Blogs > News-Herald Food and Travel

Food and travel captivate Janet Podolak, who chronicles both for The News-Herald. Get the back story of her three decades of stories here. Guest bloggers and fellow News-Herald staffers also periodically share details of their trips.

Friday, June 20, 2008

alberta or Mars

At times it seems I've come to Mars instead of Alberta, in Western Canada. I'd been to Calgary, Edmonton, Banff and Lake Louise before and thought I knew the province. But the Badlands are something else again. Striped beehive shaped hills, strange landforms that look like fantastic creatures are in valleys carved by ancient rivers from snowmelt and faraway glaciers.

The sandstone layers hold more dinosaur and other fossil bones than anywhere else on earth. The creatures are found largely whole because they died and were washed down ancient, raging rivers, where they were quickly covered and preserved by silt that eventually turned to stone. Dinosaur Provincial Park is a UNESCO Wolrd Heritage site, just like the pyramids, because it has the world's largest concentration of dinosaurs.

Tonight I will be celebrating the beginning of summer with a midnight full moon float trip down the Milk River, so-named by Lewis and Clark who came through after rainstorms washed the Badlands silt into the river turning it a milky color.

Last night we arrived in Brooks, where huge Lake Newell was created as a irrigaiton project years ago. It captures the Bow River into a lake so large it can barely be seen across. Lake Shore Bed & Breakfast Spa was my delightful bed last night. Its perched at the edge of the lovely lake with its large population of white pelicans. Negative ion air, chlorine free showers and fine linens are part of the hospitality, and I just finished a delightful breakfast of shrimp omelet, red peppers with cream cheese and tequila lime sauce. . YUM!

In between the Badlands areas and the lake, though, are vast expanses of flat prairie punctuated by oil and gas wells with herds of grazing Black Angus cattle and buffalo, both of which Ive eaten at night. Today's photos are from my friend Glen Cameron, a Toronto guy who was here last year and kindly emailed them to me so I could share with you.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Dinosaurs rule Drumheller

I held a 50 million year old dinosaur bone in my hand yesterday. To think of being able to actually touch something that old boggles my mind. Collector Steve Wolchina grew up here near Drumheller, Alberta and has been picking up dinosaur bones from the coulees and other strange earthen formations of these Canadian Badlands for more than 50 years.

His tiny stand boasting "Fossils!" and "Dinosaur bones!" its near the edge of Horseshoe Canyon, a four mile long, two mile wide precipice filled with the striped and oddly shaped formations we began seeing upon the approach to Drumheller. Wolchina's dinosaur bones are mostly fragments, but they're the real thing and they sell for $20 and up.

Because his decades of experience help him know what to look for, he also prospects for the fossils in Utah and other places the bones are known to be found. He ships his finds to souvenir stands all over the world.

Dinosaurs in Canada now are protected by the government, he told me. "All invertebrate fossils now belong to the Crown," he said.

This morning I'll visit the Royal Tyrrell Museum, largest in the world devoted to palaeontology, where I am sure to learn more about these giant creatures who roamed the earth so long ago. I hope to find out if there's a connection between the huge numbers of oil and gas reserves here and the presence of dinosaurs. Drumheller makes the most of its dinosaur heritage with huge plaster creatures all around town. The visitor center is tucked beneath the belly of a 3 story tall dinosaur model. Kids crawl over it and, from inside the center, people can even go up inside it.

We'll also drive a couple of hours to Dinosaur Provincial Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

But photos will have to wait until I return. I forgot a cord that's necessary to transfer them from my camera to my computer.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Dinosaurs in alberta

The Canadian province of Alberta beckons me this week, specifically the Canadian
Badlands, east of Calgary. Eons ago it was the final resting place for dinosaurs,
which continue to be studied, excavated and preserved.

Today roads following ancient Indian trade routes are the way to Alaska for RVers
and other northbound travelers and also a crossroads for NAFTA commerce between
Mexico and Canada. Lodgings here include places where people hauling their horses
can stop for the night — places that beckon with rest, exercise and good food for
humans and equines alike. Those welcoming dogs, cats and kids are almost universal,
since even motorhome travelers don't like to sleep in campgrounds EVERY night.

