Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Airlines set rules for better passenger protections

The U. S. Department of Transportation has expanded protections for airline passengers, building on the 2009 rules which stated domestic flights could not remain on the tarmac for more than three hours.
Here’s a summary of rules announced in April which will go into effect in 120 days:
Lost bags and bag fees. Airlines are required to reimburse passengers for any bag fees if their bags are lost. Airlines will also be required to apply the same baggage allowances and fees for all segments of a trip, including segments with interline and code share partners.
Bumping. Involuntarily bumped passengers subject to short delays will receive compensation equal to double the price of their tickets up to $650 (increased from $400), while those subject to longer delays would receive payments of four times the value of their tickets, up to $1,300. Inflation adjustments will be made to those compensation limits every two years.
Delays. The existing ban on lengthy tarmac delays is extended to cover foreign airlines’ operations at U.S. airports and establishes a four hour hard time limit on tarmac delays for international flights of U.S. and foreign airlines, with exceptions allowed only for safety, security or air traffic control-related reasons. Passengers stuck on the tarmac must be provided adequate food and water after two hours, as well as working lavatories and medical treatment.

Full disclosure of additional fees. Airlines will have to prominently disclose all potential fees on their websites, including but not limited to fees for baggage, meals, canceling or changing reservations, government taxes, and advanced or upgraded seating.
“Airline passengers have a right to be treated fairly,” said Secretary LaHood. “It’s just common sense that if an airline loses your bag or you get bumped from a flight because it was oversold, you should be reimbursed. The additional passenger protections we’re announcing today will help make sure air travelers are treated with the respect they deserve.”
The Department of Transportation’s rules will make air travel simpler and easier in a number of other ways, including:
-Requiring airlines to allow reservations to be held at the quoted fare without payment, or cancelled without penalty, for at least 24 hours after the reservation is made, if the reservation is made one week or more prior to a flight’s departure date.
-Requiring airlines to promptly notify consumers of delays of over 30 minutes, as well as cancellations and diversions. This notification must take place in the boarding gate area, on a carrier’s telephone reservation system and on its website.
-Banning post-purchase fare increases unless they are due to government-imposed taxes or fees, and only if the passenger is notified of and agrees to the potential increase at the time of sale.
-Requiring more airlines to report lengthy tarmac delays at U.S. airports with DOT, including data for international flights and charter flights. Previously, only the 16 largest U.S. passenger carriers were required to file this data, and only for domestic scheduled flights.
Information provided by U.S. Department of Transportation, Washington DC

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Civil War life comes alive at Camp Manassas, Virginia

Commemorating the 150th anniversary of the First Battle of Manassas (Bull Run), Manassas, Virginia will recreate a free four-day venue from July 21 to July 24 to relive the 1860s at Camp Manassas, including Civil War Medical Triage, Lincoln-Douglas Debates and Slave Impressions Re-enactment.

First Battle of Manassas (Battle of Bull Run)
took place at this spot.
Photo by Larry Burmeier
General Robert E. Lee’s generals will provide historical dialogue, while the Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858 will be performed by re-enactors, playing President Abraham Lincoln and Senator Stephen A. Douglas. In another part of Camp of Manassas, Union and Confederate Cavalries re-enact the First Battle of Manassas and a recreated Civil War medical triage is demonstrated with 1860 doctors and nurses performing amputations and surgeries that were common procedures for wounded Civil War soldiers, complete with horse-drawn ambulance carriages. A slave cabin will be built, alive with slave re-enactors, plowing tobacco and cotton crops, washing, and cooking, as well as a historical narrative on the Underground Railroad.

These re-enactments will run regularly throughout the four days. Check www.manassascivilwar.org for a complete timeline of activities. Don Warlick, owner of Secret Passage Ranch in Fort Valley, Virginia, is directing and managing the entire Camp Manassas re-enactment. “I’m working closely with re-enactors and Camp Manassas production crews to create the realism and detail that will captivate and transport visitors back to the 1860s as well as honor the memories of slaves and soldiers who made up the rich history of that time,” Warlick says.

Sponsored by Historic Manassas Inc., www.visitmanassas.org, the Camp will showcase an 1860-period gas balloon for observation, telegraph demonstrations and an 1860s embalming display. There will be period children’s games, including target shooting with wooden guns. Re-enactments of period cooking will introduce popular dishes of the times like fry bread (fried corn flour), fatback (back portion of pork), biscuits and peach cobbler on an open fire.

