One thing that I love about the High Desert climate is that no matter how hot the day is, once the sun goes down, it’s nice and cool. Yesterday was a scorcher, touching triple digits. Today promises to be just as hot. Last night, I was able to turn off the air conditioning in my room in the BEST WESTERN Skyline Motor Lodge. I opened the windows and enjoyed the cool desert air, and I slept like a desert log. This morning, I feel great. I wolf down some of the free hot food in the breakfast room, and I study my maps.
Even though motorcycle touring is a lot about spontaneity for me, sometimes I nail down events that are tightly scheduled. I’m riding west to Medford, and on the way, I’m going to stop in Ashland, Oregon and see if I can get a ticket to a performance at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
The Oregon Shakespeare Festival is a professional non-profit regional theater that has been in operation since 1935. Every year, the OSF presents an 11-play season (four by Shakespeare, seven by classic and contemporary playwrights). The OSF has three theaters, one of which is an outdoor modern replica of an Elizabethan playhouse. The OSF will present 790 performances in 2012, employing nearly 575 theater professionals. It is right in the heart of downtown Ashland, and acts as the anchor for a very literate and artistic little town.
Most of the OSF’s tickets are sold in advance on subscription, but I know that there are always last-minute cancellations and odd availabilities at any theater. So I slide in to the box office, and I’m delighted to discover that a single ticket has just become available for tonight’s 8:30 pm performance of Animal Crackers, a play with music adapted from the classic 1930 Marx Brothers movie. With a book by George S. Kaufman & Morrie Ryskind, and music and lyrics by Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby, how could it be bad? I am really looking forward to seeing how they handle the Marx Brothers — will they do impersonations or will they create new characters?
After picking up my ticket, I ride through Ashland and ride 15 miles north to Medford, where I check in to the BEST WESTERN Horizon Inn and check in to my room. I’ll be staying here for two nights, which is really unusual for me on my motorcycle trips. But there’s so much to see in the area that I’m going to need to stick around.
It’s really hot in Medford today — it has been hot all day. So I change into my swim trunks, and take a dip in the big outdoor pool across from my room. A nice clean
pool is such a great luxury on a motorcycle trip. I’m so glad that I remembered to pack my suit, as I emerge from the cool waters refreshed and ready for the evening.
I’m at one of those creases in time right now. I know that there are plenty of fancy restaurants in Ashland, but I haven’t eaten since breakfast, and if I head to Ashland now, I’ll be wandering in the heat for hours. I decide to have a simple dinner at the Black Bear Diner, which shares a parking lot with the BEST WESTERN Skyline Inn. The Black Bear Diner is part of a small western chain of restaurants, with 50 locations and growing. I’ve eaten at one before, and if you’ve got to eat at a chain, this is one of the good ones. Traditional, straightforward American food at reasonable prices — just what I’m looking for this evening. I have a turkey club and some fries, and I’m ready to attack Ashland.
Oregon Route 99 connects Medford and Oregon, paralleling Interstate-5 in a much more sedate fashion. There’s not much to see between the two towns — just some industrial parks, mobile homes and car repair shops. Ashland nestles in some hills, and is a pastoral, lovely little city of 20,000. Ashland Creek runs right through downtown. People of all ages are out walking, bicycling, sitting and enjoying the tree-shaded streets.
I’ve arrived early for my show, so I find a convenient parking spot for the Electra Glide and set off on foot to explore downtown. I discover two great — and I mean GREAT — music stores, each with astonishing selections of new and used CDs and vinyl records. The Music Coop at 268 East Main Street has one of the best blues and early rock sections I’ve perused; and CD or Not CD at 343 East Main Street specializes in Punk and Indie Rock. I’m sure the students at nearby Southern Oregon University are thrilled to have these great stores in their town.
There are dozens of antique stores, book shops, boutiques and art galleries downtown, too, and I wander in and out of the ones that catch my eye. I wind up buying an antique Art Deco pin for my wife in one store — she’ll like that, and it won’t take up much room on the bike.
Finally, it’s time to hike across to the August Bowen Theater at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. I spend the next two and a half hours laughing at the exploits of Captain Spaulding. The production is great; an inspired interpretation of the Marx Brothers’ style, not a slavish impersonation. I had a great time. I’d go see it again, and that’s saying something for me.
