Forwarded by Slim Russell

Boeing is preparing a 1000 passenger jet that could reshape the air travel industry for the next 100 years. The radical blended wing design has been developed by Boeing in cooperation with the NASA Langley Research Center.

This mammoth plane, with a wing span of 265 feet compared to the 747's 211 feet, is designed to fit within the newly created terminals used for the 555 seat Airbus A380, which is 262 feet wide.

The new 797 is in direct response to the Airbus A380, which has racked up 159 orders, but has not yet flown any passengers. Boeing decided to kill its 747X stretched super jumbo in 2003 after little interest was shown by airline companies, but has continued to develop the ultimate Airbus crusher 797 for years at its Phantom Works research facility in Long Beach, Calif.

Airbus A380 has been in the works since 1999 and has accumulated $13 billion in development costs, which gives Boeing a huge advantage now that Airbus has committed to the older style tubular aircraft for decades to come.

There are several big advantages to the blended wing design, the most important being the lift to drag ratio which is expected to increase by an amazing 50%, with overall weight reduced by 25%, making it an estimated 33% more efficient than the A380, and making Airbus's $13 billion dollar investment look pretty shaky.

High body rigidity is another key factor in blended wing aircraft, It reduces turbulence and creates less stress on the air frame which Adds to efficiency, giving the 797 a tremendous 8800 nautical mile range with its 1000 passengers flying comfortably at mach .88 or 654 mph cruising speed another advantage over the Airbus tube-and-wing designed A380's 570 mph (912 km/h)

The exact date for introduction is unclear, yet the battle lines are clearly drawn in the high-stakes war for civilian air supremacy.

Also, see this article [ ].


By Jug Varner

This may seem like preaching to the choir for you readers who've been to Branson, Mo., but on our first visit it exceeded all expectations we gleaned from the second-hand information of friends. You had to be there to really appreciate it, but I'm going to tell you about it anyway.

If your preconceived idea is that Branson is strictly a country music venue, guess again. It offers plenty of that, but also a variety of other music and entertainment, even a little opera, an New York's famous Radio City Rockettes' Christmas show. The beauty of it, for those who are tired of smut forced on them at every turn, is the absence of the four-letter words, raunchy jokes, and sexual innuendoes — and the abundance of good, clean family entertainment and fun. Also, ticket prices are more reasonable than just about anywhere else you can go. It offers a fine alternative to Hollywood, Las Vegas and late night entertainment, with equally good talent and artistry.

Visiting Branson is like stepping through a time warp to a more genteel and patriotic era. Every show included a special salute to servicemen and veterans, and every year on November 11th, all the shows are free to veterans and their families, even food at some restaurants.

Mid-June was an ideal time to go, with plenty of rooms available — thus, smaller crowds, less traffic, and better access to good show tickets (although it is always a good idea to make advance reservations for accommodations and tickets). The weather was pleasant, not yet into the typical hot summer. Branson will no doubt be considerably different during its busiest season from Thanksgiving to Christmas — when all the stories come true about wall-to-wall people and traffic jams. The travel tour business had already booked up most of these Christmas shows and hotel rooms while we were there.

With three days in Branson and so much to choose from, what do you see? Your choice depends on personal preference, of course, but we opted for these six shows, five of which feature stars we don't ordinarily see on TV or otherwise:

Jim Stafford, droll comedian, musician and songwriter, is one of the funniest guys around. He has the knack of making you feel he's your friend. His wife and young son are part of the act and he plays it for all its worth—which amounts to a laugh a minute—except when he's playing a guitar or other instrument to showcase the seriousness and scope of his musical talent. Most of his songs are anything but serious.

The Sons of the Pioneers, America's top western music group, originated by Roy Rogers, is still active after more than 50 consecutive years and better than ever. Hearing their original songs and melodious harmony took me back to my youth in Lubbock, Texas where I listened to them faithfully on the local radio station.

Shoji Tabuchi, the gifted Japanese violinist, is a very funny man whose great variety show features music for all tastes. In fact it is Branson's most popular show, ringing up more than $41 million in ticket sales last year. He does it with a bang: laser lights, unusual acts, sound effects and lots of talented people.

Wayne Newton is Mr. Show Biz, a native American Indian, bigger than Life, and the master of many musical instruments. Ladies of all ages love him and he “plays” that pretty well, too. He and Tony Orlando share their new theater called “Talk of the Town,” the last word forming their initials — T.O. and W.N.

Tony Orlando, whose voice is as good or better than it ever was, is one of the best-kept secret in Branson. What a showman and crowd-pleaser! Even if you can't carry a tune, he'll have you jumping and jiving right along with him before the show is over, because he'll be down there in the aisles with you. I don't know where he's been since his network show and hit record days, but the audience seemed glad that he is back.

Country music stars M-M-Mel Tillis and daughter Pam (who is more popular than her dad with the younger fans and appears on his show on Tuesdays) played to a packed house. Both were superb! Mel's other daughter Carley studies opera. She made a brief appearance, too, and knocked us out with two arias that seemed as far from country music as you can get! Or maybe not: opera has been described as country lyrics in a foreign language sung by fat people with high-pitched voices. If so, Carley's voice and body may be too beautiful for opera, but she has what it takes for stardom. Papa Mel has a special charisma not captured on TV or in his movies. In person, his presence is magnetic, with dynamic audience appeal. He's a funny, down-home, outstanding performer — a country boy dressed in city slicker clothes (that must have cost a fortune).

All of these performers are multi-talented perfectionists who obviously enjoy sharing their artistry with the audience. We missed seeing headliners such as Andy Williams, Bobby Vinton, The Osmonds, Yakov Smirnoff, Roy Clark, Mickey Gilley, Boxcar Willie, Barbara Fairchild, The Lennon Sisters Welk Show, and many other shows, more than enough to satisfy any musical taste. Contact the Branson Chamber of Commerce, a travel agent, AAA, or search the world wide web for a complete list.

It is not uncommon to meet folks who have returned to Branson several times. The shows are the big draw, but numerous other attractions offer great diversion. Maybe we'll see you there when we come back for the Christmas shows. The spectacular lights alone are said to be worth the trip.

See also []


By Jug Varner

For those desiring to escape August's stifling heat, British Columbia is an unparalleled attraction.

The weather in August 1989 could not have been better - balmy days, cool evenings, and occasional light showers that were more like commas than exclamation points. Altogether, it was a delightful contrast to summer in Texas.

Enroute, my wife and I enjoyed stopping at Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe, the California Redwoods, Olympia Forest, Seattle, Portland, Columbia River Gorge, Colorado Springs, Taos, Santa Fe, Cloudcroft, to mention a few. Each place deserves an article of its own.

Six weeks and 7,200 miles convinced us that Victoria and Vancouver, BC, were well worth the time and effort it took to get there and back.

Arriving aboard an automobile ferry from Port Angeles, Wa., Victoria impressed us as being “veddy” British and “touristy.” A week later, aboard an even larger ferry to Vancouver, we weren't quite sure if we were ready to leave the queen city capitol of BC.

In between, we met a lot of friendly Canadians, ate a lot of wonderful food, visited colorful gardens, ate a lot of great food, saw many interesting sights and ate a lot of delicious food. Local chefs have a way with salmon, which we ate just about every way they could cook it. They know how to prepare most everything else, too.

Oh yes, we partook of enough tea to float the ferry back to the mainland. At the famous old Empress Hotel, they turn away as many as they serve at their mid-afternoon “high” tea - so called because of the dress code required and all the goodies served, although the $13.95 per person tab would have been reason enough.

Flowers were everywhere…in window boxes, on street lamps…mini-gardens in the business districts…in residential yards and public parks…but, most impressive of all, at Butchart Gardens.

This one-time limestone quarry was transformed into a world famous horticultural treat that might have made Adam and Eve jealous. We began our tour in early afternoon, took tea, completed the tour, had dinner, enjoyed their outdoor theater presentation, then toured again after they turned on the colored lights that night. Magnificent!

Some other attractions you may want to see are: the fine British Columbia Museum, an unbelievable Miniature World, Fable Cottage Estate, Royal London Wax Museum, countless galleries, theaters, parks, government buildings, historical sites, and impromptu entertainment along the waterfront.

We rented a modern replica of a 1932 Model-A Ford convertible one afternoon and drove through Beacon Hill Park, took video tape of gardens, watched cricket players and lawn bowlers and saw several hang-gliding enthusiasts jumping into the wind from a hill above the beach.

McPherson Playhouse featured “Move Over Mrs. Markham,” that week. This hilarious British farce added emphasis to the area's British ambience.

If you like window-shopping, Victoria offers an attractive downtown area that is noticeably free of litter, panhandlers, street people and crime problems.

Colorful street venders, mimes, and businesses with obvious appreciation for tourists make Victoria a friendly and enjoyable place to visit.

Vancouver is a contrast to smaller Victoria, but unique in its own right. Unlike big cities in America, Vancouver is clean, modern and relatively free of crime - evidenced by the large crowds of people able to walk along the streets at night without fear.

City officials, building on the good will and tourism created by EXPO 86, have converted many of the Expo buildings into permanent attractions.

Most conspicuous of these is Canada Place, housing a hotel, world trade and convention center and cruise ship terminal. Science World, a treat for kids, is housed in the former Expo Center near the covered stadium, BC Place.

From our hotel window overlooking the busy Burrard Inlet, we could enjoy views of downtown, harbor traffic that ranged from all types and sizes of marine craft to float planes, and distant Grouse Mountain high above North Vancouver. The sky ride by tram to the top of Grouse Mountain and the additional ski lift ride to its 4,100' peak provided a view of the city and coastal areas.

