Planes of Fame Military Aircraft on Display

Originals, replicas & models fill hangars.

Plane-logoMy engineer husband is fascinated with and knowledgeable about aircraft and spacecraft, so when we travel, we visit any nearby museums specializing in those technologies. Long on his bucket list was the  Planes of Fame Museum that documents a big chunk aviation history, aims to inspire interest in aviation, educate the public about aerial warfare and honors aviation pioneers and veterans.  It is dedicated to the preservation, perpetuation and exhibition of historical aircraft and to the men and women who devoted their lives to flight, especially military aviation.

The collection in largely World War II era airplanes, some restored to flying condition and stars of the museum’s annual air show each May. I’m not captivated by the technology, but I am interested in the history represented there.

Dusting a vintage airplane with a long-handled mop and Pledge.
Dusting a vintage airplane with a long-handled mop and Pledge.
This World War II warplane was retrieved from a South Pacific island, where it once was used for target practice. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has bought the wreck and is having it taken to Seattle for restoration. The ultimate fixer-upper.
This World War II warplane was retrieved from a South Pacific island, where it once was used for target practice. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has bought the wreck and is having it taken to Seattle for restoration. The ultimate fixer-upper.

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Cruise Lines’ Broken Promises

Caribbean islands expected that money would flow into local economies.

TouristI am no fan of cruises — and the bigger the ship, the less I like them. Pictures of floating behemoths towering over local landmarks and landscapes make my stomach churn. The opposite aspect of tourism, especially in developing countries, is eco-tourism, cultural tourism and voluntourism.

The 'Oasis of the Seas,' currently the world's largest cruise ship, carries more than 6,000 passengers -- most of whom have no real interaction with the places and people they visit.
The ‘Oasis of the Seas,’ currently the world’s largest cruise ship, carries more than 6,000 passengers — most of whom have no real interaction with the places and people they visit.

A dispiriting Associated Press report” “World’s biggest cruise ships drop anchor in Caribbean, but ship-to-shore feud brews over cash,” starts with the observation that “tourists emerge by the hundreds from a towering, 16-deck megaship docked at the Caribbean’s newest cruise port. They squint in the glare of the Jamaican sun, peer curiously at a gaggle of locals beyond a wrought-iron fence and then roar out of town on a procession of air-conditioned tour buses.

“Few stop to buy T-shirts, wooden figurines or beach towels from the dozens of merchants lining the road outside the fence, or visit the colonial-era buildings that dot the town. Not many even venture beyond the terminal’s gates, unless it’s in one of the buses that whisk them past increasingly disgruntled vendors and taxi drivers.”

And the report continues along that vein. Bottom line is that these megaships exemplify everything that is wrong with a big part of the tourism industry: superficial visits often to private islands or fenced-in areas available only to passengers, the failure of trickle-down dollars into the local economy, visitors’ isolation from the place they are visiting. Read the piece and weep. At least that’s what I did.

Denver Art Museum Wows With Wyeths

Father and son works juxtaposed in exclusive exhibition.

Jamie Wyeth at the entrance to the new exhibition at the Denver Art Museum.
Jamie Wyeth at the entrance to the new exhibition at the Denver Art Museum.

I first “met” the Wyeths — N.C., Andrew and Jamie — at the Brandywine River Museum, dedicated to preserving the landscape, art and culture of a poetic part of Pennsylvania and Delaware. I got to know them better at the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockport, Maine. Now, highlights of the Wyeths’ remarkable artworks have come practically to my doorstep.

Two of the three generations of this gifted family are represented in “Wyeth: Andrew & Jamie in the Studio,” which opens tomorrow at the Denver Art Museum. Jamie Wyeth was in town for the media preview. What a treat to hear his stories of the ways he and his father create(d) art. Timothy Standring, the DAM’s curator of painting and sculpture, spent 4 years assembling the show. Its 100-plus works in various media ( including pen and ink, graphite, charcoal, watercolor, dry brush, tempera, oil and mixed media, including ground-up pearls from a necklace of Jamie’s wife) are in Denver through February 7.

