We Can’t Wait to Introduce you to Moloka’i

“Yeah, I see the van from my desk. You guys just turned right. We are here on the corner. See you in an hour. You have to go all the way to the airport to get your car and then get back.” That was Julie-Ann Bicoy, the Director of the Molokai Visitors Association. Mark and I met her this past spring in NYC at the NY Times Travel Show and after Mark interviewed her, I promptly recorded another interview over the top of it. So, two weeks ago I found myself out in the Pacific Ocean on the small island of Molokai, The Friendly Isle, to meet with Julie again.

We were greeted with kukui nut leis, a warm smile, and jeers about our navigational skills. As for the hour we lost finding the place, who cares? We were on island time!

And what an island! The place just oozes charm and REAL Hawaii. There are no flagship designer stores such as Prada, Gucci, or Luis Vuitton as in Waikiki. There are no sprawling mega resorts that you’d expect to find on Maui. There are real people, real life, and a real down home “hang loose” kind of feeling. The “downtown” has a real working man’s feel to it. It is only about three or four blocks long with a post office, a few local eateries (fried rice with bacon and Portugese Sausage anyone?), and a general store or two. Nothing fancy….but that is what makes this place so special.

So, you may ask, what is there to do? Answer? About anything you wish if you are creative. Molokai has an entirely different approach to tourism. Where on the other islands you are barraged with hawkers trying to sell you a luau with a discounted snorkeling package, here they simply ask…what do you WANT to do? When we were asked, we really had no answer.

Looking around Julie’s office I spied a sign about a lady that makes culinary sea salt. Julie just nodded and said that she would call Nancy and let her know we were coming. That’s it…that simple. So, off we went to see Nancy and visit her salt farm. She personally took us around and explained the process by which sea salt is harvested and allowed us to taste salt that “rolls the tongue”. It was just Mark and I, no set itinerary, no charge, just Nancy sharing with us her passion. Perfect.

Molokai is probably best known for Father Damien and the leper colony, Kaulapapa. This town still exists but to respect the privacy of those still living there, tourists are not permitted in without special invitation. However, a short drive takes you to a paved walking path where you can look out over the small settlement. Interpretative signs explain the history and story of Father Damien and his incredible work with a group of people that had simply been cast away by society because of their unfortunate illness. The place has a definite feeling; the sadness of the history, yet optimism. Today, the disease is now treatable and no longer requires patients to be quarantined. I don’t know if it is the sheer natural beauty seen from this vantage point, but all seemed right with the world as I stood there looking out over the town and over the ocean.

Our last mission was to find a place to stay on Molokai. It was easy enough to narrow down the hotel. There’s one. Yep, one. It’s called the Hotel Molokai, and a gentleman named Michael Drew runs the place. Michael’s story is very fitting of the vibe of Molokai. He worked for years in Southern California in the hotel industry. He got the opportunity to come and run this hotel in Molokai with the understanding it would only be for one year. One year has turned into five and he shows no signs of leaving. It’s obvious he loves the place and takes great pride in his hotel.

He has begun, individually and personally, to remodel each of the A-framed buildings that make up the hotel compound. Let me tell you a little more about the hotel. It has a rustic charm that is befitting of the island. The rooms are open air (no A/C). Who needs it when there is constant tradewind? Though on the small side, rooms are nicely appointed with new flat screen TVs. Again, who needs a TV when you can hang out at the seaside restaurant that is only steps away from your room while you take in the sunset over a mai tai? It would make for a memorable ending to any trip.

As I sit here under the fluorescent lights of the office I am looking at my new tan and missing the islands. Sports Leisure has been going to Hawaii for years and we pride ourselves on being able to offer new, different experiences that would interest those that have visited the islands before. Well, this trip will be unlike anything we have offered for quite a while. We will give you the option to add two days to visit Oahu and take in Doris Duke’s home, Shangri-La, plus visit the newly revamped Valor in the Pacific Memorial at Pearl Harbor.

