Wondering About Mt. Rushmore

April 7 2014 by Sam Lowe

mount rushmore south dakota.jpgKEYSTONE, S.D. - Mount Rushmore, located here in the Black Hills about 23 miles south of Rapid City, has always been an awe-inspiring source of wonderment for me. And now, as I grow older, it increases rather than diminishes because I still can't figure out how they did it. I check history books, video presentations and computer representations, but am still mystified about how Gutzon Borglum and 400 workers were able to turn a granite mountain into the heads of four presidents.

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More Than Cheesesteaks

April 4 2014 by Sam Lowe

philadelphia travel.jpgPHILADELPHIA - In troubled times like these, when nobody seems to be doing anything right politically, this city is a refreshing reminder of how things were originally intended to be. Even though they didn't quite work out that way.

It is steeped in the history of the nation's earliest days, securely quartered in such places as Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell Museum and Franklin Square. And the Italian Market and the cheesesteak.

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Things That Bug

February 25 2014 by Sam Lowe

graffiti memorial.jpgIn more than 40 years of motoring, sailing, cruising, riding on the backs of large animals, flying and other means of transportation that have taken me from one destination to another, I have encountered all sorts of situations and incidents that have made the trip pleasurable. And, unfortunately, some that detracted from the enjoyment. I try not to let those distractions create inner turmoil, but sometimes they just do. So I've steeled myself to live with them rather than let them upset me.

But, being a senior traveler, it is my right to gripe about them.

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Capitalizing on Capitols

February 18 2014 by Sam Lowe

State Capitols.jpgWhenever my travels take me to a state capital, my first destination is the state capitol. Capital? Capitol? Is there a difference?

Besides the spelling, yes, there is a difference. The capital is the city in which the legislature meets. The capitol is the building in which the legislature meets. The "o" in capitol is the key to remembering which is which: since many capitols are domed buildings, think of the "o" as the dome.

Well, it works for me.

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Winter Destinations For Seniors

February 11 2014 by Sam Lowe

senior winter travel destinations.jpgHaving spent my formative years in North Dakota, I am not a big fan of cold weather. But since moving to Arizona, I have made peace with winter and have actually found many destinations that feature chilly weather and even some snow, but they don't make my knees ache and my nose run.

Two of my favorites - the Grand Canyon and Canyon de Chelly - are in my home state. Both are crowded during the summer months, but the masses diminish when cold arrives. The Grand Canyon is quiet, almost surreal, in winter. The canyon walls echo the bird calls without being drowned out by tourist chatter. On many days, a rare condor will soar overhead then swoop down close to the snow-covered upper levels. If weather conditions are right, low-lying clouds will descend into the canyon and blank out everything below until they dissipate.

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Seniors, Be Aware of Scams

February 10 2014 by Sam Lowe

senior travel scams.jpgSeveral news reports have warned that travel scams are increasing and, even worse, people our age (read that "seniors") are primary targets. The reason: We are more trusting and therefore are often easy prey for scammers.

These crooks are clever and adaptable. If one scam is exposed for what it is, several others will replace them. So the best advice anyone can give is to be cautious. If it looks suspicious, don't bite.

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Swords Into Plowshares

February 5 2014 by Sam Lowe

tuscon historical church.jpgIN ARIZONA - We who are seniors can well remember that frightful era known as the Cold War. At that time, several Titan intercontinental ballistic missiles armed with nuclear warheads were planted in deep holes in three states and aimed at the Soviet Union as a matter of national defense or, in a worst case scenario, as retaliation. Fortunately, none was ever fired so the world can only speculate what the consequences would have been, which is just as well.

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All Newspapermen Were Not Created Equal

January 24 2014 by Sam Lowe

Hearst Castle 2.jpgSAN SIMEON, Calif. - Before becoming a senior and a retiree (in that order), I worked as a reporter, editor and columnist for several newspapers. So when, a few years ago, a traveling companion insisted that we visit the former home of publisher William Randolph Hearst, I jokingly remarked that, because of my professional background, I had already been to several newspaper guys' homes. So, I wondered aloud, what's the big deal?

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More Senior Packing Tips

December 5 2013 by Sam Lowe

senior travel packing tips.jpgAs we grow closer to maturity (whenever that is), we also get smarter. Aware of that, here are some pre-travel packing and anti-hacking tips that might save you some distress on your next journey.

Pack a fake wallet in addition to your regular one and consider it a throwaway. Put a few small bills and some old plastic cards, like hotel key cards, into it. Then, if accosted by a thief, hand over the spare. By the very nature of their profession, thieves are always in a hurry so they won't stop to examine the contents and notice the fakery until you're a safe distance away.

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A Northern Ireland Doubleheader

November 19 2013 by Sam Lowe

Ireland Travel.jpgThe Titanic Museum and the Giants Causeway, the two major tourist attractions in Northern Ireland, are particularly interesting to those of us who fall into the senior category because they both have something to do with history. And they're both easily accessible.

There are more than 200 museums across the world dedicated to the tragedy of the Titanic, the huge ocean liner that hit an iceberg and sank on April 14/15, 1912. I haven't seen all of them, but the best one (in my opinion) is the new one in Belfast. It is not only a magnificent structure, but it also presents a detailed and excellent account of how the ship was built, who built it, and what happened after the launch. (The people of Belfast readily declare that "it was okay when it left here.")

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More Peace, Quiet and Surprises

October 28 2013 by Sam Lowe

church travel.jpgYou may recall that in my last episode, I told of three churches in New Mexico that combine peace, quiet, contentment - all assets for the weary senior traveler looking for a place to sit down and ponder - and some religious surprises. Things like miraculous cures, kachinas and Madonnas. And now, here are three similar tales from Arizona.

One of the most famous structures in the Southwest is Mission San Xavier del Bac, also known as the White Dove of the Desert, a magnificent building rising from the Sonoran Desert on the Tohono O'odham Reservation south of Tucson. The mission was founded in 1692 by the Jesuit missionary Eusebio Francisco Kino, who preached in the area. The original church was destroyed during an attack by natives. The current building was started in 1783 and completed in 1797.

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Great Places to Relax and Reflect

October 21 2013 by Sam Lowe

zuni.jpgOccasionally, all the walking and gawking associated with traveling get to be hard on the feet, back and stamina. Especially when the walking and gawking are being performed by those who, like me, have taken up residency in the vicinity of seniorhood. At times like that, I try to find a church where I can sit down, reflect and enjoy some quiet because churches are usually filled with solemnity and most visitors respect that.

While only a few North American cathedrals match the grandeur of those in Europe, for example, there are some wonderful smaller places of worship that offer even more peace and contentment, as well as some inter-cultural surprises. Here are three I have come across in New Mexico:

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More Travel Tips for Seniors

September 30 2013 by Sam Lowe

travel tips for seniors.jpgHere are a couple of pre-trip alerts that I found out about the hard way.

First, stop your mail. Easy enough. Most of us do it without a reminder. But here's the problem: Make certain that you and the Post Office are on the right page when it comes to picking up your accumulated letters, packages and junk mail.

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One Very Good Twofer

September 23 2013 by Sam Lowe

Bryce Canyon.jpgAs we enter into seniordom, we are supposed to get smarter and here's one very smart idea: Twofers.

In technical terms, it means getting two for the price of one. And in this case, it's even better than that because it's two for the price of nothing. If you're smart enough to acquire a senior pass.

