January can be a tough month in Canada. Let's face it, for the most part it's cold, it's dark at 4:30 p.m. and winter has really settled in. There are two options: mope around for the next few months or accept reality and find things to do to actually enjoy yourself.
Here is a fantastic option that really embraces winter: the Niagara Icewine Festival 2010. Back for its 15th year, the entire Niagara region transforms into a wintry wonderland to host a celebration of one of Canada's most beloved products, Ontario icewines.
Much more concentrated than regular wine, icewine is a dessert wine whose name comes from the process that goes into harvesting the grapes. The Niagara region in January is when the grapes freeze while still on the vine. Wineries harvest the grapes delicately at night when they know they're frozen. It's a very labour-intensive process that results in small quantities which makes the wine relatively expensive. The first Canadian icewine has been traced to the Okanagan Valley in B.C., but the Inniskillin Winery is believed to have started the process in Ontario after launching its first icewine in 1984.
I have to admit my bias up front. I grew up in Utah, skiing on the Wasatch Mountains most weekends in the winter as a kid. It is really the only skiing I have ever known. So, throwing terms around as it being the best or better than other places, I really don't have a point of reference. But I did grow up with the Utah state tourism motto (and still displayed on many state license plates) "Greatest Snow on Earth". I guess there is a real difference in the snow. I only pick that fact up from qualitative data gathered from many hours of ski lift conversations with people from all over the US and the world. There is something different about it. What exactly?
For full details you can watch this:
Quick summary: It has something to do with the snow being drier (less moisture content) and the amount of snow that falls related to the "lake effect" generated by the non-freezing Great Salt Lake. It's all very scientific stuff, apparently. But it makes for lots of white, light, crystallized...um, powder.
Last week, I was flipping through the newspaper and came across an article that caught my eye immediately because it referred to "road warriors."
As it turned out, the article was not about the kind of road warriors you read about here. Instead, it was about a new breed of young, homeless panhandlers, now referred to as "road warriors," who travel between West Coast cities with pit bulls in tow, causing trouble along the way.
Nonetheless, it got me thinking about the term "road warriors" and how its meaning has changed over the years.
Among the mix of golf and health magazines that populate the waiting rooms in medical offices, there are usually some travel periodicals. You may have to sort through the stack to find one, and they're probably from the previous year, but the photography is usually pretty good and the travel tips are worth remembering, so I dig them out and make notes.
Here are some of the interesting items I've come across recently:
BUT IS IT OKAY IF THEY DON'T EXHALE? -- Smoking bans already instituted on airplanes, buses and trains are now being implemented by some rental car agencies. On Oct. 1, 2009, both Avis and Budget became the first major car-for-hire companies to outlaw smoking in their entire fleets. To make certain that the no-smoking orders are followed, the companies also impose a cleaning fee of up to $250 on customers who violate the ban. And they'll get you because the cars now undergo a new type of inspection when they're returned.
Requests for smoke-free cars ran quite high because a common complaint among renters was that the cars smell like smoke. Company employees who drive the cars are also banned from smoking in them. And there's also an economic reason for the ban: It costs the companies money because cars often have to be taken out of service while they're being cleaned.
I hope that you are more mechanically inclined than I am. I hope that for your sake. I do okay, but when it comes to complex work, I turn to professionals. But even with my limited skills, I have been able to tackle a number of projects related to my motorcycle.
Winter is the best time to get work done on my bike. I'm more patient, and less distracted by the opportunity to ride.
The first project that I tackled this winter was organizing my workspace. I tore out some clunky old cabinets and shelving in my garage, and replaced it with a more efficient system. I didn't spend a ton of dough -- I refitted my whole two-car garage for under $500. But I made better use of space, clearing floor space for my motorcycle, and organizing my stuff in the process. Now all of my motorcycle tools, supplies and spare parts are in the same area, easily accessible and ready to use. I've even got a workbench to help with staging work comfortably, up off of the floor.
My wife Ruth and I sat down last weekend in attempt to come up with five travel-related resolutions for 2010. The process itself was really enjoyable and an excellent catalyst to create a wish list for the year. Here are the results:
1. Take more pictures.
We love to sit around and reminisce about some of the trips we've taken. Two years ago, we got really motivated and took lots of pictures and even created and printed photobooks as keepsakes. There are many online services to choose from; we've used www.photoworks.com and have been delighted each time. Unfortunately, we didn't do so well last year and it's a shame. In 2010, we vow to make sure we get back to it because it's so easy with digital. The process is fun and the memories last a lifetime.
