Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Nevada

Nevada owes its birth to the Civil War, but its diapers arrived by railroad. The cross-continent span completed in 1869 was quickly augmented by a plethora of short lines that catered to the needs of the infant state. Nevada’s railroad heritage is alive today in three remnants of those lines – tourist trains that carry their passengers back to a time when the engines of commerce were powered by steam and diesel.
In Ely, the Nevada Northern Railway thunders astride its original tracks. Riders are propelled along two routes, each of which loops around the city and then out into the countryside, where the remnants of White Pine County’s copper-mining heritage occasionally poke from the sagebrush.
In Virginia City, the storied Virginia and Truckee-more familiarly known as the V&T – offers its riders a half-hour trip between Virginia City and Gold Hill. If area railroads buffs have their way, this very short line will grow considerably longer, spanning 17 miles to connect with a depot in Carson City, as it once did.
At the Nevada State Railroad Museum in Carson City, visitors can enjoy a heady dose of Silver State railroad history as they tour one of its collection of lovingly tended locomotives – including the 1875-vintage Inyo, one of the oldest operating steam engines in North America – and beautifully restored freight cars and passenger coaches. Most of the rolling stock is from the V&T, and some of it has graced both big and small screens, called into service by Hollywood filmmakers looking for the right touch of Iron Horse authenticity.
The museum has a regular schedule of steam-ups that offer an opportunity to take a jaunt around the grounds on the rolling stock. The museum also is in the process of crafting its own passenger line in Boulder City, which would follow a 12 mile round trip through Railroad Pass to the Henderson area, where riders could observe impressive views of the Las Vegas Valley from their coaches.
There is nothing like a ride aboard an authentic steam – or diesel –powered train. A vintage train charmingly clickety-clacks along the rails, the to-and-fro sway adding the occasional touch of surfing to a stroll down the aisle of the passenger cars. Under power, it rocks and rolls like an odd hybrid of winding snake and bucking bronco, its passengers left to adapt to its antique rhythms as best they can.
On excursions such as the Nevada Northern’s Wine Train, the ride approximates the experience of a more genteel age. Wine Train passengers relax and converse over gleaming white tablecloths, sipping chardonnay or merlot as the sunset sky paints itself across the horizon. Memorable, too, is watching the Fourth of July fireworks from the Ely train.
Built in 1905, the Nevada Northern served the area’s copper empire. It also carried children from McGill and Ruth to school in Ely, transported shoppers from outlying areas, and functioned as a commuter route for the miners. An impressive stone depot and extensive railyard – both of which survive – were constructed, and the railway was a going concern until the 1980s, when Kennecott Copper left Ely and presented the intact railroad to the city.
Passion and plans are equally ambitious for the Virginia and Truckee. Built to connect the mines of Virginia City with Carson City and Reno, the V&T ran from 1870 to 1950 as one of the grandest exemplars of time and place in Nevada history. Engines like the Empire, Inyo, Reno, and Genoa rumbled and whistled through the Comstock, brightly festooned with gold leaf and shiny brass.
The railroad’s present 2.8 mile route between Virginia City attracts as many as 70.000 riders annually. The railroad has been in operation since 1976, when rail fan Robert Gray acquired a section of the V&T’s long-dormant line connecting the two towns and began running tourist trains.

