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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

$383 million more cut from budget

A state oversight panel trimmed $383 million from agency budgets Thursday, bringing the total amount of cuts since July to more than $1 billion.

Education and health care, which make up roughly two-thirds of the state budget, will bear the brunt of the 7 percent across-the-board cuts. Earlier cuts tried to spare public schools and health care at the expense of state colleges and others.

Most state agencies said Thursday they do not know how they will implement the cuts or what services might be affected. read more...

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Beshear outlines budget cut plans

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear Thursday outlined his plan to help balance the state budget, which currently is facing an estimated $456.1 million shortfall.

Beshear said he hopes to offset some of the state’s declining revenue by increasing the state’s cigarette tax to $1 per pack from the current 30 cents per pack. The state projects that it can raise an additional $81.5 million by raising the cigarette tax.

Under Beshear’s plan, the state would nearly double the tax charged on other tobacco products, to 19 percent of the cost of the product, up from the current 9 percent.

In addition to the tobacco tax hikes, Beshear has instructed leaders of all state agencies to cut at least 2 percent from their budgets. State cabinets and agencies such as Energy and Environment; Tourism Arts & Heritage; and Public Protection, all have been instructed to cut 4 percent of their budgets. read more...

Monday, December 29, 2008

Chidambaram prefers budget airline this time to travel

New Delhi (PTI): P. Chidambaram preferred to take a commercial flight for the third time while on an official tour to Chennai after becoming the Home Minister unlike his predecessor Shivraj Patil who flew only in special aircraft.

Chidambaram took a budget airline rather than flying first class, for which he is entitled, to inaugurate Bharat Kalachar Mahotsav in the Tamil Nadu capital. And, the Home Minister travelled without any of his personal assistants.

After taking over the charge of the Home Ministry, Chidambaram flew out of Delhi for the first time to Mumbai on December 5 for an assessment of the situation following the terrors trikes on November 26.

On December 8, the Home Minister went to Kolkata to review the law and order scenario in West Bengal. On both the occasions, he took commercial flights, sources said.

Shivraj Patil, during his four and half years tenure as Home Minister rarely travelled in a commercial plane for official work, sources said. read more...

Sunday, December 28, 2008

SC elderly, kids losing as budget cuts deepen

South Carolina's senior citizens may find it harder to stay in their homes, public school class sizes could get bigger and more public employees will likely lose their jobs as state agencies deal with the latest in a series of budget cuts that this week reached $1 billion.

It's part of the fallout of a sputtering economy that's only getting worse.

The latest cuts, ordered Thursday under the threat of a disastrous unemployment rate expected to hit the state next year, slashed $383 million from the now roughly $6 billion budget.

Agencies and universities that announced hiring freezes, layoffs, furloughs and service cuts earlier in the year said Friday that deeper cuts are being planned. Many, including the departments of Public Safety and Health and Environmental Control were still figuring out how to move forward. read more...

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Culver to cut $60 million more from state budget

Gov. Chet Culver will cut $60 million more from the state's budget next week, he said Friday after the release of new estimates that indicate Iowa's revenue is shrinking.

Iowa will have $99.5 million less in revenue for the current budget year, which ends in June, than was projected two months ago, the three-member Revenue Estimating Conference said Friday.

"This is going to require real cuts and there will be real pain," said Iowa House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Democrat from Des Moines. read more...

Friday, December 26, 2008

Fake fire calls, real budget woe

A city firefighter went too far faking 911 calls to protect his City Island station from a partial shutdown, but he was right to worry about the cutback's impact, neighbors said.

Nicholas Vrettos, 30, was busted Thursday on charges of calling in fake fire calls to insulate City Island's Ladder 53 from budget cuts.

The FDNY said City Island's lone firehouse was one of the least busy in the city. So while its engine company will remained fully staffed, its ladder company is slated to close at night as part of the cost-savings plan.

"Absolute foolishness unless they can give us a written guarantee that there will be no fires at night," said retired firefighter and City Island resident Edward Sadler, 92.

Firefighters would have to travel from other Bronx stations to battle nighttime City Island blazes, he said. read more...

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Why wolves howl, and how they connect us to nature

Answer: Whether or not a wolf howls at the moon is still unknown. What is known, however, is that there are very few sounds in nature which have captured our imaginations more than the sound of a wolf howling.

Have you ever heard a wolf howl? Maybe you have experienced the sheer magic of hearing wolves at the Binghamton Zoo at Ross Park howl or maybe you have heard this mystical sound in movie theaters or on television. It's no surprise that we are captivated by the sound of a howl, for it somehow reminds us of our connection to the natural world, a connection that seems ever more distant. The great environmentalist Aldo Leopold once suggested that we had to be as old as a mountain to understand the howl of the wolf.

Let's examine what we now know about the wolf howl and reflect on what the wolf might be trying to tell us in the beginning of the 21st century. read more...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Mac Geek Mike Lee is a committed atheist living a deeply spiritual life

One big thing I've learned over the past four years of writing this column is that a person's spirituality will often surprise you.

The way we connect with the divine is profoundly personal, whether we're members of an organized faith or prefer to blaze our own paths to God and Goddess. I've discovered that evangelist preachers aren't always prim and proper, scientists can wholeheartedly embrace ideas they can't prove, Buddhists aren't always tranquil and polytheists may happily believe in one God. Even atheists can have what I would describe as deeply spiritual lives.

The latter realization came by way of my interview this week with Mike Lee, a name familiar to Mac geeks around the world. Lee and his team developed the wildly popular iPhone app, "Tap Tap Revenge" (over one million downloads within four weeks of its release) and recently released Puzzllotto for the iPhone, an app that combines real-world charity with a digital adventure through a dark jungle populated by big-eyed critters and strange spirits. read more...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

WHEN NATURE CALLS : Boots on the ground a fun way to hunt December's deer woods

Years ago, as a greenhorn deer hunter, I enjoyed sitting in a deer stand about as much as I liked an impromptu switch-whipping from Momma. It was boring. It was tiresome. And more often than not, it was freezing cold. This, in turn, made me as fidgety as a couple of gray squirrels fighting for the last nut.

On the ground, that's where I liked to be. Not being confined to one area gave me freedom to see the hillsides or the liberty to jump from rock to rock on a winding dry creek bed. I could choose the tangled mass of an old clear cut or the silence of stalking through pines. The deer woods were my playground. Unfortunately, playing in the woods like this often led to deer scurrying for cover.

As the years seasoned me, I've learned to tolerate - if not appreciate - the necessity of finding a good area and setting up shop for hours at a time. No, it'll never be my preferred method but, man, sitting in these uncomfortable contraptions has sure helped me punch a lot of deer tags in the past 10 to 15 years. read more..

Monday, December 22, 2008

Nature triangle to woo tourists

- Government plans cottages & adventure sports to put Chandil on state’s tourism map

Jamshedpur, Dec. 14: Kayaking at Chandil, trekking at Dalma hills and an outing at Dimna lake — any tourist with a special room for nature in his heart would love to complete this circle, and that too in three days.

Cashing on this tourism triangle, the government plans to develop Chandil a hotspot for travellers with cottages overlooking the picturesque dam on the Subernarekha and making provisions for water sports still not witnessed there.

Tourism secretary Arun Kumar Singh today visited the Chandil dam and Dalma wildlife sanctuary. Seraikela-Kharsawan deputy commissioner Rajesh Kumar Sharma and Dhalbhum divisional forest officer A.T. Mishra also joined Singh on the recce. Singh also took a motorboat ride in the Chandil dam along with the two officials. read more...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Novices are Hollywood role-players

Baz Luhrmann, writer-director of the adventure epic "Australia," calls the decision his "biggest risk -- by far, the biggest risk -- in a film in which every risk was big."

Speaking from Rome, where he was premiering the $130-million historic action romance, which stars Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman, Luhrmann wasn't talking about any of the set pieces that lend "Australia" its larger-than-life scope and sweep. He wasn't referring to the movie's cattle stampedes, its re-creations of World War II bombing raids, or even the movie's attempt to combine bodice-ripping romance with period western while tackling issues of social injustice.

No. Luhrmann's "risk" was casting Brandon Walters, who had never acted before, to portray Nullah, a central character around whom much of "Australia" is plotted and who also provides the movie's voice-over narration. read more...

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Try the newest adventure in the Outaouais

Fall has always been my favourite season. There is something so beautiful about the leaves turning canary yellow, pumpkin orange and tomato red. This medley of colours against a backdrop of blue sky is hypnotic in its beauty. I feel like God decided to let loose and have fun by throwing a little paint around everywhere.

One of my fondest memories growing up is the fun we had raking leaves. My little brother use to go out first and spend the whole day raking. But he wouldn't make piles. Instead he would use the leaves to design and create a maze. It was an annual event, that even the neighbours children grew to look forward to and they would usually spend the whole day, up in their tree-house peering over at my brother, waiting anxiously till they could come over. Once he was done, everyone including my parents, would line up one behind the other and take turns, trying to find their way out without once looking up. (There were no walls, so if you looked anywhere else than your feet you would immediately see the exit!)

My brother has since grown up and seized creating colourful mazes out of dead leaves. Yet out of this experience I've grown to love mazes and seek them out wherever I go. It is for this reason that I had to visit the Outaouais countryside when I heard of the Eco-Odyssée adventure. The latter is no typical maze. It is made of 6 km of water trails with 64 intersections and shaped like an eagle. read more...

Friday, December 19, 2008

Nautical and nice, Christmas Ships embark on new holiday river adventure

The Oregonian Staff

It is in the nature of the holiday season that by day, Richard Rich skippers a serviceable if aging and cluttered Tollycraft, but by night, he steers the crowd-pleasing firetruck, razzle-dazzling thousands of people on the banks of the inky Willamette for the Christmas Ship Parade.

