Mature Life Features

Cecil Scaglione, Editor

Archive for the ‘United States.’ Category

OK, So The Dining Services Meeting . . .

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. . .has been resked for

2 p.m. next Tuesday

in the 2nd floor theater.

So now get down to

3 p.m. Thirsty Thursday because this will be

Nick’s last turn behind the bistro bar.

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Nevada’s Other Side Also a Good Bet

By Beverly Rahn, Mature Life Features

ELY, Nevada — If you want to get away from it all, this is the place.

  As we zipped along Highway 50 — “The Loneliest Road in America” — that bisects this state, we saw how this land looked when pioneers bumped over it in Conestoga wagons.

  We drove for hours through cactus-dotted plains under hori­zon-less skies just a half day from two of the glitter-gulch capitals of the world — Las Ve­gas and Reno. This is a land of wild mustangs and wrecked Mustangs. It’s where the deer and the antelope still play under an assortment of rainbows prancing with storms that clam­ber over the mountains.

  We embarked on our week-long trip through rural Nevada from Reno and drove 320 miles east to Ely and 280 miles south on Highway 93 to Las Vegas.

  While the land is harsh, the folks are friendly. We learned quickly the difference between a fairy tale and a cowboy story. A fairy tale begins with ‘Once upon a time.’ A cowboy story starts with, ‘Now listen, this is no bull—-.’

  Planning to stretch our legs a mite on a fuel stop in Austin, we pulled over to a fence and saw a sign that said “Don’t even think of parking here.” We moved on because it was quite a clear statement in a land that has nothing but space.

  In Eureka, we parked under the courthouse balcony that was used for, among other things, public hangings during the town’s heyday when it was the leading lead producer in the world. There were 13 smelters operating in this Pittsburgh of the West during the 1870s.

    We took some time to hunt for pine nuts. These nuts, about the size of your little fingernail, were harvested by Native Americans each year after the first frost. They thrashed the pi­non (pine) trees to tumble these seeds out their cones. The nuts were, and still are, roasted, salt­ed or mashed into a meal or butter.

  Midway through our trek, we cruised into Ely, birthplace of the late First Lady Pat Nixon and home to a Basque commu­nity (and its gusto food) that was born when these Pyrenees people were imported to tend to the flocks of sheep raised here.

  We had called well ahead to make arrangements to ride the Ghost Train of Old Ely and wave to the call girls who greeted us you as the train chugged by the pleasure houses on the edge of town.  We used our Golden Age passports at nearby Great Basin National Park to tour the Lehman Caves. This was anoth­er stop in the past that included several museums and a leap into prehistory to tour petroglyphs (stone etchings) across the ribbon of road and an expanse of desert from Fallon Naval Air Station.

  The next morning, we took a side trip to Rachel, which is on the real loneliest road in Ameri­ca — Highway 375. The settlement perched on the edge of Nellis Air Force Bombing and Gun­nery Range and Area 51/Groom Lake, is reportedly a major Earth terminal for unidentified flying objects (UFOs). The so­cial center of the community is the Little A’Le’Inn, where we ordered an alienburger that tasted “out of this world,” of course.

  Lore has it that it’s easy to identify aliens in the Little A’Le’Inn: they enter the water­ing hole and sit at a table for hours without ordering anything to eat or drink.

  Gliding by sparkling Lake Mead as we dropped down into Las Vegas the next morning gave us the time cushion to adjust to our return to the clat­tering casinos of Reno’s neon neighbor.

  It seems odd that a state in which most of the homes and buildings we saw dated back to the 19th century has enacted laws that prohibit anyone from disturbing anything that’s more than 50 years old. My husband, who’s older than that, says he likes the idea.

Written by Cecil Scaglione

April 26, 2023 at 4:23 pm

Food Service Meeting . . .

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. . . sked for 2:30 p.m. has been


Nothing new till next month.

= = = = =

Breath-holding Utah Sights to Behold

By Fyllis Hockman

Mature Life Features                                                                      

Full four-wheel drive didn’t seem to be enough to hold us from dropping 1,300-feet from the narrow cliff-side ledge as I clung to my heart. Gaping at the towering walls adorned with sharp pinnacles leaping skyward, it looked like the earth had been splashed with multi-hued red dyes, all running together.