Down the road from Camp Manassas, the National Jubilee of Peace, a remarkable moment, when veteran Civil War soldiers met with President Howard Taft on the steps of the Old Courthouse in Old Town Manassas on July 21, 1911as part of a ceremonial peace reunion, will be brought to life on Thurs., July 21, 2011 from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.

The Blue and Gray Ball will also be hosted at the Harris Pavilion on Sat., July 23 at 7 p.m. featuring period dances,with more than 15 instructors teaching popular dances of the time, like the Virginia Reel and The Waltz. www.manassascivilwar.org.

Jennie Dean Park is located on 9601Wellington Road, Manassas. Activities are scheduled from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.

Information courtesy Asha Sedalia Bruot, ASHA Public Relations, LLC asha@ashapr.com
Read more abut the Peace Jubilee at Striped Pot.
Read about quick excursions for Civil War history at Striped Pot

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Great places to entertain guests around Austin

After trekking through Austin landmarks like the Capitol and Zilker Park, where can you take guests for fun, outstanding views, and a distinctive flavor of Texas Hill Country?

Dine at a floating restaurant on Lake Travis.  You can boat over to The Gnarly Gar near Point Venture and park in marina slips provided for patrons. Kids love feeding the enormous catfish and ducks--they will eat whatever is left on your plate.  
Sunset on Lake Travis taken near the Gnarly Gar.
Photo by Beverly Burmeier
Dress is boat attire (swimsuit and cover-up). Menu items feature sandwiches, burgers, salads--the usual fare for a casual restaurant. Crinkly waves and gentle splashes provide soothing background music for relaxed summer dining, and live music is featured on weekends.

Viewing the skyline of Austin from Mount Bonnell is like seeing the city with a wide-angle lens.  Mt. Bonnell road heads west from Ranch Road 2222 on the north side of Hwy. 360. After winding through a residential area, there’s a small off-road parking area. Climb 99 steps to one of the highest spots in the city and look over the Pennebaker Bridge (also called 360 Bridge) on Lake Austin.

The summit, at 785 feet, boasts one of the best all-around perspectives of the city. Dawn and dusk especially offer breathtaking scenes. Bring bottle of wine to enjoy with the vista at this romantic spot.

View from shore of Pace Bend Park
Photo courtesy austinparks.org
For outdoor adventure, drive about 30 minutes to Pace Bend Park.  Take Hwy 71 west to FM 2322; turn right and drive to the park entrance.  Here, in 1200 acres of Texas Hill Country, you will find nine miles of  Lake Travis shoreline and two public boat ramps. 

The park features wide open sandy beaches with designated swim areas.  Secluded coves and scenic limestone cliffs attract visitors and inspire tenuous teens to jump into the water below, sometimes as far as 40 or 50 feet, depending on lake level.   Hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails throughout the park provide additional adventure. 

Photos courtesy Salt Lick. com
If out-of-state visitors are awed by the Texan mystique, head to the Salt Lick.  This renowned barbecue restaurant will fulfill their fantasies about Texas cowpokes and the rest of us dudes. Take 290 west through Oak Hill and turn left on FM 1826 towards Driftwood.  Week-end nights often find a line of cars stretching far down the road waiting to be directed by a parking lot attendant sporting double pistols in his holster. What’s more authentic than a Texas sharpshooter rounding up the herd?

Guests enter the restaurant by an open pit where meat has been smoked since 1967. Savor traditional barbecue plates with all the trimmings while dining at wooden tables and benches.  Save room for homemade cobbler and pie after the heartier fare. Bring cash and your favorite adult beverage.
Read more travel stories at Striped Pot and Austin Adventure Travel

Friday, June 10, 2011

Rainforest hike on Oahu, Hawaii is a slice of paradise

Shuffling bare feet on the sands of Waikiki Beach is a great way to become acquainted with the Hawaiian island of Oahu, but there’s much more to see and do than just splash in the ocean. Nearly every day is perfect for hiking on island, and trails for every ability level are abundant.

Walking in the rainforest
On a misty morning hike to the top of Diamond Head, Oahu’s famous dormant volcano (an adventure in itself), we ran into the director of the Hawaii Rainforest Foundation, a non-profit organization committed to preservation of Hawaii’s fragile environment. His enthusiasm for sharing the beauty of the island convinced us to sign up for one of his guided nature hikes to learn more about Oahu’s botanical delights, as well as geology, history, and mythology of the region. 

