chamber of commerce site you’ll find their claim to be true.  http://www.sparta-nc.com/

Looking Glass Falls - Flickr photo by Alaskan Dude

Along with the splendor of the Blue Ridge Mountains you’ll find artisans galore, weaving their magic spells in the form of pottery, quilting, painting, photography, woodcrafts and the revival of traditional music of the hills. 

There’s something to do and see around every bend of the road:

  • Take in a music venue

Alleghany Historic Museum, Silver Dollar Music Park, Alleghany Jubilee or Blue Ridge Music Center

  • Cast your rod, swing your club, shoot the rapids or small game

Check out local trout and fishing farms, let the balls fly at Olde Beau or New River Golf clubs, thrill at an exhilarating ride in a canoe, or aim for the bulls eye, and nothing could be finer than to be in Carolina atop a gentle steed as you meander through the beauty of the mountains.  

  • Tour the local museums or art galleries

Alleghany Arts and Crafts, Blue Ridge Gallery of Fine Arts, and many more

  • Sip in the sites and fine wine at local wineries

Chateau Laurinda, Grapestompers, Thistle Meadow Winery

  • Upcoming special events include

Alleghany Jubilee (every Tuesday and Saturday evening)

Lawn Mower Racing in May, June and August – NASCAR of a different scale

Lions Club Rodeo July 1 and 2

Mountain Heritage Festival in September

I Resolve To . . .

Posted: January 10th, 2011 by

We can thank Janus, a mythical king of early Rome (153 B.C.) for what some consider the beginning of the tradition of new year’s resolutions.  Fact is, the Romans named the first calendar month after Janus, the god of beginnings and the guardian of doors and entrances.  Thus, Janus was always depicted with two faces, where the one on the front of the head was always looking forward, and the one on the back of the head was looking backward at the same time.

New Year’s resolutions can be traced back 4,000 years to ancient Babylonians, when they might have resolved to return borrowed farm equipment.

 Along with resolutions there are other traditions associated with the new year, such as food.  Greens, like cabbage or collards depict money where black eyed peas are said to bring good luck, and hog jowls or ham signify luck or prosperity.  Italians might eat lasagna, while Austrians may serve green peppermint ice cream in the shape of a cloverleaf.  Almost every culture has some type of food they traditionally serve on New Year’s day.

Non edible traditions vary as well.  For instance, in Wales, at the first toll of midnight the back door is opened and closed to release the old year and lock out bad luck; whereas at the twelfth stroke of the clock, the front door is opened to welcome in the new year and shepherd in good luck.  In Japan, homes are decorated in tribute to lucky gods.

Toasting in the new year in Paris - Flickr photo by viZZZual

There is also the new-year toast, which can be traced back to the ancient Greeks and Romans who shared wine from a common pitcher where the host drank first to ensure the wine was not poisoned.  Champagne has since become the toast of choice in the modern world.

Music has played its part in new year celebrations as well, and the song Auld Lang Syne became the song of the day after it was published in 1796, although there were several variations of Auld Lang Syne all the way back to the early 1700’s.

Perhaps the most famous New Year's Eve celebration is in Times Square in New York - Flickr photo by Paul Mannix

New Years is also the oldest holiday celebration and the only holiday celebrating the passage of time, as well as associated with making new year resolutions. 

I resolve to go white water rafting in West Virginia with my teen-aged son, as well as go horseback riding in the Virginia mountains and catch some major site-seeing in new York City.   One of my colleagues has stated she resolves to take a cruise to the Caribbean, Cayman Islands and Cozumel, while another wants to visit at least one small seemingly unknown tourist venue and one major tourist attraction in 2011.  

Flckr photo by katerha

Resolutions are not necessarily all about diets, or losing weight, quit smoking, etc, but can include fun things like seeing the beauty of nature, travelling throughout America and experiencing what the World has to offer in a variety of ways.  

What do you resolve to do in 2011?

[polldaddy poll=4365504]

Another Type of Tourism . . .

