Tag Archives: Travel

Absolute Bagel-Rita’s frozen custard – Do Hwa korean food in NYC

I’ve been somewhat lost on the bagel front ever since H&M Bagels closed on the upper west side of NYC. But yesterday I stumbled into Absolute Bagels on Broadway near 107th street and was impressed with the bagels, not to mention the lox-cream cheese and bagel sandwich. So all  is not lost. A little further south as I was walking down Broadway on a spectacular spring day, I happened upon  Rita’s frozen custard – and since frozen custard something I rarely find these days, I bought a small cone. Yum. I walked all the way from 108th to Central Park (with a stop at Pinky’s for a splurge mani-pedi because my back was aching and I needed to rest for a bit) then back west to Lincoln Center where I took the #1 train to meet my brother and sister-in-law and her mother for dinner at an excellent Korean restaurant, Do Hwa, at 50  Carmine Street. Now I understand why they like Korean food! (we had very good bbq beef, bimimbob, a pancake with kimchi in it, and beignets, oddly, on the house.)

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Antiques in eastern Iowa!

Squiers Manor Bed & B

Newly married and new to Iowa (way back in 1990), we used some of our wedding gift money to buy some furniture at Banowetz Antiques in Maquoketa, Iowa. We still use the chair, end tables, dresser and dining room dresser, which have not only added character to our home but proved very functional. (They must have made stuff well 100 years or so ago.) So the news that Banowetz is not going out of business – as I’d once heard – is good. They’re having a “grand re-opening sale” at their new location at 123 McKinsey Drive in Maquoketa april 14-29. If you want to stay overnight, check out the Squiers Manor B&B, a gorgeous place the Banowetz family operates in town that,yes, is full of antiques. And it is Squiers (named after J.E. Squiers who built the brick Queen Anne style mansion in 1882.)

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Filed under antiques, DESTINATIONS - Iowa

Archie Bunker’s chair! Ben Franklin’s Walking stick! American Stories exhibit at D.C.’s Smithsonian!

Fairmount Fire Company volunteer firefighting outfit

One of the more entertaining ways to soak in history is to study the history of things – so a new Smithsonian exhibit that presents history through a timeline of artifacts, including pop culture junk,  is right up my alley. The National Museum of American History’s new exhibit includes over 100 “iconic items” dating back to the Pilgrim’s arrival in 1620 (iconic item #1: a piece of Plymouth Rock.). Other items include a slave ship manifest, Dorothy’s ruby slippers from the “Wizard of Oz”,  and a Barack Obama campaign button written in Hebrew. (Hey, I have a Bill Clinton campaign button written in Hebrew!) There’s also a mobile app for the exhibit with more info on each object – in English and our new second U.S. language, Spanish. The exhibit is called American Stories and to see more of what’s in it (including the hat above) see:

I’ll be in DC in June and this is definitely on my list! I remember an exhibit at the Iowa State Historical Museum that took a similar approach to the sixties – that made me feel a bit like an relic myself as I pointed out to my then-little kids such once-familiar items as “hot pants.”

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a longtime fan of Iowa’s Loess Hills

While I’m at it, here’s a travel story I wrote about the Loess Hills many years ago for the DMRegister.

Loess Hills Loess Hills, Iowa (Sylvan Runkel Preserve)

A new observation area offers a glorious panoramic view of the short, soft hills.


Moorhead, Ia. – Talk about a deck with a view.

If you’re looking for a new way to take in a beautiful expanse of Iowa’s Loess Hills, check out the huge observation deck recently built near Preparation Canyon State Park, off Highway 183 between the small towns of Pisgah and Moorhead.

Several times the size of your average suburban back-yard number, this simple wooden deck sits on a hilltop overlook long known to locals as “The Spot.”

For good reason.

The spot offers a glorious panoramic view of the short, soft hills that are considered a geographical wonder. A narrow band of mini-mountains stretching from just north of Sioux City south to the Missouri border, the Loess Hills were fashioned from silt deposits or “loess” blown in from the Missouri River floodplain more than 14,000 years ago.

To find another area like it, you’d have to make a much longer trek – to China’s Yellow River.

Before the observation deck was built this spring, locals “used to just crawl up on top of the hill and sit there,” says 41-year Moorhead resident Pat Severson.

For good reason.

The spot marks the convergence of five different ridges. On high, the land seems to stretch forever, free of the stain of civilization. Sure, to the west, farms dot the Missouri Valley flatlands. But it’s still easy to pretend you’re all alone with the birds.

The deck extends outward, offering the kind of aerial view you get flying in a plane over Iowa. Looking down, you see a bumpy quilt, with alternating patches of lush green woods and grassy fields.

Getting to “The Spot” is half the fun. Driving south from Moorhead on Highway 183, you turn right on a road still described by locals as “the second right” even though it now sports a sign designating it as 314th Street (for the edification of the emergency medical service).

