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Archive for September, 2014

A Star-Spangled Spectacular

By Linda Tancs

Festivities are reaching a fever pitch this weekend in Baltimore, Maryland, as the city celebrates the 200th anniversary of the national anthem with a Star-Spangled Spectacular.  Lawyer Francis Scott Key wrote the anthem as he watched the Battle of Baltimore from the harbor during the War of 1812, so what better place to throw a party!  Highlights include the arrival of tall ships, Navy ships, Navy gray hulls and the Blue Angels and the biggest fireworks display ever on the Chesapeake.  The anthem has four stanzas although only the first one is commonly sung.  Here it is in its entirety:

Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
‘Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more!
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Mountain Biking in the Caucasus

By Linda Tancs

Marking the border between Georgia and Russia, the Caucasus Mountains (the highest mountain range in Europe–sorry, Alps) offer bikers a spellbinding tour among the high and low Caucasus. The lower Caucasus tower over the capital city Tbilisi, where forest paths meander through quaint villages and greenways. From the village of Khazbegi in the Greater (high) Caucasus at the foot of Mount Kazbek (one of the highest mountains in Georgia), riders can descend the Dariali Gorge, punctuated by vertical walls of rock marking the border with Russia. From there a journey through the Sno Valley to the granite cliffs of Mount Chauchebi offers more dramatic scenery, churches and historical sites. When your legs get weary, take advantage of Georgian hospitality. Guests are, after all, a gift from God according to the locals.

Georgia’s Antebellum Trail

By Linda Tancs

What comes to mind when you think of an antebellum home?  Perhaps it’s something stately, with massive white columns introducing the frame.  That type of architecture is quite characteristic of the antebellum period–that is, the period predating America’s Civil War.   It’s a view of the Old South etched into a traveler’s mind.  Fortunately for Georgia, enough of it remains, despite Union General William Tecumseh Sherman’s destructive march through the state during the war.  He managed to spare a 100-mile trek from Macon to Athens.  Including the towns of Old Clinton, Gray, Milledgeville, Eatonton, Madison and Watkinsville, the Antebellum Trail offers stately mansions, a glimpse of frontier living, romantic covered bridges and so much more.  Seven welcome centers along the way will guide you through this part of the Old South’s rich history and charms.

A Wash in Norfolk

By Linda Tancs

In Snettisham, England, a nature reserve is bordered by The Wash, one of the most important bird estuaries in the United Kingdom.  Two of the most spectacular wildlife spectacles in the nation occur here.  One is a winter event when thousands of pinkfooted geese fly from their overnight roosts inland to feed.  The other event can occur anytime upon a particularly high tide, forcing tens of thousands of knot, oystercatchers, sanderlings, godwit and plover to flee their feeding grounds.  The reserve is clearly signposted; just twelve miles from Kings Lynn, you can pick up regular bus service from there.

World’s Oldest Roller Coaster

By Linda Tancs

If you were to name your favorite roller coaster, one with a nine-foot drop probably wouldn’t make the list.  Then again, in 1902 that was likely quite the thrill ride.  The coaster in question is Leap-the-Dips, the oldest operating roller coaster in the world.  Located at Lakemont Park in Altoona, Pennsylvania, the old gal has operated continuously for 112 years.  The amusement park is the eighth oldest in the country.  Get there this weekend before the close of summer season.

Birthplace of Water Skiing

By Linda Tancs

In 1922 Ralph Samuelson invented water skiing in Lake City, Minnesota, rendering the locale the birthplace of the sport.  The city lies along Lake Pepin, the widest portion of the Mississippi River.  As you can imagine, you’ll find some of the best boating in the Midwest there along with plenty of parks for walking, swimming and fishing.  Among its charms it boasts the highest number of 19th century homes for a town this size in Minnesota.  At three miles wide and 21 miles long, the lake is perfectly suited for a scenic cruise on the Pearl of the Lake Paddleboat, a modern day replica of the grand riverboats that traveled the Mississippi River in the 1800s.  Why not top off a visit with stop at the marina building; you’ll find Samuelson’s skis on display there.

America’s Stonehenge

By Linda Tancs

In Natural Bridge, Virginia, Britain’s Stonehenge meets its astronomically correct rival.  Made entirely of Styrofoam to Stonehenge’s exact measurements, the creation is dubbed Foamhenge.  The “stones” are even painted to appear ancient.  Unlike its more famous counterpart, admission is free.

Arizona’s Second Best

By Linda Tancs

It’s unlikely that any attraction could possibly best the Grand Canyon in Arizona, but where else will you see a bridge with vintage lamps comprising melted cannons from Napoleon’s army?  That bridge is London Bridge (yes, that London), the 1831 version that was exported and reconstructed in Lake Havasu City.  Why?  Because the old gal couldn’t handle London’s growing traffic, and the Colorado River resort town wanted a conversation piece.  Spanning an artificial canal, the bridge is accompanied by an English Village off London Bridge Road, where you’ll find a visitors’ centre.  The bridge is the state’s second most popular tourist attraction behind the Grand Canyon.

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