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Southern U.S.: 'We're Moving to L.A. to Follow Our Dreams'
For most people, moving to another city equals stress. For Lisa Levine and her boyfriend, John Craig, it means adventure. Before relocating from Boston to Los Angeles in April, they're going to see the country. John, a 30-year-old film school grad, is leaving his gig as a waiter at a fine restaurant to try and make a living doing what he loves best--acting--in L.A. Lisa, 32, is likewise following her dream of working with animals, as well as basking in southern California's great year-round weather. She's quitting her job in human resources to become a dog trainer, specializing in positive reinforcement. The couple met in Aspen seven years ago watching a local band. They have a shared passion for music, food, drink, the outdoors, and of course, travel--with trips to Moab, the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, northern California, and the southeastern U.S. already under their belts. "We've driven cross-country before, but never the southern route," says Lisa. "We were hoping that you could point out some hidden gems along the way--a place we didn't know was there, the best local cuisine in Tennessee, or something like that." Some days they'll do nothing but drive; other days they'll put in six hours at the wheel and six hours having fun; still others, they'll simply kick back. They're interested in a few cities in particular--Memphis, Austin, and Santa Fe--which gives the trip a basic structure, but they're not locked into a specific itinerary. "I like the fact that it's not a tour we have to stick with," says Lisa. "We're up for whatever." If we planned out all the cool stops across the land, they might not get to California until June. So for their three-week trip, we're focusing on a few key places that they've never been, starting with Kentucky. John and Lisa can find inspiration for their big move and lifestyle change in Louisville at the brand-new Muhammad Ali Center, dedicated to the man known as much for following his ideals as he is for being a great athlete. For a true taste of the state, they could visit Louisville's Brown Hotel, where the gluttony-inducing "Hot Brown" was invented in 1923 ($11.50). Sure, the turkey sandwich smothered in Mornay sauce, cheese, and bacon makes fried chicken seem like a light repast, but in this case a full belly might be good. John's favorite drink is bourbon, and his favorite bourbon of all is Jim Beam. The distillery is but a half hour outside the city, and everyone knows about the perils of drinking on an empty stomach. "We're willing to drive a little out of the way for cool side trips," says Lisa. Bearing that in mind, as well as the fact that Lisa and John mentioned their interest in food time and again, they might not want to take the interstates straight to Memphis. Instead, they should drive along the Western Kentucky Parkway to Princeton, home of Newsom's Aged Kentucky Country Hams--the best hams anywhere outside of Spain. John requests "great hikes with amazing views," and 20 miles north of Princeton, an easy walk leads to Mantle Rock, a 30-foot-high, 188-foot-long natural sandstone bridge. One big reason this trip is possible is because John and Lisa are selling most of their stuff, particularly furniture. If it doesn't fit into their two cars, it isn't leaving Massachusetts. "We're pretty much going to be traveling with books, CDs, clothes, only the important things," says John, a musician as well as an actor, whose prize possession is a Martin guitar. John should especially dig Memphis. To really put him in a Memphis state of mind, we recommend he read Peter Guralnick's book Sweet Soul Music and pick up a few Stax-Volt CDs for the car. Lisa likes museums that are "different or offbeat," so if Elvis's memorabilia-strewn racquetball court at Graceland doesn't completely fill the bill, the art, weaponry, and artifacts at the National Ornamental Metal Museum--a perfect picnic-and-sunset spot overlooking the mighty Mississippi--ought to do the trick. For John, the guitar factory at the Gibson Beale Street Showcase is a must. And for the required dose of Memphis barbecue, we suggest Cozy Corner, where they'll get not only the usual dry-rubbed ribs and falling-apart pork shoulder, but also Cornish game hen. There's enough to do in Memphis that they'll want to stay a night or two, and the spacious junior suites at French Quarter Suites come with a whirlpool tub for a mere $89. Last summer, while dreaming of their cross-country trip, Lisa and John checked off the places they wanted to see, and New Orleans was high on the list. "There has been so much devastation, but we still want to visit," says Lisa. "We're hoping that maybe we could volunteer for a couple of days and help in some way, with animals or people." On Wednesdays and Saturdays, grassroots group Katrina Krewe welcomes volunteers willing to put rubber gloves and garbage bags to use in various neighborhoods. Contacting the organization ahead of time is a good idea. The city's needs change from day to day, so John and Lisa should remain