www.wvgazettemail.com Travel http://www.wvgazettemail.com Gazette archive feed en-us Copyright 2016, Charleston Newspapers, Charleston, WV Newspapers WV Travel Team: Monuments, ghost tours and good food in Gettysburg http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160925/GZ0506/160929848 GZ0506 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160925/GZ0506/160929848 Sun, 25 Sep 2016 02:02:00 -0400 By Jeanne Mozier WV Travel Team By By Jeanne Mozier WV Travel Team GETTYSBURG, Penn. - War is not good for tourism - until the war has been over for nearly a century. Then it's a visitor magnet like Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where more than a million people a year come to immerse themselves in the bloodiest battle of the Civil War.

The century-old, 6,000-acre National Military Park is the center around which the history industry functions in Gettysburg and the Visitors Center and Museum is the place to start exploring.

A quick scan of the expansive parking lots attests to the national appeal of Gettysburg, with license plates from Mississippi to Michigan to New Jersey and various points in all directions.

The tens of thousands of artifacts and well-researched exhibits are a short-form history course that brings the Civil War into focus.

Particularly informative are the three short videos on each of the three July 1863 days of the actual battle. Fighting went on until midnight on day two and started at 4 a.m. on day three.

You'll be shaken to your toes by the carnage and horror of 165,000 troops from two armies in a clash in mostly open meadows around the historic town resulting in more than 50,000 casualties and a post-battle clean-up that turned the 2,300 citizens of the town into nurses and undertakers for months. More than 60,000 limbs were amputated and each body buried three times: first just in the ground, next when coffins arrived and finally when most were transported to their home areas.

It was the horror of the aftermath that led to almost immediate formation of the Soldiers National Cemetery, which in turn was the catalyst for Abraham Lincoln's immortal 10-sentence Gettysburg Address.

It was the same aftermath of death that led to one of today's true oddities of Gettysburg - an inordinately large population of turkey vultures, the largest in the country.

Lincoln is one of two U.S. presidents connected to Gettysburg, but he's the one with statues in and around town. Lincoln was invited to speak at the November 1863 commemoration of the cemetery. It was a surprise that he accepted.

Today, the David Wills House on the center square of town is a museum dedicated to the Gettysburg Address. Lincoln stayed in the house and revised his speech there. The official procession to the Soldiers National Cemetery began there. Exhibits and artifacts, including Lincoln's bed, tell the profound story of the event and the speech. A visit to the Wills House is a must.

The other president is Dwight D. Eisenhower, whose farm is still a working enterprise and now part of the National Military Park.

Ike and Mamie's home on the farm is open for tours and filled with artifacts like the white marble fireplace that had been in Lincoln's White House. Ike often brought world leaders here during his presidency and took them first to see his beef operation.

The battle's story is seared on the memories of all visitors, but visually, the greatest impact comes from the 1,328 monuments, markers and memorials spread throughout the park. Many were erected in the late 19th century and represent states, military units and occasional individuals. Some are splendid, others more modest.

The collection is considered one of the largest of public art in the world. Then there are the cannons, 410 of them in the care of the park service, almost twice as many cannon as actually participated in the battle.

Dozens of shops offer Civil War and other military antiques and artifacts; military and heritage museums can be found on nearly every corner. There's even a Civil War publishing company.

One unique industry spawned by the haunting history of the place is the paranormal. At least seven different companies offer a variety of ghost tours ranging from history-focused candlelight tours to ones that provide ghost-hunting technology so guests can seek out ghosts on their own.

We chose Ghosts of Gettysburg, the history-rich tour established in 1994 by retired park ranger Mark Nesbitt, who has collected tales and sightings into a series of award-winning books.

Although we saw no ghosts, we visited one of the reputed sighting locations the next day - Mr. G's, an old-fashioned, homemade ice cream shop. No ghosts, but a tasty strawberry cone.

When a million people a year visit, you better have a way to feed them, and Gettysburg has done a good job with nearly 100 different places for food. Virtually every block downtown has several restaurants of all sorts from Irish and Thai to sushi and Italian.

We discovered Gettysburg Baking Company on the main square the first day and returned for more of its home-baked treats to take home. The Lincoln Diner was an inspired breakfast choice, where they make their own bread for French toast and have hand-crafted link sausage.

We couldn't pass up lunch at Hunt's Café and Battlefield Fries where they claim the best fries. And they were outstanding; there is no way to fake hand-cut fries.

The place not to miss for a meal is Dobbin House Tavern. We had a casual early dinner in its Springhouse Tavern with 18th-century native stone walls, the original springs still visible, authentically costumed servers, and robust beef and barley soup.

If you want the veal Madeira or roast duck, you have to wait until 5 p.m. and better make a reservation. On the night we went, the fine dining area - a collection of six small, antique furnished rooms - was booked solid. Although the entire house feels like a museum, a singular exhibit can be seen on the third floor: a dormer that was a slave hideaway, part of the Underground Railroad.

The town has numerous bed-and-breakfasts, inns and boutique hotels in historic downtown buildings that served as Civil War hospitals and Underground Railroad stops and still flaunt bullet holes in their walls. Instead, we chose the countryside and were rewarded with a spectacular sunrise view overlooking the battlefield.

The Lodges of Gettysburg is a contemporary collection of 28 private stone and wood cottages housing a variety of size groups in a secluded and pristine location.

We finished our visit by exploring the countryside from Eisenhower's Farm to Hauser Estate Winery, one of several wine operations, breweries and distilleries with both in-town tasting rooms and countryside vineyards and production plants. We chose Hauser's because of its branded Jack's Hard Cider, which is produced from 25 varieties of the winery's own apples - 200,000-plus gallons of cider a year in more than a dozen flavors. We tasted and left with cases of canned cider in three flavors as well as bottles of wine.

Hauser's sits on a ridge, offering a splendid view from its glass-enclosed tasting room, where it also has nightly special events. The wine and cider production facility is underground.

Along the highway below is The Historic Round Barn & Farm Market, a rare structure made even more rare by being a working artifact. Today's farm market fills the circular interior with local food, decorative and gift items as well as produce in season.

The Union and Confederate armies invaded Gettysburg because of its roads - 10 roads that led into town. Today, those same roads make it easy to approach the historic town from all directions.

For more information and seasonal events go to www.destinationgettysburg.com.

Jeanne Mozier, of Berkeley Springs, is the author of "Way Out in West Virginia," a guide to the wonders and oddities of the Mountain State. She and noted photographer Steve Shaluta released the second printing of the coffee-table photo book "West Virginia Beauty, Familiar and Rare." Both books are available around West Virginia and from WVBookCo.com.

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If Turnpike tolls to be removed, planning must start now, lawmakers told http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160920/GZ0101/160929967 GZ0101 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160920/GZ0101/160929967 Tue, 20 Sep 2016 16:33:15 -0400 Phil Kabler By Phil Kabler The process of taking the tolls off the West Virginia Turnpike and moving the road into the state Division of Highways system will need to begin next summer, state Parkways Authority General Manager Greg Barr told a legislative interim committee Tuesday.

Under current law, once the 30-year Turnpike bonds are paid off in 2019, the state Division of Highways is to assume operation of the 88-mile interstate if the road is in good condition. State Transportation Secretary Paul Maddox has said planning for the transition will take two years, Barr said.

However, Barr told the Select Committee on Infrastructure he has concerns about future funding for the roadway if tolls are removed.

"If we're going to let the Turnpike fade away, and the tolls taken off, I would hope attention is paid to how to maintain it," he said.

Barr said Turnpike tolls provide $85 million a year of revenue, 75 percent of which is paid by out-of-state drivers.

He said the Parkways Authority spends $36 million to $40 million a year on capital improvement and major maintenance projects, and that amount will need to increase by about $20 million a year beginning in 2022, as long-term maintenance plans call for the replacement of four to five bridge decks each year after that date.

Barr noted that many states are taking the opposite tack, leveraging toll revenues to fund state highways. That includes Ohio, which in 2013 sold a $1 billion road bond issue that is funded with an increase on tolls on the Ohio Turnpike.

Also during legislative interim meetings Tuesday:

n Sen. Robert Plymale, D-Wayne, strongly objected to a proposal by House Finance Chairman Eric Nelson, R-Kanawha, to reduce state spending by "refinancing" state pension funds by extending out the current plan to have the funds fully funded by 2034 - a plan that requires a state contribution of $470 million a year.

"I think that's one of the worst proposals - being here for 24 years - that I have ever heard," Plymale said.

Plymale noted that when the plan was adopted in 1994, the Teachers Retirement System was 6 percent funded. It is currently is 66 percent funded.

However, Plymale did question whether the pension funds should continue to assume a 7.5 percent annual return on investments, particularly after a fiscal year when the state Investment Management Board saw a 0.3 percent loss in its pension portfolios.

n Jared Walczak, policy analyst for the conservative Tax Foundation, made a presentation on reducing the state's sales tax rate by broadening the tax base by including currently exempted products and services, including professional services.

Walczak also downplayed the example of Kansas, which slashed state taxes in 2012, creating massive budget deficits without producing the anticipated economic growth.

"They have become the poster child, unfortunately, in some circles for tax reform: If you do tax reform, you'll become Kansas," Walczak said. He said the Kansas plan was flawed in assuming economic activity would make up the billion-dollar tax cuts.

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-1220, or follow @PhilKabler on Twitter.

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WV Travel Team: Kansas City offers eclectic food, arts, shopping http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160918/GZ0506/160919513 GZ0506 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160918/GZ0506/160919513 Sun, 18 Sep 2016 01:26:00 -0400 By Crissy Gray WV Travel Team By By Crissy Gray WV Travel Team Kansas City is well known for several things: barbecue, the American Royal, the Kansas City Royals - recent World Series Champions - and more. A trip to the city that blurs the state line between Kansas and Missouri will allow you to find much more than barbecue (although you still must try it). If you're in the mood for a road trip, it's due west of Charleston roughly 11.5 hours on Interstate 64.

The Kansas City area is comprised of many different districts, each with its own unique style. While the districts are each certainly worth a visit, the hub of Kansas City is the downtown area.

The mixed-use area is seeing a recent surge in activity. The skyline has been evolving for several years now. With the addition of the Sprint and Kauffman Centers, the excitement builds as you enter the city.

Union Station - with Amtrak service - is also home to the hands-on Science City, featuring a rotating exhibit - currently "Body Worlds and The Cycle of Life."

Fresh seafood and steak at Pierpont's are the perfect finish to your evening. Harvey's serves breakfast, brunch and lunch with an open-air cafe inside the station.

Take in a moving performance from the Kansas City Ballet or the Kansas City Symphony at the beautiful Kauffman Center. The programming is vast and varied with a little something for everyone.

The Sprint Center sits among the bouncing entertainment area known as the Kansas City Power & Light District. Dine, drink and play in this eight-block area. The Living Room/KC Beer Garden is a hot spot, especially during sporting events, shown on KC's largest outdoor screen.

The Crown Center offers something for the whole family. Home to Hallmark's international headquarters, the center is flanked by two hotels and an office building that is over 2.2 million square feet tall.