At the top of the hill, you jog to the right. (If you go left, you’re in the 344-acre Preparation Canyon State Park, the site of an 19th century Mormon settlement that’s now popular for hiking and picnics.) Soon after, you take another right onto a gravel road marked as Oak Avenue.

This puts you pretty much in the middle of nowhere.

But what ho! It’s a really big deck!

If you’re lucky – and chances are you will be – you’ll be the only one there. It’s so quiet you can hear the wind.

The deck is also wheelchair accessible, thanks to a long wide ramp winding up to it. There are also several benches on the deck from which to contemplate the view.

This spot really isn’t that hard to find but it’s wise to have more than a few gallons of gas in your tank when touring the Loess Hills. You may want to call the visitor’s center in Moorhead, in advance, to get a map of the area or drop by for one.

The map plots out several scenic loops through the Loess Hills; offers tips on highways most suitable for bicycles and cars; and marks Loess Hill attractions, large and small, from the De Soto National Wildlife Refuge to an abandoned country school.

Diligently detailed, the map also comes in handy for the adventurous traveler who likes to get lost. Plenty of remote roads winding through and around the Loess Hills will give you that impression. But just when you think you’re lost, you’ll come to an intersection – complete with street signs – and discover you’re not lost at all.

What ho! You’re at the corner of Olive Avenue and 235th Street. And there it is on the map.


Filed under DESTINATIONS - Iowa

Iowa Loess Hills Prairie Seminar – one-of-a-kind seminar in a one-of-a-kind place

File:Loess hills.jpg

Okay there is one other place like Iowa’s Loess Hills but it’s far away in China. Considered a geographical wonder, the hills are a narrow band of mini-mountains stretching from just north of Sioux City south to the Missouri border, fashioned from silt deposits or “loess” blown in from the Missouri River floodplain more than 14,000 years ago.

We took our kids when they were little to the Loess Hills Prairie Seminar in western Iowa with two other families and it was, to say the least, memorable – we learned how to cook on an open fire, all about the flora, fauna and animals of the prairie, how to search for fossils. We camped, we ate a church supper in town and at a cookout under the stars.  One parent and several kids even got lost for a few hours while on a hike! Very glad to see the seminar is still up and running. Word has it there’s a Missouri River Ecology boat tour, which sounds pretty cool. For info about the 2012 seminar  and to register visit the Programs and Services section of the Northwest AEA website at:

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Filed under DESTINATIONS - Iowa

Roanoke Island in Outer banks – maybe it’s fate?

So when I googled “quaint, historic, duck, outer banks” (or something like that) to find a place to stay with our English friends, google sent me to some sweet cottages in Manteo on Roanoke Island, which as fate would have it turns out to be  the site of The Lost Colony –  a 16th century colony of 117 Brits that disappeared mysteriously. So perhaps this is the perfect place to visit with our British friends (a little re-colonizing perhaps) or not?

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Trust me: the fantastic new mural on Interstate 35 in northern Missouri

I know, I know – I should be blogging today about the thwarted terrorism attack at the airport of my youth (my native Detroit). But I’m far more excited to share my latest unlikely discovery – a  beautiful new mural we chanced upon inside – of all places – the spanking new welcome center along Interstate 35 in the northern Missouri city of Eagleville.

Installed in September 2009, the mural fills a long wall inside the Eagleville Welcome Center (opened in February 2008) and is made of 600,000 pieces of multi-colored glass tile.  An homage to Missouri history, culture, and topography, the mural has all kinds of  scenes (the Missouri River, the Kansas City Jazz and Negro League Baseball Museums) and portraits (Jesse James, Harry Truman, Thomas Hart Benton) and cultural touchstones (from the American Bison to the Missouri River steamboat, Arabia.) Among other things, I learned that Walt Disney not only grew up on a farm near the small town of Marceline, Mo. (the Disneys’ barn is featured in the mural) but that the main streets in every Disney attraction are based on Marceline’s main street. Walt even recreated the barn on his home property in Los Angeles.

Apparently I am not the only one curious about the many images embedded in the mural, which was designed by a Washington State couple who won a competition to design the mural, funded through a federal grant. At the center, I picked up a very helpful 16-page pamphlet all about the mural – entitled “The Prairie Passage” – produced by the Missouri Department of Transportation.

I love finding art in unexpected places – and I love that someone bothered to  perk up my drive through northern Missouri. This rest area is a far cry from the dreary ones I remember from the family road trips of my 1960’s youth. Which leads me to wonder – how much of this is going on at other interstate rest areas and welcome centers across the country? Is this effort on the rise or in decline? Which states or rest stops have the best public art installations? I have seen some great examples of  rest area public art in Iowa  along Interstate 80 (funded by the Iowa Department of Transportation’s Art-in-Transit program).  Googling for more info, I chanced upon a terrific website about rest area history (www.restareahistory.org) that may answer some of my questions.


Filed under DESTINATIONS - Iowa, Discoveries: trust me, Missouri, On the road, rest area