flexible and proactive in seeking out volunteer opportunities. Another contact is Best Friends Animal Society, an organization that links volunteers to local outfits helping pets left without homes after Katrina. Some of the Big Easy is ready for visitors, so John and Lisa can even be tourists, checking out the Rebirth Brass Band or Walter "Wolfman" Washington at the Maple Leaf Bar, and having a beignet--or three--at Café du Monde. When it comes to accommodations in New Orleans, the options certainly aren't as plentiful as they once were. Vacancy rates and prices are a bit unpredictable, so John and Lisa should absolutely book in advance and not be picky; neworleanscvb.com lists "rebuilding status" among the hotel features. "I don't necessarily need to spend a ton of time in Texas," says Lisa. "I'm curious about Austin and the desert and really good barbecue, but don't need to see Dallas or George Bush's ranch or anything." In that case, the bad news is that there are 800 miles of Lone Star State between Louisiana and New Mexico, so Lisa and John will have to spend a fair amount of time in Texas. The good news is there's tons to enjoy. Using the Austin Motel as their home base in the state capital, John and Lisa can try migas (eggs scrambled with tortilla chips, $5) next door at El Sol y La Luna and listen to blues or roots-rock across the street at The Continental Club. John says he's an "indie-rock guy," so he should also check the calendar for who's playing at Emo's. The shops at the corner of 6th and Lamar seem right for the couple: Waterloo Records (heard the latest Spoon album?), BookPeople (Karen Olsson's 2005 novel Waterloo defines contemporary Austin), and the flagship Whole Foods Market, where customers gorge on free samples and marvel at the chocolate enrobing station, where workers will cover almost anything requested in chocolate. Lisa enjoys yoga, and she can work out the kinks from too much time in the car at Yoga Yoga, which has four locations in the city, classes almost around the clock, and Yogi Tea so good she'll want the recipe. Highway 71 out of Austin means bluebonnets, brush, and yes, more barbecue. They'll have to decide between the huge pork chops at Cooper's, in Llano, or the brisket plate, which combines a choice of brisket and one other meat, beans, potato salad, peppers, onions, and bread, at Mac's, in Brady, because few stomachs could handle both. After a long drive through the austere landscape of West Texas, they can reward themselves with wine in...Lubbock? The truth is, there are more than 80 wineries in Texas, and the vintages aren't half-bad. "I always enjoy going to little vineyards and just checking them out," says John. "It doesn't matter if they're not in famous growing areas." Set on the wide-open plains, Llano Estacado is one of the area's most prominent wineries, with daily tours and free tastings. Continuing on, John and Lisa will head to one of those "hidden gems" that they'd never heard of: Palo Duro Canyon, just outside of Amarillo, is the second-largest canyon in the United States. The couple thought they'd wind up camping at some point on the road trip, and this is as good a place as any; a basic site is $12, and there are miles of hiking trails. After leaving the natural wonder, they should keep an eye out on the left side of I-40 for an unnatural wonder: Cadillac Ranch, built by local eccentric Stanley Marsh and made famous by Bruce Springsteen. "I love to cook, so a cooking class would be fun," says Lisa. "John, too--he likes to cook, but I usually hog the kitchen." Hopefully they'll be able to share space and work together at the Santa Fe School of Cooking, where the Chile Amor class introduces students to all things red and green, plus tortilla making. John should be able to fulfill Lisa's wish for "cute but not too expensive clothes" by getting her something in Santa Fe at Double Take, a hip consignment store. John and Lisa are intrigued by the groovy vibe surrounding Sedona, Ariz., though they're not sure they'll have time to visit. Just in case, we refer them to the comprehensive feature story on the town in last June's Budget Travel, available in our archives at BudgetTravelOnline.com. After a stop at Lisa's father's home near Kingman, Ariz.,the couple will be just five hours from Santa Monica. To finish the journey, we recommend a nice, long walk on the beach to stretch their legs. Surprise! After a long couple of weeks on the road, John and Lisa will certainly be ready to unwind. Thanks to a gift from Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs spa in New Mexico, they're being treated to one night's lodging and access to several hot springs, including a private, clothing-optional pool. Go on--nobody else can see. Lodging French Quarter Suites 2144 Madison Ave., Memphis, 800/843-0353, memphisfrenchquarter.com, from $89 Austin Motel 1220 S. Congress Ave., 512/441-1157, austinmotel.com, from $57 Food Brown Hotel 335 W. Broadway, Louisville, 502/583-1234 Cozy Corner 745 N. Parkway, Memphis, 901/527-9158 Maple Leaf Bar 8316 Oak St., New Orleans, 504/866-9359 Café du Monde 800 Decatur St., New Orleans, 