Posted: November 29th, 2010 by

Escanaba in Da Moonlight - Flickr photo by Elizabeth-table4five - photo also seen in the Michigan Historical Museum

Apparently hunting season marks the beginning of scruffy looking men with scraggly beards, or so it may seem.  This is especially true when deer season rolls around, no matter the locale.  One might assume it might be a form of camouflage or that it helps retain warmth on a cold drizzly day; often the case in November and December when hunters are traipsing about the woods.

Regardless of the scruffy looking folks, from a tourism standpoint hunting could mean an increase in business; albeit short lived, especially at a time when travel is slow.  Although many hunters may not require overnight lodging or they may opt to rent a hunting lodge in a known hunting area, hunting season does spell additional tourism dollars.

I looked up the Hunting Top 10 and learned that Ripley, West Virginia might be your go to place for turkey hunting or further south in Snow Hill, North Carolina you could easily bag a wild boar or black bear, and in Ahoskie, North Carolina spring turkey and duck are hunting specialties.  How about trophy white tail deer, with some bucks reaching up to 300 lbs.?  You might want to travel to Johannesburg, Michigan for this opportunity.

Flickr photo, wild turkey, black_throated_green_warbler

There’s plenty of duck hunting in Boswell, Oklahoma and Pike County, Illinois is known for its trophy whitetail deer and turkey hunts.  Elk, Mule Deer and Exotics can be found in Albuquerque, New Mexico, while Georgetown, Kentucky is well known for its water fowl in this central Kentucky area.

Jackson County Courthouse in Ripley, WV - Flickr photo by puroticorico

Tourism comes in many forms, and hunting is one of them.  No matter the reason you visit an area it still gains exposure and often times you might visit for one reason but return for another.  In the case of Ripley, West Virginia; here is an area steeped in civil war history, so while some might hunt deer, others might hunt the past.

How about the North Carolina area, which abounds in natural beauty where more people travel to this part of the country for pure nature than to hunt.   Although the photo of the flight of ducks was actually taken in Granville Island, Vancouver, BC, this could be a site seen in Bowsell, Oklahoma.  This small Midwestern town not only offers a duck hunting paradise, but a bit of serenity as well. 

Duck Hunt, Flickr photo by Icon Photopraphy School

While we might not understand why the Grizzly Adams look is typical for some at this time of year, perhaps Escanaba in Da Moonlight, termed as the “funniest play ever written about Deer hunters in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula” might explain it all. 

All we ask is that you come back for a visit when the hunt is over!

Scaring up Business

Posted: October 26th, 2010 by

Scarecrow flickr photo by Randy Son of Robert

In this day and economy it takes ingenuity to get your fair share of business, so it comes as no surprise that using ‘scarecrows’ to scare up business is a sure fire way to get attention.  It appears that merchants, Steve and Sue Marrazzo, owners of Simple Gestures Gift Shop and Art Gallery, who originated the concept in St. Augustine, Florida, are not only calling attention to their own business located on Anastasia Boulevard in the oldest city of America, but their idea has bloomed all along the Boulevard and throughout St. Augustine, as merchants of all types have climbed on board this newest marketing tactic.

Most famous scarecrow of them all can be seen at Oz Park - Flickr photo by ikrichter

About ten scarecrows are having a picnic at the R. B. Hunt Elementary School, while a tattered scarecrow is encouraging residents to get their flu shot at Island Doctors establishment.  This phenomenon has now blossomed into a daylong event that recently took place on October 16th, considered an old-fashioned fall fun day.  Hats off to the Marrazzo’s for coming up with a simple but fun solution in attracting would-be customers, and what could be better than to turn it into an activity for a charitable cause that will no doubt bring a smile to many faces

St. Augustine is already known for its fall activities, especially those affiliated with Halloween and all things that go bump in the night.  First there is the Ripley’s Halloween Ghost Trail where you can board a Ghost Train, visit a variety of haunts, call on spirits from days gone by and just have an eerie good time.  This begins on October 16th and goes through Halloween.  Then, beginning October 26th-31st, Halloween-Haunted St. Augustine is everywhere with ghost walk tours, hayrides, trick or treat parties and just a ghoulish good time for all.

