Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Five road trips for your bucket list

Amazing cliffs and rocks of Zion National Park
Hiking in Zion NP
If you want a road trip that covers a large number of U.S. national parks, head to southern Utah. The scenery is magnificent, and you can visit several parks in a week or less—depending on how much activity you choose to indulge in at each one.

Hike among the brilliant red rocks and cliffs of Zion (don’t miss traipsing The Narrows), and marvel at the other-worldly appearance of hoodoos in Bryce National Park. Head towards the quirky outdoors town of Moab, a base from which to explore Arches and Canyonlands National Parks.
Incredible hoodoos of Bryce Canyon National Park
Don’t miss Delicate Arch, Utah’s most recognizable arch, and the deep, craggy canyons before heading to see incredible sights at Capital Reef National Park and Escalante Staircase National Monument. It’s one of the most amazing road trips we have ever taken.
Hike up slabs of limestone to reach Delicate Arch.

Hundreds of waterfalls along
the coast of Norway.
Sure, you know that Norway is the land of fjords and waterfalls. In fact, the beauty of nature is such a draw that the government has established 18 National Tourist Routes to showcase the best areas of the country. Whether you love mountains or valleys, there’s a route for every visitor through country towns and some of the most breathtaking scenery on the planet. If you go during summer, you’ll have extra hours of daylight (and maybe stay up all night to see the Midnight Sun) to drive and photograph unforgettable sights. Don’t forget your camera when exploring coastal towns and regions of this elongated country.

One of the most highly desired destinations for today’s travelers is Iceland, and I discovered why during last summer's visit. The country features scenery unlike anywhere else--geysers shooting up from desert-like landscapes, lush, green valleys, and ice-covered mountains.  
Amazingly beautiful landscapes in Iceland attract visitors.
Stretching my legs to straddle two tectonic plates, walking on black sand beaches, trekking inside an ice cave as well as on top of a glacier, soaking in hot spring water, and feeling the spray of waterfalls are just a few of the adventures we had in this picturesque land. Remote northern towns had some of the friendliest people who were delighted to share their culture and customs—not to mention plenty of food—with visitors.
It's dark and chilly walking inside a glacier.
A winding road on the northwest coast of Maui, Hawaii, the road to Hana is 64.5 miles of hairpin curves, narrow passes, and one-lane bridges. But it also wows you with bountiful gardens, myriad waterfalls, and some of the most stunning ocean views you’ll ever see.  
Green of every shade is common along the road to Hana in Maui.

The road starts in Kahului and slowly follows Hwys 36 and 360 to the remote town of Hana, but it’s the journey to get there that is the main attraction. With mountains on one side and cliffs on the other, you’ll want to make this all-day road trip more than once. Stop for banana bread at the half-way point and have a picnic after exploring rocks and boulders along the black sand beach.

Sunny days mean gorgeous reflections in many lakes of Canada.
 Icefields Parkway is one of the most beautiful drives in North America. It links Banff and Jasper National Parks, two of the most popular destinations in British Columbia. Start the drive by admiring sparkling reflections at Herbert Lake, and continue on to more lakes, waterfalls, and massive ice fields. Be sure to stop often at pull-out points, and  add a tour to walk on a glacier to your itinerary. Allow plenty of time for this drive as the scenery is magnificent, and you’ll probably want to explore sites along the way.

Walking on a glacier requires care not to step in a fissure with icy water.
Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Try these new adventures in Grand Junction, Colorado

Among Grand Junction's spectacular red cliffs and winding canyons are the 11,000-foot Grand Mesa and the breathtaking 7,000-foot Colorado National Monument. Surrounded by an abundance of public lands – in fact, over 70 percent of the county is public land, Grand Junction is also a mecca for hunting, fishing, dirt bike and ATV riding.

You can expand on this stunning scenery with other attractions including three national scenic byways, rafting, boating, golfing skiing, extensive public art displays, museums, 23 nearby wineries, and a vibrant downtown featuring creative culinary options and shopping.

If you’re thinking of a summer visit to Grand Junction, Visit Grand Junction has announced many things to do in Colorado’s Grand Valley for 2018.  New mountain biking trails, water sport activities, summer events, and a sports shooting facility expand on outdoor recreation activities for which the Grand Valley is known.


Opening this spring is a new segment of the One Riverfront Trail. Mountain bikers, hikers, equestrians and trail runners can start their journey on the nearly 30-mile-long Riverfront Trail in Palisade, travel through Grand Junction and now connect in Fruita to the Kokopelli Trail, which extends to Moab, UT.