Then it’s off to luxurious Maui and trust me, there is a lot more to Maui than golf courses and day spas…but there will be time for that too if you should desire. We will explore the interior of the island and learn about the burgeoning agricultural business (How about a stop at a lily pad farm?), see a homegrown performance called U’lalena, depicting the history of the island through music and dance; and there has to be a stop for Ululani’s Hawaiian shave ice! Lastly, “camping” at the Hotel Molokai for one night rounds out the perfect Hawaiian vacation. Leave the tent at home and come along with us as we “rough it” in paradise! It’s Hawaii the way it used to be, and you can’t find it with any other tour company.

Watch for details in our catalog in August. The trip will take place next spring. Maui and Molokai. Who knew there was so much to discover?

You can checkout an episode of The Travel Guys which featured Moloka’i by clicking here!

Reflections on Southeast Asia

Today’s post includes quite a few photos, which you can find at the bottom of the post.  Enjoy!

Today is February 9, 2012 and Sports Leisure’s 3rd Asia tour has come to an end.  As I am tackling a mountain of laundry, I have been reading over my journal from our Southeast Asia adventure and decided to write a blog so that everyone can share in our amazing experience from the comfort of your armchair.  Five different countries in 19 days, trans-Pacific flights on Singapore Airlines, and 14 days in the comfort and luxury of Holland America’s ms Zaandam…it really was the trip of a lifetime.  I’ll be heading back to Asia soon.  Perhaps after reading this you’ll consider joining our next adventure.

We began with a direct flight from SFO to Hong Kong on Singapore Airlines. These folks have their act together!  Though we flew coach, I was treated better than any first class domestic flight with other airlines.  Instead of two choices for entrées (the obligatory beef or chicken) we had menus that included a European/ Continental style offering along with an Asian and Indian selection.  Before we touched down in Hong Kong I had the dim sum for breakfast and was thoroughly impressed.  The in-flight service was impeccable and the range of television shows and movies offered through the personal entertainment systems at each seat made the time pass much quicker.  I’ve tasted the champagne of airline service and it will be hard to go back to wine now.  

What a time to be in Hong Kong!  It happened to be the eve of Chinese New Years and this is the year of the Dragon.  The Dragon is considered to be the most powerful of all the animal signs in the in Eastern zodiac so this year was a special celebration.  There was electricity in the air.

As a tour director, one of the best parts of the job is being able to share in a traveler’s excitement.  Mary Vrablick turned to me as we were walking around Victoria’s Peak and exclaimed with her eyes sparkling,”I can’t believe I am actually in China!”.  I remember that same feeling the first time I stepped off the plane in Beijing during my year of study abroad.  It’s one thing to see images on TV, but to be physically standing there is exhilarating.

After a tour of the city and boarding the ship I decided to take a walk along the Kowloon waterfront which is situated directly across the water from Hong Kong (it is all the HK metro area…much the way the East River separates Brooklyn from Manhattan).   The buildings were all decked out in flashing neon lights.  Have you ever seen a lighted dragon slink down a skyscraper?  I have and it is a pretty awesome sight as you can see by the picture.

After a relaxing day at sea, our first port-of-call was Halong Bay (the Bay of the Descended Dragon).  This place is pure magic.  If you’ve ever seen postcards of those magnificent, sheer limestone rock formations jutting straight up from the sea…that’s where we were.   Some of us even walked through the Thien Cung Caves which runs through the center of one of these mountains.  Loraine Messecar who is 86 years old took my arm and step-by-step (all 300+ of them) made it through…and now I must brag…we weren’t even the last ones to the boat!  Go Loraine!

