Adirondack chairs at the Harren Brook Inn stare across majestic Saratoga Lake, the namesake of the mountain range that rises on the horizon.
Anglers flock here each summer in pursuit of large and small mouth bass, northern pike and walleye. But the season's end ushers in another tradition in these parts: leaf peeping. Dotted by lakes, ponds and streams the Adirondack forests are home to towering ash, birch, red maple, oak, spruce and aspen, the last to turn colors.
The quandary: where to begin touring the vast stretches of the Empire State's North Country?
We chose the Lakes to Locks Passage (it stretches over 200 miles) in upstate New York, where we followed the waterway that the super-powers of the 18th century -- France and Great Britain -- sought to control for the empire of North America.
Buying a racehorse has always been a risky business. Along with wine, art and gold, thoroughbreds have long been the luxury investment of choice for the well-heeled. Keeping them healthy and happy is a quite another thing.
Enter Bruce Jackson.
Nearly seven years ago Jackson, a former trainer-- along with his wife Amy, a former jockey-- opened the doors to his Fair Hill Equine Therapy Center located on the grounds of the Fair Hill Training Center that straddles the Maryland-Pennsylvania border. It is set within the 6,000-acre natural resource management area that offers a dramatic shift from the bustle of a racetrack.
Behind the Equine Therapy Center is a vivid flower garden of rose bushes and impatiens which is circled by a large outdoor walking ring. Inside, the barn is bright with plenty of airflow, 50 stalls and an expansive shedrow. There are round pens for lazing about, turnout paddocks to zip across, rolling hills and wooded walking trails to amble along. Still, the facility’s calling cards are the state-of-the-art therapeutic options: a hyperbaric chamber, water treadmill, cold saltwater spa and a whole body vibration plate therapy that was adapted from human sports medicine conditioning and rehabilitation.
Is there a simpler summer pleasure than a piping hot ear of corn rubbed with butter and salt?
Pull into the gravel parking lot off PA Rt. 100 and you will find a gang of folks digging through a wooden wagon brimming with ears of freshly picked sweet corn, anticipating that evening’s dinner delight.
Like the mythical Scottish village of Brigadoon, Haskell’s SIW comes to life each year from mid- June through late October. A hand-painted white "Open" sign out front ushers folks into the beloved farm stand. Its wooden check-out shack is parked near railroad tracks just across the road from the sprawling 60-acre farm. Throughout the season forty kinds of sustainable veggies and fruits are toted by the pickers from those fields to those farm wagons several times a day.
Guilty pleasures come in all forms. Some folks might indulge in a Baldwin grand piano or beautiful paintings, others splurge on luxurious getaways.
For Paul DiFebo it is a 1948 Chevy Woodie.
“They are an American original,” says DiFebo, 65, who purchased the car in 1964. “Beautifully hand-crafted, most folks find the color and warmth of the wood especially appealing. You know, people tell me when they see a woodie, they can’t help but smile.”
Check out that woodwork. Clad in mahogany and framed in white ash, the panels are fitted and mitered with the perfection of a Chippendale highboy. With their eye-catching styling, woodies are not so much a means of transportation as they are rolling works of art that have attained iconic status.
In another era Carl “Bunny” Meister might have been one of those western heroes of black-and-white TV. Fit, handsome and steely eyed, they taught America the difference between right and wrong. Men of honor, their values were imbedded in their land as deeply as the riverbeds and the roots of the ancient, gnarled trees.
Meister actually does ride high in the saddle. A former steeplechase jockey and lifelong foxhunter, for years he has been spearheading the drive to save local watersheds that are so vital to all of us.
Clean water is the cornerstone of healthy communities. Its value and importance to people, plants, fish and wildlife is impossible to overstate. Since 1988 Meister has been a prominent board member of the Brandywine Valley Association (BVA), established in 1945. Its mission is to counter the pressure from rapid development growth by promoting the restoration, preservation, and conservation of natural resources in the Brandywine Valley.
If you live in the Brandywine watershed you probably get your drinking water from an underground well that taps an aquifer deep below the surface. Otherwise, your water comes from pipes underground that begin at a water treatment facility. Water treatment facilities get the majority of their water from the Brandywine Creek and occasionally from underground sources.
My wife’s family is from Savannah. This invariably elicits a stream of oohs and aahs for the town’s 22 lush town squares. Stunning wrought iron and antebellum homes. Savannah also boasts plenty of innovative dining spots.
But 18 miles over the marshes from town, you’ll find quirky Tybee Island. On the tiny island (three miles long, one mile across) flip-flops are standard fashion at weddings and Sunday mass. Meeting times are problematic. At the Beach Bum Parade, held each spring, islanders take up arms – wielding water hoses, super-soakers and even pressure washers -- soaking anyone who dares to stroll down Butler Avenue, the main drag. The event is billed as the world's biggest water fight.
The town is well-stocked with colorful characters. Attorney Frank “Sonny” Seiler defended Jim Williams, a wealthy Savannah antiques dealer charged with the murder of a young hustler. The ten-year epic drama played out in John Berendt’s bestselling book “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.” Still, Sonny is best known as the caretaker of the University of Georgia’s wrinkly, pure white bulldog mascot, Uga, now numbering VII. Back in the day, Sonny was a Tybee lifeguard.