During the summer, the Crown Center Fountain is an attraction for everyone. Water shooting up from ground spouts frequently, surprising visitors. During colder months, the ice skating terrace whirs with skaters of all ages.

Shopping and dining opportunities are abundant, and attractions such as the Kaleidoscope, Legoland Discovery Center, the SEA LIFE Kansas City aquarium and the Money Museum have broad appeal. You may decide to take a behind-the-scenes tour of Hallmark to see how greeting cards are made, from the artist to the shelves.

First Fridays are a busy buzz in this area. With over 400 artists, studios and galleries, the creative energy is everywhere. Not only will you find things for your eyes and ears to enjoy, but the shopping and dining experiences are unique, too. This area is located south of downtown Kansas City near Union Station.

The galleries are as diverse as the city with styles from contemporary to upcycled. Fashion, photography, gifts, engineering and fine art have all found a home in this district.

After taking on shopping and browsing, refuel at one of the many specialty restaurants. A stop at Christopher Elbow Chocolates will feel like you've stepped into an art gallery of edible works. The chocolates are tiny and tasty things of beauty. Italian, Thai, Craft Brew and German are a few of the featured fare options.

This area is north of downtown Kansas City. The River Market was designated a Historic District in 1978. Large riverfront warehouses have been transformed over the years to include loft living, shops, bars and other businesses.

The Arabia Steamboat Museum is one of the spotlights in the district. The steamboat sank nearby in 1856. The contents were brought to light in 1987 and 1988, and are now on display in the museum.

The other pillar to the area is the largest farmer's market in the region, where you can find a wide variety of delicious items on Saturdays and Sundays.

The recent revival of the historic West Bottoms 12th Street Bridge Entertainment District has created much for a visitor to explore. The area was originally a hub for the railroad and livestock industry.

Stockyards and loading docks lined the area. The well-known American Royal calls the area home. The American Royal Barbecue Contest is something to behold each year.

In the fall, one can choose from many high-tech haunted houses hosted in several of the warehouses.

Stores and cafes are quickly filling the historic area and are currently open on the weekends. Plenty of upcycled shops and other unique finds are available. The atmosphere is as much a part of the adventure. The area has a rich history.

Not far from downtown, Country Club Plaza showcases 15 blocks of upscale shopping, dining and lodging. Several of the cities well-known fountains are along the Plaza.

A long-standing tradition is the lighting of the plaza Christmas lights, frequently hosted by a local celebrity. Horse-drawn carriages can also give visitors a little time to relax and take in the scenery.

In September, stroll through the annual Plaza Art Fair with over 200 artist and restaurant booths and bands. Be sure to make reservations at the Bluestem Restaurant on Westport Road. The beauty and flavor of the food alone is worth the trip.

Driving around the Plaza area, you may notice a large building with some very large objects on the lawn. This is the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, and it features some of the world's artistic treasures.

The phrase, "Jazz was born in New Orleans, but grew up in Kansas City," can be seen - and heard - in all its glory in the Historic Jazz District. The 18th and Vine District was the place for jazz in the 1920s, '30s and '40s.

The American Jazz Museum tells the tale of this art form through interactive displays. Kids can make their own instruments in the Jazz Discovery area. The Blue Room is a nightclub built within the museum featuring live music five nights a week along with photos and memorabilia.

The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum takes visitors down a timeline of the Negro Leagues history. Walk among the 10 life-sized bronze statues of the greats on a scaled diamond. Visit the museum store to take a piece of history home.

Pack your bags, let's go!

For personalized assistance in planning your Kansas City adventure, stop by the AAA Charleston office or call one of the AAA travel professionals -Janice Adkins, Lia Ireland, Amy Sisson, Becky Wallace and Barbara Wing at 304-925-1136.

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Powerboats fill excitement niche at Stonewall and Sutton lakes http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160917/GZ0702/160919580 GZ0702 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160917/GZ0702/160919580 Sat, 17 Sep 2016 00:01:00 -0400 Rick Steelhammer By Rick Steelhammer ROANOKE - Two-person powerboats that combine the open-air, wave-riding feel of a personal watercraft with the stability of a bass boat are stirring up waves of interest from visitors to two West Virginia reservoirs where they are available for rent.

"They're kind of a cross between a motorboat and a jet ski," said Ashley Allen, an attendant at the Stonewall Resort Marina at Stonewall Jackson Lake in Lewis County, of the three CraigCat rental boats the resort acquired about one month ago. "They're pretty fast. We've clocked them here at 27 miles an hour. When you hit the wake from another boat, it feels like you're on a jet ski, but these boats are very stable and won't flip."

"They're not as fast as a jet ski, and they're much more stable," said Rella Cvetican of Sutton Lake Marina, which added two CraigCats to its rental fleet at the start of this year's boating season. "They've been really popular for us this summer. You can fish from them, swim off them or just use them to go explore the lake," a 1,440-acre reservoir surrounded by steep, wooded hills that stretches nearly 14 miles from the outskirts of Sutton into Webster County.

CraigCats, built by Craig Catamaran Corporation, feature open-air, side-by-side seating atop a pair of pontoons linked in a catamaran configuration. Steering is done with a stick located between the vessels' two bucket seats. The operator pushes the lever forward to turn right and pulls back to turn left. A small platform near the bow allows riders to keep their feet dry when the boat's 25-horsepower outboard eases off plane. For anglers, each boat is equipped with four rod holders, and casts can be made while standing on one of the pontoons.

Rella Cvetican and husband, Ron Cvetican, vacationed in Florida last winter, and visited more than 20 marinas "to bring back ideas we can use here," Rella Cvetican said. "The CraigCats were one of them. They were popular down there and they are made in Orlando."

"We've been renting more CraigCats than pontoon boats," Allen said. "They're a lot of fun."

The CraigCats are equipped with AM/FM/USB/Bluetooth sound systems with high definition marine speakers, behind-seat storage bins, and small coolers for beverages, sandwiches and snacks. They are designed for no more than two passengers with a total maximum weight of 600 pounds.

"They get great gas mileage," Rella Cvetican said. "A tank will last you all day."

Sutton Lake Marina's boat rental season ends Oct. 9. Until then, the marina is offering 20 percent end-of-season discounts. Without discount, the mid-week rate for a CraigCat rental session starts at $95 for a two-hour session, with four- and eight-hour sessions available at higher rates. During the first two Saturdays in October, Sutton Lake Marina is offering fall foliage lake tours, starting at 2 p.m. each day, for $28 per person plus tax. The fee includes boat, driver, fuel and safety gear. For details, call 304-765-2120 or visit www.suttonlakemarina.com. Sutton Lake Marina also rents jet skis, pontoon boats, fishing boats, kayaks, paddleboards, pedal boats and houseboats that sleep up to 10.

The last day of Stonewall Jackson Resort Marina's rental season is Oct. 31, although the Marina will be closed Mondays through Wednesdays until then during its late season operating schedule. Rental prices for the resort's new CraigCats start at $115 for two-hour weekday sessions, with four- and eight-hour sessions available at higher rates. For details, call 304-269-8895 or visit www.stonewallresort.com and click the "marina" tab.

Stonewall Resort also rents canoes, stand-up paddleboards, fishing boats, pontoon boats, pedal boats and kayaks.

Reach Rick Steelhammer at

rsteelhammer@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-5169 or follow

@rsteelhammer on Twitter.

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Photo of the Week: Black-and-white illusions in Ohio http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160911/GZ05/160919999 GZ05 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160911/GZ05/160919999 Sun, 11 Sep 2016 00:01:00 -0400 Brenda Thomas loves visiting Amish country. It's peaceful. There are plenty of animals to look at.

Thomas, of Chesapeake, was driving through Sugar Creek, Ohio, with a friend recently when she spotted these beauties standing by a barn.

Two of the three that turned to look at the photo made it seem as if the head of one was connected to the back side of another. A two-headed cow!

"Amish country is always a good place to go and take photographs and if you are not a photographer, it's always a good place to eat some delicious food and enjoy the beautiful countryside," Thomas said.

Love cows? What about chickens? Do you have a fondness for rats? We really don't care. We'll take anything.

Send your submissions, with a few details about the photo, to social@wvgazettemail.com with "Photo of the Week" in the subject line.

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Hermine may have dampened holiday traffic in WV http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160906/GZ01/160909721 GZ01 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160906/GZ01/160909721 Tue, 6 Sep 2016 17:35:06 -0400 Phil Kabler By Phil Kabler Tropical Storm Hermine's jaunt up the East Coast may have put a damper on Labor Day holiday traffic on the West Virginia Turnpike, officials with the state Parkways Authority said Tuesday.

Traffic for the four-day holiday weekend was down 1.37 percent from the 2015 Labor Day weekend, with 465,507 toll transactions, compared to 466,917 transactions last year, Operations Director Tyrone Gore said.

Parkways General Manager Greg Barr had expected traffic to be up about 2 percent, consistent with an overall increase in Turnpike traffic over the past year.

However, that was before Hermine, which hit Florida as a hurricane on Friday, then slowly moved up the coast, closing beaches from Georgia to New York.

"The storm coming through probably had a lot of people deciding not to travel," Gore said.

Less traffic meant no significant traffic backups or delays over the holiday weekend, he said. "Traffic moved really well, and we didn't have any major incidents," Gore said.

Also Tuesday:

n Tamarack Executive Director Jim Browder was authorized to put out a request for proposals for a generator to power the Beckley complex. Browder said the facility has been plagued by frequent power outages recently.

While most are of short duration, Tamarack lost power for a day and a half on July 8-9, he said. That resulted in the loss of nearly $5,000 in food from the Taste of West Virginia food court, and the closure of Tamarack Friday afternoon and all day Saturday resulted in more than $40,000 in lost retail and food court sales, Browder said.

n Board member Bill Seaver called on the Parkways Authority to be more proactive in encouraging legislators to maintain tolls on the Turnpike, which are set to expire in 2019.

Proponents note that the tolls provide more than $85 million a year of revenue for the state, with out-of-state travelers accounting for more than 75 percent of that amount.

"These are things we have to look at if Parkways is to survive," Seaver said of contacting legislators. "I don't think they understand if they do nothing, it's over."

Barr noted that the Senate Transportation Committee advanced a bill in the 2016 regular session to maintain Turnpike tolls after the 30-year turnpike bond issue is retired in 2019.

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-1220, or follow @PhilKabler on Twitter.

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Charleston native talks life in Seoul in new memoir http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160904/GZ0605/160909922 GZ0605 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160904/GZ0605/160909922 Sun, 4 Sep 2016 02:42:00 -0400 Anna Patrick By Anna Patrick Frank Ahrens would try not to wake his wife as he crawled out of bed.

He'd get up quietly at 2 a.m. and head to the other room. Watching American sports live on TV wasn't so easy in South Korea. But Ahrens lived on a U.S. military base. And that base had American Forces TV. And sometimes that TV would play a West Virginia University football game.

To watch it live, he'd get up at 2 a.m. and go to the other room as his wife Rebekah slept.

When the sunny Saturday game in Morgantown ended, it would be about 6 a.m. Sunday in South Korea.

