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Archive for August, 2010

The Felice Brothers will be there. Will you?

Another change of plans: I was supposed to go the Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion in Bristol, Tennessee/Virginia from Sept. 17-19, 2010 with my friend Margaret, who writes VisitSouth’s Nashville blog.

But now we can’t.

And you stand to benefit from both of us being totally bummed out about that. We’re giving away our tickets. Giving them away?! Yes, giving them away. But there’s a price. Well, not a price but…a contest. We want your words, babyshakes. Just two sentences. And just two. And don’t go overboard with run-ons, ok? What should they be about?

Tell us about your most memorable moment at an outdoor music festival. Have fun with it. Tell us about the crazy dancing that broke out in the mud when it started pouring or the time [insert favorite band name here] pulled you up on stage. Or…whatever. (But make it true, ok?) Make those two sentences work for you. Where to drop it off? You have four options:

  1. the handy comment box down below
  2. Flyover America’s Twitter stream
  3. VisitSouth Nashville’s Facebook fan page
  4. VisitSouth Nashville’s Twitter stream

The contest starts now. It shuts down Thursday at 11:59 p.m. EST. Then Margaret and I will talk it over and choose our favorite. We’ll announce the winner on Tuesday (September 7, 2010).

Sorry family members–no free tickets for you!

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Here’s hoping you enjoy your weekend anywhere near as much as these dogs (and one cat) enjoy daily life in Southeast Alaska. Go have fun, y’hear?

Living large (and oh so pretty!) in Wrangell. Photo by Jenna Schnuer.

This is Furuno. She is one of the world's greatest dogs. She belongs to Brenda and John, owners of Alaska Charters and Adventures. They were kind enough to allow me to pretend she belonged to me while I was out wandering the marvelously wild Stikine River with Brenda. Photo by Jenna Schnuer.

This is Gus. He lives in Coffman Cove on Prince of Wales Island. He may be a wee dog but he's big on personality. Photo by Jenna Schnuer.

Meet Bob. He's one of the greeters at Coffman Cove's Rockhaven Lodge. Photo by Jenna Schnuer

It's not the best photo. But it's not her fault. And I couldn't post the photos without her. She lives in Ketchikan. Crappy photo by Jenna Schnuer.

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On Mendenhall Lake. Photo by Jenna Schnuer.

So, the lies. At the end of 2009, I posted a list of All-American Travel Resolutions for 2010. It included things like driving cross country, living in Alaska for the summer, and, finally, visiting the Grand Canyon. When I wrote that post, I did really believe that, by Labor Day (which, by the by, is also my 40th birthday), I would have racked up the miles, spent several months in my beloved AK, and gazed down into that giant hole in Arizona.

But, really, it turned out that those were lies I had to tell myself and, cause I do this writing thing for a living, you. A few months earlier, after 17 years in the city, I had moved out of New York and returned to my hometown just across the George Washington Bridge. I felt a little floaty, a lot lost. I had (and have) some things to fix. (No need to worry. It’s mostly stupid recession stuff. I’ve never been a good money girl.) It all felt a little overwhelming. I was nervous. And, so, to keep myself from getting stuck, I told myself—and, you—some lies about things that, gosh darn!, I was going to do to keep my life exciting. I wasn’t moving out of NYC, I was moving onto bigger and better!

Reality: I didn’t make the cross country thing happen. (Hell, I don’t even own a car yet.) The move out of NYC was enough. I wasn’t ready to make another big change and go somewhere else for a bunch of months.

Here’s where things picks up a bit: work-related travel (which, yes, I’m lucky, is always to places I want to go anyway) started falling into place. It started with a trip to Hawaii for a magazine article (currently scheduled for Aug/Sept 2011) and then there was a whole bunch of time with our fine neighbors to the north—Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Quebec—and, finally, I did get back to  Alaska. (It has always felt right on my skin.) For three weeks! Three dream weeks, mostly in the temperate rainforest of the southeast—and it hardly rained at all. I got a sunburn in SE Alaska. That’s not supposed to happen.

I returned from Alaska to New Jersey on August 7 with 10,000 photos, an assortment of experiences that I’m still sorting out in my head—many of which I’ll share with you out here in the coming months–and a renewed belief that, yes, I can handle what’s to come. (No, don’t worry—not going all [book and movie that shall not be named] on you. And, on the days that suck (checks are late, health insurance payment is past due, the multiplex shows crappy movies, whatever), I can pull up my photos and, in seconds, feel the cool calm of paddling past icebergs or the luck I felt when I met a 60-something former country singer who told me his life story as we wandered past the totem poles at Sitka‘s National Historical Park or the flat-out joy I experienced while jawing with the old cranks at Wrangell‘s best breakfast spot, the Diamond C.

And, of course, I’m still plotting that cross country trip. It’ll happen. (You need your car this winter?)

*If you’re a fan of The Swell Season and their excellent song, Lies, I apologize for the terrible play on words. I do these things. I needed some fun in the midst of all that honesty up above. Exhausting stuff, honesty.

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I Have a Question

The fish boil is a tradition on the Door County peninsula in Wisconsin–one of those things you’re supposed to do when you vacation there.

I visited Door County last fall. Stayed in the fairytale-sweet village of Ephraim. And went to a fish boil.

Fish boil=boiled fish. Boiled. Fish.

This area was settled by Scandinavian fishermen and loggers. Trout boils were a traditional fund raiser for churches and civic groups– the pancake suppers of these fish-eating peoples. “Den someone said, ‘I wonder how tourist will grab on ta dis one,’” said Earl the Boilmaster, who boiled my fish. Apparently tourists have liked it well enough to keep the commercial fish-boil biz boiling since the mid-1950s.

