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.

Ride the Rails to Mountain Concert Venue

Rio Grande Scenic train to private music site.

RioGrande-logoThis seems to be my summer for country rock and related concerts — first Ricky Skaggs and Gordon Lightfoot in Boulder’s historic Chautauqua Auditorium, and yesterday afternoon in the lovely mountain setting on La Veta Pass, where Mark Chestnutt headlined. The rustic venue is accessible only by Rio Grande Scenic Railroad. Even the musicians travel by train — no truck, no tour bus in sight.

Rio Grande train ascends to La Veta Pass.
Rio Grande train ascends to La Veta Pass.
Fir Amphitheater nestled in a mountain meadow. The facility is solar- and wind-powered.
Fir Amphitheater nestled in a mountain meadow. The facility is solar- and wind-powered.

Vintage cars leave Alamosa’s historic downtown depot and travel through the  pancake-flat San Luis Valley past farms, potato warehouses and historic Fort Garland en route to the soaring Sangre de Cristo Mountains. There, at 9,400 feet, the railroad built the Fir Summit Amphitheater, a wind- and solar-powered site in the cusp of a mountain meadow. The audience sits on benches or on folding chairs (their own or rented). Barbecue, beer and soft drinks are for sale.  And yes, so are T-shirts, ball caps and artists’ CDs.

Chuck Pyle opened with melodic ballads, including the ode to Colorado used as the CPR/PBS theme for local programing.
Chuck Pyle opened with melodic ballads, including the ode to Colorado used as the CPR/PBS theme for local programing.
Matt Chesnutt headlined the show with his Texas crowd-pleasing, honky-tonk-heavy program.
Mark Chesnutt headlined the show with his Texas crowd-pleasing, honky-tonk-heavy program.
In this intimate venue, the audience is right up in front of the stage.
In this intimate venue, the audience is right up in front of the stage.

Yesterday Colorado’s mellow Chuck Pyle opened for Texan Matt Chestnutt’s honky-tonk-flavored performance. The sky was blue, the clouds fluffy and non-threatening.  A second performance is scheduled today — part of the Mountain Rails Live 13-concert series over the summer.

The vintage standard-gauge cars come in four classes of service with food and beverage services on board, and the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad also runs a Sunset Dinner Train (five courses) in the valley to Antonito as well as an Excursion Train over the pass to the hamlet of La Veta. Coming up from September 16 to October 10 there are also trains for leaf-peepers and an Oktoberfest trip on October 3. FoMoInfo: 877-726-7245.

Denver Zoo Package + New Giraffe Feature

Grand Hyatt in downtown Denver’s neat seasonal package.

DenverZooGiraffe-signThe Grand Hyatt Denver’s family-oriented new Zoo Safari Package  coincides with the opening of the Denver Zoo’s brand new Giraffe . Two platforms at different heights enable visitors to hand-feed lettuce leaves to the zoo’s four giraffes — the tallest of which is named Dikembe after the Denver Nuggets’ former star player, Dikembe Motumbo.  Zookeepers on-site answer questions and provide tidbits of information about giraffes.

Lucky youngsters get to be the first to hand-feed giraffes at the Denver Zoo's new Giraffe Encounter. Photo: The Denver Channel
Lucky youngsters get to be the first to hand-feed giraffes at the Denver Zoo’s new Giraffe Encounter. Photo: The Denver Channel

The package (from $229 per room) includes an overnight stay in a newly refreshed, spacious accommodation, two adult admission tickets to the zoo (regularly $17 each) and free valet parking in the in the hotel garage in the heart of the Mile High City — not a trivial savings.  A kids’ scavenger hunt challenges them to find favorite animals and then rewards them with a prize from the hotel’s treasure chest. And when families return to the hotel, a dip in the indoor pool awaits. The seasonal package (through September 30) is only available online or by calling 800-233-1234.

New Utah National Parks Audio App

Audio-guides to five great parks in one scenic state.

JustAhead-logo.pngThe Society of American Travel Writers is holding its 2015 convention in downtown Las Vegas — nostalgic and de-glitzified compared with The Strip. Having grown up in Connecticut, long road trips don’t come easily to me, but still my husband and I thought we’d take a leisurely road trip to Las Vegas, visiting some or most of Utah’s five national parks coming and/or going.

UtahNP-map

I’ve now learned of something we’ll need to take along: “Driving Among Utah’s ‘Mighty Five’ National Parks”, a new GPS-prompted mobile app/audio tour guide from Just Ahead Guides that cover Arches, Canyonlands Capitol Reef, Bryce and Zion. We’ve been to Moab and its two nearby parks (Arches, Canyonlands) any number of times, summer and winter. Still, more insights are always welcome. But neither one of us has more than driven through Zion or Bryce, and neither of us has been to Capitol Reef.