Powderhorn Mountain Resort’s lift-assisted, downhill mountain biking attraction features a new 5-mile green trail – a smooth, all-level ride called the “Mutton Buster.”

Water Sports:

Colorado’s first cable wakeboarding park, Imondi Wake Zone, will open in summer 2018 on a 30-acre lake in Fruita. Imondi’s five-tower cable system will pull up to seven wakeboarders in a counterclockwise circuit featuring obstacles and ride rails. New learners can access a separate two-tower system.

Jet Boat Colorado offers “the most exciting boat tour on the Colorado River” with fishtails, speed runs and “cowboy spins” on the custom New Zealand-style jet boats. Additionally, a scenic option lets riders slow down and take in the beauty of the mountain scenery.

Summer Events

The Museums of Western Colorado’s Dinosaur Journey in Fruita will unveil a new exhibit, “Horns & Frills”, May 18 to Sept. 16; this exhibit will tell the secrets of dinosaurs’ combat and courtship and features new specimens, skulls and skeletons.

Dinosaur Journey will also offer “Dino Digs” from May 22 to Aug. 15. Guests can join professional paleontologists on half-, full- or four-day excursions and help discover ancient life-forms.

Music is part of the summer landscape as well. Two Rivers Winery in Grand Junction will present “Music in the Grapevines” at its outdoor pavilion one Tuesday a month from May to September. In Palisade,Garfield Estates Vineyard and Winery will offer a music series, “Wines, Vines & Harmony,” two Saturdays each month from July to September. Outdoor concerts are also planned at the Las Colonias Amphitheater in Grand Junction throughout the summer.

The Mountain Bike and Ultra Marathon/Relay Kokopelli 100 & 140 will take place September 7 and 8 on the entire 144-mile trail from Fruita to Moab.

Sports Shooting Facility:

The new Cameo Shooting and Education Complex will feature world-class shooting facilities, safety education and law enforcement training as well as competitions. The complex broke ground in March and will be partially open to the public this summer.

Grand Junction, the largest city in Western Colorado, is located at the junction of the Gunnison and Colorado Rivers, between Salt Lake City and Denver on Interstate 70.

Information and photos courtesy of Gaylene Ore, Ore Communications, Visit Grand Junction, www.visitgrandjunction.com)


Thursday, May 17, 2018

InvisaWear jewelry is your best safety device

Do you ever travel alone, either across the world or around your own city or town?
Especially if you’re a woman, you may have fears about roaming solo both in daytime and after dark. If you have those legitimate concerns, check out a new product on the market that can accelerate obtaining assistance in an emergency.

InvisaWear is a modern-age way to connect to the nearest 911 dispatcher, providing them and emergency contacts with the user’s exact location. Even better, this state of the art technology is imbedded in an attractive and discreet piece of jewelry that you can enjoy wearing while knowing you’re just an instant away from help.
Life threatening situations can develop in the most innocuous of circumstances—an Uber ride, a car that breaks down, hiking in a greenbelt or park, or traveling to unfamiliar places. With InvisaWear, your cell phone becomes the link between you and help.

Here’s how it works: The InvisaWear component uses a Bluetooth connection with a paired smartphone that is within 30 feet. First you download the free app. Then select and install up to five friends and family that you wish to be notified (These can be changed at any time through the companion app).
The component is encased by a beautiful 14K gold or silver plated charm that snaps together to hold the crucial components. Inside is a long-lasting coin cell battery, good for one year or longer depending on usage. The rear cover of the charm is equipped with advanced pressure detection to send a silent and immediate distress signal.

If you feel threatened, press on the back of the charm, and your emergency contacts will receive a text message letting them know you initiated an emergency alert and your current location. If you can’t speak, just double click the back of your device to send your location immediately to your contacts. Then, if you’re in the U.S., they can speak to 911 on your behalf.  
As long as your phone can make overseas calls, the device will work in more than 250 countries. That can give parents of traveling millenials (or children of traveling retirees) peace of mind no matter where they roam. InvisaWear only tracks your location when an emergency alert is activated, so no need to worry about having your whereabouts known during okay travel.

The InvisaWear charm is a fashionable and stylish device that can be worn as a bracelet, necklace, or placed on a keychain or backpack. Having it with you every day is the best way to be prepared for unforeseen emergencies.
Smartphones running Android version 4.4+ or iPhone models running IOS 9.0+ are compatible with InvisaWear. Once purchased there are no additional fees. When the battery is low, you can order replacement components at a discount from the company.