"Some people drink. Some people do drugs. Some people have boats," Rich said. "It's so simple and true: A bad day on the water beats a good day at work."

For many of its 54 years, the parade ran on the Columbia River. Then 16 years ago, Rich, Jess Heitman and a few others decided the Willamette needed an edition, too. The parade is an all-volunteer event; any donations go toward insurance. read more...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Go Away, Give Back

Never heard of voluntourism? You will. Driven by the desire to fully experience a destination and to give back to it, more tourists are looking for opportunities to provide a volunteer service while on holiday.

Just this month, recommended volunteer vacations as a budget-conscious way for families to travel. At the other end of the spectrum, luxury hotelier Ritz-Carlton recently launched its worldwide Give Back Getaways program, offering guests the chance to volunteer their time to local groups dedicated to child welfare, feeding the hungry and preserving the environment. Next year, Philadelphia will officially incorporate voluntourism into its tourism brand, highlighting the metropolis as a "volunteer" destination.

As David Clemmons, founder of VolunTourism .org, frames it: "This is more than just putting heads in beds." read more...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Great gifts for the travelers on your list

A lump of coal, we realize, might be beyond your budget this holiday season. But if you've got any disposable income left, we have some suggestions for the traveler on your gift list. What follows are items my colleague Spud Hilton and I have field-tested over the last year and can personally vouch for. Also, keep in mind that just about all the things listed here can do double duty in your non-traveling life.

TSA locks: A great stocking-stuffer that's been around a while, but I'm amazed how many people don't have these. These locks, which airport security inspectors can open with a special key, are the only ones you're allowed to use on your checked luggage. They won't stop a determined thief or a crooked TSA inspector, but they'll persuade a casual miscreant to mess with someone else's luggage. They're available from many manufacturers and sold almost anywhere travel gear is found. The cheapest I've found is the Travelpro 4-Dial Safe Skies TSA Lock, which sells for two for $1.97 at

-- Piccadilly notebook: A virtual clone of the elegant but pricey Moleskine notebook at a fraction of the price. Leather-bound, Italian-made Moleskine notebooks have developed almost a cult following among journal-writing travelers, in part by invoking the names of Hemingway, Picasso and Chatwin as past users. But at $10 to $12, they're frightfully expensive. The Piccadilly's paper is marginally coarser than the Moleskine's, but otherwise it's such an exact copy, down to the packaging, that you wonder about copyright violations. But that's a question for lawyers. $3.99 at Borders. read more...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Local governments feel the pinch of budget hits

RALEIGH – From town hall to the statehouse, governments are cinching their belts in reaction to a sour regional and national economy, and the public is seeing early signs of the squeeze.

Henderson County readers can no longer spend Sundays at the library. Nonprofits like the Asheville Art Museum are getting a little less help from taxpayers. Job seekers applying with Buncombe County government are out of luck.

Most changes are barely perceptible except to public employees, but the shortfalls anticipated by number crunchers have the potential to show up in the form of delayed building projects, unmet energy-saving goals and a lack of affordable housing.

Cuts in the safety net will come at the worst possible time, Henderson County Manager Steve Wyatt said. read more...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Trip expenses travel upwards at majority of South Carolina agencies

COLUMBIA -- Despite state budget cuts that have curtailed services and furloughed workers, more than half of state agencies that reported travel expenses last month increased their spending compared to October 2007, according to records maintained by the state's comptroller general.

Most of the 37 agencies, commissions and committees that spent more on travel in October did so by double digits, and some raised travel spending by 100 percent or more, according to an analysis by The Greenville News.

Four agencies -- the Commerce Department, Educational Television, the Arts Commission and the Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department -- posted expenses for traveling outside the country in October, according to the records. All but 19 of the 73 agencies reporting travel expenses posted out-of-state travel spending in October, records showed. read more...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Trip expenses travel upwards at majority of South Carolina agencies

COLUMBIA -- Despite state budget cuts that have curtailed services and furloughed workers, more than half of state agencies that reported travel expenses last month increased their spending compared to October 2007, according to records maintained by the state's comptroller general.

Most of the 37 agencies, commissions and committees that spent more on travel in October did so by double digits, and some raised travel spending by 100 percent or more, according to an analysis by The Greenville News.

Four agencies -- the Commerce Department, Educational Television, the Arts Commission and the Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department -- posted expenses for traveling outside the country in October, according to the records. All but 19 of the 73 agencies reporting travel expenses posted out-of-state travel spending in October, records showed. read more...

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Going for green travel in San Diego

Our mission -- beyond celebrating our 22nd wedding anniversary -- was to spend a weekend in San Diego in as eco-friendly a manner as we could, given two realities. One: Southern California's transportation system was designed by car salesmen. Two: We're really cheap.

Both realities landed the trip in the "nice try" category, and I'm sure there's a polar bear somewhere grousing about us. The experience also revealed a frustrating reality about trying to plan an eco-friendly weekend getaway: It's expensive, the kind of disincentive that suggests "eco-friendly travel" may still be more marketing gimmick than a trend that will do the world some good.

My wife, Margaret, and I live in Irvine, on Amtrak's Surfliner route, which we chose on a recent Friday instead of driving the 85 miles to downtown San Diego. With a AAA discount, the two round-trip tickets cost $75.60. Our car gets about 22 miles per gallon, which would've meant a gas tab of about $30 at the time we took the 190-mile round trip. (It would be even cheaper now.) Advantage: driving.

But then, if we had driven, we would have missed some of the prettiest stretches of beach and ocean on the West Coast, between Dana Point and Oceanside, where the train track crowns a bluff above surfer-specked breakers. Advantage: train. read more...

Friday, December 12, 2008

Adventure on the urban edge at Millard Campground near Pasadena

No one seems to know exactly when Millard Campground was converted from a day-use-only picnic spot near a nice waterfall into L.A.'s most convenient place to snore in the woods. Or, for that matter, if and when it might be converted back.

But on any given Saturday, it's clear that word has spread about this quick 'n' easy overnight retreat -- the closest place to the city in Angeles National Forest to park, pitch a tent, put up a hammock, plunk a hot dog on a stick and pretend for a starry night or two that Los Angeles (a stone's throw away) doesn't exist.

"We used to come up here a lot when we were in high school," says Richard Maldonado, a La Puente-based truck driver and one of about 30 overnighters, young and old, communing with nature on a recent weekend at Millard, a five-site trail camp tucked in a forested canyon above Altadena -- and just two miles from the nearest Starbucks. "And now, for the first time, we're bringing our kids. So it's like a new phase begins." read...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

'Australia' falls flat by borrowing from the classics

Hugh Jackman, a resourceful, good-humored star with the Old School knack for playing rugged and courtly, has just been named People'sSexiest Man Alive. Nicole Kidman, who can be an imposing woman of action (see the thriller Dead Calm), has become a critical favorite for her daring and accomplishment. For my money she was the Sexiest Woman Alive, if only for a few brief moments, in the Baltimore-shot Invasion.

These gifted Australians should have been sensational together as lovers in the sprawling Australia. Without the material to make their intimacy tingle or their passion explode, they seem what they are in real life - just good friends, albeit here, friends with benefits.

And Australia, set in Australia's Northern Territory, a land of romance and adventure, should have been a terrific epic, but instead is a lavish family time-killer. If Disney still made live-action holiday spectaculars, this could have been a Disney film.

Unfolding from 1939 to 1942, it contains episodes of sweeping adventure, such as a half-dozen drovers heading up a 1,500-head cattle drive, a Japanese attack on the port city of Darwin, and the daring rescue of dozens of orphans from a bombed-out island mission. continue...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Game for the big adventure

IT wasn’t the best of starts. Going to Senegal without sunblock, insect repellent, shorts or flip flops at the hottest time of the year was not the smartest move I’ve ever made.

Throw in the lack of a non-compulsory but allegedly highly recommended yellow fever jab and surely I’d have been forgiven for thinking this was set to be a holiday from hell.

But the beauty of my visit to west Africa was that, despite these omissions, it turned out to be exactly the sort of trip of a lifetime you’d see advertised in a brochure.

Our group sampled The Senegal Experience, which gave us a whistle-stop tour of some of the activities and hotels on offer in this delightful West African country.

There were so many breathtaking sights that I’m surprised that I avoided the need for oxygen therapy. continue...

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

New Dakar Rally: Volkswagen tackles big challenge

The biggest motorsport challenge on new terrain: on 03 January 2009, the legendary Dakar Rally after 29 editions in Africa will be run in South America for the first time in its history. Four Volkswagen Race Touareg 2 vehicles will cross the starting ramp in Buenos Aires.15 legs will take the "Dakar" drivers through Argentina and Chile from the Atlantic to the Pacific and back through regions which make extreme demands on man and material. The Volkswagen team starts to this new era with the self-confidence of successfully contested rallies and fully focused on a big task.

"The team is looking forward to the event with incredibly eager anticipation. At the same time, the Dakar Rally's debut in South America is one of the biggest challenges Volkswagen has tackled so far," says Volkswagen Motorsport Director Kris Nissen. "With two wins and a second place in three events, the Race Touareg has been extremely successful this year. At the `Dakar' we'll give everything to add the greatest victory of all to this tally. Everyone in the team knows that we're strong enough to reach this goal. Yet the sport and particularly the Dakar Rally always offers surprises. We will work with concentration in order to prevail against strong rivals in extremely tough conditions."

