Friday, November 20, 2020

Plush Cavalier digs, elephant seals enhance cozy stop on Central California coast

 

The view from your private balcony at Cavalier Oceanfront Resort on the Central California Coast 
is stellar. You will find you don't want to leave your room, but there's lots to see if you do.

COMFY BEDS, FIREPLACE, VIEWS AT CAVALIER MAKE CENTRAL CALIFORNIA COAST APPEALING -- PLUS ELEPHANT SEALS TO WATCH


STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER
Small, clean, comfy, Cavalier Oceanfront Resort
has all the comforts of home -- plus ocean views.

YEARS AGO, we were looking for a mid-way stop between our niece's home in Redwood City and Port Hueneme's lovely harbor, where we'd spend a few days before heading into the home stretch for San Diego.
The beautifully rugged coastline of Central California has long been a favorite of ours, and during that long ago autumn, we discovered Cavalier Oceanfront Resort.  We've been regulars ever since. It's private, offers fresh air and spectacular views, and especially in these COVID times, it's a healthy way to travel, stay protected and safe without flying.
The town of San Simeon is most famous for the temporarily closed Hearst Castle, that stately and eclectic masterpiece designed by architect Julia Morgan for newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst. But while COVID has put a halt to castle visits, there is still much to recommend this beautiful area.
Gorgeous sunsets await in Central California,
where the ocean views and walking are tops.
CHIEF LURE for us is the resort, nestled on a scenic seaside bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. You'll never want to leave your room, with its comfy balcony rocking chairs, spacious relaxing interior complete with desk if you're on a work trip, and splendid day-long views.
   Located on picturesque Highway 1, the laid back but top service hotel is dog and family friendly.  It also attracts wedding parties and families on holiday or reunion.  And it's a favorite romantic stop for couples, including regulars like ourselves.  It's a great base for exploring beaches, the nearby Paso Robles wine country, and the quaint seaside village of Cambria with its fun shops, historic homes and fine restaurants. And yes, elephant seals....read on.
WE LOVE the Cavalier for its gorgeous ocean view rooms.  Among bountiful amenities are a welcoming fireplace, with unlimited wood blocks, a smart little bar-frig stocked with a dozen beverages, and plentiful munchies for a kicked-back stay. 
Ocean view rooms, a fireplace and comfy arm
chairs and balcony rockers so you can enjoy
the sea from inside or outside your room. 

Besides large rooms with comfy beds, we are delighted at the efficient room service with a surprisingly complete menu. (We dined in one night on a tasty Caesar salad, terrific clam chowder and decadent chocolate cake.)
The Cavalier has some interesting
touches, including this column,
once part of Hearst's collection.
WE EVEN STAYED
an extra day so we could visit the amazing critters who inhabit Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery.  Since we discovered the hotel, we've made an annual pilgrimage to see these gentle giants up close and in their element. These magnificent marine mammals lie on the beach, and occasionally swim and frolic, just off Highway 1, along the coastline a few miles north of the Cavalier. The rookery is free, and open to the public, year-round. The rookery hosts the largest seal in the northern hemisphere, and these elephant seals migrate there twice each year.  While offshore, they spend eight or nine months diving down to 5,800 feet, feeding for hours at a time. The rest of the year, they mate, birth, molt, and rest onshore. What a life.
We see them right near the Cavalier, about 90 miles south of Monterey.
THE BUSY but not over-crowded viewing areas are open every day, are wheelchair accessible and free. The nicely designed viewing areas are part of the California Coastal National Monument, protected by the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