It’s eleven o’clock when the curtain falls on Rittenhouse Manor. I collect the Electra Glide, gear up and ride back up to Medford. I decide to take the dreaded Interstate route, because I noticed lots of places along OR-99 that would be prime locations for a deer or elk crossing, which I have no desire to deal with this evening (or any evening). Deer and elk are abundant in Oregon, and they are most active after dark. They have the nasty habit of jumping out in front of a motorcycle and freezing when
they see the headlight, and they can be very difficult to avoid. Given the option of riding along a dark, tree-lined rural route or a well-lit interstate highway, I’ll choose the highway for a quick 15-mile blast. It’s much safer, even if it’s not much fun.
I arrive safely back at the BEST WESTERN Horizon Inn, and collapse into my room. This was a long, hot satisfying day. Tomorrow promises to be another animal altogether.
Miles Ridden: 228.3 NEXT: DAY FOUR: MEDFORD
Tallinn, Estonia, has a reputation as one of the favorite spots for Western European drinking parties, which can attract tourists as much as it can deter them. But like any modern city, Tallinn can play to multiple scenes; sure, evenings can be excessive if that’s what you want, but that’s not all Tallinn offers.
With some bars as kitsch as others are elegant. A night in Tallinn can be as predictable or unusual as a traveler desires.
With Tallinn’s Old Town having all the theatrical charm and awkward paving of medieval Europe, it makes sense that a restaurant in the middle of Old Town allows tourists to fully experience a night in the middle ages. The wooden panels and candlelight of Olde Hansa give the bar a misty atmosphere that makes it feel more exciting and less contrived than you may expect.
The bar has the smell of golden honey mead and the house cinnamon beer is unexpectedly and dangerously tasty. It is a tourist trap that draws in visitors by offering an unusual dining experience but it is not somewhere to avoid just on that basis. Old Hansa will steer your night in a unique direction if you choose to embrace it.
When it comes to themed bars, the more specific they are then the more appealing they tend to become as the night gets later. Nowhere more so than DM, a bar near Tallinn’s Town Hall Square which is devoted entirely to electronic music pioneers Depeche Mode. The atmosphere in the dimly lit bar is both as brooding and bizarre as you’d expect, a place where baffled travelers can mix with a wash of Depeche Mode fans, often sporting dark aviator shades and buzzcuts. Of course, the drinks are themed too and it would be rude to be there and not down the occasional cocktail named after Depeche Mode hits. When niche bars are as niche as this, they’re worth taking a risk on.
As a city that reels in backpackers and beer-tourists, it’s only fitting that there’s a bar in the city centre offering a quintessentially Bavarian drinking experience. The Beer House isn’t there to surprise, rather to serve locally-brewed thick amber in tankards as big as your head. The bar itself is large but not daunting, with booths for more intimate evenings and a pleasant atmosphere created by the staff who buzz around keeping everyone well oiled. One trick The Beer House does have is its own ‘great beer rally’, in which teams—and nothing makes a team out of a group of friends like a drinking challenge—pay to sit around their very own pump, drinking as many litres as they can in a set amount of time in order to qualify for a leader board that they’d do well to read by the end of the evening. If anything, this challenge just further proves that the promise of a free t-shirt is a very powerful currency come midnight. If you want to see people in lederhosen, you know where to go.
Vana Villemi Pub
A traditional Estonian drinking den near the city’s coach station, Valli Villemi is a pub in which to immerse among locals and, depending how brave you’re feeling, take on recommendations as to the strongest and heaviest local beers from regular pub-goers with turnstone waistlines and crimson cheeks that reassure you that they’ve put in adequate research. With its chipped antiques, wooden floors and post-work drinkers, Vana Villemi has that local atmosphere which makes it feel almost like a secret, a view into Tallinn life away from the expatriate drinking circuit. It’s a pub that you can feel at home in—just don’t get too comfortable as there’s far too many other bars to visit.