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A House of Mystery

August 28 2013 by Sam Lowe

HouseofMystery1.jpgSAN JOSE, California - Like so many who have achieved seniordom, I am a tinkerer and a putterer. I patch holes, repair damaged windows and paint walls when they need it. So it's not difficult to imagine my excitement when, during a visit to San Jose, I visited the Winchester Mystery House. It is Utopia for fixer-uppers.

As well as those who believe in ghosts.

The house has a colorful history, dating back to 1886, when construction began, all the way up to 1922, when the building process ended. In between, Sarah Winchester spent about $5.5 million (nearly $75 million in today's dollars) to keep workmen busy day and night, constructing staircases that led to dead ends and blank ceilings, twisting halls, confusing turns and endless remodeling. It was an eight-room farmhouse when she bought it; by the time she died, crews had added (and ripped apart) more than 500 rooms.

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My Kind of Museum(s)

August 27 2013 by Sam Lowe

Avon.jpgHaving reached that advanced age where I want to see everything and I want to see it in a hurry due to some time constraints, I have discovered small, out-of-the-way museums. Unlike the major museums that require more than two days to view all their contents, these are lesser institutions that a visitor can tour in less than an hour.

Here are some I have explored:

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Kissing the Stone, Then and Now

July 24 2013 by Sam Lowe

blarney stone.jpgBLARNEY, Ireland - My first visit to Blarney Castle centered around a kiss. There was no romance involved, mind you, because it was only a brief encounter between my lips and a rock slab. However, it was one of those things one never forgets because it required hanging upside down about eighty feet above ground level. But that was more than thirty years ago, when I was younger and had less trepidation about putting my body in peril. Besides, I figured at the time, thousands of others had already kissed the Blarney Stone and nothing bad happened to them.

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Walk With the Ghosts

July 19 2013 by Sam Lowe

Ghost.jpgMANSFIELD, Ohio - We who belong to the older generation have long since overcome most of our fears about visiting weird places, seeing eerie sights and traveling to strange destinations. In other words, we're too old and too tough to get scared about much of anything anymore, including the heebie-jeebies.

That makes checking out the Ghost Hunt and Ghost Walk in the Ohio State Reformatory ideal for those of us who may have become just a bit jaded about seeing more castles, cathedrals and cascades as we roam about the world.

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The Villages Less Visited

July 7 2013 by Sam Lowe

.oraibi.jpgORAIBI - My foreign colleagues gasped at the raw beauty of the scenery as we approached the villages perched atop the mesas of the Hopi Reservation. Reacting instantly, they whipped out their cameras, bent upon capturing what they considered verbally indescribable. In that same instant, our Hopi guide warned them against it. Taking photos was forbidden, he said, and those who violate that rule face confiscation of their equipment

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Scams, Scams and More Scams

June 25 2013 by Sam Lowe

pickpocket.jpgAs we grow older, we senior travelers get smarter in many ways. We're more likely to spend time looking for such bargains as reduced air fares and senior discounts for meals and lodging. But, according to some travel experts, we still need educating in one particular area - travel scams.

We, the white of hair and (sometimes) pot of belly, are the targets for more scams than young people and the main reason is that we are more trusting. (And, although it's never actually stated, we're not as fast afoot as we used to be so the pickpockets and street hustlers can easily outrun us.) So to avert having a vacation ruined by a scam, here are a few to watch for.

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Travel Tips for Seniors

May 23 2013 by Sam Lowe

senior travel tips.jpgIn an effort to make life on the road a bit easier, here are a few more senior-related travel tips that I have found useful while pursuing life's hithers and yons.

If traveling to an area frequented by those city-sized cruise ships, try to find out beforehand when and where they'll be docking, and then avoid those areas. The ships carry up to 4,000 passengers and when they drop anchor, most of those passengers are disgorged onto dry land where they storm into shops and eateries, causing human traffic jams and long lines at the checkout counters in the souvenir shops. They're all nice folks, of course, but they tend to be in a hurry because their off-boat time is usually limited.

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Take a Walk Along the River

May 20 2013 by Sam Lowe

san antonio river walk.jpgSAN ANTONIO, Texas - Of course, the Alamo is been around much longer, has been the star of a John Wayne movie, gets most of the publicity (except when the San Antonio Spurs are winning another NBA title), and maintains a legendary status. But frankly, one visit to the historically significant shrine is about all it takes to see everything there is to see.

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It's All For the Birds

April 23 2013 by Sam Lowe

bird 1.jpgSANTA CRUZ COUNTY, Arizona - The thing about being a senior traveler is that we don't like to waste time looking for tourist attractions that sometimes aren't where they're supposed to be. For that reason, a Santa Cruz Tourism Council project entitled "As The Birds Fly South" suits our desirability to the full measure.

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Tanks For the Memories

March 8 2013 by Sam Lowe

tanks 5.jpgAlways on the lookout for what I call "road art," I was delighted to come across an exceptional display of major works in New Mexico. It's road art on water tanks, and there are examples all over the state. Not only are they exciting, they're also easy to look at, especially from a senior standpoint, because you don't have to get out of your car to examine them due to their enormous size.

A prime example is in Los Lunas, where a huge city water tank is adorned with two painted-on snarling tigers. There's one on the east side and another on the west, and all the space in between is filled with black and orange stripes, which is the way a tigered tank should look. The big felines honor the athletes at Los Lunas High School because the tiger is the school mascot. The tank is highly visible from I-25 on the north edge of the city.

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Tips For Seniors On The Go

February 27 2013 by Sam Lowe

senior map.jpgNow that the years are coming and going at a remarkably rapid pace, I look for items that will give me more time to enjoy my travels by eliminating those little annoyances so common to being on the road.

Here are a few time-savers and frustration-eliminators that have worked for me:

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A Sure Cure for the Hungries

January 31 2013 by Sam Lowe

eat.jpgOccasionally, there arises a need to just go out and try something different. Like eating in a dozen restaurants in a single day. Fortunately for our waistlines, such urges are easily controlled. But if the yen persists, here are a couple of eat-a-thon suggestions in Arizona.

First, the Salsa Trail in the southeastern sector of the state. It is a union of more than a dozen restaurants spread across eight towns in three counties. Each establishment is family-owned and all feature Mexican food, from tacos, tamales, chips, dips, burritos, enchiladas and specialties designed to bring customers back for more. They all make their own salsas and sauces, which range in intensity from mild to "bring on the antacids and be quick about it!"

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A Towering Spectacle

January 18 2013 by Sam Lowe

Devils Tower.jpgIn the beginning, it appeared that my visit to Devils Tower in the spectacular wilds of northern Wyoming was going to be ruined by the inconsiderate driver in front of me, who kept stopping on the road every few yards. Frustrated because I wanted to get to the pinnacle before sunset, I tried patience but when that didn't get the intended results, I honked. Twice.

The offending driver reacted by sticking his arm out the window and pointing to a nearby field. And then I saw the reason - a mother deer and her fawn, nonchalantly enjoying an evening nosh on the forest lawn. I waved a weak apology and stopped to enjoy the unexpected bonus. The tower would be there; the scene in front of us was only temporary.

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New Year's Resolutions That I Intend to Keep

January 2 2013 by Sam Lowe

2013 resolutions.jpgThis year, I'm going to forget about all those promises I made to lose weight, cut down on ice cream consumption, stop getting upset about the economy, quit hating the New York Yankees and start exercising more. This year, I'm making resolutions that I can actually keep because they're all travel-related and, having reached senior-dom, I am older and wiser now.