504/525-4544 El Sol y La Luna 1224 S. Congress Ave., Austin, 512/444-7770 Cooper's Barbecue 505 W. Dallas St., Llano, 325/247-5713 Mac's BBQ 1903 S. Bridge St., Brady, 325/597-2164 Llano Estacado Winery 3426 E. Farm-to-Market Road 1585, Lubbock, 806/745-2258 Activities Muhammad Ali Center 144 N. Sixth St., Louisville, 502/584-9254, $9 Jim Beam Outpost 149 Happy Hollow Rd., Clermont, 502/543-9877 Mantle Rock Preserve 859/259-9655, nature.org Graceland 800/238-2000, elvis.com/graceland, mansion tour $22 National Ornamental Metal Museum 374 Metal Museum Dr., Memphis, 901/774-6380, $4 Gibson Beale Street Showcase 145 Lt. George W. Lee Ave., Memphis, 901/543-0800, tour $10 Katrina Krewe New Orleans, 504/329-7908, cleanno.org Best Friends Animal Society 435/644-2001, bestfriends.org Continental Club 1315 S. Congress Ave., Austin, 512/441-0202, continentalclub.com Emo's 603 Red River, Austin, 512/477-3667, emosaustin.com Yoga Yoga Austin, 512/490-1200, yogayoga.com, $16 Palo Duro Canyon State Park 806/488-2227, palodurocanyon.com Santa Fe School of Cooking 116 W. San Francisco St., 505/983-4511, santafeschoolofcooking.com, $35 Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs 50 Los Baños Dr., Ojo Caliente, 800/222-9162, ojocalientespa.com, from $16 Shopping Newsom's Old Mill Store 208 E. Main St., Princeton, 270/365-2482 Waterloo Records 600A N. Lamar, Austin, 512/474-2500 BookPeople 603 N. Lamar, Austin, 512/472-5050 Whole Foods Market 525 N. Lamar, Austin, 512/476-1206 Double Take 320 Aztec St., Santa Fe, 505/989-8886 How Was Your Trip? "Europe was brilliant!" says Beth Hicken, pictured in Tuscany with Sara Murdock; we coached the two Idaho firefighters in November. "We followed your advice and remained flexible, and everything turned out practically perfect."
Is air traffic out-of-control?
In what has played out like a bizarre chain reaction over the last month, the Federal Aviation Administration has been plagued with a series of unfortunate—and very public—embarrassments relating to their air traffic control. The latest snafu was about as high-profile as it gets—on April 18, First and Second Ladies Michelle Obama and Jill Biden were flying from New York City, where they were taping an episode of ABC's The View, to Washington, D.C. on a Boeing 737. Around 5pm, the jet came within three miles of a military C17 flying in the airspace directly ahead. Controllers at Andrews grounded the jet, citing a violation of the minimum five-mile buffer zone required between C17s and other aircrafts to avoid excessive turbulence. if (WIDGETBOX) WIDGETBOX.renderWidget('0eb770d8-04dc-45e9-8674-53bb880cfa1d');Get the Poll Creator Pro widget and many other great free widgets at Widgetbox! Not seeing a widget? (More info) An investigation into the incident is still in progress, and FAA regulations have been changed so that an air traffic supervisor, rather than a controller, is responsible for monitoring flights carrying the First Lady. However, According to a statement from the FAA, "the aircraft were never in any danger," and there's been some grumbling among online forums about the media's sensationalism of the Obama-Biden debacle. Not so with the other fiasco that's currently getting damage control treatment from the FAA. No less than seven separate incidents involving air traffic controllers either falling asleep or otherwise idling on the job have made their way into national headlines this month. In case you missed any of them (I'm sure I wasn't the only one who had trouble keeping track), here's a brief rundown of reported events: • On March 22, an air traffic controller at Reagan International Airport, in Washington, D.C. was suspended after he fell asleep at the controls and two planes with a combined total of 165 people on board were forced to land without his assistance. • On March 29, two controllers on the graveyard shift at Preston Smith International Airport in Lubbock, TX were suspended after they failed to respond to several calls from aircraft and another control tower. • On April 6, national media picked up news of an air traffic controller slumbering while on duty at Knoxville's McGhee-Tyson airport. According to some reports, he pulled out all the stops, fashioning himself a makeshift bed of couch cushions from the break room. • On April 11, Seattle was the scene of the crime—another air traffic controller was suspended after supervisors caught him sleeping on the job. • Two days later, on April 13, a controller at Reno-Tahoe International fell asleep while a medical plane carrying three patients was attempting to land. Later that day, the FAA announced that 27 towers around the country staffed by a single controller at that point would be supplemented with an additional controller. • On April 17, an air traffic controller working at Cleveland's Air Route Traffic control center was caught watching a movie on a portable DVD player when the audio was accidentally transmitted over the frequency for the airspace he was monitoring. In case you're curious, the film was reportedly 2007's widely-panned The Cleaner. • April 17 was a double whammy: a controller at Miami