Tucson tales: SunLink ties Fourth Ave business with university


By Chris Ledermuller, Staff Writer

Dana Marschz, Steve Coogan’s drama teacher in “Hamlet 2,” counsels one of his students by saying, “[Y]ou’re going to have a magical life. Because no matter where you go, it’s always going to be better than Tucson.”

Ouch! To add insult to injury, the 2008 comedy film that hatchets Tucson was not even filmed in the city, but in Albuquerque, N.M.

Serving as the brunt of a feature-length pop culture joke did nothing to help the reputation of Arizona’s second-largest city. The film intoned that Tucson is “where dreams go to die.”

For anyone seeking outdoors adventure, authentic history, a pedestrian- and bike-friendly urban core, adventurous food, great microbreweries, lively music, fine arts or a college town atmosphere, Tucson is a dream come true.

In the end, Tucson laughs last and laughs best. The city is a cauldron bubbling with hipness, yet has flown under the radar of the new or old media cognoscenti who can call something cool and have the street cred to make it stick. Tucson has laid the tracks — figuratively and literally — to stake its claim to greatness.

In July, Tucson joined the U.S. urban rail renaissance with the inauguration of SunLink, a modern streetcar line connecting downtown, the Fourth Avenue business district and the University of Arizona. It is barely 4 miles long, but SunLink makes up for its narrow reach by putting riders within footsteps of cultural attractions, vibrant businesses and scholarly resources.

First, it is important to distinguish a streetcar like SunLink from light rail. Casually, “streetcars” or “trolleys” and “light rail” are thought of as one and the same, but similarities end above the steel wheel.

Light rail, such as Los Angeles’ Metro Rail lines or the San Diego Trolley, typically has stations spaced about a mile apart, has higher speeds to serve longer-distance travelers and has exclusive rights of way.

Streetcars, on the other hand, are more like city buses on tracks. They travel at lower speeds, have closely spaced stops or stations, and the tracks are shared with motorists and cyclists. SunLink’s fares are $1.50 for a single ride or $4 for an unlimited-ride day pass — identical to the buses of the streetcar’s operator, SunTran.

Fares are purchased from vending machines at the stations and loaded on SunGO cards. The cards must be validated on readers aboard the streetcar and presented to roving fare inspectors as proof of payment. The SunGO cards are also valid on SunTran buses.

Streetcars serve as a movable urban amenity rather than a utilitarian mode of transportation. SunLink, like the modern streetcar systems in Portland, Ore.; Seattle; Tacoma, Wash.; and Washington, D.C.; showcase distinctive neighborhoods or business districts — and prime the pump for attracting residential, commercial and retail development.

Tucson leaders hope SunLink serves as the catalyst for more residences, businesses and shops along the route, though that would just be icing on an already rich cake. There’s plenty to see, hear, taste, touch and experience at every SunLink stop and the three destinations along the line.


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Savor Santa Barbara cuisines with 54 epicure.sb events

Savor Santa Barbara’s cuisine, libations and culture with epicure.sb this month.  Restaurants, tasting rooms, museums, hotels and more have come together for the month-long celebration.

This annual gastronomic event returns for its sixth year with a new theme: epic-scoop.  Visitors can now experience the bounty of Santa Barbara County as a local would, with 90 offerings including 54 events and 26 special menu’s – and all of this over 31+ days.  With so much to do, pack your bags and stay awhile with 13 epicurean inspired hotel packages.

Grab your fork and spoon, as we are giving the epic-scoop to access special offerings, exclusive prix fix menus, secret menu items & libations, specialty tastings, VIP experiences, behind-the-scene exclusives, cultural performances, and much, much more!  Below is a highlight of recent offerings, for a complete list go to epicuresb.com.