As Parisien as it gets, Cafe Josephine is a lounge of boutique burgundy furnishing in which to indulge in Estonia’s chocolate scene. It may not be a place to sample forty different types of beer with tipsy Europeans, but Cafe Josephine is just about as elegant as it gets. To hang in the lounge area is like being on the set of a smoky Bond movie, with couples leaning into each other while new acquaintances keep a professional distance and talk at low volume. It’s classy but not intimidating, and worth a visit just to try their pristine chocolate truffles late at night. Don’t be confused—this is not a place of neon cladding and free flowing alcohol, rather a lounge of high indulgence and intrigue, a place to experience the finest desserts on offer in Estonia. Cafe Josephine is a stylish beginning to a quirky evening, before the night gets hazy and the shine wears off your shoes.
Tallinn is one of those places that can send a night in several directions. It’s outwardly exciting—the Old Town is as rich a place for late night excess as it is for quiet observation. It’s a city in which your evening can be as local and off-the-map as you wish, with hedonistic expat bars only a few doors away. It is a very international place to drink in but one that feels entirely manageable. In a city where you can go from medieval pub to Depeche Mode bar, what’s not to love?
Drink prices in Tallinn are in and around the Eurozone average—a large glass in Old Town could cost around $3.50 but you might find some bars to be much cheaper, especially on a weekday or slightly out of the Old Town catchment. The city itself feels safe and exciting to be in; with many bars open throughout the night you could easily leave your room at 10pm and drink until 4am without noticing the time.
Annapolis-bred Madeleine Bromiley is a student at Arcadia University and an editorial business intern at National Geographic Traveler magazine. Check out her insider tips for making the most of your visit to Maryland’s bayside capital city, then follow her story on Twitter @madiebro. If you’re a local, or have tips to offer fellow travelers, please share them in the comments section below!
Annapolis is My City
The first place I take a visitor from out of town is Ego Alley (otherwise known as the City Dock) to people- and boat-watch.
When I crave steamed hard-shell crabs I always go to Cantler’s. Enjoy this traditional local specialty by the bucketful. Just don’t forget to wear your bib.
To escape the crowded downtown nightlife I head to Davis’ Pub in Eastport, a quick walk south of downtown.
If I want to grab something for dessert I go to The Main Ingredient.
For complete quiet, I can hide away at Quiet Waters Park. Pack a picnic or go hiking or biking on one of the trails. And don’t forget your skates in the winter!
If you come to my city, get your picture taken at the Naval Academy because it’s one of the most famous and historic landmarks in town, has a beautiful campus, and a great view of the Chesapeake.
If you have to order one thing off the menu from The Chart House it has to be the Belgian waffles from the brunch menu.
Chick & Ruth’s Delly is my one-stop shop for great milkshakes.
Locals know to skip Starbucks and check out City Dock Cafe instead.
When I’m feeling cash-strapped I go to the Harbour Center for affordable shopping and eateries. They even have a movie theater.
For a huge splurge I go to the Towne Centre, which is a newer addition to Annapolis. The shops and restaurants there are on the pricier side but well worth the splurge.
Photo ops in my city include Main Street and the best vantage points are from the dock.
If my city were a celebrity it’d be Kate Winslet: sophisticated, beautiful, and personable.
The most random thing about my city is it served as the temporary capital of the newly independent United States in 1783 and 1784.
My city has the most uniformed men.
My city has the most well-dressed women.
In my city, an active day outdoors involves walking the streets of downtown, boating, and enjoying crabs on the water.
My city’s best museum is the Annapolis Maritime Museum.
My favorite jogging/walking route is around the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
For a night of dancing, go to O’Briens Oyster Bar. Or, for live music, check out Rams Head Tavern.
Double T Diner is the spot for late-night eats.
To find out what’s going on at night and on the weekends, read Whats Up? Annapolis or check out the city’s Facebook page.
You can tell a lot about my city from how the locals treat the out-of-towners: with open arms and personal recommendations about where to find the best seafood (and we really know our seafood).
You can tell if someone is from my city if they have a deep passion for seafood and sailing.
In the spring you should check out the Blue Angels air show at the Naval Academy commencement.
In the summer you should celebrate 4th of July downtown and see the fireworks reflect in the water.