Four Race Touareg vehicles, four seasoned factory teams

The four Volkswagen factory duos possess a wealth of experience: the two-time World Rally Champion Carlos Sainz (Spain) will be navigated by the renowned cross-country rally co-driver Michel Perin (France). Giniel de Villiers (South Africa), with four overall wins the most successful Volkswagen driver in cross-country rally sport, relies on instructions by his co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz (Karlshof). Mark Miller (USA) and his "co" Ralph Pitchford (South Africa) in June celebrated the one-two win together with their team-mates de Villiers/von Zitzewitz as the runners-up at the Rallye dos Sertões in Brazil. A German duo is formed by Dieter Depping (Wedemark) and co-driver Timo Gottschalk (Berlin) at their debut in the Race Touareg they celebrated third place at the Central Europe Rally. read more...

Monday, December 8, 2008

Horseshoe Canyon Ranch-located near Jasper, Arkansas

JASPER, Ark—As many families stack firewood, stock cupboards, and remove wooly sweaters from storage, it seems counter-intuitive to turn their thoughts to summer vacation plans. Yet, seasoned travelers know once the calendar reads 2009, the most popular weeks and accommodations are snapped up quickly.

This is especially true for those whom have their hearts set on highly sought after destinations, places like NW Arkansas’s Horseshoe Canyon Ranch. The Western Dude ranch with Southern hospitality is winning the favor of travelers from every corner of world. Add to its growing popularity the brief “high season,” a capacity of just 13 families, and a tendency for guests to return the same time each summer, and it’s apparent why making reservations months in advance is advised.

Four generations of the Johnson family work the 500-acre spread, where families journey from far as London and Rome to the retreat in the heart of the Buffalo River Wilderness area. Known as one of the cleanest, most scenic rivers in the United States, The Buffalo carves a path through the mountains forming towering sandstone and limestone bluffs as high as 440 feet, the tallest in the Ozarks. Visitors may explore caves, bluffs, waterfalls, old cabin sites, waterfalls, and may even spot a local black bear. But the river wilderness is more than a place of natural beauty as well as the site of the Horseshoe Canyon Ranch. It is, in the words of the National Park Service, "an island of time and space, a valley where turn-of-the-century lifestyles and landscapes still exist.” Some guests are drawn to the ranch as a place of solace, to be inspired and refreshed by nature. Others travel here to satisfy an appetite for adventure. For many it’s an ideal place for both experiences. read more...

Sunday, December 7, 2008

MENIFEE: Charter effort emphasizes nature, reflection

MENIFEE ---- There soon could be a school where class time is set aside for reflection and team-building, and where students are urged to explore nature as a way to tap into their innate curiosity.

Robyn Rogers is hoping to start a charter school in the Menifee area that would use a curriculum based on the principals of Outward Bound, an adventure-education organization that leads wilderness trips around the world.

Known as Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound, the teaching framework is used at schools throughout the country. It stresses values such as self-discovery, respect for the natural world, and collaboration and competition.

Rogers, a former public school teacher in Oregon, taught for a year using the expeditionary learning philosophy at a charter school in Oregon. She said the innovative philosophy doesn't clash with state educational standards.

"We do pull all of our curriculum from state standards," she said. "It's just the way we present the information, the framework we use, is much more hands-on, much more authentic. It just intrinsically engages the kids."

Rogers will hold an informational meeting starting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Grace Church in Quail Valley for those who might be interested in starting Aberdovey Charter School.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The topping point

Being gifted helps, but there are other factors involved in achieving success, writes Malcolm Gladwell

It's hard to resist Malcolm Gladwell. He's so darn enthusiastic. Reading one of his books is like sitting at the kitchen table while he runs about his house, pulling research studies out of file cabinets, thick biographies off bookshelves, and spreadsheets from his laptop. "Check this out!" he exclaims, and "Can you believe this one?!" Then he gets serious. "You know how important this is, don't you?" he asks. Beneath the force of his passion, all you can do is nod, even if you're not quite sure what you're agreeing to.

Gladwell terms his best-selling books "intellectual adventure stories." The latest, "Outliers," tells "The Story of Success," as the subtitle puts it, explaining how and why some people are more successful than others. The explanation is not simply that they are the best, Gladwell repeatedly proclaims, but rather that their aptitude has been enhanced by advantage and opportunity - because of family background, circumstances, and chance.

Only Horatio Alger would find this thesis shocking - and it should be noted that Alger was born in the 1830s, the same decade as the self-made titans of American industrialism, whose success, Gladwell argues, had everything to do with being born at the exact moment to take advantage of the industrial transformation of the economy during the 1860s and '70s. In other words, Alger's rags-to-riches narratives may have represented what he thought he was seeing around him, but the reality was more complicated.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Nature worth saving for future generations

The arguments regarding protected status for Gold Butte can go on forever and ever. As a lifelong Nevadan, a lover of back country and the off-road life, I cannot see why some people are upset.

I love to ride my ATV, but I never believed that gave me the right to ride it anywhere I pleased, regardless of signs or fragility of the terrain.

As a younger person I hiked the Grand Canyon. Next to Nevada sites, it is my favorite place to be.

But I can no longer hike those trails or ride the mules because of age and infirmity. However, I am not joining the fight to put a cog-wheel train in so I can once again go to the bottom of the canyon and back. I would never, so long as there is breath in my body, agree to putting any more man-made contraptions in this most glorious of places.

The point is, nobody on this earth gets to go everywhere he wants by any means he can devise to go there. Why do some people think we can just tear up all of Nevada because it is in the desert?

I am willing to sacrifice getting to some places to preserve them for those who will follow me and will be able to hike in. Hiking in, or going by horse or mule, is integral to the adventure. The simple sound of silence is soul moving.

Give Gold Butte a chance. The people will come. I will visit the periphery, and be delighted with that. Many years ago I was there with a geology class, and I could do the hike then.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

In Nebraska City, take a Tree Adventure hike to get close to nature and history

NEBRASKA CITY, Neb. | Standing on the terrace of Lied Lodge on a cloudless fall morning, tour guide Carol Crook pointed out Arbor Lodge, the white frame mansion of J. Sterling Morton, rising just above the treetops.

In the foreground stood an experimental plantation of hazelnut trees, testing more than 100 varieties against long-term blight and a testament to Morton, the founder of Arbor Day. As if on cue, a blue jay flew across in front of the panorama. More than 170 species of birds have been identified on these grounds, Crook told us.

When Morton and his wife, Caroline, arrived in southeast Nebraska in 1855, “Nebraska City was a river freight town,” Crook said. The couple built a small cottage and immediately began planting trees on their 168-acre plot of prairie land. As editor of the Nebraska News, Morton exhorted his readers to plant trees and care for them.

In 1872 Morton pushed for Arbor Day to be declared in the young state of Nebraska. Leading others to find seedlings of the cottonwoods and burr oaks that grew along the banks of the Missouri River and nearby South Table Creek, he organized an observance in which schoolchildren and their parents across the state planted a million trees. Some 800 more non-native trees Morton had ordered didn’t arrive in time and were planted the following week.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

High adventure in Pahang

From the sandy white beaches to the highest peak in the peninsula, Pahang offers more than just a holiday. It gives an opportunity to be one with nature and to learn about the environment besides appreciating the natural heritage.


Long stretches of white sandy beaches on which one can just laze around and do nothing but enjoy and drink in the beauty of the sea. With turquoise blue waters and nice green hills across the horizons, it is a beautiful place to be to enjoy peace or alternatively to ride the rolling waves.

Pulau Keladi, Pekan

This is the Royal Silk Weaving Centre in Pahang. Famous for their woven silk materials, the centre makes them specially for the royal house, dignitaries and also for sale to patrons who visit. Called kain tenun Pahang or Pahang woven material, it is also sold by the National Craft Centre around the country and in the state capital Kuantan at Kompleks Teruntum.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Of culture, nature, Adventure with luxury

Eighth wonder of the world, Sigiriya Rock, is one of the most popular destinations in Sri Lanka. It never experienced a dull moment even when the overseas arrivals are low. Sri Lankan visitors to the great heritage site increased with every year.

To accommodate the inflow of travellers, more and more hotels and resorts are being added. The latest is the 'Kassapa Lion Rock' Hotel, which has a great location overlooking Sigiriya and Pidurangala rocks.
Ideally located in the heart of the cultural triangle, on a ten acre land facing the magnificent Sigiriya and Pidurangala rock in the midst of a small village named Digampathana, it is just 20 minutes away from the Dambulla town and ten minutes drive from Habarana.

'Out of all the hotels, we got the best view of the rocks. Most of the promotional materials ignored Pidurangala, which is equally important as a historical and as an archeological factor. We promote both rocks' explained Nilan Wickremasinghe, Director of the hotel. read more...

Monday, December 1, 2008

`Twilight' time: Vamp tale seeks blockbuster bite

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Girl-meets-boy stories are not the usual stuff of Hollywood blockbusters, even when it's girl-meets-vampire.

Neither are stories created by women, with a predominantly female audience, shot on a bargain budget with a cast of relative unknowns and released by an independent distributor trying to establish a niche among Hollywood's half-dozen studio behemoths.

Yet Summit Entertainment has good reason to believe "Twilight" will have more box-office bite than your typical teen soap about an awkward high school babe and her cool new mystery beau.

"Twilight" has a few stunts and clever visuals, but it's far from the special-effects extravaganzas that dominate the movie business. It was shot for $37 million, a pittance compared with big studio movies that can cost four or five times more.

What "Twilight" does offer is epic star-crossed romance, melodrama, peril, an attractive young cast and an action-packed finale. But mostly, it has arguably the most passionate fan base of any literary adaptation since Harry Potter. read more...