  • Isabella After Hours: Foodie Film Series (Oct. 24) – Enjoy a food-based movie on a large projector screen at Isabella Gourmet Foods, complete with homegrown movie snacks, including locally made popcorn, candies, chocolates, beverages and more.
  • Junior Chef Classes (Sunday’s in Oct.) – Hey, kids! Let Williams Sonoma at La Cumbre Plaza show how fun and easy cooking can be. Kids will learn to make delicious recipes, with plenty of tasting along the way.
  • Featured Dish & Cocktail at Four Seasons (Oct. 1-31): Experience the best of Santa Barbara cuisine at Bella Vista, featuring a special Uni appetizer with indigenous Santa Barbara ingredients.  After, head to Ty Lounge for a libation inspired by Santa Barbara’s Spanish heritage, the Peña Flamenca.
  • Savor the Sauv (Oct. 1-31) – Mention “epic-dish” at Grassini Family Vineyards for a special tasting flight of library and reserve Sauvignon Blancs along with a Meyer Lemon truffle, paying tribute to a local fruit flourishing on Santa Barbara’s hillsides.
  • Sideways 10th Anniversary Hitching Post Wine Flight (Oct. 1-31): At Hitching Post II, local favorite and featured restaurant inSideways, enjoy a flight of 3 signature Highliner Pinot Noirs that commemorate the wine in the cult film that helped put Santa Barbara County wines on the map.
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Mendocino County puts the fun in fungi this fall

As the flavors of fall arrive in Northern California’s Mendocino County so does the annual crop of coveted candy cap, chanterelle, porcini and morel mushrooms.

Straddling historic Highways 1 and 101 with nearly 2,500 sq. miles of live oak, pygmy forests and stately redwood groves, the region is a natural hotspot for some 3,000 mushroom varieties.

The annual haul is nothing short of historic, nurturing nirvana for local mycologists, chefs and fungi foragers.   Add to the mix a cache of artisanal chefs, 95+ wineries, a formidable craft beer and hard cider scene and the annual salute to Mr. Fungi sprouts into action November 7-16, 2014 www.visitmendocino.com/mushroom-wine-and-beer-festival866.466.3636.

Visitors can tap into a variety of adventures from mushroom hunts by horseback, foraging excursions, Pinot and porcini menus, educational seminars, art exhibits and the annual Skunk Train trek and cook-off deep in the depths of the Noyo River forest.  To cap the event, regional hotel properties and restaurants are offering special menus and packages throughout November.


Pack a pair of boots and a sense of adventure as mushroom foraging season hits full stride this fall.  During the festival, guests can track and taste Mr. Fungi in a variety of formats.  Top excursions include:

Ride with the Hunt – Mushroom Hunt at Richochet Ridge Ranch 

“Mushroom Hunt” horseback rides every day during the festival.  Equine, wine & hotel packages also available. Ricochet Ridge Ranch, Fort Bragg; 707.964.9669www.horse-vacation.com.

Hunt for the Wild Mushroom Mountain Bike Ride

Put the fun in “fungi” with daily bike tours through the local forests in search the magical mushroom.  All levels, rentals available.  Nov 8/9 and 15/16.  Mendo Bike Sprite, Fort Bragg; 707.962.4602;www.mendobikesprite.com.

Mushrooms at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens

Join staff mycologist Mario Abreu for a series of mushroom workshops and walks at the Botanical Gardens. Daily.  Fort Bragg; 707.964.4352×16www.gardenbythesea.org.

 Pygmy Forest Ecological Staircase Hike & Educational Hunt

Daily tours from beach to bluffs traversing 100,000 years in geology on each of the five terraces.  Forage for fungi enroute.  Jug Handle State Reserve, Caspar; 707.937.5804www.jughandlecreekfarm.com/staircase-trail.

Mushroom Exploration Tours

Join local mycologist Adrienne Long for all things mushroom at the Stanford Inn before heading out to the forests and meadows for a full immersion.  Daily.  Stanford Inn, Mendocino; 707.937.5615;www.stanfordinn.com.


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Silver Dollar City offers National Harvest and Cowboy Festival


The adventure-loving culture of the Great American Cowboy and the best elements of the classic West flavor the fall harvest features as Silver Dollar City presents a new high-action Wild West Show, the return of a stunt-packed Western stunt show, top craftsmen from around the country and live bands, all part of the National Harvest & Cowboy Festival. 

The Ozarks’ leading fall festival famous for fine craftsmanship and fall harvest activities runs through Oct. 25 at the Branson, Missouri theme park.

The new Silver Dollar City Wild West Show captures the excitement of the legendary Wild West shows of the 1880s, presenting a trick riding troupe, a horse-riding female sharpshooter, trick roping and bullwhip artistry, comedy canines and Native American hoop dancing. 

Hosted by rodeo rider and roper A.J. Silver, named Act of the Year by the International Rodeo Association, the show features Nakotah LaRance, 6-time world champion Native American Hoop Dancer whose skills were showcased in Cirque du Soleil’s touring show “Totem.”

Western action continues with the returning Western stunt show “The Pinkerton Man,” with high-flying action and special effects, including dramatic 3-story falls, high-slide rappels, hero fights and pyrotechnic effects and explosions, with professional stunt men and women leading a cast of 14, plus live animals.

A major focus during the National Harvest Festival is craftsmanship, as the park features 125 top craftsmen from around the country, including Best of Missouri Hands juried artists and a showcase of Western artists, all joining the 100 demonstrating craftsmen of Silver Dollar City.

Featured festival crafts include weaving, jewelry making, stained glass, basket making, gourd carving, leather crafting and painting.For its 50 years of craftsmanship, Silver Dollar City was named “The Home of American Craftsmanship” by the U.S. Congress.

Guests can experience the thrills of the Old West with a ride on the park’s Western-themed world-famous wood coaster Outlaw Run, named Best New Ride of 2013 worldwide in an industry poll conducted by Amusement Today magazine, winner of the Travel Channel’s Insane Coaster Wars: World Domination in Episode 2, and recently named one of the 12 biggest game-changers in the history of theme park attractions by CNN.com.

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Hotel del Coronado offers Labor Day package in San Diego

Hotel del Coronado shines at dusk in San Diego. (Photo courtesy of Hotel del Coronado)

Hotel del Coronado shines at dusk in San Diego. (Photo courtesy of Hotel del Coronado)

For those looking to celebrate a long, Labor Day Weekend with a glimpse into classic Victorian architecture dating back to the holiday’s origin without sacrificing the modern amenities of today, Hotel del Coronado is offering two packages for some end-of-summer savings.

Del Beach & Breakfast Package

Start the day with an ocean-view breakfast, and then lounge all day on the new “Del Beach” and enjoy the warm sun and sparkling blue waves while sipping a cocktail or enjoying a beach lunch. The “Del Beach & Breakfast” package includes:

15% off overnight accommodations (two night minimum stay)

  • Daily breakfast buffet for two at Sheerwater (includes tax and gratuity)
  • One full-day rental of two luxury lounge chairs and a half-moon cabanette at Del Beach
  • Promo Code: DELBEACH1

 Del Perks Package

Get some added perks included in your room rate when you stay two nights or more! With the “Del Perks” offer, your room rate includes your:

 Daily resort charge (a $56 value based on a two-night stay)

  • Overnight self-parking (a $74 value based on a two-night stay)
  • A daily $50 resort credit (a $100 value based on a two-night stay)
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Grand Tetons: Snake River raft tour was one of trip’s highlights

By Steve Scauzillo, Staff Writer

This park has 300 historic buildings. One place that fits that category and then some is Jenny Lake and lodge. Named after the trapper Beaver Dick Leigh’s wife, Jenny, the lake, lodge and visitor center blend into the idyllic setting.

If you get there early, grab a boat ride to Hidden Falls. Or just wander the lake’s gentle shores. You might catch a family of deer grazing near the boathouse.

The raft tour of the Snake River was one of the highlights of our trip. No rapids, just smooth sailing with an expert guide who pointed out the nesting bald eagles overhead.

My wife also spotted a river beaver on the muddy bank. Tours are available for $65 for adults out of Jackson Lake Lodge. You don’t have to be fit to do this. All we did was sit and let the man with the oars steer us into hours of tranquility.

I saved the best for last: A tour of Oxbow Bend, the most photographed area in the United States. In fall, the gold and burnt orange leaves shimmer against the backdrop of Mount Moran and the whole Teton Range.

Be sure to ask for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Ranger. He adds music from Bob Dylan and The Byrds to an engrossing evening of history, politics and nature.

When you’re planning your trip to the Gran Tetons, just remember to tell your travel agent: It’s the place with the unusual name. It was named by French trappers who missed their women.

Don’t miss this place.

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Grand Tetons: Lots of easy hikes in this national park

By Steve Scauzillo, Staff Writer

If you enjoy hikes but aren’t the most athletic, there are a lot of easy ones in Grand Tetons National Park. We checked out the list of hikes with the friendly ranger at the Colter Bay Visitor Center.

The next day, my wife, Karen, and our 21-year-old son, Andy, were 10 minutes into a woodsy jaunt along Jackson Lake when I yelled out: “Deer!”

The doe shot me a look with her big, black eyes and then moved on.

Later, we arrived at our destination: Swan Lake. Here, a family of white swans took up residency at the far end of a blue kettle lake half-covered in green lily pods. The distant sound of the birds’ honking told us this was their home — we were only guests.