From there, we stopped to see the Capilano Suspension Bridge. I walked across this 450' long “stomach-tester” swaying high above a wooded gorge and stream. My wife preferred just to take a picture of it.

New York City's Central Park can not compare with Vancouver's Stanley Park, a thousand acres encircled by a sea wall hike/bike/jogging path. Profuse gardens, a zoo, aquarium, Amazon gallery, athletic fields, concert area, and on and on. The park abuts the shores of Burrard Inlet and English Bay.

Like Victoria, Vancouver is bursting with flowers at ever turn. Trees line the streets of many downtown shopping areas such as Gastown, where the world's only steam-powered clock blows its top every 15 minutes.

Granville Island, off English Bay at False Creek, is a popular shopping and eating area. Shoppers can go crazy in Vancouver with so many unusual places to choose from. About ten blocks along Robson Street is a night shopping area favored by young and old alike.

Chinatown here rivals that of San Francisco. Many Asian people have mi-grated here from Hong Kong.

Another grand view of the entire city, up close and personal, can be experienced atop the Harbour Center building, where we had a fine lunch at its revolving restaurant. Food is wonderful in Vancouver with an infinite number of places to eat.

For those who like guided tours, both Victoria and Vancouver have an abundance — by car, bus, rail, air, boat, bicycle, horseback or shanks mare. There is more to see and do than can be accomplished in one brief visit, but that's a good excuse to return again, isn't it? [] [] []


By Jug Varner

Presidential libraries offer a perspective of the person it honors that may be different from the visitors' concepts formed through media reports and political bias - particularly the latter. Whether or not the visitor liked the president when in office, it is interesting how much more objective one becomes viewing those years of national service in retrospect, regardless of party affiliation. And, it is history that even kids can enjoy.

There are now a dozen presidential libraries across the country and each is different and uniquely reflective of its honoree. Of the several I have seen, however, the Bush Library and Museum on the campus of Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, made the greatest impression on me. It is a beautiful place inside and out, and uses the latest technologies in its interesting presentations. However, its most impressive aspect is that it is so personal.

One leaves there feeling as if he or she knows the entire Bush family like their own friends or relatives. It conveys a sense that they truly are family-oriented people who put great stock in traditional core values of honesty, integrity, hard work, discipline and giving of themselves for the benefit of others — the nobility of public service.

As one for whom the word “dignity” has a special meaning and appreciation, this visit also gave me pause to reflect on how much of that precious commodity has been lost in the White House since George and Barbara Bush departed.

The President's and First Lady's narration of special video presentations are l virtual guided tour in various exhibit areas. It begins off the rotunda in the Orientation Theater, with an intimate eight-minute film of the President at Kennebunkport. Another depicts the presidential office at Camp David and its calming effects away from the pressure-packed environment of the nation's capital. Another is the current special featured exhibit of intimate family photographs, each “picture” better than “a thousand words.” This continues in other areas throughout the museum.

Typical of this “personal touch” is the opportunity for visitors leaving the museum to touch a computer monitor display to request and receive a free printout souvenir signed letter from either or both George and Barbara Bush in answer to one of 24 questions.

A Kennebunkport display and a 240' replica of Washington's Vietnam Memorial wall were special showings during that month. These special exhibits from time to time augment permanent displays such as a TBM torpedo bomber similar to the one Bush flew as a Navy pilot in WWII from the decks of the aircraft carrier San Jacinto. (The San Jacinto display flew the Texas Flag beneath the Stars and Stripes on her flag staff).

Other regular exhibits include a realistic Gulf War display, a walk-in cross-section of Air Force One, a chronology of the Cold War, a 5,000-pound section of the Berlin Wall, and a gallery of art. These and many others historically document the Bush presidency and the life of our 41st president.

Outside the Museum stands a bronze sculpture of four horses leaping to freedom over the rubble of the Berlin Wall — emblematic of our cherished Four Freedoms.

No other American President served the nation in as many ways as George Bush did, yet not until one sees these exhibits is the enormity of his service so well exemplified. Barbara Bush's efforts on behalf of literacy, AIDS prevention and volunteerism are also deservedly documented.

The Bush Library Collections include 38 million pages of official and personal papers, one million photographs, 25 hundred hours of video tape and 70 thousand museum objects, encompassing much U.S. history since 1941. It is also a research institution integrated into the academic environment of Texas A&M University. It includes a Conference Center, School of Government and Public Service, Center for Presidential Studies, Center for Public Leadership, the George Bush Presidential Foundation, and the International Center.

Its Museum contains a classroom designed specifically for students from kindergarten through high school. Using innovative interactive computer software and audio-visual programming, a staff education coordinator works with school groups to develop programs and activities to teach students about the presidency and recent American history.

The National Archives and Records Administration operates this and nine other presidential libraries and museums. Those are for Presidents Ronald Reagan (at Simi Valley, CA), Gerald Ford (at Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids, MI), Richard Nixon (at Yorba Linda, CA), Jimmy Carter (at Atlanta, GA), Lyndon Johnson (at Austin, TX), John Kennedy (at Boston, MA), Dwight Eisenhower (at Abilene, KS), Harry Truman (at Independence, MO), and Franklin Roosevelt (at Hyde Park, NY). The two others honor Herbert Hoover (at West Branch, IA), and Rutherford B. Hayes (at Fremont, OH.

George Bush Presidential Library and Museum
1000 George Bush Drive West
College Station TX 77845
Tel: (409) 260-9552.

Web Site: []

Museum hours: Mon -Sat: 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Sun: 12:00-5 p.m. Parking is free.


By Jug Varner

A few miles west of Amarillo, along Interstate 40, stands a decidedly different art form from any you are likely to see. There is no billboard in either direction to proclaim the wonders of this odd tourist attraction (?), so you might miss seeing it if you drive by too fast. I don't know why the town folks don't advertise it. Maybe they're not that proud of it.

It is out in a typical Texas wheat field, some 200 feet beyond the south access road. A small sign gives a few brief details and a gap in the fence allows the curious to walk out and take a closer look without an admission fee.

This collection of metal is a lineup of ten old Cadillacs, hoods buried in the sandy loam and tail fins reflecting a blazing sun — Machine Age monoliths silently reaching up to the god of transportation. Locals call it “Cadillac Ranch.”

Amarillo eccentric Stanley Marsh III and a San Francisco designer group (known as The Ant Farm) created it in 1974. Twenty years later they held a reunion party and encouraged invited guests to spray-paint congratulatory messages on the freshly whitewashed Caddies.

Common graffiti added by others since then has given this “monument to something-or-other” more the effect of junk than art — but perhaps not to its creators. They once described it as “the hood ornament of Route 66.” That famed highway of song became known as I-40 when the interstate system was built.

Art, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.


By Jug Varner

Standing out in a wind-swept Amarillo wheat field, I took this first photo for my 1998 article about Cadillac Ranch.

According to a recent story in the Houston Chronicle, the keepers of this unique “life sculpture effect” gave it a new paint job that did away with the unsightly graffiti, and restored it to its original look — including new tires.

This Amarillo Globe-News photo at left shows a painter at work covering up years of spray can “art,” preparing the various models for the yellow, blue, and green hues of 1974 — when the cars were first buried nose-down in the sandy loam.

This renewal project was part of Amarillo's “Save-a-Landmark” program, and was financed by the Hampton Inns to help increase summer travel to the area.

According to Amarillo Mayor Trent Sizemore, “Cadillac Ranch has the 'gawk effect'. For years, people have been driving by with their heads turned sideways.”

From all the graffiti I saw during my visit, I would add that more than a few stopped, got out of their cars, and trudged into the field to get a closer look.

I wonder if the graffiti will continue? When I was a kid, there was an apt saying for this sort of exhibitionism: “Fools names and fools faces are always seen in public places.”


By Jug Varner

At Lake Chautauqua, NY, the quiet beauty of the water adds a special touch to the huge trees and many old wooden “gingerbread houses” that make the Chautauqua Institution a unique place to visit. History buffs will appreciate both the place and the people who inhabited the homes or participated in the activities such as Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. Its present day occupants are equally interesting, if not as famous.

This headquarters for a religious retreat began in the late 1800s and evolved into a nationwide movement taking culture to the masses via traveling tent shows, until the great depression of the 1930s made it economically infeasible. It still flourishes with chapters in many areas of the country, but to a lesser degree than in yesteryear's horse and buggy days.

Today it is more famous for its performing arts season which extends from Memorial Day to Labor Day and includes major performers from show business along with lectures, concerts and other interesting and educational presentations. One is well advised to make reservations a year or so in advance for room accommodations there.

Cooperstown, NY, is full of authentic colonial houses — such as the Cooper Inn that originally was an early 1800s residence. These houses and their heavily treed yards lie along the peaceful Lake Otsego, surrounded by green mountains. It looks like a picture postcard and is the sort of place one thinks of when the term “New England village” comes to mind.

The Baseball Hall of Fame there is thoroughly absorbing and well worth seeing. Surprisingly, it is not officially connected with organized baseball, but under private ownership. It has always enjoyed good cooperation with baseball, however, and offers more information and unique presentations than one can fully assimilate in a single visit. Doubleday Field is where the annual baseball game is played as part of the ceremonies for induction of players, coaches and managers each year. It is located only a few blocks from the Hall of Fame building.

There is also a fine museum on early American farming there, a small recreated New England village and other interesting attractions for the entire family.

