"" Writer's Wanderings: August 2011

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hometown Festivals - Lucille Ball

Unfortunately we missed the 100th birthday celebration at the Lucille Ball Festival in her hometown early this month. It did make the news--often. They set a record of 915 people dressed as Lucy. I Love Lucy has been on television since 1951. The episodes still air to this day and are a delight to new audiences.

Jamestown, New York, her hometown is in the southwest corner of New York state about an hour east of Erie, PA. It is also where she is buried. Lots to see and do in Jamestown that involves Lucy and Desi, her husband and TV partner. There's the Lucy-Desi Museum, The Playhouse, and a restaurant that has been designed to look like the Tropicana featured on the Lucy show. Check out the website for more information.

Episodes are also available to watch online at Xfinity.

I'm assuming the festival is held each year the first week in August. Check back on the website for next year's dates. I'm sure they'll be available once the 915 Lucys get the red wigs off and get back to normal. Is there such a thing in a town that raised such a kooky redhead?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Hometown Festivals -- Red Skelton

When we were out in Vegas and took in the Red Skelton Tribute Show starring Brian Hoffman, he mentioned that Skelton's hometown was in Indiana and that there was a festival each year honoring him. I decided to look into it further.

The town is Vincennes, Indiana, about 2 1/2 hours southwest of Indianapolis. Even if you can't get there for the festival which is held in June (2012 dates are June 5-10), there is lots more to see involving Red Skelton. His birthplace home has been purchased and is being restored and there is a performing arts center and museum to which Mrs. Skelton has donated quite a few of his personal items.

Apparently, there is also a clown school that runs during the same time as the festival and then there's The Parade of a Thousand Clowns. Here's a video of the parade. Looks like a lot of fun!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Books For The Road - Murder Among The Orchids

Today I have the privilege of inviting you to choose one of my books for a good read on the road. Murder Among The Orchids has just been released as an ebook and is available for download in most any format you can imagine. If you have never tried an ebook, may I suggest downloading the Kindle app from Amazon for your pc or apple computer or IPad. It's free at Amazon and takes only a minute to install. I have it on my pc and enjoy reading books there that I can't get on my Sony Reader.

Here's a teaser for the book. A video trailer. If it piques your interest, click on this link and download it through Smashwords.com and just for visiting my blog post, here's a code for 20% off your purchase of Murder Among The Orchids: WP29R

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Las Vegas - Outside the Casinos

One of the great things Las Vegas has to offer is its shows. If you search before your visit, you can find all sorts of them at quite a range in prices and book ahead. If you are adventurous, you can wait until you get there and check out some of the low-priced last-minute deals at places like Tix4Tonight which has several places along the Strip where you can get great prices if you're not choosy and/or very lucky.

We booked ours ahead. We knew we wanted to see one of the water shows. There is O at the Bellagio, a Cirque du Soleil production, and Le Reve at the Wynn (check out the video at the link). We chose Le Reve for two reasons: we aren't terribly excited about Cirque du Soleil productions and Le Reve was less expensive. We weren't disappointed.

The Le Reve water show was absolutely amazing. One of the best shows I have seen anywhere--ever. I had to keep reminding myself to close my mouth as it tended to hang open in awe of the masterful choreography and scripting of the movements of the entertainers as well as the mechanics of the stage. People appeared in the water mysteriously. One act had about 20 women's legs above the water performing a synchronized routine for a good three or four minutes. How did they breathe?

The storyline was romantic, comedic, and dreamlike and moved along with the fantastic graceful athletics of the performers. I would see it again in a heartbeat.

Our second choice for shows was one I stumbled upon while researching. And I was so glad I did. It is an afternoon show at the Westin Casuarina on Mondays and Tuesdays at 2 p.m. that is dedicated to keeping the memory of Red Skelton and his characters alive. Called The Red Skelton Comedy Show, it stars impersonator, Brian Hoffman. The venue is a caberet-type room which gives you a more intimate atmosphere and interaction with Red, er. . .Brian.

Where does Hoffman stop and Red begin? He is almost one and the same. As we prepared to enter the show, he was out front helping his staff get his ticket machine in order. He was already into character as he joked with those of us waiting to get in. From our interaction outside the theater, I knew it would be a good show. The man knows his stuff about Red Skelton.

By the way, if you happen to be a little younger, you may not know the great comedian, Red Skelton. Check out this site for a biography and other information on this multi-talented comedian.