"They win or lose?" Rebekah Ahrens would ask.

He'd whisper a short report as the couple fell back to sleep in their new country.

"If I could keep these little tethers to my old life," Ahrens said, "I could live in a foreign country where I don't speak the language."

For a Charleston-born WVU alumnus, following the Mountaineers was a critical tether to feeling connected to home. Driving over the Han River on his way to work, Ahrens would pull over to watch the sun rise as ESPN's "Mike & Mike" podcast discussed the news in sports.

He needed to feel connected. So he'd visit the Charleston Gazette and Charleston Daily Mail websites for daily coverage of the Mountaineers, while working as director of global communications for Hyundai, Korea's second-largest company.

Ahrens writes about life in South Korea, the varying forms of kimchee - a fermented cabbage dish - and its many fragrances, the culture and the camaraderie among his Korean colleagues in his first book, "Seoul Man." Published in August, the memoir follows Ahrens as he tackles a new career in a new country as a newlywed.

Ahrens will speak about his book at 6 p.m. Friday at Taylor Books in downtown Charleston. The event is free, and refreshments will be provided along with alcoholic beverages. He'll be on hand after to chat and sign copies of the book.

"If I ever write a book," Ahrens used to say, "a high point would be coming home to Charleston, seeing old friends I haven't seen for a long time and talking at Taylor [Books]."

Ahrens grew up in Kanawha City, next to the University of Charleston. When he went to Charleston High School in the late '70s, the cool thing to do was go to Capitol Street and walk around.

"Capitol Street was the main drag before the mall was built. I remember it literally being packed," Ahrens said.

Even after he graduated from WVU and landed a job writing for The Washington Post, he still followed the action of his hometown, Ahrens said. During his 18 years at the Post, he spent a few years covering business, like stories of urban and suburban planning and how people live in those areas.

After the Charleston Town Center mall was built, Ahrens said he watched Charleston closely. He followed how the businesses on Capitol Street and surrounding downtown streets declined and how they slowly regrew.

And he credits Taylor Books for much of that.

"I always thought Taylor Books was the anchor of that. That Taylor [Books] was crucial to saving Capitol Street and downtown Charleston."

When he moved to South Korea in 2010, Ahrens said he found many things that reminded him of the Mountain State.

Seoul is roughly the same latitude. The weather is similar. It's mountainous, like in West Virginia's old and rolling Appalachian mountains.

"I arrived in October of 2010, and the hills all around Seoul looked like the hills around Charleston ablaze with color, just gorgeous," Ahrens said.

But naturally, there were handfuls of differences.

"You just have to switch your way of thinking almost 180 degrees," he said.

From cuisine - think lots and lots of kimchee - to Seoul's crazy traffic to the drinking, Ahrens' book recounts his daily life.

The stories include his first evening out with his coworkers. Ahrens brought his wife, which was contradictory to customary behavior.

His coworkers took him to a Korean barbecue restaurant. They sat around a table in a private room. Raw meat was brought to the table raw and cooked over a tub of hot coals or a grill in the middle of the table.

"The evening started off pleasantly enough, but once the soju came out, things got Korean," Ahrens writes.

Soju, like vodka in Russia, is much more than just a drink. It's a critical piece of Korean culture as Ahrens explains. It's the means for team building with coworkers. It's how you bond after hours. It's something you drink - a lot.

Ahrens explores the Korean drinking culture. He unpacks Korea's history of development, how in 50 years it grew from a poor country to one of the richest and smartest. He shares what it's like moving there as a middle-aged man.

And through the book, he draws a large arch between him, Korea and Hyundai - that all three were experiencing their midlife crises at the time.

To hear more about that midlife crisis and the ways Ahrens compares to the Asian country and one of its largest automakers, visit his website at frankahrens.com or listen to him Friday at Taylor Books.

Reach Anna Patrick at anna.patrick@wvgazettemail.com or 304-348-4881.

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Photo of the Week: Celebrating National Parks http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160904/GZ0506/160909937 GZ0506 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160904/GZ0506/160909937 Sun, 4 Sep 2016 00:01:00 -0400 Lisa Paddock stood at the south rim of Yellowstone's Grand Canyon, and she started to feel something on her cheek. Tears.

"The place was so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes," Lisa said.

Taken by her husband, Mark Paddock, the photo of Yellowstone National Park's Yellowstone Falls was shot from the overlook spot known as Artist Point.

"It is easy to see how Yellowstone National Park was named when you see the yellow in the canyon," said Lisa, a resident of Elkview.

Lisa, Mark and their son Bryan took a two-week trip in July to visit as many national parks and national monuments as they could. The family visited Mount Rushmore, Devil's Tower, the Badlands, Bighorn Battlefield, Grand Tetons and more.

"The trip was a present for my son Bryan's high school graduation. ... The trip was really special because we got to see so many beautiful places and spend great family time together before Bryan left for college," Lisa said.

Take any family vacations this year? We want to see!

Send your submissions, with a few details about the photo, to social@wvgazettemail.com with "Photo of the Week" in the subject line.

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Photo: WV readies for Bridge Day http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160901/GZ07/160909962 GZ07 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160901/GZ07/160909962 Thu, 1 Sep 2016 17:32:19 -0400 Workers are gussying up the New River Gorge Bridge for its big day in October. Here, Robert Ball, with D&G Construction of Huntington, gives the bridge's footers a fresh coat of paint on Thursday. Bridge Day, the only day of the year when BASE jumpers are welcome to legally leap from the span, is scheduled for Oct. 15.

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West Virginian hops train to brainstorm how state can attract young talent http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160828/GZ0506/160829599 GZ0506 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160828/GZ0506/160829599 Sun, 28 Aug 2016 04:30:00 -0400 Anna Patrick By Anna Patrick The types of questions Natalie Roper received on "the millennial train" went beyond the basic get-to-know-you kind of inquiries.

They skipped over the niceties. And instead, Roper and her fellow participants on the Millennial Trains Project dove into hearty discussions about social change and how millennials are impacting their communities. They listened to speakers from national nonprofits, visited cities focused on innovation like Detroit and Milwaukee, and met with community leaders.

Roper said many times she would be sitting on the floor in a '50s-style train car, surrounded by young people, all trying to determine their role in changing the world, while listening to a speaker from the Rockefeller Foundation. Meanwhile their train zipped by fields of corn on the journey to their next stop.

Roper, executive director of Generation West Virginia, and 25 of her peers, all diverse young leaders, recently concluded the 10-day trip across the country with the Millennial Trains Project. Founded in 2013 by Patrick Dowd, the nonprofit is designed to take millennials on a journey across the country, stopping in five cities that are working hard to retain young talent, while creating an environment to brainstorm ideas and foster progress.

It's a rubber-meets-the-road kind of mentality. Instead of reading about how Detroit is working to attract young talent, the nonprofit took participants there and showed them. It took them to a millennial tech summit in San Francisco and hosted them for a rooftop dinner in Los Angeles to showcase a new dining project.

"I hope I'm cool enough for this," Roper joked before flying to Los Angeles to catch the train Aug. 10.

Roper had to apply and submit a project to work on during the train ride. She was the only person representing West Virginia. Roper's project focused on answering the question that drives her organization: How does West Virginia attract and retain its young talent?

Young talent is a regular export of the Mountain State. According to a 2009 study by PayScale.com, a salary information website, 72 percent of graduates from West Virginia University leave the state within five years of graduation. Between July 1, 2014, and July 1, 2015, West Virginia lost more than 6,100 people, a higher rate of loss than any other state in the country, according to a population estimate by the U.S. Census Bureau.

"West Virginia's future depends on its ability to attract and retain young adults, who fuel economic growth and urban revitalization," Roper wrote in her proposal to the Millennial Trains Project.

During every stop in L.A., San Francisco, Denver, Milwaukee and Detroit, Roper met with chambers of commerce, community organizations and nonprofits to learn about what they are doing to attract and retain young talent.

Even places like San Francisco, Roper said, which has a high percentage of young people, city organizers, planners and large businesses, are making decisions around the retention and attraction of workers 18 to 34 years of age.

"I was shocked at this sense of urgency for attracting and retaining young people in every single city, especially San Fran. ... They are the hub for young people," Roper said. "They knew that success of a place equals the number of young people you have."

At its most basic level, attracting young, talented people to your city or state is about growing your tax base. It's about having enough tax payers to support critical infrastructure needs, to provide enough funds so a city can grow its quality of life.

But it's much more than that. It's about a state or city's survival and growth in a knowledge economy, Roper said.

"In a knowledge economy, our greatest asset is young people with great ideas and the ability to get them done," she said. "So we have to be a place where they want to be."

Millennials are the most mobile generation. Thanks to technology, millennials can find ways to work from wherever they want.

So, how are places like Detroit, a city that filed bankruptcy three years ago, luring millennials to come and start a life there?

Narrative.

"In Detroit they even said, 'Sometimes the narrative has more power than reality,'" Roper said.

Detroit still has a long way to recovery. Roper said the city's downtown has only one major street that's been renovated and populated with new trendy restaurants and businesses.

But people are moving there because they believe in the narrative of the city. Roper spoke to many leaders of nonprofits in Detroit, and they all said the same things: "Detroit is for doers," "In Detroit, we get things done," "Detroit is big enough to matter in the world, but small enough for you to matter in it."

West Virginia already has its narrative, Roper said. It's what defines its culture and shapes its people. It's not a blank canvas.

"The reason we have a culture right now that is amazing for a young person to be a part of is because we've always been resilient. We've always been a place that steps up. We've always been a place of self starters," Roper said.

Narrative provides hope, she said. It's powerful. It helps bring a bankrupt city like Detroit back from the brink.

Roper spent a lot of time talking to fellow train passengers and organizers about West Virginia's narrative, about what it has to offer young people.

"I'm able to say, 'I have an opportunity as a young person to be a part of conversations that are envisioning the state's future, to work with people in the legislature,'" Roper said.

"We're not so behind on this wave. We have a lot of foundational things that other places don't have."

These include a low cost of living, access to networks in the state and local governments and a tremendous amount of outdoor recreation.

And it isn't that people living in other states have negative perceptions of West Virginia, Roper said. It's that they don't have any perceptions of the place.

"Most people just said, 'I don't know anything that happens there,'" Roper said. "We're not really combating that many negative stereotypes. We are creating our narrative. People don't know anything about this place."

To learn about the Millennial Trains Project, visit www.millennialtrain.co.

Reach Anna Patrick at

anna.patrick@wvgazettemail.com

or 304-348-4881.

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Photo of the Week: Warm summer night in Bristol http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160828/GZ0506/160829632 GZ0506 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160828/GZ0506/160829632 Sun, 28 Aug 2016 00:01:00 -0400 The train station in Bristol, Tennessee, is warm with the glow of yellowish lights on a summer eve. Nancy Hancart of Nitro was on vacation when she photographed the empty scene.

Hancart's a regular contributor to Photo of the Week, always taking her camera with her on trips and then sending in photos to make us feel like we were there.

Send us a photo of a place you think everyone should see. Somewhere that's bucket-list worthy.