 The magnificent elephant seals of the Central California
Coast near Cavalier Oceanfront Resort are a wonderful sight.  
WE COUNTED several hundred seals of the estimated 24,000 the rookery hosts during the year.  We spotted several baby elephant seals and a couple giant 5,000-pound adult males, who sport that odd bulbous nose. Females weigh about 1,800 pounds, and newborn pups about 70 pounds. The animal's name comes from the male nose, which resembles an elephant’s trunk. This crazy looking proboscis impresses other males during during mating season when the guys sound a loud loud call to challenge one another. We heard a few!  
A stay on the Central California coast, at our choice,
Cavalier Oceanfront Resort, offers an opportunity to spend
time with the fascinating elephant seal, here snoozing.
 WHAT MAKES the rookery special to us is that the elephant seal is a real  comeback kid.  The species was almost wiped out by hunters. Like whales, they were slaughtered by the thousands from the 18th to the 20th century. Using blubber for oil nearly drove the elephant seal to the extinct list. At one point, only a single colony of 50 seals remained on an island in Baja.
IF YOU CAN pull yourself away from the Cavalier's ocean views, a first-class coffee maker in your room, cocktails in the frig, a fire place and that fabulous bed, the helpful folks at the front desk will guide you to the elephant seals, just a few miles up the road.
They'll also encourage a visit to Cambria, a nearby village worth a few hours. There's also beach time, wine tasting and hiking possibilities.
Even with Hearst Castle's temporary closure due to COVID, there's plenty to do and see. And you can always consider Cavaliar a friendly yet private place to just "plunk down" for a few days. The hotel is a lovely destination in itself.
 cavalierresort.com; elephantseal.org


An uncrowded bird's eye view from a perch above the Pacific, 
near scenic Point Arena, in northern California.

UP NEXT: We've assembled some of our favorite scenic shots from this current road trip. Come enjoy the rivers, woods, beaches and off-road wonders that can be yours on a safety-minded, short or long driving trip during COVID times.  As we avoid the virus through healthy, cautious living, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us each Friday for a fresh look at travel, the arts, nature, family and more: whereiscookie.com

Please share the link, too! We appreciate the exposure.




Friday, November 13, 2020

'Jeopardy' host Trebek's passing leaves tall shadow on popular show


  



The set of "Jeopardy" is familiar to fans of the acclaimed daytime TV show.  Host Alex Trebek worked up until days
 before his death earlier this week. His final episode will air Christmas day.

WILL LEVAR BURTON TAKE OVER WHEN 'JEOPARDY'  NEW SEASON BEGINS? WHEN WILL NEW AIRINGS BEGIN?


Alex Trebek, right, will be remembered for his grace, perfectionism and kindness, staffers say.














STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER
Trebek, Burton photos courtesy studios
Speculation is that 96-year old announcer
Johnny Gilbert will not return.

 THE NEWS


of Alex Trebek's passing this week hit millions of us faithful viewers hard. He's been part of the family since the 1980s when he took over the job as the show's second host.
Although Trebek wasn't known for hyperbole or displays of emotion, he was visibly touched by a several contestants' comments in the past few weeks. One wrote for his final "Jeopardy" answer: "What is 'We love you, Alex'?" Another said he learned English while watching "Jeopardy" on his grandfather's knee.
I MET Trebek a couple times --  at a TV sweeps week and again at a fundraiser, both in Los Angeles. Then there we were -- front and center -- hearing Johnny Gilbert's familiar "This IS Jeopardy." Speculation is that the show's 96-year old announcer will retire now that Alex is gone. For his replacement, actor, children's TV host LeVar Burton seems to be leading the pack. 
He'd be a winning replacement, with his pleasing voice, genuine nature and stellar reputation in the business.
LeVar Burton is our pick for next
"Jeopardy Host." He is known for "Star
Trek," an imaginative children's show
and his debut "Roots" performance.
 MY "JEOPARDY" days began when the show debuted in 1964.  I was a high school freshman, and I watched with my grandmother Olive. She loved language, game shows, and critiqued the contestants. She thought actor Art Fleming handsome.  Indeed. The first "Jeopardy" host stayed with the show until its 1975 hiatus. It was briefly revived, then shelved in 1978.
LONG TIME HOST Trebek, was a reporter in his native Canada in 1984 -- covering everything from horse races to politics -- when creator Merv Griffin asked him to come on board. That was 20 years after Gran and I first blurted out answers and played that catchy theme on the piano. 