Order at www.invisawear.com/collections/all

Photos and information courtesy of InvisaWear

Friday, May 11, 2018

When several generations vacation together

Multi-generational travel—often to celebrate a special anniversary or family reunion-- is one of the fastest growing segments of the vacation industry. But if cruising on a mega-ship or visiting large theme parks with thousands of other people doesn’t meet your idea of quality togetherness, there are other options.

You can quickly replace technological connectivity with personal connectivity when family members bond over shared experiences—and everyone benefits. While travel companies have developed new offerings to appeal to multiple generations traveling together, you can also plan your own fun vacation around excursions such as these:

Cumberland Lake is the houseboating capital of the U.S.
 Love water activities—but hate sticky saltwater at the beach?  Rent a houseboat on Cumberland Lake in southeastern Kentucky.  Cruise on your private resort, and park in a secluded cove.  Large, luxurious houseboats can easily sleep 12, and several boats can be moored together to accommodate larger groups.

With a little instruction, driving a house boat is easy to learn.
Surprisingly simple to operate, rented boats come with hands-on learning time and two-way radios for help if you have questions.  With fully equipped kitchens, TVs, back-end slides, and gas grills, houseboats offer ready-made entertainment literally right outside the door.  Kids, parents, and grandparents enjoy whiling away the hours with swimming, fishing, and relaxing—then cooking up the day’s catch.

Advantages include only unpacking once (bedrooms have more storage than a typical cruise ship cabin), water and sunshine all day, and clear, star-lit skies at night.  Beautiful scenery is unspoiled by development, since land surrounding Cumberland Lake is owned by the U. S.  Corps of Engineers.  There is no better place to build or maintain family relationships than in your own aquatic paradise.

Llamas follow a lead without threatening
hikers and carry supplies.

If you love the outdoors but not water wings, try a llama trek. Learn how to lead a llama and how not to invades his personal space. One of the oldest domesticated animals on the planet, llamas are more docile and compliant than horses and make wonderful pack animals.  They are agile, social, and non-threatening for inexperienced trekkers, including children.

Llama treks in Carson National Forest near Red River and throughout northern New Mexico are a terrific multi-generational adventure, with half-day to multi-day excursions (including gourmet organic meals) designed according to weather conditions and needs of the hikers. Enjoy the sights and sounds and feel the peacefulness of the woods while gaining affinity for llamas, knowledge about ecology and the environment, and an appreciation for nature to apply later at home.


Holland, Michigan is a town for all seasons and all reasons, especially if windmills, wooden shoes, and Dutch treats are on the agenda.  An unmistakable Dutch influence permeates the town, and Main Street has a decidedly European flavor even though it’s near the shore of Lake Michigan.
Sure, there are windmills in Holland, MI.

Named an All American City, Holland makes a delightful weekend getaway or vacation destination.  Whether you’re looking for beaches and parks in summer, fun festivals and special events such as the weeklong Tulip Festival in spring, farmer’s markets overflowing with produce and flowers in fall, or cross-country skiing in the winter, Holland has it all.  Abundant biking and hiking trails, an active arts community, museums, and shopping in the revitalized downtown area (listed on the National Register of Historic Places) are some of the activities appealing to various family members. 

Take in unique Dutch attractions such as Windmill Island, where you can climb up the last authentic windmill to leave the Netherlands—a working structure built in 1625.  Visit the Dutch Village Theme Park, and listen to the beautifully carved street organ play melodies derived from authentic brown punched paper.  

Houses proudly reflect the Dutch influence in Holland, Michigan.
Watch wooden shoe carving or purchase a traditional blue and white souvenir at DeKlomp Wooden Shoe and Delft Factory.  Then head to Lake Michigan’s shoreline to see Big Red, Michigan’s most photographed lighthouse, and stop to savor bayside cuisine and a harbor view at nearby Piper Restaurant.


Great Smoky Mountains National Park provides many family activities
and beautiful scenery 
Another destination full of family fun is Gatlinburg,Tennessee, a gateway to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Waterfalls are abundant, with some right on the highway’s edge for easy viewing and others a leisurely walk away. Summer programs and camps provide hands-on discovery activities for all ages.

Check out the aquarium in Gatlinburg, TN.
Scenic drives throughout the region, nearby white water rafting in summer and zip lining year round, old fashioned hay rides and harvest festivals in fall, and celebrations marking the extensive arts and crafts community throughout the year (especially around Christmas) mean there’s something for everyone. 

Gatlinburg is also known as the nation’s wedding capital after Las Vegas, so there’s another reason to bring the family together.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Don't jinx your cruise vacation

Cruising can be one of the most relaxing and fun vacations. But a bad experience can jinx your time away, especially if you’re a newbie to cruising. Here are some easily avoidable mistakes that even experienced cruisers sometimes make.
Some itineraries are made for relaxing.
Choose the right type of cruise: Some itineraries make port stops almost every day. If you’re the active type, this might be ideal. Do you prefer historical or cultural lectures, bridge lessons or dance lessons, partying late at karaoke or the disco, or solitary time to read, knit, or rest? Talk with your travel agent about which ships and itineraries best match your vacation desires.

Different cruise lines appeal to different demographics, so think about the age groups that usually choose a particular ship. Consider timing of your cruise and availability of children’s programs if you’re taking a family or multigenerational trip. If not, avoid ships that cater to young families and choose a cruise of longer duration during typical school months.
Cruise South America during our winter, their summer.
Consider weather: The Caribbean is a wonderful place to cruise—warm days, blue water, and golden beaches.  But remember that June 1 to November 1 is hurricane season. Be sure to buy travel insurance if you book a cruise then.

It's best to cruise Alaska during warmer months.
Prices for Alaska cruises are lower in May and September, but you might experience cold weather, even snow, and most likely rain. Fares to Europe may be lower in winter, but unpleasant weather can curtail some of the activities you have planned.

Pack carefully: I’ve never been on a cruise where I wore everything in my suitcase (gotta do better!). When cruising you tend to wear clothes more than once, so less is needed. Longer cruises have self-service laundries, so it’s easy to keep a clean wardrobe. And be sure to leave room in your suitcase for souvenirs to bring home. Just be sure to carry passport, prescription medicine, eyeglasses or contacts, and seasickness patches or bands, if necessary, in a carry-on that stays with you.

 Avoid same-day flights: If your embarkation port requires an airplane ride, you’re rolling the dice to book a flight that arrives there same day prior to sailing. Sure, you might save a few dollars (no hotel overnight), or you might miss your cruise or checked luggage that doesn't arrive when you do.
Once, after aarriving at the airport, we learned that the incoming flight was canceled due to bad weather at the origination point. Fortunately, we were able—after much angst and several phone calls—to get seats on another airline. Since we had booked flights that time with the cruise line, they expedited travel from the airport to cruise dock, and we set foot on the ship minutes before it left.

A better way—what we usually do—is arrive at the embarkation port a day or two prior and spend some time sightseeing. Then we have plenty of time to get to the pier, board the ship, and relax a bit before it leaves.
Seeing penguins on the Falkland Islands is best done on a
pre-booked excursion  with the cruise line.
Pre-book shore excursions: Most cruise lines allow you to pre-book shore excursions online before the scheduled departure date. If excursions are included in your plan, book as early as allowed to get the best selections. Ship sponsored excursions may be crowded and involve bus rides, but if the excursion is long or travels a good distance away from port, you have safety in knowing that the ship will not leave without you should there be a delay. We have been on ships that waited six hours for a tour to return and passengers to re-board.

If you prefer to plan your own excursions, still research each port, know what you want to do, and book your activities before departure. Find private guides online ahead of time, so you can contract with a reputable company with which you feel comfortable. Plan to arrive back at the ship at least an hour before departure time. Message boards like Trip Advisor can help you get a group together to lower costs on excursions.
If children are traveling choose a cruise with plenty of active
events and opportunities. Check out kids' clubs.
Stick to your budget: You know what the cruise costs, but once you’re onboard, there are myriad ways to spend more money: alcoholic or specialty drinks, specialty restaurants, spa treatments, certain exercise classes, shopping, and many other services and activities that you might not have planned for. It may be hard but stick to "look, don’t buy," if you have a limited budget.

And, speaking of budgets, include the cost of travel insurance when planning your vacation. Some people think insurance is a waste of money, but it only takes one incident to pay for insurance purchased for a lot of trips. No one wants to be in a foreign country with a health issue, but even healthy folks can have accidents, legal problems, miss a connection, or lose luggage.
However, remember that you may have to pay expenses and then file a claim after returning home, so be sure you have a credit card or other means of covering unexpected expenses.

Leave work at home:  A cruise should be a vacation, a time to put electronic devices away. Yes, you can get online on the ship, but look at this as a time to free your mind, relax, and enjoy your traveling companions. You’re in the middle of the ocean—admire the sunset!
Photos by Beverly Burmeier and from free sources.