Escape Artists offers up a global discourse ranging from great finds close to home to adventures far afield. You'll find weekly travel deals here, too. Share your road wisdom, rave about great finds and rant about roadblocks that get in the way of a great trip.

Contributor: Travel editor Kerri Westenberg.

Email us with tips and questions.

Posts about Adventure travel

Accolades for Travel

Posted by: Kerri Westenberg Updated: September 17, 2014 - 3:43 PM

What kind of person hitchhikes, at age 60, across the country? A former hitchhiker. An adventurous soul. Someone who chooses to trust others, despite encountering the darker sides of humanity as a newspaper reporter. That would be Bill McAuliffe. My recently retired colleague wrote a rollicking story, entitled “Hitchhiking in a new age,” about begging rides from the Twin Cities to Washington State for Travel. The story earned gold in the Adventure Travel category of the Society of American Travel Writer’s Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Competition.  

The Society also awarded Curt Brown an honorable mention in the Cultural Travel category for his Star Tribune story “In Uganda, faith endures.” This beautifully told tale illuminates a world unseen by most: a small enclave of Jews in Uganda. It’s another example of armchair travel at its best. 

The Star Tribune Travel section took the bronze award for best newspaper travel section with a circulation of 350,000 and up. The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times took gold and silver, respectively. 

GPS for the directionless

Posted by: Kerri Westenberg Updated: July 9, 2013 - 9:59 AM

It was supposed to be a short jaunt on Lake Vermilion. "Pontoons are the mini-vans of the lake," our host said. We would have no problems, he reassured us. So, map in hand, we headed out into the vast, island-dotted Lake Vermilion, small boat on a big lake. And our 20-minute joy ride turned into a hour-long dramatic (and grumpy) comedy. Our novice eyes couldn't tell an island from the mainland; we couldn't judge scale, the map vs. landscape. Finally, we spotted a fisherman on his dock, asked for directions, and puttered back.

When I returned to the office, a colleague who had kayaked another one of Minnesota's stunning and large lakes, Burntside, and found her way back to her rented cabin gave me a sympathetic look. And then she told me her her secret: She carried a Bushnell Backtrack GPS device in her pocket. Click it when you leave the cabin and when you're ready to return, the arrow on its small screen literally points you in the right direction. At $60, it makes a nifty way to find your way home. Or to your car in the parking lot of the Mall of America, for that matter.

Running guru needed at Westin Hotels

Posted by: Kerri Westenberg Updated: June 19, 2013 - 10:16 AM

Runners who like to travel should read on. Westin Hotels has one slot for a very special job: running concierge. It is a bit of an oddball job. While the job requires marathon experience, a positive outlook and an ability to engage with people, there are no mention of marathon work days, not that it'll be a stroll in the park. Here's what the press release had to say:


Hundreds of Qualified Applicants Battle for the Coveted Role of the RunWESTIN Concierge Through Partnership with Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series

It’s the job runners have been training for all their lives, and now there are just two weeks left to apply! Westin® Hotels is nearing the finish line in its search for its first-ever resident running expert. The global hotel brand is actively seeking experienced, passionate runners to join them on the road and serve as the on-site running expert for Westin VIPs participating in select Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon series events. More than 400 candidates have been vetted for the sought-after role and additional runners are encouraged to apply at through June 30, 2013.

This fall the chosen candidate will begin the journey of a lifetime, traveling to over 10 Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon destinations across the U.S. to give Westin guests a leg up on the competition. From pre-race training to the finish line, the RunWESTIN Concierge will act as a personal marathon coach, engaging with runners and sharing training and race advice, leading warm-up runs and lending recovery tips.

“Speaking as a passionate runner, the RunWESTIN Concierge is a dream job for running enthusiasts,” said Brian Povinelli, Global Brand Leader for Westin Hotels & Resorts and Le Meridien. “It’s an extraordinary opportunity to travel to amazing cities doing exactly what you love while inspiring others along the way, and get paid for it.”

The search for the RunWESTIN Concierge is not limited to hospitality experts. Avid runners with a passion for travel are encouraged to apply. The key qualifications include a positive, charismatic personality with a natural ability to engage and motivate others, a strong familiarity with social media and experience in completing multiple marathons. In this role, the concierge will be responsible for sharing their in-depth knowledge of marathon running and training to improve performance and build and maintain rapport with Westin guests through social media.