Sunday, November 30, 2008

In his house of dance

'Step back and shake it up': The motto animates Christopher House's career with Toronto Dance Theatre

Getting together with Christopher House is an interviewer's dream. The artistic director of Toronto Dance Theatre is always articulate, candid and provocative. Our conversation this time centres on his musings about his 30 years with the company and his new full-length work Dis/(sol/ve)r which premieres tomorrow. And House does not disappoint. He looks at the good, the bad and the ugly of his career with remarkable objectivity.

House was a choreographic wunderkind of dance which is surprising because he came to the art form later than most. Born in St. John's, Nfld., he was studying political science at the University of Ottawa when he fell in love with dance through Ottawa dance teacher Elizabeth Langley's movement classes.

Langley continues to be an influence. "She always has a question that she's grappling with," he says. "This means constantly setting challenges for yourself. There must be the feeling that there is something more. Step back and shake it up! That's my motto." House graduated from York University in 1979 with a BFA in dance. His first professional gig was performing in a revival of David Earle's Atlantis in 1978. He joined TDT (which was founded in 1968) and by 1981, was appointed resident choreographer. The supremely gifted House was the obvious heir apparent to TDT co-founders Earle, Patricia Beatty and Peter Randazzo, and assumed the artistic directorship in 1994. "I had no idea that my entire professional life would be with one company," he says.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

N.Y. budget cuts needed but they should be fair

Paterson's proposal leaves school districts in lurch with mid-year aid reduction

Under normal circumstances, New York state legislators would be thinking about a pay raise this time of year. The biennial legislative elections are over. Legislators haven't had an increase in their $79,500 base pay since 1999. In the afterglow of political victory and before the legislative session starts in January, this is the time to try to go for the dough without stirring up too much venom from voters.

But these are not normal circumstances. And legislators know it. When they travel to Albany for a special session starting Tuesday, lawmakers should leave behind any thoughts of plus signs -- for their salaries or any other expenses. Gov. David Paterson is looking for minus signs, and that is what lawmakers had better be prepared to provide but within reason.

Paterson's proposed cuts last week could make this session more contentious that the congenial special session in August when lawmakers and the governor agreed on spending cuts of nearly $427 million from the 2008-09 state budget and a total of $1 billion when taking into account reductions in succeeding years.

At the time, it looked like enough to get lawmakers through the current fiscal year ending March 30, but the nation's deepening recession means more cuts. One of those proposed would be to aid for schools, which means local districts that already have budgeted the money would receive less than promised. Paterson's financial team has suggested those districts can turn to reserves to make up the difference, but in cases where districts cannot cover from the reserves, they would likely have to borrow and then go to voters in May with a budget that would include loan payoffs. read more...

Friday, November 28, 2008

Local backpackers flock together

Seasoned travelers tour with novices

It started as a classic 20-something backpacking trip to Europe.

Matt Caskey, then of Atlanta, and a buddy had landed a landscaping gig that paid good money. They decided to use the extra cash to explore Eastern Europe.

It was 1998 and neither Caskey nor his friend had ever left the United States. They struggled with the language, spent way too much money, and slept in more than a few train stations. But in the end, they came home so enamored with the experience that they made a vow to repeat it every year.

Fast forward a decade. Caskey, who now works at MIT and lives in the North End, has trekked across Europe more times than he can count. In 2006, he decided to help travel novices on a limited budget experience what he did. He launched a group called the Budget Backpacker, which leads inexperienced travelers down the same routes he once stumbled along.

"I made a lot of mistakes in a lot of cities," Caskey explained with a rueful grin. "Knowing what hostels to stay at, how to handle lost train tickets - that's priceless!" read more...

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Family Travel On A Budget

(NAPSI)-When traveling with the family, you can still steer toward fun and economy by following a few simple budget-stretching suggestions:

• Save on Entertainment--Hotels that have in-room entertainment, such as on-demand movies, video games and DVDs for its guests, can help to reduce your entertainment costs.

• Look for hotels with pools and fitness centers. It's always a good idea when traveling with the kids to make sure the hotel you stay at has a pool and a fitness center. A dip in the pool after a hard day's drive or an afternoon seeing the sights is sure to give the kids a ripple of excitement. Fitness centers are a big plus for the grown-ups who also like to unwind with a workout and a sauna. Check out the schedule and you may find a yoga or Pilates class.

• Choose the road less traveled. Hotel rates can be substantially lower in the suburban parts of major cities than in the more tourist-oriented parts of town. read more...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Top Ten Solo Travel Destinations

CHICAGO, Nov 11, 2008 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- iExplore ( announced today their list of Top Ten Solo Travel Destinations as determined by their Adventure Travel Consultants.
1. Serengeti, Tanzania
A wide variety of tours and loads of other travelers make this once in a lifetime sight one of the easiest for solo travelers.
2. Sydney, Australia
Make some friends at your hostel at Kings Cross, then go out to explore the beaches, nightlife, Macquarie Street, and the Opera House together.
3. Cuzco, Peru
It's hard not to meet people in South America's traveler epicenter; Cuzco is everything a solo traveler could want.
4. Bora Bora, French Polynesia
If paradise is your first thought when planning a solo vacation, look no further than Bora Bora.
5. Antigua, Guatemala
With more language schools per capita than anywhere else in the world, it is no wonder Antigua is a favorite stop on the gringo trail for solo travelers. When not studying, you can climb volcanoes, hike, go drinking, and visit with the remnants of the Mayan culture.
6. Katmandu, Nepal
Whether you're here to climb Mount Everest, hike the Anapurna Circuit, or drink beer from the world's highest brewery you will be in the company of many others.
7. Oahu, Hawaii
Whether you want complete relaxation in a natural setting or the opportunity to meet an assortment of travelers from around world, Hawaii's most populated island has you covered.
8. Red Sea, Egypt
For a little R&R and five star luxuries, gorgeous beaches and fine services, try the Red Sea.
9. Phi Phi Islands, Thailand
These idyllic islands near Phuket were the scene of the enchanting scenes from the backpacker favorite The Beach, where one man's solo search goes astray. Vertical rock faces rise right out of the water hiding tiny coves, caves, and tiny beaches of legends.
10. Santa Fe, New Mexico

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

'Legend of the Seeker': A girl, a guy, a wizard and a quest

NEW YORK — On "Legend of the Seeker," the heroes do the work for you.

Chiselled woodsman Richard Cypher and his even prettier protectress Kahlan Amnell stay on the run, dodging arrows and parrying swords as they chase an evil force that would enslave the known world.

Richard, only recently pegged as "the one true Seeker," is likely to surprise himself with magical powers he never imagined. As a so-called Confessor, Kahlan has her own peculiar charm: no person can lie to her.

They cover a lot of ground on their rugged steeds. It's a hectic lifestyle for all concerned.

"Our characters are always on the move," said Bridget Regan (who plays Kahlan), which means she and her co-stars aren't layabouts, either. "We don't stay put. Ever."

But viewers tuning in to this new adventure-fantasy series can relax. You will not be challenged. "Legend of the Seeker" (syndicated in 95 per cent of the country; check local listings) is a quest through the reassuringly familiar. It's a once-upon-a-time retreat into the lush wilds of New Zealand (where the series is shot), jazzed with eye-popping visual effects. Plus enough female cleavage to ensure the audience's menfolk are amused. read more...

Monday, November 24, 2008

Youth in Action: building a better community

Team work, interpersonal relations, building trust and developing communications skills have been the focus of young people in south-west Romania. Some 40 young people attended a 3-day training session that aimed to improve the confidence and skills of participants and have a positive flow-on effect in their communities.

Creative team building activities and training in organisational development were organised by World Vision Romania's Dolj Area Development Program and local non-government organisation, New Horizons Foundation in October.

The 40 participants were young people involved in the World Vision 'Scholarship, a chance for the children in rural areas' project; members of the Association Parent Project, an association of parents of children with disabilities; members of partner communities of the community development project, World Vision volunteers and staff. read more...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Fakenham students prepare for adventure

STUDENTS of Fakenham High School are already preparing for their adventure of a lifetime when they will take part in a month-long expedition to Madagascar next summer.

Ten students from the school spent Wednesday last week working in autumnal sunshine on a team-building exercise at the Pensthorpe Nature Reserve, near Fakenham.

The day was spent clearing scrub and learning about conservation alongside Pensthorpe staff, all aimed at helping to prepare the students for their visit to the island in the Indian Ocean.

During the 28-day expedition in July next year, the youngsters will be trekking through the country's rain forests and spending a week working on a community project for abandoned and impoverished children.

They will be teaching the children about environmental and re-cycling issues and will be able to put into practice some of the skills they learned at Pensthorpe.

Student Charlotte Bramham-Jones will be working towards her gold Duke of Edinburgh award, having completed her bronze level last year.

“We all enjoyed our day volunteering at Pensthorpe and some of the skills we learned we will be taking with us. The day was also good for the group as a team-building exercise,” she said.

She added : “We would like to thank everyone at Pensthorpe

who have helped us towards

this worthwhile life-changing experience.”

Saturday, November 22, 2008

In France, the Vendée Globe Race Gains Popularity

The French do not lack for creativity, and some of it has been expended over the years to develop sports events.

The French were the driving force behind the modern revival of the Olympics. They played a vital role in starting soccer’s World Cup and European Cup, which is now better known as the Champions League, and in Alpine skiing’s World Cup. They also dreamed up the Tour de France and the Vendée Globe yacht race.

That last event is surely the most obscure. But in France, the Vendée Globe is a major happening — a quadrennial opportunity for Gallic sea dogs and landlubbers alike to reacquaint themselves with the iceberg-infested dangers of the southern oceans and man’s (and woman’s) capacity for salt-stained, sleep-starved solitude.