Clothing and footwear suitable for rugged rattlesnake country are my pretrip preoccupation
— just one carryon bag, few electronics, lots of sunscreen and insect repellent.

I'll be welcoming the solstice and start of summer with a full moon float
trip down the Milk River — so named by Lewis and Clark when they passed through
after a rainstorm had turned the river pale from silt washed from the badlands.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

future of travel

Strategizing for the future of travel is part of the reason I'm here in Amarillo with the Midwest Travel Writers Association. The high price of gas, both for autos and aircraft, is already resulting in plans by our readers to stay closer to home. Changes will also include differences in how we travel and the attitude we bring to our journeys. We'll likely take another look at Amtrak, Greyhound and sharing cars and find new ways to have fun without spending an arm and leg.

Associates in this organization, who represent destinations throughout the Midwest, had these tidbits to share with me at our meeting this morning:

By next year In Indianapolis you can rent a bike and follow a new Cultural Trail that connect every art, cultural, heritage, sports and entertainment venue downtown. Motorcycle racing returns to the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the Red Bull GP race Sept. 14.

Traverse City in northern Michigan, a seven hour drive from home, has cool lake breezes, wineries and music and art festivals throughout the summer. Top chefs, cookbook authors and wine experts gather Sept. 11-13 for the Traverse Epicurean Classic which is framed around three days of cooking classes, international wine, beer, cheese and spirits tastings. One producer is even crafting eau de vie from the wonderful fruits in this area. and

July 22 brings the long awaited opening of the world's only Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee. named this lakeside city as one of the 2008 Top 10 Best Places for a Value Vacation. The News-Herald's Jean Bonchak will be traveling there soon to gather information for the Sunday Travel section to help you make the most of your own visit.

Taking Amtrak to Chicago is simple from Cleveland's East Ninth Street Station. Cross the street from the Windy City's Union Station to catch a regional train to Woodstock, one the Victorian small towns an hour or so west in northern Illinois. Music, art and crafts shows fill the summer weekends, and everything's within easy walking or biking distance from a handful of bed and breakfasts. My frieind Kathleen Webster can fill you in with an email to Tell her I sent you.

Discover the adventure of rock climbing in Kentucky's Red River Gorge are of the Daniel Boone National Forest. Book a room at Natural Bridge State Resort Park then meet up with Matt and Amy Tackett, owners of Red River Outdoors. They'll have you climbing a sheer rock face or rapelling off a cliff in no time at all.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

amarillo texas: strange place

Perhaps it's the vast reserves of helium stored underground. Or maybe it's the 100-degree May temperatures and constant 50 mph winds that send whirling clouds of yellow dust swirling across the empty plains, obscuring the grain elevators and rare trees that punctuate them.

But Amarillo is one of the strangest places I've ever been.

From aloft this plains panhandle region of west Texas looks like a flat empty desert. Its been in a drought for several years so it probably somewhat resembles the '30s dust bowl Steinbeck wrote about. Strangely like Stonehenge on the Salisbury Plain, one huge endless tract of flat land has 10 bright yellow '70s Cadillacs imbedded nose down at the same angle as the Great Pyramid. It's the creation of one Stanley Marsh 3, a 70-something billionaire who inherited his gas and oil fortune from his parents. The so-called Cadillac Ranch is "interactive art" in that people who visit are encouraged to spray paint their own graffiti on the cars. The spray paint is supplied. My Nikon almost got painted when I stood downwind from one would-be graffiti artist. "He's eccentric," said our guide. "If he wasn't so rich we'd call him crazy."

The surreality began within the first few hours I was on the ground when I met the Wilsons, who moved here a year and a half ago from Mentor. Collin Wilson, 18, is a Kwahadi Indian dancer as were his father, Marc, and his grandfather before him. The Kwahadi Center & Kiva here is a Boys Scouts owned and operated museum and performance center that interprets the culture of the Plains and the Pueblo Indians. It all started in 1944 and today the 100 dancer group of Boy and Girl Scouts ages 11 to 22 give 50 or more performances a year throughout this country and abroad. Collin's mom, Darla Wilson, told me that when the family moved back to Amarillo, her husband, who works for Swaglok, began doing beading again. Of course the rest of the family was intrigued and he told them about the unusual scouting program in which he spent his youth. The dancers are really incredibly talented and make their own carefully researched and very elaborate costumes, including intricate beading done on looms they make themselves and headdresses made from porcupine quills.

