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Archive for October, 2011

What a trip this is!  Start with a flight, bus or car to the mile high city of Denver.  That is where Colorado gets vertical.  Did you know the Colorado Rockies have 56 out of the 91 mountain peaks over 14,000 feet?  This trip makes a large circle across the state & you can take it forwards or backwards.
A trip here has to begin (or end) in Colorado Springs, less than an hour’s drive south from Denver.  So much to see in that town.  There is the air Force Academy, the Olympic facility for indoor sports, the Garden of the Gods (beautiful red rocks) and most importantly a trip to Manitou Springs to ride the cog up to Pikes Peak.  Don’t worry about being up there at 14,000 feet.  You don’t stay long and there are canisters of oxygen at the top in case you need a shot.
Next stop the Royal Gorge Scenic Railroad.  The route follows the ”Grand Canyon of the Arkansas River”.  And, on the way back you can stop & ride a little car to the top of the mountain and walk the famous Hanging Bridge.
The next two trains have to be some of my top favorites in the US.  The first is the Cumbres Toltec.  It’s about a 6 hour ride through the mountain and up at the top some ladies ride their 4 wheel drive jeeps up every day to prepare a meatloaf or turkey lunch with homemade pies for the passengers.
After your ride it’s about 2 hours to Durango.  More on the train there next week but don’t forget to make a trip to Mesa Verde when you’re in Durango.  It is one of the best preserved Anazasi sites in the Southwest.
Next week : One of the top 100 trains in the World!
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There are two times to go to San Antonio: either Christmas on the Riverwalk or in April for Fiesta. Both times are great. In September they start stringing the Christmas lights in the trees on the 2 mile horseshoe bend of the San Antonio River. And the dazzling display continues all night from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. Or if you go at Fiesta time there are parades, including a boat parade, and mariachi bands everywhere celebrating independence from Mexico. On the tours I do, we start the evening with a dinner cruise on the River. The next day there is a city tour, including part of the Mission Trail. There were five Missions along the trail spaced a day’s walk from each other. Yes, the Alamo was one of the Missions but the famous one that is still well preserved today is Mission San Jose.. The CCC was instrumental in bringing this mission back to life. All the missions today, except the Alamo, are active parishes. The afternoon is free to explore the area and we stay at a hotel that has free evening cocktails so everyone meets up for that each evening before dinner. The next day it’s off to Austin to the LBJ library, a tour of the city and an hour and a half ride over to the LBJ Ranch. Sometimes we even sneak in a lagniappe…Luckenbach. Finally it’s dinner in the beautifully preserved German town of Fredericksburg before returning to San Antonio.. The last full day in San Antonio is the IMAX movie of the Alamo before our tour of that sacred ground. The afternoon is again free to enjoy the many sites. There is a trolley that stops around the downtown for $1 so it is easy to get around. But if you decide to walk, everything is in about a 4-5 block area.

Next up: Many trains in Colorado

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First stop…Boston. A guided tour takes you on the Freedom Trail with stops at Old Ironsides, Paul Revere’s home and Old North Church (one if by land and 2 if by sea). After lunch at Quincy Market (what a fun place this is) it’s a short 2 hour ride to Portland, Maine where dinner is served on an old ship converted to a bayside restaurant. The next day is a ferry ride among the islands. The “summer homes” are unbelievable and can only be reached by boat. After lunch there is a quick stop at a lighthouse (immortalized in a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who came from this area) before continuing through the White Mountains to North Conway, NH. In North Conway we ride the Notch train up a steep mountain. And after lunch we take a drive back to town on the “Kank”. One time I was sure I saw Julie Andrews coming down the mountain singing to me! Then a quick ride through the Green Mountains of Vermont to Connecticut. So much there to see and do. The Essex Riverboat and train is our next excursion. The train was featured in the latest Indiana Jones movie and the last time I was there the conductor who was featured in the movie was still there on the train he loves. Finally we end the train on Cape Cod in Hyannis for two nights. We do a harbor cruise to see the Kennedy compound and ride the Cape Cod train through all the cranberry bogs. Dinner, of course, is lobster and the next day we are on our way back to Boston for our trip home. Memories of New England in the fall last forever in our heads. Next week: San Antonio

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Very late September / early October is a great time to visit New England. Due to the distance from north to south, there is no way to hit all the leaves are at peak. But if you go during the above time, you are are sure to find beautiful color in Vermont & New Hampshire in the mountains and what a site that is to see. Although you don’t have to take an escorted tour, it is a great way to travel. You don’t have to worry about finding a hotel room (especially since many are booked up with all the tour buses going through at that time) and not only do you learn about all the sites along the way but you can also see them pretty well, unlike when someone has to drive. My favorite, although there are many, is New England Rails and Sails. Both Vacations by Rail & Mayflower Tours offer this tour. There are other tours in that area that feature Martha’s Vineyard and Newport, Rhode Island but I prefer riding boats and trains. Some of the highlights are a guided tour of Boston including the Freedom Trail and Boston Common, a ferry ride in Maine, the Notch train in New Hampshire in the White Mountains and a short jaunt on the Kancamagus Scenic Byway. You also ride the Essex train and riverboat in Connecticut and top the tour off with a Harbor cruise and ride on the Cape Cod Central Railroad. And, of course, while in Hyannis, don’t forget the wonderful lobster dinner awaiting you. Did you know all the New England states could fit into Maine and still have some room left? Next week: a closer look at this tour

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