Final Call to the Starting Line: Apply Now
It is not too late to be considered for this job of a lifetime. Westin is issuing a “last call” for applications for the RunWestin Concierge position. The search is scheduled to continue through June 30.

To apply, each candidate must submit an application as well as complete Westin’s Running Questionnaire by June 30. Ten quarter-finalists will be asked to submit a video of up to three minutes that demonstrates their training philosophy and vibrant personality. The five semi-finalists will be invited to interview in-person at Starwood Corporate Headquarters and three finalists will receive a trip to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in Chicago to prove that they should be chosen to become the new RunWESTIN Concierge. The winner will make their first appearance at the Philadelphia Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, September 13-15.

Think you have what it takes? Apply at

Westin Hits the Road with RunWESTIN®
Reaffirming its commitment to guests’ health and wellness, Westin has partnered with the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series to offer a collection of premier marathon packages designed to remove the stresses of traveling for a race so runners can focus on their run and perform at their best, especially for first time racers. The partnership, which builds on Westin’s existing RunWESTIN program, allows race participants to book a personalized VIP marathon experience in key markets across North America.

Starting June 20, guests can purchase the VIP Marathon Package designed to help runners meet their personal goals with ultimate comfort and convenience. The package is available in seven race markets in 2013 including Montreal, Las Vegas and Los Angeles, with additional 2014 races included on a rolling basis. Catering to both experienced and novice marathoners, the VIP Marathon Package offers everything from VIP race bib pick up, pre-race pasta dinners, access to the brand’s VIP Recovery Tent and ice bags delivered to guest rooms post-race, all designed to provide runners with the ultimate race experience.

For more information on Westin Hotels & Resorts, please visit, Facebook or follow Westin on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube

Canopy tour to open in Minnesota River Valley

Posted by: Kerri Westenberg Updated: May 22, 2013 - 2:07 PM




A canopy tour featuring two suspension bridges and nine zip lines overlooking the Minnesota River Valley will open June 14. Kerfoot Canopy Tours will operate on land that includes a 120 feet-deep ravine along the Minnesota River Valley National Scenic Byway near Belle Plaine and Henserson, Minn. During the two-hour-plus tours, guides will share information on the trees and birds of the region, including eagles and hawks, and how the valley was formed. "You get the thrill of zip lining, but you also get the educational aspect," said owner Lee Kerfoot. How thrilling? The longest zip will stretch 1,150 feet. But tours will warm up with smaller runs, allowing customers to ease into the experience. Kerfoot Canopy Tours will be open year-round. Cost is $89 per tour, or $299 for a season pass, which is good for unlimited tours at the Henderson location and at the Towering Pines Canopy Tour, which opened at Gunflint Lodge near Grand Marais last summer. Tours begin June 14, but you can book now at the website.

SUP vs. Subaru

Posted by: Kerri Westenberg Updated: August 28, 2012 - 10:46 AM

Zooming north on I-35 with a stand-up paddleboard atop your Subaru Outback, with the securing straps humming in the wind, is not the time to first search for videos about how to secure a board to your car roof. I'm the travel editor; I should know better. I should have prepared. But, well, there were so many other details to attend to before departing on our long trip Up North that I overlooked that little -- okay, vital -- item. So in the morning, I strapped on the board the same way I do for the five-block trip to Lake Harriet and took off. Who knew that 65 miles per hour could prove so much more harrowing than 20 mph. The straps screamed in a high-pitched tune, occasionally slapping at the car roof. We pulled off, considered returning the board to our garage, then instead tightened it up and gingerly headed north. That's when I used my phone to log onto youtube, outwardly calm but inwardly frantic.

It seemed I had done a fairly good job of it, though the fin should have been at the front in case the board slipped backward (it would have been caught by the first strap in that case). By the time we stopped in Duluth for a break, I felt confident. And indeed, we made it to our destination and home again, though by the time we turned off  the engine back in Minneapolis, that nice relaxed feeling you go on vacation to achieve had been stripped away as we nervously eyed the board through the sunroof all the way home.

True, the paddleboard was a boon to our vacation. We used it nearly every day. And we'll take it with us again. Next time, though, we'll be truly prepared. Last week I finally did what I should have done before the trip. I went to REI, asked the pros, and bought a cheap set of foam pads for our car rack and a Yakima SUP brah (I know, makes you think of a different support item, right?) that secures the bow and stern to the front and back of the car. We're geared up right, brah!



Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters