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Five Adventures in Daytona Beach

February 28, 2011 by · Comments Off on Five Adventures in Daytona Beach 

Travel: Daytona Beach In 5…

By Debi Lander

Published February 07, 2011


To view the video and article as they appeared on Fox News please use the following link:

Daytona may be known as the “Birthplace of Speed,” but today the city beats with intensity for thrill-seeking fanatics, adventure junkies, bikers, sun worshippers as well as racecar enthusiasts. During the late 1980’s and early 1990’s Daytona Beach earned a reputation as the Spring Break oasis of the south. These days the busty and bawdy scene has toned down, as many college coeds-gone-wild flee to Bermuda or the Caribbean islands.

5…Hit town for the Daytona 500

Every February NASCAR fans flock to the Daytona International Speedway (1801 West International Speedway Drive) for the 57th annual Daytona 500. The day’s event pits 43 of the best stock car drivers in the world against each other in NASCAR’s biggest, richest, and most prestigious race.

Auto and motorcycle racing began on the Atlantic shores of Daytona’s hard-packed sandy beach and turned the corner onto legendary Route A-1A. The Daytona Beach Road Course holds the honor as the site of fifteen world land-speed records. In 1959, the Speedway was constructed allowing cars to move to the safer asphalt surface. The historic venue’s $20 million track repaving was completed just in time for the announcer to call the “gentlemen” to start their engines. And yes, since 1977, ladies too were called, since that was the year Janet Guthrie became the first woman to earn a starting spot.

Encompassing 180 acres and including a 29-acre lake, the speedway attracts about 250,000 spectators — their masses divided between the 165,000-seat grandstand and the infield track. On non-racing days the track offers three separate open-air tram tours through the hallowed grounds enabling a driver’s point of view of the steeply-banked course.


Richard Petty Experience

4…Feel the need for speed the Richard Petty way

Attending a race at the International Speedway is a definite bucket list item for race fans: those must-see places and events to accomplish before you die. But imagine instead, testing your own driving skills on the 2.5 mile course in a real NASCAR that roars with 600 horsepower. The Richard Petty Driving Experience puts you in the driver’s seat for the ultimate pedal to the metal thrill. Sit with a professional driver as he coaches you through a few speed controlled practice spins. Then, with hair raising goose bumps, your heart pounding and deep concentration, let it rip and zip around the 31-degree banked turns.

For those wanting a slightly tamer ride, choose the Ride-Along option and sit shotgun while the expert racer makes a 3-lap run. The high performance activity isn’t cheap (driving starts at $595) but the bragging rites remain priceless. To qualify you must be at least 18 years old, have a valid driver’s license, be proficient with a manual transmission, be able to climb through a 15″ high by 30″ wide window that sits 36″ from the ground and fit into a driving suit.

3…Get down and dirty during Bike Week and Biketoberfest

Every March, the leather and chains look hogs the limelight as the world famous Bike Week rolls into Daytona. This festival of vintage and custom bikes is a cultural blend of ages and income levels. Riders living the tattoo lifestyle buzz with hive-like activity hovering around the Harley-Davidson dealership, the Boot Hill Saloon local watering hole (310 Main Street, 386 258-9506) and, of course, the track. Concurrently, the Speedway hosts two weeks of intense motorcycle racing, supercross and dirt track competitions.

The va-vroom of exhaust pipes heralds another noisy week for Daytona during Biketoberfest ( This extravaganza tends to attract “rubs,” or rich urban bikers, executives, medical and legal professionals. They usually ride in small groups, visit fine restaurants and choose upscale lodging. But make no mistake, the event still garners “Easy Rider”-types and traditional leather-clad bikers.

For anyone wanting to get down and dirty, join in the action by renting a chopper and ride the 22-mile Bike Week Loop. The Chamber of Commerce sponsors this opportunity for novice bikers and show-offs to connect with Florida’s natural beauty.

2…Skydive toward DeLand


For those looking for a supreme adrenaline rush, check into Skydive Deland (1600 Flightline Blvd, DeLand, 386 738-3539, a world-class premier skydive training center located just 20 minutes from downtown. Here you soar with safety minded professionals and ‘chute yourself full of memories.

The gutsy start with ground and safety instruction, being reassured that this is going turn out fine. Then, you ascend to an altitude of approximately two miles for your tandem parachute jump. You, and the instructor strapped on your back, leap from the plane, briefly free-falling at speeds up to 120 miles per hour. The butterflies in the stomach quickly disappear as you revel in the beauty of flight. After about a minute of freefall, your instructor opens the parachute, and together you make a soft landing. To push beyond your weak knees and white knuckles and fears grants one of life’s most empowering experiences and guarantees you’ll have stories to tell the grandchildren. Be sure to hire a videographer to jump with you and record your audacious dive.

