Saturday, July 30, 2016

Virginia's Blue Ridge Parkway is a great American road trip

If you’re looking for a great American road trip you can’t do better than the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway in southwest Virginia. As the Parkway extends through Virginia and North Carolina it links two eastern national parks, Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains, which add to the road trip’s possibilities.

Roaring Run Falls
Photo by Beverly Burmeier
Designated a National Parkway and All-American Road, it carries visitors through America’s longest linear park. Winding 469 miles through the spine of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Parkway is a treasure trove of accessible scenic and historical sites including 47 National Heritage Areas, 369 miles of hiking trails, and 372 paved scenic overlooks.

With a 40 mph speed limit, the Parkway is designed for leisure travel. It’s not necessary to drive the entire distance to appreciate what the Parkway encompasses, but to really enjoy the highlights, plan to take your time and schedule side trips on foot, bicycle, or by boat.

Read the full article as published in the Dallas Morning News:

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Taking pictures increases enjoyment of travel

When traveling, I’m a constant photographer. Photos serve to remind me of where I’ve been and experiences I’ve enjoyed (the pictures in my mind don’t last!). Of course, I also realize the value of putting the camera away, staying in the moment, and savoring the scenery or experience first-hand.
Use your camera to record what you
see and do when traveling.
Since I’m rarely without a camera (or two or three) when traveling, I was delighted to learn that people who take photos of their experiences usually enjoy the events more than people who don’t.

Yes, there was an actual study: Research published by the American Psychological Association affirms that rather than detracting, photo-taking adds enjoyment to activities, whether just everyday goings-on or special events such as people experience when they travel.
The research showed that, relative to not taking photos, photography can heighten enjoyment of positive experiences by increasing engagement. In other words, you tend to pay more attention to what is happening and your surroundings when you take pictures.

Active participation--taking your own photos—draws people into the experience, so you spend more time interacting or critically examining whatever you are photographing. The effect is lost if there’s just a camera recording an experience without a person’s active decision of what to capture.
Cameras in cell phones
are handy and take
good pictures, too.
When taking pictures, you may look at the scene from several different angles or take a series of photos as the scene or activity changes. You probably focus more intently on what the camera sees and notice details that a casual observer might miss. It’s this engagement that results in positive feelings about an experience. And those happy feelings are reinforced when you share your photos—and experiences—with others.

I won’t ever feel guilty again about shooting thousands of photos on my travels!

 Photos from free image sites.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Staying hydrated is essential to enjoying your vacation

Water is your first
line of defense against
It’s the middle of summer which means prime vacation time. As temperatures continue to rise, travelers need to stay adequately hydrated to remain healthy during their travels. Recycled air in planes and cars can be especially dehydrating, so pay special attention to your body’s water needs when using these means of transportation.
Drinking water is generally the first recommendation, but too many people either can’t, don’t, or won’t do it—at least not enough. So here are some additional strategies to keep you hydrated and energized through the heat of summer.

Citrus fruits have a high water volume.
 Eat water-based foods. Fresh berries; fruits like oranges, bananas, melons, peaches, and pears; and vegetables including tomatoes, cucumbers, and spinach not only contain water but they have other necessary nutrients and can replace electrolytes. These foods can be easy snacks when traveling and can help your maintain a balanced diet when unusual adventures play havoc with normal routines.
Maintain sodium levels. Despite the heat, many people use vacation time to try new activities. If you are outdoors a lot or very active, your body may lose sodium through excessive sweating. A teaspoon of salt, preferably sea salt, will help maintain essential sodium levels.
Melons also have a high water content.
Avoid caffeine.  Even though a cold, fizzy soda or iced tea may taste refreshing on a hot day, try to minimize drinks that contain caffeine. Coffee, energy drinks, and alcoholic beverages act as diuretics, so they contribute to vital water loss which could result in fatigue and dehydration. Who wants that on vacation?

No need for excessive ice
Skip the ice cubes. No need to load your water with ice (not a good idea anyway in many developing countries). Cool water is actually better absorbed than ice cold water.

Drink, baby, drink. Don’t want to miss a moment of fun? Keep a water bottle handy. That makes it easier to consume the recommended six to eight glasses of water a day. But when the temperature soars, consider consuming half your body weight in liquid.
You'll drink more if your water bottle is handy.
Add supplements. Vitamin supplements—either dissolved in water or taken with a large swig of water—can help replenish nutrients that may be lost from irregular eating and non-customary activities when traveling. Loading up on immunity supplements prior to your vacation--and continuing to take them during your time away--could help you stay healthy and forestall any effects from potentially dangerous summer heat.

Photos from free sources

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Antarctic icebergs are incredibly gorgeous

The whole scale of Antarctica is so awesome that you can’t help but feel like just a tiny, insignificant part of the world when cruising beside enormous icebergs and sailing beside the huge ice sheets that cover most of the land mass. Here are a few more icebergs from our recent Antarctic journey with Quark Expeditions.
But the magical part is viewing these beautiful creations of nature, especially when the sun is glistening off the ice or reflecting inner surfaces to produce a variety of effects and colors. Icebergs can contain shades white, blue, brown, green, and more—and their shapes are constantly changing. Icebergs can carry rocks and gravel within the ice, which may give them dark gray or black sections.

In the warming sun, the ice expands and can give off a variety of creaking or groaning sounds—or the loud bang and splash of a chunk breaking off (calving). A large berg can even create a tidal wave that washes up on shore or moves among other bergs causing even more noises.
Icebergs may break off from glaciers (more common in the Arctic) or an ice shelf—the most likely means of formation in Antarctica. It’s estimated that 50 to 99 percent of an iceberg lies beneath the surface, which is totally hard to imagine. The amount below water is related to how much air is trapped in the ice, which affects its buoyancy.

Icebergs are composed of fresh water that started as snow accumulating over hundreds, even thousands, of years. The amount of air trapped between flakes and ice crystals determines layers, striations, and colors, so every iceberg is different.
Mostly icebergs sit in the ocean bobbing around. Eventually they melt and erode, the balance-point changes, and the berg may crack or split. The result is an indescribably beautiful canvas of continually changing masses to enjoy but respect.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier


Saturday, July 9, 2016

Dubai--Gateway to Desert Adventures

The complete article originally appeared in Arizona Highroads, March/April 2012

Dubai is truly a city of excesses, with the largest, biggest, tallest, and most spectacular of everything. Rapid and enormous growth has made the city an exciting place, but noise, dust, and commotion are unfortunate byproducts.
Beach at Fujairah resort on the Indian Ocean

As first-time visitors, my husband and I marveled at stunning glass and steel structures and wandered through elaborately decorated modern malls, while also taking in the souks (native markets), forts, and waterways of Old Dubai. There’s a lot of history here, though overshadowed by thousands of building cranes that line the landscape.

After riding the ancient abra (water taxi) across Dubai Creek, buying all the pashminas and spices I could carry home in my luggage, and haggling for that special piece of gold jewelry, it was time to escape the city for a different view of the region. Excursions provide an important perspective to better understand the federation of independent states on the Persian Gulf known as United Arab Emirates.

Pool and hotel at Fujairah Rotana Resort on the Gulf of Oman
Click on the link above to read about our overnight escape to Fujairah Rotana Resort. Known for golden sandy beaches and sparkling water, Fujairah is located on the East Coast of Unite Arab Emirates, on the Gulf of Oman, which leads into the Indian Ocean.

Another day we explored Al Ain—a natural oasis in the desert about an hour-and-a-half drive southeast from Dubai. Called the Garden City, Al Ain was once a place of respite for ancient wandering Bedouin tribes who traveled at night to escape the heat. It’s an important historical and archeological site off the beaten path for most tourists.
Historic buildings in Al Ain
On the last day of our week-long visit to Dubai City, we took the highly recommended Desert Safari, an adventure only 45 minutes from the city limits, but a world away for the senses. Trips begin in late afternoon, when the air has cooled, and take visitors to a dry, virtually uninhabited environment in one of the largest deserts in the world--a stark contrast to the bustling, well-irrigated city.

Riding the desert dunes is like being on a theme park ride!
Entertainment by a belly dancer
on the desert safari
Up and down our guide drove over steep sand banks, down hills, and then plowing back up again. For more than an hour, we skimmed magnificent dunes, marveled at geometric wind-swept patterns in the sand, and, at one point, slowed down for a herd of camels crossing the path.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Photo essay of Antarctic icebergs

You might envision Antarctica as one huge mass of ice and snow. There’s a lot of that, but it doesn’t always stay attached to land, which actually has lakes and free flowing water under all that ice. Large chunks of ice break away and move freely in the large expanse of ocean surrounding the continent.
Antarctic icebergs start with snow, which is 90 percent air and 10 percent precipitation. Over time, bubbles in the ice get compressed and the result is glacial ice composed of 20 percent air bubbles.

Most icebergs we saw in the water had broken off from an ice shelf (14 million square kilometers of Antarctic ice sheets are on top of the continent). Some of these patches of pristine ice resemble small islands slowly moving in the water. Imagine a variety of beautiful shapes (flat, pointed, domed, arched), colors (green, blue, white), and textures (grainy, crunchy, smooth, glistening) creating an ever-changing landscape in this wild territory.
As large as many icebergs are, it’s hard to imagine that two-thirds of the berg remains under water. Sometimes, two or three pinnacles can actually be joined underwater to form one massive iceberg, even though it looks like two or more above water.

Enjoy these images of icebergs from our recent Antarctic expedition.