West Chesterfield, NH, is a couple of miles east of I-91 and Brattleboro, VT, on Route 9. That's where you'll find the Chesterfield Inn. If you are smart and plan your trip in late September or early October to drive south on I-91 from the Canadian border, the colors of that mountainous area will be so vivid and stunning that you will be ooohing and aaahing like a city slicker who had never seen the country before.

And, if you've never stayed at a country inn, Chesterfield Inn will no doubt exceed your expectations. Originally it was an 1800 era barn, but it is so well cared for you think it is recent construction. Our room was spacious with a high (barn beam) ceiling and very nicely appointed. The king bed was comfortable and its top cover was a hand-made patchwork quilt. Breakfast and dinner are included in the daily rates.

Chef Warner's evening meal was something to write home about. His reputation is such that diners come here from all over the area, including Boston, some 100 miles away . Owners Phil and Judy Hueber spend their waking hours making sure you will find everything to your liking. It requires their total effort seven days a week, but they've been at it a while and seem to enjoy it. Its great!

A few miles south on I-91, then west on I-90 will lead to West Stockbridge, MA, and a visit to the Normal Rockwell Museum. What a treat! Many of this unique American artist's original works are displayed here, as is his studio, moved here from Stockbridge. Most of his Saturday Evening Post covers were painted there, using local Stockbridge residents as his frequent models.

Not only was the original art inspiring (so much better than the reproductions), but the setting was in a gorgeous area of mountainous western Massachusetts. It was like something out of a storybook scene. Everything is of good quality and the displays are tastefully done, even the gift shop. There is a minimum of “commercialism” although many unique gifts and souvenirs to choose from.

A visit here will surely stir your patriotic emotions.

See also: [] []


Forwarded by p38bob.

Here is a quick and easy way to determine the price of gasoline before you fill up that tank.

This is handy for both local and long distance travelers.

Simply enter a zip code at the site below, and it tells you which stations have the cheapest gasoline prices (and the highest) in your or other zip code areas. It's updated every evening.

CLICK HERE [ ] and then click on GAS PRICES in the left column.


By Jug Varner

“Join the Navy and see the World.” That was the recruiting poster message in front of the home town post office. The time was in those dim dark ages past — when I was a young lad and hadn't been many places outside the local area. World War Two had started, so as soon as I was old enough, I joined and eventually made it a career.

The Navy certainly lived up to its promise in my case, and set a lifetime pattern of travel enjoyment that has never waned. Each change of duty station brought more opportunities for my family to see different parts of America and the world, and implanted the same seed in each of them to “go and see.” - which they continue on their own.

Since Navy days, business travel has afforded similar opportunities for my wife and me to continue seeing new places and meeting new people. A large U.S. map mounted on my home office wall has blue tacks for all the places we've visited and red tacks for all the places we've lived. There are lots of tacks, but still lots of places we haven't seen — yet. Here are a few places we covered on our last trip east:


It is such a short distance from Washington that I can't believe we waited so long to come here. Cool and crisp October is a great time to visit because the crowds are smaller, with less hustle-bustle. Its the sort of place that deserves a more leisurely pace. If you're a history nut and like to read plaques, markers, and such, plan a long stay. There are more than 1,500 monuments on the battlefield alone and, the town is rich in civil war history.

For an outstanding 360-degree visual orientation of the entire area, visit Battlefield tower high above the cemetery before starting any tours. Also, before taking a bus tour of the battlefield, study the available literature to gain a better perspective and make the route more meaningful. The noisy diesel engine made listening to the narration rather tedious. A personal driving tour is far better, if time permits.

Dinner by the fireplace in Dobbin House Tavern (circa 1776) was a food, ambiance and antique treat, and a visit to the Eisenhower farm is worth the trip. The friendly docents are knowledgeable, and the interior gives one a special feel for the personalities of this former military couple who moved around the world just like the rest of us, before they ascended to higher status. Mamie's collection of assorted knickknacks is so typical of military wives.

The natural beauty of this setting (adjacent battlefield notwithstanding) is peaceful and serene. It is easy to understand why this farm was Ike's favorite place to be.


Chocoholics beware! You may not survive this visit. Merely the aroma of around-the-clock chocolate cooking permeating the air is enough to make you throw caution to the wind. Even the street lamps will tempt you. They're shaped like the famous Hershey Kisses we all try in vain to avoid. When you visit Chocolate World. You won't believe there is this much diversity in chocolate.

The automated tour there is a classic presentation of how the famous candy is made, and you'll get a taste treat at the end of your ride. Also, take the Trolley Tour of the area. This interesting and humorous presentation makes one appreciate this clean and beautiful little city and the world's best-kept philanthropic secret — unsung hero, Milton Hershey. He did wonderful things for his town, his employees, and
orphan children.

To help the area economy during the depression years, he employed many locals to build quality community buildings for the town. One was a replica of a favorite Moroccan hotel he stayed in while abroad. His architect created the plans solely from photos Hershey had taken on his visit and the general verbal descriptions he gave. It still looks new and is beautifully landscaped and much in demand. We couldn't get a reservation there but did thoroughly enjoy its ambiance and a delicious meal.

Except for a fateful decision early in the century, there night not be a Hershey product today. He and his wife had booked passage for on ocean voyage, but she became ill. With great reluctance, Hershey canceled the trip and the Titanic sailed without them.


Perhaps a more appropriate title could have been “Pennsylvania Dutch Country,” because we stayed in nearby Lancaster and visited a number of Amish communities with odd-sounding names, but none quite as odd as Intercourse.

This town supposedly got the name because an early building was on the site where folks entered a race course for teams of horses. (ThatÕs their story and theyÕre sticking to it.) Horses are still the preferred mode for transportation and cultivation in these parts by those who strictly keep the faith. We couldn't turn down the opportunity to ride in an Amish horse and buggy for an unusual tour of the rural area. Actually it was a more comfortable ride than expected, but we were somewhat cramped for space.

Our driver was a pretty lass who told us about the life of the “plain folk,” as they refer to themselves. No cars or trucks, no electricity or modern appliances in their homes, plain dress, every member of the family works on the farm, and the kids seldom go beyond the 8th grade in school. Those we talked with seemed well educated for so little schooling.

Food lovers will love the Amish Country. These people set a table fit for a threshing crew, which may be the root of their culinary experience. Food and plenty of it is the order of the day in most of their public eateries and we did our bit to help.

Fine needlework is the hallmark of the women, and we bought two meticulously-made quilts that are daily reminders of the interesting and enjoyable visit to Pennsylvania Dutch country - Intercourse in particular.

See also [] [] []


By Jug Varner

As I was writing this, Don Ho's romantic Hawaiian songs played softly in the background, bringing back many thoughts of times past. His CD is a memento of my most recent visit to Oahu — a continuation of Hawaiian experiences begun six decades ago. For those who remember Don from yesteryear, he still headlines his show at a youthful 68.

Hawaii was a U.S. Territory in the 1940s, when I first saw Honolulu. I was one of untold thousands of military people passing through this Pacific crossroad on the way to an uncertain rendezvous with destiny. The recent Japanese sneak attack at Pearl Harbor still burned in our hearts and minds, and our first sight of the damage added an eerie twinge of awe that enhanced our serious dedication to the tasks that lay ahead. Most were green kids from all walks of life who would grow up in a hurry in the months ahead. Some would not return.

It was still the small island paradise we knew vicariously from movies and newsreels at our hometown theaters. The only exception was the ever-expanding military facilities and machines to accommodate the war effort, and a sea of uniformed soldiers, sailors and marines inundating Honolulu for rest and rehabilitation. Wartime blackouts were in effect at night, and not until Japan's fate was a foregone conclusion later in the war did the locals overcome their fear of a possible invasion by enemy forces.

John Rogers Field (now Honolulu's commercial airport) was home for the Naval Air Transport Service, which for several months was my base of operation for flying personnel and supplies throughout the Pacific theater. It was a great place to return to for occasional brief respites before heading out again.

The most prominent of the few hotels at Waikiki Beach were the Royal Hawaiian and the Moana. There wasn't need for many resort hotels before the war. Only the wealthy could afford to travel to Hawaii and stay in them. Overseas commercial air service was in its infancy at that time, but the PanAm “flying boat” stopped here on an infrequent schedule. Most people arrived and departed on the steamships Luraline, Matson and Monterey.

The Navy took over the Royal Hawaiian and the Army used nearby Fort DeRussy as staging areas for troops, hastily erecting an assortment of Quonset huts and other temporary structures for billeting, service clubs and recreation facilities. The land beyond Waikiki toward Diamond Head was sparsely settled.

Being here during WWII was an unforgettable experience, not just being a part of the massive war effort, but seeing the old Hawaii as it never would be again.

From the war's end through the 1950s, developers such as Henry J. Kaiser and others altered the skyline, as well as the lives of the people, with endless commercial and residential projects. Hawaii bases were beehives of activity during the Korean War and continuing Cold War with the Communist nations. When our aircraft carrier dropped anchor at Pearl Harbor enroute to and from the Korean war zone, the Moana Hotel and its famous Banyan tree was still a favorite military watering hole, but a different metropolis was emerging. Before this decade ended Hawaii would be our forty-ninth state.

I returned again in the 1960s, as an escort officer for a group visiting Hawaiian area military installations. The Vietnam War was escalating and military activity remained high. In the city, population growth and real estate development continued apace but had not reached the height it would skyrocket to when I returned for a vacation in 1977. The Vietnam conflict was over, but military activity continued in because of the Cold War.

