Maradona, The Hand of God

If you’ve read past issues of our newsletter and committed them to memory, you’ll know I tolerate am passionate about international soccer. I’ve sat bored stiff enraptured at soccer matches in countries all over the world, nodded off during watched countless matches on television, and listened with one ear intently to Bob talk about top players like Franz Beckenbauer, Pelé, and Lionel Messi to name a few.

But perhaps the player I’ve heard most about over the years is Diego Armando Maradona. Born in Argentina, Maradona became famous while playing for Napoli, so a trip to this delightful Italian city in January required a walk down Maradona lane so to speak. I prepped by watching a documentary about Maradona on the plane ride over to Italy, in case I would be quizzed later. It was actually quite fascinating. When introducing Maradona to the city of Naples in 1984, 75,000 people filled Stadio San Paolo, not, mind you, for a game, but rather to just get a glimpse of the 23-year-old phenom.

It’s obvious that Naples is incredibly proud of the seven years Maradona played on the city’s team. Nearly 30 years later, there are reminders of him everywhere. And I should know, because Bob wanted to look at every single one. I waited patiently (?) every time Bob took a picture of a Maradona drawing, poster, statue, or painting. But even my jaded soccer self was entertained by a Diego Armando Maradona shrine at a coffee bar on a cobblestone street in the historic part of Naples. Cafe Nilo has a full-on altar for this soccer “deity” that includes Maradona printed money, images of him as a saint, poems written about him, a lock of his hair, and, in a revolving clear container, wait for it, genuine Maradona tears. If you’re skeptical about this, take a lesson from my experience. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT, question the validity of said items. THEY ARE REAL.

It was worth two delicious cappuccinos at the Cafe to get a glimpse of this shrine, and to feel comfortable taking a picture. Any international soccer fan—like me—definitely won’t want to miss this.

How Long is That in COVID Years?

It’s been a while now, hasn’t it? Back when this all started and most of us figured that at the worst it might go on until mid-summer, I kept my hopes up, looked on the bright side, and crossed my fingers that I’d still be able to head to St. Andrews in October. We all know how that turned out. I know, I’m a member of a very large club. But truth be told, at the same time, I took the opportunity to tune out the travel industry. We’ve been on top of travel news and trends for over 26 years now and I didn’t mind taking a little break. And let’s face it, there was (and is) more than enough other news.

But chatting with the few of our customers who are actually traveling has begun to whet my appetite for adventure. Granted, most of their stories skip all the fun stuff and center on travel hygiene. We’ve heard umpteen tales of travelers arming themselves with N-95 masks and goggles, carrying as much hand sanitizer as possible on board, and thoroughly wiping down every seatbelt, armrest, tray table and seat back with sanitizing wipes. We’ve been told unfortunate tales of passengers (at least two of our customers have referred to them as “jackasses,” and who am I to disagree?) who continually removed their masks only to have flight attendants remind them again and again to wear them properly. And right up there with the wonderful “service” that we’ve come to expect from the airline industry, we’ve heard several occurrences where passengers were promised empty middle seats only to have them filled.

All this first-hand information leads to the realization that for the foreseeable future, travel has become a bit more complicated. Gone are the days when it was as easy as purchasing a ticket, going through security, boarding your plane and then napping for a few hours before waking up in some distant land. To avoid unexpected problems and disappointments, travelers will need to stay on top of this type of news. Fortunately, there are many online sites with the latest travel updates. However, we strongly recommend double-checking and cross-referencing any information pertinent to your specific travel plans, whether with an airline, hotel or Airbnb, or with a country’s embassy if you’re leaving the USA. Here are a few sites and stories we are keeping our eyes on right now.

Hawaii — who doesn’t want to sit on a beach and sip a strong fruity cocktail and forget the troubles of 2020? This story from SFGATE details the many things travelers need to consider and accomplish if they’re currently interested in a tropical paradise vacation. It also illustrates how rules and regulations will likely be in constant flux.

Mexico — Mexico is open to American travelers, by air only (not land), although there are several things to keep in mind before you book.

Middle Seats — Some airlines (I’m looking at you United) have done away with empty middle seats, while others like Alaska Airlines, are still keeping those seats vacant. If in doubt, call your carrier directly.

State Requirements for Visits — While domestic travel is certainly easier, many states do require testing and possibly quarantining.