 Next stop, Sanya, Hainan Island in China.  This is China’s Hawaii.   I spent a good bit of time here while I lived in Beijing from 2007-2008.  I didn’t even recognize the place.  We docked on a brand new man-made island that had a series of new condo towers still under construction.  In true Chinese fashion, the towers were not complete or ready for occupation but the lights displays had been installed and were fantastic.  Neons shimmered up the sides and gave us quite a show directly next to our ship.   Several of our folks checked out a Chinese minority village on their shore excursions while others went to Macau known as China’s version of Las Vegas.  It’s really more like Vegas on steroids as Steve Wynn and other Western big time gaming enterprises have built properties there that dwarf those in Las Vegas.

Central and Southern Vietnam were our next two stops.  First we visited Nha Trang a small coastal resort town.  The weather was still cool enough to need long-sleeved shirts and the town hadn’t really opened for the tourist season yet which was fine by me.   I was able to walk through the center of the small town and really get a sense for how these folks lived.  While still rustic, it was obvious that there had been an influx of money there as new ocean front homes were being built or were recently completed.  Vietnam is experiencing quite an economic boon and along with China is one of the major Asian economic dragons driving the region’s growth.

As we entered into Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon as it is known to us) our guide explained that in ten years the skyline would resemble Singapore’s because of the many construction projects already on the docket.  Elizabeth Fleming and I went on a culinary themed excursion and visited markets where chefs answered questions about the different ingredients and collected everything we needed for the meal we would make. Yes, we cooked our own meal. It was so much fun.  We had freshly made shrimp and crab spring rolls, tomato and egg soup, and a white fish with a caramel sauce cooked in traditional clay pots.   I ate every bite….and helped with Elizabeth’s too.  Thank goodness there is a very nice, well-equipped fitness center on the ship.   With all the good food in the dining room and the buffet I can only hope that I didn’t do too much damage to the waistline…wishful thinking at its best!

Cambodia offered a real eye-opening experience.  Many of our folks went on a shore excursion that took them to a pagoda, a small fishing village, and to the town market. Though Cambodia is still among the poorest countries in Southeast Asia several of the folks reported that this was their favorite stop.  There was a genuine quality to the way things were presented to us.  They knew their lot in life yet were happy, proud, and optimistic.  China has begun to invest in the creation of roads and America has begun to invest in schools.  They know they have a long road ahead of them, but generation by generation their situation will improve.  It was nice to see….nice to be reminded of our good fortune in America.  Regardless of our current economic situation, trust me; it could be a lot worse.   I look forward to visiting the country again to see its continued progress.  

Our next stop, Thailand, is a country that I know well having spent six weeks backpacking the entire country in 2004.   Thailand is an anomaly in this region.  It is the only country that was never invaded and colonized by European colonial powers.   The royal family is very much revered by the people and enjoys a 1,400 year history.

The story goes that when the French approached from the East and the British approached from the west the king told them that he could live without both his left and right arms and legs.   The colonial powers divided up the lands to the east and west yet left what is now known as Thailand, originally known as Siam, untouched.  This is the reason they avoided colonization and why there is such a vibrant culture here.  Because there was never a religion imposed upon the people the practice of Buddhism is very strong here.

Outside most businesses and at the corners of most city blocks there are spirit houses that look like doll houses on a pedestal.  Inside there are small figurines in them that embody different Gods which provide health, happiness, wealth, and protection.  Offerings of incense, flowers, fruits, meats, even soda and beer are left and people can be seen stopping the pace of their hectic day to bow their heads and say a prayer.  Regardless of your religious beliefs there is a definite feeling or emotion that lingers around these places.

We stayed here for two full days of touring.  The shore excursions ranged from spending a day touring the bustling mega-city of Bangkok, to visiting the country side, to feeding tigers or riding elephants.  Yes, you read that correctly and here are the pictures to prove it!  That’s Sarah Smith on a elephant. Hey Judi, watch those fingers!  That tiger cub is cute but looks hungry!

One last stop in Thailand at the island of Koh Samui slowed the pace down a bit.  This town is a very popular tourist spot for Europeans and Russians escaping the cold winters. I did not join an organized excursion but took a tender to shore and walked all over the little town.  It’s very accessible and there are many nice restaurants and shops.

