April 2 2010 by Sam Lowe
FOR OLD SEA DOGS -- The Erie Maritime Museum in Erie, Pa., is not only a great destination for history buffs and seniors, it's also a classic example of what to do with an old building that no longer serves its original purpose.
The museum presents the story of Oliver Hazard Perry's warship, the U.S. Brig Niagara that won the Battle of Lake Erie in the War of 1812. The exhibits explain the area's role in the war and the origin of Perry's infamous declaration, "Don't give up the ship!" A reconstruction of Perry's flagship is berthed at the museum and offers public daysails, guided tours and seamanship training programs.
The museum is housed in a wonderful old brick building that was once a steam-powered electricity generating station. Inside is a reconstruction of the mid-ship section of the U.S. Lawrence, Perry's first flagship in the famous battle, complete with mast, spars and rigging. Other exhibits tell the stories of the USS Wolverine (formerly the USS Michigan), the nation's first iron-hulled warship, and the environmental transformation of the Great Lakes ecosystem.
Admission of $7 for those 65 and older. For details, log on to www.brigniagara.org/index.htm or call 814-452-2744.
FLIGHT FRUSTRATIONS - Got complaints about airline service? You're not alone. According to TripAdvisor's second annual air-travel survey, limited leg room on planes and fees for checked baggage top the list of gripes.
The survey, conducted among 3,200 United States residents, also indicated that:
- 74 percent said they think extra-large passengers should pay for two seats on their flights;
- 30 percent said they would be more likely to book a ticket on a flight offering Wi-Fi;
- 79 percent had no problem going through those full-body scanners now in operation at many terminals.
- 22 percent of those flying with Wi-Fi said they'd alert a flight attendent if a seatmate was using the service to log on to pornographic sites.
FOR OLD TRAIN BUFFS - Amtrak's celebration of National Train Day 2010 in Williams, Ariz., is actually a two-day celebration, scheduled for May 8-9. The event, hosted by the Grand Canyon Railway and the Grand Canyon Chapter of the national Railway Historical Society, will be a full weekend of train-related activities for young and old. We who are oldsters, however, will probably enjoy it more because we remember those glorious days when trains were pulled by fire-belching locomotives. The trains had cabooses back then, and the trainmen would wave down from the cupola at us grubby-faced little tykes standing alongside the tracks hoping they'd throw us candy.
Highlight of the weekend will be riding an historic Harriman coach car behind the Grand Canyon Railway's largest steam engine, Old Number 4960 pulling the Catract Creek Rambler. The trips last 45 minutes, will run hourly and cost $15 for adults and $10 for children. All other activities are free. They include several operating model railroads from tiny N gauge to large G gauge, rides behind a scale model steam engine, displays for locomotives and cars, historical railroad artifacts, a computer railroad simulator and live entertainment. There's also plenty of free parking.
Most of the activity will be held at the Grand Canyon Railway Depot in the heart of the city. Williams is about 35 miles west of Flagstaff on Interstate 40.
MAKING A COMEBACK - Those of us who have grown tired of major out-of-pocket expenses involved with getting from here to there by airplane might actually consider taking a bus.
Peter Greenberg, author of The Contrarian Traveler for AARP Magazine, notes that the bus industry is making inroads into the travel dollar pot by slashing prices and upgrading service. For example, he says in the March-April edition, Megabus and BoltBus (a division of Greyhound) offer a handful of $1 one-way fares (plus a 50-cent service fee) for online advance purchases. The sort of bad news is that service is restricted to the northeastern and midwestern sectors of the nation.
To compete with other methods of travel, some buses now provide wireless Internet access, video entertainment, power outlets and leather seats.