Andrew Wyeth’s “Christina’s Word,” enshrined at NYC’s Museum of Modern Art, is not in the exhibition. It is an iconic painting, IMO on the order of the “Mona Lisa” or”Whistler’s Mother,” this is a a must-see for the legions of visitors who visit the museums that house them. MOMA has loaned it out just once and only for a single day. The Wyeth exhibition does include a study for this famous work.

Jamie is delightful raconteur but also an intense and private painter. For a time in Maine, he painted in a plywood bait box where he wouldn’t be disturbed. He likes to do subjects in series — farm animals, dogs, ravens, Rudolf Nureyev, the Seven Deadly Sins, Andy Warhol, nudes, currently screen doors. Famous for his portraits, Jamie doesn’t take commissions but paints only those people he wishes to. He often asks the “sitter” (i.e., the subject) to sign the work because he feels that each one is a collaboration between painter and subject.

I asked whether there are any younger Wyeths painting? He replied, “God, I hope not!” and then admitted that some younger relatives are artists. Lauren Whitney of CBS4 also came to interview him. This exhibition is at the DAM through Feb 7, and then a portion goes to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid — and that’s it. Aren’t we lucky to have it in Denver?

Colorado Ski Season Kicks Off

Loveland and A-Basin tie for first-to-open honors.

ColoradoFlagMaybe I should have written, “Colorado Ski and Snowboard Season Kicks Off” because the riders on the first chairs at Loveland and Arapahoe Basin were snowboarders, though you can’t see that in this picture. Opening day is always exciting for snowsports lovers, even though these two areas on each side of Loveland Pass started, as the generally do, running just one lift and opening just one or perhaps a handful of runs.

Skiers enjoy fresh snow for opening day at Loveland Ski Area, Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015, in Georgetown, Colo. Loveland and Arapahoe Basin are the first resorts opening today for the full ski season in the United States.  (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
Opening day at Loveland Ski Area on October 29. Loveland and Arapahoe Basin are the first resorts opening the full ski season in the United States.  Sunday River, Maine, opened briefly but closed again. Photo: (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey, courtesy Colorado Ski Country USA.

The magic hour was 9 a.m. At Loveland, the first chair was appropriately Chair 1, delivering riders 1 to the top of the Catwalk, Mambo and Home Run trails for  a mile-long descent on 18 inches of packed powder. At Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, the Black Mountain Express high-speed quad chairlift unloaded snow riders to the top of the intermediate High Noon run. There’s been a lot of buzz about the potential for a strong El Niño weather pattern that historically meant a lot of snow. I’m hoping so. 


Snow-Kissed Mountains Herald Ski Season 2015-16

September snows in the Rockies high country.

SnowCloudsAll summer long, I’ve been reading optimistic ski season forecasts, grace à El Niño, a storm pattern that blesses (if you’re a skier or snowboarder) or curses (if you aren’t and hate to shovel) the Rocky Mountain region. This is supposed to be an El Niño year, and whether or not it lives up to its threat/promise, September snows have already dusted that Colorado peaks.

September snowman at Big Sky, Montana.
September snowman at Big Sky, Montana.

Up north, the upper slopes at Big Ski Resort in Montana snared enough for building a snowman. In fact, the ski patrol reported 16+ inches at the top of Lone Peak and 12 inches in the Bowl mid-mountain of Lone Mountain. And yes, there’s still golf in the green valley below. This is a great time to book a winter vacation. Package prices are at their lowest right now.

Woe-kiki Beach As Raw Sewage Spills into Bay

Big rains overwhelm system and foul fabled beach.

YuckFaceSomething on the order of 500,000 gallons of raw sewage flowed from manholes in Honolulu’s fabled Waikiki neighborhood yesterday  and into storm drains and eventually to the ocean. Lifeguards warned ten minutes to stay out of the water. Despite round-the-clock warnings, however, some tourists and even locals are still going into the ocean.

