What Should I Give?

Wondering what to give for a gift this year? Looking for something different than your usual ideas?

You’re looking for a special gift for a special friend or loved one. But, you just don’t know what to do.

How about giving travel? That’s right…Travel.

Here are a few ideas to get you started thinking.

1…Accommodations: Give a free night at a hotel or a gift card to Airbnb, bedandbreakfast,com, or any hotel chain. These are usually open to dates the person chooses.

2…Airfare: While airfare is probably non-refundable, give a gift card from an airline. Check to see if that airline flies into the person’s home airport before you spend the money.

3…Car Service: How about an Uber gift card?

4…Museums: Check out museums in the person’s home town or one they like to visit and buy them a membership. If that’s not in your budget, how about a day pass?

5…Food Tours: Many cities have food or specialized tours. A gift certificate might be just the thing.

6…City Pass: Many cities also have City Passes, where attractions are discounted. Check to see if the city nearby has one.

7…Classes: Cooking classes, wine tasting classes, cheese tasting classes are all fun things they might not do on their own. Pick one which will interest your friend.

8…Eating: Face it…who doesn’t like to get a gift certificate to a restaurant? Give them one to a favorite or surprise them with a new and different place.

9…Surprise: Is there a NASCAR driving school they’ve always wanted to go to? How about an in-depth cooking class at the CIA? Maybe it’s a private lesson from a ski instructor in Breckenridge. Whatever it is…this might be your opportunity to give a bucket-list gift.

Whatever you do…it will certainly be different than socks!

Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum


There are aviation museums and then there’s this one…

With displays ranging from the elegant aeronautic designs of Orville and Wilbur Wright, to an actual Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird that can fly at speeds of over 2,000 miles per hour, the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum located in McMinnville, Oregon, has a little something for everyone.

With two impressive museum buildings and a theater, you should plan a full day of exploring here. Founded in the memory of Captain Michael King Smith, exhibits celebrate the lives of innovators, pilots, and veterans who courageously pioneered flight in some pretty remarkable machines.

The centerpiece of these aeronautic breakthroughs is the original Spruce Goose. Built entirely of wood due to wartime restrictions on metals, this massive airplane stands as a symbol of American industry during World War II.

The largest wooden airplane ever constructed, and flown only one time, the Spruce Goose represents one of humanity’s greatest attempts to conquer the skies. It was born out of a need to move troops and material across the Atlantic Ocean, where in 1942, German submarines were sinking hundreds of Allied ships. Henry Kaiser, steel magnate and shipbuilder, conceived the idea of a massive flying transport and turned to Howard Hughes to design and build it. Hughes took on the task, made even more challenging by the government’s restrictions on materials critical to the war effort, such as steel and aluminum. Six times larger than any aircraft of its time, the Spruce Goose, also known as the Hughes Flying Boat, is made entirely of wood.

Originally designated HK-1 for the first aircraft built by Hughes-Kaiser, the giant was re-designated H-4 when Henry Kaiser withdrew from the project in 1944. Nevertheless, the press insisted on calling it the “Spruce Goose” despite the fact that the plane is made almost entirely of birch.

The winged giant made only one flight on November 2, 1947. The unannounced decision to fly was made by Hughes during a taxi test. With Hughes at the controls, David Grant as co-pilot, and several engineers, crewmen and journalists on board, the Spruce Goose flew just over one mile at an altitude of 70 feet for one minute. The short hop proved to skeptics that the gigantic machine could fly.

Perhaps always dreaming of a second flight, Hughes retained a full crew to maintain the mammoth plane in a climate-controlled hangar up until his death in 1976.

The Spruce Goose was kept out of the public eye for 33 years. After Hughes’ death in 1976, it was gifted by Hughes’ Summa Corporation to the Aero Club of Southern California. The Aero Club then leased it to the Wrather Corporation, and moved it into a domed hangar in Long Beach, California.

The Disney Company acquired the Wrather Corporation, thus taking over the lease of the Spruce Goose. Evergreen subsequently bought the aircraft from the Aero Club.