I love Thai food and had fresh squeezed mandarin orange juice and pad thai (a very popular fried rice noodle dish with fresh seafood).  I took it to-go and enjoyed it by the water as I watched the fisherman coming back with their catch.  If ever there was a place to simple escape to and forget it all, this is it!

As I woke up on the last day of the cruise and looked out my window I realized we had already docked in Singapore.  I had never visited Singapore before but just the sight of it made me impatient to get ashore.  The joke is that Singapore is a “fine” city.  This has a double meaning.  It is a fine city in the sense that it is absolutely beautiful, clean, compact and easily accessible.  The other meaning is that anything you do wrong here, you will be fined for.  Singapore has very strict laws.  There is a $50 fine for chewing gum, not flushing a public toilet, or smoking in public.  This may seem severe, but it has the civilizing effect of keeping things clean and beautiful.  The citizens take a lot of pride in their city, as they should.  It is truly a world class city on par with NYC, London, or Paris.  I fell in love with the place and will definitely, without a doubt return.

After a very simple disembarkation and customs process we met our local guide, Faridah.  I had arranged for us to have a two day extension and we stayed at the beautiful Mandarin Marina Hotel.  It was located one block from the water front and connected to a shopping mall so last minute gifts or a McDonald’s hamburger was within easy reach.

The first evening I took some of our group around the block to an outdoor night food court called Glutton’s Bay…and it was gluttonous!  There were all kinds of local foods available such as fried noodles, satays (chicken, beef, or lamb grilled on skewers), and rotisserie chicken wings.  I must admit that I enjoyed two dinners that night.  I ate once when I went to scout out the place before taking the group and then ate again with the group.  After waddling back to the hotel, I fell into the most comfortable hotel bed I have ever slept in…and this time it wasn’t rocking with the rhythm of the ocean.

In two short days we saw temples (both Chinese and Hindu), the National Orchid Garden where over 60,000 plants were on display, and visited a museum that explained the history of the Singapore river.  We followed in the footsteps of Sir Stamford Raffles who claimed it for the British in 1819, and took a bumboat ride to see the amazing architecture from a different view before having a delicious pan-Asian meal featuring dishes from all the countries we had just visited.

That brings us the end of our trip which coincidentally was the final day of the Chinese New Year.  As I sit here now, I can’t believe that less than 48 hours ago I was halfway around the world…immersed in a completely different culture.   We are very fortunate to have the ability and means to travel and learn about the world we live in.  I’d like to thank the folks that came along with me for letting me share in their adventure.  I will begin planning Sports Leisure’s next Asian vacation.  Any ideas?  Feel free to send them to me at Chris@sportsleisure.com, give me a call at the office or chat with me in person when I see you on a day trip or extended tour.  So until then, safe travels!

The Wonders of Cape Cod

The name Cape Cod conjures up images of gray shingled homes with white trim, succulent seafood meals and the Kennedy clan in pressed Oxford button-down shirts. There’s a definite ring to it…and for good reason. The Cape (as those in the know call it) while close in geographical proximity to Boston, is many miles away in attitude. Where deadlines and business appointments fill the days in the big city, out on the Cape, time slows. Time really doesn’t matter.

I have just returned from a four day scouting trip in preparation for our upcoming Islands, Ferries and Towns of Old Cape Cod tour in September. As I sit here in the office under unflattering fluorescent lights, I wish that for just one minute I could be back on board one of the ferry boats making my way across the calm waters to an island getaway. Folks, we have got an amazing trip scheduled, and we have already begun to make minor tweaks and changes in the hopes of being able to offer this trip again in the Summer of 2012. I’m definitely signing up to be the tour director.