Send your submissions, with a few details about the photo, to social@wvgazettemail.com with "Photo of the Week" in the subject line.

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New guide lists drool-worthy West Virginia pet-friendly vacation sites http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160825/GZ03/160829692 GZ03 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160825/GZ03/160829692 Thu, 25 Aug 2016 17:16:15 -0400 Rick Steelhammer By Rick Steelhammer With more Americans than ever now including pets in their entourage as they hit the road for family vacations or business trips, the folks at Wild, Wonderful West Virginia have sunk their teeth into the concept of marketing the state's pet-friendly attractions, accommodations and eateries.

"We love our pets as much as we do our children," said state Tourism Commissioner Amy Shuler Goodwin, who announced the release of the "West FURginia Guide" during a press conference Thursday in Charleston's East End Dog Park.

The free, 20-page booklet lists places to see and things to do while accompanied by dogs, cats and other leash-controlled pets.

"When people are away from home, they worry about their pets," Goodwin said, as she watched Gus, her shelter-rescued Golden Retriever-Saint Bernard cross-breed, romp through the dog park with some newly made friends. "And it can be quite expensive to board your pets while you are away from home. People who are in businesses that cater to visitors have recognized that becoming pet-friendly gives them a great opportunity to grow without having to spend a lot of money to do so."

"Six million Americans travel with their pets each year," said Alisa Bailey, president of the Charleston Convention and Visitors' Bureau. "They're willing to pay extra fees to be able to keep their pets with them while they travel."

Among unique pet-friendly attractions available in West Virginia, according to the new guide, are sternwheeler cruises to Blennerhassett Island State Historical Park, where leashed dogs and their human partners can roam the grounds of the reconstructed Harman Blennerhassett Mansion, wade on the beaches of the Ohio River island and jog its network of dirt roads.

At the eastern tip of the state, dogs are allowed to keep their owners company while exploring the spookier nooks of the historic town of Harpers Ferry while participating in Harpers Ferry Ghost Tours programs.

In Canaan Valley, snow-loving dogs are welcome to accompany their human keepers on several of White Grass Touring Center's cross-country ski trails, while far to the south, dogs are welcome to trade in the couch for a passenger seat in the family car to take in a movie at the Pipestem Drive-In near Athens.

According to the new guide, a surprising number of West Virginia restaurants are dog-friendly, with Morgantown leading the pack by offering at least seven canine-accommodating eateries. At Shepherdstown in the Eastern Panhandle, dogs are welcome at aptly named Lost Dog Coffee, Domestic's artisan cuisine and the Blue Moon Cafe. In Charleston, Fido-friendly food outlets include the deck at Tricky Fish cafe and water bowl-equipped Ellen's Homemade Ice Cream.

Dog-friendly cabins can be found at 18 West Virginia state parks and state forests, in addition to eight canine-accommodating state park lodges. Pet-friendly cabins are also available at private-sector places such as Yokum's Vacationland at Seneca Rocks, Berkeley Springs Getaways in Morgan County and New River Cabins near Fayetteville.

For more urban and upscale travelers, dogs are welcome at historic Blennerhassett Hotel in downtown Parkersburg, where courtesy water bowls, place mats and treats await canine guests. In the Charleston area, pet-friendly lodging is available at the Holiday Inn & Suites in South Charleston, Red Roof Inn and Country Inn & Suites in Kanawha City and the Residence Inn by Marriott at Northgate.

Also listed in the new guide are pet-friendly B&Bs, campgrounds and festivals, along with canine and feline day care, grooming and accessories shops across the state.

"Pet travel is growing across the country, and we're committed to make it a part of our marketing strategy," said Goodwin.

The West FURginia Guide is the latest in a series of new pocket guides released by Wild, Wonderful West Virginia, including the Craft Beer Guide, Wine and Spirits Guide, and Summer Guide. To get free copies of any of the guides, call 800-225-5982 or visit www.GoToWV.com.

Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelhammer@wvgazette.com, 304-348-5169 or follow @rsteelhammer on Twitter.

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WV Travel Team: Canadian friendliness colors Toronto http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160823/GZ0506/160829609 GZ0506 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160823/GZ0506/160829609 Sun, 28 Aug 2016 02:24:00 -0400 By Martin W.G. King WV Travel Team By By Martin W.G. King WV Travel Team Comfortably ensconced in airline-style seats on a new express train, my wife and I sped into downtown Toronto from a futuristic new terminal at the city's international airport. What we saw was promising: shabby outer suburbs gave way to skyscraping forests of gleaming glass condos and office towers.

Perhaps, we thought, considering the spectacular airport, the train (which offered the services of an on-board hostess) and all the new construction, everything we'd heard about Toronto's renaissance was true. Maybe it was, indeed, the world's newest great city, having already supplanted Chicago as the third-largest city in the United States and Canada and become the fourth-largest in North America (after Mexico City, New York and Los Angeles).

We had made a list of must-see sights for our weekend in Toronto, but ended up checking only a few boxes because there was so much to see and do within a walkable radius of our hotel (the city has an efficient and user-friendly streetcar-and-subway transit system as well).

We also did a lot of "visiting," as my wife puts it; the people we encountered were unfailingly friendly, eager to provide directions and always available for a few minutes of conversation about the city in which they universally took great pride.

The sights we had to take a pass on included Kensington Market (a gargantuan, year-round ethnic bazaar); the brand new Aga Khan Museum, devoted to Islamic antiquities and culture; the Royal Ontario Museum (with a new addition by the renowned architect Daniel Libeskind); Little Italy; Greektown; at least one of the three Chinatowns; the uber-hip West Queen West area; and the Hockey Hall of Fame.

(Flights from CRW to Toronto on America, United and Delta, including connections, take as little as three hours and a few minutes, with recent round-trip fares starting around $367. Driving time, according to travelmath.com, is eight hours and 36 minutes for the 528-mile road trip.)

Toronto's emergence on the world stage was a long time coming. But thanks to a tidal wave of immigration that started in the late 1960s, the city began to shed its staid image. The newcomers brought their cultures and cuisines with them, making the city a lively, multi-ethnic mosaic. Today, half of Toronto's population is foreign-born, and residents speak more than 140 languages.

Toronto's renaissance is also testimony to city fathers who, in 1965, not only built a new city hall in the heart of town with striking, curving towers and an elevated, clamshell council chamber, but also put a huge square, with reflecting pools that double in winter as skating rinks, in front of it. The square quickly became a gathering place, with ethnic festivals, concerts and performances by street artists bringing people downtown at all hours.

Several years later, the Canadian National Railway Company built the CN Tower, a cloud-piercing telecommunications and observation tower that reigns as the tallest free-standing structure in North America, eclipsing most skyscrapers, including New York's Freedom Tower, and prompting new downtown development.

The views from the observatory are stunning, especially at night when the city's bright lights spread far into the darkened landscape below. At the tower's foot is the Rogers Centre, the home stadium of the Toronto Blue Jays. The Air Canada Centre, home of the Toronto Raptors and the Toronto Maple Leafs is a couple blocks away.

Setting out from our hotel our first morning, we walked down Yonge Street (pronounced "young") - the city's main north-south thoroughfare and, for miles on end, its major retail corridor - in the direction of the Financial District, near Lake Ontario.

A shutterbug and architecture buff, I soon hauled out my camera to take pictures of both the exploding skyline and the vintage buildings that had been spared the wrecking ball and beautifully restored - and, to put all the new construction in context, some that hadn't been restored.

Soon, we happened upon the campus of Ryerson University, with its striking, seven-story glass-cube classroom building that seemed to tilt over the street. My wife darted into the university book store, which sat behind the cube, emerging triumphantly a few minutes later with a type of journal she could no longer find in the U.S.

She sat by a fountain as I explored a farmers market in a pocket park adjoining the cube. A stand selling maple syrup and assorted maple syrup products (this was Canada, after all) caught my eye. The syrup came not just in the little bottles and cans familiar to Americans, but in giant 1.5 liter bottles as well.

Also catching my eye at the market was Ana Diez, who was selling espresso drinks out of the Macchina Coffee Co.'s bright orange, mid-century minivan - something, if you didn't know better, you'd expect to see in Rome, but not in Toronto.

Sampling a perfectly bold, piping hot Americano, I asked Diez what brought her to Toronto and what she liked about the city.

"Some of my relatives moved here in the 1970s," she said. "It's so diverse. I like the vibe."

Still, she didn't care for Toronto's winters, she said, noting that she spends them at home in South America.

Another market was in store for us - the 166-year-old St. Lawrence Market, which National Geographic has called the world's best food market. The market is a gourmand's heaven, redolent with the aromas of baked goods, cheeses, fresh meats, fish, produce and flowers.

One pastry stall sold exquisitely decorated cakes, but it was the cases of butter tarts, a sugary Canadian delicacy, that got my attention. For those who are squeamish, rest assured; a vendor told us that the spiked pig's heads that once marked the stalls selling pea meal ("Canadian") bacon - a sight that had horrified my wife on an earlier visit decades earlier - had been vanquished for good.

We stopped for lunch that day at the sidewalk cafe Hot House Restaurant and Bar. I ordered a Moroccan salad and a shrimp kebab, which was superb, the shrimp grilled perfectly, firm but full of flavor, and my wife's chicken stir-fry was also well executed.

Sitting beneath an umbrella that provided shelter from the blistering June sun, I talked with our server, Michael Lipka, an actor who came to Toronto seeking a career onstage and in the movies. Many American movies are actually made in Toronto, and the annual Toronto International Film Festival each September attracts legions of critics and celebrities.

Lipka said Toronto is a big city for theater - the third largest in the world, after London and New York. In fact, the Royal Alexandra Theatre, opened in 1907, is the oldest legitimate theater in continuous operation in North America. Other spaces include the Elgin Theatre, Winter Garden Theatre, Princess of Wales Theatre, Panasonic Theatre, Sony Centre for the Performing Arts and the Theatre Centre. (For music, there's the Roy Thomson Hall, Koerner Hall and Massey Hall).

The famed Stratford Festival (formerly the Stratford Shakespeare Festival) takes place each summer in Stratford, 96 miles from Toronto (round-trip bus fare direct to venues is about $25).

Less than a mile from the market, the old 19th-century Gooderham & Worts whiskey distillery has been converted into the Distillery Historic District, a compact area of shops, galleries and restaurants that we explored the next day.

Down a quaint, cobbled lane, we came across a tiny boutique, Maisonette, which sold artisanal edibles, including chocolates made by Laura Slack, a well-known Toronto chocolatier and owner of the shop.

Outside, a chest displayed frozen treats, popular on hot days like this one. Inside, the shopkeeper, Natalia Nahon, a native of Venezuela, was eager to talk about the myriad confections that packed the shop's shelves.

Slack, she said, was known not just for her hand-painted chocolate bars, but also for her "Drink of the Gods," a hot chocolate drink she sells in the winter.

