Starling Travel

May 31, 2007

Mississippi: Kitykity Visits Biloxi After Katrina

Filed under: Places To Visit,Video — Laura Moncur @ 7:01 am

Kitykity took a weekend without her husband and children to go on a solo adventure. She visited some friends and then returned to Biloxi, Mississippi to see how much of her beloved city was left after Hurricane Katrina. You can see what she saw here:

She has other videos for this trip showing her visits with friends and her thoughts on the long drive. She also took a photo every hour while she was on the trip. You can click on this picture and it will take you to a slideshow of the series:

Solo Adventure by Kitykity from Flickr

It was such a vivid reminder to see her photos every hour. So much of a road trip is on the road. I forget that when I plan one.

May 29, 2007

San Antonio Botanical Garden Video

Filed under: Places To Visit,Texas,Tourist Attractions,Video — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Last year, when we visited San Antonio, we took a tour of the San Antonio Botanical Garden. I filmed a walking video for Starling Fitness and it is finally ready!

I’m offering this DVD for $5 including shipping and handling in the continental U.S. If you live elsewhere contact me and we’ll figure out how much it will cost to ship to you.

Order Starling Fitness Walking Videos Here

Here is a glimpse of what the walk will be like:

Click here to see the video

Video Description:

I was lost and unprepared for the hot Texas weather, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the garden’s beauty. From the native Texas grassland areas to the indoor fern grottos, I filmed all that the San Antonio Botanical Garden had to offer.

Wander along the garden paths. Watch the birds fly past you and squawk at you from the trees. Smell the herbs and flowers in the garden for the blind. Breathe in the humid air in the fern grotto. Explore the historical homes of Texas’ past. Chase down the golf cart. Can you keep up?

If you are missing the beautiful greenery that Texas has to offer, you can enjoy it every day with this video.

Order Starling Fitness Walking Videos Here

May 17, 2007

I Love The Travelodge Teddy Bear Room

Filed under: Lodging — Laura Moncur @ 6:00 am

The Teddy Bear Room at the Travelodge

On our drive to Oregon, we stopped in La Grande overnight. We stayed at the Travelodge and ended up in one of the famous, Teddy Bear rooms. You can read the full story here:

When the wonderful girl at the counter hesitated and tried to explain the room to me, I nodded. I had already seen a Travelodge Teddy Bear Room. Jay and Ryanne stayed in one in Reno:

I love Jay’s comment:

“We paid sixty dollars a night to sleep in a little kid’s room.”

Me? I loved it. It was much better than the first room that they gave us because I could easily reach the wireless signal. Now, those little sleepy Travelodge bears represent high speed wireless Internet to me. I love ’em!

Agawam Diner in Rowley, MA

Filed under: Food — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Agawam Diner from Flickr

Betsy the Devine eats, reminisces and delights us all:

Agawam Diner–hot dogs, baked beans, warm cherry pie:

Love this place–in Rowley, MA, at the intersection of Rte 1 with Rte 133. Or maybe I should say, at the intersection of the 1950s with your memories of childhood comfort food.

She gave us a link to the review on RoadFood:

Here is a review on Chowhound:

You can enjoy their food here:

Agawam Diner: Routes 1 & 133, Rowley, MA
Google Map
Phone: 978-948-7780

May 16, 2007

Five For Flying

Filed under: Travel — Laura Moncur @ 6:47 am

Hundreddollar, a friend of mine put this message out to the group:

confession: i’ve got a highly pesky fear of flying- haven’t flown in 12 years- & am about to book a flight for 2 weeks from now. any tips?

Here’s my quick list for people who haven’t flown in a while:

  • Be prepared to be treated like cattle, but appreciate that you don’t have to drive for three days straight to get to your destination. Flying is a nuisance, but it makes travel over long distances worth it. If it will take one or two days to drive it, I opt for the car every time, but if it’s going to take me three days to drive, then the hassle of flying is worth it. Plan accordingly.

  • Wear comfortable running shoes that can be easily removed. Sometimes flights are late and you need to RUN. You always have to take your shoes off to go through security now, so make sure they are easy to remove, but will stay on when you’re sprinting across the airport.

  • TSA Accepted Carry-On ItemsCheck and re-check your carry-on luggage for tiny little knives (like the kind on your nail clipper) and lotion. They will run your carry-on luggage and purse through the x-ray machine just like they always do. If there is a forgotten item in your luggage that is restricted, they will ask to inspect your bag. If they find it, great, but most of the time it takes them 30 minutes or so to find the tiny metal fingernail file that you put in your purse back in 1987. Just because YOU forgot it was there doesn’t mean that you’re any less late for your flight. Make sure you check and re-check your carry-on luggage. Here is a link to the restricted items: TSA: Permitted and Prohibited Items

  • Arrive two hours before your flight just in case the airport security is bogged down. That feeling of panic while you’re waiting in line at security behind the person who accidentally put a pen knife in his backpack two years ago is your own fault, not security’s fault and certainly not backpack-guy’s fault. Give yourself LOTS of time to get through security. If you don’t, please don’t take it out on the people in line in around of you.

  • Play Nintendo DS with friends while you wait for your flight.Be prepared to entertain yourself if security isn’t bogged down. It’s pretty irritating to the other travelers if you are wholly unprepared to spend two hours waiting for your flight. Once you’ve called everyone in your cell phone telling them all that you’re waiting for your flight, you will have annoyed everyone around you. Bring a book, a Nintendo DS, or a craft project to work on while you’re waiting.

Flying now is a far different experience than I had as a child. It’s even different than it was just a few years ago. Whether the flight is for work, family or fun, you’ve paid good money to get there as fast as possible. Don’t make it an unpleasant experience by not planning ahead.

May 14, 2007

Travel Tips From Tara Hunt

Filed under: Travel — Laura Moncur @ 9:39 am

Tara Hunt travels more in a month than most of us travel in a year. She has some excellent tips on how to travel and pack efficiently here:

I’m an over-packer, especially when we take the car and I know I CAN overpack. Her tips on how to pack well are invaluable to me:

  • PACKING #2: Speaking of the ‘JUST IN CASE’ outfits…bring them! These include a bathing suit (must), one evening outfit (must) and workout gear (optional, but really good idea). Nothing is worse than having to buy overpriced hotel bathing suits or dress shoes.

  • PACKING #3: If you consistently find yourself overpacking, at the end of each trip, pull all of your items out of your suitcase and lay out in “wore” and “didn’t wear” piles. Photograph them and upload them to Flickr. Refer to them everytime you go to pack.

I never thought of this for taxes:

  • FINANCES: Buy manilla envelopes. Pack one with you, labeled with the dates and place you are traveling. Put receipts in this envelope as you go. It will save hassles when you get back.

From how to deal with jet-lag to when to leave for the airport. Tara has a huge list of helpful hints for travel.

May 8, 2007

Five Steps to a Stress-Free Vacation

Filed under: Travel — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Travel can be stressfulSo many times when we travel, I have a list of activities that we are going to do each day. We rush from tourist attraction to historical site to museum in a frenzy and when we get home, we’re more tired than when we left. How about a vacation that is the opposite of that? How about actually relaxing on my vacation? Hey, that’s an innovative idea. Here’s how to do it.

(Continue Reading…)

May 7, 2007

Know Your Bears

Filed under: Places To Visit — Michael Moncur @ 5:00 am

Bear (click for larger photo)

Laura and I saw some bears at Yellowstone the other day, and we posted a video and some pictures:

We thought these were black bears, but a couple of reader comments said they looked more like grizzlies. After doing a bit of research, I believe these were definitely grizzly bears. How can you tell the two apart?

  • Shoulders: Grizzly bears have a distinctive shoulder hump. Black bears have no hump.
  • Ears: Grizzly bears have small, “teddy bear” ears. Black bears have larger, more prominent ears.
  • Face: Grizzlies have a curved profile between their forehead and nose, while black bears have a straighter face.