Such is life among the five national parks of southern Utah — Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce and Zion that share uncompromising splendor, history of both the earth and the country, and a sense of personal sanctuary. After more than 150 million years, they are still works in progress.

Arches National Park is a mecca of some of nature’s most intriguing architectural designs that span space and confound logic for which no man-made blueprint was ever drawn. With more than 900 such structures, it boasts the largest concentration of natural arches in the world. The trail to Delicate Arch, one of its most famous, requires hiking slick rock at seemingly 90-degree angles at times. The visual wonder makes it worth the climb.

Nearby Canyonlands requires a four-wheel drive vehicle. The view from Island in the Sky at 6,000 feet embraces 2,000-foot cliffs rising out of a magnificently painted landscape.

The panorama at Grandview Point stretches across countless canyons providing a broad view over the entire park. “Scenic Overlook” signs become redundant. Shafer Trail, a dirt road that’s rough in spots and very rough in others, is bordered on one side by perpendicular cliffs and on the other by a sheer 1,300-foot drop.

Although geologic history is stressed in every park, it’s what defines Capitol Reef that ranges from 80 million to 270 million years old.

A stroll along the nearby Grand Wash River bed, so narrow in parts you can touch both canyon walls at the same time, evoked old western film images of the lonesome cowboy out on the trail. Butch Cassidy used to ride along this stream bed (it had water in it then) and hide among the cavernous cliffs overhead. It’s now called, not surprisingly, Cassidy Arch.

Bryce Canyon is synonymous with hoodoos — phantasmagorical images emerging from weird and wonderful rock formations. There are thousands of the little (and not so little) guys in all shapes, colors and sizes. Rain and ice have sculpted these fanciful folk out of the rusted limestone.

Arriving at Zion reinforces the idea that each park is unique. At the other parks, your line of sight extends out toward the horizon as well as down into the canyons. At Zion, you look straight up, and up, and up. The soft-running Virgin River is responsible for creating the huge rock gorges that encircle the park. It took only 5 million to 16 million years to do so.

Written by Cecil Scaglione

March 28, 2023 at 8:34 pm

Posted in Travel, United States.

Tagged with

If They . . .

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. . .arrested the devil,

would they charge him

with possession?

America’s Colorful Hall of Fame

We smelled it as soon as we swooshed through the cool glass doors from the oppressive Pennsylvania humidity into the revitalizing air-conditioned building.

“Crayons,” my wife said.

We had entered the Crayola Hall of Fame nestled in a high rolling Easton meadow close by the New Jersey border just 90 minutes from downtown Manhattan.

It was a timely visit because a mittful of tones were to be retired to be replaced by a similar number in the colorful contingent. I lobbied for the enshrinement of a violet orange I developed when an old crayon melted in my water color set long ago but I was too late.

The initial move to modernity was made a few decades ago after interviews with Crayola’s major consumers – kids – revealed a need for brightness among the corporate colors. We asked our guide if there was any move to add a scent to the product. “Are you kidding?” was the response. Studies show that crayons are among the 20 most-recognized scents in America. Coffee and peanut butter top the list.

It was almost disappointing to see how such colorful pieces of my life could be the product of such a cramped and constantly-clattering plant. It was like discovering that Santa’s workshop is in a carport.

Workers did display an elfin dedication to quality in the care and concern they show in making sure every Crayola has a straight label and perfectly pointed tip. Color was splattered all over as paraffin was recycled in large globs, colorful paper sleeves awaited the cylindrical sticks of color, and the familiar orange-and-green boxes of various sizes housed hundreds of thousands of Crayolas ready for shipment around the globe.

Crayolas have rolled out of this site since the first eight-color pack was produced in 1903 and sold for a nickel. The trade name Crayola derives from the French word craie for chalk and the Latin oleum for oil. Crayolas are made of paraffin and pigment. And crayon is the generic term for a colored writing stick.

The one person I hunted for but never found: the inspector who checks for crayons that stay inside the lines.

Written by Cecil Scaglione

January 8, 2023 at 2:00 am

Dolphins Dance off Clearwater

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Everyone scrambled to the back of the boat as the captain gunned the vessel to create a wake he claimed the dolphins can’t resist.