Now twenty-two years later, the Cold War is no more, but winds of change continue to blow in Hawaii. Local tourism is down somewhat, primarily due to Asia's economic problems. Perhaps you have noticed an increase in newspaper and TV ads promoting Hawaiian tourism in your own home areas.

The Royal Hawaiian Hotel, all but hidden from view by modern skyscrapers, is a well-preserved old queen in her eighth decade. Veterans of past wars who haven't returned to paradise in recent years would hardly recognize Waikiki, Fort DeRussy, or any of the military bases they once knew.

Hawaii remains a romantic (and, for me, nostalgic) place to visit, despite Honolulu's million-plus population. Upon reflection, however, I liked it better when Oahu was a small uncluttered island in a slower-paced world.

The U.S. military played a dominant role in Hawaii's twentieth century history, but its presence today has been affected by base closings and other military priorities. Public perception may be more focused on its past achievements than its current missions, but Hawaiian bases remain strategically important. Given the ongoing changes in Asia, they may be even more important in the future.

We can only hope that the President, DOD, and Congress have the wisdom to maintain the necessary forces here. The watery graves of the Battleships Arizona, Utah and Oklahoma and their entombed heroes are stark reminders of the consequence of military unpreparedness.

By contrast, the newly opened USS Missouri Memorial is not only a symbol of victory and peace, but a product of America's industrial might and ingenuity that emerged after the disaster at Pearl Harbor to become the greatest war machine the world has ever known.

Ironically, the two largest categories of visitors at these memorials are older Americans, many of whom fought in WWII — and Japanese tourists, most of whom were not born until after the war and were shielded from the truth in the omission of that history by the Japanese educational process.

Have the lessons learned been lost on all but a few of us who were a part of it, or those with family members who passed along their stories and experiences to the heirs?

Unfortunately, most American youth today know little about Pearl Harbor, WWII, Korea, or even Vietnam. They will be our elected government officials in a few short years.

It's a different world today, and certainly a different Hawaii.


By Jug Varner

Unless you are old enough to remember riding in or driving a Model-T Ford, you probably don't know that many early drivers broke an arm because the hand crank wouldn't release when they tried to start the engine; or that they got sopping wet trying to fasten its flimsy window coverings in a rainstorm; or had to stop to repair flat tires three times during a 40-mile journey on rutted, muddy roads; or endured the scorn of passers-by as this new-fangled “Tin Lizzie” frightening cattle, horses and people along the way.

You probably never give a thought to how much has changed since those early times, as you zoom along on a smooth highway in your quiet, high-powered, comfortable, air-conditioned, space-like vehicle — going faster than aircraft used to fly. After talking to someone in London on your cellular phone, you follow-up with a quick fax to acknowledge your verbal agreement. Then after you check your satellite navigation system to make sure of your exact location on planet Earth, you switch on your digital CD player for music better than Beethoven ever dreamed it could sound, and wonder why your computer displays only 32 miles per gallon after that last fill-up. Life on the road is tough these days!

If that description resembles you, consider a vacation at Dearborn, Michigan and visit the “100 years of the Automobile in American Life” exhibit at the Henry Ford Museum. Take in Greenfield Village while you're there. It is the world's largest indoor-outdoor museum, 90 acres of interesting and enjoyable displays gleaned from more than a million objects and 25 million historical papers.

You'll soon realize that Dearborn is Henry Ford country, as almost every turn brings reminders of that great industrialist. His concept of mass production made it possible for middle and lower class Americans to purchase his famous Model-T and is credited with “Putting America on the road.”

Of the many Ford landmarks, none is more popular than the museum at Greenfield Village, which he established in 1929 to show how far and fast we have come in transforming America from a farming to a manufacturing society. Ironically, even greater and faster transition has taken place since that time.

Ford built a fine hotel nearby in 1931, now enlarged and operated as the Marriott Dearborn Inn. It was a pleasure to stay in this historic building, with its ballroom-size lobby and excellent food service, where the Fords held many family and business socials through the years. We also enjoyed the photos displays depicting those earlier times. The Inn's garden area is very much in demand today for weddings, three of which took place the day we arrived.

Our visit coincided with the annual “Motor Muster” of Midwest area drivers and their families. They paraded their 600 classic cars past the Museum's “Independence Hall” facade, then on into the Village area for public display. The parade was a fitting prelude to my two-day journey through history, first at the museum and then at the Village. I learned in talking with other visitors that many folks purchase annual memberships and come here frequently for the special events such as the Muster and the Summer Festival programs then in progress.

Inside the museum are 160 cars, not only all of the Ford cars dating back to the Quadricycle, but other manufacturer's, too.

Of special note are displays of:
the only existing 1896 Duryea Motor Wagon;
several limousines of former Presidents, including the one in which John F. Kennedy was assassinated;
Old 16, the Locomobile racer that won the 1908 Vanderbilt Cup;
the first Oscar Mayer Weinermobile; and
Charles Kuralt's “On the Road” touring van.

Also, there is the 600-ton (world's largest) railroad steam locomotive “Allegheny;”
Admiral Byrd's trimotor polar aircraft on skis;
Sikorsky's first practical helicopter;
a room from an early “tourist court;”
a room from an early Holiday Inn motel;
President Lincoln's assassination chair from the Ford Theater;
the revolutionary Massey-Harris Grain Combine;
numerous Henry Ford artifacts; and
countless other items and displays featuring American ingenuity. This auto wonderland pleases kids and adults of all ages.

The nation's oldest daily steam locomotive pulls its cars along a standard-gauge rail bed that encircles the Village, providing passengers a view of the entire area and various stops for loading and unloading. I took that ride before exploring the Village, where authentic buildings and equipment have been imported from around the country.

Some of these include:
Thomas Edison's Menlo Park Complex;
1880s Firestone Pennsylvania Farm;
Wright Brothers' Ohio home and Cycle Shop;
George Washington Carver Memorial log house built in 1942 with wood from each state;
Noah Webster's 1823 Federal style house;
Henry Ford's Michigan birthplace, and his early factory;
1860's era Susquehanna Plantation;
Steamboat Suwanee;
Smiths Creek Michigan Depot (where the AmTrak now stops); and
Logan County Illinois Courthouse (where Abe Lincoln practiced law).

There are other authentic stores, shops, buildings, windmills, a town hall, a village green, a church, tributes to innovators, and more. This American treasure is an excellent vacation place for the entire family, even if you don't love cars!

See also []


By CDR Byron (Jug) Varner, U.S. Navy (RET)

Hale Koa - Polynesian words meaning “house of the warrior.”

Waikiki - Polynesian word meaning “sprouting water.”

Polynesian warriors of old could never have imagined using “Hale Koa” to describe “a palace of luxury” in his native land — but here it is centuries later at “Waikiki,” on a site once considered worthless because of its several springs. An Army sentry checking IDs at the front entry drive gives the only clue that this is a military installation.

I am really “picky” when it comes to guest lodging. I've stayed in many good hotels and a few great ones, and in my experience the Hale Koa is at the top of the rating list — because it offers the best combination of quality, comfort, cleanliness, service, food, friendly atmosphere, location, scenery, recreation facilities, and (the big qualifier) reasonable rates. And if you think I'm a tough rater, you ought to travel with my wife. If mama ain't happy, nobody's happy!

Tastefully decorated rooms are large and comfortable, with TV, VTR, iron/board, refreshment cabinets and deck furniture on a covered lanai — along with magnificent views of the sparkling blue ocean, green cloud-rimmed mountains, and the Honolulu skyline day and night. Each floor has a coin-operated laundry and supplies.

Staying here is a special treat for active and retired military personnel and their families. Room rates range from $56 to $157 (no room tax) based on rank and room location. If that sounds expensive, check the eye-popping prices of comparable commercial establishments. Then it sounds like the bargain it is.

As one of the world's top tourist spots, the cost of living is higher in Honolulu than in most other American cities. A great number of commodities are imported. The Hale Koa makes it possible for those who might never afford to stay in a quality resort to enjoy the best one on the beach.

Lower prices also prevail for food, drink, entertainment and shopping everywhere on property. There is a well-stocked military exchange, barber and beauty salon, shops, and an activity center that offers discount prices for area attractions, car rentals, tours of land, harbor and ocean, and others.

Nowhere else will you find such personal rapport with other guests. They greet you at every turn. Everyone has so much in common it is easy to make friends and trade experiences while sitting in the lobby, or enjoying some of the varied in-house activities. The best place to start is at the complimentary orientation breakfast for new arrivals. A cheerful host explains the what, where and how to see the island's attractions, as well as the hotel's own native luaus, Sunday Champagne brunches, magic shows, Polynesian revues, live bands and dancing, local craft displays, hula lessons, swimming lessons and exercises, hiking, snorkeling, “boogie-boarding,” botanical tours, tennis tournaments, fitness center and saunas, holiday parties, concerts in the Banyan courtyard, and the Friday night fireworks.

Chef Rolf Walter, one of the island's best, has created delicious cuisine for patrons here since its inception in 1975. Whether one prefers continental dinners in the Hale Koa Room, island favorites or regular fare at Koko Cafe and Bibas's, or fast food at the snack bars near the beach and pools, or coffee and rolls at a breakfast kiosk in the lobby, the food is excellent. Guests can enjoy sunset cocktails at the Barefoot Bar, or dance the night away at the Warriors Lounge.

