Mule ride into Grand Canyon

It’s a thrill to savor, but not that many travelers these days get to take the classic mule ride at Grand Canyon National Park. You ride down to the canyon bottom, spend the night and ride back up the next day. More than 600,000 people have done this since the 1880s. But because the Park Service has cut back on mule access to the canyon bottom, it’s become a rare opportunity. Every day, no more than 10 riders join guides on this five- to six-hour journey down 10 narrow miles of the Bright Angel Trail to the canyon floor, about 4,400 feet below. Usually, the group sleeps at Phantom Ranch and ascends the next day on South Kaibab Trail. The rides sometimes book up 13 months ahead. The 2016 price is $551.62 per person or $961.24 per couple (nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/mule_trips.htm). There is one catch: Riders to Phantom Ranch must weigh less than 200 pounds fully dressed.

Los Angeles Times

Mississippi cruise on hold

A previously heralded move up the Mississippi River by European cruise giant Viking now appears uncertain. The cruise line announced plans last year to launch a fleet of cruise ships on the Mississippi, traveling from New Orleans to St. Louis and occasionally St. Paul, by 2017. But earlier this year, Viking said it was pushing its move to Ol’ Man River to 2018. And a recent statement by Viking regarding the project is even more vague, providing no details and no date. Local officials and industry experts say that factors appear to be cost and a federal law that requires ships sailing between U.S. ports to be built in the U.S. and operated by American crews.

James Walsh

Orphan statues in Kansas

A new bronze statue of a little girl sits on a sidewalk in Concordia, Kan. Her name is Miriam Zitur, and she’s about 6 years old with pigtails and bare feet. Miriam is among the first of several dozen statues representing real children that are popping up on the streets of this north central Kansas town. The statues celebrate the 10th anniversary of the National Orphan Train Complex. The facility is a museum and research center dedicated to the so-called Orphan Train movement, through which an estimated 250,000 children were relocated by rail to homes throughout North America between 1854 and 1929. Miriam was just 19 months old in 1908, an orphan in New York, when she and others like her were gathered up by the Children’s Aid Society, placed on trains and sent west. Miriam, who died in 1993, was adopted by a family in Minnesota.

Chicago Tribune

Southwest to boost Wi-Fi

Southwest Airlines plans to offer Wi-Fi service on all of its planes by the end of next year. Even better: The connectivity speeds are expected to increase by at least three times the current speed for all passengers. “Where our product is today is not good enough,” Southwest spokeswoman Michelle Agnew said. The price to connect to the Wi-Fi is not expected to rise from the current charge of $8 a day, per device, and live television will remain free. Virgin America leads U.S.-based airlines in the percentage of planes with Wi-Fi service, followed by Delta, Southwest, United and American, according to a survey by RouteHappy.

Los Angeles Times