Maybe you’re not ready to get on an airplane yet, but if, like me, you’re getting a little antsy, these stories will either excite you more, or scare you away entirely. You’re welcome.

What a Long Strange Trip it Continues to Be

Is it just me, or does it feel like the past seven months have actually been two years in disguise? The last time we published our newsletter, we were heading to Southern Italy for three weeks of pasta eating and sightseeing in Naples, the Amalfi Coast, and Lecce, among other places. We returned at the beginning of February, and it quickly became clear to us that life, as we knew it, was about to change. Little did we know by how much.

Well it’s now October, and Travel Essentials is still here. We closed for two months, and have been back open five days a week, with Bob and I manning the store since mid-May. It hasn’t been easy, but the truth is we are fortunate. Just a month ago the Almeda Fire burned almost 3,000 residences in north Ashland, Talent and Phoenix, and so many people—including customers, acquaintances, former employees and community members—lost absolutely everything. It’s sobering to hear people tell you they fled their home with only the clothes on their back.

It has been uplifting however, to watch our community rally in support. From free meals provided by so many local restaurants, to clothing and furniture donations, and even the adoption of families into people’s homes, our Rogue Valley is trying hard to take care of its own. Travel Essentials’ customers have supported our efforts to donate to fire victims as well, and we’ve been able to donate new and used suitcases, backpacks and bags, as well as new underwear (a big need) and even furniture.

There’s still much work to be done, and if you’re looking for a good place to donate, I’d suggest you check out Unete, the Center for Farm Worker Advocacy, www.uneteoregon.org. Unete has established a farm worker and immigrant family relief fund whose monies are distributed directly to families for basic needs like food, gas and other essentials. Unete is also assisting families with navigating community resources.

There’s still work to be done before we get back to travel as well. But I’m confident we WILL travel again. It may not happen as soon as we’d all like, but someday, COVID-19 (and dare I say 2020?) will be a distant memory. We will get on planes again, and travel to exotic places like Angkor Wat and the Pyrenees—two places on our list. Let’s be honest, when COVID is behind us, I’ll be willing to travel to less exotic places as well. I’ll be willing to travel just about anywhere.

So until we’re all back out there adventuring around the world, I know this goes without saying, but please continue being kind, please wear a mask, and please vote.

May You Build A Ladder to the Stars

I’m feeling nostalgic and, perhaps if I’m being honest, even a little weepy as we begin the new year. Maybe it’s because we’re entering a new decade. Or because we just completed our 25th year in business. Or maybe it’s because our two daughters, who now live and work in career jobs in Portland and Seattle respectively – queue Bob Dylan singing Forever Young – just left after spending more than a week at home with us in Ashland. Sigh. Whatever the reason, I can’t help but look back on where we’ve been in the last 25 years, and wonder where the time went.

Our first trip after opening Travel Essentials took us to Croatia, to see my aunts, uncles and cousins in Dubrovnik, and then for 10 days to Italy. Emily and Sarah were 3 and 1 1/2. Yes indeed. We were that family getting onto the airplane with a 10-hour flight ahead of us, where people were most certainly chanting to themselves “not by me, not by me, please don’t let this family sit by me.” We traveled with a huge Eagle Creek rolling duffel bag, filled with diapers, bottles, many changes of clothes, toys, and who knows what else. Jet lag hit Emily hard on this trip. I remember her crying (screaming?) in my aunt’s home when she desperately needed to go to sleep, and me trying to explain to my aunt in broken Croatian how Emily was just tired, and I’m sure she would be in much better spirits the next day. In Italy, I remember thinking there was no way our girls could stay awake until most Italians ate dinner, as late as 9pm!!! Candy, which up until this trip was not a common treat in our house, was a big part of our daily routine. It kept sleepy girls awake in the late afternoon when we didn’t want them to fall asleep, it worked as bribery in quiet museums, and it just gave two frazzled parents a few minutes of peace.

Our next international trip was when the girls were 8 and 6 and we went to Thailand. Their ages made it much easier for traveling, but Thailand was nothing like Europe, and although everyone was very friendly, it was still very foreign to us, and especially to our girls. And it was hot. Boy was it hot. Swimming pools were extremely important, as were cokes and Pringles potato chips. Every day we’d set out for a destination, perhaps a temple, a hike or another sacred site, with the promise that in the afternoon there would be swimming and treats.

It was very fun in each of these countries to go to the store and search for treats that the girls would enjoy. Italy was where we first learned about Kinder Eggs, hollow chocolate eggs with a tiny toy inside. Those entertained the girls for long lengths of time.

We ate plenty of excellent local food in each of these three places. I remember great seafood in Croatia, delicious pasta in Italy, and Pad Kee Mao with chicken in Thailand. I’d be lying however, if I told you we didn’t also eat some American staples too, because there’s only so much fish and stir fry that most little kids are willing to put up with. I remember pizza in Bangkok, salami and bread in Croatia, and in Italy, hamburgers. When we were back home, a friend asked Emily what her favorite part about our trip to Italy was and her reply was the Happy Meal she got at a McDonald’s in Rome. I’m not ashamed. Well, maybe just a little bit.

Our girls now travel on their own, when we can’t all arrange our schedules and take a family trip together. Last summer, coincidentally, they went back to Croatia with their cousin Sam, to see all the family they hadn’t seen in 22 years. They also spent several days in Mallorca, zooming around the island in a convertible Fiat rental car. They’ve added wine and tapas into their travel diet repertoire, but I hope, for old time’s sake if for nothing else, coke and Pringles are still in the mix.

Turning Pages the Old School Way – Why I Use a Guidebook

I am a book lover. I’m not referring to an e-book or audio book (bite your tongue), but rather an old-fashioned crack-open-the-spine-and-turn-the-paper-pages-with-your-fingers book. I’ll read an electronic book when I’m desperate, but I strongly prefer to check a book out of my local library and hold it in my hands while I’m skimming its pages. Thus, it should come as no surprise that I love travel guidebooks as well. When Bob and I are planning a trip, we’ll have two or three guidebooks sitting on our end tables until a few weeks before we depart, when we realize we’ve got to get cracking and make some plans. Customers always ask for my favorite guidebook series, but I honestly don’t prefer one type over another. Rather, I like to take home several and cross reference them, to make sure I’m getting the most information about where I’m going. Here’s an example.

We’re headed out in a couple of weeks to Southern Italy. We’ll fly into Naples, spend a few days there, then rent a car and head south. I’ve been poring over both the Lonely Planet for Southern Italy, as well as Rick Steves Naples and the Amalfi Coast. I’m a big fan of Rick Steves guidebooks, and always take a copy with me if he’s published one for my destination. But Rick is very opinionated, and if he doesn’t think a place is worthwhile, it likely won’t make it into his guidebook at all, so I always use a second guidebook in my planning.

Even though I might not book lodging based on a guidebook recommendation, I still get a great deal of information from them, and can’t imagine planning a trip without one. Rick Steves offers detailed, self-guided walking tours in all major cities. Most Lonely Planet guides provide excellent information on hikes, like the Walk of the Gods hike on the Amalfi Coast, which is not mentioned at all in Steves book. There are excellent restaurant recommendations, detailed descriptions of the best exhibits to see in museums, and shopping suggestions beyond your typical tourist trinket store, to name just a few. Thanks to a guidebook, we’ve bought pastries from a cloistered convent where we never saw the person selling us the goods, we’ve shopped in a hundred year old pottery store, and we’ve skipping a several hour ticket line for the Sagrada Familia.

Guidebooks also provide invaluable information on public transportation, including discounted options for multiple day local transport tickets, ways to skip long ticket lines at museums and other popular sites, how best to plan an itinerary, detailed street maps of cities and towns, and so much more.

Yes, you can find virtually all of this information on the internet. And you can buy electronic copies of guidebooks, and even, from Lonely Planet, chapters of guidebooks online as well. But I’m a strong believer in having as much information in the most accessible place possible, making it as convenient for me as I possibly can. Let’s be real, I aim for everything in my life to be as convenient as possible. The $40ish dollars I’m going to spend on two guidebooks for a several thousand dollar trip are more than worth it in my book. Pun intended.

Hand Me Down My Walkin’ Shoes – Walking in Paris

Among my favorite offerings in Rick Steves’ city guidebooks are his recommended self-guided walking tours. I love to walk, so right off the bat I’m a fan. But his walks also point out unusual and unadvertised highlights that I would never know about otherwise. I’ll read his tidbits aloud to anyone in my party that is willing to listen, and even to those that aren’t (such as my youngest daughter when she was a teenager). Here’s an example.

On our trip to Paris last winter, Bob and I took several of Steves’ Paris walks. One favorite was the Montmartre Walk. On this stroll, Steves’ offered specific directions on how to find often unmarked historic sites, which included the La Maison Rose Restaurant, made famous by a painting from artist Maurice Utrillo.  We saw Pablo Picasso’s studio, the home of Vincent van Gogh, the Moulin Rouge nightclub, and nearby Pig Alley. All accompanied by interesting facts and histories.

Steves’ Left Bank walk led us through the delightful Luxembourg Gardens, a 60-acre park complete with a palace, beehives dating to 1872, 600 varieties of fruit trees – each with identifying signage, chess tables, ponds and more. The walk included a stroll across the Pont des Arts pedestrian bridge, apparently a popular meeting point for lovers, so thanks to Rick I was able to sneak a kiss from my main squeeze (really he’s my only squeeze, unless you count a good book and a soft blanket). And it was fun to stop in the oldest toy store in Paris, Tikibou Jouets, where in addition to unique items for sale, you can browse the collections of antique die cast toys, such as Tintin, Babar, the Little Prince, the Michelin man, and so many more.

And I can’t write about walking tours from Rick Steves’ Paris book without mentioning his Pére Lachaise Cemetery tour. 70,000 people are interred in the cemetery, and Steves’ tour gives specific directions on how to find the tombs of famous artists including Oscar Wilde, Gertrude Stein, Édith Piaf, Jim Morrison, and Frédéric Chopin, to name a few. The cemetery is stunning in its own right, with beautiful art deco signage, cobbled streets, and narrow walkways.

Steves’ self-guided walking tours tell you exactly how long you should expect to walk, when the best time of day is for each particular tour, and the hours of museums and other spots along the way. He also guides you to nearby places for a snack, coffee or beer, many with their own intriguing histories. The included tour maps are spot on, and Rick’s witty jokes and puns aren’t so bad either. If time permits, Bob and I try and take as many Rick Steves’ self-guided walking tours as we can, for every city that he publishes books. The tours are free (but for the price of the guidebook), you can take them at your own pace, and if you’re lucky, you might just get a kiss from your partner.

Renewing TSA PreCheck and Global Entry

Nancy and I recently renewed our five-year memberships in the TSA PreCheck and Global Entry programs, because I think we can all agree that navigating airports is a challenge to just about anyone’s serenity. It all adds up to a stressful experience: arranging transportation, arriving early enough (but not too early!), making sure your liquids are properly sized and stored, and having your ID and boarding pass at the ready. Then you immediately begin the scramble of removing said liquids, laptops, phones, belts, shoes, and everything else in your pockets for a precious few moments, only to gather them all up, get them all back where they belong, and move along so the next poor soul can do the same. Even as a frequent traveler, who feels organized and prepared for the security skirmish, I always end up more than just a bit disheveled and disoriented. Truth is, I often start that way, but you get my drift.

So I’m interested in anything that eases that process. Unfortunately the world of private jets, and their nearly non-existent security processes, are far beyond our means. As a fairly frequent flyer, I really like the Global Entry program. For $100 and little bit of your time, Global Entry helps you speed through immigration and customs when re-entering the USA, and includes TSA PreCheck, which helps you speed through TSA security lines at participating US airports.

Initially I found it a bit confusing, but they are in fact two separate but related programs. TSA PreCheck is $85 for five years. But for $100 (an extra $15), you can also get Global Entry. Therefore the only reason to limit yourself to PreCheck is if you are 100% certain you will not leave the country for the five-year duration of your membership. Seems to me that the extra $15 is worth it just in case.

Five years ago, Nancy and I signed up for both programs to see how they worked. With TSA PreCheck, we go to a separate and always much shorter line, and are not required to remove shoes, laptops, liquids, belts or jackets. And for us that makes a big difference. More than 200 US airports and 73 airlines offer PreCheck and only once that I can remember was PreCheck unavailable. And with Global Entry, many, many times we have sped past long customs lines full of tired and understandably irritated fellow travelers to the automated Global Entry kiosks. Turns out we liked both programs a lot. It was an easy decision to renew for another five years.

Like the original application process, renewal was straightforward. Fill out an online questionnaire and schedule an in-person interview. Both times it was the interview scheduling that posed the greatest logistical hurdle, mostly because our little airport in Medford, Oregon does not do the interviews.