Jackson Lake is controlled by Jackson Lake Dam. So with the drought, the water levels were low. When the Congress preserved the lake as part of the park, it did so knowing that a large portion of the water belonged to the Idaho potato farmers.

Naturalists wanted to renege on the agreement but the farmers held firm. After much debate and bitter fights, the 484-square-mile park became one of the first with a dam on a river to be preserved. A compromise, indeed, that took three acts of Congress starting in 1929 and ending in 1950.

Jackson Lake Lodge is part of the history of the Grand Tetons. The view from inside the main room envelopes you like a warm bath. Your eyes travel past the floor-to-ceiling windows into the 40-mile Teton mountain range outside.

There’s a short, 1-mile hike outside the wood veranda that’s perfect for burning off the calories from breakfast at the lodge’s famous Americana restaurant, the Pioneer Grill.

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Grand Tetons: L.A. families can fly or drive to Wyoming

By Steve Scauzillo, Staff Writer

You don’t have to rough it or learn how to honk like a goose to enjoy the Grand Tetons.

First, you can drive or fly. It is in Wyoming, so it’s not too far. Flights to Jackson or Boseman, Mont., are convenient. You can hire a car service from the airport.

My family and I made it part of a two-fer with Yellowstone, which is less than an hour’s drive away.

After checking out bubbling geysers, waterfalls and ambling bison at Yellowstone, we hopped in the rental car and drove this gorgeous big-sky country into Teton.

Confession: I liked Grand Teton Park better than Yellowstone. Teton is balm for the anxious soul. It’s less crowded and more beautiful.

We went in the off-season, when fall breezes brought a chilly snap to the fresh air. They also delivered thunderstorms and hail, but that didn’t last too long, and by the next day, gave way to blue skies and cotton-ball clouds.

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Grand Tetons: Put this national park on your must-see list

By Steve Scauzillo, Staff Writer

Fishermen, hunters and naturalists don’t need to read what I’m writing about because chances are they’ve been there.

They’ve fished its lazy rivers. Hunted for game. Peered through binoculars in the freezing cold for a glimpse at the fleeting pronghorn elk.

It’s Grand Teton National Park.

This preserved, not totally pristine but picturesque wonder of the national park system receives plenty of popularity from the specialized outdoor adventurers but might be overlooked by family vacationers.

They’d rather go to Yosemite National Park, the Grand Canyon, one of those awe-inspiring parks in Utah and of course, Yellowstone National Park. But you might want to put Grand Teton on your list of must-see natural places, even if pitching a tent or bird-watching in the rain ain’t your thing.

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Dining with the devil in Auerbach’s Cellar in Leipzig, Germany

The imposing New City Hall has been the seat of government since 1905. (Photo courtesy of Leipzig Tourism and Marketing)

The imposing New City Hall has been the seat of government since 1905. (Photo courtesy of Leipzig Tourism and Marketing)

By Richard Irwin, Staff Writer

Leipzig’s  imposing New City Hall has been the seat of government since 1905. It is opposite the city library on Leipzig’s ring road.

The 36-story City-Hochhaus, at 466 feet tall, is the tallest building in Leipzig. Owned by Merrill Lynch, the building was designed by architect Hermann Henselmann to resemble an open book.

By now everyone was hungry, so we went to Auerbach’s Cellar, probably the best-known and second-oldest restaurant in Leipzig. One of the city’s most important wine bars by the 16th century, it was described in Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s play “Faust I” as the first place Mephistopheles takes Faust on their travels.

Auerbach’s Cellar sits below the Mädlerpassage shopping arcade in Leipzig’s historical district near the market. It has five historical dining rooms.

Auerbachs Keller restaurant depicts scenes from the Faust legend. (Photo courtesy of Leipzig Tourism and Marketing)

Auerbachs Keller restaurant depicts scenes from the Faust legend. (Photo courtesy of Leipzig Tourism and Marketing)

According to legend, the alchemist Johann Georg Faust rode a wine barrel from the cellar to the street, something he could have accomplished only with the help of the devil.

By then the tykes were tired, so we didn’t get to see some of the other famous attractions, including the botanical garden, which is the oldest in Germany; and Leipzig’s zoo c, which covers 56 acres with 850 species. The zoo is known worldwide for its carnivore exhibit. The zoo has bred more than 2,000 lions, as well as 250 rare Siberian tigers.

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