The concept is brutal if attractively simple: competitors race alone around the South Pole and back in 60-foot monohulls without stopping. There are strict limits on outside assistance once the sailors leave Les Sables d’Olonne on the west coast of France. read more...

Friday, November 21, 2008

Affecting Movie Depicts Holocaust Through Child’s Eyes

Thought-provoking and moving, “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” tells the tragic tale of two boys swept up in forces they do not understand during World War II. The film explores the easy spread of hatred and racism and the horrifying consequences for the innocent victims of war. Although the film is based upon a young adult novel by John Boyne, viewers should be aware that some of the story may be disturbing, especially for younger children.

Directed by Mark Herman, “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” centers on Bruno, an 8-year-old growing up in Nazi Germany. We first see Bruno as he and his friends run home from school through the streets of Berlin, lightheartedly pretending to be airplanes. Bruno’s life is about to change, however. His father, a high-ranking officer in Hitler’s army, has been promoted, and the family must move to an isolated home in the country for him to fulfill his new assignment. As soon as Bruno spies a fenced-off field occupied by what he thinks are “farmers” wearing “striped pajamas,” it is clear that Bruno’s father is the new commandant of a concentration camp, set up to exterminate the Jewish people being rounded up across the Third Reich. Only Bruno and his mother do not understand the full implications of what is going on at the camp.

Bruno, a naturally curious and adventurous boy, soon finds himself chafing at the restrictions imposed on him at his new home. Missing his friends, he is bored and extremely curious about the inhabitants of the nearby “farm.” One day he ventures into the woods where his mother has forbidden him to go. He reaches the camp and spies a little boy on the other side of the fence working at a pile of rubble. Bruno strikes up a conversation with the boy, Shmuel, and the pair forge an uneasy and unlikely friendship. Read more...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Washington's Olympic National Park makes a gorgeous, low-budget getaway

20When the economy gets tough, it's time to get going on cheap trips.

I abandoned my dream of an autumn European vacation and instead went to play close to home — in Olympic National Park.

It was a low-budget and gorgeous getaway on Washington's far side that cost me about $500 for the four-day trip including accommodations, food and gas from Seattle.

My main entertainment — daily hikes in the park's rain forest and wild Pacific Ocean beaches — was almost free. All I had to pay was the $15 national-park entrance fee, valid for seven days, that gave me access to some of the most scenic wild places in North America.

I stayed in Forks, a good base, since it's equidistant from some of the best beach and forest walks. The town of about 3,200 won't win prizes for charm, though. Its main street is a highway strip of motels and small restaurants; beyond are miles of clear-cuts and second-growth forest, testament to the logging that has been Forks' lifeblood. Read more...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Desert Islands' first nature-based tourism destination opens on Sir Bani Yas Island

The opening of the 64-room boutique Desert Islands Resort and Spa, managed by the award-winning Thai hospitality group Anantara, has also signalled the arrival of Al Gharbia on the global tourism map.

Sir Bani Yas Island is one of eight natural islands which make up Desert Islands and is being developed by Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC) - a master developer of major leisure, residential and tourism destination within Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.

'The launch of Desert Islands' first phase is a milestone, not only in TDIC's history, but in that of Al Gharbia,'

explained Lee Tabler, CEO, TDIC.

'As the first TDIC proprietary product to come on line, the opening up of Sir Bani Yas Island has given us a great sense of satisfaction, particularly as it has been achieved in less than three years of the company's launch. It is also a flagship development for Al Gharbia and a paradigm of how the great potential of this region can be leveraged in a solid, sustainable manner.' Read more...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Desert Islands' first nature-based tourism destination opens on Sir Bani Yas Island

The opening of the 64-room boutique Desert Islands Resort and Spa, managed by the award-winning Thai hospitality group Anantara, has also signalled the arrival of Al Gharbia on the global tourism map.

Sir Bani Yas Island is one of eight natural islands which make up Desert Islands and is being developed by Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC) - a master developer of major leisure, residential and tourism destination within Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.

'The launch of Desert Islands' first phase is a milestone, not only in TDIC's history, but in that of Al Gharbia,'

explained Lee Tabler, CEO, TDIC.

'As the first TDIC proprietary product to come on line, the opening up of Sir Bani Yas Island has given us a great sense of satisfaction, particularly as it has been achieved in less than three years of the company's launch. It is also a flagship development for Al Gharbia and a paradigm of how the great potential of this region can be leveraged in a solid, sustainable manner.' Read more...

Monday, November 17, 2008

Adventures in growing up

The genre is far from dead, but in contemporary stories its approach has changed. Characters can come of age or "become themselves" over the course of a lifetime. Their lives can be depicted through a series of smaller incidents that mark change, and they tend to be more reflective on their pasts. Just like real life.

Ann Charney's Distantly Related to Freud is such a book, opening with a quote by Freud himself, claiming, "Only a good-for-nothing is not interested in his past." The reader is introduced to a distant relative of the famous psychiatrist, the plain-named Ellen. Ellen at 8 is entirely familiar and relatable. Charney gets it all right here: a child learning to be a little sneaky, one who is curious, imaginative, creates adventure but loves comfort. She is flawed and likeable and very real.

Ellen and her mother are wanderers, a financial necessity painted as adventure by Ellen's mother, whose family escaped a life full of darkness. The European refugees who board with the family are the first living proof of the realities outside their Montreal home of the early 1950s. Young Ellen witnesses passionate arguments in the nighttime hours from the refugees, delivered in languages foreign to her ear. She wants to know more but is denied, and so is the reader, but this is a stylistic choice, not a misstep. Charney sticks faithfully to Ellen's experience, which, as she grows, is loyal to the ordinary, to the experience of a girl with her own adventures on her mind. Read more...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Over the mountain: Thirty years since Rick Ridgeway conquered K2

High up on K2 that September day 30 years ago, Rick Ridgeway was dying.

Without oxygen or ropes, his fingers brick hard and black with severe frostbite, Ridgeway inched toward K2's mighty summit near the Pakistan-China border.

This was before K2, at 28,251 feet the second highest rooftop after Mount Everest, got its reputation as the toughest mountain in the world to climb.

Ridgeway and climbing partner, John Roskelley, traversed a narrow gully later named the Bottleneck, directly beneath a towering wall, several hundred feet high, of overhanging ice — the same one that broke off this summer, killing 11 people.

Ridgeway and Roskelley escaped it only to find more trouble. Above the Bottleneck, they came to a series of steep and icy rocks that had to be traversed at an angle. It was crampons on edges; at one point, Ridgeway looked down and saw a glacier 12,000 feet below him. "The whole mountain seems to fall out under your feet there," he said. Read more...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Washington's Olympic National Park makes a gorgeous, low-budget getaway

When the economy gets tough, it's time to get going on cheap trips.

I abandoned my dream of an autumn European vacation and instead went to play close to home — in Olympic National Park.

It was a low-budget and gorgeous getaway on Washington's far side that cost me about $500 for the four-day trip including accommodations, food and gas from Seattle.

My main entertainment — daily hikes in the park's rain forest and wild Pacific Ocean beaches — was almost free. All I had to pay was the $15 national-park entrance fee, valid for seven days, that gave me access to some of the most scenic wild places in North America.

I stayed in Forks, a good base, since it's equidistant from some of the best beach and forest walks. The town of about 3,200 won't win prizes for charm, though. Its main street is a highway strip of motels and small restaurants; beyond are miles of clear-cuts and second-growth forest, testament to the logging that has been Forks' lifeblood. Read more...

Friday, November 14, 2008

South Africa Route 62: Scenery, ostriches, coast

CAPE TOWN, South Africa—Far from the crowds and traffic snarl-ups on South Africa's much-vaunted coastal Garden Route is a stunning inland alternative that showcases some of the country's most fabulous scenery but passes unnoticed by most visitors.

Route 62—which evokes comparisons with the legendary Route 66 between Chicago and Los Angeles—starts from just outside Cape Town and runs to the city of Port Elizabeth. It winds through scenic spa towns, vineyards and fruit farms, breathtaking mountains and floral feasts—not to mention the self-proclaimed Ostrich Capital of the World.

The best news for tourists is that it is possible to combine Route 62 and the Garden Route, named after its dense and lush vegetation, for a truly unforgettable journey.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Race to the Polar Sea: The Heroic Adventures of Elisha Kent by Ken McGoogan

Elisha Kent Kane was one of the most famous explorers in American history but as biographer Ken McGoogan details in his new book, Race to the Polar Sea, Kane’s achievements have largely been forgotten. McGoogan’s book goes a long way towards returning Kane to his rightful position in the adventure and scientific pantheon, and through unprecedented access to the long missing first volume of Kane’s private journal from his second expedition he provides valuable insight into Kane’s motivations and concerns. Most significantly to 21st century environmentalists, McGoogan also discusses the wealth of climate data Kane collected and its relevance to current global warming research.