Although there are nearly 400 enrollment centers where TSA interviews take place, sometimes booking a time slot can be a little tough. For me, there were no available times on the west coast that met my travel schedule. Eventually, I was able to arrange a time several months out during a long layover we had coming up at New York’s JFK airport. A customer recently told us that she had to schedule her interview in Portland one year ahead of time. She also noted that she has received a few emails from the TSA encouraging her to “drop in” to a participating airport’s enrollment center for an interview. Nancy and I tried to do just that at SFO five years ago on our first go ‘round, and we were practically laughed out of the office. But perhaps things have changed in the interim.

The renewal process did pose a curious question, as I was required to interview again but Nancy was not. She was issued her Trusted Traveler Global Entry ID renewal straight away after applying online, while I was required to interview to complete the process. Who knows why? Other than my 2015 trip to India, we’d visited all the same countries during our five years in the program. However, upon review, Nancy believes it is possible she omitted Jordan from the “countries visited” on her renewal form. Nevertheless, after all that, my interview occurred almost exactly at the scheduled hour and lasted less than five minutes. A few weeks later, I received my renewed Trusted Traveler Global Entry ID in the mail and I was good to go for another five years.

For us, the $100 Global Entry/TSA PreCheck fee is worth it. We average about five round trip flights a year. Over five years that’s 25 trips, and because you go through security both ways, that’s 50 times through security. That’s $2 per TSA encounter. It’s pretty much an official bribe – kind of like slipping someone a couple of bucks to skip to the front of the line. And that’s before factoring in time saved at immigration and customs. I’ll take it.

Big Wheel Keep on Turnin’ – Relaxing on the River

Sometimes you just need a quick getaway. A respite from your work, your home and yard work, and even from your city. Bob and I took a long weekend break this summer to the McKenzie River, where I’m embarrassed to say, in 26 years of Oregon living, we’ve never explored. Boy were we impressed.

There are lots of amazing outdoor adventures and beautiful camping opportunities in Oregon, but I’ve decided that at 52, my days of sleeping on the ground and walking to a toilet in the cold, dark night are over. And I’m not ashamed to admit it. So to keep me happy, we instead booked a last minute cabin at the Cedarwood Lodge, a delightful spot in McKenzie Bridge, right on the McKenzie River. With seven cabins to choose from, the Cedarwood is the perfect blend of comfort and rustic all rolled into one, with the emphasis on the comfort. Mike Giorgio has owned the Lodge for 30 years, and he is incredibly welcoming and friendly. The grounds are superbly well kept, as are the cabins. Our one bedroom cabin, which was $145 a night, had a deck that looked directly at the river. We sat on it every morning and drank our coffee, and every evening with our cocktails, watching rafts and boats float by. With a fully equipped kitchen, it was easy to prepare delicious meals and concoct yummy drinks too.

There’s great hiking all along the McKenzie River, and we took full advantage of the fact that we could drive a short way to many different trail heads. A few of our favorites were the Waterfall Loop Trail, about 3 miles, the Tamolitch Blue Pool (4 miles), and the McKenzie River Trail itself, which we hiked on for about 5 miles. The River is extraordinary, and the trails that run right along it are beautiful. The Blue Pool trail, which is quite popular, was the busiest, but it was never too crowded. Other trails however, were almost completely free of other hikers. It was just us and nature much of the time.

We also golfed, yes, we golfed, at the Tokatee Golf Club in McKenzie Bridge. The golf club is just as beautiful as the rest of the McKenzie River area, with stunning views and vistas. I played nine holes, and didn’t keep my score. I’m certain this goes without saying, but I could give Phil Mickelson a serious run for his money.

We took a drive one afternoon up to the McKenzie Pass and the Dee Wright Observatory. The structure, built with lava stone, is right in the middle of a large lava flow, and it provides excellent viewing of many of Oregon’s biggest mountains. There’s a Lava River National Recreational Trail there, with excellent information about the lava flow and the growth that has somehow managed to sneak its way in to the lava. The difference in landscape between this area and the McKenzie River is unreal, they are like polar opposites, and yet they are just 26 miles apart.

Within walking distance of the Cedarwood Lodge is the McKenzie River General Store and Grill, where on weekend nights, local bands perform in the courtyard. It appears that many locals hang out here, although it’s hard to figure out where all these folks live, as the surrounding area seems rather unpopulated.

