Archive for the ‘California’ Category

Towering trees keep us grounded

April 22, 2013

In honor of Arbor Day, we salute a handful of our country’s notable trees.

Dogwood at Matthis Family Cemetery in Clinton, NC

Dogwood at Matthis Family Cemetery in Clinton, NC


One of the largest dogwoods in the country, measuring 31 feet tall with an average branch spread of 48 feet and a trunk circumference of 114 inches, this tree heralds spring from Matthis Family Cemetery in Clinton. I wrote a full story about it a couple years ago. Love that tree!

American elm at the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum

American elm at the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum


Despite being heavily damaged, this American elm, more than a century old, survived the bombing at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995, and is now part of the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum. Its saplings are distributed on the bombing’s anniversary.


The Captain Bangs Hallet House in Yarmouthport is famous for the photogenic beech in its back yard, which is more than 60 feet tall and estimated to be between 150 and 200 years old.

Morton Oak in Nebraska City, Nebraska

Morton Oak in Nebraska City, Nebraska


This survivor of an old oak savanna remains a beloved spot at Arbor Day Farm, a 260-acre historic landmark and visitor attraction on the original property of J. Sterling Morton, a journalist who encouraged tree planting and who started Arbor Day in Nebraska City in 1872.


This giant sequoia at Sequoia National Park commands the world’s attention. By volume it’s the largest known tree in existence and is thought to be about 2,300 years old.


She can’t believe it’s accessible

June 30, 2009

I share my blog today with Candy B. Harrington, a fellow member in the Society of American Travel Writers, who is an expert on accessible travel, from people using wheelchairs to slow walkers. Her slogan: Have Disability, Will Travel, and she’s giving us a Top-10 list of little-known accessible places. I haven’t met Candy, who writes from California, but for years I’ve been impressed with her work and uncompromising dedication to her topic. In the world of travel, staying uncompromised is a major feat. She recently released the third edition of her classic book “Barrier Free Travel: A Nuts And Bolts Guide For Wheelers And Slow Walkers.” From the book site, you can check out Candy’s own blog. Photos (except Lake Powell)  are by Mr. Candy, aka Charles Pannell.

Heeeeeere’s, Candy:

Candy Harrington with her favorite chicken Agnes

Candy Harrington with her favorite chicken, Agnes

During the past 16 years I’ve traveled the world in search of appropriate vacation choices for my readers. Although they have a wide range of tastes, preferences and budgets, my readers all have one thing in common; for the most part they are physically disabled — slow walkers to wheelchair-users.

Over the course of my travels I’ve seen a good number of accessible hotels, attractions, resorts, spas and even bus tours, but I’ve also discovered some unconventional accessible finds along the way. These are the things, that really made me step back and say “Wow, I can’t believe they made that accessible.” And although I keep adding to my wow list, here’s my current Top 10.

View of Yaquina Head Tidepools

Walkways lead to Yaquina Head tide pools

Yaquina Head tide pools

Located just three miles north of Newport, Ore., this Bureau of Reclamation project features barrier-free access on paved walkways down into the Quarry Cove tidepool area.


Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens

These gardens in Richmond, Va.,  feature a cool treehouse with ramped access to all areas. Think Swiss Family Robinson on steroids.

White Water Rafting

In Northern California, everyone can enjoy white water rafting on the American River, thanks to the folks at Environmental Traveling Companions. This San Francisco based company can accommodate wheelchair-users (even folks who use a power wheelchair) and slow walkers on their exciting white water rating trips.

Aerial view from Lake Powell (photo Wikipedia)

Lake Powell (photo Wikipedia)

Houseboating on Lake Powell

Forever Resorts  offers a wheelchair-accessible houseboat on Lake Powell, in Utah. You can rent the houseboat for a few days or a week. The accessible model features level boarding, a bathroom with a roll-in shower, an oversized master suite complete with a portable hoyer lift, elevator access to the top deck and a beach wheelchair.

C&O Canal Boat

Docked at the Great Falls Tavern, near Potomac, Md., the replica Charles F. Mercer canal boat features incline lift access to both decks and an accessible restroom on the lower deck. The canal boat is pulled along by mules and offers passengers a colorful look at 1870s canal life.

Baja Sport Fishing

Larry Cooper designed his En Caliente  sport fishing boat with access in mind. Docked in Los Barriles, Mexico, it features removable lockdowns, hoist access to the flying bridge and custom tackle designed for anglers of all abilities.

