Friday, June 21, 2019

Hawaii by helicopter: Blue Hawaiian adventure soars above the clouds for hidden treasures


Honolulu's distinctive skyline is even more impressive when viewed from a helicopter.
STUNNING HAWAII VIEWS FROM A HELICOPTER MAKE FOR FABULOUS WAY TO SEE THE ISLANDS

Dole Plantation's pineapple fields make striking patterns from the air.

STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

SOARING HIGH above the Pacific, Keller leaned over to me in our ringside seats. "We're flying with the birds," he whispered.  It's true. Blue Hawaiian Helicopters delivers a thrilling experience, the closest we'll ever come to flying.  Because we're so much closer to the ground than in an airplane, we see the pineapple fields, the motion of the waves hitting the beach, the high-rise hotels and waterfalls that seem almost touchable.
HAWAII is meant to be seen  from as many vantage points as possible.  The beach is an essential, and a mountain hike is a must.  Snorkeling or scuba, definitely. But flying with the professionals
Blue Hawaiian Helicopters delivers fine views.

high above the land, looking down to admire the jungles and waterfalls that make Hawaii famous, is a treat to be experienced at least once in a lifetime.
"Keller and Cookie" about to board a Blue Hawaiian 'copter.
For decades, Hollywood studios have used Blue Hawaiian to make their films on the islands.  "Pirates of the Caribbean" is one of the most famous films shot on Oahu, followed by a trio of the "Jurassic Park" blockbusters,  several films about Pearl Harbor, "George of the Jungle" "Flight of the Intruder," "Crimson Tide" and many more.
So we boarded one of Blue Hawaiian's T2Eco-
Stars, with seven seats, including the pilot.  The comfy, quiet ride was an hour of bliss and fascination with our expert pilot-guide pointing out movie locations, famous mountains and valleys, familiar buildings and of course, Diamond Head and the Pearl Harbor Arizona Memorial, Honolulu's two most famous landmarks.
"Pirates of the Caribbean" was shot in the lush forests of Oahu.
WE'VE TOURED several times with Blue Hawaiian  Helicopters during its 34-year tenure, but not recently, and never on Oahu.  The highly rated company serves all four principal islands. Hawaii's legendary archipelago has been attracting nature lovers, artists, hikers and adventurers for decades to explore the verdant rainforests and admire its
Diamond Head looms spectacularly. 
cascading waterfalls. We loved seeing the white-sand and black-sand beaches from the air, and sweeping over the turquoise blue Pacific then up to the craters of Hawaii's volcanic badlands.
The helicopter is a great way to compare the differences of the islands, too.
OUR PILOT pointed out historic landings, and explained how Tahitians established permanent settlements on Oahu in about 500 ce. In 1795 Kamehameha I, king of the island of  Hawaii, conquered Oahu and united the Hawaiian Islands. In 1845 the royal capital was moved from Lahaina, on Maui, to Honolulu, on Oahu.  It is now the state capital. We viewed the buildings from on high.
WE ENJOYED a bird's eye view of Iolani Palace, the United State's only royal palace, with its revered history.  Across the street is Hawaii's judicial system, with a building made famous  in episodes of "Hawaii Five-O." (More on that next week.)
It was fun to watch the pilot at his controls, as we lifted off and arose, soaring over one of the country's most beautiful states.
Fun watching the pilot at his command station. 
With seven of us in the vehicle, he skillfully circled at important sightings, making sure everyone had an opportunity to see everything.
Our favorites were the gorgeous pineapple fields, and the cone-shaped outcroppings of lava off Kualoa Point.  Ka'a'awa Valley was beautiful, too, where many fun movies have been shot, including "Pirates of the Caribbean." The North Shore with its famous surfing beaches delighted my surfer.
Having been to Pearl Harbor the day before, it was thrilling seeing the Arizona memorial from the air.   The snazzy orange and yellow "Magnum" helicopters were lifting off near us, so that was fun, too. We opted for the doors of Blue Hawaiian, though.
Our ride was smooth and unencumbered.  Only one criticism could we offer:  it was too short.