More than half a dozen bottlenose dolphins pranced in, out, over, and under the stern swell as the 40-foot tourist-laden tugboat roared through the emerald Gulf of Mexico waters less than a mile off Clearwater.

After listening to passenger squeals and squeaks of delight for about 20 minutes, he cut the speed and the cavorting cetaceans with the constant grin skittered off.

Dolphins play and prey along this coast of Florida but they also become victims.

A celebrated case is Winter, which lost its tail to a crab trap. It was about three months old when found near Cape Canaveral in late 2005 tangled tightly in the trap’s buoy line.

Rescuers took it to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. The mangled flukes fell off but tender loving care restored the mammal to health.

Winter made history because a coalition of several agencies and experts worked on designing and fitting the dolphin with a prosthetic tail.  A movie was made of the entire development.

This marine attraction preaches and practices the three Rs: rescue, rehabilitate and release. Dolphins, otters, sea turtles, sharks, and sting rays are returned to the wild.

It also monitors sea turtle nests that abound on the barrier islands that protect much of this shoreline. The egg-laying season begins May 1 and the last hatchlings head for the open sea in late August.

Many of these newborns need help to guide them to the water because they use the moonlight to get there but city lights and other illumination can confuse them.

Written by Cecil Scaglione

October 30, 2021 at 5:00 am

Posted in United States.

Tagged with ,

Reading Stretches From Peanuts to Pagoda

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READING, PA – Like prime real estate, Reading’s major attractions are location, location, location.

As an industrial center, it forged its place in history as a major player in the formation of this nation and a source of Conestoga wagons that played a vital role in the drive to develop the West.

Its geographic position in the shoulder of Mount Penn on the banks of the Schuylkill River is an hour’s drive or less from the fecund and food‑filled Lancaster County, capital of Amish country; the glitter and gourmet seafood of Atlantic City and the New Jersey shore, the historic sites of Valley Forge and Gettysburg, and Independence Hall, the cradle of our constitution in Philadelphia.

This manufacturing city designed in 1748 by William Penn’s sons, Thomas and Richard, is to outlet shopping what Bethlehem is to Christendom. It brags that it’s the Outlet Capital of the World, citing the opening of its first manufacturer’s outlet surplus sales shop more than half a century ago.

“America’s Oldest Brewery” is just up the road in Pottsville, the boyhood home of author John O’Hara, where the Yuengling family has been fermenting barley and hops at the foot of the Appalachian Trail since 1829.

This cozy complex that opened in the early 1700s as a food stop for muleskinners hauling barges along the Schuylkill River Canal System is still home to the ghosts of at least one of the owners, an owner’s mistress, a Revolutionary War soldier and a young girl who died of a respiratory ailment.

“We’ve had waitresses who’ve seen these ghosts and think they’re customers,” we were told.

A network of riverside walking and bicycle trails links the heart of this city of 80,000 with the countryside and much of its history. Donald Linderman, a nearby resident pedaling with a local group through a covered bridge leading to a former wagon works transformed into a museum, informed the group why there are no windows on covered bridges.

“They were built to get horse‑drawn wagons across the river and horses get skittish when they see anything moving under them. There are no windows so horses wouldn’t see the water rushing under them.”

After that lesson, it was time for a stop at downtown’s best‑known watering hole and power‑lunch stop ‑‑ Jimmie Kramer’s Peanut Bar. First‑timers tend to shuck peanut shells back into the bowl on their table. “Throw ’em on the floor,” sang out our server.

Before leaving this seat of Berks County, we headed up Mount Penn to the Pagoda on Skyline Drive for a semi-bird’s-eye view of this food- and fun-filled historic corner of our world.

Written by Cecil Scaglione

October 23, 2021 at 5:00 am

Train Ticket to Luxury

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By Cecil Scaglione

The tongue-in-cheek survey taken by the couple from Texas to determine “which railroad yard had the best graffiti” went off-track as the quarter-mile-long train skirted the base of oooh-inspiring Mount Shasta.

It took most of the morning to get by California’s highest peak while the American Orient Express occupants collected “AOE souvenirs” – small bruises collected on both arms while bouncing from wall to wall in the clattering cars.

