Thursday, October 27, 2011

Roots and Wings, The Oldest and Newest Frontiers at the Beginning and End of US Route 6

By now my readers know that the Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower first made landfall on what are now the dunes in Provincetown, MA.  Yes, they went on to colonize Plymouth, but these voyagers provisioned and began life in the New World on the very tip of Cape Cod that just so happens to be Mile One of US Route 6.

The Mayflower, 1620
Provincetown, MA
So, it seems fitting that if our nation's roots can be found where US Route 6 begins, our wings soar close to where US Route 6 ends - at the Air and Space Port in Mojave, CA. Commercial Airline and Cellular King, Sir Richard Branson, has been testing his latest, privately-financed space-ship, the Feather, for his fledgling spin-off, Virgin Galactic. This century's Pilgrims and Explorers, Branson and his team are at the forefront of space-exploration and commercial space-travel just 120 miles from the historic western terminus of US Route 6 in Long Beach, CA.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Top 10; The Prettiest, Coolest, Most Charming Main Streets In the US (On US Route 6)

From Cape Cod, MA to Long Beach, CA, US Route 6 passes through hundreds of communities large and small.  I crossed the country as the economic tide rolled out yet again for the average American homeowner and worker. Shuttling from one Main Street to the next, I noticed that despite the Great Recession, some communities were pulling together to revitalize former flagging downtowns - turning them into places where locals, and even tourists would want to flock.

These, then, are Best Ten Main Streets on US Route 6:

Commercial St. - Quiet in Offseason
Provincetown, MA
1.  Provincetown, MA; If you're into tie-dye, pirates, glitter eye-shadow (on men), steamed lobsters, sand dunes and a frenzied Main St. - come to the edge-of-the-world town of Provincetown, MA to spend a squeezy, pleasy, teasy few hours on Commercial St.  Fun Factor:  Off the Charts.

Center Flagpole
Newtown, CT
2. Newtown, CT; An All-American Town even before this WAS America. Newtown is known for having more pre-1825 homes than any town in state, and at least one - on Main St. -  from which the owner watched Revolutionary War troops walk by while sitting on his front porch. Patriotic Rating: Five (Out of Five) Stars.

Main St. Wellsboro, PA
3. Wellsboro, PA: Best known for the iconic Wellsboro Diner, Wellsboro, PA takes its charming “stuck-in 40’s” identity very seriously.  Street lamps set within a grassy median, tree-shaded sidewalks; this Main Street hasn't changed much in decades and that's the draw.  Charm Factor: Way Up There.

Canals of Vermilion, OH
4. Vermillion, OH; The most picturesque "Yachting Center" in the middle of the country, Vermilion has carved out a series of canals from Great Lake Erie giving its downtown the feel of a crowd-pleasing full-service marina. Views are as sweet as the Ice Cream Sundaes at Big Ed's. Nautical Rating: Unexpectedly High.

Pedestrian Mall, Iowa City, IA
5. Iowa City, IA: Though U of Iowa students love to assemble on the brick, pedestrian-only streets in the center of Iowa City, a broad range of non-students do, too. There's no better place for senior citizens to meander or young parents to push a stroller - where you don't have to worry about moving cars.  Excellent restaurants, a new terrific library, lots of comfy bench seating and playground equipment make Iowa City's downtown a model for other like-sized cities.  Sophistication Rating: Brilliant But Unpretentious.

Downtown Ashland, NE
6. Ashland, NE: This is the smallest Main Street on the list, nestled between the larger cities of Omaha and Lincoln.  But Ashland's got plenty of heart, several art galleries, buildings on the Historic Register, and a winery tasting room. In addition, near the incongruous Licoma Beach Lighthouse on the outskirts of town right on Route 6, a Culinary Institute of America (CIA) trained chef has just opened a Bar and Grill. Nifty things are happening in pretty and unassuming Ashland, Nebraska.  Tourist Magnet Rating: High and Growing.