We also stopped in at Bergo Designs, an emporium of high-end housewares, gifts, cards and novelty items. Blackbird Vintage Finds, around the corner, might have billed itself as selling everything but the kitchen sink - except that it had an antique kitchen sink for sale, as well as a variety of smaller antiques and gifts, including soaps from the Maison Apothecaire line (the pink grapefruit soap, in particular, was delightfully scented).

We ate a mid-afternoon lunch at El Catrin, a restaurant in the district that serves modern Mexican cuisine. Eating outdoors - there's also a sophisticated interior space with Latin-themed murals - we dined on zesty, made-to-order guacamole, calzador tacos (with spiced, sauteed mushrooms, superb) and the pollo burrito (with seasoned, marinated chicken and rich, dense black bean puree).

Our server, Laura Vanegas, said she was originally from Colombia, but she had lived in Montreal for 10 years before moving to Toronto.

"The winters don't bother me too much," she said. "The people here are so friendly, it balances out."

Our time being limited, we were able to check only two more things off our list. One was a ferry trip across the harbor to the heavily forested Toronto Islands, an oasis in the harbor that offers beaches, a wildlife sanctuary, and an amusement park and zoo for small children (the midway at the annual Canadian National Exhibition, Aug. 19 through Sept. 5, is vastly larger, with the usual heart-stopping rides for older kids and adults).

The other was a visit to the vast Art Gallery of Ontario, a modern edifice redesigned by the famed architect Frank Gehry, a native of Toronto. With only an hour until it closed, we made a beeline for the Canadian collection, an extensive selection of paintings by Canada's famed Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven, early 20th-century artists who painted Canada's rugged landscape in vivid colors. The artists are seen as counterparts to the famed "Ashcan" artists of the same period in the United States.

We followed the signs to Canada's most revered work of art, Thomson's "The Jack Pine." We were so absorbed that we had to pass up the European wing and one of the museum's prime attractions, an extensive collection of works by sculptor Henry Moore.

The next day, as we boarded the train for the airport, the hostess, a young Muslim woman in a headscarf, helped us stow our luggage and then, seeing us with our phones, offered to take our picture. We decided it wasn't just the skyscrapers, the architecture, the art galleries or the surprises around every corner that had made Toronto so special, it was the people.

Martin W.G. King is a freelance writer based in Delray Beach, Florida.

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Vines & Vittles: Expanding your wine palette to enhance food flavors http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160823/GZ0502/160829615 GZ0502 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160823/GZ0502/160829615 Tue, 23 Aug 2016 12:58:00 -0400 I like to think that, like a fine wine, my personal vinous tastes have matured, morphing from in-your-face, big, tannic purple monsters to balanced, flavorful and nuanced wines of all colors.

This transition did not occur overnight, and, in fact, it took about two decades for my mind to accept what my palate had been transmitting to it: Bigger is not always better.

When I became seriously interested in wine a few decades back, my tastes ran to just about any red that was full-bodied. The bigger, the better. These were new-world wines produced either in the U.S., Australia or South America, and they always seemed to have tons of rich, dark fruit flavors, mouth puckering tannin and stratospheric alcohol levels. Even the white wines I occasionally drank were heavy, over-oaked California chardonnays.

But I have seen the light, brothers and sisters, and it is not bright and blinding. No, it is soft, muted and subtle. And this evolution of taste has nothing to do with sophistication, aesthetics or a sudden epiphany.

Rather, it reflects a realization that I had stubbornly resisted for years: that wine appreciation is all about balance. And finding that balance is a challenging but fun life-long pursuit.

Hey, I will be the first to defend your right to drink any wine you wish. If you prefer Uncle Vito's Thunder Mountain Red with filet mignon, then go for it. My only wine appreciation admonition is: If you think you've found the world's greatest wine - you haven't. So keep trying.

It's easy to enjoy - as I still occasionally do - those big, rich, monster wines that provide instant gratification, but they are one-dimensional palate bullies that don't get along with food. And that's the crux of the issue for me.

Wine should almost always be enjoyed with food and especially at mealtime. And finding that perfect food and wine pairing is the payoff.

So let's talk about red wines you might try from appellations that are known for producing flavorful but balanced bottles. In the good old United States, pinot noir is the red that can be rich, yet subtle, and the best regions to find these excellent food-friendly products are: Willamette Valley of Oregon; Anderson Valley, Sonoma Coast; and Santa Rita Hills of California.

While you may be surprised by this suggestion, zinfandel can also be produced to provide subtle, lighter-styled wines that are very good food companions. Try zins from these California appellations/producers: Dry Creek Valley, Preston, Quivira and Pedroncelli; Amador County, Easton and Sobon.

In Europe, you should try the lighter- to medium-bodied wines of France, Italy, Spain and Portugal. In France, the wines of the Cotes Du Rhone feature Grenache as the primary red grape while in Beaujolais it is Gamay and in Burgundy it's pinot noir.

In Italy, you might look for the reds of Chianti in Tuscany produced mainly from sangiovese, while in the Veneto, look for Valpolicella. In Piedmont, barbera and dolcetto are great choices, and the nero d'Avola of Sicily is a lovely quaff.

The wines of Spain provide some subtle, but flavorful offerings. Try Rioja made from tempranillo, as well as the reds of Ribera Del Duero and the Penedes region near Barcelona.

And while most people think Portugal produces only Port, you might ask for the lovely dry red wines from the Duoro River Region produced from the touriga nacional grape.

Visit John Brown's Vines & Vittles blog at wvgazettemail.com.

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WV Travel Team: Take a tour of historic artifacts throughout the state http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160821/GZ0506/160829984 GZ0506 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160821/GZ0506/160829984 Sun, 21 Aug 2016 02:02:00 -0400 By Jeanne Mozier WV Travel Team By By Jeanne Mozier WV Travel Team Although West Virginia is only 153 years old as a state, its lands have been inhabited for more than 14,000 years. Visiting remnants of these ancient civilizations brings the traveler face to face with giant skeletons, enormous burial mounds, mystery carvings, museum exhibits and murals.

Despite many mounds being leveled by farmers and town builders, the Smithsonian Institution documented 50 Indian burial mounds a century ago. It was one of the largest groups of mounds in America. They were built between 2,000 and 3,000 years ago.

Today, only a few mounds remain, including the largest conical earthen mound of its kind, Grave Creek in Moundsville.

Grave Creek is big and impressive at 295 feet in diameter and 69 feet high. It is composed of 60,000 tons of earth, all moved by hand more than two millennia ago by a people known to the Indians as "the old ones." Today archaeologists call them Adena.

Originally a moat 36 feet wide and 4 feet deep surrounded the mound. Although archaeologists postulate that the old ones were smaller than modern man, evidence of 7-foot-tall giants was found both among mound skeletons as well as etched in stone.

Excavations conducted at Grave Creek during the 19th century turned up only a few whole skeletons, along with the shell jewelry, weapons, tools, robes, tobacco pipes and food containers buried with them.

Also uncovered was a mysterious sandstone tablet etched with runic figures - undecipherable to this day and on display, along with other artifacts from the excavation, at the Delf Norona Museum adjacent to the Mound.

Visitors can climb stone steps that spiral up the mound to the stone obelisk and low stonewall at the top.

Cresap Mound, an Adena site with petroglyphs, or rock carvings, is about 6 miles down the Ohio River from Grave Creek. Dated to about 2 B.C., Cresap was excavated in 1958 and found to contain 54 human burials. The mound is 15 feet high and about 70 feet in diameter.

At 35 feet high and 175 feet in diameter, the South Charleston Mound is second in size to Grave Creek. Built near the Kanawha River, it was first identified in 1803, and excavated by the Smithsonian Institution 80 years later. A giant skeleton surrounded by a dozen others was found along with the requisite artifacts.

The South Charleston Mound is now a small park. Stone steps spiral up the mound to a circle of stone at the top, where visitors can look down on a decidedly non-sacred scene of major industrial plants.

Other burial mounds are found nearby in Sunset Memorial Cemetery in Spring Hill, Shawnee Golf Course in Institute and the South Charleston High School campus.

Present-day Camden Park, the amusement park outside of Huntington, is home to the third largest mound in the state. A 20-foot-high conical Indian burial mound sits alongside vintage roller coasters and bumper cars. It has never been excavated.

The Romney Mound remains true to its original purpose and is the center of the Indian Mound Cemetery at the western edge of Romney in Hampshire County.

Reportedly the largest Hopewell Indian burial mound east of the Ohio River, the 7-foot mound was never excavated. Based on other excavations, tribal populations date back to at least 6000 B.C.

Oak Mound in Harrison County is 12 feet high and was never excavated. Other mounds are nearby in West Milford.

Other archaic sites include Ben's Run in Tyler County, one of the most extensive Indian fortifications remaining in the United States. Two parallel walls of stone and earth are 3 miles in length and enclose an area of more than 400 acres.

Petroglyphs are identified at 27 recorded sites in 16 West Virginia counties. Some of the most significant in the eastern United States have been found along the Guyandotte River in the small town of Salt Rock, Cabell County.

Indian Cave petroglyphs are easily accessible in the small Harrison County town of Goodhope.

Wildcat petroglyphs showing birds and a beaver are found on a large rock near the banks of a creek leading to the Big Sandy River in Wayne County. Images found in West Virginia range from birds and serpents to suns, bear tracks and abstract symbols.

There are several sets of controversial petroglyphs including two that some claim are runic writings of 13th century Irish monks.

A short path from the railroad tracks near Lilydale brings visitors to one set that skeptics claim are simply scratchings from Indians sharpening tools on the sandstone. Another set is enshrined on two huge boulders at Laurel Lake Wildlife Management Area.

The 7-foot Maiden of the Rock was found on the roof of a natural stone shelter overlooking a small valley in Putnam County. The huge slab has been removed to a mini-park in downtown Hurricane.

Although authentic points, stones and tools were found at the site, and the figure matches ones found in other locations, there are claims of 20th century etching.

Tall and majestic, Cornstalk was one of the great Shawnee chiefs and leader of the Northwestern Confederacy of native tribes. He led nearly 1,000 Shawnee and other warriors to engage an equal number of Virginia militia on Oct. 10, 1774, in a fierce day-long battle on a thumb of land between the juncture of the Ohio and Kanawha rivers.

Hundreds of Indians and Virginians were slaughtered in hand-to-hand combat. It was the biggest Indian battle to take place on West Virginia soil.

Though Cornstalk led his men away undefeated and met with the Virginians to establish a peace treaty, he would not live to fight again. Three years later, Cornstalk was taken hostage along with his son, and brutally murdered.

The Shawnee retreated west, and the Battle of Point Pleasant turned out to be the end of the Indian wars in West Virginia and the Ohio Valley.

Legend claims Cornstalk cursed Point Pleasant with his dying words. Twentieth-century events linked to the curse include reported UFO activity and the collapse of the Silver Bridge in 1967, when 46 people died within sight of the historic battlefield.

Today, the 4-acre Tu-Endie-Wei State Park is dominated by an 86-foot granite obelisk honoring the fallen Virginians and dedicated in 1909. Almost as an afterthought nearly a decade later, a smaller monument was erected to Cornstalk and eventually moved to the park from the courthouse. His bones are in a metal box at the base of the monument.