International Airport was also suspended after a co-worker reported him asleep on the job. The incidents have led to something of a shake-up in the 52-year old government agency. In a statement published by the FAA, US Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said controllers are expected to "come to work rested and ready to work and take personal responsibility for safety in the control towers." The FAA has "zero tolerance for sleeping on the job," he continued, "and we will continue to make whatever changes are necessary." New FAA rules have been instated: air traffic controllers are now required to take nine hours off in between shifts (rather than the previous eight). Controllers are also forbidden to swap shifts unless they would have a nine-hour gap between their last shift and the one they'd be taking on. A debate is heating up among experts and the public alike about whether controllers should be allowed to take naps on their breaks—the FAA does not permit it, but break time napping is allowed for controllers in countries such as Japan and Germany. What's your take on all of this? Should the FAA make further amendments to better provide for air traffic controllers' needs, or is the onus on the controllers to display more professionalism? —Rachel Mosely MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL 26 places we'd rather be on a Wednesday What's with all the food photos? Should we tip flight attendants?
More Places to go
Big Spring is a city in and the county seat of Howard County, Texas, United States, at the crossroads of U.S. Highway 87 and Interstate 20. With a population of 27,282 as of the 2010 census, it is the largest city between Midland to the west, Abilene to the east, Lubbock to the north, and San Angelo to the south. Big Spring was established as the county seat of Howard County in 1882; it is the largest community in the county. The city took its name from the single, large spring that issued into a small gorge between the base of Scenic Mountain and a neighboring hill in the southwestern part of the city limits. Although the name is sometimes still mistakenly pluralized, it is officially singular. "To the native or established residents who may wince at the plural in Big Spring, it should be explained that until about 1916, when for some unexplained reason the name dropped the final 's', the official name of the town was indeed Big Springs."
Midland is a city in and the county seat of Midland County, Texas, United States, on western Texas's Southern Plains. A small part of Midland is in Martin County. At the 2010 census, Midland's population was 111,147, and a 2019 estimate put it at 176,832, making it Texas's 24th-most populous city. It is the principal city of the Midland, Texas metropolitan statistical area, which includes all of Midland County, the population of which grew 4.6% between July 1, 2011, and July 1, 2012, to 151,662, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The metropolitan area is part of the larger Midland–Odessa combined statistical area, which had an estimated population of 295,987 on July 1, 2012. People in Midland are called Midlanders. Midland was founded as the midway point between Fort Worth and El Paso on the Texas and Pacific Railroad in 1881. It is the hometown of former First Lady Laura Bush, and the onetime home of former Presidents George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush, and former First Lady Barbara Bush.
Sweetwater is a municipality in and the seat of Nolan County, Texas, United States. It is 236 miles southeast of Amarillo and 181 miles west of Fort Worth. Its population was 10,906 at the 2010 census.
Amarillo ( AM-ə-RIL-oh; Spanish for "yellow") is a city in the U.S. state of Texas and the seat of Potter County. It is the 14th-most populous city in Texas and the largest city in the Texas Panhandle. A portion of the city extends into Randall County. The estimated population of Amarillo was 199,371 as of 2019. The Amarillo metropolitan area had an estimated population of 269,447 as of 2019, and the Amarillo-Pampa-Borger combined statistical area a population of 308,064.The city of Amarillo, originally named Oneida, is situated in the Llano Estacado region. The availability of the railroad and freight service provided by the Fort Worth and Denver City Railroad contributed to the city's growth as a cattle-marketing center in the late 19th century.Amarillo was once the self-proclaimed "Helium Capital of the World" for having one of the country's most productive helium fields. The city is also known as "The Yellow Rose of Texas" (as the city takes its name from the Spanish word for yellow), and most recently "Rotor City, USA" for its V-22 Osprey hybrid aircraft assembly plant. Amarillo operates one of the largest meat-packing areas in the United States. Pantex, the only nuclear weapons assembly and disassembly facility in the country, is also a major employer. The location of this facility also gave rise to the nickname "Bomb City". The attractions Cadillac Ranch and Big Texan Steak Ranch are located adjacent to Interstate 40. U.S. Highway 66 also passed through the city.