Hoffman did a tremendous job with his show and we giggled and laughed through his Mean Widdle Kid, Clem Kadiddlehopper, Gertrude and Heathcliff, and of course, Freddie the Freeloader. But the most touching moment in his monologue was when he recited Skelton's pledge of allegiance which Hoffman speculates ended Skelton's affiliation with CBS.

The Red Skelton Comedy Show is a great out-of-the-casino time and was probably a lot more entertainment than a slot machine for the price.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Las Vegas - Outside the Casinos

Yesterday I talked of some of the sights to see in Vegas. I neglected to mention some of the museums--like the neon sign museum. That's on our list for the next visit. The visits are never long enough though to get to all the restaurants we'd like to sample.

It used to be that the highlight of your visit was the all-you-can-eat buffet. They were usually very cheap and quick and got people back into the casinos where they wanted you to be. The buffets we saw this trip were anything but cheap. The least expensive we saw (in the nicer hotels of course) was around $27. We were able to get some very nice meals in sit-down-and-be-served places for the same amount.

We were already familiar with some of the restaurants in Mandalay Bay--Shanghai Lilly (Asian) and Red Square (Russian), both excellent. There are a dozen or so restaurants in all with all sorts of price ranges and types of food.

As we were walking over to Luxor through Mandalay Place, a shopping area, we found Ri Ra, an Irish Pub. Since we are soon to embark on a four week tour of Ireland we decided it was the perfect place to sample some Irish food. And it was! Our waiter was actually from Ireland, near Dublin, and helped us with our choices. I had Irish stew and Bob had a lamb burger with goat cheese. Both were wonderful.

The next day we ate lunch at the Westin's restaurant, Suede, since that was where our afternoon show was. We ordered what we thought was light--a burger and a taco salad. Both were huge even though they were on the lunch menu but really good. Suffice it to say, we were not hungry at dinner time and ended up sharing a bucket of popcorn at our evening show instead of eating out again.

Our last day, we wanted to try out a restaurant new to the Luxor called Rice & Company. It features Chinese and Japanese food including sushi and sashimi. I love their motto: Eat Rice, Drink Tea, Slurp Noodles, Stay Healthy. Bob had orange beef and I had pecan shrimp which was a shrimp dish with candied pecans in it. We also split a salmon sushi roll between us. We were not disappointed. Everything was tasty.

No matter where you go on the Strip, you are going to find excellent restaurants with world-wide appeal. We've eaten a few times in Paris in the tower restaurant, and in some of the Caesar Palace restaurants. The internet makes it easy to do your homework and see what is available where you are staying or where you are exploring along the way. And, oh yes, McDonald's, Pizza Hut, Burger King, Denny's, and many more fast food chains are available. Prices are a bit higher than at home but give you an opportunity to save for those special meals at a fancier place.

Thursday, there's nothing like the Vegas shows!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Las Vegas - Outside the Casinos

Many people end up in Las Vegas because of a convention. But what do you do if you aren't interested in spending your free time in the casinos? Lots!!

Our most recent trip amazed me because of all the kids that were there. School was still out for the summer and many visitors had brought small kids with them to the place that has been dubbed "sin city" for so many years. Some of that is changing thanks to new attractions, hotels that are catering to families, and restaurants to "sinfully" indulge your taste buds.

Summertime heat was 106 F but even though it is considered a dry heat, it was enough to make you feel thoroughly baked. Bob compared it to what a convection oven might feel like. Breezes were hot and the sun scorching. Thankfully we were able to use the monorail and get us close enough to the places we wanted to see. Our hotel, Mandalay Bay, also had a tram between it and the Luxor and Excalibur but we could also walk from one end to the other indoors if we wanted the exercise. Other hotels have smaller monorails or trams that run between them as well. Do a little homework and you won't have to burn to a crisp outdoors and you'll save a few steps as well.

You do need to get out on the sidewalk once in a while to take in the views though. New York, New York is amazing as well as Paris and some of the other themed buildings. It's a little like walking through Epcot at Disney. And there is plenty to do at each hotel other than gambling.