In 1992, Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum co-founders Michael King Smith and Delford M. Smith submitted the winning proposal to provide the aviation icon with a proper home. The Flying Boat was disassembled and transported by barge up the West Coast, then up the Columbia and Willamette Rivers, to Portland, Oregon. It remained there for several months, until water levels permitted the huge structures to safely pass under the Willamette’s many bridges.

Finally, in February 1993, the aircraft was transported by truck for the last 7.5 miles to McMinnville, Oregon. Temporary hangars were built as housing for the aircraft, while volunteers worked on the aircraft’s restoration. In 2001, re-assembly of the Hughes Flying Boat was completed in its new home.

This massive plane fills you with awe and wonder. But, that’s not all that’s here…

B-17 Flying Fortress

Best known for its surprisingly successful daylight raids on Germany during World War II, the B-17 bomber, also known as theFlying Fortress, withstood a storm of anti-aircraft fire to help ensure victory.

World War II Aircraft Area

Immerse yourself in history with rich stories and beautiful artifacts from World War II on display throughout the Aviation Museum WWII Aircraft Area.

Titan II Missile

Explore this large booster rocket from inside its missile silo, and then experience the excitement of a simulated launch sequence from the launch room.

SR-71 Blackbird

One of the world’s fastest aircraft, this high-altitude reconnaissance plane flew at the very limits of the earth’s atmosphere at speeds well over 2,000 miles per hour.


Check out the space travel exhibits…

The Evergreen Space Museum transports you back to a time when travel to the stars was just a dream, and then winds you through history from miniature rockets launched from remote farms to the robotic spacecraft we know today. See the artifacts and spacecraft up close – from rocket booster systems to manned and unmanned spacecrafts.

 Early & Earth Bound Rockets

The first milestone of space travel took place, not on the coast of Florida, but on a New England farm field, where on March 16, 1926, a flimsy, liquid fuel-driven structure lifted off and flew 41 feet into the sky – so began man’s journey to the stars. Learn more about the earliest achievements in space exploration with our historic exhibit.


Whether the payload is a atom bomb or an astronaut, the first step into space is the rocket booster which propels the vehicle into space. These increasingly huge engines unleashed the massive thrust necessary to break away from earth’s gravity and start the exploration of space.

 Manned Spacecraft

In 1961, the first man left the earth’s atmosphere to explore space. Since that time, man has navigated planets, orbited the earth, and walked on the moon. Follow humanity’s footsteps into space with our elaborate exhibit that explores the history manned space flight.

Unmanned Spacecraft

Robotic spacecraft has carved the way for extensive space exploration in ways that manned spacecrafts cannot. From visits to the sun to exploration of planets, unmanned spacecraft have provided valuable data to further our knowledge of the universe. Follow this remarkable trajectory from the earliest unmanned craft to plans for the future with our various displays and exhibits.

Like I said…plan on a whole day here.

If You Go: Located at 500 NE Captain Michael King Smith Way in McMinnville, OR. Hours are 9 to 5 daily. Website is http://www.evergreenmuseum.org/




To Reserve or Not To Reserve

Do you plan every little thing when on vacation? Do you make any reservations ahead of time? Or, do you just ‘wing it’ and hope for the best?

Certainly, there are upsides to reservations. They slash wait times, allowing you to see and do more. They curb disappointment because there’s no driving for an hour only to find out you can’t get in.

At the same time, there are trade-offs. For instance, spontaneity and serendipity, a large part of what makes travel surprising and rewarding, tend to go away. And as getting reservations for attractions becomes more competitive, travelers may soon no longer be able to choose whether to book in advance or play things by ear.

Increasingly, if you don’t make a reservation, you won’t be able to find a decent seat at a movie theater, camp at a popular national park, see the blockbuster exhibition, get to the top of the Eiffel Tower, or ride the latest roller coaster. Additionally, reservations are typically made online, which can put those without easy access to the Internet at a disadvantage.