Jodee Sadowsky is another. He is the proprietor of the Breakfast Club, a morning restaurant jewel. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in New York, Sadowsky gave up a prime spot as head chef at a “foodie” restaurant in Phoenix to return to Tybee three decades ago to help his mother Helen when her arthritis kicked into overdrive.
These days a map tends to be viewed as a dry, dusty piece of parchment. With a GPS at our fingertips, a map might simply be looked at as ancient navigational tool.
In actuality, maps of early America were conversation pieces, works of art and crucial tools in identifying lifestyles of the times in which they were drawn. They became the social glue that bound a young nation into a community and shaped its identity.
Winterthur Museum’s new major exhibition “Common Destinations: Maps in the American Experience” offers a fascinating voyage through two centuries that included colonial wars, nation building and industrialization. The exhibition runs through January 5, 2014.
While other map exhibitions have focused largely on great mapmakers or on decorative aspects of maps, curator Dr. Martin Bruckner took aim at the “social life of maps.” He collaborated with Linda Eaton, Winterthur’s director of collections.
Then, as today, America took pride in building unity out of diversity, and maps helped a fledgling nation forge common bonds and foster good citizenship,” noted Bru¨ckner, an associate professor of English at the University of Delaware who conceived “Common Destinations.”
“Visitors will see how men used maps at home and abroad. How women and children engaged with maps to nurture family ties. Maps would bind a people of strangers into a community during times of change and development."
For the past fifteen years I’ve been a contributing writer to a variety of national & regional magazines, prominent daily news-papers and websites. I have written about an array of topics such as arts & culture, chefs, food & drink, business entrepreneurs, travel, history, thoroughbred racing, and the animal and natural world.
I'm currently a regular arts & culture contributor to WFIT's website (the NPR radio station in Melbourne.), Vero Beach Magazine and Florida Today newspaper on a number of topics. Over recent years my work has been published regularly in Blood-Horse, Long Island Boating World and The Hunt and PA Equestrian magazines.
I am a regular contributor to the websites JustLuxe.com and SeeTheSouth.com. JustLuxe is an online magazine featuring the best of luxury lifestyle and travel, while SeeTheSouth features truly unique southern destinations. My travel articles also regularly appear in Florida Today, Long Island Boating world and the Delaware County Times, a major daily newspaper just outside Philly.
I've also contributed a variety of articles to the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, the Delaware County Times, and the Montgomery County Newspapers. I have been an Arts & Culture correspondent for Newsworks, the website for WHYY-TV (PBS in Philadelphia). I have been a correspondent to ESPN.com, America's Best Racing, the Paulick Report and Thoroughbred Racing Commentary.
After spending the past two decades in Wilmington, Delaware, my wife Jane, our Toller retriever Smarty and I have moved to Melbourne Beach, Fla. Located on a barrier island between the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian River, Melbourne Beach sits on the southern end of Florida's "Space Coast." The famed coastal highway A1A runs directly along the Atlantic. Melbourne Beach (pop. 3,000) offers unspoiled beaches with sparkling blue-green waters and thousands of beautiful seabirds and long-legged shorebirds.
Head north 35 miles on A1A and you arrive at Cape Canaveral, for decades our nation's gateway to exploring and understanding our universe. Today, Cape Canaveral is a hub for many of the most exciting new private space projects such as SpaceX, the rocket and spacecraft company founded by Elon Musk (manufacturer of Tesla vehicles). Upwards of 30 launches are planned in 2017.
Back down to earth traveling on two-lane A1A south from Melbourne Beach's compact business area brings you to a series of secluded and undeveloped natural beaches. Bonsteel Park's two-acre beach provides an excellent vantage point to catch glimpses of passing dolphins, while the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge is recognized as the most important nesting area for loggerhead turtles in the western hemisphere. It's also home to the gigantic leatherback turtles.
Nearby is Sebastian Inlet State Park which connects the Indian River Lagoon with the Atlantic Ocean. Its jetty break is recognized as one of the surf world's high-performance hot spots. Three generations of world-class surfers have surfed here, including 11-time world champion Kelly Slater. The 600-acre park is also celebrated for world-class fishing, and plenty of seabirds and wildlife.
Through my writing over the past decade I have traveled to spectacular destinations such as Lake Tahoe, Calif./Nev. and Sun Valley, Idaho; Cody, Wyoming/Yellowstone Park; Saratoga Springs, the Adirondacks, Saratoga Springs and Rhinebeck, New York; Port Clyde and Monheghan Island, Maine; Avalon and Stone Harbor, New Jersey; Middleburg, Charlottesville and Richmond, Virginia.
Other travel adventures have included Tampa and St. Petersburg, Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key, Florida; and St. Simons and Jekyll Island, Georgia. My travel articles thoughtfully explore the history of the region along with museums, music and the arts, chefs and restaurateurs, wineries and craft breweries, outdoor and sporting adventures as well as profiling intriguing personalities of those regions.
In addition to my writing career I owned a marketing company where I represented a diversified list of clients in the areas of publicity, marketing and business development-- such as the famed Baldwin's Book Barn, Thoroughbred Charities of America and the Kahunaville restaurant chain. In another life I was the founder, publisher and editor of Life Sports Magazine.
Along with Jane and Smarty I look forward to writing about new adventures in Melbourne Beach, the "Space Coast" and other Florida destinations. That's Smarty below with his pals Willie and Nelson.