I’ll share a little of what I saw and experienced during my time last week. Leaving Boston behind, I made my way to Provincetown (P-Town to the locals) out on the far eastern tip of the Cape. This is an awesome little community. Being the home of and playground for a large gay and lesbian population has helped to foster a live-and-let-live open-mindedness. There are smiles all around and stress is checked at the dock. If you know me at all, you know that I love seafood…you also know I am a human garbage disposal and can easily put away the groceries. It is here that I began my lobster quest at one of the same restaurants (The Lobster Pot, if you’re taking notes) where our group will have the pleasure of dining. That poor lobster didn’t stand a chance. I’m already looking forward to September and Round 2!

Next, I visited Martha’s Vineyard. This is a slightly larger Island with 5 small villages on it. Mark and I were so taken with the charms of the Vineyard that we had a brainstorm and began working on a way to include a stay on the island in our Summer 2012 tour. I have included pictures of The Kelley House, which would be our prospective hotel. After a delicious Lobster Roll Sandwich for lunch we were off to check out the other island of Nantucket. Cobble stone streets lead the way from the dock to the center town where shops and restaurants galore await you. Again, we began to devise a plan to stay on the island and after meeting with a hotel manager, it seems as though this too is a solid possibility for the 2012 itinerary. Those details are still very much in the air so stay tuned for more information.

Okay, so I have officially teased you. Our 2011 travelers that will be joining Mark and me for the September trip are in store for a wonderfully relaxing vacation. Say goodbye to the dog days of Sacramento summer and lose yourself on The Cape. Who knows, today is Mark’s birthday so maybe we can talk him into making a down payment of one of the smaller mansions on the islands so that Sports Leisure can open its Cape Cod offices. If not, I’ll definitely be there in September 2011 and, with any luck, the Summer of 2012. Are you coming with me?

For those of you interested, our 2011 trip to Cape Cod can be found here.  To add your name to the priority list for our 2012 departures, drop us an email on the contact page.  If you just can’t get enough of Cape Cod (and really, who can?), then please check out our Travel Guys episode on this fantastic destination!

The Ramona Bowl

Helen Hunt Jackson’s novel Ramona is a classic love story of life in early California which
authentically depicts the cultural diversity of emerging settlers and native peoples during the 1850’s.
Each year, the communities of Hemet/San Jacinto join together to share their love of theatre arts and
bring Ramona back to life. The pageant is America’s longest-running outdoor play with over 400 actors,
singers, dancers and horsemen staged in the uniquely beautiful Ramona Bowl, a breath-taking natural
amphitheater. The Bowl is as important to the play as all the costumes, animals and props are. The
natural setting makes the story so much more authentic. And the Bowl’s surroundings, about 160 acres of
canyon country, really allow the audience to immerse themselves in the story. Make time this spring to
join Sports Leisure Vacations and enjoy the splendor of Ramona!

Helen Hunt Jackson’s novel Ramona is a classic love story of life in early California which authentically depicts the cultural diversity of emerging settlers and native peoples during the 1850’s. Each year, the communities of Hemet/San Jacinto join together to share their love of theatre arts and bring Ramona back to life. The pageant is America’s longest-running outdoor play with over 400 actors, singers, dancers and horsemen staged in the uniquely beautiful Ramona Bowl, a breath-taking natural amphitheater. The Bowl is as important to the play as all the costumes, animals and props are. The natural setting makes the story so much more authentic. And the Bowl’s surroundings, about 160 acres of canyon country, really allow the audience to immerse themselves in the story. Make time this spring to join Sports Leisure Vacations and enjoy the splendor of Ramona!

Check out the official Ramona Bowl trailer on Facebook

Chris takes on Death Valley and the Eastern Sierra Nevada

What’s in a name?  With a name like Death Valley, it would seem not much.  I was recently assigned to plan and escort our Death Valley and the Eastern Sierra Nevada Tour.  As I began my research I was shocked at what I found.  There is more than just dry, cracked clay and tumbleweeds (as I have always envisioned), instead there is actually an abundance of LIFE in Death Valley.  The park is home to numerous species that have adapted over time to the dry conditions and thrive here such as the Bullhorn Sheep and Coyote.  Luckily, we will have two full days of touring to take in the sights and to learn more about this fascinating region.