To begin with, no more complaining about how gasoline used to cost 25 cents a gallon when I was a kid and 50 cents would buy enough fuel to cruise Main Street for an hour. That ship has sailed and it ain't coming back so quit whining about it.

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A Favorite Stretch of Road

December 19 2012 by Sam Lowe

PCH.jpgI suspect every traveler has a favorite chunk of roadway, either a paved highway, a secluded two-lane back road, or a dirt path that leads to memories of bygone times. Mine is the Pacific Coast Highway.

My wife Lyn and I have traversed this coastline adventure several times, and on each encounter we have opened new doorways and discovered pleasant little side junkets. But there is always this one constant - we have some favorites that require mandatory visits on every trip.

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Christmas Gifts Senior Travelers Will Actually Like - And Use

December 3 2012 by Sam Lowe

senior gift.jpg'Tis the season to be jolly about most things, but picking out the right present for a senior traveler can frequently result in uncertainty ("What if they don't like it?") and even trauma ("What if they ask for the sales ticket so they can take it back?") There are no sure cures for either, but careful investigation beforehand (Read that: Ask 'em outright what they'd like) can avoid embarrassing situations.
And so, if anyone asks what I'd like wrapped and lying under the tree, here are some suggestions:

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A Chilly Way to Avoid the Crowds

November 19 2012 by Sam Lowe

GC.jpgOver the years, I have been to the Grand Canyon a whole bunch of times, to London seven times and to Niagara Falls three times. All were wonderful excursions, but the ones I remember with the most fondness all occurred in the winter. I mention this because as one gets older, one also gets tired of fighting crowds. And winter is an ideal time to avoid the masses.

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Are You Sure That's Your Bag?

November 12 2012 by Sam Lowe

luggage.jpgA few years ago, while waiting at the baggage carousel at O'Hare in Chicago, the man next to me started some idle chit-chat by saying that his wife had once tried to settle the issue of spotting her suitcase as it circled past by adorning it with purple ribbons. He said she figured that nobody would use purple ribbons to mark their luggage. Everybody always relies on red or checkered or polka dot, she figured.

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Open Air Arias

October 26 2012 by Sam Lowe

santa fe opera.jpgSANTA FE - This city has been one of my favorites regardless of how old I am, or have been. And my appreciation for it increases as I march past seniordom all the way into near-elderlyhood. For one thing, it's an easy place to visit because so much of the good stuff is on or near the city plaza, a square block surrounded by shops, restaurants, museums and other points of interest. This reduces walking time.

For another thing, there's the opera.

The Santa Fe Opera has an uncommon airiness about it, uncommon because there's no other such facility anywhere else in the world, and because the divas, tenors, basso profundos and all the other performers literally sing outdoors. It happens because the opera house has a unique roof system and only one solid wall. The other three sides are open to the elements, which allows patrons a chance to watch a sunset while enjoying Madama Butterfly or La Boheme.

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Packing Precious Pills

October 1 2012 by Sam Lowe

pills.jpgSeveral years ago, maybe even longer ago than that, I never had to worry about how to pack pills, potions, capsules, cure-alls and other forms of medicine while preparing for a trip. But now that I have inadvertently become an elder(ly), I am forced to readjust my pre-trip packing routines as they apply to health matters.

One of my first decisions was to purchase a plastic pill box with several (but never enough) compartments marked with the days of the week on the lids. For normal pill-popping, this would have sufficed, but when I reached that point (as so many of us do) where I began counting meds in double figures, the little squares were no longer large enough to hold a full vacation supply.

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A Walkin' Sort of City

September 27 2012 by Sam Lowe

Columbus.jpgCOLUMBUS, Ohio - Now that I have advanced into seniordom, I can say this without hesitation - this is MY kind of town. It's comfortable, has a nice blend of the old with the up-and-coming and, perhaps most importantly, it's a place where I can see most of the good stuff simply by walking there.

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Never Too Old For Zipping

September 18 2012 by Sam Lowe

Zip line.jpgBack in those long past days when I still had all my hair and it was brown, not white, I volunteered my body for some rather Adrenalin-rushing adventures. Among them, wing-walking and para-sailing. But now well into my senior stage, I no longer have any need for such foolhardy stunts. (Read that: There ain't enough tequila in the world to get me to stand on top of a biplane while it's flying 2,500 feet above the ground ever again.)

However, while traveling through the Hocking Hills area of Ohio, I was introduced to zip lining and a small portion of the desire for the thrills of my youth popped up again. It was exhilarating with just a slight hint of danger, and quite safe even for those who might have qualms about riding a steel cable high above the landscape.

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Spelunking For Seniors

September 4 2012 by Sam Lowe

Sam Caves.jpgSpelunking doesn't necessarily have to include scraping your knuckles and knees against rock formations in previously unexplored caverns like those shown on the television documentaries. Not hardly. Although you might miss the thrill of being the first one to see the stalactites and stalagmites that lie hidden beneath the Earth's surface, those of us in the upper ages brackets can get just as excited if we can ride an elevator down to the sights.

In fact, the Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico does have an elevator that takes visitors on a nine-minute ride from the surface to the depths. It's 750 feet one way and makes the trip a lot easier than taking the alternate entryway known as the Natural Entrance Route, which follows steep, narrow trails through a tall trunk passage. It's not for the weak-of-kneed or pot-of-bellied.

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Finding the Funky

August 8 2012 by Sam Lowe

A2.jpgThe major tourist attractions have always held my attention, but deep down inside, I harbor a strong and well-rooted desire to see and touch the little offbeat sights that don't draw the big crowds. It has nothing to do with reaching seniordom; it's more like a return to a childhood that included nurturing pet frogs and planting my own sunflowers.

So I seek out things like:

The University of Georgia's Marine Extension Service Aquarium in Savannah, Georgia. It's small (only 17 exhibit tanks and one "touch" tank), but it contains more than 200 creatures that represent most of the 50 species that inhabit the Georgia coast. Almost equally important on the funky scale: The facility is located on Skidaway Island, a name that sort of sticks to the inside of your brain when repeated 15 times in succession.

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Get Culture While Waiting for Your Plane

August 2 2012 by Sam Lowe

Sac.jpgAirports are not on my list of favorite places, but I have learned to tolerate them because ... well, if you're going to fly, you're going to wait. And wait. And, sometimes, wait and wait and wait. But I have also learned that the time goes faster, even slips by in a hurry, when I'm waiting in an airport that features art exhibits on the various levels. Many terminals have been displaying works for a long time; others are getting on board in an effort to not only reduce boredom, but also enhance their city's image.

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Off the Beaten Path

July 6 2012 by Sam Lowe

21 palace.jpgLike many of us seniors, I am no longer interested in scrambling into uncharted territory just so I can view something most everyone else hasn't already seen and photographed. I prefer the attractions that are easily reachable, even though thousands have been there before me. But I have also come across a good sampling of lesser-knowns that have been well worth exploring.

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Some Senior Travel Alerts

June 22 2012 by Sam Lowe

old couple.jpgIt is not my intention to dissuade anyone our age from going to any particular travel destination, but my time on the road has left me with several impressions that might serve to alert others to possible danger. Well, not so much danger itself, but situations that might prove uncomfortable for some.