The Hale Koa's twin towers are located within the 66 tropical acres of the Armed Forces Recreation Center at Fort DeRussy. It offers the largest and best beach area in Waikiki, with picnic tables and outdoor grills, children's playground, pools for families and for adults only, Battery Randolph Army Museum, chapel services, and many other activities of interest. Unlimited shopping opportunities are within walking distance or a one-dollar bus fare.

The original 416-room hotel opened in October 1975, as an all-rank, all-services accommodation providing first-class services without regard to status. My wife and I stayed here the first time in December 1977. Between that visit and this one, everything changed. They had added a 398-room tower and upgraded the original structure, transforming it into a world-class resort. We hardly recognized the place! Manager John Jeffris said future refurbishment is in the planning stage to make it even better.

The Hale Koa is one of four Armed Forces Recreation Centers around the world. All were built with accumulated non-appropriated recreational activity funds generated by service personnel. Owned and operated by the Department of the Army, each Center is self-sustained by its on-site high-occupancy income. No tax revenues or public funds are involved or required. The other three centers are: Shades of Green, Walt Disney World Resort (Orlando, FL); Dragon Hill Lodge (Seoul, Korea); and, AFRC Europe (Garmisch and Chiemsee, Germany).

Note: Due to heavy demands for occupancy at the Hale Koa, management recommends that you make your reservations well in advance. ENTER THEIR WEBSITE HERE [ ] or call toll-free (800) 367-6027.

KEY WEST (1997)

By Jug Varner

One of the few benefits of being older than most of my readers is that I have been able to live through a lot of history that others merely read about. That makes going somewhere I haven't been before quite interesting to me because I have known about it through national events, media reports, friends who have been there or other sources. Key West is a good example, the Truman Little White House in particular.

This refurbished historic site is located on the original U.S. Naval Base here that was closed in 1974.

The tour guide's verbal information and various artifacts seen during our walk-through jogged my memory bank about major events of the post-WWII era. Decisions made during President Truman's twelve visits here, as well as visits by Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy and Carter, brought a measure of fame to Key West that it might not have had.

Those who enjoy historic sight-seeing will appreciate this inside look at the President historians call the “last common man to occupy the White House.” To me it was reliving history and remembering where I was and what part my own naval career played in some of it at the time.

Being in Key West also completed a geographical feat for me. Having visited three corners of the lower 48 — in California, Washington and Maine — this trip completed the circuit. Looking south from Fort Zachary Taylor State Park into the confluence of the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico leaves no doubt in one's mind that this is truly the fourth corner.

It was too bad that my long-time friend, Captain Coleman Smith. USN Ret., did not accompany me. He was stationed here on a minesweeper during WWII and would be amazed at the difference between then and now - although he would have recognized most of the historic district, and the many old homes and buildings that have been maintained or restored. A revamped waterfront where cruise ships stop frequently, and numerous hotels, condominiums and other new buildings would also amaze him.

Fortunately, building codes require that new architectural designs blend with the old Bahamian-New England style sea town it has been since Navy Commodore David Porter established a base here in the 1820s to combat the pillage of West Indies pirates.

A good example of this new-old look is the Hilton Resort, where I stayed. Its tiled pier deck along the water offers a great view of the famous Key West sunsets and is a place to enjoy activities of various entertainers. Adjacent buildings new and old offer the ambiance of old Key West.

Tours of beautiful old homes and famous landmarks are also available, along with a variety of museums.

This small island of coral rock became the largest city in Florida in the late 1880s, and one of the richest in the U. S. Its factories produced 100 million cigars each year, and shipwreck salvage, sponging and sea food catches also provided great wealth.

In time, these industries dried up or moved elsewhere, the Navy left, and by the depression years of the 1930s the city became one of the poorest in the nation. Not until the military build-up of WWII did Key West begin to recover.

Today, its economy is based on tourism and the military, which is still active here despite recent draw-downs and base closings.

The diversity of more family oriented tourist attractions throughout the state of Florida may have some depreciating effect on Key West's tourism, especially by those whose vacation budgets are limited, or who think the drive from Miami along the multi-island Key highway will be slow and boring. It is a bit slower than the interstate, of course, but certainly not boring.

This overseas highway includes a seven-mile bridge and traverses some 45 large and small keys, separating the brilliant green colors of Gulf waters from the deeper blue of the Atlantic, and gradually evolves into an environment more Caribbean than Floridian. Some of the larger keys offer a variety of marine activities of interest.

Many families visit here, but they are outnumbered by cruise visitors and young adults, who find it a unique spot offering a plethora of water sports, shops, restaurants, bars, bicycles, and melting pot of people from many areas - traditional Bahamian families known as Conches (Conks), Caribbean, Latin, New England, Cockney, Creole, African overtones, and mainstream Americans.

Entrepreneurs abound with hand-made souvenir items, and prices are reasonable if you shop around.

Among others, I met Jeff Evans at a counter adjacent to Kino's Sandal Factory (where you can buy hand-made leather footwear for $6 to $9 a pair). Jeff has been in Key West for eight years - - long enough to assimilate the laid-back lifestyle typical of most natives, which is reflected in his company's name “Made in the Shade.”

His was one of the most reasonably priced shops I found, offering colorful birdhouses, ceiling fan pulls, conch shells, jewelry and other local items, including a mail-it-home coconut.

Jeff's wife Vicki is an aspiring writer, anxious to complete and publish her first book. She's certainly in a good literary environment.

A number of writers and artists have found Key West to be the ideal place to hone their creativity. Included on tours are the former residences of Ernest Hemingway, Robert Frost, Tennessee Williams, and a host of others. Key West folks seem to revere Hemingway above all others, holding annual celebrations in his humor.

The author's descendants have been in dispute with the festival's promoters because they felt it has become more of an out of hand rowdy celebration for a hard-drinking tough guy, than for a Nobel Prize winner who arose each day at six o'clock to write novels.

The family held a more sedate celebration earlier this year at Sanibel Island, but Key West held another in late July.

My friend Coleman Smith would find it easier to recognize what was then called the Boca Chica Naval Air Station. It is located on the Boca Chica Key - named after a fish. Boca Chica translates to “small mouth.”

Coleman may not have been surprised to know that the current Commanding Officer was a former carrier pilot with more than 300 day and night landings, but would have been slightly taken aback upon meeting Captain Lin Hutton - who was one of the Navy's early female pilots in carrier aviation.

She had not only earned her command assignment the hard way, but was doing an outstanding job of it, particularly in community relations. I was very impressed with her as a person, a naval officer and as a base commander and wondered silently if she would be among the growing list of female admirals in the near future.

Now called NAS Key West, it is the major military command in Key West today and provides facilities for several other activities in the area. These include:

  • Joint Interagency Task Force
  • Army Special Warfare (Underwater)
  • Caribbean Regional Ops Center
  • North Atlantic Meteorological and Oceanographic Detachment
  • U. S. Coast Guard Station
  • Florida Air National Guard
  • Cudjoe Blimp Radar Base (USAF)
  • Navy Fighter Squadron VF-101
  • Navy Campus for college credits
  • Navy Public Works
  • Naval Supply Depot
  • Navy Commissary and Exchange, and other such organizations.

Key West will be more inviting weather-wise during the high season of the winter months, but also considerably more expensive at that time. It was hot in July, of course, but not uncomfortably so. On one particular day it was cooler there than in most of the nation. For one who is used to Texas heat, it seemed quite nice to me!

See also []


Editor's Note: After the following article was published, the San Diego City Council voted 8-1 on May 24, 2005, to authorize selling up to $16 million in bonds and approved a fast-track development schedule. The bonds will be paid by owners of the property west of Lindbergh Field. This will allow construction to begin in August 2005 on the first 18 acres of the Recreation area described below.

By Pat Broderick, San Diego Business Journal
Forwarded by Dick Blaisdell

The $1 billion Liberty Station mixed-use project, now in various phases of development, is on the grounds of the former Naval Training Center in Point Loma, which closed in 1997 as part of the Defense Department’s Base Realignment and Closure program.

The project, which includes a boat channel to San Diego Bay, is about six minutes from Lindbergh Field and Downtown San Diego. Development began in January 2001, with build-out expected by 2008. It includes:

Residential: Three neighborhoods with 349 homes, with construction now finishing up on the final residential phase. Admiralty Row includes 80 single-family detached homes, Beacon Point 129 detached townhomes, and Anchor Cove 140 attached townhomes.

Office: Seven buildings, totaling 380,000 square feet of Class A office space. Two buildings were completed in November 2002 and the next two are under construction with estimated completion dates this spring.

Education: The Gary and Jerri-Ann Jacobs High Tech High, a public charter high school in the San Diego Unified School District, has been operating on the former base since September 2000.

Historic: The historic core, which consists of about 600,000 square feet of space in 60 existing structures, will be restored and renovated, eventually encompassing the 26-building NTC Promenade - a civic, arts and cultural center - as well as additional office, specialty retail, commercial and restaurant space.

Recreation: NTC Park is a 46-acre waterfront park that includes ball fields, picnic areas, basketball courts and two playgrounds. According to the San Diego-based Corky McMillin Cos., which is overseeing the redevelopment, the park will be the largest waterfront park in San Diego since Mission Beach Park was approved in 1982. A 6-acre waterfront esplanade and the renovation of the Sail Ho Golf Course are also in the works.

Retail: There will be about 150,000 square feet of retail space within the historic core, which may include a grocery store, specialty food shops and restaurants.

Hotels: Liberty Station Resort Village, recently approved by the San Diego Planning Commission, will include a 200-room Courtyard by Marriott and a 150-room Hilton Homewood Suites.