WE'LL MISS Trebek but are thankful to have spent several days at Sony Pictures Studios on the "Jeopardy" set, witnessing behind-the-scenes action of the hit game show. Trebek's grace, sincerity and kindness were what kept the show's ratings high and his reputation as a "nice guy" solid.

Fun travel tips, cruising, hotels, nature pieces, at whereiscookie


Photo right: Ken Jennings with Alex Trebek. Jennings earned over
a million dollars on the popular show.

  "Jeopardy" provided a departure from traditional quiz shows by asking contestants to give answers in the form of a question.
Cookie waited patiently with other fans
for a guide to take viewers to the studio.
Bottom right, she takes a spin on the set.
  
Johnny Gilbert works the house during
several breaks in "Jeopardy" filming.




JOHNNY GILBERT is a story in himself, a legendary game show host with more than 65 years in show biz. It was fun watching him work the house, joking with the audience during breaks for advertising. We watched make-up artists touch up the contestants and Alex joked with the audience, too, and a couple times crossed the stage to help contestants who were having trouble with the signaling device. Since several shows are taped during a day, we observed costume changes -- on both Alex and winners who advanced to more games.


We also enjoyed watching a panel of judges and consultants checking answers. Twice during our visits, Alex adjusted a contestant's score.   
MY GRAM WOULD be thrilled to know that with over 
6,000 episodes aired, "Jeopardy" has won a record 31 daytime Emmy awards and is the only daytime game show to be honored with the prestigious Peabody Award. In 2013, the program was ranked No. 45 on TV Guide's list of the 60 greatest shows in American television history. "Jeopardy" has also gained a worldwide following and has been the subject of hilarious sketches on "Saturday Night Live."
Because the show is taped weeks in advance, viewers will continue to see Trebek, until his last episode airs Christmas Day.
A touching eulogy was delivered Monday, before the show began, by its executive producer, Mike Richards:
"Today we honor Alex Trebek. For over three decades he brought integrity, humor and intelligence to his duties as host of "Jeopardy!" He will be in our hearts forever." 
Amen, and RIP, dear Alex.     

UP NEXT: While we're in a California frame of mind, we're stopping by the central California coast's elephant whale rookery near San Simeon. Thousands of these playful, enormous creatures return to the protected environment of the rookery each year.  We caught them recently on our way down the coast from San Francisco to San Diego.  Join us and remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for a fresh look at nature, travel, family and the arts. Please share the links you enjoy at:
 whereiscookie.com



 

Friday, November 6, 2020

Farm to table: California's fertile central valley feeds the country

Cookie shops for produce on an annual autumn road trip, here at a stand in the San Juaquin Valley.  


THANKS TO FARMERS, WORKERS, FINE WEATHER, IRRIGATION FOR YEAR-ROUND BOUNTY  OF PRODUCE


STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
Rows and rows of farmland being worked meet the eye near Bakersfield.

PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

DRIVING THROUGH California's Central Valley gives the tourist time to reflect on the importance of this fertile stretch of land and the hard working men and women who toil in the soil.
It's truly the salad bowl of America, growing tasty tomatoes, broccoli, beans, carrots, peas, celery, eggplant, herbs, and all manner of citrus, tree fruits, nuts, table grapes and grapes for wine.
THIS BEAUTIFUL and important stretch of land -- one of the most fertile in the world -- extends inland from and parallel to the Pacific Ocean between coastal mountains and the Rockies.
It makes up 11 per cent of California, covering 18,000 square miles and yielding half of the nation's produce.
If you enjoy green peppers in your scrambled eggs, homemade vegetable soup, guacamole or something more exotic, chances are it came from this part of California. That's thanks to an estimated half-million farmworkers -- some estimates are as high as 800,000 -- many from Mexico and Asia.
Farmer's markets are a huge recipient of the bounty.
James Hayes washes his daily harvest
at California's Purple Martin Farm. 