The Astronomical Clock in Prague, Czech Republic, is a magnificent attraction. Originally installed in 1410, it is the oldest working clock of its kind anywhere in the world. It was placed on the south side of the Old Town City Hall and has suffered repeated damage due to war, time and the elements but it keeps on marking the hours as it has done for more than 600 years. Every hour on the hour, wooden figures of the twelve Apostles march past windows on the face, while other figures flanking the clock are also set in motion.

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Great Meals On the Road

May 15 2012 by Sam Lowe

iStock_000019456187XSmall.jpgIn those halcyon days I still longingly refer to as "my youth," dining while on the road was rarely more than a burger and fries, or a Twinkie with a chocolate shake. But as I continue the march into 'seniorhood', my away-from-home eating habits have undergone drastic changes. Now, rather than rush into a convenience market or a fast food outlet, I look forward to sit down, white napkin experiences that are a far cry from candy bars and salted peanuts (although they remain at least a minor part of my diet when traveling alone).

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Take Life Easy On a Train

May 7 2012 by Sam Lowe

iStock_000018023154XSmall.jpgMany years ago, during my youth, the Soo Line Railroad tracks ran directly behind our house, so my brothers and I learned to tell time by the blasts from the old stream engines that belched across the North Dakota prairies. Taking the train to grandmother's house was a major adventure. When our dad got a job with the railroad, he'd let me ride in the caboose, where I'd sit up in the cupola and wave down to my pals. As I mentioned, that was a long time ago.

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Going All By Yourself

April 23 2012 by Sam Lowe

iStock_000019969888XSmall.jpgIn my younger years, when I was a carefree bachelor, most of my travels were solitary. I would, for example, select a destination but not a definite route, then hop in my car and drive there without concerning myself with trip durations, accommodations (I frequently bedded down in my hatchback), or lack of companionship.

During those times, I met several other travelers with similar agendas, and we discussed such important issues as fast food, parking lots that let you sleep in your car and, most importantly, rest stops. Life was good.

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Travel Gadgets

April 16 2012 by Sam Lowe

iStock_000014944984Small.jpgWith airlines getting pricier and TSA getting fussier, going small is becoming important(er). So here are a few lesser-sized travel gadgets that we seniors could find particularly useful when it comes to finding, packing and retrieving.

Worried about the possibility of being accosted or even assaulted while walking along the streets and byways in an unfamiliar town? Buy a tiny alarm unit. They now make them so small that they can be attached to a belt, but they emit a 100-decibel shriek once the user pulls the cord. That'll scare off any mugger.

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Revisiting an Old Friend

March 19 2012 by Sam Lowe

iStock_000012623350XSmall.jpgIn our ongoing rush to go everywhere and see everything, we sometimes forget about the destinations that endeared us years ago but are now often ignored because they're close to home. So we tend to adopt a "been there, seen that" attitude toward them. I thought about that recently while Lyn, my wife, and I drove toward the Grand Canyon. We've been there several times, and we still marvel at its beauty, but perhaps we get a bit jaded even though it's one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.

So we look for something different every time we visit. And, fortunately, they're easy to find. This time, we approached the Bright Angel Trail and looked down into the chasm below. But we didn't trod upon its well-traveled path. I did that once, many years ago when I was younger, stupider and very much out of shape. The trip down was a lark. I made it to the Colorado River in less that three hours. The return was an embodiment of everything hellish I could imagine at the time. Every step was agony and my legs grew heavier each time I plopped a foot down upon the wicked and rocky slants leading to the top. More than eight hours after leaving the river, I reached the South Rim and vowed never to (a) laugh about it and (b) do it again.

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Seeing it From the Front Seat

March 5 2012 by Sam Lowe

21 pen.jpgI have reached an age in which extended walking has lost most of its appeal. I'd much rather drive there.

For that reason, a recent foray into the wilds of Ohio to drive the Shawshank Trail earned my personal high marks. There are a whole passel of things to see and, more importantly, I didn't have to wear hiking boots and carry a gallon of water to enjoy them.

The Shawshank Trail came about because of a movie, "The Shawshank Redemption." It was based on a short story by Stephen King and, although set in Maine, it was filmed in and around Mansfield back in 1996. Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman portrayed the major characters. The plot revolves around inhumane prison treatment, corrupt prison officials and a happy ending where everybody gets what's coming to them.

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Don't Be a Scam Victim

February 15 2012 by Sam Lowe

iStock_000014983644XSmall.jpgA recent newspaper story noted that seniors are susceptible to scammers and con artists because, according to the writer, we are "gullible." Although I find this a bit insulting, I'm also aware that as we grow older, we tend to become more trusting. And nicer. Unfortunately, that makes us targets for those who prey on people of our age.

Many of the scams center on travel. And, since many of us travel, we inadvertently become victims. This one surfaced recently:

Families show up at a residence, frequently a large house in an upscale neighborhood, expecting to spend their vacation living in high style. But they're greeted by the homeowner, who has no idea of who these people are and why they're there. When they say they have rented the house for their vacation, they are informed that the house has never been for rent. Even worse, they're probably not going to get their up-front money back.

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Choose Companions Wisely

February 9 2012 by Sam Lowe

iStock_000018926441XSmall.jpgMy wife, Lyn, and I have used a variety of travel methods, including tour groups, senior-oriented junkets, solitary trips all by ourselves, and making arrangements with other couples. There are upsides and downsides to each. Fortunately, the good times have vastly outnumbered those that were not so good.

Since we are madly in love with each other, there are never any serious problems when we go it alone. And tour groups are always large enough so it's relatively easy to avoid those who talk too loud, those who have been everywhere and want everyone else to know about it, and those who crack their chewing gum. But traveling with another couple, or a couple of other couples, presents some situations that can often turn into problems so big that they can terminate friendships.

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Learning Some Terms Might Help

January 20 2012 by Sam Lowe

iStock_000015675640XSmall.jpgBefore embarking upon a journey to a foreign land where English is not the primary language, my wife and I try to acquaint ourselves with some of the more common terms we will more than likely be using during the trip. Simple things, like "please," "thank you," "you're welcome," and, of course, the more important phrases like "two beers" and "where's the bathroom?"

We have found that it's a great ice-breaker because the locals respect our senior-oriented attempts and at least know we're trying. And over the years, we have also picked up more of the language because people are always willing to help us get beyond the hand-gesturing and loud-talking phases that usually accompany our attempts to communicate. Especially when asking for directions.

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Documents, Documents and Pills

January 19 2012 by Sam Lowe

pill.JPGAs we graciously move into the more advanced stages of life, we are finding that travel is no longer a simple matter of tossing some clean underwear and a toothbrush into an overnight bag and taking off. Now, every trip requires substantially more pre-planning, particularly in the areas of medicine, insurance and health care.

So before every extended trip, we create a check list of items that are absolutely vital to assure us that we'll get there and back without legal or medical problems.

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Travel Related Gifts For Seniors

December 13 2011 by Sam Lowe

iStock_000017826601XSmall.jpgMany of us have reached that slightly-elevated age where we don't really need any more stuff, things like neckties and bracelets, knickknacks and coffee table items. But since we also have more time to travel, now that we have achieved seniordom, we can appreciate gifts that can be useful on tours, junkets and getaways.

A GPS system is a good example, particularly for those who take leisurely motor trips across the United States. They're easy on the budget, and relatively simple to operate, even for us non-nerds. Some are also small enough to be hand-held and adaptable for foreign travel, which can be a blessing for those who get confused while walking along the back streets and crowded byways of such places as Venice, Munich and Tokyo.

