America's wacky festivals
Some people will dream up any excuse for a party. Case in point: the Garlic Festival in Gilroy, Calif, which crowns a Miss Gilroy Garlic every year. (Her friends just call her the Garlic Queen, we bet.) Here's a roundup of many upcoming wacky festivals, as reported by online editor Kate Appleton. In case you find our festival roundup hard to believe, we also whipped up a festival slide show. (Yes, Chandler, Ariz., really does have an Ostrich Festival!)
Today's travel intel
--The Feds are changing U.S. passport rules yet again. Later today, Homeland Security is expected to announce that U.S. citizens will only have to show a passport or a birth certificate to prove their citizenship at land and sea crossings beginning in January 2008. Eventually, however, the rules will be tightened so that only passports will be accepted by border officials. Homeland Security is responding to a crushing backlog of passport applications. A large majority of Americans do not have passports. [This AP story via CNN.com] --Sheraton and Westin hotels will ban artificial trans fats from the food they serve guests by year-end. The ban applies to restaurants, room service, and bars. Earlier: Radisson and Carlson ban trans fats. Other hotels, cruise ships, and theme parks are also banning trans fats. --RV Rally this weekend. The nation's largest RV Rally happens July 19 to 22 at Deschutes County Fair & Expo Center in Redmond, Oregon. Events include a attempt to break the World Record for "Largest Whoopee Cushion Sit"--plus, a canine swim suit competition and dog/owner look-alike contest. A day ticket costs $10 for adults. Campsites start at $169 per couple. Related: Expert RV advice. --Fare sales to Ireland. Flights from the U.S. to Shannon are as low as $500 round-trip, including taxes. [via Airfarewatchdog.com] --Travelers are more likely to book a weekend getaway online than a long trip. Three night leisure trips are the most popular type of trips bought at online travel websites, according to a new report from PhoCusWright. [via this June 8 press release]
Cross the Panama Canal on YouTube
Ever daydream about cruising through the Panama Canal? Well, YouTube has several videos that can show you what the trip is like. My favorite is one that was uploaded a couple of weeks ago. This six-minute video of a Panama Canal crossing was shot from the deck of the Peaceboat as it sailed to Panama City. The video captures the flavor and telling details of the trip and is cleverly set to the song "El Cuarto De Tula" by Buena Vista Social Club. For a faster tour, look instead for this 90-second time-lapse video of a Panama Canal crossing, which will send you on an amazing race through locks and lakes. The video was shot from a top deck of Royal Caribbean's Radiance of the Seas by a ship employee, Jeff Birmingham, during a May 2003 cruise. [link from CruiseJournals.com, via YouTube] And here's a historical perspective on the Panama Canal from David McCullough: The lesson to be learned from the Panama Canal is that it succeeded by taking its greatest problem and making the problem an advantage. The problem was the rainfall and the Chagres River. The Chagres River was a surging monster, a lion in the path, as they said. The key was not to try to dig a Suez-type of canal, a great sea-level trench from ocean to ocean, but to create a lock-and-lake canal, where the ships are lifted up by a series of locks to a man-made lake, and then they sail across that lake, and then they are set back down on the other side by another series of locks. The source of the water is the Chagres.--Excerpted from The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal 1870-1914. Buy it at Amazon.com.
Restaurants with "higher standards"
Trying to find a good restaurant is difficult enough. If you follow faith-based dietary restrictions, the job is even tougher. The Internet can help. Zabihah.com is sort of an online Zagat guide for Muslims, where anyone can review restaurants that are halal. There are over 5,000 listings on the website, including 3,400 in the U.S. For Jews keeping kosher, Shamash.org lists nearly 2,700 kosher restaurants in 50-plus countries--Omar Sacirbey