Thinking of Halloween brings to mind “haunted happenings” in Massachusetts, especially Salem where you can take a ghost cruise, be introduced to Italian witchcraft, experience ghosts in 3-D, tour Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery, tremble as you walk about the haunted neighborhood of the Salem Wax Museum, don your one-eyed mask as you visit the New England Pirate Museum, and learn all about witches at the Salem Witch Museum.

Ghost tours are available (not just at Halloween) in New Orleans cemeteries - Flickr photo by benswing

Let’s not forget New Orleans, Louisiana, where you can take your pick of a ghost, voodoo or vampire tour as well as visiting numerous haunted cemeteries.

Although these tours are popular tourist attractions, it sounds kind of spooky to me — Happy Halloween . . .

Jackolantern - Flickr photo by euart

Dog Days of Summer

Posted: August 18th, 2010 by

Dog days of summer . . . . . "Houndog" Flickr photo by jitze

There appears to be a lot of myths about the ‘dog days’ of summer, but the most relevant one is that it refers to anything that is slow, lazy or languishing, which makes sense because when it’s this hot no one wants to do anything, although if your tempted to brave 85+ degree temperatures, here are some ideas to cool off.

An old fashioned movie theater still showing movies in Doylestown, PA. Flickr photo by Gail548

Go to a movie matinee.  Not only will you sit in the comfort of a darkened air-conditioned room, you’ll also be entertained at the same time.  And, don’t forget the popcorn; plenty of butter, please.

Better yet, why not splash around in one of those fun for the whole family water parks popping up all over the place.  Many county recreation departments have built water parks as part of their overall recreation program, and there are plenty of private coporations that have built water parks with lots of features like ocean-like waves, tubes and body slides.  Although some water parks might be a feature at a hotel or resort, most offer day passes so you don’t necessarily have to check in to splash around.

Splish and Splash Water Park at U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys in South Korea - Flickr photo by familymwr

For instance, if you went to the Americana Conference Resort and Spa in Niagara Falls (Ontario), Canada, you could purchase a 4-hour day pass (plenty of time to get pruned fingers and toes) and splash around in their Waves Indoor Waterpark, or if your a member of the military, then you might enjoy the Splish and Splash Water Park at U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys in South Korea.

Water Mountain at Denver's Elitch Gardens - Flickr photo by ishrona

How about a water mountain – found in the waterpark, a key attraction at Elitch Garden Amusement Park in Denver, Colorado . . . . and, although not a typical water park, Millenium Park in Chicago, Illinois offers a fun way to cool off.

Here are some cool names associated with waterparks:  Rain Fortress, Ocean Commotion Wavepool, Lazy River, Mountain Screamer, Southern Pipeline, Water Trampoline, Geyser Fountain, the Big Splash, Flowrider Surfing, Tidal Wave, Frantic Atlantic, Splashtacular Place, Mon Tsunami wave pool, Soak Zone, Lake Harmony, Thunder Run Tube Slide, Boogie Bear Surf, Vortex and Spin Cycle, Master Blaster, Rio Rapids, Splash Attack and so on.  I’m getting the ‘chills’ just thinking about all these wet cool places . . .

Millenium Park Fun in the Water (Chicago) - Flickr photo by metaxin

Want help in locating some great watering holes?  Visit this site for a map that will point you to a cooling off place near you.


Happenings in Your Own Back Yard . . .

Posted: June 18th, 2010 by

Every year, normally between the months of March and October, there is something going on in your home state.  Most every town has something it is know for, so there’s a festival for it, like the Slug Queen Festival in Eugene, Oregon, or the Wiregrass Festival of Murals in Dothan, Alabama.  How about the  Gasparilla Pirate Festival in Tampa, Florida and the Syracuse Polish Festival in Syracuse, New York?  If you’re into cultural festivals then the 9th Street Italian Market Festival in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania might be the ticket, or why not try the Jacksonville Caribbean Carnival, Street Parade & Festival in Jacksonville, Florida. 

