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Kentucky, the Original ‘Land of Lincoln’
By Tom Adkinson


lincoln  memorialA cabin symbolic of the one where Lincoln was born in 1809 is inside the Lincoln Memorial. Image by Tom Adkinson.
 

HODGENVILLE, KY – Illinois calls itself the “Land of Lincoln,” but Kentucky is where Abraham Lincoln was born. There’s no escaping that historical fact when you visit Hodgenville and the rolling countryside that surrounds this little town about 50 miles south of Louisville. A Lincoln statue is in the center of Lincoln Square in Hodgenville. Lincoln National Bank is nearby.
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Shrimp Boats and Sunsets in Biloxi

biloxi shrimp boats
BILOXI, MS – Shrimp boats at dock and golden sunsets across the Mississippi Sound are Biloxi hallmarks. Getting out on the water is easy in Biloxi, where there is a variety of fishing charters, as well as excursions to Ship Island, location of Fort Massachusetts, a National Park Service site. There even is a way to see how the shrimp boats work on the Biloxi Shrimping Trip, a 70-minute outing where the nets are likely to pull up shrimp, blue crabs, flounder, rays and other species. The dock is near the Beau Rivage and Hard Rock casinos, and the fee is far less then you could spend in 70 minutes at a blackjack table. Image by Tom Adkinson.

Trip-planning resources: GulfCoast.org


Where Mucking Is a Competitive Sport
By Tom Adkinson
 

tonopah
The sign makes you ponder when you enter Tonopah, Nev. What’s a mucker? Image by Tom Adkinson.
 

TONOPAH, Nev. – A chance conversation led to my meeting a mucking champion, and that’s no typo. It happened in the desert town of Tonopah, which is in the middle of nowhere between Las Vegas and Reno.

Me: “I saw a sign up the street that says ‘Tonopah, Home of the Muckers.’ Is that the nickname of the high school sports teams?”

She: “Absolutely. Want to know what a mucker is? I can tell you because I held the state record for female mucking for 22 years.”
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Trading Providence for Venice

providence rhode island
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – You don’t have to leave the U.S. to get a ride in a genuine Venetian gondola (serenade included). Two of the three gondolas you see gliding along the Providence and Woonasquatucket rivers in downtown Providence were built in Venice, and owners believe the third is the first truly authentic Venetian gondola built in the U.S. Its design is from the 19th century. The gondolas travel in a redeveloped portion of this very walkable city that includes landscaped parks and arched bridges. Bring your own bottle of prosecco, because the gondola company provides wine glasses, an opener and an ice bucket, along with handmade Italian wine biscuits. Image by Tom Adkinson.

Trip-planning resources: Gondolari.com and GoProvidence.com

Not One Darn Fish, but the California Scenery Was Huge
By Tom Adkinson
 

mountain lakes california
Hot Creek flows through a picture-perfect mix of meadow and mountain. Image by Tom Adkinson.
 

MOUNTAIN LAKES, CA – Labeling a totally unproductive fishing trip a good experience conjures up memories of Michigan State football coach Duffy Daugherty, who said, “A tie is like kissing your sister.”

It’s totally counterintuitive, but that’s still my assessment of three days on Hot Creek and the upper stretches of the Owens River just outside the resort village of Mammoth Lakes, Calif., the community that’s the capital of a massive, multi-sport outdoor recreational area.
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Take Me Out Ball Game – Downtown

oneok park tulsa
IN TULSA, OK – Batters and spectators alike get a great view of downtown Tulsa at ONEOK Park, home of the Tulsa Drillers, a AA affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers. ONEOK Park, named for a natural gas utility, is an example of newer minor league stadiums built in downtown areas and creating lots of action before and after games. Others include Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City (check out the giant statue of Mickey Mantle), AutoZone Park in Memphis (oh so close to Beale Street’s action), First Tennessee Park in Nashville (get some Nashville hot chicken at the concession stands) and Durham Bulls Athletic Park in Durham (where there really is a bull sign, just as in the “Bull Durham” movie). Image by Tom Adkinson

Trip-planning resources: VisitTulsa.com


Your Home Away from Home in Charleston
By Tom Adkinson
 
cottages on charleston harbor
The Cottages on Charleston Harbor have a rural, Lowcountry look but are only minutes for downtown Charleston. Image by Tom Adkinson.