We had a great break from our usual life, and now that we know how lovely the McKenzie River area is, I think we’ll be taking a break a little more often.

One Way to Avoid Tight Connections

Bob and I are just back from a trip to Botswana and South Africa, with quick visits to Egypt and Zimbabwe (more on our visit to these countries in our print newsletter, coming out next month!). Our flights to the African continent were long, and we had many stops. But as you’ll find out next month, it was well worth it. It’s not easy though to get many places from our little airport in Medford, Oregon. And when you’re headed all the way to Africa it gets even tougher. There are direct flights to cities like San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, and Denver, but if you want to travel further afield, you know you’ll have to stop at least one other place before your final destination.

We had booked our tickets for this trip on United miles, and the best option for us was to book two separate mileage tickets for each of us, the first going from Medford to New York (via Denver), and the second from New York to Johannesburg. Now, booking two separate tickets always gives me pause, because if your entire trip is booked on one ticket, and your first flight is delayed long enough that you miss your second flight, the airline is obligated to rebook you on another flight. However, if you have two separate tickets and the same thing happens, sorry Charlie, you’re on your own to purchase another flight. Thus, for this trip, we chose to fly the day before on one ticket to New York, then stay overnight in a hotel, and fly on our second ticket the next day to Johannesburg. We figured it would keep us safe from any delays that might cause us to miss our long flight to South Africa, and indeed that was the case. We did the same thing on the way home, and although it took us a day longer in travels each way, we were also able to sleep fairly soundly for six hours in a hotel bed in New York, and not have to sit for hours and hours in an airport waiting for a long connection either.

The older I get (I feel like I’m saying this a lot lately, but I digress), the more I want to de-stress my life and my travels, and tight connections are a big stress bomb, at least for me. A good night of sleep, in a real bed, is worth a lot to me too.

Visiting the Point Reyes National Seashore – Another National Treasure

When Bob and I want to get away for the weekend, my first inclination is to head to water. I love being near Portland’s Willamette River, or San Francisco Bay, or Seattle’s Elliott Bay. And it doesn’t hurt that I’ve got loved ones in all those places either! So last weekend, when we were visiting friends in Petaluma, California, I was delighted to squeeze in an outing to Point Reyes Station, and the Point Reyes National Seashore.

We started our day at Point Reyes Station, a small, unincorporated town located in Marin County that manages to be both boujee and rustic at the same time. On the one hand, you’ve got shops featuring local artists and locally sourced artisanal and organic foods. On the other hand, you’ve got stores selling saddles, bridles, feed and other products for horses. I loved it. We ate amazing grilled cheese sandwiches at the Cowgirl Creamery, followed up by Buffalo Milk Soft Serve ice cream made by Double 8 Dairy in Petaluma. Then we browsed the art, book and gift stores in the two-block burg.

From Point Reyes Station, we drove just a few minutes to the Point Reyes National Seashore Visitor Center. I must get on my soapbox for a moment and talk up our National Park visitor centers. When in the town of Point Reyes Station, we looked at buying a map of the seashore for $9.95. At the visitor center, we picked up a free map, but what I really loved was the free advice we received at the same time. We asked for suggestions on the best places to hike with the time we had allotted, and our friendly and knowledgeable park ranger offered several options. She asked if we wanted beach, trees or animals, then gave us her recommendations. Every time I visit a national park visitor center, I’m reminded of what a great resource these places are for travelers, and why some folks say our National Park system is America’s best idea.

Stepping off my soapbox and back to my story, we chose to hike the Tomales Point trail, starting from historic Pierce Point Ranch. A 14-mile drive from the visitor center, Pierce Point Ranch was a butter producing ranch founded in the late 1800s and in operation until 1973. Today, the restored ranch showcases a variety of buildings along with their history and functions. These include a schoolhouse, a blacksmith shop, dairy houses, and more. From Pierce Point Ranch, one can hike four-and-a-half miles along the Tomales Point Trail, beside the Pacific Ocean, to Tomales Bluff. The trail passes through the Tule Elk Reserve, and although we didn’t see any elk rutting, as our National Park ranger suggested we might, we did see many elk off in the distance, relaxing in the grass, enjoying the cool breeze and salty air, and participating in scintillating conversation with each other.

It was a beautifully clear day at the National Seashore, although it was quite windy on the bluff. But, of course, our astute National Park ranger had prepared us for that too.