Enjoy a calming lagoon for your pleasure, right in the middle of Honolulu.
UP NEXT:  Hidden Oahu.  Come with us to discover a few things you might not know about Oahu. Did you know you can stay in a lagoon right in the city?  Or discover a beautiful hideaway, known as King Kamehameha III summer home. We'll take you to  the best fresh fish in town, melt-in-your mouth poke, little hole-in-the-wall cafes where the locals chow down on barbecue, small museums and much more. Enjoy, and remember to explore, learn and live, while you catch us each Friday.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Swimming with sting rays on idyllic Antigua

The sting rays we swam with were friendly and enjoy people. The creature has one or more large sharp barbed dorsal spines near the base of the whiplike tail and is capable of inflicting severe wounds, and even death.  We braved an encounter recently.

Christene Meyers, right, holds a sting ray with help from a naturalist.

GENTLE GIANTS OF THE SEA MAKE HUMAN CONTACT ON BEAUTIFUL ISLAND

The man in blue is the naturalist, guiding tourists
from Germany, Australia and the U.S. 

STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

IF YOU have never taken a swim with a sting ray, why not stretch yourself a bit, widen your horizons, try something new.
I am not a water baby like much of my family or my part-amphibian partner.
But I love nature and enjoy the bonds I've made with other species.
So I entered the water and for a brief, happy time, making friends with a pair of sting rays off Antigua.
Southern rays are the brightest rays in the
It's believed to be good luck to kiss a ray as they snorkelers do.
Caribbean. As promised, we found them friendly, gentle and as interested in us as we were in them.
According to my partner, photographer Bruce Keller, they have learned to trust humans because they get food from them, and because people treat them with respect.
WE FOUND the experience "a thrill of a lifetime," to use an overworked but accurate cliche.  The cruise line billed it as "a unique opportunity to interact and feed the rays."  What do these graceful guys and gals eat?  Animals that are smaller and live on the bottom of the sea: worms, clams, oysters, shrimp, squid and fish smaller than they are.  They're carnivors, like lions and tigers. Speaking of tigers, a segue to the incident with naturalist Steve Irwin.  His bizarre death by a sting ray was caused because the creature believed his shadow was that of the tiger shark, the ray's greatest predator. That was a fluke. But the byword is still be careful and make slow movements. 
The sting rays are friendly and swim up to humans.
 The lure to visiting Stingray City is two-fold:  besides the sting ray opportunity, Antigua offers some of the most magnificent snorkeling with brilliantly colored coral reefs and wildly colorful tropical fish. 
WE TOOK a bus from our cruise
 Captain Keller
on the boat to 
swim with the rays.

You will be in a group when you venture out to swim with the sting rays.
ship terminal, then boarded a speedboat for a 15-minute ride which whisked us to a shallow pool with a white sand bottom surrounded by beautiful coral reef. You may stand up or swim with the rays. After feeding, snorkeling and taking pictures with our new friends, we returned to our land base for punch and a rinse off. The "city" has a small bird zoo, with disappointing small cages. The sting ray experience is the highlight.
TO CHECK on Antigua travel given recent safety issues, use a free service for travelers or nationals living abroad: Smart Travel Enrollment Program, or STEP, issues updated advisory on global travel safety, sanctioned by the U.S. State Department: step.state.gov.; stingraycityantigua.com


UP NEXT: Blue Hawaii beckons. That's Blue Hawaii Helicopter. Ride with us high above the clouds for a breathtaking adventure. The top-rated helicopter tour of the islands is waiting for you and we'll take you along on our journey above volcanic mountain tops, the city skyline of bustling Honolulu, the gorgeous canyons and beaches that make Hawaii famous -- and beautiful from a bird's eye view. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us each Friday for a novel look at travel, art, nature and family.  