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Avoiding Sneaky Fingers

December 12 2011 by Sam Lowe

iStock_000003269177XSmall.jpgThe holiday season brings out the big crowds. Shoppers and carolers. Santas and lap-sitters. Children and elves. And pickpockets.

In my travels, I have encountered a pair of quick-fingered young Russians who lifted all my unexposed film from a hard-to-open camera case, an Argentinian couple who sprayed the back of my jacket then pretended to be drying it while trying to steal my wallet, and a Ukranian who was beating his son because he hadn't picked enough pockets that day.

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Rock Cities Suspended In Air

October 13 2011 by Sam Lowe

93 met.jpgKALAMBACA, Greece - The ancient ruins at Athens, Delphi and Olympia are impressive, awe-inspiring, and everything I had expected from reading about them as far back as grade school, which was several years ago, maybe even longer ago than that. But the site that affected me the most was the Meteora, located on the plains of Thessaly in the northeastern sector of the country.

It is mind-boggling, and that's putting it mildly.

Basically, the Meteora is a number of monasteries that were built on top of huge rock pinnacles centuries ago by monks using nothing but hand tools, ropes and pulleys. Alexander Eliot, writing for the Life World Library, described them as "monasteries perched upon the pinnacles like storks' nests on chimney pots."

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Slipping Through the Parthenon

June 21 2011 by Sam Lowe

24 acr.jpg
ATHENS - If you come here expecting to find solitude and spend time running barefoot through the ruins while communing with the gods whose spirits are, allegedly, still hanging around the Acropolis, you will be in for a certain amount of disappointment. An estimated 12,000 people visit the site every day, and on most days, every one of them shows up. So if several tourist buses arrive at the same time, there's a potential for human traffic jams.
And that situation will be worsened if you're not wearing the proper shoes.
Since the Acropolis is an absolute must for sightseers, historians, dealers in antiquity and just plain curious folks, most are already familiar with at least some of its history. They'll know, for instance, that this isn't the only acropolis in Greece. The word is derived from akros (Greek for "edge" or "extremity") and polis ("city"), and there are many others in the country, usually situated on hilltops so the gods would have a better view of their realms.

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My Accidental Encounter With Scotty's Castle

March 25 2011 by Sam Lowe

scotty's castle.jpgON THE NEVADA BORDER - While driving south on U.S. 95 between Reno and Las Vegas, I spotted a small sign that read "Scotty's Castle" with an arrow pointing west. It might not have drawn my attention except for this one factor:

Several years earlier, I read a newspaper story about an old desert rat who used empty wine and beer bottles to build a house somewhere in the California desert. Always on the lookout for things of an unusual nature, I instantly figured that this must be the bottle place so I turned west on Highway 267 and went to take a look.

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The Curse of the Rocks

December 16 2010 by Sam Lowe

iStock_000001267575XSmall.jpgThe northeastern sector of Arizona is separated from the Hawaiian Islands by more than 3,000 air miles, a large body of water, climate, humidity and innumerable geologic and cultural differences. Despite that, they do have one thing in common - the Curse of the Rocks.

Visitors to the Petrified National Forest near Holbrook, Ariz., are warned that picking up petrified wood is not only illegal, it can also be costly. Fines for those caught trying to smuggle out pieces of the wood, even the tiniest sliver, can run as high as $275. Even worse, those who steal often run afoul of the curse.

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October 20 2010 by Sam Lowe

09 getty.jpgMy initial visit to Gettysburg National Military Park was on a cold and dreary October day more than 20 years ago. It was so chilly, in fact, that my stay lasted less than an hour so, obviously, I didn't see much. Or learn much.

Determined to make up for that bit of wimp-related brevity, I returned in September and was amazed not only at what I had missed the first time, but by the addition of the splendid new Visitor Center and Museum. Opened in 2008, it is filled with history, artifacts, photographs and other reminders of the battle that took place here in July 1863.

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A Monumental Visit to the Black Hills

September 10 2010 by Sam Lowe

Sam Lowe black hills1.jpgWhen autumn arrives, my thoughts turn to the Black Hills of South Dakota because fall is the ideal time to go there and be amazed.

Situated just south of Rapid City, the hills are covered with pines that, from a distance, appear to be black. To the Lakota Sioux, the original inhabitants of the area, they were "paba sapa," or "hills that are black." The name has stuck despite more than a century of dispute over actual ownership of the land.

The hills themselves are worth a visit due to the dense forests, relatively untamed wilderness, herds of wild animals and a landscape dotted with unearthly erosions and strange rock formations. But it is the two massive stone sculptures that draw the most attention, and justifiably so.

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Giant Indian Heads Stand Guard Across the Land

June 28 2010 by Sam Lowe

img742.jpgWAIALUA, Hawaii -Between the palm trees and a patch of bare land on Oahu, on the north shore of Hawaii's most populous island, there stands a huge wooden carving of the head of an Indian. He is weathered and stoic, having survived the plentiful rains and ample sunshine that beat steadily down upon his countenance. He is also the last of his kind.

The carving is the final giant head sculpted by Peter Wolf Toth, a Hungarian immigrant who became interested in the plight of the Indian while studying American history prior to becoming a citizen of the United States. He considered their early treatment by settlers and the federal government inhumane, so in 1972, he set out to make a statement of protest. He called it "the Trail of the Whispering Giants," and his goal was to carve and leave one of his massive sculptures in every state.

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Restoring a Japanese Treasure

May 11 2010 by Sam Lowe

himeji-castle-1.jpgIt has been several years since my visit to Himeji Castle, but my memories are vivid because it is such an architectural wonder. It was built in the middle of the 14th Century, gradually enlarged over the years, and was registered as the first Japanese world cultural heritage site by UNESCO in December 1993. Among the reasons for the selection were the multiple towers and its magnificent shape.

The castle, frequently dubbed the White Heron, also served as a fortress and houses an astounding number of smaller buildings within its walls. Since it has stood there for more than 400 years, it is no wonder that time and the elements have taken their toll. Some repair work has been done over the centuries, but now the time has come for a major restoration. Under the auspices of Himeji City in Hyogo Prefecture, a three-year refurbishing project will get underway next October.

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Scribbles Deciphered From a Wander's Notebook

April 2 2010 by Sam Lowe

scribbles-notebook.jpgFOR 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.

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Budapest: A Walk Through History

March 11 2010 by Sam Lowe

budapest-parliamentary-building.jpgBUDAPEST - The Hungarian cities of Buda and Pest had grown and prospered for centuries along the banks of the fabled Danube River despite wars, invasions and other sorts of turmoil before they united and became Budapest in 1873. But, although they're joined in name, they remain apart in spirit and geography because Buda is still Buda and Pest is still Pest to locals, historians and mapmakers.

Fortunately, it's a matter of little concern to most who visit here. Pest, Buda or Budapest - it makes no difference what you call it, this is one of the most beautiful cities in all of Europe. And even better for those of us who have reached an age where we prefer to view a city at a leisurely pace, it is easily walkable. And so, this report will concentrate on taking it in one step at a time.

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Odds and Ends From a Senior Wanderer's Notebook

January 26 2010 by Sam Lowe

passport-travel-wr.jpgAmong 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.

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A Cultural Center in the Great Southwest

December 28 2009 by Sam Lowe

albequerque-aalbtower-wr.jpgNow that I've learned how to spell it without adding extra letters, and how to pronounce it without adding extra syllables, Albuquerque has become one of my favorite places. It's not only beautiful and culturally satisfying, but it also features a delightful amount of quirkiness that appeals to us older sightseers.