Point Pleasant has turned its Ohio River Walk into a combination art gallery and history lesson through 13 murals covering more than 600 feet of floodwall. Various scenes show authentic details of Native American and frontier life including the murder of Cornstalk. Noted mural artist, Robert Dafford, with various student helpers, painted them over five years.

The mother lode of Native American artifacts is found at the Blennerhassett Museum where 70 display units - hand-built wooden and glass cabinets more than 6 feet tall - line more than 60 feet of wall.

Amateur 19th-century anthropologist Thomas Stahle discovered many of the artifacts buried on Blennerhassett Island, some of which date back nearly 14,000 years. Stahle developed the displays and hand-lettered the explanation of each.

There are extensive samples of musical flutes, toys, whistles, hematite cosmetics and "paints," drills, cutting tools, pipes, ornaments, and more. A pair of 5-by-3-inch shell masks with etched facial features stand out among the thousands of rare artifacts.

The Blennerhassett collection is also home to the Cedar Rocks petroglyph, which was found near Wheeling. This arrangement of human and animal forms surrounding an abstract geometric pattern is a rare portable petroglyph, carved into a 3-by-2-foot sandstone slab rather than the more typical exposed bedrock.

The Darby Collection in the Myles Art Center at Davis & Elkins College has more than 5,000 Indian points and primitive stone tools dating back nearly 10,000 years.

A trip or two to visit the ancients will undoubtedly expand your experience of state history by more than a dozen millennia.

Jeanne Mozier, of Berkeley Springs, is the author of "Way Out in West Virginia," a must-have guide to the wonders and oddities of the Mountain State. She and noted photographer Steve Shaluta have released the second printing of the coffee-table photo book "West Virginia Beauty, Familiar and Rare." Both books are available around West Virginia and from WVBookCo.com.

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WV Book Team: Series explores neoliberal agri-food in Japan http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160821/GZ0605/160829985 GZ0605 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160821/GZ0605/160829985 Sun, 21 Aug 2016 02:02:00 -0400 By Abby Freeland WV Books Team By By Abby Freeland WV Books Team West Virginia University Press publishes the "Rural Studies Series," which promotes the scholarly analysis of rural social issues. The series plays a vital role in publishing high-quality scholarship aimed at improving the lives of rural people.

The series has been especially effective in bringing to the attention of national and state-level policy makers the suggestions arising from the research presented in its volumes.

Sponsored by the Rural Sociological Society, the Rural Studies Series features books on a wide range of topics related to rural social issues. Of special interest are studies examining community and rural social organization, the social dimensions of agriculture, rural populations and economies, natural resources and the environment, and rural poverty and livelihood strategies.

This month, WVU Press has published its fourth book in the Rural Studies Series. "The Contradictions of Neoliberal Agri-Food: Corporations, Resistance, and Disasters in Japan" by Kae Sekine and Alessandro Bonanno provides an incisive analysis of the neoliberal restructuring of agri-food in Japan.

Employing original fieldwork, historical analysis and sociological theory, Sekine and Bonanno probe how Japan's food and agriculture sectors have been shaped by the global push toward privatization and corporate power, known in social science literature as neoliberalism. They also examine related changes that have occurred after the triple disaster of March 2011 (the earthquake, tsunami and meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor), noting that reconstruction policy has favored deregulation and the reduction of social welfare.

Sekine and Bonanno stress the incompatibility of the requirements of neoliberalism with the structural and cultural conditions of Japanese agri-food. Local farmers' and fishermen's emphasis on community collective management of natural resources, they argue, clashes with neoliberalism's focus on individualism and competitiveness.

The authors conclude by pointing out the resulting fundamental contradiction: The lack of recognition of this incompatibility allows the continuous implementation of market solutions to problems that originate in these very market mechanisms.

Geoffrey Lawrence of University of Queensland notes "at a time when there is much over-generalization about neoliberalism and its global impacts, this provocative and revealing book provides a detailed case study of Japan, presenting a clear picture of how neoliberal settings - in supporting a corporate agri-food agenda - have worked against small farmers and fisher-folk. It is a fascinating, illuminating, and, ultimately, sobering analysis."

Shuzo Teruoka, author of "Agriculture in the Modernization of Japan, 1850-2000," calls Sekine and Bonanno's book "a novel and incisive analysis of the corporatization of Japanese agriculture and its acceleration after the triple disaster of March 2011. Groundbreaking."

Sekine is an associate professor of economics at Aichi Gakuin University, Nagoya, Japan. Bonanno is Texas State University System Regents' professor and distinguished professor of sociology at Sam Houston State University.

To order WVU Press books, visit wvupress.com, phone 800-621-2736, visit a local bookstore like Taylor Books in Charleston or go online to find the West Virginia Book Company (www.wvbookco.com).

For updates on books and events, follow WVU Press on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest or join our mailing list on wvupress.com.

Abby Freeland is the Sales & Marketing Director of West Virginia University Press and the acquisitions editor of Vandalia Press, the fiction

imprint of WVU Press.

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Write Your Own Column: Taking on the Appalachian Trail http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160821/GZ0506/160829987 GZ0506 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160821/GZ0506/160829987 Sun, 21 Aug 2016 02:02:00 -0400 By Tim Estep Special to the Sunday Gazette-Mail By By Tim Estep Special to the Sunday Gazette-Mail Editor's note: The following is an article submitted by Malden resident Tim Estep about his recent journey across part of the Appalachian Trail.

In May, my friend Rashell Taylor and I got the opportunity to take two weeks and hike a section of the Appalachian Trail, from Damascus to Atkins, Virginia, about 75 miles.

We are both nurses at Charleston Area Medical Center, and while we're both adventurous and love to camp, this hiking/backpacking trip was not to be taken on a whim; it took planning and preparation. So we got information and maps online and began planning.

I figured out the miles and the distances between the shelters, where to get water and how to eat, for there is not a McDonald's on the trail. We tried several recipes for protein bars, and we came up with CHAFA, (cashews, honey, almonds, fruit and applesauce). That may not sound good, but after hiking for 8 miles, it really is good and filling.

Of course we had to buy backpacking gear and still keep things very light, because ounces turn into pounds, and pounds turn into pain.

Also you can have all the right gear and food, but you need to practice hiking, because, as one man told me in our planning stage, "I don't care how many sidewalk miles you walk. Put a 30-pound pack on your back and walk uphill for 2 miles. It is not the same."

We found out that one sidewalk mile does not equal one Appalachian Trial mile. So we took practice hikes in the New River Gorge, up mountains locally, and hiked on the old gas and logging roads. And as we found out on the Appalachian Trail, you cannot buy hiking legs at Cabela's. You have to earn them.

The day came that we began our hike, May 9, from Damascus, Virginia. It started with walking up a flight of stairs - we had been practicing for this by taking the stairs at our jobs.

But the stairs were just the beginning of our ascent uphill for the next three hours. As we hiked, there were other hikers passing us, and we never saw them again.

Leaving the Grindstone Campground on Sunday morning, our plan was to hike to the top of Mount Rogers, 5,729 feet, the highest point in Virginia. But we got caught in a strong downpour, so we just made camp along the side of the trail for the night. It took us an hour just to get a fire going out of wet wood, but we did it. And yes, we did get wet.

The next day, we hiked to the top of the mountain by means of God's natural Stairmaster, which was like climbing up and over lots, and I mean lots, of rocky steps. But once at the top, it was well worth the climb for the view of the extensive Blue Ridge Mountains.

Besides its height, Mount Rogers is known for the herds of wild ponies that roam in the Highlands of Virginia. They say do not harass the ponies, but when one mama pony and her colt came up to us and nuzzled our hands, it was hard to resist petting them - probably a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

They say if you do not have a trail name, the trail will name you. The trail named Rashell "5-Yard Stop," because she stopped about every 5 yards. Later I added her last name, "5-Yard Stop to the Top," because she never did quit or give up. She just kept taking forward steps.

To summarize the details of our first four days, we never once made it to our planned destination, but had to stop and come down side trails and go back up to the Appalachian Trail the following morning to resume our hike.

So the first four days we did not get a chance to talk to other people on the trail. But after the fifth day, we got to stay at the hurricane shelter, and the next day at the Trimpi Shelter.

It was here that I began to talk to other hikers and ask them, "Why are you hiking alone?"

The most common answer was, "I could find no one who could get off for five months to hike all the way through."

Others replied, "This has been a dream of mine for a long time, and I finally got the time and chance to do it."

Most of them did wish that they had someone to hike with them.

Rashell and I are in our 50s and only had two weeks off our jobs (thank you Jennifer and Martha), but our perspective of sectional hiking was different from the through-hikers, who start at one end and keep going until they reach the other. Many behaved as if they were on a mission.

We were just enjoying the hike and the time spent together. And I found it is much better to hike with a friend, because together we enjoyed, in hindsight, the struggles and the difficulties of what the trail presented.

The trail also offers several wildflowers in bloom in the spring. The whole trip, Rashell said she wanted to see a lady slipper flower because she never had seen one before, and I hadn't either. But on the sixth or seventh day, as we were climbing uphill (the uphill never seems to stop), I saw what I thought was an unusual flower.

I pointed it out to Rashell, and I thought she was having a joyful religious experience. There were literally tears of happiness, for she had now seen a lady slipper flower. And as we walked on further that day and the next day, we saw several more that were just covering the ground of the trail.

Rashell and I are two different people, and our challenges and difficulties were different from each other. But during the hike we were able to talk with a serenity and comfort that could not happen in our normal busy lives.

We were able to slow down and hike the trail at a leisurely pace and enjoy the beauty of the scenery around us. We bounced random thoughts off of each other, most of them silly and funny, but they are memories that will last a lifetime.

Like, did you know that the Appalachian Trail is uphill regardless of which direction you go? We found out that roots and stumps do not move but they can move you - just ask Rashell.

I found out that a man can wear Secret and still be manly. We discovered the scents of the trail, clean forest air, fresh smell after a rain, campfire smoke, and wet and sweaty socks and shoes.

Something else we learned: the best part of the Appalachian Trail is the flat part.

We did finish our section of the trail on the day that we had planned, in spite of the many diversions we had to take at the beginning of our trip.

And at the end, we felt a great feeling of accomplishment and joy. Together we had experienced things that we may never do or see again, but together we will always have the memories of hiking this together. Happy trails.

You can see a video with more detail of our trip on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=roT-jZrSrYE.

Tim Estep can be reached at testep7@yahoo.com.

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WV Travel Team: Discover the old-world charm of St. Augustine Beach http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160814/GZ0506/160819849 GZ0506 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160814/GZ0506/160819849 Sun, 14 Aug 2016 02:02:00 -0400 By Crissy Gray WV Travel Team By By Crissy Gray WV Travel Team When planning a vacation, it's often difficult to find a beachfront destination that has more offerings than the traditional sand and surf. While St. Augustine, Florida, offers stunning Atlantic beaches, the area also boasts some of the most historic attractions in the country.

St. Augustine has six beaches, each with its own personality. The most popular include Vilano Beach, Anastasia Park and St. Augustine Beach. Beyond the beach, the St. Augustine area is rich in history and adventure. Visiting the oldest city in the U.S. will be just the beginning of your historic finds.

