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Reader mail: Megabus, cheap NYC lodging, Quebec travels

Summer must be here because more of you are asking for and sharing vacation advice. Here is a sampling from the reader mailbag. — Since writing about Megabus (megabus.com, 877-462-6342) transportation last winter, I’ve ridden the low-cost and limited-stop bus service to Louisville and Toronto. The Chicago-Louisville trip went off without a hitch, but Toronto-Buffalo(…)

Turk’s Inn, Waswagoning: tales of two endangered gems

When a business loses its owner, it’s heart and survival also are at risk. Wisconsin lost two gems this winter, and their stories have very different endings. – Marge Gogian’s life was all about style. She was a New York City fashion designer for decades, until her father’s heart attack in the 1970s, when she(…)

Reader mail: Baraboo, drive-ins, Grand Canyon, B&Bs

It’s been months since we dipped into the reader mailbag. Here is a sample of your feedback, questions and advice – all of which I greatly appreciate. – Before colleague Sandra Friend of Florida made her way to Wisconsin, she asked for advice about places to stay. “Chicago is too urban for us,” she decided,(…)

Reader mail: Packer pride, hot air balloon rides

Time to sift through the reader mailbag. Keep it coming! Can you take a hot air balloon ride in Wisconsin? Marilyn Gering of Oconto wants to know, and she has several choices. These businesses have been around since the 1970s: – Token Creek Balloons, near Madison, and Sunbird Balloons, Lake Geneva, both operated by the(…)

Chicago fans share their fave hidden gems

Spiritual sites, ethnic neighborhoods, down-home food, fine fabrics and Asian art are among your worthwhile reasons for stepping away from the Loop and Magnificent Mile. Here is what readers had to recommend about good but lesser-known reasons to visit Chicago. — “The one place I really enjoy seeing, besides the usual tourist things, is Pacific(…)

Cash in your assets and see the world

The guestbook was one of the last things I checked during a Tutoko II cruise in New Zealand’s pristine Fiordland recently. One of the handwritten raves, entered 11/11/11, was from Karen Gill and Ken Schellin of Milwaukee. Our 14-passenger vessel was one of only two ways for travelers to spend the night afloat in the(…)

Beloit gains Great American Main St. Award

The Facebook conversation begins in a neutral manner: “Heading to Beloit; seeking your input,” I write. “Head SouthWest – LOL,” responds a high school classmate, two minutes later. “Beloit. The sound a nickel makes when dropped into a bucket of water,” adds a friend in Illinois. “Gentlemen, your reactions are what I suspected. Hope to(…)

Midwest to Middle East: best meals of 2010

An unusual setting helps deepen the dining experience. These six memorable meals are from my travels during 2010. — Traders Point Creamery – Evidence of rural life appears abruptly, just northwest of Indianapolis. It’s a quick switch from suburbia and interstates to cornfields and a one-lane bridge. This is where children, and others, learn that(…)

Good night value: eco cottage to Pod hotel

Good value matters when traveling. Here are six places to find it, from overnights that enriched my own travels during 2010. — Aloft Milwaukee Downtown – Among Milwaukee’s newest lodging options is this hip and practical hotel within a walk of the Bradley Center, Riverwalk, theaters, dining and nightlife. Sharp geometrics and bold colors define(…)

How to plan an affordable Rose Bowl trip

For Wisconsin Badger football fans, the smell of roses will swell with the end of year. Hundreds reserved a spot for group travel to the Rose Bowl before their team even got an invitation to participate. Are you tempted to head west to Pasadena, Calif., or south for a respite from the freeze of winter?(…)

Chicago hospitality: outstanding to ugly sides

Use Google when in search of the “lost art of customer service,” and 10,000 references pop up within two seconds. Balance this against economic predictions that excellent customer assistance will make a big-time comeback this year. Customer service – be it mindful or mindless – has the power to enhance, rescue or destroy a getaway.(…)

Bad news, short notice: How to travel smart

When “travel” means “vacation,” planning can be a pleasure and occur at a leisurely pace. Our decisions fulfill dreams, strengthen relationships, emphasize adventure or rest. We learn as we explore and are energized by a temporary escape from time clocks, housework, care giving. But when travel happens in response to bad news, logistics likely complicate(…)