Mount Shasta

Nobody complained. They were too distracted on this week-long land cruise that encompassed wineries and waterfalls as they trundled through the West Coast’s major cities. It began with a quick tour of starting-point Seattle followed by plenty of free time in Portland to, among other pastimes, browse through the renowned Powell City of Books after a morning clambering around Multnomah Falls, which overlooks the Columbia River gorge and claims to be the second tallest waterfall in the country.

The scenery was a major improvement over the wake-up view of the warehouse in Klamath Falls where the train rested overnight. Which prompted the unofficial survey mentioned earlier.

There was plenty of train time for talk and the adventures and advantages of the train trip was a recurring topic. And, like taking an ocean cruise, “There’s nothing to worry about,” like protecting your valuables or how to get to attractions.

This AOE experience is no longer available but was aimed at travelers seeking the sumptuousness of the luxurious legendary train that began carrying countesses and courtesans, philosophers and philanderers between London and Istanbul about a century ago.

After the train snaked south along the Sacramento River, which gushes out of the foot of Mount Shasta, passengers were bused through the grape-glutted Napa Valley for a wine-tasting session at a French-like chateau overlooking the rolling vine-covered hills before crossing the Golden Gate bridge to overnight in San Francisco.  After lunch the next day on Fisherman’s Wharf, everyone re-trained in Oakland’s Jack London Square to compare notes on their vistas from Twin Peaks and Presidio Park.

The hilltop view from Hearst’s San Simeon, the next stop, was equally impressive for those who took a moment to stray from the overabundant opulence of the late newspaper magnate’s Medieval memorial of amassed art.

The slide alongside the Pacific into Los Angeles was a restful respite at the end of a relaxing trip.  Rather than stop to sample some of attractions on their own in this megalopolis – Disneyland, Hollywood, Rodeo Drive, Santa Monica Pier, for example – a couple of fellow travelers chose to cover the rest of the U.S. Pacific shore. They picked up tickets in Union Station for the two-hour coastal leg to San Diego.

Written by Cecil Scaglione

September 29, 2021 at 1:30 pm

Perry Mason’s Mysteries Rooted in Ventura

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perrymason1A triangular buttress supports the Mission San Buenaventura

facade that was fractured by an 1812 earthquake.

— Cecil Scaglione photo


By Beverly Rahn, Mature Life Features

VENTURA, Calif. —- One of the biggest mysteries to locals is why the ghost of Erle Stanley Gardner hasn’t lured more visitors to his home town.

Hundreds of thousands of tourists and travelers, most of them from the sprawling Los Angeles metropolis an hour away on the portion of Highway 101 that’s called the Ventura Freeway, visit Santa Barbara next door each year.

They drive right by the Pierpont Inn, where the creator of Perry Mason went for victory dinners after his successes in the nearby Ventura County courthouse. It was straightforward country-lawyer cuisine — steak, baked potato and green salad —  but it’s no longer on the inn’s regular menu. Nowadays, you should try the bouillabaisse.

Gardner began his 150-novel career, which he launched with a short story using the pseudonym Charles M. Green, in his second-floor law office at California and Main streets overlooking downtown’s commercial core.

He didn’t have to turn to writing to achieve success, said Richard Senate, who has written about Ventura’s most famous resident and bills himself as a tour guide and ghost hunter.

“Erle Stanley Gardner was a good lawyer and probably would have become at least a California Supreme Court judge,” Senate said.

“He was a founder of the Downtown Lions Club and the Elks Club here. But he was — he would have liked to have been — Perry Mason. He actually did pull off some of the stunts that appeared in the Perry Mason books, movies, radio shows, comic books and television shows.

“To keep from getting mixed up with his settings, Gardner used this courtroom, his office and the views from each of them as models for his settings.”

Visitors to the real courtroom enter the City of Buenaventura — that’s the official name of the municipality popularly known as Ventura — city hall through its bronze sliding grilled entrance adorned with depictions of lima beans. (“Ventura was once the lima-bean capital of the world,” Senate explained.)

Railway officials shortened the city’s name because it was too long for their schedules.

The civic center, perched on a hill overlooking Gardner’s office and the Pacific, served as a courthouse until it was scheduled for demolition after a 1962 earthquake. The city bought it for $140,000 and spent $4 million making it quake-proof. The prototype of Perry Mason’s courtroom is on the second floor.

“After World War II, a young Navy officer named George Bush came here with his family in 1949 to learn the oil business,” Senate said.

Keeping an eye on the comings and goings in front of City Hall is a bronze statue of Fr. Junipero Serra, the Franciscan friar who founded Mission San Buenaventura in 1782.

The mission, a half-dozen blocks below the civic center, features a triangular buttress across its face — a support installed after an 1812 earthquake fractured its face. Also visible are two metal crosses imbedded on each side of the front door. These are assurances that the building will remain operating as a Roman Catholic church into perpetuity.

Visitors can circle these two complexes on a variety of walking and motor tours of such attractions as blocks of Victorian houses, oil-boom mansions from the 1920s, flower gardens, some three-dozen antique boutiques downtown alone, and a meandering string of art studios, galleries and workshops.

Senate offers an array of spirited attractions. On the list are ghost-and-ghoul hunts in and around City Hall, Pierpont Inn and various downtown restaurants, a trip back to 3,000-year-old artifacts left by ancestors of the present-day Chumash Indians, and an opportunity at attempting to unravel the location of Mission San Buenaventura’s legendary treasure chest crammed with gold and silver.

But there are more than mansions, missions and mysteries to experience in this coastal community a $30 shuttle ride from Los Angeles International Airport.

Ventura’s oceanfront harbor, which offers marine diversions to please visitors of all ages, is embraced by a 125-year-old pier and 33 acres of galleries, cafes and restaurants to suit all tastes. Boats shuttle several times a day to and from the Channel Islands for hiking, picnicking, snorkeling and camping.

Prices and times vary for the crossing but whatever vessel you choose is worth it just to watch the dozens of porpoise pods slip, slide, slap, soar, swoop and swish all around your boat as pelicans patrol overhead. You might also encounter orcas or gray, minke, humpback or blue whales.

Twenty minutes southeast of town, the Ronald Reagan presidential library is enshrined atop a Simi Valley hill. One visitor declared, after seeing the reproduced Oval Office, “I could sense the power of the presidency.”




Written by Cecil Scaglione

January 8, 2017 at 8:37 pm

Jim Thorpe’s Legacy Buried in Pennsylvania Coal Town

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                                           By Cecil Scaglione

Mature Life Features 

JIM THORPE, Penn. — Rolling along the country roads stitched through this northeastern pocket of the Keystone State is akin to meandering through central Italy, where every hill is crowned by  a town with its own version of history.

Jim Thorpe is like that. The all-round all-American athlete after whom this town is named was not born here, did not attend school here, and there is no evidence he ever set foot or even drove through here.

Yet this “Gateway to the Poconos,” which as been proclaimed one of the nation’s prettiest towns, owes its survival to the Oklahoma-born Olympic champion who, when the King of Sweden handed him his pentathlon and decathlon medals at the 1912 Olympic Games in Sweden and proclaimed him “the greatest athlete in the world,” said “Thanks, King.”

This struggling little coal community was known as Mauch Chunk and East Mauch Chunk until the 1950s. A sign with that historic title still hangs from  the front of its Victorian train station. It populace had blazed through the heyday of coal and railroad expansion and was existing on those fumes of fame when Thorpe died in 1953. His widow, disappointed and disgusted when Oklahoma movers and shakers refused to establish a memorial to their renowned native son, began shopping around for a place that would welcome his remains.

The Mauch Chunk leaders heard of her efforts when she landed in Philadelphia and, desperate for new lifeblood and new business, agreed to build a memorial for her late husband and rename their town after him. They even dug up some soil from the Stockholm Olympic Stadium and used it to form a small mound at the base of his monument.

Native-American tribal and family factions in Oklahoma have battled through several courtroms to have his remains returned to the Sooner State. An appeals-court decision last year appears to have settled things by leaving matters as they lay.

Visiters who pop into this forest-girdled Carbon County community mid-way between Wilkes Barre and Allentown and wish to visit the man’s memorial head across the Lehigh River about a mile north of downtown to a small park dedicated to the football Hall of Famer who was arguably the finest all-round athlete in recorded history.