Wheelchair-accessible back country lean-tos at John Dillon Park

Accessible lean-tos at John Dillon Park

Adirondack Camping

John Dillon Park , near Tupper Lake in upstate New York, features wheelchair-accessible back country lean-tos.

African Safari

Endeavour Safaris  offers wheelchair-accessible safaris in a ramped Toyota Landcruiser, through Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Mozambique and South Africa.

In a Cavern

Billed as America’s only ride through caverns, Fantastic Caverns  features ramped access to their tour vehicles. Just roll-on and enjoy this cool site near Springfield, Mo.

Bungy Jumping

If you want a little adventure, the folks at Taupo Bungy  in New Zealand can accommodate you. It takes very little adaptive equipment, but a whole lot of guts!

Thanks, Candy. The world of travel (and beyond) needs you and your advocacy work!

This family is silly for Segways

February 18, 2009

“Where they Went” by Diane Daniel
(Published Jan. 18, 2009, in the Boston Globe)

Bob, Ginny, and Chris McDermott on the Venice Beach Pier,

Bob, Ginny, and Chris McDermott on the Venice Beach Pier in California

WHO: Bob McDermott, 63, his wife, Ginny, 59, and their son Chris, 17, of Sudbury, Mass.

WHERE: California.

WHEN: A week in August.

WHY: To take guided Segway tours.

CATCHING SEGWAY FEVER: Bob McDermott’s first time on one was in 2003, when his mother, now 93, requested a trip to the company’s headquarters in Bedford, N.H. “She said, `Before I die, there’s something I want to do.’ I thought it would be a trip to Paris or the Grand Canyon, but she said, `I want to buy a Segway.”‘ She did, and so did McDermott. She has since given her self-balancing, electric personal transporter to her son.

TREAT FOR THE FEET: Since 2004, Bob and Ginny have spent many hours touring Sudbury and neighboring towns by Segway. His fondness for the Segway is practical. “I’ve got really bad feet,” he said. “I can’t walk around much. With the Segway, it’s like walking, only faster. And you can go right up to things.”

Bob (left), Ginny, and Chris McDermott at Angel Island State park in San Francisco Bay.

Bob, Ginny, and Chris at Angel Island State Park in the San Francisco Bay.

OFF-ROAD RIDING: Bob McDermott located three tours in the San Francisco area alone. The first was around Angel Island State Park in San Francisco Bay, where they tooled around on all-terrain, fat- tire Segways. “I thought it was going to be a flat piece of land, but we started at a beach and then kept going up and up and up, with better and better views. The island has a history going back to the Civil War, and it was used as an immigration receiving area, where they’d quarantine people coming over from China and the Pacific.”

Bob and Ginny traveling down Lombard Street in San Francisco.

Bob and Ginny make their way down famed Lombard Street in San Francisco.

ADVANCED DEGREE: With Electric Tour Co., they went on an advanced- rider tour up and around Telegraph Hill and also down the famed hairpin-turn section of Lombard Street. “The Segway automatically slows to 2 miles an hour on a downhill,” McDermott noted. “At Lombard, there were cars of all sizes and bikers lined up for about a quarter mile to go down. When we came up, seven people on Segways, everyone was taking our photos and saying, `Look at those people.”‘ The trip with City Segway Tours, from dusk to dark, was quite different. “It was all flat, and we went through the financial district and down to the waterfront.”

GOING FLAT OUT: While the McDermotts enjoyed all their tours, their favorite was farther south, along Venice Beach and Santa Monica, with Segwow. “The guide put walkie-talkies on the handlebars so we could communicate without having to stop. He’d give commentary about the architecture and things. We were on this flat, smooth bike trail that went for miles, so we were able to go fast and see a lot of things.”

Paintings really come alive in California

July 18, 2008

I pulled this “Where they Went” out of the files to coincide with the timing of Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach, California. If you haven‘t heard of this amazing annual event, which this year runs through Aug. 30, read on. This year’s theme is “All the World’s a Stage” and, as always, the “living pictures” are stupendous!!

“Where they Went” by Diane Daniel
(Published Dec. 16, 2007, in the Boston Globe)

WHO: Kathy McIntyre, 61, of Needham, Mass.; Chris Ward, 61, of Mattapoisett, Mass.; Janet Lurie, 61, of Vancouver, Wash., and her sister, Linda Hayes, 59, of Coronado, Calif.

WHERE: California.

WHEN: One week in August 2007.