The Wilson family lived on Inland Shores Drive when they were in Mentor and Collin went to Rice Elementary, Shore Junior High and Mentor High, from which he would have graduated if they hadn't moved. His mom has been home schooling him and he'll be off to college next year. His younger brother and little sister are among his biggest fans. They both want to be Kwahadi Indian dancers when they get older.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Coming home from France

Coming home this time of year is a delight! Blooming rhododendrons frame my house, the irises are in bloom and soon my front door will be framed in a blue cloud of clematis.

Nine hours is the same aircraft seat is not difficult at all in Continental's BusinessFirst. Window seat 3A was my home for most of Saturday — a disconcertingly long day that began with a 1 p.m. meal of veal and beef with spring vegetables, burgundy wine and a choice of desserts following the cheese cart. (at that time, 6 a.m. in Cleveland, I am usually at the gym!) But I prefer fats to sweets so chose the cheeses.

You saw cheese trolley pictures shot on my way to France from Cleveland in the first of these blogs from Loire. That blog was pretty short because I hadn't yet figured out wi-fi, which the French call wee-fee - and ran out of time. We had a different hotel every night on this press trip, each with a different system and charge for computer access. It was my first time on this new computer and was also my first time loading the photos I shot — a technological miracle considering I still cant work the VCR or DVD or whatever its called these days.

Wi-fi access ranged from 5 euros for a half hour (about $8) to free if you could figure out how by bringing your computer to a certain spot, taking a deep breath and facing east.. or something like that. Figuring it out myself was the key to learning how. Sometimes when folks are quick to help me out, I don't learn how for myself — even though most things computer are common sense and patience.

Sometimes I'm not strong in either, but trips like this give me confidence in my own ability to deal with other languages and cultures against the backdrop of train, planes and automobiles, unfamiliar plumbing and infrastructure. And I usually have a great time, despite the small stuff like crummy weather. I am, after all, a native Northeast Ohioan.

A jet lag protocol combining accupressure and self reinforcement I tried on both legs of the journey to France proved pretty effective. So I am really not as disoriented as usual after an international trip. I'll be writing about that for an upcoming Health story — a section that runs every Thursday in the News-Herald.

Blogs of the past few days, in fact, give readers a preview of what's coming up in the Sunday Travel section. I hope they'll serve as an adjunct to my notes. I can't say yet just when Loire stories will run, but if you intend to travel to France this summer I promise to give you some nice options to explore.

I do wish I'd see some Comments at the end of this blog. It's the only way I know it's being read and if it is worth my effort to continue with it. I have all sorts of good ideas for it, but I also have a lot of other commitments for my time. So if you're enjoying this, let me know and tell me what you'd like to see here.

And just figuring out how to put photo captions under the pictures here will take up my laundry time on this lovely Sunday. So I will tell you that I'm showing you pictures of a wine and cheese tasting in a wine cellar in Chartres, the medieval lower town of the same lovely city and the pastries in the case at a sandwich shop where we provisioned for a picnic lunch. The shop window signs shows the prices aren't nearly as outrageous in France as I'd been led to believe. If you want to be thrifty you can — it's all a matter of looking for choices.

The new Continental flight from Cleveland has had every seat filled both ways since it began in mid-May, so if you want to be on a flight before the end of September you need to plan it. Fill every seat and Continental may well consider making the flight year-round from Cleveland. That would be great news! Late fall and winter in France have their advantages — sometime this summer I'll tell you more about my visit last fall to France's Champagne region at the end of harvest.

My outbound and return flights had many business travelers who work regularly in France and this flight is a bonus. It's especially good for Northeast Ohioans doing business in France, but since Cleveland is such a vibrant hub for Continental, it also serves travelers from throughout the country.

After these flights end, France travelers will have to go to Detroit or Newark or another city first and wait around for a flight onward to Paris.