Kane, born in 1820, was part of a dynamic family who supported him as he sought his own path. Struggling against illness for much of his life, Kane still managed to fight in the Mexican American War and then pursue a degree in medicine. Becoming a town doctor held no interest however and McGoogan weaves family letters into the narrative to show Kane’s increasing unwillingness to lead a predictable life. With the help of his father he was able to obtain a commission to the navy and then, while waiting for an assignment, embarked on an around-the-world tour which at one point took him literally into the heart of a volcano. “Crawling upon our hands and knees,” McGoogan quotes Kane, “the lava within six inches of our noses, suddenly our heads jutted up above the crest of the volcano, and the magnificence of the crater, literally a coup d’oeil, burst upon us.” In these early chapters McGoogan shows Kane’s intense desire for something more than his respectable yet staid upbringing. It was no surprise then that he leaped at the chance to join the 1850 Grinnell expedition in search of missing British explorer John Franklin.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Autumn Windfall: An Apple Adventure

The apple-a fruit so ubiquitous in American culture that we hardly think twice about its presence. Its most familiar incarnation is as an over-shined monotone orb, mechanically placed alongside lunch to fulfill one serving of fruit in the arbitrarily-defined food pyramid. The iconic apple sitting on a teacher's desk is devoid of the variety and vivacity that should be associated with these morsels of autumnal bounty.
Autumn Windfall: An Apple Adventure

Mediocre apples are available year-round, but one cannot begin to know their true nature without experiencing the explosion of colors, textures and flavors that occurs every fall.

But without wandering nostalgically through an apple orchard plucking the swollen spheres from loaded trees, how can we take part in the seasonal coming of the apple?

Well, as a functioning member of a busy and technological society, I went to the supermarket. Whole Food, Safeway and Trader Joe's-the three major food markets within walking distance of Georgetown-are now displaying the apple in its multifarious glory.

I took the trek to Whole Foods on a Sunday night to witness this spectacle first-hand. I found the produce section dominated by buckets, totes, trays and tables filled with apples of all shapes, colors and sizes. In addition to the requisite Galas, Granny Smiths and Fujis, Whole Foods enthusiastically brought my attention to a number of local varieties from farms near D.C. In fact, each mound of apples had a label informing me of the state or city of its origin-happily the local ones were the cheapest. I floated through the displays picking one beautiful fruit after another, my spirits rising with each acquisition. The prices ranged from $1.69 to $2.99 per pound, but the best deals by far were the tote bags filled with local apples selling for 99 cents per pound. Local. Cheap. Abundant. Score.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Beguiling Tasik Bera - Malaysia's First Ramsar Site

TEMERLOH, Nov 4 (Bernama) -- Tasik Bera consists of seven flooded river valleys that collectively form a riverine lake system measuring 35 km by 20 km and covering an area of 6,150 hectares. It is the largest natural freshwater body in Malaysia.

Tasik Bera is of great importance not only because of the rich biodiversity but also from a scientific, recreational, educational and economic point of view. This alluvial peat swamp supports a biological community that is unique to Malaysia.

Almost 100 species of freshwater fish, 200 species of birds and 68 species of mammals thrive here. Endangered and vulnerable species include the Asian elephant, tiger, clouded leopard, tapir, Asian Arowana and the Malayan false gharial crocodile. The Purple Water Trumpet or keladi paya survives only in Tasik Bera.


Monday, November 10, 2008

REI to Outfit Outdoor Adventurers through New Store in Oxnard, Calif.

SEATTLE, Oct 28, 2008 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI), a national retail cooperative providing quality outdoor gear and clothing, today announced plans to open a new store in Oxnard, Calif. in the fall of 2009.
Located along Highway 101 at The Collection at Riverpark, the 28,000 square-foot, two-story REI will offer the top brands of gear and apparel for outdoor activities, including camping, climbing, cycling, fitness, hiking, paddling, snow sports and travel. The new Oxnard store will feature a bike shop for quick assemblies or repairs, seasonal gear rental department and community room that REI and its non-profit partners can utilize for classes, presentations and events.
"REI is committed to helping more people discover the joys of outdoor recreation, and ensuring they have the right gear, apparel and information for their experiences," said Greg Mellinger, REI retail director for Southern California. "Through our new store in Oxnard, we look forward to better serving the more than 9,000 active REI members already in Ventura County."
To support its mission, the company partners with local organizations that focus on increasing access to outdoor recreation and conservation opportunities. In 2008, REI provided $135,000 in grants to support 16 Los Angeles-area nonprofit partners in the form of gear and/or financial donations. Examples of those grant recipients include Children's Nature Institute, Heal the Bay, Los Angeles Conservation Corps and Los Angeles Outward Bound.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Our golf game became an adventure

Our plan was to play golf on Saturday. Instead, we had an adventure. Talk to anyone who has played the Skyline Golf Course in Cathlamet, Wash., and you'll get a wry smile.

Now my wife and I know why.

Waiting for the Westport ferry at around noon, we took in the resplendent fall foliage that's apparent along U.S. Highway 30. The Columbia was absolutely flat as we crossed to Puget Island. From the island, one crosses a bridge to Cathlamet.

Just east of Cathlamet is Skyline Golf Course, which is laid out on a hillside. Walking the course was like walking to the Astoria Column twice while also playing golf.

Some of Skyline's holes are devilishly difficult. All are challenging. Most of the greens are relatively small and undulating. In most cases, the hole itself was set on a slope, making it a bit like a pinball machine.

The views from the Cathlamet course were stunning. Some fairways contain major tree specimens.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Barbados and budget travel go together

The well-traveled place, which everyone would enjoy. This news has tips on how to spend your vacation on this place even on buget.

Beauty, history and great eats on the menu

Sadly, there aren't many places in the world where the dollar remains strong, but in Barbados—a Mount Gay rum-saturated oasis from the storm—$1 converts to about $2 Barbados dollars, and the luxe accommodations, lavish feasts and lovely vistas cost a fraction of what you would expect.

True, the 21-mile-long island of Barbados—Portuguese for "bearded-ones"—is a bit more remote and trickier to get to than, say, Jamaica. But its gently rolling, terraced landscape, relative immunity to hurricanes and ultra-friendly vibe immediately lulls travelers into a beachy state of mind upon arrival. Adding to the allure, Barbadians—colloquially, Bajans—are an enveloping bunch.

I flew into British-established Bridgetown——the island's capital and largest city within the parish of St. Michael—for a four-night and three-full-day stay. At the core of Bridgetown lies the Constitution River, which allows smaller boats access to the city. It's also the site of the duty-free-laden Broad Street shopping district and Parliament buildings (the latter situated just north of Heroes Square).


Friday, November 7, 2008

Bo's Xtreme Adventures: Off-Roading in Schuylkill County

Over the river and through the woods... Lyrics to a good 'ole Christmas song, of course. Leave it to WFMZ's resident daredevil Bo Koltnow to take those words very literally. In this edition of extreme adventure, Bo gets behind the wheel and takes on Mother Nature's best punch. Reporter This former coal mining site covered with boulders.
Reporter rocks resembling icebergs, lake like puddles
Reporter Rivers for roads.... Insane terrain
Bo forget about it
Reporter It's extreme driving with Land Rover at the Roush Off Road Park in Schuylkill County.
Bolt Go slow. The idea is to go slow. If fast you'll see the damage, blow tires and components on the vehicles.
Reporter If it's got tires Bolt Zubrickie has driven it... He's teaching me how to drive extreme.
Tape 1 15:49-58 This is totally different than street and race car driving? Absolutely.
Reporter Navigation not taught in driving school.
Bo tape 1 23:22-29 I thought parallel parking was tough. I passed my first challenge, now hit the trails.
Reporter With a contingent of intrepid Land Rover drivers behind me... We took on Mother Nature path. She quickly showed us this was to be no leasurly Sunday drive.
Reporter After acquiring our trail pinstripes.... My tank on wheels came to this.... Seemingly impassable terrain.
Bo The problem now is a very large jagged rocks here, there, don't know how deep the water is.
Reporter Lucky for us, we have back seat drivers.
Bolt Your going to take tires up on the ground here on the outside edge.
Bo tape 2 9:17:38-45 As you just saw there is no land this rover can make it over. But one challenge I'm not checking out is this rock garden.
Reporter Anyone with the off road wheels and desire to put your car in peril can traverse the course.
Bo Staying in control is key. You do that by driving with 2 feet. One on the gas the other on break.
Reporter A slow and steady pace is vital for survival. Especially after emerging from a trail lake.
Bo Important tip. When you make it out of something like that tires can come up on a stump like this and get stuck.
Reporter A 2 mile drive took 3 hours. Eventually the light at the end of the tunnel was near and our path was finally clear.
Bo We took Mother Nature's best shots and can't wait to do it again.
Reporter Just make sure you're insured. Bo Koltnow 69 News. Read more...

An adventure along life's road

GREAT BARRINGTON — There is a gentle, unassumning grace that settles over the characters in Joan Ackermann's "Marcus is Walking: Scenes From the Road," which is making a third return visit — fourth overall since its premiere in 1997 — at Mixed Company, where this generally ingratiating vehicle of 10 vignettes, each set in a car, is parked through Nov. 23.

Even at moments of despair — the dry-mouthed anxiety of a parolee on a ride to freedom through the desert of the American West, or a depressed businessman whose relationship with a homeless woman he allows to spend her nights in the back seat of his car takes on a different texture in the aftermath of his wife's unexpected and sudden departure from their marriage — Ackermann brings her characters to a point of promise, of reassurance. Read more...

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Deals for two: budget travel for couples

Its true if you are going to travel for two u can save. Much better if you could avail the group package much better.

If you're willing to be flexible and spontaneous, you and your perfect match can find hotel bargains -- and scenery -- to love.

For traveling couples, good fortune comes in twos. Most tours, cruises and vacation packages are priced per person, double occupancy, with savings to match.

But if you're looking for romance on the road, your luck -- and your money -- can quickly run out. Beach resorts, quaint bed-and-breakfasts and spa tubs for two are rarely cheap dates, especially on weekends.

Here are five strategies for making romance pay:

Stroll across the street: The world-renowned Hotel del Coronado in Coronado, Calif., is a splendid seaside resort, replete with Victorian tradition and décor. You're unlikely to regret staying there. But your pocketbook might.