From left, Kathy McIntyre, Linda Hayes, her sister Janet Lurie, and Chris Ward savor Main Beach in Laguna Beach, Calif. (Click to enlarge)

From left, Kathy McIntyre, Linda Hayes, her sister Janet Lurie, and Chris Ward in Laguna Beach, Calif. (Click to ENLARGE)

WHY: The trip was a reunion and 60th birthday celebation for McIntyre, Ward, and Lurie, who together attended St. Mary’s in Lawrence (now Notre Dame High School) and Emmanuel College in Boston. Hayes hosted the trio.

WESTWARD, NO? : It was McIntyre’s idea to meet in California. “My husband and I lived there in 1978 and I absolutely love the West Coast.” While McIntyre had visited her friends consistently, Ward and Lurie hadn’t seen each other for 30 years. “Janet was jumping up and down on the sidewalk when she saw us.”

LOCAL HIGHLIGHTS: In the San Diego area, where Hayes lives, the women took in several sights, including downtown and Balboa Park, as well as Cabrillo National Monument. “It’s out on Point Loma on the tip of the peninsula and faces San Diego Bay. You have a view [of] downtown and the Coronado Bridge.”

An actor is made up for a role in the painting "Italian Comedians in a Park" by Jean-Baptiste Oudry.

An actor is made up for her role in the painting "Italian Comedians in a Park" by Jean-Baptiste Oudry.

MASTERFUL TIMING: McIntyre timed the trip to coincide with the Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach, where actors replace characters in enactments of classic pieces of art, and which had been on her wish list for decades. Shows often sell out far in advance. “Chris and I took a membership in the Festival of Arts, the sponsor, so we could get tickets early,” she said. “We got seats in the 12th row of the center orchestra.”

NUNS ARE FUN: They stayed at By the Sea Inn in Laguna Beach for two nights. “We stayed in one room and had lots of laughs talking about the nuns at St. Mary’s. Laguna Beach is lovely, and the beaches are pristine.”

Living version of "Le Café Concert" by Edgar Degas, in 2008 show. (Click to ENLARGE)

Living version of "Le Café Concert" by Edgar Degas, in 2008 show. (Click to ENLARGE)

REJUVENATION EFFECT: The pageant, held in July and August at the 2,600-seat Irvine Bowl, had its 75th year last summer. “They have two casts that alternate every other week,” McIntyre said. “Most of it is run by volunteers, about 600 people. … This year’s theme was `Young at Heart,’ which was most fitting for us.”

HOW ART WORKS: Music and narration accompany the 35 pieces of “artwork,” McIntyre said. “Each piece is lit on the stage for a minute and a half, but it seems longer.” Re-created pieces included covers from The Saturday Evening Post, Sir George Frampton’s bronze Peter Pan statue at Kensington Gardens in London (“You can’t believe it’s a person”), and “Apple Gathering,” an 1856 painting by Jerome B. Thompson (“nine people in an orchard setting”). A highlight for McIntyre was “The Giant” by N.C. Wyeth. “I work at the Needham library. Wyeth grew up in Needham, and we have 10 of his original paintings in the library, but not that one.” Halfway through the program, “they show you how they do everything. It’s fascinating.”

HEARTFELT ART: The friends spent the rest of their time in Laguna popping into shops and cafes and attending the Sawdust Art Festival, connected to the pageant. “It’s an amazing place, with 200 artists and bands,” said McIntyre, who treated herself to silver earrings. She also gave her friends necklaces of red sea glass bearing the Chinese symbol of long life.

You never sausage a place!

March 21, 2008

I’m turning over this entry to Wessel, who was inspired to write about his favorite meal in San Diego.  But, first, a tip o’ the hat to whomever came up with the “sausage” line that I appropriated from this South of the Border billboard. — Diane

The Linkery restaurant logoDiane sent me an email the night I arrived in San Diego on business with a subject line that read: “Linkery review: you should go!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Yes, there were 15 exclamation marks. The article from the San Diego Union-Tribune was a rave report of The Linkery a neighborhood restaurant in North Park, just north of Balboa Park and a few miles northeast of downtown.

To be honest, I didn’t give it much attention until Diane pressed further the next day. Then I mentioned the restaurant to my travel mate and colleague Donald, who likes to check out interesting restaurants wherever he goes. At first he was skeptical because the place was off the beaten path, but when I mentioned that the Linkery specializes in homemade sausages, his eyes lit up. Donald hails from German stock and loves sausages, as do I.

Donald reads the chalkboard of the Linkery restaurantThe restaurant is in the 1913 Lynhurst Building at the intersection of 30th and Upas streets, a small commercial district in a residential neighborhood of homes from the early 1900s. When we arrived just after 7 p.m.,  a waiting list had just started (reservations aren’t taken). Sausages and selected beers were announced on the chalkboard near the door.