THIS ERA BEGAN began as a reaction to canned and frozen foods in post World War II America.  California cuisine emerged as a chef-driven movement highlighting fresh seasonal produce. It introduced America to a new way to cook, encouraging fresh ingredients.
While Boston based Julia Child was teaching us to use fresh produce in French cooking, the west coast brought us Alice Waters, America's farm-to-table pioneer and founder of Edible Schoolyard. 
This farmer's market is in Oxnard, California,
 the number of operating farmers markets
 has more than tripled in the last decade. 
In 1971, she opened Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, and served only organic and locally sourced foods. She, like Child, studied in France, and America's culinary renaissance borrowed large chapters from both French and Italian cooking.
OUR NEPHEW James Hayes, and his partner Kelle Martin, run a small produce operation on their farm in northern California -- not part of the central "salad bowl" but typical of many of the small farm-to-table businesses which supply fresh vegetables and herbs for local restaurants.
More and more restaurants are proudly touting their use of locally sourced ingredients -- and many restaurants now even have their own herb gardens, supplemented by direct acquisition from farmers. These food trends naturally influence how we eat today.
A Hmong worker is among
thousands who help feed us.
 

A farm to table meal served by James Hayes
and Kelle Martin at their farm near Point
Arena. They grew everything but the lamb.

THE CENTRAL Valley is really two valleys: the San Joaquin to the south and Sacramento to the north. Nearly 450 miles long, the valleys extend from Bakersfield up to Redding, 60 miles at the widest. The area is as large as nine of our country's smaller states and is the world’s largest patch of "Class 1 soil," the best there is. The 25-degree or less temperature swing from day to night is an ideal growing range for plants and the sun shines nearly 300 days a year.  
HOW DID this arid chaparral land bloom? With water. More than 7 million acres of the valleys are irrigated via an extensive system of reservoirs and canals. The region's major cities include the state capital Sacramento, as well as Chico, Redding, Stockton, Modesto, Fresno and Bakersfield.  Two rivers -- the Sacramento and the San Joaquin -- drain their respective valleys and meet to form the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, a large expanse of interconnected canals, stream beds, sloughs, marshes and peat islands. The delta empties eventually into San Francisco Bay and ultimately the Pacific Ocean. A drive through the valley renews one's appreciation for the beautiful nutritious food we take for granted.
Alex Trebek on his 79th birthday last year, a few
months after he announced his cancer diagnosis. 

UP NEXT: As we mourn the loss of "Jeopardy" host Alex Trebek, we wonder who will replace the dapper TV personality who waged a valiant war with pancreatic cancer and died Sunday morning. Speculation on his replacement has risen and while there will never be another Trebek, the show will go on. We remember our visits to the "Jeopardy" studio and our time with Trebek. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us each Friday for a fresh look at the arts, travel, nature, family and more: whereiscookie.com  


Friday, October 30, 2020

Fall road trips offer peaceful time, uncrowded parks, spectacular scenery

 

Whether you're headed east of west, it's freeing to be off and driving. Some safety pointers below.

JUMP IN THE CAR, HEAD FOR A MUSEUM OR NATIONAL PARK, BUT PLAY IT SAFE
While our American goldfinches have
fled Montana, we found this one in
a rest stop farther south in Nevada.


STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

WITH THE THREAT of Covid keeping us away from air travel, many of us are braving the highways this autumn and winter.
 Road trips are on the agenda for hundreds, including the two of us humans and our 15-year old Yorkshire terrier, our faithful companion, Nick.
Like many readers and fellow travelers, we're avoiding air travel. We find road trips to be a safer way to deal with the hazards of the virus. Museums and parks are not crowded, many restaurants offer delivery to the hotels, temperatures are chilly, but the air is fresh.  
Bruce Keller and Christene "Cookie" Meyers hit the road.

Road trips are on the agenda for many vacationers this as 2020 winds to a close. Those of us who usually hop on a plane to faraway destinations are staying closer to home, driving so we can enjoy "outdoor" stops. 
Off-season travel offers uncrowded parks and museums,
 here at Bozeman's Museum of the Rockies.


A recent survey conducted by the U.S. Travel Association found that 68 percent of travelers  feel safest when traveling by personal vehicle and when visiting outdoor destinations such as parks and the beach.
 Nearly half -- 45 percent -- of the respondents said they are likely to travel more by car.
THE DECISION to travel with family and friends limits contact with others, and those travel companions are likely to be the same people you’ve quarantined with over the past few months.
If any of your passengers have had outside contact, however, it is a good idea to wear masks inside the vehicle. Experts caution against wearing a mask when driving alone because of a potential reduction in oxygen and possible lightheadedness.
Nicky, our 15-year old Yorkshire terrier, at
a rest stop in Idaho on our current road trip. 


In the era of coronavirus, avoiding public transportation, crowded waiting areas, and strangers is considered a safer way to go. For overnight stops, we plan ahead, so we can choose a property by price as well as
by published cleanliness standards. 
We're big fans of the Hilton brand when it comes to cleanliness and comfort.
Hotels listed on AAA's guide offer clean, comfortable stays at our favorite Hiltons, and others.  We recently enjoyed a pleasant kitchen suite at Winnemucca's Best Western Plus. Sparkling clean room, friendly check-in, top hygiene and a tasty "grab and go" breakfast. The kitchen in the suite allowed us to prepare a simple tasty safe meal without venturing out. Ask about a suite upgrade. For a few dollars more, you can book a small kitchen or add a microwave and frig.
We noticed, too, another option: at our hotel in Tahoe both the pizza parlor and Chinese restaurant near the hotel both delivered.
Low gas prices are another benefit of this year’s road trips, with per gallon averages just under $2, the lowest it’s been in the last five years.  We use the Gas Buddy app and a AAA Triptik to help  with fuel prices, routes, and budget planning. Overall travel costs can be managed more easily on a driving trip, too. We stock the cooler and a grocery bag with water, soft drinks and snacks: cheese, fruit, chips, crackers, protein bar and nuts.
NOT ONLY do we avoid extra stops, but we  have healthy food prepared by ourselves.
Nicky the terrier and our great-niece Penelope
take a break from masking on a walk.
(Her mask is handy, on her neck, though.)
When it’s time for to stop for a meal and a rest, we look for a pleasant park or roadside complex where we can walk Nicky and stretch our legs.
Cracker Barrel, Subway and pilot Flying J all have high safety and hygiene practices.
We keep masks in the glove compartment, in my purse and in our carry-on, so we have them at the ready at all times. Even when we walk, we keep our masks handy. Our family in the Bay Area always masks, even on a walk to the post box on the corner.

California's central valley produces nearly half of the
country's fresh produce. Thousands of workers labor here.

UP NEXT: Come with us to California's rich farmland as we explore the farm to table phenomenon. We're in the beautiful and fertile central California "salad bowl" and we offer some of our favorite farmer's market shots, taken on this latest trip. Come enjoy the history of California's amazing and prolific central valley, which produces half of the nation's produce.  As we avoid the virus through healthy, cautious living, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us each Friday for a fresh look at travel, the arts, nature, family and more: whereiscookie.com

 











 

Friday, October 23, 2020

Autumn splendor: northern Rockies nature is at its showy best in fall

Autumn colors make a beautiful photo: chokecherries, wild rose, ornamental willow, aspen.

POETS PAY HOMAGE TO COLORFUL FALL IN FULL GLORY NOW IN MONTANA


"Life starts all over again, 
Bruce Keller and Christene "Cookie" Meyers
on a walk near their Stillwater home.


when it gets crisp in the fall..."
--F. Scott Fitzgerald

STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

NOWHERE in all my global jaunts have I seen autumns as lovely as Montana's. Sure, the Swiss Alps beg "stay a while" with their dramatic dips. Norway's birch and pine forests charm with their contrasting canvas of yellow, orange and deep green. 
The first scarlets and golds of autumn blanket the forests of Montana.
But Montana's fall takes a towering top place in my seasonal book.
Right now, we're relishing the change in the air, warm days followed by cool evenings, swaying aspen, pirouetting leaves and the distinctive, autumnal feeling that winter is knocking on the door.  
CRITTERS are on the prowl, making nests, stockpiling food, planning for their long winter as we take down screens and replace them with storm windows.
Seasonal birds are gone. The rare migrating grosbeak visits the feeder as the faithful chickadee remains.
I hope to fulfill F. Scott Fitzgerald's encouragement, that "life starts all over again....in the fall."
Boy, howdy, could we use a new beginning to this lousy year with the virus, political unrest, riots, looting and loss of theater, travel, dining out.
Oh, sure, we're still upright, "on the right side of the dirt," as my grandfather Gus said. But won't we all welcome New Year's Eve, as we flip the calendar from 2020 to a new year of promise, 2021?
MEANWHILE, we'll share a few more favorite autumn quotes.
William Cullen Bryant called autumn "the year's last loveliest smile." Emily Bronte waxed poetic with "Every leaf sings bliss to me, fluttering from the autumn tree."
Poets wax about autumn's splendors, here in the golden
valley of the Stillwater River, near Nye, Montana.

My favorite autumn quote is from Emily Dickinson, who observed that autumn was "A little this side of the snow, and that side of the haze." 
THAT MYSTICAL poet, Albert Camus, called autumn "a second spring, when every leaf is a flower."
Shira Tamir, who writes about nature and the human condition, said “Anyone who thinks fallen leaves are dead has never watched them dancing on a windy day.”
Philosopher, poet Rainer Maria Rilke said of autumn, "At no other time does the earth let itself be inhaled in one smell, the ripe earth; in a smell that is in no way inferior to the smell of the sea, bitter where it borders on taste, and more honeysweet where you feel it touching the first sounds. Containing depth within itself, darkness, something of the grave almost.” 
Bruce Keller and Christene "Cookie" 
Meyers enjoy an autumn walk this week.

We have not experienced a Montana autumn for more than a decade. We're enjoying the colors, warmth and transformation of nature as it unveils.  
It won't last long, so take it in before it vanishes.
HERE IN Montana, the trees will soon be bare and our driveway will accumulate several feet of serious snow.
The good news about winter's much needed moisture is it diminishes fire hazard for next summer and makes the spring grasses all the greener, the first blooms of columbine, wild geranium and lupine all the lovelier.
  


Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting and autumn a mosaic of them all.”
--Poet Stanley Horowitz
A father masks himself, and helps his son and daughter
at a grocery and bathroom stop on the road.








UP NEXT: Road trip time. As many of us continue to avoid air travel, we offer updated tips on traveling by auto in these Covid times.  Make certain everyone in the car is equipped with tissue, individual hand sanitizer and a mask for rest stops. The parks are uncrowded, gas is reasonable and it's a good time to appreciate the changing colors.  More tips await next week. Meanwhile  remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for a fresh look at travel, nature, the arts, family and more: whereiscookie.com


Friday, October 16, 2020

Bozeman, Montana: college town, foodie haven, with nature, museums and more

"Big Mike" greets visitors to the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, reopened since June.

BOZEMAN's BOOMING: MONTANA'S FASTEST GROWING CITY BLENDS BOHEMIAN, COLLEGIATE AND CITY INFLUENCES 

STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

Snow can last into the summer on the peaks
above the pretty town of Bozeman, Montana.

I SPENT the first months of my life in Bozeman, where my parents were university students. They lived in a Quonset hut from World War II, which was recycled to provide married student housing.
I've nurtured a lifelong fondness for this lively and picturesque town of 40,000.
Beautiful Bozeman's population has increased by 20 per cent since 2012 making it the state's fastest growing town by far.
What attracts people to this place?  Perhaps the call of nature, for one can hear elk bugle in the suburbs.  The occasional black bears wanders into town and terrific fly fishing attracts both tourists and locals.  Restaurants offer variety, including tasty ethnic fare as well as good old western cooking.  And since the 1860s when prospectors opened up the Bozeman Trail, this lovely part of the Gallatin Valley north of Yellowstone has been a road trip stop-over. 
The drive from Bozeman, past
Big Sky to West Yellowstone,
offers many scenic stops.

