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.
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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.
When I take off for road trips Up North, coffee is my friend. Since I generally load the car and drive away in the morning, a cup-to-go is my standard sidekick. Which means I'm rolling along, alert and happy, until just shy of Duluth -- when I need a break. Badly. Thanks to the Minnesota Department of Transportation, one is always nearby as I roar north up I-35. In my numerous stops, I've grown partial to one: Culken, between milepost 225 and 226. Likemost, it is neat and clean, but this one stands out because it is situated on a bucolic piece of land with a pond. If driving with argumentative teens or whining toddlers is making you a tad tense, just go out back, sit on a bench, and watch the Red-winged Blackbirds flit around the bushes. That always settles the nerves.
Pretty scenery is just one benefit of a stop, but not the most important, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation. "Rest areas are essential safety features on the highway system that help address driver fatigue, a major cause of serious accidents," according to their Web site. "Their basic service is crash prevention. Studies reveal that a 15 to 20 minute break improves individual performance, even among sleep-deprived people."
Next time you're on a long drive, remember to enjoy the journey as well as the destination. If that means gazing at pretty scenery, having a picnic or playing catch with fido (many stops have designated dog areas), find a DOT rest stop along your route. Check out the rest stops along your route, including where to find them and what amenities they might have here.
I've been to Paris but once, alas, and I found the residents to be quite cordial, if not downright polite. On our first day, at one restaurant with non-English-speaking proprietors two fellow customers saw our befuddlement and helped us navigate the menu. Other acts of kidness ensued over the next week, sullied only by a ripoff-artist cab driver.
But I don't doubt that some of the city's reputation for rudeness came the old-fashioned way, often abetted by tourists who didn't try to speak the language or comport themsleves admirably, either. So I was not surprised to see this story about a concerted effort to promote optimum etiquette.
The 30,000 copies of "Do you speak Touriste?" being dispensed to waiters and sales clerks includes sundry greetings and cultural advice. To wit: While the Chinese are "fervent shoppers," we Amercians want to be reassured about prices.
-- Bill Ward
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:
WESTIN HOTELS CONTINUES NATIONWIDE SEARCH
FOR EXPERIENCED RUNNING CONCIERGE
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 www.runwestinconcierge.com 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 www.runwestinconcierge.com.
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 www.westin.com, Facebook or follow Westin on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube
You'd think the Crime Museum in Washington, D.C. could fill its five galleries with items from the capital city itself: infamous tape recorders, anthrax letters and the like. But, no. In its efforts to focus on the history of crime in America, it examines the dark side of even really nice places, like Minnesota. Case in point: The museum features several artifacts related to the Dillinger gang, including a photograph of gang member Homer Van Meter on the coroner's table. The depression-era bank robber had been shot been by four police officers in St. Paul. The museum also features original parts from John Dillinger's 1933 Essex Terraplane Automobile, including original hub caps, a tail light, vanity mirror, small fragments of vinyl top, and one-page from the original “owners manual.” The museum is at 575 7th Street in downtown D.C. (1-202-621-5567).
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