One good example is their baseball team. Most cities give their teams common nicknames like Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, Pirates, Yankees, and different colored Sox, but Albuquerqueans named their minor league club the Isotopes, and it's because of Homer Simpson. When professional baseball returned to Albuquerque in 2003, the team owners held a contest to pick a new name. The Isotopes won by a substantial margin, an indication that the city's baseball fans are not only sports-savvy but also adherents of the television's "The Simpsons."

In one episode of the cartoon show, Homer Simpson went on a hunger strike to prevent his town's baseball team, also known as the Isotopes, from moving from Springfield to Albuquerque. His efforts paid off; the team stayed in Springfield. Given all those circumstances, the tie-in between Homer Simpson, Albuquerque, baseball, hot dogs, seventh-inning stretching and species of atoms of a chemical element becomes more easily understood.

Albuquerque is also home to a number of unusual museums cover a wide variety of cultural divergences. For example:

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Ridin' The Southwestern Rails

December 4 2009 by Sam Lowe

19-vrde-wr.jpgMy love of trains goes back to childhood when our family sat on the front porch of our home in North Dakota and listened to the chugs and snorts of the steam engines as they hauled freight and passengers across the prairies. This affection was enhanced when my dad got a job on the railroad, a move that furthered my dream of someday riding in a caboose. And when it happened, I was moving royalty, seated in the cupola of the little red car and waving to the wheat fields and little towns that dotted the flatlands.

Those days are gone, but a few avenues remain where I and others like me can live go back to those thrilling days of yesteryear. They're called excursion trains now, but they serve the same purpose. Four of them are located in the Southwest, so with a little planning I can ride them all in less than a week.

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Something Special for Tony Hillerman Fans

November 2 2009 by Sam Lowe

indian-ruins-2-wr.jpgindian-ruins1-wr.jpgMillions of readers across the globe have involved themselves with the thrilling stories created by the late Tony Hillerman. In his many novels, Hillerman combined Native American culture with murder mysteries, taking his readers across Navajo, Hopi and Zuni lands through the eyes of Joe Leaphorn and Jimmy Chee, his lawman heroes.

Now his fans can personally experience some of the intriguing settings of the novels on a five-day Hillerman Country Tour that departs from Phoenix, Arizona, and travels to some of the destinations the author described in his books. One of the first stops is at the Grand Canyon where participants will meet with James Peshlakai, a Navajo elder and silversmith whose name appears in Hillerman's "The Wailing Wind."

Also in Arizona, the tour stops at the Hopi village of Walpi, situated on the top of a towering mesa that rises hundreds of feet above the semi-desert below. Tour guides explain that it was here where Jimmy Chee arrested a criminal but, due to a lapse in judgment, let him escape. The 10-passenger van then winds through the Chuska Mountains on the Arizona-New Mexico border, then passes the legendary Shiprock Pinnacle, believed by many Navajos to be their place of origin.

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Old Ruins Become More Important

October 9 2009 by Sam Lowe

ruins-33-cha-wr.jpgruins-11-az-wr.jpgAs I grow older, I am finding a deeper appreciation for older things. Particularly for things that are older than I am. Having adopted that attitude, I eagerly look forward to excursions into northwestern New Mexico because they have old things there that are really old.

Primarily, they are Indian ruins, ancient reminders that white men were not the first to inhabit the land. They bear such names as Chaco Canyon, the Salmon Ruin and Aztec Ruins National Monument. Each is distinctive, yet their origins are similar. And Chaco Canyon is the most spectacular.

Officially known as the Chaco Culture National Historical Park, the site contains evidence of 10,000 years of human occupation, and several of the structures within its boundaries are (or were) immense, some of them covering several acres. The canyon is best known for these large-scale, multi-storied buildings that were planned and constructed more than a thousand years ago by ancestors of the Hopi and New Mexico Pueblo peoples.

Those who study such things believe that from 850 A.D. until 1150 A.D., the area was the center of a vast political, religious ceremonial and trade network that encompassed a large portion of the Southwest. The public buildings contained within its boundaries, also known as great houses, were built using a core and veneer masonry system that added to the strength and stability of the massive structures.

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So Go Ahead - Dream

September 25 2009 by Sam Lowe

mont-saint-michel-wr.jpgMany years ago, probably even longer ago than that, I read a magazine article about a rich man who visited every country in the world. He owned a jet airplane so he made it to the 300-plus nations in existence at the time in less than a year. Inspired by his success and already bitten by the travel bug, I vowed to do likewise. Alas, economics and reality set in so I'm still more than 260 nations short of reaching that goal.

Even worse, as I grow older, I sense that my time is running out. But, rather than give up entirely, I compile lists of places I want to go and things I want to do before ... well, you know.

Mont St. Michel on the north coast of France tops my gotta-see list. I can hardly wait to climb to the top of the towering church and watch the tides go in an out. Then, it would be off to Petra, the ancient city in Jordan. I eagerly look forward to entering the narrow passage leading into the ancient buildings that were carved into sandstone centuries ago.

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Large Collection of World's Largest

September 18 2009 by Sam Lowe

big-08-srunner-wr.jpgAs a youth, I started taking photographs of big things. Big houses, big horses, big statues. Then, during middle age, the hobby was raised to the next level - pictures of world's largest things. And now that I am mature, perhaps even older than that, I look back on those I've seen and photographed, and look forward to getting more under my belt. My list varies but I concentrate on the funky ones that stand as lesser monuments to civic pride.

There's no way I can ever get to all of them because they are in the thousands. Like the world's largest fruit bowl, the world's largest guitar and the world's largest turtle. But I console myself with my personal collection, including these favorites:

North Dakota has a couple of winners. The world's largest buffalo, a 60-ton concrete and steel creation, stands guard over Jamestown. It measures 26 feet high and 46 feet long. To the west, the world's largest cow rises 38 feet on a hillside near New Salem. The fiberglass reproduction of a Holstein weighs six tons.

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A Waterfall Runs Through It

September 11 2009 by Sam Lowe

50-water-wr.jpgMy two best two reasons for returning to Spokane, eastern Washington's largest city, are whimsical and photogenic. The first is whimsical - the giant red Radio Flyer wagon that sits in the lush, 100-acre Riverfront Park. It's about 12 feet high and 20 feet long, substantially larger than the ones we lugged our brothers and sisters around in many years ago. This one is a slide. You climb up one of the wheels and slide down the handle. It's not quite as much fun as riding over a bumpy road in one like when we were kids, but still it's worth one trip down just to partially relive those wondrous days of our youth.

The second, and most important, reason is that there's a waterfall running right through the center of town. The Spokane River makes its way through the surrounding hills into the city, then puts on a frothy display as it plummets, then cascades while evolving from a river into Spokane Falls. They are a delight to watch, and photograph, from any of the 17 pedestrian and traffic bridges that cross the (at this point, at least) raging river. Most of the bridges are located in the park, from Monroe Street eastward to the campus of Gonzaga University.

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Lest We Forget

September 4 2009 by Sam Lowe

Cambridge-American-Cemetary-wr.jpgSince it happened more than 60 years ago, it is sometimes easy to forget the role American servicemen played in the defense of England during World War II. But the British haven't forgotten, and they proudly display that loyalty in a variety of ways.

The Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial is a classic example. Located in Cambridge, about 60 miles north of London, it was established as a temporary military cemetery in 1943 on land donated by the University of Cambridge. The site was later selected as the only permanent American WWII military cemetery in the Great Britain.

Now it is a silent tribute to American men and women who died while stationed at military bases in England. Row after row of white headstones sweep across the landscape in an arrangement similar to the memorials in northern France. There are 3,811 grave markers, each bearing the name and military assignment of the fallen warrior whose remains rest below.

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There's Money To Be Saved

August 28 2009 by Sam Lowe

senior-savings-wr.jpgAs senior citizens, it's our right and our duty to seek out and utilize travel tips that save us enough money so we can go again. Here are a few I have used or read about.

The free weekends at the nation's national parks are over, but there will be a fee-free day on Public Lands Day, Sept. 26. It might get a bit crowded, considering the zero admission charge, but those with Golden Age Passes can avoid the throngs by going any other time, and for the same price.

Some of us face mobility challenges when traveling. These can be substantially alleviated by renting small travel scooters. Most major cities offer them, but always check with either travel agencies or visitors bureaus first. It might take some planning, but the results are worth the effort.

On one of my last overseas trips, I needed access to my passport number six times and each time was a hassle because once I dug my passport out of its safe hiding place, I had to find my glasses so I could read the dinky little number. So now, I take ballpoint pen and a piece of white paper in hand, write down all the vital information (number, date of issuance, where it was issued, expiration date) in large letters and numbers and tape them on the front of the passport.

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The Duomo From Above

August 20 2009 by Sam Lowe

11 fduomo.jpgOne of the initial impressions many people have of Florence, Italy, is derived from a photo or painting of the dome of the Cattedrale de Santa Maria del Flore (Il Duomo) as it rises above the city, a giant multi-colored sphere hovering over the landscape. It's an image that has been recorded countless times by artists using oils, acrylics and watercolors, and by photographers using slide film, zoom lenses and digital cameras.

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Mystical Sunrises and Sunsets in the Andes

August 14 2009 by Sam Lowe

52 bari.jpgWe found Bariloche, a city of about 100,000 located in the Andes Mountains, somewhat of a paradox because we were Argentina, which is a foreign country to us, but it looks and feels like a different foreign country. Switzerland, perhaps. Or the Tyrolean areas of Germany and Austria. Even northern Italy. Regardless, it is a beautiful place where the sunrises and sunsets are as magnificent as anywhere else in the world.

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Funny Name, Beautiful Town

August 7 2009 by Sam Lowe

128-cbury.jpgIf you go to the English town of Bury St. Edmunds, and you really should go there sometime, one of your first questions will be: Where'd they get that name?

The answer is quite simple: It's where they allegedly buried St. Edmund. But there's a mix of fact and fiction involved here, so the story takes on a legendary status that often blurs the edges of truth. In brief, it goes like this:

King Edmund, the ruler of East Anglia and a devout Christian, was captured by raiding Vikings in 869 A.D. The invaders tied him to a tree and demanded that he renounce his faith. He refused so they shot him full of arrows, decapitated him and threw his head into the nearby woods. While searching for the head, his followers allegedly heard a voice calling, "Here, here, here!" and found the severed head being guarded by a wolf. When laid in a coffin, Edmund's head and body were mysteriously reunited and he was proclaimed a saint.

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Something Special for Seniors

July 31 2009 by Sam Lowe

Senior-travel.jpgThose of us who have reached that age of wisdom commonly referred to as "AARP eligible" would do well to check out the special discounts now being offered to us by Best Western International. Especially those who are fond of travel.

AARP members and guests 55 and older may save as much as 25 percent on room rates at Best Western hotels in the United States and Canada, as well as several Best Westerns throughout the world. It's easy - reserve a hotel room online by booking the AARP member rate, or call the Worldwide Reservation Offices and ask for the AARP member rate. Either way, you get the savings. All Best Westerns offer a 10 percent reduction off the best available rate, but some go as high as 25 percent under their deep discount program. There's no expiration date for the 10 percenters, but the deep discounts can start and stop at owner discretion so it's best to check frequently and book quickly.

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Forts That Know Some Answers

July 24 2009 by Sam Lowe

blog 18 photo.jpgPrior to visiting some old Civil War forts in the South, I had no idea they were not only good history lessons, but also great sources of trivia. To support that contention, here are three examples.

Question: Who was Fort Pulaski named for:

Answer: Count Casimir Pulaski, a Pole who became a hero during the Revolutionary War. The fort, located on the marshlands of the Georgia coast just east of Savannah, was also inadvertantly responsible for changing wartime defense strategy worldwide. On April 11, 1862, it was the first masonry fortification battered by Union rifled cannon. These accurate, long-range weapons shattered the fort's walls from more than a mile away, and the target fell after a 30-hour bombardment.

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Buckingham Palace

July 17 2009 by Sam Lowe

20 wtown.jpgThe images we usually bring home from London almost invariably include exterior shots of Buckingham Palace, primarily because of its architectural splendor, secondarily because most people never get to see the interior.

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Pickpockets: They're Everywhere

July 10 2009 by Sam Lowe

blog 17 photo200.jpgOn a recent trip to South America, we were warned repeatedly about the presence of pickpockets. The warnings were similar to those on every visit to a major city, and my wife and I give them our full attention because I once lost several rolls of film to these handymen on the streets of Moscow.

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A Tribute to Uncommon Valor

July 3 2009 by Sam Lowe

blog 16 photo.jpgAt first glance, the National Museum of the Marine Corps looks like a giant launching pad because of the 210-foot steel mast rising at an angle high above the main structure. But it's only a fleeting image, one that vanishes immediately with the realization that the angle is exactly that of the flagpole being raised on Iwo Jima in the classic photo taken by Joe Rosenthal during World War II.

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Gone But Never Forgotten

June 27 2009 by Sam Lowe

blog 15 200.jpg Although not a big Civil War buff, I do seek out battlefields from that conflict whenever there's one nearby. So it was fortunate that I was in Prince William County, Va., recently because the first major battle of the war occurred there. On July 21, 1861, enthusiastic volunteers in colorful uniforms representing both the Union and Confederacy took up positions on the rolling hills near the small town of Manassas.

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Where Old News is Still Big News

June 26 2009 by Sam Lowe

blog 13 photo Small.jpgMy 40-plus years as a newspaper reporter played a big part in my desire to tour the Newseum, a new exhibition hall located at the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and Sixth Street N.W., between the White House and the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. I was a bit hesitant at first, unsure of what to look for because the media aren't normally subjects for a museum. But what I found went far beyond my expectations.

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The Haunting Faces of War

June 20 2009 by Sam Lowe

blog 14 photo 200.jpgThree memorials at west end of the Capitol Mall in Washington, D.C., have had a long-lasting effect on me. I had seen a multitude of photos and countless numbers of television clips about them, but it wasn't until I approached them in person that they had their intended impact, just as they do to most others who visit there.

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Carlsbad Caverns National Park

June 12 2009 by Sam Lowe

Cavern.jpgThere are two ways to reach the bottom at Carlsbad Caverns National Park in southeastern New Mexico. The more venturesome may choose to walk the Natural Entrance Route. This option is not recommended for the pot-of-belly or the weak-of-knee because it's about a mile long and it's all downhill getting there and all uphill getting back.