The next morning our group was driven to the rainforest, located in the majestic Ko’olau Mountains above Honolulu.  For three hours we trekked through a lush tropical rainforest while listening to our guide’s knowledgeable commentary about every plant, large and small, and exotic fruits like mountain apples and strawberry guavas.  We learned that Ti plants, whose leaves, when wrapped around money, are said to bring good fortune.  Thick bamboo stands shielded us only slightly from frequent showers—this was the rainforest, after all--as we squished along muddy trails. 

Braving the cold water
After about an hour, the sound of rushing water led us to a clearing, where 300-foot waterfalls crashed and splashed into a rocky freshwater pool—a pool that was bone-chilling cold. 

But I hadn’t hiked two miles to stand on the edge.  Quickly I stripped off clothing over my bathing suit and scrambled down large rocks for a toe touch.  I slid gingerly off a small boulder--and gasped as the icy water swirled around me.  The exhilaration lasted a few breath-taking moments, long enough for my husband Larry to snap photos proving my bravery.  

Later, after I had climbed out and warmed up, I took a good look around at our surroundings--the beautiful, lush vegetation enveloping a gorgeous waterfall--and realized that we had truly walked in paradise.

Hawaii Rainforest Foundation
Honolulu, Hawaii

Photos by Larry Burmeier.  Connect with Beverly at Facebook     LinkedIn     Twitter    Striped Pot    Austin Adventure Travel

Monday, June 6, 2011

No hassles at Walt Disney World with this guide book

If a trip to Walt DisneyWorld in Orlando, Florida is on your radar, you really must do a bit of research.  The four parks are so large and the options so overwhelming--not to mention everything being quite expensive--that you need to spend time prior to your visit deciding what works best for your family or group.

Several months prior to our WDW visit with a granddaughter, I spent hours on the web site gleaning all kinds of information. But I found an easier way to check out all the basics as well as specific details is with a guide book because you don't have to continually click back and forth from one site to another--and then forget what you read on the previous site. The guide book I chose and recommend is The Hassle-Free Walt Disney World Vacation 2011 by Steven M. Barrett.

This has proved an invaluable guide, especially with the flexible touring plans Barrett includes for families with small children, older children, adults, and seniors.  Barrett has done all the organizing while giving options for personalizing these plans.  He not only tells what rides or attractions are the most popular with each group, but he also tells which ones generally have no wait, where the least crowded restrooms are, good places to eat in each park, and even places to rest during the day.  

Maps are clear and easy to read, and the layout of the book makes good sense. Pictures provide additional interest while general tips on lodging and touring help the reader stay on track during the planning process.  

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Flower pot lunches at Fall Creek Vineyards in central Texas

Gather your friends and head to Fall Creek Vineyards on Saturday, June 11, 2011, for wine tasting and a gourmet ”Flower Pot” lunch on the beautiful, mist-cooled courtyard terrace.

Entrance to Fall Creek tasting room
Photo by Beverly Burmeier
Unique “Flower Pot Picnic Lunches” are available in a bright pot, planted with a summer flower to take home as a memento, as well as a souvenir Fall Creek Vineyards wine glass. Purchase an engraved Riedel wine stem for just a few dollars more.

Two lunch selections are chicken salad or turkey on wheat bread, chips, pickle and a brownie. Call the vineyard during Tasting Room hours (M-F 11a-4p, Sat 11a-5p, Sun Noon-4p) at 325-379-5361 to make your reservations. Lunch, flower pot, tasting and glass for $22 per adult; children under 12, $17. 

Courtyard terrace at Fall Creek Vineyards
Photo by Larry Burmeier
Fall Creek Vineyards is centrally located on the northwest shores of Lake Buchanan at Tow, Texas, in the Hill Country and is open to the public every day. Visitors enter the spectacular winery property down an allée of cyprus trees and are greeted by an inviting courtyard ensconced by classical architecture.  It's a peaceful setting, and visitors enjoy dawdling while enjoying views of ripening grapes in the vineyards. 

In the tasting room and gift shop with gourmet food bar, staff cordially invite guests to tour, taste and relax on the courtyard savoring the many acclaimed wines: Chardonnay, Caché, Viognier, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, MERITUS, newly released Tempranillo, and others.

Fall Creek Vineyards, owned by Ed and Susan Auler, is located at 1820 C R 2241/222 off Hwy 29 in Tow, Texas.    http://www.fcv.com/