Here’s what happens: You and other tourists sit around a blazing campfire, on top of which sits a cauldron filled with 20 gallons of water and a quart of salt.

Earl the Boilmaster throws in some potatoes, runs through a little shtick, tells a few fish jokes.

How do you communicate with a fish? You drop it a line.

Why do they cut the head off sardines? So they don’t bite each other in the can

Then he walks around with the big pot of whitefish he’s going to cook, and everyone takes photographs.

After he dumps the fish into cauldron, it’s time for the big fish-boil moment. The boilmaster  pours a quart of kerosene into the cauldron, which causes a big exciting flare-up—the boil over! Huzzah!

And then it’s time for dinner, served cafeteria style.

For the record, it’s not inedible.

Still, I’m not sure what to make of it. Door County is exceedingly lovely. It has beautiful Peninsula State Park. Beaches.  Art galleries. Theater. A charming little history. Cherries.

Boiled fish? That’s the big tradition?

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Post Travel

Waiting for a postcard. Photo by Matt McGee via Flickr (Creative Commons).

The plan was to fill you in on the sort-of lies I told you here and here. Then the wind shifted, a butterfly landed on my nose, and I found (or, as they seem slightly familiar, rediscovered?) a few really cool things online so…decided to go in a different direction. The truth of the lies will hold. I’ll deliver them tomorrow or Monday.

From May 20 through August 7, I spent 51 days either on the road, in the air, in a boat or…you get the idea. It was the busiest travel stretch of my life. I love traveling but home—and my family and friends—are rather good stuff, too. I missed them. While away, I used (or, some would say, overused) Facebook to stay in touch, let them know I was alive, and to post some photos. OK, a lot of photos. (But photography is my hobby. I enjoy it. And, really, isn’t that all that matters? And, seriously, if you don’t like it, defriend me or hide me, capiche? Wow. Defensive. Anyway…)

But, today, while procrastinating doing the web wandering I do while writing, I came upon (or revisited) sites devoted to postcards from travel days gone by. Coffee and Chrome puts the shine on diners and American Motels, um, well, I think you can probably figure that one out. Both sites were created by James Lileks, a man who (pretty much immediately) ascended to the top of my list of pop culture fanatic heroes. Lileks created American Motels a decade ago—so, really, how have I not bathed in its glory before this?—and, to celebrate that, recently added some new goodies.

Looking over the postcards, thinking about the personal feel of them, and how I used to love to receive a postcard, I got a little sad. While in some ways my mass postcards-via-Facebook are more fun—they invite all of my friends (real or otherwise) to interact with me and each other and to dream a little dream of their own travels—they’re also incredibly impersonal. And, yeah, they’re more about me than about taking time to say “hey, I’m thinking about you.” So, hmmm. It may (in addition to the Facebook posts) be time for me to start spinning the racks again when I head back out on the road. I just hope my nieces don’t think I’m a dinosaur when I tell them to watch their mailbox instead of their inbox.

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Girls, Girls, Girls!

Hard-hitting reporting at the Museum of Women Pilots

Hi everyone! It’s great to be back! I’ve had a super summer of travel, doing research for my book, 100 Places in the USA Every Woman Should Go (a k a That’s a Buttload of Places, Will I Ever Get It Done?).

I’m not traveling to all 100 places, but I’ve been to many already, and all my travel this summer has been book related. I’ve learned an awful lot about a lot of incredible American women.

The horse chestnut outside the Susan B. Anthony house is the last living witness to the Anthony family.

Susan B. Anthony and her cronies, for example. Funny thing (not funny ha ha)—I grew up during the second wave of feminism and know a bit about that bunch, but until my visit to the splendid Finger Lakes region of New York, I never gave the women of the first wave a thought. Wow. Those were some cool chicks. My docent cried as we stood by Anthony’s deathbed and she recounted Anthony’s last public words: Failure is impossible. A mere 72 years after the First Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, women won the right to vote. Anthony did not live to see the day.

Harriet Tubman, we hardly know ya.

I also visited Harriet Tubman’s home and grave, in nearby Auburn, New York. I had already interviewed Kate Clifford Larson, PhD, who decided to write her 2004 biography of Tubman after finding that the most recent Tubman bio dated to the 1940s. Tubman is one of those women we all just kinda know about; you’ll be hearing more about her as Eastern seaboard states start highlighting her path and accomplishments.

Mary Flannery O'Connor's baby buggy.

Mary Flannery O'Connor's baby buggy.

In Savannah I saw the childhood homes of Juliette Gordon Low, who founded the Girl Scouts, and (Mary) Flannery O’Conner. (She dropped “Mary” because, she said, “Who would buy the books of a Catholic washerwoman?”) This was my first trip to Georgia and I loved it. Georgia women are every bit as awesome as Texas women. Men only think they’re in charge…

Bessie Coleman was the first African-American woman licensed pilot in the USA.

And just the other day I visited the Museum of Women Pilots in Oklahoma City—a small museum with an excellent collection and packed with tales of derring do and accomplishment, despite a culture that said girls don’t do that kind of stuff. Amelia Earhart is only part of the story.

Live and learn. Travel and learn more.

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No Flyover America in our lives? No ongoing conversation with all of you? It just doesn’t feel right. So, herewith, we’re up and flying again. Worry not: there are no plans to grab beers and slide back down the emergency chute. Flyover America is home. And home is good. We look forward to your visits.

Jenna and Sophia

p.s. Just in case you de-camped from our Twitter feed when we pulled the old we’re outta here: http://twitter.com/flyoveramerica.

p.p.s. Enjoy…

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