In the case of some national parks, reservations can also be essential tools in helping preserve fragile environments. Utah, Zion National Park is considering adopting an online reservation system amid record crowds that are wearing down trails and campgrounds faster than the park can afford to repair them. Zion may become the first park to require a reservation for entrance.

Some of the biggest changes are happening at national parks because of the soaring attendance.

The California State Parks system recently rolled out an upgraded campsite and lodging reservation system, which aims to deliver a digital experience similar to booking a hotel room or airline tickets.

The system also allows users to see detailed campsite maps. You can book up to six months to the day in advance of the arrival date. Reservations at campsites in other parts of the United States can be made at sites such as Recreation.gov.

Being able to browse and book certain experiences has plenty of benefits, especially for travelers who take only one big vacation a year and want to make sure they can camp or hike where they want to.

Yet parks are not the only places making reservations more prevalent. Places like movie theaters and theme parks that already offer reservations for entry.

AMC Theatres announced that Manhattan would be the first major market where all its theaters would have reserved seating. At theme parks, there are reservations for practically every experience inside the gates: rides, shows, parades, restaurants, meet and greets. Walt Disney World’s FastPass+ allows visitors to reserve an arrival window for certain attractions as early as 30 days before you get there, or up to 60 days before check-in if you’re staying at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel.

No more getting up before the birds, rushing to the park, and waiting in line to get to the rides you want. Nothing better than being first in line…as a kid. No more having to be patient, waiting for the line to move. No more watching the street entertainment while the line inches forward.

So, which way is better?

I don’t know…it’s your vacation. For me, I’m glad we made reservations to get to the top of the Eiffel Tower.





If you’re planning to fly after Jan. 22, you may not be able to use your driver’s license as a form of identification to get through security. That’s because of the REAL ID Act of 2005, which I have written about previously.

What it is: The law, a counterterrorism measure that followed 9/11, calls for states to issue driver’s licenses with more security features, such as scannable bar codes and digital photos. They will be required for people to board any commercial flight and enter federal facilities and military bases.

Passports or other approved forms of federal identification, such as a border-crossing card, U.S. military ID, TSA Pre-Check, or Global Entry card, can be used as an alternative. You will need this alternative ID if you live in one of 24 states that have yet to add the security measures to the driver’s licenses they issue. And you may need to get a new, updated license if you live in one of the states that already offers them.

Enforcement begins on Jan. 22. You can check your state’s status on the website of Department of Homeland Security. In addition, some states have been granted extensions to make their licenses compliant.

The bottom line: You don’t want to find yourself barred from flying just because you didn’t realize your old driver’s license is no longer an acceptable form of identification. If your state doesn’t have the new IDs, there is still time to get a passport or apply for another ID, says Tom Spagnola, senior vice president of supplier relations at the online travel agency CheapOair.

Spagnola says airlines, not to mention airport security agents, don’t want to face a slew of angry and confused travelers when enforcement begins. Many in the travel industry are working overtime to inform the public, so he’s hopeful the message will get through: “We still have three more months to work on passenger awareness.”

Still…it’s worth checking on before you get ready for your next trip.


New Fees?


Recently I read about a new fee charged by some airlines.

It’s called a gate service fee. What does the mean?

If you get to the gate with a bag you’re not able to stow in the overhead bin or beneath the seat in front of you, United and American have created a new fee of $25 to check that bag at the gate. This used to be free…

United calls it a “gate handling charge.” American calls it a “gate service fee.”

Does this mean it’s a penalty on top of a fee?


How Deep Is It?

Want to visit America’s deepest lake? If so, head to Oregon…to Crater Lake.

With a depth of 1,943 feet, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States, and one of the most beautiful. The water’s intense blue color is an indication of its great depth and purity. Surrounded by cliffs, the lake is fed entirely by rain and snow. Scientists consider Crater Lake to be the cleanest and clearest large body of water in the world.

Crater Lake rests in the belly of a dormant volcano; asleep but not extinct. That’s an important distinction.