Friday, June 7, 2019

Magical Montana: Big Sky Country beckons road warriors

The approach to the place we cherish, tucked away in the Beartooths.   
"Montana has the kind of mountains I'd create if mountains were put on my agenda."
 -- John Steinbeck in "My Travels with Charley"

Our little corner of the world, with clouds, trees,
mountains and the sound of the water.

BASKING IN BEAUTY OF BIG SKY COUNTRY


STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

NO MATTER HOW far we wander -- to the fjords of Norway or the deserts Down Under -- we are no more excited than when we answer the call of the Big Sky sirens and return to Montana.
I'm a fourth generation native of the Treasure State and I love traveling the world.
But my heart soars and my breathing quickens when I glimpse the meandering Yellowstone River out the airplane window and see the Rimrocks framing the town of Billings.
Home.
And it's no more beautiful  than this time of year, when the lilacs are still pretty in the high country and the lupine and mountain phlox are about to bloom.
Yes, it's a real cowboy -- not a rhinestone one.  Working ranches mean
working cowboys to move cattle, deliver feed, check for problems.
OUR LITTLE corner of the Beartooths is dear to my heart.  As a kid growing up in the 1950s, I traveled with my parents on regular trips "up country" to visit cousins in Roscoe and friends in Red Lodge.  My grandparents played bridge with chums at a cabin on the West Fork of the Stillwater River near where 30 years later I'd buy property.
I rode my first horse on the Beartooth Ranch between Columbus and Absarokee, which my grandfather Gus owned a few proprietors back. (He called it "Sunnyside Ranch" and I have photos of me on the ancient horse, Peanuts, riding down the same road we see from Highway 78.)
Red Lodge boasts many restored Victorian homes, a treasure
to behold in Livingston, Billings, and other Montana towns.
For those of us grounded in the natural world, there's nothing more pleasing than spring after a brutal winter.  While I can't claim to have suffered through the snow and chill, I've kept up on the miseries, stress and hard work of our rancher neighbors, and I feel grateful for their endurance and spirit. Nothing makes me happier than to have to stop the car while a cowboy moves cattle to summer pasture. "These are my people;  this is my country." Corny, but true. Sometimes I even belt out the state song: "Montana, Montana, glory of the west.......        M-O-N-T-A-N-A, Montana I love you."
YES, OF ALL the states from coast to coast, it's easily the best. I love my part-time California life, world travels and regular visits to Seattle, San Francisco, New York, Atlanta, Miami and Boston. But there's no place like home. The aging Yorkies love Montana, too. Nick and Nora romp and hike and get in shape, just as we do. Home on the range will always be dear to our hearts.
Cookie and Keller, Nick and Nora hike the East Rosebud.
Sioux Charley splendor
We love our Montana based road trips to Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks, forays to Red Lodge, Livingston, Bozeman, Butte,
Glacier Park is part of our summer itinerary, with an annual road trip.
Missoula, Harlowton, to visit friends and catch up on theater and dining. I spent the first years of my life in Bozeman where my parents were university students, and it's been fun to watch the Gallatin Valley grow and change, still feeling like part of the real West.
The little western towns in between are fun, too. Big Timber, Roundup, White Sulphur Springs, Harlowton, Lewistown, Cody, Wyo.