Even in winter, most rooms cost more than $300 per night, plus taxes and a $25-a-day resort charge.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Budget travel for families: Take fun along for the ride

Why not try this if u can afford? Family travel is a lot of fun besides its a very nice bonding time.

The issue with family travel, of course, is that more isn’t always merrier, but it’s usually much more expensive. Still, the savvy planner can find a way to escape the uh-oh of daily life and find an oh-wow moment or two on the road.

Tip 1: Consider a package

Pleasant Holidays, in the Nov. 19 to 22, 2008, time period, offers a three-night trip to Honolulu, Hawaii, with a deluxe junior suite plus air for $2,420, or about $605 a person, at the Aqua Palms Resort & Spa, a pleasant if compact hotel closer to the Ala Moana Center (pictured).
(Annie Wells, Los Angeles Times)


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

KENNERDELL -- Build it and they will come.

Nice to know that there are people who encourages others to love nature!

That was the idea in 1955 when Maurice K. Goddard was appointed Secretary of the Pennsylvania Bureau of Forests and Waters (forerunner of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources) and embarked on an unprecedented plan to build a state park within 25 miles of every Pennsylvania resident.
When Mr. Goddard retired in 1979, 45 state parks and over 130,000 acres had been added to the state park system, which now totals 120 outdoor recreational areas and nearly 300,000 acres of property.
But Mr. Goddard couldn't have anticipated the 21st century market saturation of home computers, TV, movies and electronic games, parental fears about sending their kids outside, and the consequences of a generation of Americans who have lost contact with the natural world.
The new mantra at DCNR?
Reach out and touch someone.
That's the goal of an organizational overhaul initiated this year to enhance the state's ability to program recreational opportunities and organized activities that might attract new park users.
One of the agency's most ambitious programs was a recent upscale eco-tour run out of Jennings Environmental Education Center in Slippery Rock.
Call it a sampler of autumn outdoors activities. The overnight adventure began with a shuttle ride to Clear Creek State Forest, across the Allegheny River from Kennerdell. Accompanied by park workers, 13 of us embarked on a short guided hike with a state forester who explained the conservation strategy of a large deer exclosure, local rattlesnake activity, a controversial controlled forest burn and trailside plant biology.
At Danner Campground we set up tents provided by the DCNR and hiked again along a Class A trout stream with frequent breaks for object lessons in regional history, geography and Leave No Trace philosophy. Following a delicious fire-cooked catered meal of roast chicken, stuffed squash, potatoes and baked apples, we settled in around the campfire -- they even remembered to bring the fixin's for 'Smores.
After a night of primitive camping, the North Country Brewing caterers served a hearty breakfast al fresco. Park staff shuttled us to Emlenton for a quick paddling lesson and guided canoe trip 7 miles downriver to Parker. The adventure ended with a buffet dinner at Foxburg's Allegheny Grill and free time to browse through the town's bustling Art, Food and Wine Festival.
The Fall Foliage Foray's $100-per-person price tag included four prepared meals and snacks, overnight tent and site rental, transportation, local guides and outstanding service from Jennings' staff. The DCNR eco-tour was a deal that no nonprofit group, commercial lodge or outdoors package tour could match.
"A few years ago, it was unheard of for us to have [equipment] or anything like that so we could lead trips on the water or a trail," said Wil Taylor, program coordinator at Jennings Environmental Education Center. "But now [Harrisburg] is encouraging that."
Overnight eco-tours are the most ambitious part of DCNR's new proactive programming initiative. They're still considered experimental; only a few state parks have tried them. Jennings has done three.
"You get a little bit of everything," said Gina Hench of Cranberry, a Jennings frequent flier who's taken all three trips: an overnight hike to Moraine State Park, a winter sampler at McKeever Environmental Learning Center and Goddard State Park, and the recent Kennerdell adventure. "For those who are experienced it's an inexpensive, nice weekend to spend with people. For those that aren't, you're with a group of people who know what they're doing."
Jennings' eco-tours attract people from college age to retirement. Sixty-eight-year-old Celia Taylor of Grove City said the recent trip was "not too strenuous."
"I enjoyed getting the canoe one day and the hike another day," she said. "I'm widowed and don't have a lot of people to do this kind of thing with, and I don't have the equipment, either. So it just worked out very nicely."
DCNR is trying to sharpen its ability to market each park's particular amenities and package inter-park activities. Its educational division was recently retitled and a new section for Outdoors Recreational Programing was added. Regional managers were hired, and for the first time in the history of Pennsylvania's state park system sporting goods equipment was purchased by the state for use by program participants.
DCNR Secretary Michael Di Berardinis said the organizational overhaul was mostly a redistribution of existing resources. Little new money was added to the park system's annual budget. Parks are still expected to generate $15 million to $20 million of DCNR's $100 million budget.
"We did a lot of research and conducted a study to try to validate the assumptions of many of us that there's a powerful nexus between environmental education and outdoors recreation," said Mr. DiBerardinis. "We're trying to find the intersect. We think when people get really engaged in the resource -- whether it's bird watching or rock climbing or kayaking or fishing -- it presents a wonderful opportunity to help them understand, in general, how to conserve those resources and what their role is in conservation."
Facing a generation of Pennsylvanians who'd rather swim in a heated pool than a freshwater lake, recruiting new park visitors will require a new generation of aggressive marketing techniques.
"We need to build new audiences," he said. "Part of that is connecting with people who live in heavily built environments in metropolitan areas. We need to find ways to get them to connect with nature."
One of DCNR's new regional managers, Melissa Lambert of Mt. Washington, is finding new ways for parks in Western Pennsylvania to interact with each other and attract new visitors.
"It's a multifaceted job, helping parks to coordinate their programs, training staff, offering a helping hand with some of their programs," she said. "We're helping [parks] to create partners and work beyond their park boundaries."
In one of the new programs, Adventure Camp, urban kids from Pittsburgh and Erie are recruited to spend a week outdoors.
"These are kids who had never been out of the city," said Ms. Lambert. "We taught them things like fishing and kayaking and biking and Leave No Trace ethics with the hope that they'll take that knowledge [home] and make connections of their own, maybe come back and bring their families. We're trying to attract a whole new audience."


Monday, November 3, 2008

Festival gives outdoors enthusiasts a chance to experience kayaking

Wow this is fun!

Karoline Stadelmann and her father, Philip, love nature and all it has to offer.
So when the West Palm Beach residents heard about a sporting adventure a little different from the norm, they jumped at it.
They spent almost 10 hours over two days — five hours each day — participating in the Okeeheelee Fall Kayak Festival at Okeeheelee Park in West Palm Beach. The weekend attraction, which drew about 200 people, enabled outdoors enthusiasts to test different kayaks.
Hosted by Adventure Times Kayaks and Okeeheelee Park Rentals in conjunction with the Friends of Okeeheelee Nature Center, the festival featured basic paddling instruction, advanced kayak rescue classes and Eskimo rolling clinics.

"I wanted to come and try all of the different kayaks," said Karoline, 14. "This is really fun. It is a lot of exercise. It works your arms, and it works your feet."
Her father agreed.
"This is a lot of fun. This is the first time I tried it," he said. "It gives me a chance to spend time with my daughter. I love everything outdoors, including fishing. My arms will be a little sore tomorrow, but it is worth it."
Stephen Wigal, who runs an operation that provides tours for kayakers along the Intracoastal Waterway and other saltwater areas, said the event was established 16 years ago. It started with just a tent at the park's lake.
"We were doing classes and bringing kayaks out here for the nature program," said Wigal, who will present another event of this type in March. "We started doing this as a fundraiser. We raise a little money, and it gives people an opportunity to have some fun in the water. It also helps promote the nature center."
The center benefits from the festival to the tune of $1,200 to $1,500 per attraction. A donation of $8 for adults and $6 for children younger than 18 was charged to participate. Weekend passes were also available for $12 and $8, with proceeds going to the Friends group.
About 2.5 miles of trails wind through 90 acres of pine flatwoods and wetlands. The nature center features hands-on exhibits, animal encounters and a nature-related gift shop. There are birds of prey and live snakes.
Roger Roque, who owns a kayaking business based at Okeeheelee Park, likes that the festival gives newcomers an opportunity to experience the sport.
"We wanted to show people the different styles and types of kayaking," Roque said. "It brings families out and gives them the opportunity to try out different kayaks."
Roque said the fact the Stadelmanns spent two days at the festival doesn't surprise him.
"It is really a unique experience," he said. "It burns some calories. The adults come out here and get great exercise, too."


Sunday, November 2, 2008

Contributing writer Lauren Ennis took a walk on the wild side with Outdoor Adventure.

Whatever climate we have there are ways for adventures.

Outdoor Adventure boasts several weekend escapades that are sure to spark outdoor enthusiasts’ attention, including a highly anticipated ice climb.

“The trips are a great way for students to get to know each other and also learn to cook, learn first aid and take care of one another,” said Outdoor Adventure coordinator Scott Jordan.

Since the late 1970s, Outdoor Adventure has been hosting nature-oriented trips on the weekends and during breaks from school.

Small groups, usually consisting of eight to 10 people, travel to various parts of the United States to participate in these ventures.

Although the Outdoor Adventure group has gone on several trips this semester, it still has ice climbing, skiing, rock climbing, kayaking and backpacking trips planned.

“I go on as many trips as I can,” said Pat Lewis, graduate assistant and trips coordinator at Outdoor Adventure. “There are two trips I’m psyched about, the ice climbing trip over winter break and the ski trip to Red River during Martin Luther King Day.”