Here’s where I found this information. Check out these sites and see if I’m right:

  • Get Bear Smart Society – Bear Facts – from a Canadian organization dedicated to reducing conflicts between humans and bears.
  • Bear Identification Program – Montana allows hunting of black bears but not grizzlies, so they require hunters to take a test proving they can tell the difference. They have an online training system that shows you the difference, a silly bear hunting game, and a test to see how well you know your bears. I scored 93%.

May 4, 2007

Huckleberries… Are They Real?

Filed under: Food — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Wild Huckleberry JamTwo years ago, my sister was looking at the display of Huckleberry products in the gift shop in West Yellowstone. She had a few bottles of huckleberry jam in her hands. Mike and I looked at her, but I was the one to break the news, “You probably don’t want to get that for your friends at work.” She shrugged, “Why not?” Mike shook his head, “Because huckleberries are everywhere. Laura and I took Cory to a gift shop in Utah and there was the exact same brand of huckleberry stuff there.” Stacey looked at her bottles of jam, “I can get these in Utah?” We nodded. “Why would I buy them here?”

Wild Huckleberry Gummy GrizzliesTruth is, I’ve seen huckleberry products in Utah, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and California. Huckleberries grow in all of those states, but if you’re visiting Oregon from Utah, what’s the point of bringing back huckleberry jam? Are huckleberry gummy bears any different when I buy them in Utah?

Are huckleberries even real or are they just a cutsey name for blueberries? According to the Wikipedia entry on huckleberries, they are related to blueberries, but they are actually their own plant:

Huckleberry is a name used in North America for several plants in two closely related genera in the family Ericaceae: Gaylussacia and Vaccinium. While some Vaccinium species, such as the Red Huckleberry, are always called huckleberries, are closely related to blueberries but are not the same. Similar Vaccinium species in Europe are called bilberries.

You mean to tell me they even have huckleberries in Europe, but they just call them a different name? Which tourists are going to buy all this huckleberry crap? Why is it being marketed as a special at all?

Chocolate Covered Wild HuckleberriesThe answer might lie with these folks:

This is an excerpt from their Mission Statement:

The mission of the Western Huckleberry and Bilberry Association is to create a vital, thriving industry built around huckleberries and bilberries through information, education, and networking. The Association will achieve this mission by:

  • Providing educational programs to members
  • Supporting basic and applied research
  • Encouraging sustainable huckleberry culture techniques
  • Promoting improved production and marketing of huckleberries
  • Serving as an advocate and voice for the huckleberry industry

Why do huckleberries need an advocate and voice? It looks to me like huckleberries are just a product that are stuck in all these gift shops across the western United States to just take advantage of tourist money. Next time you’re tempted to buy a bag of chocolate-covered huckleberries, remember you can probably buy the same bag at home and it will be just as stale.

May 3, 2007

Bought in Yellowstone – Made In China

Filed under: Places To Visit,Shopping — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Laura Moncur in her new green “cowboy” hatLook at me in my new green cowboy hat! I bought it in West Yellowstone on Tuesday. We took a break from Yellowstone Park and went shopping. Shopping is one of the joys of travel because I can find so many things that I wouldn’t be able to find at home. We looked at chainsaw bears, smelly candles and homemade soap. I finally decided on this lime green hat.

This hat just might be my new token. I’ll be the girl in the green cowboy hat. If I have to live in Utah, I might as well look a little like a cowboy, right?

One thing I noticed about my new cowboy hat, though…

My cowboy hat was made in China.

It was made in China…

Whenever you shop in little shops, make sure you check where the products were made. A lot of times, the leather key chain that looks so western was actually made in China, India, or Korea. What’s the point of buying a souvenir that looks exactly like the souvenir from your hometown? I was checking, so my cowboy hat from China wasn’t a surprise. Neither was my lip balm from Vermont and my Native American Style flute from Utah. I drove all the way to West Yellowstone, Montana to buy a flute from Utah.

At least the huckleberries are from Montana… right?

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