It was a dark and stormy night. No, really. The rain fell in punishing waves and the wind whipped the trees like a dungeon master. There were voices, too…shrill, torturous sounds coming from the sea that was thrashing about, just yards from my bedroom window.
My mind was racing. 400 years of history were flashing before me as I lay in my bed on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Wind and weather forged this chain of four islands – spits of land surrounded by sea and constantly shifting sands.
One of America’s most beautiful cities has General Sherman to thank for its survival. When Savannah, Georgia fell to the North in the Civil War, Sherman spared it from the fiery fate he’d metered on so many other Confederate towns. The gilded southern seaport survived – and still thrives – to this day.
Savannah was part of the last New World Colony (under King George the Second) and this history is evident today. In fact, 22 of the 24 original town squares still grace this southern bell, providing a gathering place every two or three blocks for the townsfolk and visitors.
It was Easter weekend when my daughter and I pulled into Savannah and up to the Planters Inn. This 200-year-old boutique hotel on historic Reynolds Square would be our home for the next two days, and a launching pad for as many tours as we could take in dress heels.
Yes, I said heels, and I don’t recommend it for everyone. But we wanted to immerse ourselves in the style and grace of a bygone era. Besides, it took a whole day of shopping to find shoes for our pastel dresses and we weren’t about to leave them in the closet. Continue reading
HILLS NEWSPAPERS: March 19, 2010
Some folks are born with a silver spoon. I was born with two boards. My folks had me skiing when I was old enough to walk. That’s not unusual in Minnesota, where everything you’ve heard about winter is true. It’s cold, it’s long and it’s spectacular.
But something happens to Minnesotans in spring. We get a little giddy. Call it cabin fever, but we celebrate the first thaw like we’ve won the state lottery. We go a little bonkers.
So you can understand why the most vivid memories of my youth involve bikinis and Viking horns and snow skiing on water. It’s what you do when the weather turns warm and the powder turns to mush.
Pond skimming has become more than just a wacky way to ring in spring. It’s bringing in big business to resorts that might otherwise be looking at some lonely last days before a long summer break.
HILLS NEWSPAPERS: FEBRUARY 19, 2010
These days, sending a student off to college almost always includes a semester abroad. Add up the cost, and you know the strain this can put on the family budget. But at St. Mary’s College, last month, my students and I traveled the world in 16 days – for less than $300 each.
Before you go crazy doing the math, I’ll mention the “world” part was figurative. We didn’t really circumnavigate the globe; we rented a motor coach and stayed close to home. We toured world class cities, quaint coastal towns, French-inspired vineyards and Irish coasts – all within an hour’s drive of Moraga.
Below is one of the many outstanding student presentations shot on this trip.
Midwest transplants, rejoice! Winter promises to bring more than one snowfall to the East Bay this year, thanks to El Nino and colder-than-normal temperatures. Here is a wonderful video, courtesy of student Bryan Navarro at St. Mary’s College in Moraga, of our first snow of the season, Dec. 7, 2009:
And thanks to Bennett Hall for the photo, below, of his wife Helen and dog Jasmine on a winter walk.
HILLS NEWSPAPERS: NOVEMBER 28, 2009
When it comes to travel, it’s all about the list. The top ten this, the top five that…it’s almost daunting to pour through
dogsledding above the Arctic Circle
the minutia of must-sees as mentioned in books like 1,000 places to see before you die.
So here is a “bucket list” of real adventures – hand-picked by the Happy Wanderer over years of wild living leading up my recent hip surgery. These are not for the faint of heart. They are action-packed adventures for the daring and strong-boned and able.
- 1. Cage diving in the Farallones. In late fall, when the Great White Sharks come to feed on the convention of Elephant Seals off the Gulf of the Farallones, you can be part of the process. The trip calls for a hearty constitution as you travel by boat some 30 miles in choppy waters to this extraordinary marine sanctuary. Continue reading
CONTRACOSTATIMES.COM – October 30, 2009
It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s the balloon boy. If ever a story captured our collective imagination –the recent balloon
odyssey in Colorado did the trick. And although the saucer-shaped aircraft turned out to be empty, it could very well have housed a boy, a baboon, or even something sinister like the Japanese bomb balloons in World War Two.
It got me thinking about ballooning, and my recent trip to the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta – the most photographed event on the planet. With over 600 balloons punctuating the sky, it’s easy to see why.
The carnival atmosphere starts before dawn. Under a blanket of stars, vendors prepare for the throngs of visitors making the pilgrimage to this sacred ballooning site in the shadow of the Sandia Mountains. The smell of burritos and corndogs permeates the still air and flickers of light pierce the darkness as the first shots of propane surge into the nylon envelopes. Continue reading
Every neighborhood should have a way for folks to get together and cultivate common interests. We all need to look out for one another! A little food, some libations and even entertainment make a block party the social event of the summer. ..like this moonlight bash on Merriwood with master didgeridoo player Stephen Kent.
CONTRACOSTATIMES.COM March 13, 2009
APRIL SHOWERS BRING May flowers, but our recent rains have brought something even better — waterfalls.
The Falls Trail up the back side of Mt. Diablo has never been prettier, with its swollen creek and four cascading waterfalls tumbling down from the peak. Having hiked there last weekend, I can vouch for their splendor. Continue reading
CONTRACOSTATIMES.COM February 26, 2009
NOT SINCE the days of the old ’60s sitcom Mr. Ed have I felt so close to a horse. But my time in the saddle with Scatter Gun has changed my life.
Bonding with horses is a rewarding experience — in some ways better than bonding with humans. People have opinions, and rarely do they keep them to themselves these days. Continue reading