While many flock to St. Augustine for its beaches, the area has some of the most historic landmarks in the nation. Colonial America began in St. Augustine 55 years before the pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock, and 42 years before Jamestown.

For history buffs, start your visit to St. Augustine by engaging in historic Spanish-period sights.

Ponce de Leon's Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park is one of the most recognized Spanish-period historical sites in the St. Augustine area. The Fountain of Youth is Florida's oldest attraction, with a guestbook dating back more than 140 years. Sample waters from the natural spring, and take in views of the water from the 600-foot Founders Riverwalk.

With a working archaeological dig on-site, visit several recreated Spanish and Timucuan buildings featuring shows and historical reenactments meant to educate and entertain guests.

A few blocks south, pass through the Old City Gates and tour the Colonial Quarter. Visit the Government House Museum, where Spanish governors once administered the colony of La Florida, with exhibits showcasing the city's cultural past. Consider taking a haunted pub tour - sample your favorite cocktails while learning the tales of the historic areas of St. Augustine.

Also nearby, visit historic attractions in the city's center, dating back to the 1600s. Be sure to check out the Plaza de la Constitucion and the Cathedral-Basilica, the home of the oldest Catholic parish in the United States. The church holds records of parishioners dating back to as early as 1594, and the structure dates back to 1797.

Visit the oldest house in the U.S., which is a National Historic Landmark. Owned and operated by the St. Augustine Historical Society, the complex includes the González-Alvarez House, the Manucy Museum, the Tovar House, the Page L. Edwards Jr. Gallery and gardens cultivated by the Spanish and British.

Ride the ferry across the Matanza Bay to Rattlesnake Island and take a tour of the Fort Matanzas National Monument. The fort was built in 1742 to defend against British attacks. The fort is evidence of Florida's Spanish past. You'll also find influence of Timucuan, French, British, Minorcan, Seminole and Swiss cultures.

The Marineland Dolphin Adventure is one of the largest oceanariums. It opened in 1938 and is now a dolphin conservation center. You can choose your level of interaction with these brilliant marine animals.

Touch and feed the dolphins, or get up close and interact with them. Some age restrictions may apply, so be sure to check with the oceanarium before your visit.

Numerous museums and historic buildings provide a glimpse into what life may have been like during various eras in St. Augustine.

More than 500 years ago, Ponce de Leon spotted beaches so stunning it drew him into the St. Augustine area and led to the first documented European discovery of Florida. Today, the area boasts more than 42 miles of beach.

Ponte Vedra Beach is one of the most popular beach destinations in the area, with elegant resorts and challenging golf courses along the water's edge. Use Mickler's Landing to access the waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

Those looking for a more quiet beach experience may appreciate Vilano Beach. Tucked away in a charming beach town, guests will find shopping, local eateries and beach cottages for rent. It's a popular spot for surfers and kite boarders.

For guests looking for a traditional beach experience, St. Augustine Beach offers sunny accommodations, tropical seaside restaurants, a pier and plenty of outdoor activities for the entire family.

The St. Augustine area is not only a beautiful beachfront area, but there are lots of things in the natural world beyond the beach.

Anastasia Island State Park features a nature trail, ancient sand dunes and a coquina quarry. Coquina is a soft limestone of broken shells used to build many of the historic structures in the area. Beachcombers, campers and bird watchers alike will find much to be excited about. There are many options to rent bikes, paddleboards, kayaks, sail boats and more.

Lions, tigers and more can be seen up close and personal at the St. Augustine Wild Reserve.

For couples looking for a romantic weekend getaway, the St. Augustine area has plenty of options. The Old City House Inn & Restaurant offers romantic views of historic St. Augustine - guests overlook centuries-old oak trees dripping in Spanish moss and gorgeous Spanish architecture accented with narrow brick streets.

An evening at the Old City Restaurant offers candlelit dinners with gourmet options. Nearby, cap off the evening with delicious desserts, from bananas Foster to ice cream crepes at the Raintree Restaurant's dessert bar.

Spend time at the area's numerous golf courses, spas and wineries. The Cellar Upstairs at the San Sebastian Winery is a popular destination, where patrons can watch the river from an open-air deck with a glass of local wine.

If you're looking for some added fun for a couples getaway, consider dinner at A1A Aleworks where you can overlook Matanza Bay while enjoying fresh seafood. Take the 72-foot-tall ship, Schooner Freedom for a tour that departs from the city marina.

With the farmer's market, flea market, lighthouse tours, art exhibits and live music, your senses will never be dulled while visiting.

If you're ready for a visit to St. Augustine, AAA is here to help. For personalized assistance in planning your St. Augustine excursion, stop by the AAA Charleston office or call one of the AAA travel professionals - Janice Adkins, Lia Ireland, Amy Sisson, Becky Wallace and Barbara Wing at 304-925-1136.

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WV Travel Team: Lessons about seashells on Sanibel Island http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160807/GZ0506/160809725 GZ0506 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160807/GZ0506/160809725 Sun, 7 Aug 2016 02:11:00 -0400 By Martin W.G. King WV Travel Team By By Martin W.G. King WV Travel Team Crunch, crunch, crunch.

With each step I took, scads of seashells beneath my feet were at risk of being crushed. There was no way to avoid the danger to the shells.

I was on Sanibel Island, Florida, the unofficial seashell capital of the United States, and great swaths of seashells - hundreds of different kinds - covered the beach, from the crystal clear Gulf of Mexico waterline to the highest tide line.

I had traveled with my wife, a self-proclaimed seashell aficionado, to Sanibel to check out the island's bounty before the third annual Island Hopper Songwriter Fest from Sept. 23 to Oct. 2.

Fall is the perfect time for a visit to Sanibel, one of three barrier islands off the coast at Fort Myers (the others are Captiva Island and Estero Island, which is occupied by the resort town of Fort Myers Beach). Kids are back in school, and northern "snowbirds" (vacationers and winter residents) don't start arriving until early November.

Hotels offer rooms at steep discounts. And, for the third year in a row, dozens of singer-songwriters will entertain visitors with free performances at bars, restaurants and outdoor spaces on the islands and in downtown Fort Myers (which is worth a visit in its own right for tours of the winter homes of Thomas Alva Edison and Henry Ford).

This wasn't our first visit to Sanibel. We had been there several times already. But, following reports of a storm a week earlier, we decided a visit to the island was in order.

Storms wash up the shells in vast quantities on Sanibel because of the island's geography - it juts out into the Gulf in a hook shape, its beaches catching the shells that are pushed ahead of the storm surge. The Gulf's prevailing currents and each day's tides also deposit shells.

But a warning: Those visiting for the first time often expect to find treasures akin to the great pink and orange conchs and other huge shells found in the warmer Caribbean Sea.

The colorful Florida fighting conch isn't as big as its Caribbean relatives, but it's just as colorful; most of Sanibel's shells are smaller, though no less exotic, than their warm-water counterparts elsewhere.

The shells found on Sanibel's beaches include huge numbers of whelks, which look like smaller, elongated conchs; a universe of scallop shells of all colors; and tulip shells, calico clams, giant heart cockles, king's crowns, common jingles, cat's paws, shark eyes, nutmegs, Atlantic figs and horse conchs (the official state shell of Florida), just to name a few of the hundreds of species that wash up on the island's beaches.

There are also cone shells, some of which sting with a sharp extendable harpoon, sometimes causing paralysis and, in the time that somewhat-accurate records have been kept, 30 deaths (none of them in the United States).

We opted to take one of the daily beach walks offered by a marine biologist from the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum, located on Sanibel, which lies off the southwest coast of Florida across a 6-mile-long causeway from the city of Fort Myers.

Our guide was Stefanie Wolf, a young woman from Green Bay, Wisconsin, who had studied ecology for her undergraduate degree and continued on to a master's degree in biology. She started by reviewing the ground rules for the walk.

The shells, she said, were merely the hard, protective exoskeletons of the animals that lived inside them. And, while many of the shells that visitors find are empty husks, others are still living.

To determine whether they're alive, she said, you look into the shell's opening; if it's occluded with a firm membrane or if the shells of bivalves are tightly clasped, the shell is living.

Living ones should be placed back in the water - gently. With a look of disdain, the otherwise dispassionate Wolf told the group about one person on a beach walk who threw a living shell back into the water.

"They're living animals, for God's sake," she said. "Treat them with respect; don't football them."

Wolf imparted one last rule: It's illegal to take living shells out of Lee County, in which Sanibel Island is located. The message was clear: Don't let the law - or her - catch you absconding with them.

For the next hour, we walked along the beach as Wolf, wearing glamorous sunglasses, picked up shells she found at the water line and talked about them.

One thing quickly became clear: Wolf really knew her stuff, as had Marine Biologist Rebecca Mensch, a young expert on squid (with squid tattoos) with whom we had taken the shell walk a year earlier.

In terms that were occasionally more scientific than some members of our small group might have liked - I'm raising my hand here - Wolf told us all about each shell she proffered.

Much of Wolf's focus was on the reproductive habits of mollusks, the correct name for the animals inhabiting the shells, although she also dwelled on their eating habits, as many of the creatures are carnivores, not herbivores. (The previously mentioned Florida fighting conch, she told us, is a herbivore and gets along fine with other mollusks despite its name.)

When they're ready to lay eggs, whelks, for example, produce voluminous strands of sponge-like egg cases, which we found frequently on our tour. Eggs are deposited into tiny apertures, from which they emerge as juveniles.

As for the carnivores, the meat eaters of the shell world, several, including the nauticas and shark eyes, latch laterally onto the shell of their intended victim, then use a sharp protuberance to drill a hole into the animal inside the shell, killing it. It takes just a few hours, and dinner soon follows.

The price of our beach tour, $10, included a 50-percent discount to the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum on the other side of the island, closer to the mainland and across the road from the main entrance to the J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, maintained by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which also draws large numbers of visitors to Sanibel Island.

Near the museum's entrance, a plaque dedicated to Raymond Burr expressed gratitude for support of the museum's founding in 1995.

I asked Alec Economakis, the engaging college student from Potomac, Maryland, at the ticket podium, if the Raymond Burr on the plaque was the actor who starred in the old "Perry Mason" and "Ironside" TV shows. He replied in the affirmative, taking the opportunity to talk about the museum's history and collection.

Burr, a part-time resident of both neighboring Captiva Island and Fiji, liked to collect shells as well as catch TV criminals. His vast collection included many rare species, and, when invited to help fund the new museum, he apparently leapt at the opportunity.

We opted to take in the tank show, a featured attraction; it was led by Wolf, and covered much of the same ground as our beach tour. (The terminology seemed even more scientific; this might not be the best event for young children.)

One large tank was populated by shells that might co-exist in the ocean - both herbivores and carnivores.

"Some mornings, when we come to work, we notice that some of the mollusks are missing," Wolf told her audience. "They sometimes eat each other overnight."

We had never guessed that the life of a seashell could be fraught with such peril.