If they park in the lot beside the train station that debouched passengers into the heart of the commercial zone, they’re more likely to see Molly Maguires Pub and Steakhouse, a benign reminder that this is where four members of the infamous group involved in a bloody mining war were found guilty of murder and hanged in the mid-1870s.

Comfortable memories of the community’s salad days are housed in the Asa Packer Mansion straddling a hill overlooking the town. Packer started out as an apprentice carpenter who opened a store in Mauch Chunk while operating a boat yard that made vessels for transporting coal along the Lehigh Canal. This led him into the mining industry and, eventually, railroading. His first link was built to Easton, Penn., and his Lehigh Valley Railroad eventually reached out to the Jersey shore. When he died in 1879, his estate was valued at $54 million.

The comfort of his life as an industrialist, congressman, candidate for governor, presidential nominee, and judge are on view for tours of the Victorian building that peers over the town to St. Mark’s Episcopal Church perched on a hill on the other side of the village. Packer was, of course, instrumental in having this Gothic landmark built. Among its eye-catching features are two vibrant Tiffany windows. Today, the church has just a little more than 30 members.

— 30 —



Written by Cecil Scaglione

February 16, 2016 at 7:52 am

Try the Wright Stuff at Outer Banks

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The storied Cape Hatteras lighthouse stands as high as a 20 story building, making it the tallest brick lighthouse in the nation.

Story & photo by

Cecil Scaglione

Mature Life Features

NAG’S HEAD, N.C. —- It was the Wright place and the Wright time for 73-year-old Charles Dettor and his 66-year-old wife, Ruth, to learn how to fly.

The couple donned helmets and hang-gliding harness on the largest living sand dune in America to emulate the Wrights’ historic moment more than a century earlier just up the road at Kill Devil Hills. That’s where a memorial to Orville and Wilbur Wright’s famous flights is operated by the National Park Service.

It was the wide-open rolling dunes, privacy, and persistent wind at Kill Devil Hills that opened the skies for air travel. Not Kitty Hawk farther down the road. Any local will tell you bluntly – you don’t even have to ask – that Kitty Hawk gets all the glamor because the Kill Devil Hills telegraph station was closed that December day in 1903 when the Wright brothers completed their four controlled flights. So they made their announcement to the world through the Kitty Hawk telegraph office. And that’s how that locale blew into history.

The brisk breezes that still lure hang gliders to this ring of barrier islands sheltering the North Carolina shore are what give the place its spanking-clean look. Everything is scoured by sand. Cookie-cutter salt-box houses on stilts and lattice-wrapped carports stretch along the 75-odd miles of beachfront. They come in all shades of gray – tan, white, ecru, taupe, azure, cream, yellow, and aqua, but still look gray – and straddle both sides of Highway 12, the asphalt spine that stretches south from just below the Virginia border to Ocracoke Island just past that storied point of fact and fiction, Cape Hatteras.

It’s a 90-minute drive from the Norfolk airport to the Sanderling, our lodgings just a few miles south of Currituck Lighthouse that warns ships away from the northern end of these Outer Banks. It’s a restful resort that wraps itself in the ambience of the area that’s a mix of edgy New England coolness and soft warm touch of the South. Each room has its own balcony so you can watch the sun rise out of the Atlantic and set into Currituck Sound. And it has its own fine dining room, the Left Bank, where the menu ranges from sweetbreads to softshell crab. These latter delicacies are served in most diners, saloons, and eateries all along the Banks. We learned in the nearby town of Manteo (pronounced MAN-ayo), on Roanoke Island, how they’re farmed.

“They’re called peelers,” our guide explained as as we kayaked along the Manteo waterfront. They’re trapped in wire cages much like lobster and, since crabs molt only under a full moon, light bulbs are placed over the traps to confuse the crustaceans. As soon as the peelers shed their carapaces, the crab catchers pick them out and trim them ready for sale.