ONE OF OUR recent thrills is the opening of an internationally known art and music center just a few miles away.  Tippet Rise, built by the heirs to the Grey Goose vodka fortune, is a masterful creation presenting concerts by world-renowned classical musicians. The patron Halsteads commissioned stunning contemporary outdoor sculptures by famous artists to enhance the connection between land and art. More on Tippet Rise
We've written about this grand accomplishment for national venues and are fortunate to score a few cherished tickets each season. Places to stay if you come visit?
Mark di Suvero's "Beethoven's Quartet" is inspired by the string quartets of  the great composer.
The fascinating piece is one of several world class sculptures at Tippet Rise Art Center. 
Yes! Many gorgeous digs await visitors. Blue Ribbon Run Fishery, for instance, offers a tranquil, handsomely appointed vista on the Stillwater, fine fishing, abundant birds and wildlife (check it out at airbnb.com).
Montana is a place where people still greet one another on the streets.  When we mow the front lawn, neighbors wave and honk. Our love of nature bonds us to Montana where we have cherished family and friends. "Summer people" arrive and that's fun, too -- from Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Washington, Florida, New York. And we catch up with the "locals," those tough people who stick out the winter there.
DO I MISS city life?  The ocean, plays, nightlife, tango shows, watching Gustavo Dudamel conduct the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Greek food, sushi on demand, ocean hikes, Macy's and Nordstrom's within walking distance.  Yes, I suffer temporary withdrawal. But we have Shakespeare in the Parks, Tippet Rise Art Center, my pianos, guitars, saxophones and talented voices to sing show tunes.  Peace and joy, happiness in the mountains, reunions, contentment in the serenity,, plus the bonus of reading and reflection. Lucky are we.


Swimming with the sting rays made for a memorable afternoon recently.

UP NEXT:  Manta rays! Come with us to swim with the rays in Sting Ray City, Antigua. We booked a day with these fascinating and beautiful creatures, escorted by trained nature guides. What evolved was an exciting  encounter with some of the ocean's most graceful inhabitants. The carefully choreographed aquatic adventure made one of our most memorable days, happily spent with southern stingrays, as we snorkeled and even fed them. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us each Friday.




Friday, May 31, 2019

LEGENDARY PERFORMERS: still touring after all these years

Barry Manilow last week in Las Vegas, at 75, singing, playing, engaging with the audience.
He returns to Broadway soon.


TOP TIER,  VERY BEST

ICONIC STARS STILL DRESS THE STAGE, TOUR, CONNECT WITH THEIR AUDIENCE EVEN INTO THEIR DOTAGE


STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

IN THE LAST year or two, we've seen a host of aging entertainers in live performance venues.  Each one was satisfying. All received standing ovations. Last week we joined a packed house at the Westgate in Las Vegas to watch Broadway bound Barry Manilow. Sprightly at 75, he endeared himself with a generous 95-minute show, playing his own tunes and a
Bette Midler does specialty performances,
including recently at the Oscars.
Elton John at 72 still tours,and
will return to his  Las Vegas gig.
Chopin prelude that inspired one of his hits. Bette Midler at 73 proved herself still "Divine." She gave three encore numbers, donned a mermaid costume and displayed her usual sexy chutzpah when we saw her at Caesar's a couple years ago. Mick Jagger, 75, couldn't quiet the crowd for the whistles and cheers at his desert concert in 2017. Cher, 73, rocked the Vegas house both times we saw her -- oozing charm with two dozen costume changes.
Tony Bennett, soon 93, headlined with Lady Gaga in a world tour at 90. Gordon Lightfoot at 80, Willie Nelson at 86, both earned standing ovations at our recent concerts. Soon to turn 89, Bob Newhart's one-man comedy show charmed at Harrah's Rincon. Rich Little, nearly 81, delighted us at the Laugh Factory in Vegas. Paul McCartney turns 77 this month -- still composing and occasionally taking the stage.
Elton John, a kid at 72, is still touring, although tapering back on the number of his energetic Las Vegas shows. We're EJ groupies -- four times at Caesar's.
Jazz pianist Marian McPartland was in her late  70s when she
played a Billings, Montana, concert.  Here, center, with writer
Christene Meyers and marketing specialist Corby Skinner. 