Friday, April 9, 2010

North Carolina

An early explorer once observed that “plenty and a warm sun” seemed to occasionally divert the people of North Carolina from their work. Today, they put their work ethic up against anybody else’s in the world. But they do have to admit that, even for people who’ve lived there all their lives, the stunning natural beauty of North Carolina can be pretty distracting. After all, miles of nationally protected seashore stretch unendingly along their coast, fertile farmland dotted by lakes and rivers decorates their undulating Heartland, and trees as old as America herself stand as silent sentinels in their High Country.
Time stands still along that picturesque Coast. Some of people still ply their fisherman’s trade here as they have for hundreds of years. Historic lighthouses still illuminate the way for weary travelers. Wild ponies still frolic along pristine shores once roamed by pirates like Edward Teach, more commonly known as Blackbeard.
You can hear the history in that place names – Avon, Buxton, Corolla, Moyock, Salvo and Topsail. And, in the speech of the natives, you’ll hear a unique dialect that some say holds remnants of Elizabethan English with a smattering of Scots-Irish and African influence. It is a language set to the cadence of seaside life.
From Bath to Ocracoke and Beaufort to Wilmington, you are so close to history that you can taste it. The explorer Giovanni de Verrazano, who discovered grapes in the Cape Fear River Valley in 1524, through that they would yield an excellent wine. Today, visit one of many wineries and relish historic flavors.
Coastal waters teem with life. In turn, coastal restaurants teem with good food – Cape Hatteras clam chowder, Atlantic blue crab, littleneck clams and hush puppies. Many festivals – like the North Carolina Seafood Festival in Morehead City – give you a true taste of the Coast.
If history gets old, there are plenty of activities for the here and now. Beaches regularly show up on lists of the best in the world. Peer between your toes at the sun-gold sand if you seek quiet contemplation. Or, for a little more excitement, you can sea kayak, windsurf and even hang glide. From a place where time stands still, let’s move to a region where we keep time musically: the Heartland. Home of the Piedmont blues, it’s also home to jazzmen John Coltrane and Thelonius Monk, country music’s Randy Travis, and pop troubadour James Taylor.
There’s a musical quality in the language here influenced by Moravian, African-American and Scots-Irish culture, as well as by the gently rolling hills. You can hear it in the works of writers and journalists like O. Henry, Charles Kuralt and Edward R. Murrow, who hail from this region.
Historic sites such as Bethabara and Old Salem reflect the Moravian culture. Pembroke and the Town Creek Indian Mound site speak volumes about the centuries of Native American civilization in the Heartland.
Towns like Aberdeen and Fayetteville are linked to Scots-Irish past, as is Pinehurst, the American home of the Scottish game of golf. The percussive sound of dimpled white orbs being smacked with woods and irons permeates the air across the Heartland.
The staccato rhythm of axes once rang through these forests, as trees were felled for still-flourishing furniture industry. These stands of Heartland timber now host nature’s chorus of birds. The throaty rumble of stock car racing, born of mountain moonshining, today fills major Heartland speedways in such places as Concord and Rockingham, not to mention the many smaller tracks around the region.
But it’s the music of commerce that sings loudest here. Charlotte, the state’s largest city and one of the nation’s top financial centers, thrums with the sounds of banking and finance. You’ll find here – and in cities like Greensboro, Durham and Raleigh – that commerce fuels cultural and entertainment offerings. While museums, the opera, the arts, symphonies and dance companies thrive in the Heartland, Mountains are for pioneers. The Cherokee nation had been in these hills for years before Hernando de Soto explored the area in 1540. Moravian Bishop August Spangenburg investigated the region in the 1750s, and Daniel Boone lived here from 1760 to 1769.
Today, the highest peaks east of the Mississippi still issue pioneers a challenge: Climb us; explore hidden, misty coves; look for whitewater adventure; find yourself. A great place to start your journey of discovery is on the Blue Ridge Parkway. This black ribbon of road runs 252 miles balanced precariously atop Blue Ridge and Great Smoky mountains. Natural scenic wonders abound – the spring wildflowers, the fall migration of monarch butterflies and the awesome views from Mount Mitchell. And, not too far off the parkway is America’s oldest river, incongruously called the New River.
You can get a real taste of pioneer life at places like the Brinegar Cabin. Or just listen to mountain music to learn of the joys and the heartbreak experienced by early settlers. The music lives on today in the flat picking of the legendary Doc Watson and can be heard at events like MerleFest.
The land of Cherokee is at the southern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Step back in time at Oconaluftee Indian Village, where Cherokee artisans demonstrate their centuries old crafts. Take advantage of their special knowledge of these hills on hunting or fishing expeditions with a Cherokee guide.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Golf in West Virginia