The volcano once stood 12,000 feet tall, but it collapsed after a major eruption 7,700 years ago. Later eruptions formed Wizard Island, a cinder cone that rises from the water. The park has an abundance of fascinating volcanic features, including a second rocky island, the Phantom Ship

Crater Lake is also one of the snowiest inhabited places in the USA. Each winter, deep snow forces the closure of the park’s Rim Drive and North Entrance to cars. Rim Drive becomes a trail for skiing and snowshoeing. The North Entrance road becomes a snowmobile trail. These roads close for the season with the first big October snowstorm, or on November 1, whichever comes first.

Crater Lake itself occupies less than 10% of the park. Beyond the lake, old-growth forests blanket the landscape. Established in 1902, the park protects 15 species of conifers, from towering ponderosa pines to ancient whitebark pines. These trees shelter a wide array of wildlife, including black bears, mountain lions, elk, and spotted owls.

We visited in September of this year. Fires forced the closure of the roads along the west, but we had the opportunity to drive along the east side. Wizard Island and the deep blue water views were still spectacular and the way I remembered from my visits when I was a teen-ager.

This has to be one of America’s best places to visit.


Wine Walk Through the Village…What’s Not to Love?


When staying in the Languedoc Roussillon area of France, and our host suggested we might like a ‘wine walk through a village’, we readily agreed. What foodie and wine lover wouldn’t like to have the opportunity to taste some of the 30 or 40 local wines, sample gourmet food prepared by an excellent chef, visit with wine makers and growers throughout the day, and experience a beautiful natural park near the village?

Sign us up…

Nestled between scrubland, ponds, and hills, the village of Peyriac de Mer sits on a diversity of soils, including limestone, chalk, and gravel. Combine those soils with the variety of microclimates found here and you have the perfect combination for enhancing the character of different grapes. Hence, producing exceptional wines.

So far, sounds amazing…

Ready for our wine tasting and gastronomic walk, we bundled up and headed off to meet our host. Since a pesky cold front was hanging around, we wore layers. I do mean layers. As we headed out onto a dock along the edge of the lake, the wind whipped up white caps and threatened to knock us into the choppy, gray water.

Quickly, we realized we were not walking through the delightful village, but up and around the lake, past an old, working salt flat, across a high ridge where the views of the Mediterranean were fantastic, and through the Nature Park. Walking shoes would have been appropriate for the six plus kilometer journey that took us up over 300 meters from where we started. The village…that’s where we ended.

What did we get into?

Another reason the wines here are special, is the wind. It contributes to soil ventilation, thus improving the quality of the wines. All well and good, unless you’re trying to walk along the top of the ridge as the wind is determined to blow you into one of the lakes below. I’m quite sure it could have blown me off the top and into the Mediterranean had I not been hanging on to my husband.

So, what did we think once we finished our ‘walk’ and headed into the village for coffee and sunshine?

Wines…they were fantastic. All of them. What’s not to like about a glass of Montfin Blanc from Chateau Montfin, a glass of Grenache Blanc from Chateau Fabre-Cordon, or a glass of Rose from Abbaye Sainte Eugenie? Visiting with the wine makers and growers, often the same person, made those glasses even more special. I almost hated to leave one wine stop and hike to the next one. Until I tasted the next group of wines, that is.

Food…also fantastic. Who wouldn’t want a piece of fresh, crusty bread with perfectly sliced beef carpaccio, copeaux or shavings of semi-soft goat cheese, and rosemary sprigs to pair with your glass of Carignena? Next stop, salmon gravelax, sprinkled with petit peas, and a dollop of lemon cream, and our choice of Grenache Blanc or Vent Marin Blanc. Of course the epaule or shoulder of lamb with sprigs of thyme, olive oil, and petardon peas was perfect with my glass of Mire la Mer. When we made it to the dessert stop, we were ready to be on flat ground again as we ate our crème caramel with candied oranges, beurre sale, and almonds. Paired with either a sweeter Musc’ito or a Banyuls Ame de pierre, a blend of Grenache, Grenache Blanc, and Grenache Gris made us smile as we headed to the village. We were in Heaven…and full.

