Vacation Week

Friday, May 25, 2012

A rare visit to my hometown, Moline

Posted By on 05.25.12 at 07:57 AM

A bridge that has needed renovation for years
  • A bridge that has needed renovation for years
Around here, the New York Times isn't exactly noted for acumen or accuracy when it comes to the midwest. Still, I was surprised by a recent Sunday Times piece about freshman Republican congressman Bobby Schilling, a Tea Party-backed candidate now running for reelection in the longtime Democratic 17th District. The setting: a news conference regarding a Quad Cities "bridge that has needed renovation for years." But which bridge was that? There are several in this stretch of the border between Illinois and Iowa.

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Vacation style

Posted By on 05.24.12 at 06:54 AM

  • Tom Godber/Flickr
Vacations—particularly those to other countries or cultures where the natives are particularly style conscious—present lots of tricky wardrobe challenges, not least a limited amount of space. The goal of all style-aware travelers is to pack a totally workable miniwardrobe into a carry-on. This is hard, but the first step is to make sure that everything you bring should be able to be used in at least two outfits. Resist the urge to bring that red and green printed shirt that only looks good with that one pair of jeans.

The number one piece of vacation wardrobe advice I give is: don’t buy a whole new wardrobe or dress totally differently from the way you normally do. I understand some people want to escape from their normal lives, but you can’t escape you. If you are more of a jeans and a T-shirt type in regular life, most likely you are not going to transform into a person who feels comfortable wearing fetching little printed cotton shift dresses with cardigans in Montreal or Buenos Aires or Shanghai or wherever. Look at what you like to wear most, then choose the most travel-friendly pieces and work from there.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

By the pie: good stuff in central Indiana

Posted By on 05.23.12 at 07:17 AM

  • Gabriel Amadeus
Last summer, somewhere in the middle of rural Utah, my road trip companion and I stopped into a small corner diner that advertised "homemade pie" among the usual breakfast plates and burgers. There are at least two types of magical thinking I can’t not succumb to when traveling. The first is the illusion that it’s ever a good idea to take Amtrak. The second is that diner pie, that platonic ideal, actually exists in some delicious form.

Amtrak is an unrelenting mess. And the Utah pie incident—I only made it through one bite—was like every other similar experience I'd had until then: gloppy filling, crust out of a box. I’d never had good roadside pie.

Until now.

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If you give a hoarder a million bucks . . .

Posted By on 05.23.12 at 06:46 AM

Organ Room at House on the Rock
I am morbidly fascinated by hoarders. Animal hoarders, paper hoarders, cheese hoarders, you name it. So when I heard about Alex Jordan, a millionaire hoarder who spent his life building a hilltop resort, I was like a moth to the flame.

Jordan began building House on the Rock in the 1940s. The outer structure, which sits atop enormous boulders, looks like a Battlestar Galactica ship designed by a Frank Lloyd Wright groupie. As soon as he began building 70 years ago, public curiosity grew. So in 1960, Jordan started letting visitors in for 50 cents a tour. Within the first year he’d made over $5,000. Today House on the Rock is among Wisconsin’s most popular tourist attractions, though prices have risen considerably: now full tours run nearly $30 per person for adults.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A two-story outhouse and the best Burger King in the land

Posted By on 05.22.12 at 07:26 AM

The two-story outhouse in Gays, Illinois
  • SenorAnderson
  • The two-story outhouse in Gays, Illinois
Here are a couple highly recommended stops if you're on your way to someplace like, say, Louisville for vacation.

I pass by both on my way downstate to visit my small hometown of Pana, Illinois ("The City of Roses"). The town of Gays, Illinois, is on the stretch of Route 16 that runs from Mattoon to Pana. In Gays (pop. 281) there's a sign that reads TOURIST ACTIVITIES: HISTORICAL TWO STORY OUTHOUSE 1872.

The outhouse is affectionately known as the "skyscrapper." Don't tell me you wouldn't stop to check it out. You know you would.

But why a two-story outhouse?

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Monday, May 21, 2012

A memory of the smoking car

Posted By on 05.21.12 at 07:57 AM

Amtrak banned smoking on most trains in 1994 and on all trains in 2004.
  • Amtrak banned smoking on most trains in 1994 and on all trains in 2004.
I don’t travel as much as I’d like to, and one of my perennial excuses is that I never have enough time to get to where I’d like to go. I prefer not to fly—not because I’m afraid of airplanes, but because I dislike the experience of air travel that much. It’s disorienting to find yourself several hundred—or several thousand—miles from home after just a few hours away. And the continuity of airport interiors makes it feel like you never left home at all. After flying, it takes me a few days to feel like I’ve actually arrived in another place—and by then, it’s almost time to go back.

If I could, I’d travel everywhere by train. The experience lets you fully appreciate the distance you cover and you often meet interesting people in the bargain. For a while, I tried to book a trip with Amtrak at least once a year; and until the company barred on-train smoking in 2004, I especially enjoyed sitting in the smoking cars, hearing the nation’s chain-smokers tell their stories to anyone who’d listen.

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A week of vacation on the Bleader

Posted By on 05.21.12 at 07:35 AM

Were the Reader, and youre not.
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With our Summer Guide now out and Memorial Day weekend in the near future, what better to write about for this week's edition of Variations on a Theme than vacation? Stay tuned this week for thoughts on various ways of taking time off.

And in case you missed it, here's Style Week, last week's Variations on a Theme.

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