CHARLESTON, S.C. – “See you Monday. I’m spending the weekend at my place in Charleston.” That’s a statement many aspire to make but few can. However, there’s a way to visit the Holy City (a nickname Charleston earned in colonial times for its religious tolerance) that makes it possible for just about everyone to drop that comment into casual conversation – if you’re willing to stretch the truth just a bit.
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The Sound of Music on the Kansas Prairie

flint hills kansas
IN THE FLINT HILLS – When rides in covered wagons are part of the entertainment before a symphony concert, you just know that a big event will follow – especially after you’ve driven miles into the countryside to reach the outdoor performance location. The occasion is the Symphony in the Flint Hills, an annual concert by the Kansas City Symphony that draws more than 7,000 people to wide-open spaces for stirring music, a panoramic sunset and a sing-along of “Home on the Range.” It is June 10 this year on the Deer Horn Ranch between Abilene and Manhattan, with a special performance from Michael Martin Murphey. The concert’s purpose is to heighten appreciation of the tallgrass prairie ecosystem. The story of that ecosystem (only 4 percent of the original 170 million acres of North American prairie exist today, mostly in the Flint Hills) is explained at the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, a unit of the National Park Service. Image by Tom Adkinson.

Trip-planning resources: SymphonyInTheFlintHills.com and nps.gov/tapr


On the Wings of Eagles
By Tom Adkinson
 
falcon
A Lanner/Saker hybrid falcon strikes a regal pose before a flight. Image by Tom Adkinson.


CHARLESTON, SC – Add Harris’s hawks and harriers to history and haute cuisine as reasons to visit Charleston. Beautiful and beguiling raptors from around the world are sheltered, mended and displayed at the South Carolina Center for Birds of Prey, an unexpected facility in the same county as St. Michael’s Church, the Battery and the fancy restaurants of Meeting Street.
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Along the Silk Road

camels at dunhuang
DUNHUANG, China (Gansu Province) – Imagining camel caravans plodding across the Gobi Desert between ancient China and the West is no challenge when you yourself are riding a camel amid towering dunes outside Dunhuang, once the westernmost military garrison in China. Marco Polo passed this way on his journeys between 1271 and 1295, but he was far from the first trader through the area. Merchants traveled the Silk Road for many centuries before the itinerant Venetian wrote about it. A modern-day visitor attraction at Echoing-Sand Mountain offers camel rides and sand surfing (sliding down steep dunes of powdery sand on wooden sleds) and a walk past Crescent Lake, a desert oasis that has meant salvation for travelers for millennia.

Trip-planning resource: Spring-Tour.com. Image by Tom Adkinson.


Hiking the Venus Flytrap Trail
By Tom Adkinson
 
venus flytrap trail
Charles Darwin called Venus flytraps “one of the most wonderful plants in the world.” Image by Tom Adkinson.

CAROLINA BEACH, NC – Forget “Little Shop of Horrors” and its fanciful tale of a plant that could consume a human being. That’s because the real deal exists here in a very appealing state park – although on a much smaller scale and with insects and the occasional frog as the meals.
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Spring Break Sundown

panhandle paradise
WALTON COUNTY, Fla. – Spring break means different things to different people. For many East Tennessee families, it means the year’s first run to the beach in Alabama or Northwest Florida. Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, Destin and the communities along 30-A all have their own fan bases. Spring is a time for playing in the surf and sand during the day, enjoying fresh seafood, probably getting a bit sunburned and perhaps enjoying a colorful sunset over the Gulf of Mexico while singing a quiet serenade to someone you love. Trip-planning resources: VisitSouthWalton.com and GulfShores.com. Image by Tom Adkinson.



Exploring Wilmington with Ben, the Rescue Horse
By Tom Adkinson
 
ben the rescue horse
Ben works one week on and three weeks off in Wilmington’s historic district. Image by Tom Adkinson.

WILMINGTON, N.C. – Ben, the Rescue Horse, apparently didn’t play well with others back on an Amish farm in Ohio, but he proved to be a fine escort on a clip-clopping stroll through Wilmington’s historic district.
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train ride smoky mountainsExperience a train ride into river gorges, through historic tunnels, and along some of the most beautiful landscapes in America
Journey through the Carolina Mountains and some of the most beautiful landscapes in America. Ride into river gorges, across valleys, and through tunnels carved out of majestic mountains. If you have been waiting to ride a train behind a century-old steam locomotive, here is your chance. Ride along one of the original railroad lines in Chattanooga, crossing four bridges and passing through pre-Civil War Missionary Ridge Tunnel, which was completed in 1858 and on the National Register of Historic Places.
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pickwick belleTennessee Riverboat Cruises: Romantic Cruises or Family Adventures
Tennessee offers a variety of leisure riverboat cruises on its waterways. Chattanooga, Knoxville, Nashville, and Memphis all have riverboats or steamboats to take you on Tennessee rivers to view beautiful scenery and wildlife, enjoy live entertainment and a great meal, or learn about the history of the Civil War in our great state. Archaeological evidence along the cruise routes tells the stories of the various Native American cultures who inhabited this river valley for over 10,000 years. Cruise in the wake of the early pioneers who had to overcome rapids, shoals, whirlpools and the formidable Chickamaugas. See the famous Body Farm. Pause and reflect in remembrance of the many that perished on the Trail ofTears.
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