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Vacations, Day Trips and Getaways

Vacations, Day Trips and Getaways

Adrienne Smith, the Constant Traveler: Viewing Volcanoes PDF Print Email

By Adrienne Smith

Feb. 10, 2016:  One of my favorite places on Earth is, appropriately, standing on top of the Earth at Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park on the island of Hawai'i.

I tripped over there two weeks ago, looking to get my mojo back after almost a month of a miserable cold. Landing at the Hilo airport, I drove by the authentically preserved eponymous town, once almost wiped out by a 1952 tsunami, and up 30 miles and 5,000 feet to Volcano Village, located just outside the park.

I checked in at the marvelously comfortable YMCA-built Kilauea Lodge, which is owned by a native Hawai'ian and her German husband, who was the makeup artist for Tom Selleck in his pre-Blue Bloods days as Magnum, P.I. Although most rooms lack TVs, which can temporarily give me heart flutters, the inn boasts pleasantly modern rooms with stoves or fireplaces and windows looking out at enormous, lava-fed greenery, which creates an almost jungle-like atmosphere. Add to that, the husband runs a fine kitchen, producing hearty but tasty meals.

All combinations of my family have stayed there in summer, fall, winter, and spring, all fascinated by the almost lunar/rainforest landscape around us.

On my first of two days, it was off for serious business at the park itself. The Earth is always literally churning there. I head to Kilauea Volcano, around and through which many of the park's most appealing hikes pass. However, for the last few years, a large chunk of the Crater Rim Drive has been closed, because a blip on one flank of the volcano, with the delightful name of Halema'uma'u, has been bubbling away, emitting toxic, lung-irritating levels of sulfur dioxide. At its bottom, a lava lake rises and falls each day, measuring a depth of 1-1/2 feet when I was there. I take a modest, four-mile walk around the open part of the Crater Rim trail.

The sight becomes truly dramatic at night when a massive red glow fills the area, visible from the on-site observatory a mile or so away. This is what we are living on--a lot of hot stuff.

Let me tell you a bit more about the area. Crossword aficionados are used to this, but the park is home to two active volcanoes: the aforesaid Kilauea, Mauna Loa, and a sister volcano not technically in the park, Mauna Kea. Mauna Loa is the tallest mountain on Earth, if you count the 18,000 feet of it below sea level and add its 13,677 feet above ground. It is also the world's most massive. The last time it "misbehaved" was in 1984, and, since it has erupted 33 times in the past 172 years, statistics-minded observers are waiting with bated breath for the next outburst.

Kilauea, which in Hawai'ian means "spreading, much spewing," although not so big, is growing, both adding land to the island and destroying small settlements in its path. Each time we have visited, a different area has been overtaken by lava flow, a stream that on several occasions we were able to stand next to. And at one point, on a visit when my younger children were five, my little son mistakenly left his stuffed dog, Lick-Lick, at the secondary visitor's center, 30 miles down the Chain of Craters Road from the summit, only to find the next year that the center, and, God rest his soul, L-L, had been consumed by the relentless onslaught of molten earth.

In more general terms, the islands of Hawai'i sit atop an extremely geologically active part of our globe, the Pacific plate, which is the largest tectonic plate on Earth. As the sea floor separates, the plate enlarges, pushing the islands up and out.

Westerners first visited the area in 1823, one of whom described Kilauea in these words:

A spectacle, sublime and even appalling, presented itself before us. "We stopped and trembled." Astonishment and awe for some moments rendered us mute, and, like statues, we stood fixed to the spot, with our eyes riveted on the abyss below.

Fifteen years later, resort hotels sprang up around the site. But it wasn't until 1916 that, after many years of lobbying by notables like Theodore Roosevelt and a Congressional junket where a meal was cooked over steam vents, Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park became the ninth national park in the system, and 43 years before Hawai'i became a state!

So if you, or your children, want to know what's cooking down below, head off to Hawai'i. You may be lucky enough to be there when the next Big One hits.

Pictured here:  The Kilauea volcano at night.

Photo by Adrienne Smith

Happy Thanksgiving PDF Print Email

By Staff     

Nov. 25, 2015: The staff of MyhometownBronxville wishes you and your loved ones a very Happy Thanksgiving.