My memories of downhill skiing with my parents as a child are full of embarrassing moments. There's the time I skied into a tree. The end of my pole hit my eye and I had a shiner the rest of the trip (thank goodness for sunglasses).
There's the time I wet my pants on the chair lift. And the time I fell off the chairlift and a boy from my high school happened to be in the chair behind me. Ugh!
I never took to the sport, yet I was frequently dragged to the snow because my parents and brother loved to ski and they were good at it. I hated the cold, the scary downhills, the long lift lines, the crowded slopes.
I decided to introduce my kids to the snow through a different activity: cross-country skiing. It's mellower, less-intimidating, and a much friendlier sport for kids (and I like it).
Three Internet-Savvy Race Fans Will Be Selected to Travel to Phoenix for the April 10 Race and Serve as David Reutimann's Team of Twitter Correspondents.
Fans who visit the Best Western "Official Tweet Crew Team" Web site, www.bestwestern.com/tweetcrewteam starting today through Wednesday, March 17, will have the opportunity to submit an application, which includes a link to a creative video or picture, to become a member of this historic team. The selected three-person team will join David Reutimann in Phoenix on April 10 and spend the weekend with the 2009 Coca-Cola 600 winner, Tweeting about every twist and turn he makes on-and-off the track. Each Tweet Crew Team member will be provided with a smartphone that has camera capabilities to enable "Twitpics."
The first-ever "Official Tweet Crew Team" will also give racing fans around the world an up-close-and-personal glimpse into the Sprint Cup Series Race in Phoenix by providing a written play-by-play of the race via Twitter from the team's different vantage points around the track. Fans can follow all the heart-pounding and intimate action by logging onto www.twitter.com and following the team at @tweetcrewteam. Finally, race fans watching from home or following the team on Twitter will be given the chance to win great prizes throughout the race including official Best Western Racing and Michael Waltrip Racing gear, as well as rewards program points that can be redeemed for future hotel stays and a wide variety of merchandise. One lucky member of Speed Rewards, Best Western's loyalty program for race fans, will also win a Travel Card valued at $500.
Since the attempted bombing of Delta/Northwest flight 253 over Detroit on Christmas Day, airport security has been turned on its head (once again). Here's what business travelers need to know about security before heading out on another flight:
Most increased security is on inbound-to-U.S. flights. The only changes you may notice for domestic U.S. flying are more frequent pat downs by TSA personnel as well as the possibility of random screenings of carry-on bags at the gate.
Flights inbound to the U.S. from the U.K. are currently restricted to a SINGLE carry-on that must conform to normal size standards (one bag only...which means purses or briefcases need to fit INSIDE carry-on bags.)
The winter holiday season has come and gone and I'm already reflecting on my fondest memories. One thing I noticed this year, during my three visits to the Rockefeller Center, was the enthusiasm of all those who were down on the skating rink. I watched people who were obviously experienced skaters as they effortlessly glided across the ice, twirling a partner or teaching a child. Then there were those who spent most of their time falling down and laughing. Everyone was having so much fun! I found myself wishing that I wasn't eight months pregnant and an inexperienced skater, bound to take a tumble.
Skating at the Rockefeller Center is one of those things that visitors try to do when they travel to New York City in the winter. One night, I saw determined tourists standing in line in the rain, waiting for their turn to hit the ice! Although the skating rink at the Rockefeller Center is probably the most iconic in the country, you don't have to travel to New York City to enjoy some ice time in a romantic setting. There are rinks all over the country - wherever you decide to travel this winter, consider taking a turn or two around a local rink. Where can you find them?
2010 is upon us. And I am as guilty as anyone of living most of my life with my head down, looking at my Blackberry. While laptops and smart phones have made our lives easier, we must not forget to look up every once in a while - literally. At risk for sounding too new-age, we're missing one of the most beautiful and natural forms of entertainment... stargazing.
I mean, really, when was the last time you stopped what you were doing and just stared upwards at the millions and millions of lights shining down on us? The night skies are fascinating. There's a reason that so many make a career, or at least a hobby, out of simply studying and watching the stars. While there are numerous places (including your own backyard) to gaze upon the stars, there are a few environmental conditions under which viewing is best.
Obviously, leaving society behind is an important first step... clear skies with small (or nonexistent) populations can be aided by high altitudes and dry climates. Combine all these elements, and you have the perfect environment for getting back in touch with your inner-dreamer.
I've written about how much I enjoy planning a trip. I enjoy it almost as much as I enjoy the trip itself, if truth be told. Well, the beginning of a new year is always a great time to take a look at the calendar to figure out when and where we'll be riding as the pages flip.
Here are a few of the major motorcycle events scheduled for 2010. Take a look at your calendar, and see if you've got room for a trip! It's never too early to start planning.
February 26 - March 7: Bike Week 2010, Daytona Beach, Florida.
Known as "The World's Biggest Motorcycle Event," Bike Week is a 10-day festival that was originally built around actual motorcycle racing.
March 5: The Daytona 200 , Daytona, Florida.
A great chance to see world-class motorcycle racing in person.
April 14 - 18: Arizona Bike Week , Mesa, Arizona.
This has turned into a wonderful venue for music, with appearances from major bands planned.
April 21 - 25: Laughlin River Run , Laughlin, Nevada.
Great weather, great riding and a wild atmosphere.
With the recent tragedy still unfolding in Haiti, Best Western has made it possible to donate to the massive relief effort by allowing Best Western Rewards members to contribute their rewards points to the cause.
Members can go to www.bestwestern.com/haitirelief to make a donation of 5,000 points, which translates to $20, or more to World Vision, Best Western's official charity partner. Similar efforts are underway in Best Western regions globally.
Where will you be traveling in 2010? Lonely Planet has some ideas for you. The guidebook company released its latest title, Best in Travel 2010, a collection of the best places to go and the best things to do around the world for the year ahead.
Here's a rundown of the places LP says are hot! hot! hot!
Top 10 countries: El Salvador, Germany, Greece, Malaysia, Morocco, Nepal, New Zealand, Portugal, Suriname, and the USA.
Top 10 regions: Alsace, France; Bali, Indonesia; Fernando de Noronha, islands off Brazil; Goa, India; Koh Kong Conservation Corridor, Cambodia; Lake Baikal, Siberia; Oaxaca, Mexico; Southern Africa; The Lake District, England (pictured above); and Southwest Western Australia.
Top 10 cities: Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; Charleston, S.C.; Cork, Ireland; Cuenca, Ecuador; Istanbul, Turkey; Kyoto, Japan; Lecce, Italy; Sarajevo, Bosnia; Singapore; and Vancouver.
Top 10 value destinations: Iceland, Thailand, London, South Africa, Malaysia, Mexico, India, Bulgaria, Kenya, and Las Vegas.
It seems like the entire country is covered in ice and snow as I write this. Despite the nasty weather, most road warriors still have to get out there and kick 2010 off to a busy start.
I'm not the go-to guy for this type of advice (I grew up in the South), so I went to the folks who run the Bridgestone Winter Driving School in Steamboat Springs, Colo. as well as AAA for some winter driving tips. Here's what they advised:
Tell Us About Your Greatest Travel Adventure and Enter for a Chance to Win a $250 Best Western Travel Card®!
Travel is exciting! We want to hear about your best travel adventures. Whether it is simply a destination or when you discovered someplace new, had a travel mishap or simply had an unforgettable travel experience, share them with us. It doesn't matter if they are brief or detailed--we just love to hear about travel!
To submit your travel adventure (and at the same time enter for a chance to win a $250 Best Western Travel Card), select the Comment button and enter in your response to the question, "What is your greatest travel adventure?"
Once you enter a comment you are entered into a random drawing for one commenter to win a $250 Best Western Travel Card!
In addition, get an extra entry into the contest for adding this blog post to another site (track back). Copy and paste the URL under the Trackbacks section to add this post to your blog.
The contest promotion ends February 10, so submit your travel destinations today.
I take great pride in checking items off of my "bucket list" as such lists have come to be called lately. The bucket list, as it is eloquently titled, are a list of things to do before you kick the bucket. It was on a trip to Maui Hawaii that I had an opportunity for my first chance at checking the item "Pacific Ocean Snorkeling" off of my list. What I didn't realize, though, was how hooked I would become on snorkeling.
I'm what you call a "sandal vacationer" when it comes to warm weather vacations. I embrace action and adventure when I'm traveling in locales below 80 degrees, but when I'm in the warm waters of Hawaii or San Diego, I much prefer to trade in my walking shoes for a chance at being a beach bum. That is why I love snorkeling. It provides a chance as a traveler to engage in a slightly scaled sporting adventure like scuba diving without the cost, time commitment, and training. Guided snorkel tours run anywhere from $50-150 dollars and equipment is affordable to own.
With its cobblestone streets, antebellum architecture, and wind-blown forts, Charleston is one of the best-preserved cities in America. It's also a place that makes learning history fun for kids.
Over the Thanksgiving break, we spent nearly a week with relatives in Charleston, S.C. This Southern town first established in 1670 is beautifully preserved and full of history. It was captured in the Civil War without much property damage, so the old part of town has buildings that are hundreds of years old. While you might think history and kids don't mix we found that our children--ages 5 and 6--were actually quite excited about spotting a bison, stepping inside a former dungeon, and watching craftswomen weave sweetgrass baskets.
On July 2, 2003 (nearly 24,000 days ago!) the International Olympic Committee chose Vancouver as the host city for the XXI (21st) Winter Olympics. Since then, countless hours of blood, sweat and tears from more than 25,000 volunteers have gone into preparation for the world's biggest winter sporting event.
My Dad and I dropped in on Vancouver eager to see what changes have been made and how things are progressing to get ready for the Games. We checked into the Best Western Downtown Vancouver, a beautiful 143-room property which is one of five Best Westerns in the Vancouver area. After a quick workout in a panoramic fitness centre with a great view, we set out on foot to hit trendy "Yaletown" (only a five minute walk away) and both noticed two things immediately. For starters, the number of cranes that have been a staple on the Vancouver skyline have disappeared. It definitely gave us a sense of being in a more established city. Secondly, the city is clean. The streets, sidewalks and buildings all seemed very tidy and well kept.
During our stay, we informally polled a number of locals about all things Olympics and here are the top three things we learned:
I actually really do believe in New Year's resolutions. I don't believe in driving myself nuts over them, but I do believe that setting some goals for the coming year can help to focus my efforts and can help me make decisions when I'm not sure which way to turn.
One area of my life where I make resolutions has to do with my motorcycle riding. Here's a list of some of my Rider's Resolutions for 2010:
I resolve to wear all of the gear, all of the time. I will not take shortcuts with safety.
I resolve to keep my bike clean and polished. A clean bike is a happy bike.
I resolve to perform my routine maintenance on a regular schedule. I will change my oil and filters, check my fittings and cables, and re-torque all nuts and bolts to spec.
I resolve to check my tire pressure before each ride, and at the beginning of the each day on a multi-day trip.
Regular readers of this blog know that I occasionally get to survey some of Best Western's very best customers, a group known as the "Best Western Diamond 100." These road warriors have spent the night at a Best Western at least 250 times in the last five years, so they know a thing or two about a thing or two. That's why I'm always so excited to get inside their heads when it comes to issues of importance to business travelers.
In late November, we queried the BWD100 regarding their feelings and experiences when it comes to hotel upgrades. Here's a distillation of their responses.
Upgrades don't come too frequently. 40 percent of the group said they only score them once or twice a year, but a lucky 25 percent said they get them five or more times per year. Only 18 percent said they never get them.
"I usually get good rooms but to get an upgrade, to a suite let's say, requires more then the kindness of the registration clerk. Different factors need to be put together including some luck," wrote one BWD100 member. Another added, "I was recently upgraded from a King business room to a King Business Suite with a separate bedroom. I would have loved to have my wife with me for this upgrade!"
Our family summer vacation to Yellowstone National Park was one for the record books and it got me thinking about visiting in the winter. Blanketed in snow and free from the throngs of summer visitors, the park takes on a magical quality.
The first thing I figured out is that most of the roads in the park are closed to traffic and you must plan to explore in over-snow vehicles only. Given that the weather in the winter can be severe, you may choose to schedule a commercial snowcoach that will tour through Yellowstone, stopping along the way for a closer look at wildlife or some of over 10,000 hydrothermal features. This is an ideal way to take in the crystalline winter landscape and stay warm along the way.
For the hearty and adventurous out there, you may opt to reserve snowmobiles or tour the many miles of incredible cross-country ski trails in the park. Snowmobile permits are limited and you must be accompanied by a guide so be sure to get details and make your reservations early.
It has an average annual temperature of negative 57 degrees Celsius.
90% of the world's ice exists there.
It holds the world's record in strongest wind, highest altitude and coldest temperature.
There are no permanent residents or vegetation.
Sound like the perfect vacation spot?
Well, don't rule out Antarctica just yet! Approximately 30,000 people visit Antarctica every year and while there has never been a native population, 4,000 scientists live and work there during summer months.
For years, luxury cruise lines have offered travel to the earth's coldest continent surrounded by ocean. In fact, with just a few Google searches you'll find travel information about lavish ships with ice-strengthened hulls offering an Antarctic experience with 5-star accommodations. So, what is there to do, see and experience in Antarctica? Why on earth would anyone brave this desolate area?
As the World's Largest Hotel Chain, we know it is a big world out there
with lots of places to see and experience. Best Western's You Must Be
Trippin' travel blog offers travel tips, ideas and feature destinations
to make your next trip a success. We are also interested in where
you've been trippin' and invite you to share your travel ideas, tips
and destinations with us.