Top dining-lodging picks: distillery, parador

One last round of accolades before I get on with the new year: These businesses provided stimulating dining and lodging during 2009, which means they were excellent getaway destinations all on their own. — What could be finer than an escape with longtime but seldom-seen friends, and what a shame to let the layout of(…)

2009 lodging: Dubuque suite to Nile cruise

I sleep in a lot of unusual places. In 2009 these included an eccentric bed and breakfast with fake fur cats in just about every room, plus a former fire station with a motorcycle parked in the living room and a door that wouldn’t accept my key. When advised, via cell phone, to use another(…)

2009 dining: Wilton, Botin, Novodabo

Excellent food, unusual settings and/or one-of-a-kind characters earn these five places a spot on my list of exceptional dining spots of 2009. Consider it a way to acknowledge interesting businesses that weren’t the topic of previous “Roads Traveled” columns. — Some people take the five-mile detour off of Interstate 80, between Iowa City and Davenport,(…)

Lost luggage, holiday travel: a story, advice

Time to challenge your disposition. Another holiday travel season has begun. ’Tis the season of wily weather, missed connections and lengthy layovers; each roadblock tinkers and tampers with our temperament. I am thankful for many things in 2009, and that includes not losing luggage while traveling. This makes Louise Burke’s list of thanks different than(…)

Field trips abroad widen students’ world view

Breakfast ends with a mug of hot and sludge-like chocolate, the dipping sauce for freshly fried churros – fat and slightly greasy rods of sugar-doused dough. The traditional Spanish treat challenges even the most ardent sugar-holics; only our guide has the gall and gastro-stamina to empty her cup. We are in Zaragoza, the fifth largest(…)

Reader mail: funeral wieners, vacation ideas

I need to dip into the reader mailbag more often. Here is a sample of what you’ve written; a couple of diner/café recommendations will turn into a column before summer ends. — “Thank you for advice about the Speckled Hen Bed and Breakfast” in Madison, writes Mark Tryon of Fond du Lac. “My wife and(…)

Traveling Teddy: Theresa class takes a ride

The note arrived in mid-March, less than one week before the start of spring. “We have been enjoying your letters and treats from all over the world,” the students wrote. “Last week we ‘traveled’ to the Arctic in our studies and thought we’d send YOU a picture for once. Our igloo has made a ‘cool’(…)

How to save money while vacationing

Travel journalism conferences this spring took me to Georgia, where my increasingly frugal nature revealed itself more than once. I hopped a Greyhound from Savannah to Atlanta, instead of renting a car for three times the price and much less stress. Having a good book made the five-hour bus ride fly, although other passengers easily(…)

Souvenir shopping: What says ‘Wisconsin’?

I have just finished writing a story about Wisconsin for a newspaper in Ireland, and it ends with formulaic lists under this heading: “where to go and stay and what to buy.” The latter part threw me. What souvenir is distinctly Wisconsin, the state that markets itself as “where originality rules” and – as Gov.(…)

2008: best dining-lodging combos

Rare is the destination that offers lodging and dining that are both distinctive and outstanding in quality. Here are six places that were delightful surprises in 2008. — Most noticeable is the dinnerware, an odd but lovely assortment of colorful, antique styles. It goes well with the mismatched furniture, tucked into intimate, shadowy nooks and(…)

2008: top lodging encounters of the year

Deep discounts for lodging are commonplace during this time of year, so it’s easier to afford lovely vacation accommodations. Here are my top six experiences of 2008. — When my brother and I travel, it is highly unlikely that we’ll book a bed and breakfast for our overnight stay. Comfortable as these surroundings might be,(…)

2008: fine, unusual dining experiences

The world is full of wonderful ways to add calories in interesting places. Here are my top six dining experiences of 2008. — A $10 ticket buys all you can eat at the annual World Championship Chuck Wagon Roundup in Amarillo, Texas, where up to 40 teams cook outdoors over an open fire, using cast(…)