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Archive for June, 2010

Foothills to Floods Jun 30

Two of the past three posts are set in the hills of West Virginia. Let’s drive out to South Dakota where the biggest hill is an ant hill. I used to live in this part of the country, and the picture below looks kind of familiar. I used to go for motorcycle rides along the river, picking up a lot of relaxation and at least one really nasty sunburn. That was before I had the sense to wear long pants on a motorcycle.

I think that's the town of Scotland in the upper left corner of this photo, taken by NASA's Earth Observatory.

The river is almost 20 feet above its normal banks. Look closely and you can see the meandering traces of the river’s normal channel, especially toward the right side of the picture. This is the James River, called the Jim River by the locals. The flooding looks rather well managed, doesn’t it? In exchange for the occasional scrubbing behind the ears, the farmers with fields in the flood plain get a nice fresh coating of topsoil for their crops. No expensive and undependable levees.

You might expect a place like rural South Dakota to be boring, but if you travel along the river, the scenery is pretty nice. Look across the farmland and you get a feel for how big our country is, and towns like Scotland are a mild-mannered break from the mild-mannered river, even at flood stage.  Activities are, shall we say, less commercialized than you’ll find in a more heavily populated vacation spot. If you hop in your car right now, you might make it out there in time for the 4-H Horse Show on July 1. Well, maybe not. Next year, though. The population is 891, so everyone will be there, and they’ll all want to meet you, find out who these new people are.

You can stay an the Hometown Inn on Main Street, or use the campground a few feet away on the edge of town. Or sleep on the riverbank next to your bike.

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A West Virginia contrast Jun 30

This is about two places you can stay in the part of WV described in the last post, about the Green Bank telescope.

The first place I learned about courtesy of a friend who like to ride a motorcycle. He rode his BMW to attend a rally of antique BMW motorcycles. He raved about how wonderful the roads are, and about one of the best placed to eat, a restaurant called Hutte’s, in the town of Helvetia. It seats only 48, so call ahead to make a reservation. All good stuff. However, he stayed at a place whose name and town shall remain unmentioned. (Unless you’re a motorcyclist headed for the area. Write me or send a note in the comments, and I’ll tell all.)

Anyway, the rate was only $35 a night. How can you go wrong with that? Well, for starters, the water pressure left a lot to be desired. My friend said it reminded him of being in boot camp in the Marines, only without the DI yelling at him. The TV was so old it didn’t have a remote, and he could get only three stations. He noticed a sign on the wall apologizing for the stains on the sheets—he was relieved to learn the stains were caused by the high iron content in the water. And no cell phone reception. At least the bed and bathroom were clean.

Then there’s Snowshoe Mountain resort. The town is named after the place. The resort must have a hundred separate buildings, from cabins to what look like huge apartments. They offer skiing, trail rides, bike and ATV races, events, restaurants, package deals, gift cards, lessons, spa, golf, you name it. And it’s all up on the top of a mountain and the view is spectacular. I haven’t been there, but somehow I don’t think you get a shower that produces only drips. Here’s one of their publicity photos:

They call this the Backcountry Hut. It's a restaurant.

I’m pretty sure a Serenity agent can fix you up with a good price if you’d like to stay here. I’m not so sure about that other place.

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A record of sorts Jun 29

…and it slipped by me! Two posts ago was the 100th post on this humble site. Every word written by me (except any identified quotes), and lots of places that I have actually been to, though plenty based entirely on research.

Speaking of places I’ve been to, here’s a shot of a Shangri-La that I have most definitely visited. Can you guess where it is?

Click to enlarge. Look closely near the center for a clue. Here's another: some of my friends will recognize this place.

Here’s another photo from the same site, taken at the right edge of that long line of tall plants across the center of the picture. You can click on the pictures to see them full size.

Any entomologists out there? What kind is it?

Shall I include one last photo? These birds have lived on this site their entire lives, and they feel quite at home, even when their cage is opened. Do you know what kind of birds they are?Okay, enough celebration of 100 travel posts. Back to mundane, ordinary, exotic sites next time.

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Something green Jun 28

Seems that Green is in these days, and I confess that I’ve been a proponent of the idea ever since they called it “conservation.” I’ve touched on technology the last few post, so there’s a theme. June 21′s post was about an observatory, so there’s another theme. And I’ve even mentioned motorcycling in the context of vacations; another theme.

So, lets put it all together. How about a green, technology, motorcycle-friendly vacation spot? Green is in the name, even: The Green Bank National Radio Observatory, nestled in the mountains of West Virginia, in the middle of some of the best motorcycling in the eastern half of the US. And if you prefer four wheels, you’ll still find some of the most scenic byways in the east.

You can't see it in the picture, but the telescope is in the middle of what looks like a cow pasture

The place is educational, not military, so they welcome visitors. They even have a dorm for groups. You can visit the science center, eat at the restaurant, and look at a dozen or so radio telescopes including the big one in the picture. It’s the largest steerable radio telescope in the world.  They host star parties, too, when you go out and have a knowledgeable person show you what’s where in the sky, which is pretty dark out there. And no cell phones, cell towers, or radio stations. They like it dark on all frequencies.

Okay, so maybe you’re not into radio astronomy (but try it—you’ll like it). It turns out that the observatory is actually one of many vacation attractions in Pocahontas County. You can visit state parks, forests, scenic trails and highways, antique railroads, and both mountain bike and motorcycle riding. Their motto is “Nature’s Mountain Playground” and the short list of activities in this post only scratches the surface.

If you’re looking for a family-oriented vacation that’s not too far from Delaware, you could do a lot worse than this area.

Have you ever been there? Write and tell us about it.

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Nice is nice Jun 26

Thats Nice, as in France. Pronounced “neece.” It’s a seacoast town, on the same sea as Manarola in yesterday’s post (the Mediterranean). The climate is wonderful, the people are friendly (and happy to accept your tourist dollars), and (ahem) a Serenity agent can fix you up with any of several wonderful places to stay while you visit.

But that’s not why I’m writing about Nice. I touched on technology in that last post, and some interesting technology is happening in Nice. If you like to visit seacoast towns, you probably have a certain affinity for large bodies of water. Maybe you like to skin dive or use scuba. How about a personal submarine?A company in the south of France is building one, and they’ll be testing it any day now in the waters off Nice. Here’s a picture I shamelessly stole from an article about the sub. I hope they like the free advertising.

It's wet inside. You have to wear scuba

It uses parts from a bicycle, and you pedal it to make it go. No torpedoes. I suppose it might enter the water sport market someday, but right now they are building it to enter into a submarine race.

We used to go watch submarine races back when I was in high school, but that was something different altogether.

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