Main St. Golden, CO
7. Golden, CO: The Welcome to Golden sign that arcs over Main Street says it all.  Brick-lined, historic, laid-back - Golden's downtown is everything you'd want in Western Hospitality. There's plenty to eat and buy, and more to see and do including of course, taking one of the most popular brewery tours in the country.  Coors of Golden Colorado is right here.  Howdy Y'all Factor: Ten (out of Ten) Gallon Hats.

Sculptures on Main St.
Grand Junction, CO
8. Grand Junction, CO; An outdoor enthusiast's utopia with world-class restaurants, Grand Junction draws fit folks who love the good things in life.  That apparently extends to public art: Main Street has become something of an outdoor sculpture garden.  Flourishes like filigreed drainage grates, a sidewalk water-playground for kids, and funky shops and eateries prove that Grand Junction puts an emphasis on design as attraction. Main Street Aesthetic: Very Fine.

Newest Downtown Ceramic Mural
Bishop, CA
9. Bishop, CA: Bishop's history is literally written on its walls, or drawn as the case may be. It's all about the murals in this small, adorable Eastern Sierra Mountain town. Tourists come to hire mules and back-country guides and grab a bite to eat, then stay to admire the paintings.  Appearing like a mirage in the middle of the desert, Bishop is that longed-for, charming oasis after a long and dusty drive.  Artistic Factor: Impressive.

Revitalized Main St.
Lancaster, CA
10. Lancaster, CA: Feathery foliage, parking nooks, cool restaurants, playground, shops and (soon-to-be-opened) art/history museum has rendered Lancaster's newly renovated Main St. a pedestrian-friendly hangout.  If you haven't been to this LA commuter town in awhile, you'll be shocked for sure. Formerly down-at-heals, Lancaster is transforming its "broken-windows" reputation into a desirable destination.  Reinvention Factor: Lofty.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Just In Time for Halloween: Drive the Tombstone Trail - Route 6, Indiana

Why is October always the spookiest month?  I guess because darkness comes earlier, days and nights turn windy, and of course, costume stores sell out of ghosts and goblins (and Freddie Kruger) for Halloween.

In honor of October, I present to you The Tombstone Trail - Indiana's cemetery-studded US Route 6. It's a Route 6 excursion like no other.

 But I'll let the experts tell you:

This is a road trip like no other featuring over eight historic cemeteries across several northern Indiana counties and communities. More than 75 stories spanning the centuries and miles will be found along the Grand Army of the Republic Highway (U.S. 6).
This year the Trail pays special tribute to the 150th anniversary marking the beginning of America's greatest conflict- The American Civil War. Stories from both the Union and the Confederacy will be featured in our local cemeteries.
The Tombstone Trail will also mark the 70th anniversary of the United States entering World War II, and pay tribute to the men and women who served some role during this global battle that defined a generation.
For some a graveyard may seem like the end of the road, but in northeastern Indiana it is just the beginning of a month-long celebration of the lives of those who have gone before us.
Guided, group, and self-guided tours through these silent cities of stone are available.
For more information contact the Noble County Visitors Bureau at 1-877-202-5761You can also find and "like us" on Facebook.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Best Hotel Happy Hours (and Other Complimentary Amenities) In the USA - On US Route 6

 A hotel “Happy Hour” is usually a quiet scene.  You pour yourself a glass of Chardonnay or Merlot and make small talk with a few other guests. Generally billed as a “wine and cheese reception,” it’s a welcome prequel to a night out and I have to admit, very appreciated, especially because most hotels (by and large fancy ones with big names) make you shell out beaucoup bucks for sample-sized snacks and drinks from your guest-room “Honor Bar.” 

The following establishments however, are standouts. They elevate Happy Hour and other amenities to Royal Treatment; spoiling guests with complimentary afternoon libations, wi-fi and hot gourmet breakfasts. (Sure, it might reflect in the room rate, but we don’t feel nickel and dimed to extremes.)