WHY DO THESE aging stars continue to perform?  Because they like it and we like them. They draw huge crowds, perform with enthusiasm, connect as they entertain. We've grown older with them, so it's charming to see them age gracefully, bowing to standing "Os."
When we were coming of age, in the early days of rock and folk music, our parents were listening to Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and the amazing Tony Bennett, whose popularity spans decades and generations. Rock and folk music were unifying cultural forces. Now those rockers and folk artists are growing older. But they still rock out, perhaps with a little more delicacy.
Willie Nelson is still a crowd-pleaser.  We saw him last month at Humphrey's Concerts by the Bay here in San Diego, 25 years after I interviewed him in Montana. With his signature red bandana, his throaty but tender style and self-deprecating wit, he's a joy to behold and still has the chops. At 86, Nelson's voice is weakening, but, he still picks a mean guitar and is sharp as ever.
Willie Nelson in an interview during a tour
that took him to Big Sky, Montana. He is  

Although she was a youthful "60-
something" when we saw Angela
Lansbury in "Sweeney Todd," she
played Madame Arcati in "Blithe
"Spirit" when she was 91. She is 93. 
Tony Bennett still jazzes it up on stage, in rare performances.
Who knows if he'll tour again, but he has a new record out. 
I LOVE seeing performers I grew up with, ones my parents and even grandparents loved.  I had the good fortune to see Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Nat King Cole,  Marian McPartland, Barbara Cook, Rosemary Clooney,  Alberta Hunter and other greats. Seeing the marvelous Bobby Short twice at the Carlyle in New York was a highlight.  He was in his mid-70s, still brilliant. The king of longevity is Bennett, who turns 95 in August and is just out with a new album. We've seen him five times (three times with Lady Gaga, twice solo). Magnificent. Ringo is 78. Johnny Mathis is 83. Angela Lansbury was 62 when I saw the actress-singer take the Tony for her Mrs. Lovett role in "Sweeney Todd"; 30 years later, we saw her in "Blithe Spirit" in Los Angeles. We could do another column on legendary aging film stars: Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, Mel Brooks....  Leonard Cohen toured until a year before his death in 2016. Neil Young, a mere 70, is still recording and performing. Bob Dylan, elusive at 78, continues to keeps a low profile as we know from his rejection of the Nobel Prize.
Leonard Cohen at 77 was still touring, but ill health forced
 tapering back, to mostly recording. He died at 82 in 2016.
I last saw Billy Joel when he was 66. At 70 now, he's still a kid. Rumors of another tour are out.  It's not the money. Most are  financially secure and could quietly disappear into a life of golf, travel, reading or lazing about. But they thrive on performance; they need the connection.
THIS WAS  obvious when we saw Mainlow last week in his fabulous show.  He did his hits, dressed the crowd, shook hands. Grace. That's what these veterans share. Bravo, brava. May it continue thus.


UP NEXT:  Montana is calling -- and we answer! Come with us to  Big Sky Country, where the deer and the antelope play.  We'll take a few sidetrips to Red Lodge, Livingston, Cody, Wyoming, and more, and share some of our favorite photos of real cowboys and the true wild west.  Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us each Friday when we post a novel look at the arts, travel, nature and family. We welcome your feedback at www.whereiscookie.com

Friday, May 24, 2019

Pearl Harbor Memorial takes on special Memorial Day meaning

Millions honor the fallen on all sides at the USS Arizona Memorial, where the valor and sacrifice of WWII is remembered.

MILLIONS PAY RESPECT TO ARIZONA AND CRUCIAL 1941 ATTACK WHICH CHANGED COURSE OF HISTORY

Photographer Bruce Keller puts down his photo
equipment for a perch aboard a torpedo.

STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

A VISIT TO the Pearl Harbor National Memorial in Honolulu is a must for anyone interested in history, culture and the complex results of war: death, violence, disruption, prejudice, fear, determination, recovery.
We chose a half-day tour with Roberts Hawaii, and were met by the company's trademark green bus and a jovial driver-guide who calls himself Cousin Dave.
He picked us up at the historic Ilikai Hotel, an easy half-block from our digs at Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort.  We drove the eight miles in less than 20 minutes to the resting place of the sunken USS Arizona.  There, at Pearl Harbor, 1,102 of the 1,177 sailors and Marines killed on Arizona are honored in their graves within the sunken ship. They were among the casualties when the Japanese engineered a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, "a date that will live in infamy," as FDR said.