Bonnaroo Music & Crafts Festival in Manchester, TN. Flickr Photo by rocknroll_guitar

Let’s not forget those music festivals like Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee or the Bamboozle in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  While we’re at it, let’s take in the Austin Reggae Festival in Austin, Texas, and why not the Lollapalooza, currently held in Chicago, Illinois or the Shamy Bash in Pataskala, Ohio.


Lollapalooza sign as seen in Chicago in 2006. Flickr photo by Tammylo

Vintage 1992 Lollapalooza tour poster. Flickr photo by Joe Madonna

While many of these festivals and events are local; oftentimes they are promoted regionally, and we can’t forget those festivals that people from all over your home state and beyond its borders do attend.  Or maybe your town has a special attraction, like an amusement park or huge water park, or even a natural forest with hiking, fishing and the like. 

Want to know where to look for these events?  Check out these sites: 







You get the picture – why not get out and have fun this summer.  Attend an arts & crafts or music festival; get a little color in your cheeks, slurp a snow cone, gum some cotton candy, spread a quilt and eat some cold chicken, toss a Frisbee or two, scream at the top of your lungs while riding that dare-devil amusement park ride, marvel at the fireworks display that will surely follow whatever event you’ve taken in as dark finally settles, and when all is said and done, you will have filled your memory basket and now you’re ready for a good night’s sleep.

Festival of Flowers

Posted: March 23rd, 2010 by

Being described as the premier flower and garden event of the greater Gulf coast is surely enough reason for those of us who can barely wait to breathe in the fragrance of Spring to shuck off our winter attire, shake out those pastels, and head to Mobile, Alabama for the Festival of Flowers.

The Festival, now in its 17th year, takes place in March which is considered the prettiest month in Mobile.  There is over 300,000 square feet of tented space featuring exhibits, entertainment and enchantment for all the senses. 

More than 18,000 people have visited the Festival of Flowers, known as the largest flower show in the Southeast.  The show features flowers from every continent and subcontinent; master gardeners on hand to share their green thumb knowledge; garden landscapes of all types to bedazzle festival attendees; a special feature called Blooming Cuisine with menus involving the use of edible flowers as well as fresh vegetables and herbs; life-sized landscape gardens by regional landscape architects, garden designers and landscape contractors; a children’s program and the latest in garden gear and equipment, plus so much more. 

State flower of Alabama, Photo by Tanaka Juuyoh



 For details you may want to visit http://www.bellingrath.org/festival-of-flowers-display.html

By the way, the fragrant and delicate Camellia is the state flower of Alabama.

“All the flowers of all the tomorrows are in the seeds of today”

 – Indian Proverb

Why do we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?

Posted: March 15th, 2010 by

Who is St. Patrick?  Why do we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?

Statue at St Patrick Church, Pittburgh, Photo by Joe Marinaro

 Most of us know when St. Patrick’s Day is, March 17th, but how did it become such a celebrated day? St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland. He is best known for banishing all the snakes from Ireland. Is this true or false? False, the island nation was never home to any snakes; This was really a metaphor for the eradication of pagan ideology from Ireland and the triumph of Christianity.  March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day,  is his religious feast day and the anniversary of his death in the fifth century. For thousands of years the Irish have observed this day by attending church in the morning and celebrating in the afternoon with dance, drinking and the traditional meal of Irish bacon and cabbage.

The first St. Patrick’s Day parade took place not in Ireland but in the United States, Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched through New York City on March 17, 1762. This helped the Irish soldiers reconnect with their Irish roots and other fellow Irishmen serving in the English army. Over the next 35 years many “Irish Aid” societies were formed, each group would have an annual parade. In 1848 several of the societies decided to unite their parade and form one large parade in New York City.

Today, that parade is the world’s oldest civilian parade and the largest in the United States, with over 150,000 participants. Nearly three million people line the 1.5 mile parade route, in New York City, which takes more than 5 hours. Many other city celebrate the day with parades, such as Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia and Savannah, involving between 10,000 and 20,000 participants. And that is how St. Patrick’s Day became to be such a celebrated day in the United States.