The good part  is that Just Ahead guides work without an Internet connection or cell phone service. Drivers or passengers simply download the app, turn it on and enjoy what the company calls “a richly narrated tour.”  Just Ahead utilizes GPS technology to identify exactly where drivers are on the road in order to deliver stories and maps relevant to the exact location. Each app points out not-to-miss features as well as helpful driving directions.

The Just Ahead app is a free download available either through the Apple App Store (iPhone) or via Google Play (Android), and each destination guide is available as an in-app purchase. Guides range from $4.99 to $9.99 and include a free trial and free guide updates.

Allegiant: Low Fare + No Air

Allegiant passengers forced onto aircraft wing upon landing in Boise.

AllegiantAirLogoWho ever expects that an airline ticket will include unbreathable cabin “air”? Some passengers on Allegiant Air that landed in Boise the other day, who ended up standing on the aircraft wing, found out that it could happen. According to a report in the Idaho Statesman, “Passengers were forced to escape onto the wing of an Allegiant Air plane after fumes leaked into the cabin on landing. The worrying incident happened after Flight 330 had landed at Boise Airport in Idaho, U.S. from Los Angeles.”

Passengers waiting on the wing of a just-landed Allegiant Air plane after foul cabin air forced them to except. It happened in Boise. Good that it wasn't winter or windy. The carrier reportedly compensated them with $50 for the inconvenience.
Passengers waiting on the wing of a just-landed Allegiant Air plane after foul cabin air forced them to except. It happened in Boise. Good that it wasn’t winter or windy. The carrier reportedly compensated them with $50 for the inconvenience.

Passengers reported smoke and a smell of fuel in the cabin the plane taxied to the gate in Boise. Some of the 163 passengers escaped onto the wing after fumes leaked into the cabin upon landing. Even after the emergency evacuation, some were dismayed at the way the airline dealt with the situation. “Passengers Criticize Allegiant Air’s Handling of the Evacuation.”

This follows another Allegiant Air emergency landing in Clearwater, Florida just a week earlier, when minutes after takeoff, the crew reported smoke in the cabin and was forced to return to the airport. Four passengers and one flight attendant reportedly sustained injuries that time.

According to a press released issued by BerlinRosen Public Affairs on behalf of a client that I can’t seem to identify, “Allegiant pilots have been raising concerns about the airline’s bare-minimum approach that’s infused all aspect of its operation. Earlier this year, Teamsters Aviation Mechanics Coalition (TAMC) released a report that shows the airline experiences a high rate of air returns and diversions due to mechanical issues. Between January and March of 2015 alone, there were 38 new instances of fixable mechanical issues such as engines failing, pressurization problems, smoke in the cockpit, radar being inoperable and anti-ice devices on windshields failing.” T

his follows another Allegiant Air emergency landing in Clearwater, Florida, just a week earlier, when minutes after takeoff, the crew reported smoke in the cabin and was forced to return to the airport in Clearwater. Four passengers and one flight attendant sustained injuries.  This is a result of what I think of as the Walmartization of America, turning us into a nation of bottom-feeders.  Cut costs to the bone, no matter what the possible consequences.  It is fortunate that there were only survivable injuries in the Clearwater incident and none reported in Boise, where BTW, Allegiant reportedly gave each affected passenger a $50 certificate. I wonder how many people will actually use it. I wouldn’t.

Devil’s Thumb Ranch Adds Charging Stations

Tesla and other electric cars can “fuel up” at guest ranch.

DTR-logoDevil’s Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa, known for minimizing its carbon footprint and a commitment to other eco-friendly practices to provide sustainably focused vacation, recreation, spa and dining experiences, is adding two Tesla and one universal electric car charging stations, free to overnight guests and also to day visitors if available.

The Tesla chargers, which the car company provided, take approximately four hours to fully charge a car. A fully charged Tesla gets an average of 300 miles before it needs to be plugged in again.  The Universal Charger, which is being provided by the State of Colorado, is expected to be available later in June and will be able to accommodate Chevrolet, Honda and other electric vehicles. It takes approximately four to eight hours to fully charge a car. Both are offered free-of-charge to overnight guests and guests on a space-available  basis to day guests.

Outlet for Tesla charging station.
Outlet for Tesla charging station.

Dave Houston, the ranch’s director of facilities says,  “While still a small segment of car owners, we want to remain as accessible to the traveling public as possible and that includes offering alternate energy resources for them to use.” Applause to this Tabernash, Colorado, ranch resort for being so forward-thinking.

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.