To create a mountain course, an architect must summon all of his imagination and physical resources and still, in the end, accept the fact that he is a minor collaborator with Nature. Every mountain course carries the unique signature of the mountain as well as the man.
For more than 120 years, notable architects have been testing their mettle in West Virginia’s hills. Their works vary widely in character and setting – from the garden-like perfection of a world-class resort to a former coal mine site; from the natural simplicity of resort state parks to the urban fringes of cities and towns; from rocky ridges to sheltered river valleys.
Whenever and wherever you play in the Mountain State, the course is likely to be cooler and less humid than most in the Mid-Atlantic Region. And the mountains are always eager to put on a show, dressing their rock outcroppings in greens and multi-colored flowers in summer, then upsetting the paint pots come fall.
One of the most dramatic mountain courses in the East lies in the Potomac Highlands.
Christened Hawthorne Valley when designer Gary Player cut the ribbon in 1993, The Raven course at Snowshoe Mountain is now the flagship of Intrawest Corporation’s resort golf courses. Player made exuberant use of the terrain, stacking huge stones to create spectacular Cliffside greens and tees perched high above tipsy fairways. Ravines, woods and rock walls lace the route, and an errant ball is often a lost ball.
Also in the Potomac Highlands, in a high-mountain bowl near Davis, is Canaan Valley Resort State Park. The resort’s Geoffrey Cornish – designed course is wide, flat and spare of contrived hazards, but it has many subtleties and seven holes where water threatens.
To the south of Snowshoe in the New River / Greenbrier Valley are three beautiful valley courses at The Greenbrier, which the readers of Conde Nast Traveler recently voted the top golf resort in the world. Designed by Charles Blair MacDonald, the 90-year-old Old White Course is like the resort itself – friendly, open, and a classic – with wide fairways and sweeping vistas. The Greenbrier course, redesigned by Jack Nicklaus for the 1979 international Ryder Cup, also hosted the 1994 Solheim Cup. Timeless and tough, the route is deviously bunkered with quick, shallow greens. In 1999, the rerouted and upgraded Lakeside Course became the Meadow Course. This also made room for the Sam Snead Academy, a superbly staffed facility combining the John Jacobs’ teaching approach with the homespun wisdom of the late, great Snead, the resort’s golf pro emeritus, until his death in 2002.
Few resorts can claim a more dramatic setting than Pipestem Resort State Park, also in the New River / Greenbrier Valley Region near Hinton. The resort sits on the edge of a plateau above the rugged Bluestone River Gorge. Pipestem’s Geoffrey Cornish layout takes advantage of the resort’s panoramas and lush forest.
Southwest of Pipestem is Twin Falls Resort State Park, and its short (5.987 yards) but captivating course. A Cornish creation redesigned in 1982 by Cobb, the layout follows a mountain stream, incorporating water on 15 holes.
A coal company reclamation project in southern Mingo County near Wharncliffe has transformed an old mining site into the Twisted Gun Golf Course. Situated on a lofty plateau and clothed in bent grass, the course has a Scottish feel to it and is a worthy addition to golf in the area.
The Mountain Lakes region got its first major golf course in 2002, an Arnold Palmer creation at Stonewall Jackson Lake State Park, near the childhood home of the Civil War Legend. Tight, hilly and well-treed, the 7.149-yard Stonewall Jackson course meanders around and over sections of the 2.650-acre lake.
Stonewall Jackson is Palmer’s second project in the state. In the Northern Panhandle, his three-year-old course at Oglebay Resort State Park has been the perfect complement to the venerable Robert Trent Jones Sr. layout and the 5.670-yard Crispin Course. Oglebay is a golfer’s panacea, also offering a par three course and a lighted driving range.
Mountaineer Country is home to two ridge-running layouts at Morgantown’s Lakeview Resort and Conference Center. The narrow fairways of the Lakeview Course skirt the cliffs above Cheat Lake, providing several great overlooks and a dramatic 474-foot vertical drop from the tee on the seventh hole. The Brian Ault – designed Mountain view is a pleasant roller coaster following a narrow, wooded route.
The Eastern Panhandle, with its easy access from the Baltimore / Washington area, has several diverse and notable links. Chief among them is the Robert Trent Jones Sr. layout at Cacapon Resort State Park, a 6.000-acre sliver of land between two mountain ranges just south of Berkeley Springs. The 28-year-old, heavily bunkered classic winds through the foothills of the Cacapon Mountain ridge. To the east is The Wood Resort, a mountain hideaway with two worthy courses. Mountain View occupies a plateau with constant vistas of Third Hill Mountain, while Stoney Lick rises and falls with the vagaries of a ravine-cut landscape. Cross Creek is Shepherdstown, Locust Hill in Charles Town and Stonebridge in Martinsburg are local links with strong appeal.
On a final note, history of organized golf clubs in the United States had its roots in West Virginia at the 1884 Oakhurst Links near The Greenbrier. On this restored nine-hole gem, golfers can still tee up a gutta percha ball on a dollop of sand, and strike it with ancient wooden clubs across a sheep-mown fairway. But if you prefer the modern game, there are nearly 50 venues where you can tee it up in the Mountain State.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Egypt – Luxor