In the fall you should attend the United States Sailboat Show, a fitting event for a city that’s known as the “Sailing Capital of the World.”
In the winter you should check out Lights on the Bay at Sandy Point Park. You can see Santa Claus, Rudolph, and even Chessie (our Chesapeake Bay sea monster) lit up at night and sometimes even come alive as you drive by. It’s my favorite holiday outing with my family and friends.
A hidden gem in my city is Les Folies Brasserie.
For a great breakfast joint try Sofi’s Crepes.
Don’t miss the Annapolis Irish Festival where people gather together to celebrate their Celtic pride. There’s even a freckle contest!
Just outside my city, you can visit Kent Island, just east of Annapolis, across the iconic Bay Bridge.
The best way to see my city is on foot or by boat, or both!
If my city were a pet it would be a dog – specifically a Chesapeake Bay Retriever.
If I didn’t live in a city, I’d live anywhere else on the water.
The best book about my city is Annapolis by William Martin.
When I think about my city, the song that comes to mind is “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding.
If you have kids, you won’t want to miss hooking up with Pirate Adventures on the Chesapeake.
Commissioning Week, when the midshipmen graduate and receive their commissions from the U.S. Naval Academy, could only happen in my city. The highlight of the weeklong celebration is watching the previous year’s freshmen climb a statue that’s been greased with 200 pounds of lard, a tradition that has been carried on for over 70 years.
My city should be featured on your cover or website because it’s a great representation of historical Maryland along with being an extremely friendly town with great food and gorgeous views of the water.
Litchfield National Park was another stop on my 6 day photo safari in Australia’s Top End.
Being so close to Darwin (approximately 100 km south-west) Litchfield National Park attracts over 260,000 visitors each year.
And it’s easy to see why with stunning tropical waterfalls and swimming holes, monsoon rainforests, giant termite mounds, wildlife, historical sites, walking and 4wd tracks.
Below is a collection of my photos to give you a taste of what you can expect on your visit.
Litchfield National Park in Photos
Florence Falls is a double-plunge waterfall leading to a popular swimming hole.
Wangi Falls is probably Litchfield’s most popular attraction with a large swimming hole and picnic area.
Magnetic Termite Mounds
These termite mounds are built by thousands of termites with a north-south orientation to control the temperature inside the mounds.
Would you like to visit Litchfield National Park?
What makes a city a great sports city? It could be the rabid, loyal fans who sell out every home game, the presence of pro teams in all four major sports, the historic stadium that is a must-see on every out-of-towner’s agenda or it could even be that the city hosts a variety of sporting events throughout the year, from the Super Bowl to an international marathon to the national curling championships.
The best U.S. cities for sports lovers arguably have any or all of the above and debates on which cities are the best could be endless. While others are certainly worthy of consideration, here are ten American cities that no sports lover should miss:
The United States’ most recent candidate to host the Summer Olympics, Chicago was named the Best Sports City in the country by the Sporting News in 1993, 2006 and 2010 for good reason. Home of the “lovable loser” Cubs (who make their home in historic Wrigley Field) and the 2005 World Champion White Sox, Chicago has been the only city with 2 Major League Baseball teams since 1901. The Blackhawks are one of the Original Six hockey franchises and hoisted the Stanley Cup in 2010 and the Chicago Bulls claimed six NBA championships in the 1990s. One of the five World Marathon Majors, the Chicago Marathon welcomes over 40,000 runners and more than a million spectators each October, while the Race to Mackinac, a 330 mile offshore sailboat race, is the longest annual freshwater sailing distance race in the world. And Chicago residents don’t just love to watch, they join the fun as well, playing in hundreds of volleyball, softball, basketball and soccer leagues throughout the year.
Boston has been a city of championships in recent years, with the Boston Celtics winning an NBA championship, the Red Sox twice winning the World Series, the Bruins claiming the Stanley Cup and the nearby New England Patriots grabbing three Super Bowl rings. But Beantown has much more than just pro sports on the lineup. The Head of the Charles Regatta rowing competition takes place each year on the Charles River. Four NCAA Division 1 schools play in the city so visitors can find entertaining collegiate competition in dozens of sports, including the Beanpot Tournament – a hockey tournament held by the four schools every year. Boston has its history as well; Fenway Park is the oldest professional sports stadium in the country and the Boston Marathon is the world’s oldest marathon. And like Chicago, Bostonians love to play sports almost as much as they love to watch them.
