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World’s Largest Truckstop

By Linda Tancs

Along Interstate 80 in Walcott, Iowa, you’ll find the world’s largest truckstop. Known as Iowa 80, the stop opened in 1964 and currently serves 5,000 customers per day with parking spaces for 900 tractor-trailers, 250 cars and 20 buses. The amenities include a 300-seat restaurant, a gift store, a dentist, a barber shop, a chiropractor, a workout room, laundry facilities, a 60-seat movie theatre, a trucker’s TV lounge, 24 private showers, a food court, a convenience store, 10 gas islands, 16 diesel lanes, a fuel center, a 7-bay truck service center, a truck wash and the Iowa 80 Trucking Museum. Each year in July, the Iowa 80 hosts the Walcott Truckers Jamboree, a three-day event dedicated to celebrating America’s truckers. This year’s event begins on July 9.

A King’s Ransom

By Linda Tancs

Dating to 1081, Germany’s Trifels Castle in the Rhineland boasts a king’s ransom in its history.  Located high above the Queich valley on a red sandstone mountain in the Palatinate Forest, this medieval castle is where the British king Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned when he was captured by Leopold V of Austria upon his return from the Third Crusade. Amounting to around $200 million in today’s money, the king was freed after his mother successfully raised the funds.

Croatia’s Legendary Lakes

By Linda Tancs

Croatia’s Plitvice Lakes National Park in the vicinity of Bosnia and Herzegovina is the oldest national park in Southeast Europe. Comprising more than 70,000 acres, it’s also the largest national park in Croatia. Culturally, it’s been inhabited for thousands of years by settlers such as ancient tribes, Romans, Slavs and Turks. The most remarkable feature of this park is its series of lakes arranged in upper and lower clusters, bearing serene hues of azure, green, grey or blue depending on the minerals or organisms in the water at any particular time. For every colorful lake there’s a colorful legend. One popular tale is that the lake system (particularly Prošćansko jezero) was created after a long drought prompted prayers to the Black Queen. Other lakes are associated with stories of hidden treasure, local shepherds, drownings and a resident monk.

Flower Show Wows at Hampton Court

By Linda Tancs

Featuring more than 100 nurseries and growers, the Floral Marquee at the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show is big enough to fit an FA football pitch. Now that’s some flower power, marking the 25th anniversary of the floral extravaganza. Themed events to mark the milestone will prevail throughout the show, continuing through July 5. As always, prepare to be wowed by the roses.

Wine Doggies of Yakima

By Linda Tancs

A bung is the plug that goes into a wine barrel. Not surprisingly, dogs enjoy chasing and chewing on them. That’s how Bung, a working wine dog at Bonair Winery in central Washington’s Yakima Valley, got his name. He’s one of many working dogs in the fertile valley’s vineyards, helping his owner retrieve errant bungs as the vintner checks the prized contents of the barrels for quality. Winery dogs take on many roles, like greeter, floor sweeper and fetcher-in-chief. Dogs are such an integral part of life in the wine valley that many of the wineries as well as lodging and dining establishments are pet friendly. Fido will have lots of company.

A Grand Procession in Brussels

By Linda Tancs

Today is the first of two annual summer processions in Brussels. Known as the Ommegang (procession), it’s a medieval procession begun in 1549 as a celebration of the entry of Charles V and his court into Brussels, where the monarch resided most of the time and wielded much of his power over a mighty empire. The processional route, replete with hundreds of costumed performers, begins at Parc de Bruxelles and ends at Grand Place. Access to the route is free, but tickets are required for the performance at Grand Place. The Ommegang takes place a second time on 2 July.

Utah’s First National Park

By Linda Tancs

Located on State Route 9 in southwest Utah, Zion National Park is Utah’s first national park. The 229-square-mile park is rife with history dating back 10,000 years, a land occupied by peoples ranging from prehistoric hunter-gatherers and ancestral tribes to Mormon pioneers. The best way to see an area this vast is to take a classic hike, like the eight mile climb to Observation Point. At 6,508 feet above sea level, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views that may very well include the California Condor. Released in Vermillion Cliffs, Arizona, in the late 1990s, they are increasingly being sighted in the park. Parking is limited inside Zion, and parking lots at the visitor center commonly fill before noon. To avoid parking hassles, park in the town of Springdale and ride the free town shuttle to the park.

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