A young Japanese man studies the sad story of the
internment of thousands of innocent Japanese Americans.



THE MOOD was quiet and respectful as we joined an international queue with fellow tour members, including a Japanese couple our age from Tokyo.  It was interesting to travel with them, and glean their take on the memorial.  For while the U.S. suffered grievous losses, Japan suffered destruction of two cities and Americans of Japanese descent suffered loss and humiliation in the internment camps. One is in Wyoming, not far from where I grew up in south-central Montana.
Docents  with expertise in history give insightful
commentary as Navy sailors pilot us to the Arizona grave.
After checking our bags and backpack, we entered the nicely designed complex, which includes spacious walkways, museum buildings, artifacts, sculpture, a theater and visitor center. Besides the interesting boat ride to view the Arizona Memorial, the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park is part of the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center. The Bowfin, a fleet attack submarine, fought in the Pacific during WWII and helped to make famous the term, "Silent Service." Bowfin was launched on Dec. 7, 1942, exactly one year to the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
One strolls the grounds past well marked torpedos, missiles and other instruments of war, with fair-minded commentary and attention to suffering on both sides of the story.
WE ALL KNOW THAT the attack was a pivotal moment in U.S. history, which propelled the U.S. into World War II with the backing of Congress and support of the American people.
The Bowfin may be visited on the museum grounds.

The monument also preserves and interprets the story of the internment of Japanese Americans, the battles in the Aleutians and the war's ending with the dropping of the bomb on two Japanese cities. There are other nearby attractions.  Both the battleship U.S.S. Missouri Memorial, on whose decks the war ended, and Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum are on nearby Ford Island. a quick bus ride away.
A sculpture to peace makes a stunning backdrop for photos.
The Missouri side trip interests many because the Japanese surrendered on board the Missouri in Tokyo Bay on Sept. 2, 1945, early on a Sunday morning, the same day of the week on which Pearl Harbor was bombed. The Aviation Museum hosts a aviation exhibits directly relating to the attack.
On our boat trip to the Arizona, our elderly historian guide told us that three survivors of Pearl Harbor remain, all in their late 90s.  They have been honored at the Arizona Memorial and have visited the 45,000-ton Missouri to pay their respects.
IT IS NOT possible to go on board the Arizona at the moment, because of structural concerns. Repairs are scheduled to be completed by early next year.  But our ship circled the memorial slowly so all 120 of us had ample time for photos and reflection.
    We were pleased to see so many students and people from all over the world at the memorial, quietly honoring those who gave their lives and the thousands more who suffered. Perhaps we are learning not to repeat the horrors.
The Navy owns the land and the memorial is run by the National Park Service.

Singer Willie Nelson is aging with grace and still
on tour.  His guitar prowess is still sharp. 
UP NEXT:  Willie Nelson remains an engaging, entertaining performer, well into his 70s.  This week, we took in a concert by the energetic singer-songwriter.  The Humphreys Concert By the Bay in San Diego is one of two dozen on Nelson's current tour which began on the west coast, crosses the country and ends in Ohio. We take a look back at Nelson's career, his impressive endurance and his newest recording, out soon. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for a novel look at travel, the arts, nature, family and more.

Friday, May 17, 2019

John Wayne's Newport Beach yacht celebrates The Duke's legacy


The Wild Goose had a well traveled past when actor John Wayne bought it and made it his traveling hotel.  Now, Hornblower Cruises invites the public to enjoy Wayne's yacht for a limited time through birthday dinner cruises with a gourmet meal,  theee hours of sailing and full access to the private quarters of the vessel.

HORNBLOWER STAGES BIRTHDAY DINNER PARTIES IN JOHN WAYNE'S HONOR AND YOU'RE INVITED


John Wayne's card room and den have been preserved by Hornblower.

STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

STEP ABOARD a luxury yacht, surrounded by John Wayne's movie memorabilia and personal effects from his film career and seafaring days. Hornblower Cruises offers a unique experience to commune with the spirit of actor John Wayne aboard the boat he captained.
While the star died in 1979, his spirit lives on aboard the Wild Goose, the yacht he bought, pampered and entertained on for  17 years. Wayne said she was his
John Wayne aboard the Wild Goose.  He loved
to navigate, and 
proudest possession.  He loved taking her to British Columbia and Mexico's coastal towns. He'd play cards, read and fish in stylish comfort, surrounded by magnificent woodwork, resting in his artful master bedroom and keeping an eye on his kids, whose bedroom was just down the hall.
MARION MORRISON was born May 26, 1907.  Known professionally as John Wayne, and nicknamed "Duke," he passed away on June 11, 1979. Besides being a much loved American actor and filmmaker, he was a Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient. He was also an accomplished seaman and spent his last days on his luxury yacht, a converted mine sweeper which saw service in World War II. After she was decommissioned, she was purchased by a private owner who a few years later sold her to Wayne.
For nearly 18 years, between movie shoots, the actor piloted the former Naval ship.  Because he was 6'4," he raised the ceilings in an elaborate remodeling project. He took his family and close friends to Alaska, British Columbia, Mexico and Catalina. When he filmed his last picture,
Wayne piloted the Wild Goose through Newport's colorful
harbor, making his way to Mexico or British Columbia. 
"The Shootist," in 1976, both he and his aging gunfighter screen character were dying of cancer.  Wayne spent quiet time resting aboard his beloved "Goose."  His last interview -- with Barbara Walters -- was aboard the boat.  Among his memorable quotes is one that fits his handling of illness: "Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway."
The Wild Goose is available for charter, for private events up to 125 people. She is also open for John Wayne dinner cruises May 24-25, May 31, June 1, 7 and 8. It's lovely to move through the waters Wayne loved to navigate, beverage in hand, imagining former guests -- Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Rock Hudson, Frank Sinatra, Henry Fonda, Sammy Davis Jr., and other celebrities who shared Wayne's love of the water. Wayne's own custom designed bar is fully stocked and if you'd like Wild Goose momentos, check out the t-shirts, mugs and a lively book written by the ship's former captain, Bert Minshall. "On Board with the Duke." It's a fun read with anecdotes of travels on the ship with Wayne and his family and friends. 
Beautiful woodwork and carvings
adorn The Wild Goose.
The master bedroom is kept much as it was during John
Wayne's times aboard, including the nautical painting.
Besides the status of a National Register of Historic Places listing, the boat has the cache of having served as a playground and relaxing hideway for a legendary star.  Having access to the entire vessel including Wayne's private rooms, enhances the feeling that you're in the company of "The Duke" himself. It's a unique, pleasing time with a fabulous meal expertly prepared and served in several tasty and eye-catching courses.
From left, Cookie, Keller and their
friends Sue and Bob Hulbert, who
grew up around Newport.
Wayne enjoyed nautical paintings, and several of his own
collection are on the boat now. Portraits and posters of
the legendary star were added by Hornblower.
Wayne's family sometimes joins diners and movie buffs aboard Wild Goose. Daughter Marisa Wayne says it's satisfying to see that fans remember and appreciate her dad's movies. "His longevity is amazing.  He is still so loved and respected by so many people this many years after his death. I wish he was around to give me advice....or have a drink."
Cost is $103 per person, including a four-course gourmet meal, glass of  champagne and the incredible access to the entire yacht. Go to hornblower.com (and select Newport Beach).


Fallen sailors and Marines are forever beneath the waves and the
Arizona Memorial is directly over the sunken ship.
UP NEXT:  We remember Pearl Harbor with a visit to the Pearl Harbor National Memorial in Honolulu.  We toured the impressive complex and came away moved. The memorial complex pays careful attention to present both sides of the story, from the horrors of the 1941 bombing to the internment of Japanese Americans and the bombs that ended the war.  Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for a novel look at travel, the arts, nature, family and more.