New York, New York features a roller coaster ride. Many hotels have lazy rivers and wave pools. Mandalay Bay has a huge aquarium. MGM Grand has a lion exhibit. Several fancy hotels have huge conservatories where gardens are changed seasonally. The Mirage has a Secret Garden full of animal exhibits and a volcano that erupts outdoors in the evenings. While we didn't make it all the way to the end of the Strip, I understand the Stratosphere has all sorts of rides and then there's always Circus Circus which truly caters to families.

With all of the things to see and do you might not have time to gamble! Tomorrow: Restaurants, Fast Food to the Exotic.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Jet Stream

We all watch the jet stream with interest when we want to know what our weather is going to be like. Unless of course you live in San Diego where it is always nice. Or Florida where you worry more about what's kicking around off the coast. Those of us a little further north know that when the jet stream dips down, it means cooler weather. When it flows more to the north, it means a warmer day ahead.

While there were several people involved in researching the air currents we now call the jet stream, the term was first used in 1939 by a German meteorologist named H. Seilkopf. There are jet streams in both the northern and southern hemisphere but it is said that the one in the northern hemisphere is stronger.

The strong winds of the jet stream flow to the east. Therefore, a flight takes longer to get from the east coast to the west coast especially if the flight cannot avoid the jet stream. Our last trip to Seattle took us four hours flying west but only three and a half with a good tail wind coming east to return home.

Question: If it takes less fuel to fly east since the plane can travel in the jet stream, shouldn't eastbound tickets be cheaper? Just sayin'. . .

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Countdown to Fall

It's only the middle of August but the Back-to-School sales are running strong. The shelves of paper, crayons, pens, and yes, flash drives are emptying already. The school year now starts before Labor Day weekend which seems unfair since for as long as I can remember as a kid, that weekend marked the end of summer vacation. How does one squeeze out the last of the hazy lazy days? How about a trip to your local metro park?

Most cities have some sort of park where acreage has been set aside so that some green areas are protected and available for residents to enjoy. Even New York City has Central Park! Around Cleveland, we have a great MetroPark system and in Columbus, there is one as well. On a visit with our grandkids, we explored a section along Darby Creek this past week. Armed with a small plastic pail and a small net, we followed the creek and kept an eye out for anything interesting.

Patience was rewarded with a slew of dragonflies beating their beautiful transparent wings that shimmer in the sunshine. The kids and their mom waded into the water and looked for crayfish. A fallen tree gave opportunity to test balance as it was used to cross a small dry creekbed. Intricate spider webs caught the afternoon sun as they stretched between a couple of trees. Birds twittered (they aren't limited to 140 notes) and several leaves and nuts were added to our pail to examine more closely later.

As we came full circle back to the parking area, the kids ran for the playground equipment as we sat in the shade and enjoyed the slight breeze and fresh air on a perfect late summer afternoon.

There is still time to enjoy a few days like this. I hope you don't let them pass by.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Having a Great Time! Wish You Were Here.

While "My Grandma went to [fill in blank] and all I got was this T-shirt" is often seen on souvenir Tees usually priced 3/$10, an older line is associated with postcards, "Having a great time! Wish you were here."

Postcards have been the staple for showing friends and family back home where you've been. They have also become a bit expensive to snail mail but enter the wonderful world of email, get creative, and you can send your own postcards home through the internet.

Some destinations are online already with postcards you can email for free. You don't even have to visit the place! But let me make a few other suggestions. If you have an IPhone, there is an app that allows you to use your own pictures from your phone to make and email a postcard home. I'm sure there's more than one app but here's the link to the one I saw.

Then there's a site called Smilebox where you can make all sorts of greeting cards and email them or post them to Facebook. This one really lets you get creative but you need to download their program and you will need to have your laptop handy when you travel. Smilebox also has formats for slideshows and other ways to organize and share your pictures. You can even add music to them.

If you travel with your computer and have a photo editing program like Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro, etc., you can take one of your travel shots and add text to it to make it look like a postcard. Just be sure to reduce its size so it fits in an email box. I try to keep the pics I send to a 5"x3" size. Keep your message short-"Having a great time!" After all it's vacation. Do you really wish all those people were "here"?

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

No place to go? Head for the Zoo!!

If you follow my blog, you'll find that we are often off to the zoo. We've purchased a membership for our Cleveland Met Zoo and often just go for an hour or two to walk around, get some exercise, and of course enjoy the entertainment. There's always something new--new babies, new exhibits, new antics often related to the weather or the time of year.