By Jug Varner

There are more than 100 million cars and trucks on the nation's 4 million miles of roads. Even if spaced out equally across the land, the 25 cars per mile would pose a potential hazard at best.

Unfortunately, they are not evenly spread out. The majority of these 100 million vehicles are traveling through congested urban areas and on major thoroughfares, which greatly increases those hazards for everyone on or near the road.

Add to this mix the millions of drivers using alcohol or drugs, and the sleep deprived. Include those who flagrantly disregard the speed limits and rules of the road, as well as those who don't even know the rules! And how about the clowns who tail-gate? And those overcome with Road Rage?

List those who are in such a hurry they won't even slow down in bad weather conditions. Add those who spend more time talking on their cellular phones than watching the road. We can't leave out all those with bad eyesight, poor driving ability and other problems that are hazardous to their and your well-being.

Now, subtract all of these hazardous drivers from the 100 million and what do you have left? Very few safe drivers and a hazard potential beyond belief. All of this is further compounded by bad roads, bad weather and the unlimited possibilities for mechanical failures. When you consider the thousands of things that can go wrong with any vehicle at any given time, it is almost miraculous how well they hold together, especially since the majority of drivers don't practice good preventative maintenance procedures. Nonetheless, the primary cause of road hazard is due to the loose nut at the wheel known as the driver.

Do you see yourself or any family member on this long and dangerous list?

If so, what are you going to do about it?

If not, look again.


Forwarded by Slim Russell

Ever dream about flying cross-country in a small plane, low and slow to take in the scenery? Then, recalling what the hardships must have been for the early settlers, bouncing along in covered wagons, saddle weary on horseback or just trudging along, mile after mile over some of the scenery shown in the following photo feature?

This pilot flew from Placerville, California to Wisconsin to attend the Oshkosh Air Venture show. He took some great photos along the way.

His brief captions below each photo adds a special touch to his beautiful color shots.

Click here [ ] and enjoy!


By Jug Varner

About 300 miles north of Dearborn is a fascinating place known as Mackinac Island (pronounced Mackinaw by the locals). On the way, we detoured over to the east coast of Michigan to see beautiful Glen Lake and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, an unusual geological site with rare wooded growth on the dunes.

Another quick side trip took us across the five-mile Mackinac Suspension Bridge to Sault Ste.Marie, Mich., for a brief look at the famous Soo Locks that raise and lower ships crossing the straits from one lake level to another. The area is the terminus for Lakes Michigan, Superior and Huron, as you may remember from your eighth grade geography lessons. We also crossed an older bridge into Sault Ste.Marie, Canada, so my wife could purchase the Canadian Beanie Baby Maple bear before retracing our route south to Mackinaw City, Mich.

The last ferryboat of the day was ready to depart from Mackinaw City pier when we arrived. Leaving our car to be parked, we boarded the Arnold Line's jet-powered Catamaran for a smooth 13-minute ride across to another place in time — Mackinac Island — the storied summer place where there has never been an automobile collision. The fact that it is still in its horse and buggy days, and cars and trucks are not allowed, has something to do with that unusual record.

A horse-drawn “taxi” met us at the ferry landing for a leisurely ride to the local yacht club where we were guests of a member. Some of the other local members enriched us with their non-tourist viewpoint of the island. There are a variety of hotels and bed & breakfast accommodations available here and in the surrounding towns.

Mackinac Island's star attraction is the famous 1879 Grand Hotel, with the world's longest veranda. As in generations past, guests sit and rock gently amid potted red geraniums and enjoy the splendid view through the tall white pillars. The Grand has hosted many famous people through the years. Presidents Truman, Kennedy, Ford, Bush and Clinton have stayed here. Film stars Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour made “Somewhere in Time” here in 1980 and Esther Williams made “This Time for Keeps” in 1947. (The serpentine pool is named in her honor.)

Guests flock to the Grand Hotel in great numbers during its brief May-through-October season, but making reservations a year in advance is sometimes necessary. This queen of hotels may be old, but she keeps in style with updated decor and constant care. Alighting from our carriage, we were impressed by the striking red carpeted stairs up to the veranda entrance and into the lower lobby area. Carpets in other areas are also vivid and colorful, setting off many antiques, works of art and historic displays. Its horses and carriages, driven by costumed liverymen, set a tone of quality unequaled by others.

We enjoyed a wonderful brunch — a gastronomical treat offered from a 16-table array of artistic and delicious selections that rivaled or exceeded luxury liner quantity. It was a bit pricey at $30 per person, but we skipped the evening meal after that gormet experience. Some prefer partaking of the fine High Tea served in the afternoon, rather than the bulging buffet. Next time!

While it is a rather small island (an 8-mile road encircles it) and most people prefer walking, jogging, or bicycling as a means of transportation, others call for a horse-drawn taxi to take them anywhere for $3 per person. This provides a different sort of view and sometimes an odorous trip in the bargain! The island is famous for its fudge, and if you like to shop there are plenty of places for browsing. Sightseers enjoy the historic Victorian homes and cottages, flower-laden nature trails, limestone formations, and the famous Fort Mackinac, built by the British in 1780-81. Military music, cannon firings, reenactments and other presentations occur daily. Horse-drawn island tours are available every day.

A two-day visit is too brief a stay for such an enjoyable place but far better than missing out on an interesting exploration and unique adventure.

See also []


Sarasota, FL, home for many years of the Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus, and the recipient of many gifts from John Ringling in his heyday, is now the home of an unparalleled miniature circus - the largest in the world.

Dubbed the Howard Brothers Circus, it is housed at the Ringling Circus Museum’s Tibbals Learning Center on the grounds of the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, in Sarasota. The entire complex is administered by Florida State University.

This magnificent model of the American Circus and the building where it is installed are the gift of Howard Tibbals, who created what has been called, “a magical world more than 50 years in the making.” It is representative of the circus during its Golden Era from 1919-38.

The project's seeds were planted in Tibbals' imagination during his childhood, when he watched the circus roll into town. He has handcrafted nearly one million pieces to make up his miniature circus, including
* A four-foot-high big top,
* 8 main circus tents,
* 1500 performers,
* 200 animals,
* 152 wagons,
* 7000 folding chairs for spectators,
* Dishes and tableware to serve 900 people.
* Tiny, fully equipped train cars, and
* Thousands of other items comprising a 3,800-square-foot scale model three-ring circus.

To assure historic accuracy, Tibbals collected almost one million photographs and measured historic wagons, train cars, and other circus equipment to construct his model at a scale of 3/4 inch to a foot. The perimeter of the model is approximately 450 feet, or the length of 1.5 football fields. The area is large enough to park 11 school busses.

The Tibbals Learning Center was built with a $6.5 million donation from Tibbals, and matching grants and gifts, and completed in January 2006. Tibbals was on hand to unload the first car, a red boiler car complete with tiny pots and pans, buckets and muffin tins. “The boiler car and other cars containing equipment needed to feed the animals and workers were always the last cars loaded and the first unloaded on any circus train,” Tibbals said in an interview.

“They needed to feed everyone. The water was especially needed for the animals,” he said. “And to wet down the grounds, if they were dusty.” Tibbals and his volunteer helpers at Ringling unloaded the tiny circus train in the same order as its life-size counterpart.

At the project’s completion was the first time Howard Tibbals ever saw his life's work completely assembled as he has so long envisioned it.

The former owner of Tibbals Flooring Co. in Oneida, TN, northwest of Knoxville, Tibbals also owns a home with his wife in Sarasota.

CLICK HERE [ ] to go to the circus website.


By Jug Varner

Looking at Rapid City, South Dakota on a map, you might think, “You can hardly get there from here,” particularly from a distant starting point. A lot of people might have allowed that feeling to deprive them of a wonderful treat — myself included until now. Maybe that explains the relatively light traffic from La Crosse, Wisconsin to Rapid City.

South Dakota people are warm and friendly and welcome you to their state with old fashion small-town hospitality. Actually, most of their towns are small; Sioux Falls (pop. 110,000) and Rapid City (65,000) are the two largest. Tourism is their primary industry and they certainly have an abundance of interesting things to see and do. Welcome center workers across the nation could take a “how to” lesson from those helpful ladies at the state line near Sioux Falls.

One of the cleverest ideas I've seen for a military monument has got to be the USS South Dakota Memorial in Sioux Falls. This landlocked city had no way to bring the actual ship here when the Navy announced its 1960s plan to scrap this most-decorated battleship of WWII. That didn't stop a citizens group headed by WWII Marine fighter pilot ace, former South Dakota Governor Joe Foss. This committee raised enough funds to bring a 16-inch gun, a flag mast and other shipboard items to a local park. When added to a low-wall outline in the shape and dimensions of the USS South Dakota, the overall effect created a surprising curbside illusion of the real thing. A small building “amidship” houses a museum with an interesting collection of the battleship's artifacts.

Unfortunately, I saw no billboards east or west of the city to alert travelers about this unique attraction. I just happened to randomly select 12th Street as a route from our hotel to the downtown area, or I might not have known it existed.

Mitchell, SD is the hub city of a large cornbelt area and its population is only 14,000, yet it has one of the world's most unusual buildings: Mitchell Corn Palace. Originally created to help attract migration to the region, the first Corn Palace opened its doors for the Corn Belt Exposition of 1892 — its participants awed by the sight of the exterior walls decorated from top to bottom with native grasses, grains, and various corn.

We stopped by 106 years later to see the third-generation Corn Palace, built in 1921 and periodically updated since then. Over this time span the people of the area have enjoyed a great variety of entertainment, conventions, sports competition, community activities, and other such events.