The Furnace Creek Ranch will be our oasis in the desert.  You can check out their website in order to give you an idea of the accommodations and the beauty that awaits you at every angle.  Make sure to look at the photo gallery provided on the site.  My interest has definitely been piqued and I am eager to continue my research to learn more.  If you are interested in joining me I encourage you to take a look at the hotel link provided above and feel free to write to me at Chris@sportsleisure.com with any questions…or just write to me to share information or a story from a previous visit.  I look forward to hearing from you!

Flowers & Fireworks in the Pacific Northwest

077 I recently had the pleasure of escorting a trip to Victoria and Vancouver, British Columbia. These are two of my favorite destinations and I always look forward to going back. For many reasons, this particular trip was amazing. The weather was absolutely perfect for the entire six days. We met the “Queen of England” (I will explain later), saw deer and gray whales, enjoyed the beauty of Butchart Gardens, and was dazzled by an awesome firework show over Vancouver Harbor. There was also an unfortunate incident that involved me doing a dance called the Macarena (again, I will explain/ defend myself later on).

After arriving from Seattle to picturesque Victoria Harbor by ferry we enjoyed three very leisurely days in the city. Victoria is a great tourist destination and every sight is a near perfect picture. The hanging flower baskets, the architectural beauty of the Empress Hotel and British Columbia’s Provincial Parliament building fronting the harbor, and the chance to stroll along the waterfront are just some of the charms that keep me going back. We had a double-decker bus tour of the city and for the first time our group saw the elusive black-tailed deer and even happened to see a gray whale surface as we drove along the waterfront. (As the Tour Director I’d like to take credit for arranging these chance encounters, but luck and good fortune were on our side.)

I will take the credit for our group meeting the “Queen.” During high tea at the Empress, she “arrived” and taught us all the royal wave and how to properly stir our tea…never clink the tea spoon on the tea cup! Jess and Frances Mills celebrated their anniversary and Frances was presented with an exquisite 29¢ strand of plastic pearls from the Queen’s “personal collection.” Meeting her is always a treat. While teaching us proper tea time etiquette, she regales us with the latest gossip and scandals of the Royal Family. Oh, and even if you missed this trip, you won’t miss the Queen. For some reason, she always seems to be in town when we are. Amazing but true.

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Butchart Gardens is always a sensory experience. The gardens began in the remnants of an old rock quarry a century ago. Jenny Butchart began planting roses and now the garden is a maze of beauty with its Japanese gardens, English and Italian Rose Gardens, and the famous sunken garden that feels like walking through a postcard. My mom considers it a necessity that I get there once a year so I can provide her with seeds for her flowerbeds. I know not to come home empty-handed.

The last two days of the trip were spent in Vancouver. The city has such a unique feeling. Its downtown is dense and has the feeling of New York City mixed with Seattle, but on a much smaller scale. We were in town for The Festival of Lights, a competition where countries compete to dazzle the crowd of 20,000 or more people with elaborate firework displays. After a nice dinner cruise we had the luxury of watching Mexico’s presentation from the deck of our ship. The full moon and lights of the city made for a perfect backdrop for a perfect evening.

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Oh, about that Macarena incident…as the ship returned to the dock, a DJ was playing familiar classics, and this is where the night turned a little more lively. After singing along and dancing from our seats to the YMCA, I was dared by some of our ladies (Teri, Luanne, and Mary) to get on the floor and dance. We made a deal that if I danced they would join me. The DJ played the Macarena which has an accompanying dance. We got on the floor and after teaching everyone the moves we were all dancing when the entire catering staff of the ship joined us on the dance floor. It was one of the best times I have had with a group because everyone just let loose and had a great time. There were incriminating videos and pictures taken and I will pay dearly to keep them hidden!