Photo by N. Bower

Concordia College Announces 'Unforgettable Moments Trip' to Germany PDF Print Email

By North Callahan, Jr., Senior Director of Marketing, Concordia College

Nov. 18, 2015:  Concordia College announces a specially curated trip to Germany featuring a unique look at its vast cultural history and influence, from the music of its famous composers such as Bach and Handel to the Protestant Reformation. Visit Germany's magnificent countryside and unforgettable towns and cities.

The trip is from May 21-31, 2016. It begins in Frankfurt, then goes on to Mainz (including a visit to the Gutenberg Press); Eisenach (J. S. Bach's birthplace; dine at Wartburg castle); Erfurt (with tours of an Augustinian monastery, St. Mary's Cathedral; enjoy an organ concert at a synagogue); Eisleben (Luther's birthplace and the Handel Museum); Leipzig (follow the footsteps of famous composers); and Wittenberg (the heart of the Reformation--where Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the doors of the Castle Church in 1517); and ends in Berlin (where you can tap into its art and its shopping and where you will see history come alive from the Reichstag to Checkpoint Charlie). 

Tour highlights include a dinner cruise in the Rhine River Valley, a wine-tasting and dinner at a castle vineyard, private museum and walking tours, a special Concordia Choir concert, and Berlin's historic sites (such as the Brandenburg Gate). 

The tour is part of the noted Concordia College Travel & Learn program, which is known for traveling for purpose and pleasure.

For reservations, contact  CLOAKING  or  CLOAKING . Reservations must be finalized by December 14.  

Adrienne Smith, the Constant Traveler: Heaven in a Hamburger PDF Print Email

By Adrienne Smith

Nov. 11, 2015:  Summer may have come and gone, but I continue to consider some of the highlights of my August cross-country jaunt. 

I could mention the hotels, the museums, the regional cuisines, even our self-abasing excursions to see the office and residence of Minnesota's evil lion-killing dentist, but those things are not really what first comes to mind. 

Rather, I would like to report on the internal conflict I have yet to resolve on whether White Castle or Krystal hamburgers reign supreme. 

White Castle, as you may know, is primarily a Midwest outfit, with a happy leap over intervening territory to the New York metropolitan area. What you probably don't know is that it is considered to be the first fast-food chain in America and that, in 2013, Time magazine denominated its burgers "the patties which made the biggest impact on the burger industry--and the world at large." 

White Castle's historical eminence stems from its efforts to tout system-wide cleanliness, both by rigid, uniform standards and by the creation of its white metal exteriors, all of which stood for purity and healthfulness. From its creation in Wichita, Kansas, in 1921 until today, it has been privately owned and operated and numbers in excess of 420 shining beacons of ground-meat heaven. 

Krystal operates in a parallel universe through the Southeast and into Tennessee and Kentucky. Its founder was frankly influenced by White Castle, and it serves square-cut hamburgers similar to those of its pre-existing model. It is the oldest hamburger chain in its region and was named to convey, once again, a sense of clarity and cleanness. It is no longer family owned but is still in corporate, as opposed to franchise, hands. 

As I was driving along through territory that offered little in the way of gourmet nourishment, I yearned for one or the other chain to appear on the horizon. I went through a rough patch en route from New York to Columbus, Ohio, where the corporate headquarters of the Castle is maintained, and then again in Wisconsin, the Dakotas, Nebraska, and Kansas, but after that, it was smooth sailing. 

You might wonder from whence springs this unnatural craving for these quite similar, unassuming, and cheap little sliders. Well, let me tell you. 

First, most of the cells in my body have their nuclear origin in White Castles. They were my great treat growing up. Our family would stop at various locations on our way to visit one grandmother in New Jersey, where I would fill my chubby little body with one after another. When I obtained my junior driving license, I would motor illicitly over the Westchester border into the big city, wearing frighteningly red lipstick and a scarf to look "mature" so that I could visit the now-extinct spot on Fordham Avenue. What joy! 