Martin W.G. King is a freelance writer based in Delray Beach, Florida.

The 2016 Island Hopper Songwriter Fest goes from Sept. 23 to Oct. 2. It starts on Captiva Island, which is connected to Sanibel Island by a causeway, with performances Sept. 23-25; continues with midweek performances in lively downtown Fort Myers; and ends Oct. 2 in Fort Myers Beach on Estero Island.

The headline act this year is Maren Morris, whose country hit "My Church" is rising on the Billboard Hot Country chart.

For more information on the lineup and festival venues, call 239-454-7500 or go to www.fortmyers-sanibel.com/island-hopper.

Sanibel Island has excellent beaches with clean restroom facilities and metered public parking (which gets scarce in high season). Bathers sometimes share the warm waters with dolphins, which often swim close to shore. Bowman Beach (mid-island) and Lighthouse Beach (closest to the causeway from the mainland) are among the most popular choices.

Well-marked off-road bike paths line Sanibel Island's main thoroughfares, particularly Periwinkle Way, where you can ride for miles. Billy's Rentals is one of several outfits that rents single-speed and high-performance road bikes and scooters.

Billy's is at 1470 Periwinkle Way; 239-472-5248, www.billysrentals.com/bikes/.

More Information on Sanibel sightseeing and shelling trips: sanibel-island.sanibel-captiva.org. In addition, the Sanibel and Captiva Island Chamber of Commerce's visitor information center is at 1159 Causeway Road on Sanibel Island, 239-472-1080, https://sanibel-captiva.org/.

n Daily Island Beach Walk

shellmuseum.org/programs-events/beach-walks

$10 adults, $7 children (includes half off admission to the Bailey-Matthews National Seashell Museum)

Leaves from Island Inn, 3111 West Gulf Drive, 9 a.m.

Reservations essential: purchase tickets online or call 239-395-2233.

n Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum

3075 Sanibel-Captiva Road, Sanibel Island, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Daily museum talks; topics vary by day of week.

239-395-2233, www.shellmuseum.org/.

$11 adults, Children 5-17 years old, $5

n J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Reserve (National Fish and Wildlife Service)

Two miles west of Tarpon Bay Road on Sanibel-Captiva Road, Sanibel Island, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. January to April, and 9 a.m. to 4p.m. May to December.

Drive a marked route through alligator and bird habitats, $5 per car; $1 per biker or hiker.

Education center with exhibits on refuge ecosystems, migratory flyways, daily talks and a bookstore.

Popular tram tour, narrated, $13 adults, $8 children; reservations and availability (times vary by day of week), 239-472-8900 or concessionaire Tarpon Bay Explorers website for information, tarponbayexplorers.com/tour/refuge-tram-tour/.

Tarpon Bay Explorers also offers guided kayak trips, kayak rentals and a nature cruise, with some of the proceeds benefiting the Fish and Wildlife Service. For times and prices, call 239-472-8900, or go to tarponbayexplorers.com/.

(Main "Ding" Darling website: https://fws.gov/dingdarling/visitorinformation.html)

n Very expensive: Il Cielo

Italian cuisine with live piano each night.

1244 Periwinkle Way, 239-472-5555, www.ilcielosanibel.com/.

n Expensive: Sweet Melissa's Café

Well-regarded innovative cuisine.

1625 Periwinkle Way, 239-472-1956, sweetmelissascafe.com/.

n Moderate: The Sandbar

Superb steaks and fish dishes at reasonable prices in pleasant surroundings; excellent, friendly service.

2761 West Gulf Drive, 239-472-0305, www.sanibelsandbar.com/.

n Moderate: The Mucky Duck

A local institution on Captiva Island reminiscent of a neighborhood pub, but at higher prices.

11546 Andy Rosse Lane, 239-472-3434, www.muckyduck.com/.

n Inexpensive to moderate: The Lazy Flamingo

Fish, shellfish and burgers; happy hour (beer and wine only) each night 9:30 p.m. to midnight; one of the few places on Sanibel Island open late.

1036 Periwinkle Way, 239-472-6939, www.lazyflamingo.com/.

n Inexpensive: Over Easy Café

Breakfast and lunch until 3 p.m.; a local institution that's always crowded; closed Sept. 12-22

630 Tarpon Bay Road, 239-472-2625, www.overeasycafesanibel.com/.

n Inexpensive: Island Cow

Usually a wait in line for good, cheap eats at breakfast, lunch and dinner.

2163 Periwinkle Way, 239-472-0606, sanibelislandcow.com/.

n Casa Ybel Resort

Large, full-service, Sanibel Island beachside resort with all amenities, from $291.

2255 W. Gulf Drive, 800-276-4753, www.casaybelresort.com/.

n Song of the Sea

Small boutique hotel on the Sanibel Island beach, from $151.

863 E. Gulf Drive, 239-472-5170, www.theinnsofsanibel.com/song-of-the-sea/.

n Sundial Beach Resort and Spa Large resort with landscaped grounds directly on the beach on Sanibel Island, from $142.

1451 Middle Gulf Drive, 239-472-4151, www.sundialresort.com/.

n Pierview Hotel and Suites

Modern rooms on the beach in the resort town of Fort Myers Beach, from $130.

1160 Estero Blvd., 239-463-6158, www.pierviewhotelfmb.com/.

n Seaside Inn

Pleasant rooms and cottages around a pool, on a Sanibel Island beach, from $124.

541 E. Gulf Drive, 239-472-1400, www.theinnsofsanibel.com/seaside-inn.

n Captiva Island Inn

Charming bed and breakfast 150 yards to the beach, rooms and cottages from $119.

11508 Andy Rosse Lane, Captiva Island, 239-395-0882, captivaislandinn.com/.

n Hotel Indigo

Stylish if small rooms on the edge of the Fort Myers River District, the city's lively downtown; rooftop pool and lounge, from $115.

1520 Broadway, Fort Myers, 239-337-3446, www.ihg.com/hotelindigo.

n La Quinta Fort Myers-Sanibel Gateway

Chain lodgings close to the causeway from Fort Myers to Sanibel Island, rooms from $66.

20091 Summerlin Road, Fort Myers, 239-466-1200, www.laquintafortmyersbeachsanibel.com/.

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WV Travel Team: History, hiking and crab picking at Chesapeake Beach http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160731/GZ0506/160739997 GZ0506 http://www.wvgazettemail.com/article/20160731/GZ0506/160739997 Sun, 31 Jul 2016 02:21:00 -0400 By Jeanne Mozier WV Travel Team By By Jeanne Mozier WV Travel Team A century ago, thousands of people hopped the train for the short 35-mile trip from Washington, D.C., to Chesapeake Beach on the western edge of the Chesapeake Bay.

There was a huge amusement park with a roller coaster and boardwalk over the water until the 1920s. After that, the park was shifted onto land, where it operated until the 1970s. Not a trace remains of either the park or an elaborate Victorian hotel.

Today, Chesapeake Beach - and its twin, North Beach - remain a nearby getaway for the metropolitan area and any visitors to the nation's capital who choose not to make the long trek over the Bay Bridge to reach the ocean. It's still a short ride, but now by car.

Chesapeake Beach's convenient location has earned it the title of Charter Fishing Capital of Maryland, not surprising based on the long list of charter boats available or the fact that the town is built along Fishing Creek.

We did not go for the fishing, or even for the gaming, which fills the parking lot every night at the Chesapeake Beach Resort, Spa and Casino where we stayed. We went because of an odd historical connection between the resort town and Berkeley Springs. And because it's the closest beach.

Despite its rich resort history, the town is relentlessly contemporary, except for the train station, now converted into the Railway Museum. It remains at its original location and is the sole remaining structure of the Chesapeake Beach Railway line.

Open daily during the season, the museum is filled with exhibits displaying both the railway's and resort's history. It's easy to discover the story with friendly docents enthusiastic about telling it. I provided them with a new piece to the story.

My husband Jack and I decided to visit Chesapeake Beach because, in my research on Samuel Taylor Suit, the man who built Berkeley Castle, I discovered he was the original businessman who worked to build the railroad and the resort that was its terminus.

This came as a surprise to local historians who started the town's history with its incorporation a decade later. Who knows where my little tidbits will lead their search for roots.

Once finished with my inadvertent disruption of town history, we focused on eating and walking.

The Chesapeake Bay has one required food group: crabs. Crab cakes or crab pasta dishes are virtually everywhere. But the authentic experience is crab picking, spending a couple of hours diligently smashing and picking choice tidbits of meat from platters of steamed crabs.

We chose Abner's for our crab feast because we spotted it along Fishing Creek from the Railway Trail. It was an inspired choice.

Abner's was packed on a Wednesday night, seemingly with locals because the bustling waitresses appeared to know everyone in the place. Tables were covered with brown paper ripped regularly from a giant holder. Paper on the tables is always a good indicator that folks are serious about eating.

It's fortunate that crab meat is such a succulent treat, otherwise the effort that goes into picking crabs would be unjustifiable. Had we stayed longer, we would have sampled Tyler's Crab Shack, another location for crab picking, or we may simply have returned to Abner's and tried its outdoor deck.

The true gem of the visit was a 3-mile walk along the Fishing Creek Railway Trail, which followed the original train bed of the historic railroad and crossed miles of bay marshes and streams on a boardwalk along the creek.

A town official reported it took them more than 20 years to assemble all the necessary permits for the trail's path; I assured her it was worth every hour and commended the town government for undertaking such a beneficial project.

Living in the mountains, we tend to think any hike requires climbing. The pleasure of a flat hiking surface is hard to beat.

We walked to the end and saw the remains of the railroad trestle with uprights poking up from the water more than a century later. The trail was a busy place with walkers, bike riders and baby carriages as well as numerous birds, including great blue heron and red-winged blackbirds.

There are benches along the trail and an abundance of informational signage. The Oyster Cultivation project along the trail grows baby oysters in Fishing Creek that will ultimately be transferred to the Bay.

The water park is another impressive town project with eight huge slides, fountains, waterfalls and a lazy river. It was packed with kids and families on the hot summer afternoon.

Although our hotel had a sandy area complete with loungers, cabanas and an umbrellaed cafe, there is no way to access the water for swimming. Several marinas occupy the convergence of Fishing Creek and the Bay, supporting the charter fishing industry, and the hotel's Rod & Reel restaurant will grill and serve your fresh catch.

Our exposure to the water was from the balcony of our comfortable room from which we could watch seabirds, boats and waves crashing against cliffs down the coast.

For the real beach, boardwalk and shopping experience, we had to drive a mile or so to the cottage community of North Beach. Except for the welcome signs, it is impossible to distinguish the two towns. Further adventures nearby include Calvert Cliffs State Park, an ideal destination for fossil hunting.

Chesapeake Beach is preparing for a boom when plans get underway for a major expansion of the Chesapeake Beach Hotel and its casino area. There are also plans to provide more beach area and access to the water.

Should you find yourself at a conference in Washington, D.C., or the kids need a break from a vacation of monuments and museums, take the day trip to Chesapeake Beach.

For more information call Town Hall at 410-257-2230 or check online

www.chesapeakebeachmd.gov.

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