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This blog entry doesn’t even begin to capture all the incredible things we saw and experienced. I am including some pictures from our trip because, after all, pictures are worth a thousand words. If you have pictures to share or would like me to send you a picture that I took just email me at Chris@sportsleisure.com. You can also check out these photos and more on our facebook page if that’s your sort of thing.  I love this trip and look forward to escorting another group to two of my favorite destinations next year. Come along with me, eh, and sip a cup of tea with the Queen…

Southern Boy Learns Midwest Hospitality Along the Lincoln Highway

The Sports Leisure Vacations Lincoln Highway II tour last month was one of the most memorable trips I have ever escorted. With many returning travelers, along with some new additions to the Sports Leisure Travel Club, our group set off to see the Midwest along the Lincoln Highway, from Chicago to Cheyenne. I must confess that this is a portion of the country that I have often overlooked in favor of the glitz and glamour of large cosmopolitan coastal cities, and had never taken the time to truly experience. Stopping at museums, roadside attractions, and, small town diners and restaurants, we enjoyed the hospitality and goodwill of Midwestern people as we slowed down and returned to the main streets of small-town America. Three occasions stick out in my memory, and have endeared this portion of the country to me forever.

Let’s start with the food. The first meal our group had was on the outskirts of Chicago at a place called Del Rhea’s Chicken Basket. Being a Southern boy, I had always assumed that Southern folk had the market cornered on fried chicken. I hate to admit that I may be wrong. Actually a longtime Route 66 landmark (that famous route starts in Chicago, while the Lincoln runs along the outskirts of the city), Del Rhea’s serves up the crispiest, juiciest fried chicken I have ever had. Add to that real homestyle mashed potatoes and gravy with corn fritters (think hushpuppies with corn drizzled with honey) and we are talking about some good eating. It makes my stomach growl just thinking about it. If I am ever back in that area, and I hope to be, they had better have me a seat ready!

Another meal that stands out is the Maid-Rite loose meat sandwich. It sounds a little funny, but it’s definitely something worth trying. It’s basically an unformed hamburger. The meat is browned and seasoned, and piled high on a bun, topped with cheese, a generous smear of yellow mustard and covered with dill pickles. The group loved it, and some even went back for more—Larry Mullnix, I’m talking to you—and I even took one home to eat cold the next day!

In Shelton, NE, a tiny town, there is small museum dedicated to the history of the Lincoln Highway. We were greeted by Bob Stubblefield and his wife and other volunteers with smiles, coffee, and cookies. The museum had original signs that lined the highway on display and even original paving bricks from the highway. The buildings are conjoined and in true Midwestern fashion, the corner is a bank that looks out diagonally towards the intersection, a feature that welcomes in the bank’s patrons and their money. The original vault is still intact and one can feel the history of the building. Mark posed inside the vault for some funny pictures. We tried but could not get the door closed fast enough so we had to take him with us.

In Kimball, NE, you would think the President himself was traveling with us, because it seemed the entire town showed up for our arrival. We stopped to visit the historic Wheat Growers Hotel that is currently undergoing renovation. The town is raising funds in the hopes of restoring the hotel to its original grandeur. There is much work to be done and much need for funding. Sports Leisure Vacations helped with their cause with a $250 donation, which was presented to the mayor of the town in the presence of the media—the one local reporter. It was truly a big event for them and they treated us like small-town royalty. I wish them the best in their efforts. Hopefully one day I will be able to say that I returned to enjoy the elegance of the restored Wheat Growers Hotel.

Our journey had it all, even the passage of a Barnum and Bailey circus train on its way to its next stop in rural Illinois. (We all kept watching for the car with the clowns!)

In 2011, Sports Leisure Vacations will embark on the third leg of the journey from Cheyenne to San Francisco. There will be many more sights to see and fun to be had. I encourage you to come along, slow down, and enjoy seeing the country and the land, instead of simply jetting over it. Take the time to reconnect with the history and appreciate the life along the historic Lincoln Highway.

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