As for Krystals, I spent August of 1967 in Jackson, Mississippi, in the company of a fellow law student who was working for the Mississippi Young Democrats. Jackson was then a scary place. Our neighbor in the complex we lived in was one DeLay Beckwith, suspected of murdering Medgar Evers in 1963, and who was then running for lieutenant governor using the campaign slogan "He's a straight shooter." (I might add that after two mistrials, he was finally convicted of Evers's murder 30 years later.) To calm my nerves and fill my empty hours, I repaired to a nearby Krystal for lunch each day and returned to New York at the end of the month weighing 25 more pounds than when I'd left. 

But inner conflict I must resolve, and resolve it in favor of White Castles. There is something totally divine about how the burgers are cooked, without flipping (four tiny holes in each make for even heat distribution), the sprinkling of fine-cut grilled onions, the top half of the roll resting on them as they simmer. Heaven! 

Krystal tries, but its burgers just aren't as succulent, its rolls not included in the cooking process and a tad too plump to complement the thinness of the burger properly. Add to this that in some locales, mustard is automatically added, which negates the subtlety of the taste. 

Having now written this narrative, I may have to leap in my car and journey to Bruckner Boulevard's service road in the Bronx to satisfy the Crave and gulp Coke. Neither recent health warnings re beef nor Michael Bloomberg's futile efforts to legislate soda intake shall deter me. Wish me well!

Photo by Adrienne Smith


Adrienne Smith, the Constant Traveler: What's in a Name? PDF Print Email

By Adrienne Smith

                  that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.
--William Shakespeare

Oct. 7, 2015:  As I was tooling down Interstate 80 on my almost cross-country drive, I passed an exit sign that appeared to include an unusual, anatomically based town name, a name that seemed uncomfortably unfathomable for a locale to adopt. 

If you look quite quickly to the left, you may get the effect of what I thought I saw. Given that I had about 7,256 miles more of driving that day, I could not afford to do a U-turn to see if my eyes had deceived me. 

So until now, I have puzzled out all the awkwardnesses that would occur for denizens of that place, as they proudly, or in hushed whispers, reveal their natal spot. Consider the poor college freshman having to disclose it, as in the possible football team, the Stalwart S……s. Or a job-seeking graduate, giving his address on LinkedIn as S….., PA. Certainly a conversation starter, but equally as likely to be an uncomfortable finisher. 

In case you don't yet see what I thought I saw, the word begins with an "s" and rhymes, almost, with "totem." 

Driven with blinding curiosity, I combed the Internet seeking a reason for why such a name had come to be. Thinking that perhaps the spot resembled a sac, I rushed to the dictionary but found there no alternative meaning to rationalize the choice. Further exploration led mostly to names of medical procedures that would make grown men wince, if not cry. 

Moreover, if you go to, you will find an enumeration of what contributors deem unusual geographical names. See These run the gamut from Nothing, AZ, to The Office Girls, in Victoria Land, Antarctica, to Silly Department, which is somewhere.  

Also on the list are numerous names that would prove offensive to print in this family-oriented publication but that are staggering in their nerviness. Wikipedia adds a rather humorless note to the page with the list, stating that the page "illustrates standards of conduct that are generally not accepted by the Wikipedia community." 

So be warned. 

You can imagine how disappointed I was after all this careful research to find that my eyes had deceived me and that the sign actually read "SCOTRUN." 

However, I had another place name up my sleeve that I hoped would produce a colorful story. Ninety-four miles later on this day that my ponderings might indicate were slightly tedious, and surrounded by rolling hills and small mountains, I passed a sign for "Jersey Shore." Had there been something in my toothpaste? Did I need to pull over and take a rest? 

Here I was, a hundred and some miles away from the site of America's perhaps finest reality series. How could this be? 

Again, research was my friend. Apparently the West Branch Susquehanna River runs through the area, and, back in 1785, hostile feelings developed between those who lived on the west side of the river and those on the east. The guys on the west had come from New Jersey, and so, that part became known as Jersey Shore. 

Let's face it, not particularly fascinating. 

But keep your eyes open. This is what travel is made for.

Pictured here:  Road sign near Tannersville, New York.

Photo by Adrienne Smith

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