The walk…incredible views, friendly people, knowledgeable wine growers, and even some hunters who offered homemade salami and saucisse. Yummy, beautiful, and nothing like we had ever done before.

Asked by our host if we would do this again…even with the weather, terrain, and wind as challenges. Absolutely. Why would we complain about being in the wonderful French countryside, eating delicious food, and drinking amazing wines?

After all, this was not any ordinary ‘wine walk’…it was so much better.









Do You Do This?

Recently I read where Honolulu will become the first major city in the US to pass legislation making distracted walking a crime. In October anyone who is caught looking at their phone or tablets while crossing a street will be fined.

Apparently, those who do this are thought of as ‘smartphone zombies’ and are viewed as dangerous as they walk and text.

Fines may range from $15 to $99.


Valpolicella Wines…Do You Like Them?


The Consortium clarifies the members of the crucial points about the new telematic fulfillment for the traceability of wines. With this aim, it will discuss the wine-growing campaign, whose harvest this year promises very well, controls and registrations during the September 6 pre-harvest meeting at Park Hotel Villa Quaranta.

The year 2017 will certainly be remembered among the best millésimes of Valpolicella. An optimal grape quality, both from the health point of view and analytical parameters. Distressed problems related to meteoric events, unlike many other Italian territories, which have been not so fortunate, with the only element of difficulty found in water shortage, caused by the low rainfall affected by non-irrigated vitrified soils.

Following the greeting of President Andrea Sartori, Renzo Caobelli, the Consortium agronomist, will analyze the climate and the course of the pathologies and highlight how the vine withstanded the warm and dry course of the season and at the same time hampered the spread of “moisture lover” diseases and insects.

The grapes ripening status, found in the vineyard stations that are monitored each year, will be illustrated, measuring the main chemical and phenological parameters.

“This year’s results show an early grape ripening, compared to last year, with optimum values ​​for both sugar content and total acidity. This is a vintage that leaves a great hope in the export, “says Olga Bussinello, the Director of the Consortium.

Moreover, Luca Sartori from Siquria, will discuss about vineyard and fruit control in relation to the harvest in progress and to conclude Roman Popa from the company Validus, will give operational indications on the keeping of telematic registers, now mandatory after the actual conclusion of the “accompanying period” and the official entering into force of the DM 293/2015. In particular, he will analyze the traceability of products that will be trademark with the RRR logo (the Sustainability Certificate created by the Consortium), starting from the 2017 harvest.

Lake County…Just One More Wine Destination

Fall and travel just seem to go together. Whether it’s far or near…traveling is a good way to see new places or to see familiar places in a different light. Memories are just part of traveling.

In my case, I review places for different blogs and publications and I showcase some of those reviews here.

Recently, we spent a weekend in Lake County, California. It’s about a two-hour drive from San Francisco or from where we live. Parts of the area we visited were ravaged by major wildfires in 2015 and we wondered what we would see.

Some of that destruction is still obvious as shells of cars and partially burned homes remained in a few of the smaller towns. Hillsides with blackened sticks of burned trees, brilliant green grass abundant around them, sat right next to vibrant trees which weren’t touched by the flames. Forest fire is an odd creature.

Closer to Clear Lake, green hills, dormant volcanos, and brilliant blue skies were the sites we noticed. It’s easy to see why the American Lung Association has proclaimed the air here some of the cleanest in the nation. All we had to do was breathe to figure that out. With all the clear air and not a lot of light pollution, the Taylor Observatory offers some amazing star gazing.

If you’ve never heard of or spent time at Clear Lake…you should. With over 100 miles of shoreline, it is the largest natural freshwater lake wholly within California. And…for you fishermen, it’s supposedly the land of bass fishing.

Those old volcanos…their soil rich in ash is great for producing impressive Cabernets and Suavignon Blancs. We tried several…and have to agree.

Stay tuned for more reviews of this amazing area.