The City of Brotherly Love may offer the most variety of any city on this list. It hosts the Penn Relays, the oldest and largest track & field competition in the United States, as well as the Philadelphia International Championship, one of the most prestigious one-day cycling races outside of Europe. Philly also hosted the 2012 U.S. Curling Championships and will do so again in 2014. The city is home to five Division I college basketball programs known as the “Big Five” and the Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta, held on the Schuylkill River, is the largest regular intercollegiate rowing event in the country. Not only does Philadelphia have teams in all four major professional sports (the Eagles, Flyers, Phillies and 76ers), it has pro teams in sports like lacrosse and ultimate Frisbee as well.
Considered by some to be the “Amateur Sports Capital of the World,” Indianapolis is home to the NCAA Hall of Champions, a great museum for any collegiate sports fan to visit. In recent years, Indy has hosted the Big Ten basketball tournament and football championship game, as well as the Super Bowl. The Indiana Fever were WNBA champions in 2012 and the Indianapolis Colts won the Super Bowl several years earlier. Car racing fans flock to the city for the Indy 500, Brickyard 400 and the Indianapolis Grand Prix each year while baseball lovers can check out the Indianapolis Indians, the second oldest minor league baseball team, playing since 1902. Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis may be one of the most iconic sites in sports movie history. Today home to the Butler University Bulldogs, it was where the championship game was played that inspired the movie “Hoosiers.”
5. Las Vegas
Las Vegas may not have any major professional teams, but it still has a lot to offer casual and serious sports fans alike. It hosts college football’s Las Vegas Bowl and the Mountain West Conference basketball tournament, as well as the USA Sevens, the largest rugby tournament in the USA. NASCAR, rodeo, bull riding, mixed martial arts, golf and boxing are all on the calendar, not to mention minor league teams in baseball and hockey. The Ironman 70.3 World Championships take place in the Las Vegas metro area and law enforcement officials from around the country participate in the 120 mile Baker to Vegas Challenge Cup Relay. And of course, there are the dozens of sportsbooks at the casinos, great for cheering on your favorite team while perhaps placing a bet or two.
6. Minneapolis/St. Paul
More than anything, the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul are all about hockey. The University of Minnesota men’s and women’s hockey teams are national powerhouses and Minneapolis plays host to the US Pond Hockey Championships each year. The Minnesota State High School Hockey Tournament is the largest state sports tournament in the country, with over 100,000 attending every year. Aside from hockey, the Metrodome in Minneapolis has the distinction of being the only stadium in the country to have hosted a World Series, Final Four, Super Bowl and MLB All-Star Game. Runners pound the pavement twice a year for the Minneapolis Marathon and the Twin Cities Marathon, the latter sometimes called the “Most Beautiful Urban Marathon in America.”
7. New York
The Big Apple is a professional sports lover’s dream, with two baseball teams (Yankees and Mets), two basketball teams (Knicks and Nets) and a hockey team (Rangers) playing within the city limits. It is also home to the New York City Marathon, one of the largest marathons in the world, and the US Open, one of tennis’ Grand Slams. Arthur Ashe Stadium at the National Tennis Center is by far the largest tennis-only venue in the world. The National Invitational Tournament was the first national college basketball tournament and has been held in the city since 1938 and Madison Square Garden may be one of the most popular arenas in the country.
If you’re a baseball fan, Phoenix is the place to be each spring, when no less than 15 Major League Baseball teams hold spring training in the metro area. The city is also home to the Phoenix Suns (NBA), Arizona Cardinals (NFL), Arizona Diamondbacks (MLB) and Phoenix Coyotes (NHL). It hosted the NBA All-Star Game in 2009 and the University of Phoenix stadium in suburban Glendale is the site of college football’s Fiesta Bowl each year. The Phoenix International Raceway hosts two major NASCAR events and the two-time champion Phoenix Mercury was one of the original eight WNBA teams.