Across the cove from the town’s core is the Elizabeth II – the original. It’s a three-masted barque that, with a crew of 12, sailed to Roanoke Island as part of a British squadron on a clandestine mission to collect intelligence about the motives of the Spaniards in the New World. The vessel flies the British flag of the period: a red St. Andrew’s cross in a white square at the top inner corner with a field of alternating white and green stripes, “green being the color of the Protestant Queen Elizabeth manipulating her way through a Roman Catholic Spanish world,” according to a re-enactor on board.

He explained that Sir Richard Grenville left 108 men on the island before returning to England for supplies. The crew explored the region and determined that Chesapeake Bay was much better suited for settling because Roanoke was wrapped in too many shifting sand bars and navigational hazards.

As part of the community’s efforts to nurture its roots with the past are the Elizabethan Gardens opened in 1954 as a living memorial to the original settlement. It features a niche dedicated to Virginia Dare, the first English-speaking child born in North America. It also serves as a reminder that the settlement had to become self-supporting with the original mariners carting over cattle, sheep, and even honeybees, which did not exist here before the British arrived. These sailors had to maneuver their way through the sinister shifting shoals that gave this stretch of coastline the name, The Graveyard of the Atlantic.

Adding to the dangers over the years was Edward Teach, the notorious pirate known as Blackbeard who used the area below Cape Hatteras as a hideout because his shallow-draft ships could slide in and out over the sand bars that the heavier British warships couldn’t manage. The Ocracoke Lighthouse, shortest in the state, marks the inlet Teach had mastered. It’s a few miles south of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, which is the tallest brick lighthouse in the nation. A few miles farther north is the fourth lighthouse on the North Carolina coast. The Bodie Lighthouse guards the Oregon Inlet, that leads to Roanoke Island and is where the sport-fishing fleet anchors.

Mature Life Features, Copyright 2005

Written by Cecil Scaglione

December 20, 2014 at 12:50 pm

Tantalizing Taos Tempts Tourists

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Retired wagon rests by Martinez Hacienda on outskirts of Taos. New Mexico


By Cecil Scaglione

Mature Life Features

TAOS, N.M. —- This citadel community of some 6,000 people nestled in a high-desert valley is gearing up for another onslaught. Over the past four centuries, locals have survived attacks by conquistadors, hostile Native American tribes, scheming land-grabbers, marauding Civil War troops, and hippies. Rather than repel these waves, Taos embraced them and packaged their best qualities to lure more of their newest invaders: tourists.

There’s much more to absorb than artifacts and adobes. You can ski at nearby Snake Dance from Thanksgiving through April. Hike or bike along the rim of the dizzying Rio Grande Gorge a few miles out of town, where it’s unlikely you’ll encounter anyone who’ll smash your serenity or solitude.

Trip over to the village of Arroyo Seco and grab some comforting ice cream before a libation at Abe’s Cantina y Cocina, where the founder’s Japanese flag souvenired from World War II still hangs over the back of the bar.

In early summer, you can discuss the qualities of adobe construction with volunteers scrambling around one of the most-photographed churches on the globe: San Francisco Assisi.  Because the church has no foundation, moisture seeps up into the walls and the outer skin crumbles. Volunteer parishioners apply a new coat of mud to the building each June. Building began in the 1700s and the church was completed in 1815. There are no windows because it was also designed as a fortress against vengeful Indians. Inside, where photographs are forbidden, is a picture of a pregnant Mary.
The Native American pueblo, which is open sometimes and sometimes not, that offers a window into tribal customs and culture is still a major attraction here and now houses a casino – the only one in the state that prohibits smoking and alcoholic drinks.

Nearby, the Martinez Hacienda opens a door to the early 1800s when Mexico ruled. Don Antonio Martinez was a trader, as were most early settlers, who began building the
ranch house in 1804 and kept adding to it as he and his family prospered.  The trader and his troupe bundled up their pelts and other goods for the annual trek to Mexico City to pay tribute to whoever was the ruler at the time.

Before leaving, you have to sample frito pie, the local junk food. The recipe is simple – taco chips drenched in chile sauce. It comes with red or green sauce. Red is hot. Green is not. Sometimes it’s the other way around. So when you ask for chile in a local restaurant, ask for Christmas so you get both red and green and suit yourself.

Mature Life Features, Copyright 2006

Written by Cecil Scaglione

January 3, 2014 at 12:05 am