But people my age can take the elevator, an experience unto itself. It's old (installed in 1931), it goes deep (750 feet one way which makes it the longest elevator ride in the state), and it travels at the rate of 9 miles per hour (definitely not express speed but considerably faster than hiking the Natural Entrance Route).

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Strolling Through Savannah

May 29 2009 by Sam Lowe

Savannah_Stroll.jpgThree key words for anyone planning a vacation in Savannah - good walking shoes.

Although he probably didn't realize it at the time, Gen. James Edward Oglethorpe must have had senior travelers in mind back in 1733 when he sketched the original plans for this charming Georgia city. It is flat, it has more than 45 cultural attractions, it has massive oak trees with branches draped in Spanish moss. But most of all, it has 27 historic squares and each square is a thing of rare beauty.

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Charleston by Tour (With a Twist)

May 23 2009 by Sam Lowe

Lakereflection.jpgIn my earlier years, I disdained the city tours. Upon arriving at a new destination, I always struck out on my own to see the sights for myself rather than have them pointed out by a guide wearing a neck microphone. But then there comes a time when ease of travel is nearly as important as the adventure itself. This usually happens when the knees weaken, the inhalations and exhalations quicken, and finding a place to sit for a spell takes on greater importance.

However, rather than give up my wandering ways entirely, my wife Lyn and I have formulated a method that combines my free-spirited younger days with my current need for resting weary bones that no longer share my enthusiasm.

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Los Alamos

May 15 2009 by Sam Lowe

blog-9.jpgMy primary reason for a trip to Los Alamos, N.M., was curiosity. Like many senior travelers, I have some vivid memories of World War II, so I wanted to see the Los Alamos National Laboratory where the first atomic bomb was developed. I didn't get the close look I wanted, but I did manage to tour a Black Hole and eat breakfast in a chapel.

Visitors don't get to see much at the laboratory because they're not allowed inside, but the Bradbury Science Museum at 15th Street and Central downtown presents interactive exhibits and displays about the Manhattan Project and its role in the creation of the first A-bomb. Operated by the lab, it also explores current research and technology being conducted in the facility. And, as a bonus, it's free.

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May 7 2009 by Sam Lowe

blog-8-photo.jpgIn these times, when so many of us retirees are concerned with stretching the budget as far as possible, two-for-one deals are a welcome form of travel. One of my favorites is the combination of the Petrified Forest and the Painted Desert in eastern Arizona.

Travelers can take a delightful 28-mile drive through these two natural wonderlands for a mere $10 per vehicle. (The deal gets even better if you own a Golden Age Passport because then it's free.) Either way, a trip through the 93,520-acre piece of high desert is a journey into spectacular scenery.

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Tips from Experience

May 1 2009 by Sam Lowe

Nightlight.jpgWhen traveling alone I pack a night light, one of those little plug-ins with a small bulb. It's one of the tips I've picked up over the years to reduce those minor stressful situations encountered on the road.

Shortly after finding a room, I check the bathroom. If it has a night light, mine stays in the suitcase. If it doesn't, mine goes to work. The reason: Because of my senior status, there'll be at least one nocturnal call of nature and I'll need a light to guide me.

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Too Old to Hula?

April 24 2009 by Sam Lowe

Hula.jpgYou're never too old to learn the hula. As long as your hips can take it. And your sacroiliac doesn't give out.

My lesson came from a charming young woman at the Polynesian Cultural Center on the north shore of Oahu, far from the crowds of Hawaii's largest city, Honolulu. The center, the primary tourist destination on the north side of the island, is a showcase for the seven different Polynesian cultures from Hawaii, Tonga, Samoa, the Marquesas, New Zealand, Fiji and Tahiti.

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April 17 2009 by Sam Lowe

Terra-Cotta-Warriors.jpgNothing throws a wet blanket over a trip faster than discourteous companions. They're rude, inconsiderate, embarrassing and completely unconcerned about the distress they dump on others. Over the years, I have encountered many of them, but two were unforgettable.

At a restaurant in Munich, an elderly female co-traveler asked a waiter for a glass of water. Since most restaurants in Germany serve bubbly mineral water instead of plain water, he brought her a glass of that. She loudly proclaimed, in English, that she wanted just plain water, not soda water, and ordered him to make the change. He brought her another glass of bubbling water, sat it in front of her and said, in German, "Wasser."

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Take a Long Hike

April 10 2009 by Sam Lowe

40-cha.jpgDuring an overnight stay at our home, a well-traveled senior citizen couple from North Carolina mentioned that they go volkswalking in some of the towns and cities they select as destinations. They said it's helping keep them in shape while they're on an extended tour of the United States.

Volkswalking is not specifically designed for seniors, but many in our age group find it challenging and rewarding because it's a good way to exercise while making new friends. The American Volkssport Association (AVA) was founded in 1976 to promote non-competitive physical fitness, friendship and fun. There are now more than 320 active clubs in the U.S., and they present thousands of volkssporting events every year.

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To Honor Some Heroes

April 3 2009 by Sam Lowe

blog-4-photo.jpgThe Navajo Code Talkers are part of our generation because they, like us, are now seniors. So paying tribute to their heroic deeds is a worthwhile trip that not only honors some relatively unsung war heroes, but also takes senior travelers to many of the places we used to read about in National Geographic.

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Do You Really Want to Know?

March 30 2009 by Sam Lowe

Statue.jpgWhen dining on foreign food in a foreign country, I always face the same dilemma - should I ask what this stuff is made of or do I really want to know?

There was a time, back in my younger years, when I would never hesitate to devour whatever was set in front of me in a restaurant in a faraway place. But now, being a senior, I tend to be a bit more cautious. Some may say it comes with aging; I prefer to call it the wisdom that comes with 60-plus years of experience.

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An Excellent Investment

March 20 2009 by Sam Lowe

ExcellentInvestment.jpgOne of the best investments I have ever made cost a mere $10 but over the years it has saved me close to $1,000. It's a Golden Age Passport, a lifetime entrance pass to national parks, monuments, historic sites, recreation areas and national wildlife refuges that charge an entrance fee.

The pass is for citizens or permanent residents of the United States age 62 or older. Once obtained, it grants free admission to the person whose name appears on the pass and any accompanying passengers in a private vehicle if a park has a per vehicle fee. When a per person fee is charged, the passport admits the signee, spouse and children.

The passport must be obtained in person at a federal area where an entrance fee is charged. You must show proof of age and residency, something like a drivers license, birth certificate or similar document. The pass is non-transferable and does not cover or reduce special recreation permit fees or fees charged by concessioners.

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Some Good Old Days Haven't Gone

March 10 2009 by Sam Lowe

08 fcolumbia_200x200.jpgHaving reached that age when any reference to "the good old days" takes on added meaning because I was there for a lot of them, I was quite taken with Columbia, an old mining town that's also a historical state park, located in California's Tuolomne County near Yosemite National Park.

This is an ideal place for senior travelers for a couple of reasons:

First, it's easily walkable and reminiscent of the small villages where so many of us grew up. The main street is only two blocks long, it's flat and there are no cobblestones to stumble over. And, as a bonus, they don't allow cars or loud music on the main drag.

Second, Columbia takes its job of being an historical state park very seriously. Every morning, the shopkeepers put on their period costumes and crank open the huge steel doors that guard the stores against fire. Then the women bustle onto the sidewalks, clad in long skirts and whisking homemade brooms to maneuver the previous day's dust off the wooden sidewalks and back onto the dirt road that bisects the town.

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