Lure of Big Sky Country
BOZEMAN, MONTANA is popular with tourists in both summer and winter. Direct flights come from many major U.S. cities including Boston, Detroit, Atlanta, Nashville, Dallas, Denver, Newark and Houston. The Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport is in Belgrade, a quick eight miles northwest of Bozeman. It's owned by the Gallatin Airport Authority and is the busiest airport in Montana.  Even in Covid-19 times, Bozeman's thriving tourism and outdoors-related economies have held their own. It's the county seat of Gallatin County, famous for gorgeous views of the mountains, spectacular sports and nature access. Another draw is Bozeman's proximity to the country's oldest national park, Yellowstone.
Bozeman's International Airport is in Belgrade,
busy with many direct flights to big U.S. cities.
  

It also hosts the wonderful Museum of the Rockies, Gallatin County Museum and the American Computer and Robotics Museum.
Hollywood has discovered the Gallatin Valley, too.  Many award winning, big budget films have been shot there, including scenes from "A River Runs Through It" and "Far and Away." Fittingly, film star Gary Cooper was born in Helena and finished high school in Bozeman.
In 1864, English born W.W. Alderson described Montana’s Gallatin Valley as “one of the most beautiful and picturesque valleys the eye ever beheld, abounding in springs of clear water.” In the late 1800’s many agreed, calling it “The Egypt” or “The Garden Spot of Montana.”
The Gallatin Valley has attracted an array
of film makers. Motion pictures shot here
include "A River Runs Through It," above. 
The fame of the region dates back to April of 1805, when captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark and the Corps of Discovery entered what is today Montana.
Over five months, they traveled up the Missouri and Jefferson rivers and along the Bitterroot Mountains, making some of the most significant discoveries of their epic adventure. Clark made a map of the Gallatin Valley, showing the three forks of the Missouri, the valley's “level open plain,” and the snow covered Bridger mountains. (Lewis and Clark split their party on the return trip, so Lewis could explore north of Great Falls, while Clark explored the Yellowstone.)
Not far from Bozeman is West Yellowstone, one of five
entrances to Yellowstone National Park and bison viewing. 


BIG SKY,
that booming resort where Montana born TV newsman Chet Huntley broke ground in 1967, is only 32 miles away. It opened with a flourish in 1973.  The award winning anchorman of Huntley-Brinkley fame had suffered a midlife crisis, moved to the mountains of Montana and created this resort town under the dreamy banner, Big Sky.  He said in an interview with Life magazine, "Maybe where there's clarity of air, there's clarity of thought." Could be.....
It's only 82 miles from Big Sky to Old Faithful, and an hour's drive to the closest park entrance, West Yellowstone. Many tourists base in Big Sky to tour the park, and it's a favorite drive of locals.


The foliage is beginning to turn golden, with splashes of red
as Montana and the northern Rockies head into autumn.

UP NEXT
: Autumn imagery in the west is a spectacular blend of oranges, yellows, and bits of red.  As leaves are turning, ranchers are moving their cattle to their winter pastures. Bears are feasting on the last of the chokecherries and there's a definite nip in the air. Explore this changing time, with sunrises and sunsets, and enjoy the beautiful autumn scenery wherever you area. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for a fresh look at nature, travel, family, the arts and more: whereiscookie.com

Fall road trips offer peaceful time, uncrowded parks, spectacular scenery (10-30)

Whether you're headed east of west, it's freeing to be off and driving. Some safety pointers below.

JUMP IN THE CAR, HEAD FOR A MUSEUM OR NATIONAL PARK, BUT PLAY IT SAFE
While our American goldfinches have
fled Montana, we found this one in
a rest stop farther south in Nevada.

STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

WITH THE THREAT of Covid keeping us away from air travel, many of us are braving the highways this autumn and winter.
 Road trips are on the agenda for hundreds, including the two of us humans and our 15-year old Yorkshire terrier, our faithful companion, Nick.
Like many readers and fellow travelers, we're avoiding air travel. We find road trips to be a safer way to deal with the hazards of the virus. Museums and parks are not crowded, many restaurants offer delivery to the hotels, temperatures are chilly, but the air is fresh.  
Bruce Keller and Christene "Cookie" Meyers hit the road.

Road trips are on the agenda for many vacationers this as 2020 winds to a close. Those of us who usually hop on a plane to faraway destinations are staying closer to home, driving so we can enjoy "outdoor" stops. 
Off-season travel offers uncrowded parks and museums,
 here at Bozeman's Museum of the Rockies.


A recent survey conducted by the U.S. Travel Association found that 68 percent of travelers  feel safest when traveling by personal vehicle and when visiting outdoor destinations such as parks and the beach.
 Nearly half -- 45 percent -- of the respondents said they are likely to travel more by car.
THE DECISION to travel with family and friends limits contact with others, and those travel companions are likely to be the same people you’ve quarantined with over the past few months.
If any of your passengers have had outside contact, however, it is a good idea to wear masks inside the vehicle. Experts caution against wearing a mask when driving alone because of a potential reduction in oxygen and possible lightheadedness.
Nicky, our 15-year old Yorkshire terrier, at
a rest stop in Idaho on our current road trip. 


In the era of coronavirus, avoiding public transportation, crowded waiting areas, and strangers is considered a safer way to go. For overnight stops, we plan ahead, so we can choose a property by price as well as
by published cleanliness standards.
We're big fans of the Hilton brand when it comes to cleanliness and comfort.
Hotels listed on AAA's guide offer clean, comfortable stays at our favorite Hiltons, and others.  We recently enjoyed a pleasant kitchen suite at Winnemucca's Best Western Plus. Sparkling clean room, friendly check-in, top hygiene and a tasty "grab and go" breakfast. The kitchen in the suite allowed us to prepare a simple tasty safe meal without venturing out. Ask about a suite upgrade. For a few dollars more, you can book a small kitchen or add a microwave and frig.
We noticed, too, another option: at our hotel in Tahoe both the pizza parlor and Chinese restaurant near the hotel both delivered.
Low gas prices are another benefit of this year’s road trips, with per gallon averages just under $2, the lowest it’s been in the last five years.  We use the Gas Buddy app and a AAA Triptik to help  with fuel prices, routes, and budget planning. Overall travel costs can be managed more easily on a driving trip, too. We stock the cooler and a grocery bag with water, soft drinks and snacks: cheese, fruit, chips, crackers, protein bar and nuts.
NOT ONLY do we avoid extra stops, but we  have healthy food prepared by ourselves.
Nicky the terrier and our great-niece Penelope
take a break from masking on a walk.
(Her mask is handy, on her neck, though.)
When it’s time for to stop for a meal and a rest, we look for a pleasant park or roadside complex where we can walk Nicky and stretch our legs.
Cracker Barrel, Subway and pilot Flying J all have high safety and hygiene practices.
We keep masks in the glove compartment, in my purse and in our carry-on, so we have them at the ready at all times. Even when we walk, we keep our masks handy. Our family in the Bay Area always masks, even on a walk to the post box on the corner.


An uncrowded bird's eye view from a perch above the Pacific,
near scenic Point Arena, in northern California.



UP NEXT: Roadside attractions.  We've assembled some of our favorite scenic shots from this current road trip. Come enjoy the lakes, woods, beaches and off-road wonders that can be yours on a safety-minded, short or long driving trip.  As we avoid the virus through healthy, cautious living, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us each Friday for a fresh look at travel, the arts, nature, family and more: whereiscookie.com