I want to visit all of these.


All Over the Map

Touchscreen soda fountain at Go Roma in Chicago.

New touch screen soda fountain in Chicago includes flavors not previously marketed in the U.S.

Want to save travel money while shopping this holiday season?  Here are some ways to increase travel rewards.

Traveling alone?  Check out these tips for solo travel safety.

Gift ideas for the travelers on your list.

One perspective of “National Opt-Out Day”

Passenger concerns shouldn’t be ignored.

TSA Body Scans: Elimination or Creation of Risks?

On November 24, 2010, protesters of the new TSA body scanners have proposed a boycott of the new machines, which could result in slower traveling on one of the busiest flying days of the year.

Americans are unhappy with these new scanners for many reasons, including but not limited to: radiation exposure, privacy invasion, the physical search one must undergo if one refuses the scan, the naked images of bodies that have been leaked despite the “secure” system, the potential of traumatizing children or those who have suffered childhood sexual abuse (CSA), and the new hassles associated with airline travel.

It seems like every time there is a threat to national security, some sort of “band-aid” solution such as this one comes along with the promise of preventing the danger of the threat.

As Mat McDermott writes for Planet Green, “The bigger thing in this that really bothers me…is the thinking (or seeming lack thereof) behind this latest addition to the teetering pile of TSA security procedures—all of which seem more designed to give the impression of security, the reassurance that something (anything) is being done, rather than providing real safety.”

The question is, will a scanner actually stop anyone who wants to harm people?  Wouldn’t someone who really wants to cause harm find an alternative way?  Why must everyday travelers be subjected to an even more intrusive invasion of their privacy?

And where, exactly, do we draw the line?

You can take action through the ACLU, which has several interesting articles on the subject, including this one.

Also, check out feministing.com’s article and this CNN piece for more information.

Have you been through one of the new body scanning systems?  What do you think about this new security measure?

How Not to Annoy Fellow Passengers

While traveling, you are apt to spend at least part of your journey on a mode of public transportation, whether it is a bus, train, plane, or subway car.  As I have traveled to Indiana twice in the past two weeks, once by plane and once by bus, I have observed both good and bad traveling behavior.

Based on this experience, here are my top five tips for traveling without annoying fellow passengers:

1) If you must speak on the phone, please do so as quickly and quietly as possible.  No one really wants to hear you gossiping with your best friend when they’re trying to nap.

2) Be courteous to your fellow travelers and transportation staff.  It’s not their fault your flight got delayed due to an unexpected snow storm, and treating them with respect will make your journey and theirs much easier.

3) For the love of God, get your stuff together before going through security.  Have your ID and boarding pass handy and as soon as you get to the x-ray line take off your jacket/jewelry/shoes, etc.  This save a lot of time and prevents glares from your fellow travelers.

4) Keep the noise level of electronic devices at a minimum level as much as possible.  There are few things more annoying than hearing someone else’s music blaring next to you as you try to concentrate on a book or take a nap.

5) Try not to over pack, and do not take up fellow travelers legroom with your bags, jackets, and packages.

Follow these basic tips this holiday season, and you’re sure to have smoother travels!  Now if only everyone else followed them too…

Winchell Trail

Looking towards Saint Paul from the Winchell Trail

In a fit of fall appreciation, one of my roommates and I decided to take a late afternoon hike along the Winchell Trail a few weeks ago.  I am still enthralled with the Mississippi River (although I was at first disappointed by how narrow it is in the Twin Cities area), so I had been searching online for a trail that would wind along the river.  Winchell Trail sounded like a good option due to the relative shortness of the trail and the location, which is only a few miles from our apartment.

The trail is rugged, narrow, unpaved, and downright dangerous in some areas–I slipped along one section and found myself clinging to shallow roots and dirt in an attempt to prevent myself from plummeting to the banks of the Mississippi approximately 20 feet below.  It was a great way to explore the lower gorge on the west bank of the river, but be wary of hiking in the area after a rainfall as the trail could potentially become impassable in some areas.

Surrounded by thick oak trees and meandering above the river bank, the trail is very picturesque.  Near the end of the trail, a small waterfall trickles around large rocks and fallen tree trunks to reach the river.  Although it is located near two major cities, Winchell Trail offers a peaceful setting that feels much more remote.

Exploring the “Back Yard”

I moved to Minnesota from my home state of Indiana in August, which means that I’m constantly discovering new things about Minnesota.  This is partially due to the fact that I had never been to the state before moving here, and partially due to the sheer number of things to discover here.

Aside from attending AmeriCorps training, I spent the first week exploring the obvious: the Mall of America (MOA), Loring Park, the Walker Art Center, and Nicollet Mall.  A friend happened to be visiting the city with his family the week I moved here, so I met them at the Mall of America while they were here.  They were planning to tour the new Target Center (which I have yet to do) and aside from that, didn’t really have any plans for their time in the city, so they asked me for suggestions.  As I had just moved to the state and was learning (and still am) what was around, I didn’t have many suggestions.  But I think that’s due in part to the quirkiness of many of the attractions in Minnesota, especially in the Twin Cities area.  There’s a little bit of everything here, but you really have to know where to look and what to look for.

Fortunately, I have begun to explore the area bit by bit and now have a solid basic itinerary for first-time visitors.  When my cousin visited me during a work conference, we went to the MOA (of course), ate at a great German restaurant in Saint Paul (The Glockenspiel), walked over the Mississippi River to Harriet Island and drove up to the Capitol building and Saint Paul’s Cathedral to get a closer look as it was late at night and the buildings were closed.

A couple of weeks ago, a good friend came to visit for the weekend and we had a very enjoyable visit that allowed her to get a good feel for the area and me to get a better idea of what’s going on in my new “backyard.” It felt great to realize that I had a solid understanding of the Cities and which places my friend would enjoy visiting the most, and I’m already planning for the next visitor!