Coming soon: high-speed ferry, light rail

Taking an order for 43 brats was one of the highlights of working at The World’s Largest Brat Fest on Labor Day in Madison (130,869 brats sold and 40-plus charities helped; go to or call 608-236-2021 to learn more). Fielding questions about what to see in Barcelona and Paris rank right up there, too.(…)

For bird lovers: tours, talks, exhibits, festivals

Bird lovers have all kinds of events to attend in Wisconsin during the next month. There are exhibits, tours, field trips, workshops, talks by bird experts and just plain great spots to see birds during migration. Instead of squawking more about it generically, here are the specifics. — For 28 years, there has been a(…)

Indoor, outdoor art shows: raining dogs, cats

In these dog days of summer, the route to relief from the humidity seemed clear. I took a break from the sun and headed to the John Michael Kohler Art Center in Sheboygan. That’s where an exhibit called “Dog Show” is in place until Oct. 19. Playful photos, emotion-filled oil paintings, drawings, sculptures and embroidery(…)

Pillow talk, Midwest girlfriend getaways

I never bring a pillow when spending the night away from home, unless my destination is a campsite or a floor, and I don’t recall a too-soft or too-hard hotel pillow ever ruining one of my vacations. Perhaps that is too much tolerance, judging from the number of people who will lug their favorite pillows(…)

Alaska: places to expect the unexpected

I am fresh from a trip to Alaska and have amassed hundreds of mental and digital pictures of very cool landscapes, lifestyles and landmarks. It is a minor complaint, but I never seemed to be dressed quite right for the weather. My raincoat was out of reach on a drizzly morning in Ketchikan; I had(…)

Harley’s centennial: It’s time to rock, ride

OK, so maybe you’re a little wacked out – excited or nervous – about all those bikers taking over Wisconsin later this month, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Harley-Davidson. As the promo goes, get ready to rock, roll and rumble. About 250,000 Harley enthusiasts from around the world, in all their thundering glory, are(…)

Barn styles define ethnic heritage, history

If you consider the farm barn to be an ordinary and ho-hum part of Wisconsin’s landscape, Ruth Olson has this to say: It is a significant symbol of your historical, economic, ethnic and occupational identity. Building techniques may showcase precision, as in the tightly constructed log barns that were a mark of their Finnish creators.(…)

Lumber town Laona’s Camp Five Museum

Tiny Laona, an unincorporated community in Forest County, has a great recipe for soup that has served its residents well for many years. The annual Community Soup began 84 years ago on nearby Silver Lake beach. Families showed up with whatever was growing in their garden, and added it or meat to a soup pot.(…)

EAA, AirVenture devoted to planes, flight

Head to Dayton, Ohio, this weekend and you’ll encounter the end of that city’s 17-day Wright flight celebration. Events include an air show with three of North America’s best-known military precision flying teams: the Blue Angels, Thunderbirds and Canadian Snowbirds. The Wright brothers used to live in Dayton, so the city calls itself “the true(…)

Bumped flights, cheese flights, other delights

Who benefits from crummy weather during a vacation? Flexible travelers, if their timing is good. About three hours of tolerance was worth roughly $750 to me and my companion this month, thanks to a thunderstorm that canceled a couple of flights out of Dane County Regional Airport, Madison. “This flight is overbooked because of the(…)

Reader mailbag: where to hike, bike, canoe

This weekend I am reacquainting myself with one of the more well-known and  historically rich urban walks in the country, Boston’s Freedom Trail. It is a 3-mile route that has Boston Commons and Bunker Hill as its bookends.

The trail was established in 1958 and is easy to follow (just look for a red line on(…)

On the water: carferry, steamboat, river lore

“Chewable Dramamine tablets, $1.50. Sold at ticket office.” 

”Breakfast buffet, $7.95. Looks good; not hungry.” 