“City officials said the problem stemmed from heavy rains from overnight and debris that got into the city’s sewer system. Plus they said some people illegally opened manholes in their neighborhoods to alleviate flooding, sending rainwater into the sewer system,” Hawaii News Now further reports. “The city also said the problem was exacerbated because a nearby pump station was closed for construction.” The sewer system has since been patched to avoid a repeat of this potential contamination, and the ocean will cleanse Waikiki Bay. 

But as the recent release of contaminated wastewater into the Animas River in southwestern Colorado demonstrates, the after-effects of environment abuse linger in people’s memories and may affect travel plans for a long time.

A Visit to Harman’s House

‘Cowboy artist’ remembered in Poncha Springs museum.

026My son started attending Fort Lewis College in 2001, and he has lived in Durango ever since. I haven’t counted how many times I’ve traveled U.S. 160, but the last time, my husband and I finally stopped to visit the Fred Harman Art Museum. In my/our defense, it is open six days a week (10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.) in the warm months and open only by appointment in winter, and that schedule doesn’t usually coincide with our travel itinerary.

Volunteer docent shares stories of  Fred Harmon's life and points out important and interesting pieces
Volunteer docent shares stories from Fred Harmon’s life and points out important and interesting pieces

The Harman is one of those fascinating little museums that is too often bypassed. Fred Harman was a gifted self-taught artist who at one time entered into a short-lived, failed film partnership with Walt Disney in Kansas City. Disney went to Hollywood, and Harman  returned to his native Colorado to ranch and make art, working with oils, watercolors, pen-and-ink and bronze. He is best known as the creator of the Red Ryder comic strip, which at its height was syndicated to more than 750 newspapers on three continents.

The museum was Fred Harmon's home and studio.
The museum was Fred Harmon’s home and studio.
Harmon always depicted Native Americans accurately and respectfully, not to be taken for granted. The museum features works by Native artists, and he was made an honorary member of the Navajo Nation.
Harmon always depicted Native Americans accurately and respectfully, not to be taken for granted. The museum features works by Native artists, and he was made an honorary member of the Navajo Nation.

Having finally visited and been captivated by the modest museum and its contents, I am putting it on my recommended list for anyone traveling that way. The address is 85 Harman Park Drive, but you really can’t miss it if you follow the signs on the south side of U.S. 160, just west of downtown Pagosa Springs. The phone number is 970-731-5785. And admission is just $3.

Ocean Conservancy Plea to Cruise Lines

A change in course can protect whale sharks.

OceanConservancy-logoWe all get lots of solicitations on behalf of good causes. A recent one from The Ocean Conservancy tugged at my heart and is relevant to cruise aficionados, especially those who travel on Royal Caribbean or Carnival ships along the Mexican coast. Here it is:

The largest fish in the ocean is one of the most majestic, too: the whale shark. These gentle giants are also in danger.

Right now, there’s a very simple way to protect them, and you can help. Off the coast of Mexico, thousands of whale sharks gather to feed and mate every year. Unfortunately, there are two cruise ship companies whose cruises currently travel through this important area where whale sharks congregate in large numbers and swim slowly at the surface of the water.

The beauty of this area is bringing more and more visitors each year, and unfortunately, they are having some negative effects on the whale sharks. There is an easy step to be taken in protecting whale sharks in this region, and we hope you’ll take just a moment to let Carnival and Royal Caribbean Cruises know how important it is to you that they adjust their course by 7 miles to protect these magnificent animals.

Whale sharks can reach over 40 feet in length, and they swim slowly while close to the surface with their mouths open to eat their staple food source, plankton. This makes them particularly vulnerable to ship strikes, which is why it’s so important to adjust cruise ship routes to protect them.

Ships are currently required by Mexican law to go at least 3 miles east of Isla Contoy, but just 4 additional miles would keep the ships from passing through this critical whale shark area and prevent possible negative interactions with these incredible creatures.

Just 7 miles can save whale sharks. Please encourage Carnival and Royal Caribbean to help make a difference for whale sharks.

Baltimore’s Washington Monument

Treasures in century-old time capsule revealed.