Luxor is 670 km from Cairo, it is the world’s greatest outdoor museum, riched in awe-inspiring monuments of ancient civilization. It was the capital of Egypt during the New Kingdom, it was called “Waset” which means “mace” to express the extreme authority of this city, then the name was changed to Thebes and Homer described it as “City of the Hundred Gates”. Its recent name, Al-Oqsor, which means “The City of Palaces” named by Arabs when they dazzled with its palaces and temples which are still survived by the virtue of its granite and sandstone buildings.
The River Nile divided El-Oqsor into two banks. On the East Bank, the City of Living, Luxor and Karnak Temples greet the sunrise. The sunset on the West Bank throws shadows through the City of the Dead: the Tombs of the Nobles, the Valley of the Kings, the Valley of the Queens, Hatshepsut’s Temple, etc.
Today, you can walk through history; to see one third of the world monuments. Ride on a horse-drawn carriage, sail in a felucca, take a sunset cruise or see the city from a hot-air balloon.
Luxor Temple is located in the downtown beside the comiche. It was constructed for the worship of god Amon Ra whose marriage anniversary to his wife (Mut) was celebrated once a year. The construction of the temple dates back to Amenhotep III and Ramses II, the entrance of the temple is a huge pylon constructed by Ramses II. It includes two huge statues representing the king seated. Two obelisks precede the temple, one of them still exists and the other is erected at Concorde Square in Paris. This temple is also famous for its huge columns which end with the shape of papyrus plant, its fa├žade is decorated with inscriptions tell the story of Qadesh battle between Ramses II and Hetties.
Karnak Temples is a complex of temples, it is 3 km from Luxor Temple, known to the ancient Egyptians as “Iput-Isut”, the most imposing of places, Karnak Temples are built on a massive scale. The temple complex covers a hundred acres; its history spans throughout thirteen centuries.
The temples start with the Avenue of Rams which representing god Amon: (symbol of fertility and growth). Beneath the rams’ heads, small statues of Ramses II were carved. This complex consistes of three temples, the biggest part of it dedicated to god “Amon”, the smallest part was for god “khunsu”, Thebes god, but the southern part was for goddess “Mut”.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Egypt – Red Sea coast

Egypt’s Red Sea coast runs from the Gulf of Suez to the Sudanese border for 1080 km. It is one of the God magnificent endowment and its name dates back to the red mountain chains which extended on its sides. Monks seeking seclusion founded early Christian monasteries here, sharing the wilderness with Bedouin tribes. Today, the crags and valleys of the Eastern Desert remain relatively unexplored, home to herds of ibex and gazelle. But the Red Sea itself, dotted with coral reefs, fringed by ancient ports, abounding in underwater life, has a rich maritime history which stretches back through centuries.
The thermal winds that once speed clippers to the east still bring thousands of migrating birds to the shores of the Red Sea, making it a paradise for bird-watchers. Today, the ancient ports are well-known for some of the best diving and fishing resorts in the world. Sunbathers relax on white sand beaches, or find shade in the mangrove lagoons that line the coast, while snorkelers explore the underwater wonders of the Red Sea remains: a living tapestry of vibrant corals and exotic fish, waiting for you to discover its secrets.
Hurghada is 395 km south of Suez, about 500 km from Cairo and is noted for its magnificent summer and winter climate. The clarity of its water made it a centre of tourist attraction especially for divers and practicing water sports because of the worldwide fame of its coral reefs and the rare marine life it enjoys. Visitors can watch the exquisite underwater marine life through well-equipped glass bottom submarines with the most modern international technology. Hurghada has a large number of hotels and tourist resorts of different categories, as well as equipped diving centers offering facilities for aquatic sports, in addition to restaurants and bazaars. There is also the Aquarium which houses the most wonderful marine species especially the mermaid.
Safaga is 65 km south of Hurghada. It is a marine port connected by a regular cruise shuttle service line with Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Safaga city is considered one of the most important therapeutic tourist centers as special medical researchers have proved the potential of attracting international tourism to Safaga. The resort is reputable for its unpolluted atmosphere, black sand-dunes and mineral springs which have acquired specific characteristics for the remedy of rheumatoid and psoriasis.
Marsa Alam is situated 270 km south of Hurghada. It is suitable place for fishing and diving. Due to its proximity to Luxor, it is considered a big tourist centre which gives the tourist a chance to visit the important archaeological sites and enjoy with the fascinating Red Sea and its beautiful beaches.
The international airport of Marsa Alam had been inaugurated with the BOT system which receives charter flights and also the International Anchorage of Ras Ghareb which located about 5 km to the north of Marsa Alam, and is well equipped to receive local and international yachts up to 1000 yachts of different size ranging to 60 m long and 4 m deep.