Perhaps the constant stream of tourists stopping annually to view its rare decor, minaret towers and interior displays, collectively outnumber those who attend its public functions. Each September artists replace the old design with new ideas requiring thousands of bushels of area products - at a cost of $100,000 — beckoning folks to come back for another look. As Yogi Berra might have said, “Don't miss it if you can.”

Farther down the road, we detoured to see the famous Badlands National Park. Locals told us the best time to be there is from pre-dawn to sun-up, or from late afternoon to early evening. Not having that timeframe, we were content with the early afternoon effect and let our imaginations do the rest. This uncommon land was publicized recently as a locale for filming the movie “Armageddon.” Having since seen that film, I found it difficult to recognize the Badlands as the set of an asteroid hurtling toward Earth. As usual, the filmmakers bent the truth considerably, or else they didn't learn their science out of the same book I read. As a reviewer in Navy Times stated, “If you missed seeing the movie, it's not the end of the world.” The Badlands Park, however, with its geological and paleontological treasure is certainly worth seeing.

Arriving at the junction of I-90 again, we were only a mile from South Dakota's premier “tourist trap,” Wall Drug Store. This was no surprise, since its highway billboards ballyhooed it as far back as Michigan. The advertising fulfilled its purpose of causing us to stop and see this conglomeration of “stuff” that would require several pages to describe. But a cursory observance convinced us there were about 10,000 more items than we had time to view. Thus we left it to the kids (who obviously were delighted with the place) and others with enough vacation time to explore it. More important things awaited us at the end of our South Dakota trail.

To me, Mount Rushmore seemed a very appropriate place to be on the Fourth of July. My first glimpse of those incredible faces carved in granite was thrilling, and the awe didn't subside all the time we were there enjoying the ambiance and learning about this patriotic work of art. The new visitor facilities opened two weeks before our arrival. It offers good parking and includes: a visitors center, amphitheater, sculptor's studio, view terraces, Avenue of Flags (every state flag), information center, gift shops and restaurants. Advance knowledge prior to arrival is helpful, but nothing takes the place of being there and learning about it first-hand.

Our visit to the Keystone museum of Gutzon Borglum, creator of the Rushmore sculptures, provided additional background to enhance our appreciation for the monument and its sculptor. Many of Borglum's works are on display, such as working models of the Presidents and a cross-section of Lincoln's eye to show Borglum's method to make it appear life-like from a distance. Each President's head is 60 feet high (the Statue of Liberty's head is only 17 feet), each nose is 20 feet long, each mouth is 18 feet wide, and each eye is 11 feet across.

Some ten miles southwest of Mount Rushmore is Crazy Horse Mountain, where an incredible sculpture has been in the works off and on for more than 50 years. Money problems caused most of the delay. It is funded solely by private donations and local income, and no federal assistance has been solicited or accepted. Its completed 563-foot height and 641-foot width will require most of the mountain site.

The monument is dedicated to the native tribes of America and features the imaginary likeness of legendary Sioux warrior Crazy Horse. His actual appearance has never been documented, but sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski's version is fierce looking and believable.

Ziolkowski began the project in 1938 and his wife and family continued it after his death, completing the face and part of the outstretched pointing arm and hand earlier this year. It already dwarfs the size of Rushmore's four Presidents. A 17-foot model stands on the visitor's center viewing veranda, where we could compare it with the progress on the mountain sculpture in the distant background. It is exciting to see this work in progress and to contemplate its ultimate completion some time next century.

The Black Hills area offers many natural, cultural and recreational

activities such as: Jewel Cave National Monument; Custer State Park; Wind Cave National Parl; Buffalo Gap National Grasslands; Devil's Tower (Wyoming); Ft. Meade; Crazy Horse Memorial's Indian Museum of North America, and Native American Educational and Cultural Center; wildlife; rivers; streams; campgrounds; and historic places

We visited the colorful old mining town of Deadwood, home of such western notables as Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok. Lunch at Kevin Costner's restaurant and gaming house (Diamond Lil's) was a good mix of “then and now.” Costner became interested in the town while filming his epic movie “Dances with Wolves,” and displays some of his on-screen wardrobes from several movies.

Also on our itinerary was Ellsworth Air Force Base, home of the 28th Bomb Wing, 12 miles east of the city. The base's population of 10,000 could qualify it as one of the state's “larger towns.” Active and retired military can request reservations for temporary quarters while visiting the area. A special attraction at Ellsworth is the South Dakota Air & Space Museum, displaying aircraft and missiles from WWII to recent years and other historical items.

If you plan a visit to the area, do yourself a favor and get a copy of the VISITOR MAGAZINE published in Rapid City. (Call 605 343-7684.) It is beautifully done and tells all you need to know about where to go and what to see. []


By Jug Varner

My wife and I have never permanently resided in the Washington D.C. area, but have lost count of the number of visits there. When the realization came that we had seen every important tourist attraction but one, we decided it was imperative to correct this mistake. Somehow we had never found time for that brief and beautiful 16-mile journey along the Virginia side of the Potomac River to see Mount Vernon.

It was like a fine dessert — saved for last.

Considering the hardships of those early times, the Father of our Country and his family lived quite well, even elegantly in some ways, on this 8,000-acre plantation of five working farms he personally managed. About 30-acres are on display today, including the house, many outbuildings, fields, and the gravesites of George and Martha Washington, their family, and slaves who worked hard to make this a productive plantation.

As his own landscape architect, Washington grew beautiful flower gardens that became famous. He often wandered through the swampland searching for various types of trees to transplant for his walks, groves, and wilderness areas. Stunningly huge specimens, many of which he personally planted, still stand today.

He chose a grand view of the Potomac as the setting for the main house, and the rocking chairs on the high-pillared rear veranda (shown at right) were quite an inviting respite for plodding visitors to sit and enjoy the scene of peaceful greenery to the water's edge.

The mansion's front facade has the look and feel of stone, but is made of wooden boards glued on other wood siding and treated with a substance to give it a masonry effect. It was just one of many unique and practical ideas Washington put to good use.

The park service has carefully restored the interior to the way it appeared in the last year of his life — with vibrant blue and green wall colors, wood graining, window coverings over the original leaded glass windows, and placement of the furnishings. Many of these are authentic, such as the bed in which he died, and some personal articles.

Visitors can drive their car, go by tour bus, or enjoy a cruise on the Potomac River. Whatever the means of transportation, this journey will be well worth your time and effort. Try not to miss the delicious Mount Vernon Root Beer, found only here. Young lads and lasses dressed in period costumes serve above average food (from vintage recipes) in the dining rooms, as well.

Good tasting, well-prepared food is always a priority in our travels, and well remembered when found.

See also: []


Forwarded by Slim Russell 19 Jan 2006

You will enjoy this unique view of Paris by night. Turn on your speakers for the musical background.

After you have clicked on the hyperlink and have the photo - maximize your screen. Then go to the bottom and scroll the horizontal arrow. The photo is a complete 360 degrees around the camera. This is a stupendous photo and accompanied with appropriate music. I lived for six months in Paris in the mid-60's and this certainly triggered some wonderful memories.



By Jug Varner - Updated from my previous article

If you'd like to take the family to see Disney World and the many other attractions offered in the Orlando area, you should know about a special place exclusively for the military that can help make your visit a memorable and less costly one — at a facility far superior to any you normally might use.

It is called SHADES OF GREEN and is one of four Armed Forces Recreation Centers world-wide, but the only one in the Continental U.S. The others are AFRC Europe at Garmisch and Chiemsee, Dragon Hill Lodge at Seoul, Korea, and Hale Koa at Waikiki in Honolulu (also covered here under TRAVEL, HALE KOA - WARRIOR HOUSE).

This great facility has recently reopened after total refurbishing and the addition of 299 new rooms, more than doubling its capacity to 586 beautifully appointed rooms. While prices are always subject to change these days, the current 2004 room rates, based on your rank or rate are:
$70 to $225 per night for a standard room and
$82 to $119 for a poolside room.

SHADES OF GREEN is available to all branches of military active duty, retired, reserve and guard personnel, DOD civilians, and family members. It is located inside Disney World near the Magic Kingdom. If this is the first you've heard about it, don't be surprised. It may be one of the unintentionally best-kept secrets in the military — except to those who've been there and have told everybody they know.

Having visited there personally with my wife, I'm sharing the secret with you here. Obviously, with a year-round occupancy rate of 99 percent, a lot of military folks already know about it and are telling others, so make your reservation well in advance. But even if you can't get reservations there to coincide with your travel dates, don't despair. They will locate lodging accommodations for you elsewhere in the area at a greatly-discounted rate. It won't be as outstanding as SHADES OF GREEN (nothing else is) but likely will be as good or better than anything you might find on your own, and will save you a lot of time and effort.

To date, the most frequent visitors have been active duty members (48%), followed by retirees (28%), reservists and guard members (13%), and qualified DOD civilians (11%). The average stay has been about five days.

The name SHADES OF GREEN is symbolic of the color of a military uniform in each branch of service, the color of money you'll save by going there, and the color of its environment — all different shades of green. Its lush tropical 29-acre setting is completely surrounded by golf courses, providing a quiet atmosphere that seems far removed from the usual cacophony of traffic and crowds. In reality it is just a few minutes via hotel courtesy busses to Disney's Transportation Center, where free monorail trains or busses take you to Disney World attractions. So, leave your car in the safe hotel lot and save time, money and temper tantrums. Purchase your military discounted tickets to all area attractions at the hotel's guest services before you start out and also save money on Disney souvenirs at the hotel's gift shops when you return. The staff also can assist you on travel arrangements.