During the ice climbing trip, planned for Jan. 6-10, Outdoor Adventure will work with Adams State College in Alamosa, Colo. for a two-day guided climb, and then ski at Wolf Creek on the third day.

“Adams State has permits to climb in the Rio Grande National Forest,” Lewis said. “We get to climb with the help of their resources and guides.”

Trip leaders go on each trip and are trained using Basic Outdoor Leadership Training.

“We use a lot of their curriculum in our training,” Lewis said.

The trip leaders are trained in specific outdoor aspects.

John Gilliland, graduate assistant in charge of the climbing wall and also a trip leader, is trained in rock climbing and has been with Outdoor Adventure since 2003.

“I’ve been on roughly eight trips, all weekend climbing trips and one backpacking trip,” Gilliland said.

Gilliland said he hasn’t ever been ice climbing but has spent lots of time outside and in the snow.

“I learned to ski at age 7 and have been on roughly 19 ski trips,” Gilliland said.

Although Gilliland has never been ice climbing, he said the rope and safety systems for rock and ice climbing are almost identical, except picks are used for ice climbing rather than just your hands.

For those more interested in warm-weather activities, Outdoor Adventure offers those as well.

Jordan, who has been the Outdoor Adventure coordinator for more than six years, mentioned a sea kayaking trip in Baja, Calif., and a mountaineering trip at Olympic Peninsula as two notable past endeavors.

However, he said Escalante National Monument in Utah is his favorite.

“It’s the most remote area in the continental U.S. A desert area with beautiful arches and rock formations…awesome place,” Jordan said.


Saturday, November 1, 2008

THE weeklong adventure race and eco-awareness that is 2008 Carrera Habagat

This is an adventure open to all if u could join, please do.

TIME has proven that physical exercise and communion with nature are two of the more engaging activities in man’s pursuit of wellness. Not the repetitive jogging or kayaking on the beach, but cardio exercises that combine swimming, mountain climbing and running, plus a few mind-bending puzzles that involve the natural environment.

These are the features of the upcoming weeklong adventure race and eco-awareness program, dubbed 2008 Carrera Habagat, to be held in Santo Domingo, Albay, from November 12 to 16.

This coastal municipality faces the Pacific Ocean on the east, and the noble Mount Mayon in the northwest. The town is known for its rare and exotic black-sand beaches, which are likened to the beaches of Hawaii (the main island of the Hawaii state). The locals say that this rare type of black volcanic beach sand was formed from the erosion of ground lava, and is said to have therapeutic benefits. Very small specimens of several gemstones (including ruby, sapphire and diamond) may be found in the magma-black sand.

Carrera Habagat is considered the country’s toughest and most grueling adventure race. The interdisciplinary race requires several days of nature-related adventure challenges. The teams are confronted with basic and hard-core orienteering-and-navigation, cross-country running, mountain-biking, paddling, climbing and related rope skills.

Carrera Habagat is also known for fielding the best of the country’s adventure-racing teams. Among the prominent teams that have joined the past Carreras are Team Santorini and the Philippine Mount Everest Team.

For first-timers, habagat is the Tagalog term for south wind. The race is also called such because the driving force behind it is the Habagat Outdoor Equipment, a popular brand of adventure-racing gear and like products. The race and eco-awareness-related projects started in 2000 as Carrera Habagat.

Habagat head honcho Randy Su explains that Carrera Habagat is the perfect event that celebrates the company’s passion and support for adventure racing and eco-awareness. It also is a practical laboratory of sorts, where Habagat products can be “field-tested.”

“In effect, we are practicing what we preach: It wouldn’t be Habagat if it was not built by hand and tested by nature. The business and development of quality and innovative products for practical and outdoor use, and adventure racing simply grew out of our love for nature and the outdoors,” says Su.

Carrera Habagat also introduces and develops awareness for environment-protection and preservation.

“One of the most important things that the Carrera touches on is the appreciation for the environment and nature. In Carrera, the countryside becomes your ally, the sea becomes your guide, and the locals become your friends. Habagat does its best to showcase the many beautiful places that may be found all over the country, not just in the more popular ones. It’s not uncommon for our participants to exclaim they never expected to see places in a particular locality that are so beautiful and yet unknown to most people,” says Nadine Vallejos, 2008 Carrera Habagat coordinator.

Vallejos adds that the organizers are expecting this year’s Carrera Habagat to be bigger than previous events.

She says, “We’ve always had a lot of teams from across the country, especially those coming from Manila and Eastern Visayas. This year teams from up north won’t miss the chance to join the Carrera.”

There’s been too much reality TV on this type of race. Nothing beats the real thing.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Space Adventures' Client, Private Astronaut Richard Garriott

Different adventure from the outerspace.

VIENNA, Va., Oct 24, 2008 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- Space Adventures, Ltd., the only company that provides human space missions to the world marketplace, announced today that its orbital client Richard Garriott and his crew successfully landed in the Kazakhstan steppes after a visit to the International Space Station (ISS). Garriott returned to Earth aboard the Soyuz TMA-12 spacecraft with Expedition 17 crewmembers Sergei Volkov and Oleg Kononenko, who both spent six months aboard the ISS.
Garriott, son of NASA astronaut Owen Garriott, made history during his mission by becoming the 1st second-generation astronaut. The flight back to Earth marked another historical milestone as Garriott traveled with the 1st second-generation cosmonaut, Sergei Volkov.
"This mission to the ISS fulfilled a lifelong dream to experience spaceflight as my father first did 35 years ago; it's an honor to be the first American to follow a parent into space," said Richard Garriott. "This experience made possible by Space Adventures -- from my training in Star City, to lift-off, orbit and finally docking with and staying on the ISS -- has been more gratifying than anything I could have ever imagined." Garriott continued, "While in space, I had the opportunity to conduct scientific experiments and environmental research, but what was most rewarding was speaking to students. Growing up in an astronaut family, I firmly believed that every person could go to space, and now I have. I took this opportunity to inspire them with my adventure and let them know they can achieve their wildest dreams as well with hard work and perseverance."
Eric Anderson, president and CEO of Space Adventures, said, "We're proud to have assisted Richard in achieving his lifelong goal of spaceflight. This history-making mission not only made Richard the 1st second-generation astronaut, but also opened the space frontier to commercial opportunities, which truly demonstrates the reality of private space exploration."
On October 12, Garriott launched aboard the Soyuz TMA-13 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. He joined Expedition 18 crewmembers Mike Fincke and Yuri Lonchakov, for the flight. They arrived at the space station on October 14 and were greeted by the Expedition 17 crew.
In preparation for his spaceflight, Garriott completed a cosmonaut-training program at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center located in Star City, Russia. During his stay aboard the ISS, Garriott focused on scientific and environmental research, as well as educational outreach:


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Father, son’s adventure triumph

Its a very nice bonding for a father and son.

THERE are certain moments of achievement which remain in the memory and that bring to those experiencing them a sense of great satisfaction.

For the East London adventure racing father and son team of Donovan Sims and Dylan Sumner, this year’s edition of the Eden Wildman Duo is an example of such an experience, that will remain in their memory for years to come. Participating in his first race, the 16-year-old Sumner and his father were the underdogs going into the 140km race, but they pulled off what seemed an impossible task, by grabbing a second-place finish in the seven-stage extreme racing event held in George at the weekend.

Speaking to the Daily Dispatch on their return, seasoned veteran Sims said coming second had made their achievement all the more sweeter.

“When we started off the intention was to just finish,” said Sims who recalled standing at the start at the Nelson Mandela Metro University’s Saasveld Campus at 6am.

“We were underestimated because I was with my son … but we were there at the end. Not only that, we totally blew them!”

Sims had actually only believed that he and his son could compete, when they reached the halfway mark.

“When we got halfway through, at the end of the second paddle, we were in fourth position and I thought we were in it, but I didn’t want to tell Dylan just yet.”

That feeling intensified when he stood at the top of the Outeniqua Mountain range, as they approached the last stage.

“When I was on the top of the mountain I actually saw that we were about 25 minutes behind the second placed team, then I believed we could do it.”

A better choice of route meant that not only did the East London pair – the D Squared team – pass their opponents, they also finished six minutes ahead of the chasing pack, in a time of 15hrs, 52min.

Two other city teams made the trip to George – Team Topie en die Laaitie comprising veteran Coen de Bruin and Roland Pearce, who came in 20th in 20:46, and Team Kubusi, featuring brothers John and James Williamson who withdrew.

The non-stop event started at the campus gate and took participants through a 60km trail run, a 60km cycle and a 20km paddle, to the finish at Glenwood House on the campus – all within 24 hours.

It also featured 10 kilometres of the trail run, which included ‘kloofing’ down the Kaaimans River after the start. It was a tough challenge, but Sims said he had no doubt his son, a Port Rex first team rugby and water polo player, would be up for the test.

“He’s a fit boy and an athlete,” said Simms.

“We started training for the adventure race as early as three months back, so I knew he was ready and what he could do.”

Preparation for the epic, which included the Sole Destroyer duathlon and the Lilyfontein Adventure race, was not without its setbacks. Sumner had sustained a rugby injury towards the end of the school season.

Sims also had to accommodate the youngster’s social programme during the school holidays.

What is important to Sims are the lessons his young protégè, and other pupils, could glean from the character-building sport.

“There’s more to it than the physical aspect, it’s also a mind game where you have to strategise and plan.

“If there’s anything you learn from a race of that nature it’s that nothing is impossible,” the father, said referring to the challenges they had to endure throughout the race.

“For any father you can’t help but be proud of him, during the race he fought on and at the end he was knackered.

“He has tenacity,” Sims concluded. - By SABELO SKITI