VisitBaltimore-logoGiven the recent protests in Baltimore that spiraled out of control, I am happy that there is good news from the city — and that news takes us back into history. The fabled obelisk on the Mall in Washington, DC. may be the best-known memorial to the first president of the US.

But an older one is in nearby Baltimore. Time capsules from 1815 and 1915 discovered during renovations of Baltimore’s Washington Monument, revealed a Bible printed using a miniscule font dating back to 1812 and what could be one of the earliest existing photographs of the Declaration of Independence that opened at the city’s famous Walters Art Museum.

Baltimore's newly restored Washington Monument.
Baltimore’s newly restored Washington Monument. (Flickr image)

The 1915 time capsule was discovered last October behind a bronze plaque commemorating the monument’s Centennial. It contains more than 50 items, including an iron spike, a map of trade routes from the port of Baltimore to the Panama Canal, a picture of Francis Scott Key and what could be one of the earliest existing photographs of the Declaration of Independence, taken in 1903 by L.C. Handy, the son-in-law of famed Civil War photographer Mathew Brady.

The monument’s original 1815 cornerstone, found in February, contained three glass jars that were put in the ground as the nation’s first civic monument to George Washington was being built.  Contents from the first jar include a published copy of Washington’s Presidential farewell address, ten United States coins in copper, silver and gold, a “Joseph Sansom” medal of Washington and a medal honoring the Duke of Wellington’s successful military campaigns in the Spanish Peninsular Wars. The second jar contained a copy of the Bible published in Baltimore by John Hagerty in 1812. Like a small volume in the first jar, it celebrates advances in local printing technology, being printed in miniscule “Diamond Type” developed at the Baltimore Type Foundry.

The smallest jar held examples of the Federal Gazette from July 5 and 6, 1815. The latter date includes a full account of the laying of the cornerstone. The presence of this jar was a complete surprise as the original accounts suggest that the cornerstone was laid and sealed on July 4. Perhaps the most important item found in the well is a copy of the Declaration of Independence, reprinted in the Federal Gazette on July 3, 1815, the day before the cornerstone was laid.

The monument, the first to honor George Washington in the United States, celebrates its bicentennial on July 4 and re-opens to the public following a $5.5 million restoration. Select items from both the 1815 Cornerstone and 1915 Time Capsule will go on display at the Maryland Historical Society this Independence Day.

Cuba Soon to Be Easier to Visit

Restoration of diplomatic relations good news for travelers.

CubaUSflagsThe Obama Administration’s long-overdue removal of Cuba from America’s terrorist list is great news for travelers. The nation at our doorstep, with which the US severed ties more than half a century ago at the apex of anti-Communist fever, is a wonderful vibrant place to visit.  Do so now. Both countries’ embassies will open on July 20, so get those travel plans going.

Independent travel is possible, but for convenience, check out these tour operators that include Cuba programs:

  • Cuba Elite.  Luxury hotels and upmarket private villas, apartments and residences. Who says it’s a hard-line Communist country.
  • Cuba Travel Network. Booking service for hotels and resorts, rental cars, excursions and more geared to Canadians and European who have not been restricted as have US citizens.
  • Cuba Travel Services. It has been dedicated to reuniting families, but with the normalization of relations, it’s format might change.
  • Friendly Planet. Tour operator with long-time presence in Cuba. running fully escorted Cuba tours.
  • Globus. Three Cuba programs are on this major international tour company’s roster.
  • LaTour. New weekend getaway to Havana.
  • National Geographic Expeditions. In addition to local guides, some tours are accompanied by well-known authors and other authorities.
  • Road Scholar. Educational programs for seniors.
  • smarTours. 11-day “Rediscover Cuba” package.
  • USA Cuba Travel. Sells packages to Havana and all-inclusive resorts.

I traveled there with smarTours a couple of months ago, not on their 11-day program but for four days in Havana. IsramWorld’s new weekend getaway is essentially the same program — one night in Miami, three nights in Havana, Cuban visa, guided sightseeing, medical insurance and so on.

Award-winning travel blog. Colorado-based Claire Walter shares travel news and first-hand destination information from around the corner, around the country and around the world.