There are no room taxes or parking fees, which means additional savings to go along with the reasonable room rates (based on your military rank). The cost will vary, depending on where you are on the pay scale, but the accommodations are the same. Every room is alike — large (about 15×30), and well appointed (two queen beds, a sleeping couch, iron and board, large TV and a VTR, table and chairs, etc.). And every room has a private balcony with a view of pools, or landscaping, or other green areas, but not of parking lots or dumpsters! You and your family will enjoy a smoke-free environment throughout the interior areas.

Food costs, notoriously high inside Disney World, are more reasonable at SHADES OF GREEN. They feature a tasteful variety on their breakfast and dinner buffets in the Garden Gallery dining room, and popular fast fare in the Back Porch Lounge and Evergreen Sports Bar. We're not talking about a military cafeteria and gedunk here! We're talking about food, service and decor that compares with or exceeds that of the area's best hotels.

Amenities include two PGA Championship golf courses (operated by Disney World), exercise rooms, lighted tennis courts, heated swimming pools, children's pool and play areas, video arcade, laundry facilities, vending machines, ice machines, room service, etc.

Disney built the hotel and used it originally as a luxury golf resort. The Army leased the hotel property in 1994 and purchased it two years later, at no cost to taxpayers through non-appropriated funds. Although AFRC is under central control of the Army, each facility is managed and staffed by civilian professionals who continually seek ways and means to keep costs down while maintaining high quality services and reasonable prices for the military families. Most of them are former military who understand the needs and problems. They truly want to help you.

SHADES OF GREEN always has met or exceeded Disney's demanding standards of quality. It is totally self-supporting. Revenues generated pay costs of operation, upkeep, maintenance, and debt service. Profits are recycled into the property for capital improvements to serve its military clientele even better in the future. I hope that you will have an opportunity to be a part of that future.

For room reservations at Shades of Green, call 888-593-2242 or fax to
407-824-3665. The hotel's direct number is (407) 824-3400 and fax is (407) 824-3460. An online reservation system is coming soon. Reservations are accepted up to one year in advance. Six to eight months in advance is not uncommon to secure a room. Holidays and long weekends tend to get booked a full year in advance. Be patient. It is a busy place, but you will receive an answer.


(From Cobra )

I just heard this on the local news.

Apparently car thieves have found yet another way around the system to steal your car or truck without any effort at all. The car thieves peer through the windshield of your vehicle, copy the VIN number from the label on the dash, go into the local dealership of the manufacturer and request a duplicate key for it from the VIN number.

Car dealerships make up a duplicate key from the VIN number, collect payment from the “customer” who returns to your vehicle, inserts the key and drives away. They don't have to break in, nor damage the vehicle nor draw attention to themselves. All they have to do is drive it to the “chop shop.”

Solution: Most states prohibit removal of the VIN number located on your dashboard but if you cover it with opaque tape (duck, electrical, or medical type), it can't be viewed through the windshield. Any person with authorized access to your vehicle can open the door and temporarily remove the tape if this they need to verify this number.


By Jug Varner

Military personnel are modern gypsies when it comes to moving around frequently. Despite cross-country and overseas transfers that offer many golden opportunities for sightseeing, some people fail to take advantage of the situation.

Necessity sometimes requires getting to their destination quickly to allow ample time to find suitable housing, enroll the kids in school, etc., before officially reporting to their new duty station.

Lack of money and time is the main reason they don’t “smell the roses” along the way. So they settle for seeing the USA along the interstate highways instead of the byways. They become more familiar with crowded cities than small towns.

Some years ago, wife Bonnie and I had read and heard many experiences of Bed & Breakfast accommodations, but somehow never tried one until on a trip from Texas to cooler Colorado. We got acquainted with two of these beauties during that beat-the-heat outing.

The first wasTwo Pipes Bed & Breakfast in Taos, NM - an adobe structure thought to be between 275 and 300 years old. A retired Air Force couple owned the place and gave us a discount when they learned we, too, were military retires.

“Two Pipes” was an interesting name, so I asked about it.

Every Indian Chief has a pipe, I lwas told, sort of a “badge of office.” If there are several chiefs at a pow-wow - say five - they describe it as a five pipe meeting. And, since these two nice people share all of the chores around the place - including cooking, cleaning and raising six quarter horses - they each consider themselves to be a chief. Two chiefs, two pipe.

It was a charming place, tastefully furnished with Indian and western décor. An inviting hot tub was located within a restful garden area. Our interesting, friendly hosts made us feel truly welcome during our one-night stay and their flavorful breakfast alone would have been worth the stop. I don’t know if they are still in business, but they certainly had the right approach to success.

We didn’t actually stay and the second one we visited in the little town of La Veta, CO, about 16 miles west of Walsenburg just off Route 160. We stayed with some friends in Cucharo and they took us there to breakfast because the food was so good.

During a tour of duty in Boston we had become addicted to some wonderful English popovers served at Anthony’s Pier 4 Restaurant, but seldom ever found any to equal them. Fortunately for us, the B&B hostess in La Veta was a native of Brookline, MA and had a similar recipe for popovers that she always included with her breakfast fare. I ate so many I almost popped over!

Regretfully, I have long since forgotten the name of the place, but its décor was of the late 1800 era and it was located on the west side of the main street in a two story former retail store (or hotel). Again, the owners may not be the same today, if still in business there, but we will never forget the taste!

We have visited several other B&Bs since then and found most of them to be well above average accommodations for the traveler who looks for a cozy atmosphere, good food, friendly hosts and guests and a more relaxed way of life on the road… generally away from the hustle and bustle, in small towns or rural America.


Forwarded by JackMac

Whether you have actually visited this beautiful city or not, you will enjoy this view made possibly by superb photo technology and the Internet.

When the photo appears on your screen, scroll the side bar down and then move the bottom scroll bar slowly for an amazing wrap-around view of PARIS [ ].


By Jug Varner

One of America's great churches is the Washington National Cathedral. The memorial service for President Dwight D. Eisenhower was held there, as were the inaugural services for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush. President Woodrow Wilson, Admiral George Dewey and Helen Keller are entombed there. The Reverend Martin Luther King delivered his last sermon there.

President George Washington's idea for a “great church of national purpose” was included in Pierre L'Enfant's 1791 Plans for the City of Washington. In 1883, Congress granted a charter to the Protestant Episcopal Cathedral Foundation of the District of Columbia for this purpose, but no federal or public funds were ever authorized.

In 1886, a group of prominent Episcopalians bought land with an imposing view of the city in a rural area then known as Mount St. Alban Hill — now Massachusetts at Wisconsin Avenues.

President Theodore Roosevelt officiated in the September 29, 1907 laying of the cornerstone — brought there from a field near Bethlehem. Exactly 83 years later, on September 29, 1990, President George Bush officiated in the ceremony that symbolically completed the structure when a giant crane placed an 1,080 pound final stone atop a pinnacle. Every president in between has visited or worshiped at the cathedral.

Excavation began in 1909 and construction progressed through a series of starts and stops for WWI, WWII and again from 1977-80 because of a shortage of funds. Its cost has been supported totally by private donations.

Built in the traditional European stone-on-stone method, the English Gothic cathedral is not supported by structural steel. Its countless Indiana Limestone blocks are set one on the other, bound with mortar and held in place by their own mass and the force the flying buttresses against the stone walls and the downward thrust of the vaulting stones.

Hundreds of stonecutters worked on the cathedral throughout its long period of construction. Some of these gifted artisans spent their working lives there. Among the stone ornaments they carved are 320 angels playing harps, flutes, guitars and other instruments and more than 100 gargoyles representing a variety of unusual creatures — some traditional and others whimsically created to represent actual persons.

The structure contains 83,012 square feet, weighs about 300 million pounds and is approximately 29 stories high. Shaped like a cross, it is 514 feet long and 289 feet at its widest point and stands on 57 acres. It is the sixth largest cathedral in the world and second largest in the nation after St. John's Cathedral in New York City.

Its 200 stained glass windows represent a variety of biblical and national events, demonstrating the dual purpose of the cathedral. One modern-day depiction is the Apollo lunar landing, with a real moon rock embedded in the glass.

Today, the cathedral holds three daily and five Sunday services, including some for denominations other than Episcopalians. More than 600,000 visitors each year tour this awe inspiring cathedral or attend its secular concerts, festivals, community events and services.


Ancient Cauldron
By Alice J. Dunn, National Geographic Magazine

Most people who are familiar with Yellowstone National Park have heard of Old Faithful, Mammoth Hot Springs, and Mud Volcano. These are just some of the more than 10,000 thermal features in the park. But did you know that Yellowstone National Park sits within the Yellowstone caldera, one of the world's largest active volcanoes?

The extreme size of the caldera (approximately 28 by 47 miles [45 by 76 kilometers) is why most people are not aware of it. The caldera erupted in a series of massive explosions (some 2 million, 1.3 million, and 630,000 years ago) that dwarf any volcanic eruptions in recent history. In fact, the largest of the three eruptions (2 million years ago) was at least 2,500 times larger than the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980.

The hot spot that was the force behind those eruptions is what powers the thermal features that make Yellowstone so well known today. And as evidence that all of this activity is still ongoing and ever changing, a portion of Yellowstone's Norris Geyser Basin was temporarily closed this summer due to increased thermal activity and high ground temperatures. []