 “On a typical summer day, it sails just like glass. But on the last day of the sailing season one year, passengers and crew sat on the floor, in the middle of the ship. A very rocky ride.”
 My notes(…)

Shakespeare on outdoor stages in Midwest

I am not a Shakespeare scholar, but I do have great respect for how his lyrical and eloquent writing has withstood and enriched the passage of time. When I think about pleasant summer rituals, The Bard also comes to mind, particularly since an exquisite place to watch his plays is almost in my back yard.(…)

Reader mail: trip memories, history lessons

Experiences from around the globe are a part of this installment of reader mail. Here are snippets. Please keep your stories and observations about travel coming; it’s great to hear from you! — Harold Kuschel of La Crosse writes fondly of the time he spent in Japan as a cryptographic technician with the U.S. Air(…)

Visit state parks, other great natural retreats

It is easy to recommend a natural high for this weekend, as the annual Wisconsin State Parks Open House Day is Sunday. That means free admission to all state trails, parks, forests and other recreational areas. People also can fish any Wisconsin waterway without a license this weekend. It is customary for special activities to(…)

Japan foreign exchange full of goodwill

CHIBA, Japan – For Hiroshi Ebihara, it was “an honor and once-in-a-lifetime experience” to show his country to Americans.

For me, it was a once-in-a-lifetime way to see the heart of Tokyo, and to experience the way of life of an average family who had never before had houseguests.

One or more home stays are a typical(…)

Play ball! Baseball exhibits loaded with fun

Head to the Field Museum in Chicago if you love baseball, are irritated by it or couldn’t care less about the sport. There, that should cover just about everybody.

“Baseball as America,” in place until July 20, does a great job of demonstrating why the pastime is more than just a game. As exhibit text explains,(…)

Chicago hostel: clean, safe, prime location

To Cristina Causone of Italy, $34.50 is a lot to pay for a place to sleep. Even if it is clean, safe and in the heart of Chicago.

She is 24 and says she has been a tourist in the United States five times. 

To retiree Shirley Hart of Arizona, the lodging price is more agreeable.(…)

Pressures, challenge of historic preservation

Money, space, sentiment and progress all have a role – from bit player to star – in our quest to preserve, hide or discard the past. It is easy to appreciate and favor the architectural beauty of a well-preserved building that has historical value, unless you must reach into your own pocketbook to maintain it.(…)

A traveler’s tales of turbulence, anxiety

One of my more unusual travel challenges this month will be to figure out how to safely transport a case of Berghoff and Capital Brewery beer – two of Wisconsin’s finest labels – to Japan. Should I lug it around O’Hare as a carry-on? Invest in bubble wrap, say a prayer and send it as(…)

Reader mail: Stay, go in light of SARS, war?

I love reader mail, regardless of whether adventures occur close to home or halfway around the world. Among your comments and observations: — Will you stay home or travel? That question was asked shortly before the United States began war with Iraq, and before the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) resulted in U.S.(…)

Oklahoma memorial: Bomb site turns sacred

“Beacons of hope” have replaced sirens and searchlights; soil covered by death and destruction has become sacred. That’s how Polly Nichols describes the transformation of 3.3 acres in downtown Oklahoma City. She is one of the more than 700 people injured in the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. The(…)

Kiwi, Quebec culture: U.S. could learn from it

It was about 8 a.m. in Auckland, New Zealand, as we shuffled into the Hyatt Regency downtown, sleepy and jet-lagged after a 12-hour flight from Los Angeles.

        We hoped to check into our room early but were ready to settle for just having a place to stash the luggage. The registration clerk offered his apologies.

        “I see(…)

Adventure Andy: remote ecotourism trips

If you truly want to escape the world’s turmoil, Andy Kammer can help by sending you far away. What’s the logic in that? The DeForest (Dane County) native’s specialty is eco-tourism in remote locations: kayaking in Costa Rica, snorkeling in Panama, studying Mayan architecture in Belize, tracking lions in Zimbabwe, South Africa. From stays inside(…)