The place had a funky feel to it, with richly colored walls, paintings by local artists, and artsy lights hanging from the ceiling. The wall of fame near the entrance was decorated with framed reviews from top American food magazines and newspapers. The tables and chairs were from simple wood with small candles for decoration.

We started with a mixed organic salad. Donald politely observed that I had taken possession of all the beet slices, his favorite part of the salad. I reluctantly forked over his portion. We bothSignature plate with choucroute selected the Linkery “signature plate” with sausage links and choucroute. I had the three-link plate, with Fresh Polish, Chicken Mango, and Chile Colorado sausages; Donald had two of those. The meat and my Captain Stout on tap made for a wonderful festival of flavors, enhanced by nostril-tingling hot honey mustard.

Our servers were very attentive and contagiously cheerful. They enticed us to have coffee with a truffle for dessert. The truffle was served with a slice of blood orange. The truffle looked like a partially molten amorphous dark marshmallow. However, the taste was quite defined, with a nice crispy layer covering a deep-dark chocolate core. That was quite the treat.

Donald and I concluded that The Linkery was the culinary highlight of our trip, and we look forward to Diane’s next suggestion.

Family takes San Diego by storm

January 14, 2008

“Where they Went” by Diane Daniel

(published Jan. 13, 2008, in the Boston Globe)

From Di’s eyes: When Michael emailed me about possibly featuring his family’s trip, I immediately said yes. I love writing about domestic travel. More and more, people seem to think “travel” can be only to exotic, international destinations. What the Leverone family did stateside was wonderful. They found a vacation rental in San Diego and then explored the heck out of the area, doing more activities than I had room to write about. Now that’s a great family vacation!

WHO: Michael, 55, and Sue Leverone, 54, and their children Julia, 20, and Patrick, 11, of Reading, Mass.

WHERE: San Diego

WHEN: One week in August.

WHY: “We usually go to Maine for two weeks, but we had airline tickets from a canceled trip to use,” said Michael Leverone, who previously had never ventured west of Denver. “Patrick was interested in Legoland and other people had raved about San Diego.”

ALL THE COMFORTS: They rented a three-bedroom house about 8 miles south of downtown in the Tierrasanta neighborhood. “It was in a complex with a pool we could use, with a two-block walk to a shopping center,” he said. “We had breakfast there and made sandwiches to take with us. A couple evenings we ate out, and half the time we ate in.”

Julia at Palomar ObservatorySCOPING IT OUT: Patrick was disappointed in Legoland, in Carlsbad, because it was geared toward younger children, though he did enjoy the Mindstorms robotics lab. They all were captivated by Miniland, cities made of Lego parts, including Las Vegas, Washington, and New Orleans. More impressive to Patrick was the Palomar Observatory at Palomar Mountain State Park. “It has a 200-inch telescope and Patrick has been fascinated by astronomy since he was 4,” his father said.

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED: A wish of Julia’s, a Spanish major at Tufts University, was to visit some Spanish missions. From Carlsbad, they went to Oceanside to see Mission San Luis Rey and, on another day, Mission San Diego de Alcala. Julia also requested a stop at the Spanish Village Art Center in Balboa Park, a collection of artist studios and galleries.

CASTING CALL: For Dad, and the entire family, there was a charter fishing trip. “My father runs a charter boat on Chesapeake Bay,” Leverone said. “We made a quick visit to the bait float for live sardines, with a close-up of wild sea lions looking for an easy meal, then took a 20-minute bouncy run to the kelp beds offshore of La Jolla.” Over the next three hours, the family caught more than 50 fish, including calico and sea bass, jack mackerel, bonito, and Pacific barracuda. Dinner that night was three of the larger bass.

ANIMAL URGES: On everyone’s list was a day at the San Diego Zoo. “It was very impressive, especially their plains game. They had polar bears, and there was quite a line for the panda exhibit.” Later in the week they saw marine life at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. “It’s right above the Pacific; the big pier extends out where oceanography vessels tie up.”

Patrick paraglidingSOMETHING CLICKED: Julia convinced the family to check out Torrey Pines Gliderport for paragliding. “The constant wind off the ocean hits these 350-foot cliffs and there are major updrafts. Julia had such a smile on her face that Patrick and I were sold,” said Leverone. Once aloft with a guide, “All you have is the sound of wind. You zoom over the golf course, fantastic mansions, and Black’s Beach. I was so busy taking pictures of Patrick that I didn’t see everything.”