One of the writers in my network of fellow scribes, Marla Taviano, is a zoo afficionado. She has a book and a blog about her visit to 52 zoos in 52 weeks. I admire her accomplishment and love reading about her adventures. But it also points out that almost anywhere you live or you visit, there's a zoo nearby.

So when you feel you don't have anywhere to go or with the economy being what it is, you can't stretch the budget for travel, try a visit to the zoo--a place where the world comes to you.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Book Winner!

Eyes closed, names on folded papers before him, Bob picked one out. Drum roll please! Drrrrrrrrrrrrr.!

Congratulations to Cindy and thanks to all who left a comment on my blog last week to celebrate my 1000th post.

This week we'll be investigating new places to visit, new books to take along for good reading, and exploring this beautiful world we've been given--even if it has to be from our own backyard.

Most of all, thanks to those of you who stop by and read my posts now and then. Take a moment to establish yourself as a follower. It's a great way to organize the blogs that you read regularly and see at a glance any new posts.

Time for a little surfing--on the travel web, of course!

Friday, August 05, 2011

Last Chance!

Today is the last chance to leave a comment for an opportunity to win my inspirational travel book, Majesty, Exploring the works of his hands. So because of that, I thought it might be fun to explore other "last chances." Here's a list of what I found:

Last Chance Ranch - Helena, Montana; a great place for country and western fans

Last Chance Saloon - This one's in Grayslake, Illinois but there's also one in Plano, Texas.

Last Chance Boutique - Culver City, CA; another place to shop for LA fashions

Last Chance Bargain Shoes - Phoenix, Arizona

Last Chance - Mars; yes, the planet. If you can believe everything you read on Wikipedia.

Last Chance - Colorado; This one's just outside of Denver. You only need a car, not a spaceship.

Last Chance Trails - There are quite a few of these in Colorado and California. Use those search words to find them.

Well, you get the idea. Here's your last chance!

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Deep Fryers at the Fair

Yesterday Bob went to the Ohio State Fair with his mother. Having grown up in Columbus, the fair brings back great childhood memories. As they walked along though, there seemed to be a theme going on. Here is a sampling of the pictures he took. Hopefully they didn't sample all that they saw.

The deep fried Kool Aid sounds intriquing, doesn't it?

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

National Scenic Byways

[Remember to leave a comment for a chance to win Majesty, Exploring the works of his hands.]

Research for a new adventure is always a process of discovery. In looking for information on the Red Rock Scenic Byway in Arizona for our trip out west next year, I got sidetracked in wondering just what made a road a National Scenic Byway or All-American Road. I was rewarded with a website and a whole list of designated roads in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and even the District of Columbia.

What makes a road special--scenic? As the National Scenic Byways site states:
"All of America's Byways® are "scenic", representing the depth and breadth of scenery in America--natural and man-made panoramas; electrifying neon landscapes; ancient and modern history coming alive; native arts and culture; and scenes of friends, families and strangers sharing their stories."

The site goes on to list the designated roads. I've been on parts or all of several: part of Alaska's, the end of Route 66, Death Valley (CA), Route 1 (CA), A1A (FL), Florida Keys, Acadia (ME), Chesapeake (MD), Las Vegas Blvd, Blue Ridge Parkway (NC, VA), Outer Banks (NC), four of the five roads in Ohio, George Washington Memorial Parkway (VA), and Skyline Drive (VA).
And then there are National Park roads. . .the list goes on.

Ah, now if gas prices would just come down a bit. . .Still, if there's a road near you, it might just be a great weekend trip!

Monday, August 01, 2011

Celebrating 1000 Posts!

Today marks my 1000th post at Writer's Wanderings. I started this blog back in 2003 at the prompting of a son who said, "Mom, if you're a writer, you gotta have a blog." Writer's Wanderings has evolved as our lives have grown and changed. Mostly, I try to be as helpful as possible with others who are trying to find their way as they travel this world not only in giving insight into places to see, stay, and how to get there but in the inspiration I've found in the people and places we've been.

To celebrate, I'm giving away a copy of a small booklet of inspirational stories I've collected along the way called, Majesty, Exploring the works of his hands. It is filled with pictures from the places that inspired the stories--Australia, Hawaii, Caribbean reefs, Alaska. .

During this week, I will collect the names of all who leave a comment here on the blog and draw a winner on Saturday. Winner will be announced on Monday, 8/8/11, on what should be my 1006th post. On to 2000. . . .
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