Happy Hour at Magnolia Hotel
Omaha, NE

The Magnolia Hotel in Omaha, NE takes top honors for an unabashed, complimentary free-flowing beer and wine (a succulent private labeled Cab Sav from Napa) fest.  For one hour each afternoon, you can drink to your heart’s content, chat up the bartender (yes there is one! Be sure to tip him or her), then wobble down the street to Old Market for dinner.  Upon your return, expect warm cookies and cool milk before bedtime and a nice hot buffet breakfast in the morning.  Wi-Fi is also FREE at this boutique hotel in the midst of a fun downtown, making the Magnolia the best bloomin’ place to stay in Omaha. Magnolia Hotel; 1615 Howard Street, Omaha, NE (888) 915-1110 $90-$190.


Afternoon Wine and Cheese Reception
Crowne Pointe Inn
Provincetown, MA

The Crowne Pointe Inn - a cozy-hip place two blocks from tourist mayhem in Provincetown, MA hosts a low-key but bountiful wine and cheese hour.  There’s an extensive selection of both reds and whites, and a beautiful spread of cheese, fruit, crackers and other nibbles. In one of the most jubilant, gay (in all ways) resort towns in America, rooms on or near crazy Commercial St. can hike up sky-high in the summer.  But Crowne Pointe Inn guests enjoy the satisfying “happy hour,” unlimited use of the saunas and mineral bath in its world-class Shui Spa, and a savory multi-course, cooked to order gourmet breakfast for two.  And FREE parking! For Route 6 explorers in the land-of-no-parking-spaces, this is the ultimate perk! 82 Bradford St., Provincetown, MA, 877-276-9631, rates $99-$650 and vary by season.

Ruth and Larry Stoll with Fresh Baked Goods
Atwood House B&B, Lincoln, NE

No booze, but there’s plenty to eat at the Atwood House B&B in Lincoln, NE, especially if you’re a fan of sweets. Congenial owners Ruth and Larry Stoll coddle their guests with white chocolate-dipped strawberries upon arrival, unlimited baked goods throughout the day and movie-theater-sized boxes of candy and popcorn to accompany your choice of in-room flick (from a vast DVD and Video selection). In the morning, you’re treated to an irresistible freshly-cooked gourmet breakfast served on bone china with linen napkins and Waterford Crystal.  All this in an opulent Neo-Classical Georgian Revival mansion just steps from the imposing Nebraska State Capitol Building. Atwood House B&B, 740 South 17th St., Lincoln, NE, 1-800-884-6544,, $85-$199

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

FREEDOM ROCK, an Iowa Route 6 Marvel

My last post highlighted seven awe-inspiring attractions that I encountered on US Route 6.

Going through my notes (as I put together a US Route 6 coast to coast guidebook), I realized that I didn't include some sites that might not be grand in size but effected me deeply.  One such spot was the very remote "Freedom Rock" in Iowa between the tiny towns of Menlo and Casey.

This is what I originally posted while traveling "The 6":

Freedom Rock", drive West from Menlo on the White Pole Rd. until you come to a Greenfield arrow pointing left. Take the left, go over I80 and in a couple of miles you’ll see a painted rock.  Normally crowded, this 56 ton boulder is a literal touchstone for veterans and families of the fallen who come to pay their respects.   The artist, Ray “Bubba” Sorensen II (named “America’s Hottest Husband” by Redbook Magazine a few years back), uses the ashes of fallen vets mixed with paint in his poignantly rendered war scenes.  He repaints the 5 or 6 ft. tall boulder every Memorial Day.  This year, he included “ 5-15-11; Justice Served.”

The Freedom Rock
Ray "Bubba" Sorensen II
Menlo, IA

The Freedom Rock
Ray "Bubba" Sorensen II
Menlo, IA

The Freedom Rock
Ray "Bubba" Sorensen II
Menlo, IA
Young Bubba now wants to take his talent on the road - creating murals for Veterans Hospitals and Military Memorials.

I am a big fan of Dancing With the Stars - and this past Monday I sobbed uncontrollably when injured Iraq Veteran-turned-actor, J.R. Martinez danced a tribute to the soldiers who never made it home.  Seeing that and then remembering my stop at Iowa's Freedom Rock, I dedicate this post to all those who fight for our country and for our freedom.

Thanks also to Ray "Bubba" Sorensen II for keeping our soldiers and veterans in our minds and hearts.

The Freedom Rock
Ray "Bubba" Sorensen II
Menlo, IA