9. Oklahoma City
Long neglected by major professional franchises, Oklahoma City has embraced the relocated Thunder, who advanced to the NBA Finals in 2012. The city has a strong collegiate focus, with the nearby University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University occasionally playing home games in the city. It also hosts the Big 12 Baseball Tournament, the World Cup of Softball and the Women’s College World Series, as well as the Bricktown Showdown AAA Baseball Championship Game. Horse racing at Remington Park and minor league baseball and hockey teams are also popular with residents.
When it comes to sports, Atlanta may be best known for hosting the 1992 Summer Olympics, the history of which is showcased in the Centennial Olympic Games Museum at the Atlanta History Center. The Atlanta Braves are perennial contenders in Major League Baseball and won an unprecedented 14 straight division titles from 1991 to 2005. The city hosts the Atlanta Open tennis tournament each summer and will soon be home to the College Football Hall of Fame, scheduled to open in the fall of 2014.
I have been writing for the Best Western travel blog for four years now and we have covered an array of topics, destinations and trends. I have reported on the business and leisure categories in Canada and quoted some industry experts along the way. Today, however, I thought I ‘d change it up, it may be the fact I am at home on the couch suffering through day two of a flu bug that the minus twenty five degree weather has so graciously brought us this week, but here it goes! I thought we could learn and share our quick travel recommendations and stories and then pass them on. Can this go viral! Help us out!
What is your favourite “sleeper” destination? Something off the radar that you would highly recommend.
One of my favourite destinations is Kelowna, British Columbia. It doesn’t get the attention that Vancouver, Calgary, Whistler and Banff get out west but it is a true four-season gem in the heart of the Okanagan Valley. Fabulous wine, skiing, golf and a great climate make it my pick for top off the radar destination. If you go check out one of my favourite hotels, the Best Western PLUS Kelowna Hotel & Suites the most environmentally friendly hotel I have ever been to, cork floors, low flush toilets, solar heating panels, it’s impressive!
Give us your best airport or airline story?
In 1993, I was on a flight from Toronto to Halifax to attend my Uncle’s funeral. I was alone for the flight meeting my parents who were flying there from Ottawa and shortly after take off my seat was called and I had won a trip anywhere Air Canada flies. This was obviously before 9-11 and I was ushered up to the cockpit to receive the certificate from the pilots. Seems unbelievable today I know. The pilots heard the reason for trip and asked if I wanted to stay with them for the remainder of the trip and landing, which I did. It was such a great experience during a difficult time.
Tell us your most memorable Best Western story. Where and why?
We took the kids for a quick weekend getaway to London, Ontario that is about ninety minutes south west of us and stayed at the http://www.lamplighterinn.ca
My kids still ask all the time when we are going back. The indoor pool and waterslide is so impressive and fun, we were able to bring our dog and was a perfect weekend getaway. Check out the Best Western Twitter page @BestWestern – the current header is that very property.
Share your best road trip adventure?
On a family trip as a child, my Dad, who always loves to find a bargain rented a wood paneled station wagon from a company called “Rent-a-wreck”. We were in Nova Scotia and staying at his friend’s cottage. It had a security alarm that we would set off every time we left the place. I can vividly recall two cop cars racing by us towards the cottage as we headed away. It honestly happened at least a half dozen times in two weeks.
Where is the one place you MUST see, your one bucket-list destination?
I still have Hawaii on my list and have yet to go. A good friend just got back and like everyone else I know who has been, he raved about it. Paradise is a word I hear a lot about Hawaii. I need to make that happen soon.
Thanks for playing along. I love hearing about people’s travel related memories and I assume you do to if you are reading this blog. Take a moment, share your thoughts and pass it along. Safe travels!
Outdoor writer and photographer Cameron Martindell shares his final preview of upcoming gear launches for fall/winter 2013 seen at the Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City, Utah. In the opening scene, Cameron mentions the creative films by climber/illustrator Jeremy Collins. We’ll have Collins’s latest film and an interview up tomorrow. Then watch for Black Diamonds’s exciting new skis (whoo-hoo!), Polartec, Core Concepts, Keen, Eton, Ibex, Headsweats, and Gregory Packs.