1…Yes, there’s a beach here, too

Daytona’s piece de resistance remains its 23 miles of extra wide shoreline. The “World’s Most Famous Beach” consists of sand firm enough to permit driving along designated sections. Find the original North Turn marker off Highway A1A and have lunch at Racing’s North Turn restaurant (4511 South Atlantic Avenue, Ponce Inlet, 386 322-3258 ). While waiting for your order you can peruse old beach-racing photos and memorabilia.

Bicycling enthusiasts will find the beach’s extended straightaway close to nirvana. The lack of shells affords sunbathers comfort and makes Daytona perfectly suited for beach volleyball.

Early morning walkers and runners like to bask in the sunrise as foam rolls onto the shore. But any time of day is good for a walk along the historic pier and boardwalk where you can ride the Ferris wheel and play amusement games, too. Grab a hot dog or some cotton candy and continue to stroll past the Sir Malcolm Campbell Clock tower and the 1937 Band shell which looks like a giant sandcastle. The beach scene hasn’t changed much but remains a must-do in Daytona.

The Famous Daytona Beach

Daytona Beach on Dwellable

Fact or Fiction? Questions about Williamsburg, Virginia

November 30, 2010 by · Comments Off on Fact or Fiction? Questions about Williamsburg, Virginia 

Williamsburg Mythbusters

by Debi Lander, an AOL Travel Contributor

This article appears on the AOL Travel Website, however, the author’s photos have been substituted here.



Colonial Williamsburg is the quintessential living history museum. The site includes 301 acres with 88 original buildings, 500 reconstructed houses, shops, public buildings, working craftsmen and costumed interpreters. The popular tourist area, close to Richmond and Norfolk, is known as the Historic Triangle of Virginia, which also includes Jamestown and Yorktown. Take the following true-false quiz and see if you are one of the Williamsburg mythbusters.

1. The College of William & Mary, founded in 1693, is the second oldest college in the United States.

TRUE. Harvard was the first school of higher learning founded in 1636. Classes at the College of William & Mary began in temporary quarters in 1694, until the Wren Building was constructed. The Wren Building, which is the oldest college building in the country, has been returned to its original design by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. The College of William and Mary was named in honor of the reigning English monarchs of the time, and was a key factor in establishing Williamsburg as capital of Virginia in 1698.

The College of William & Mary
327 Richmond Rd
Williamsburg, VA 23186

2. The popular fictional American Girl character, Felicity Merriman, hails from Colonial Williamsburg, and her story is set in the year 1774.

TRUE. Original American Girl doll founder, Pleasant Roland, wanted to find an appropriate Christmas present for her nieces. She disliked the high fashion Barbie-type dolls; hence, didn’t want to buy a baby doll. While in Williamsburg, she came up with the concept of American Girl dolls and formed The Pleasant Company. Ms. Pleasant followed her own American dream, selling off her company to Mattel in1998 for $700 million. And that’s not a Williamsburg urban legend.

Colonial Capitol Building, Williamsburg, VA

3. Patrick Henry made his “Give me Liberty or Give me Death” speech in the Bruton Parish Church in Williamsburg.

FALSE. Patrick Henry made his impassioned cry against the English in the House of Burgesses on March 23, 1775, in St. John’s Church in Richmond. Henry was calling for military action against the approaching British army. The urban myth claims that the crowd jumped up and shouted “To Arms! To Arms!” after the speech.

Historians have begun to question the authenticity of Henry’s alleged words, because they were unrecorded until 18 years after his death, but we will never know.

4. Virginia has had three capital cities: Jamestown, Williamsburg and Richmond.

TRUE. Jamestown was the first English settlement in the U.S., and also the first capital of Virginia. The capital moved to Williamsburg from 1698 to 1780, making it the political, social, and cultural hub in Virginia. It then moved on to Richmond at the urging of Thomas Jefferson, who feared the Williamsburg location was vulnerable to a British attack. During the Civil War, Richmond became the capital of the Confederacy and remains the capital of Virginia today.

5. Virginia was named for England’s “Virgin Queen,” Elizabeth I.

TRUE. Virginia was named for England’s famous unwed queen, Elizabeth I. Interestingly, Queen Elizabeth II has visited Colonial Williamsburg twice. Her original trip in 1957 celebrated the 350th anniversary of England’s first settlement in the New World at Jamestown. Her most recent visit in May 2007 occurred during the 400th anniversary of the Jamestown Settlement.

6. The establishment and reconstruction of the colonial capital of Williamsburg was the dream of an Episcopalian priest.

Sign marks the Tavern on Duke of Gloucester Street

TRUE. In 1907 Reverend W.A.R. Goodwin, the pastor of Williamsburg’s Bruton Parish Church, worked to save the original structure. Shortly thereafter, he moved away, but returned to the city in 1923. After seeing the deterioration of the other colonial-era buildings, he dreamed of saving them.

Goodwin looked for support and financing from a number of sources and finally inked a plan with philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and his wife, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller. Their combined efforts created Colonial Williamsburg, with detailed plans for the accurate restoration of much of the city.

Bruton Parish Episcopal Church
331 W Duke of Gloucester St
Williamsburg, VA 23185

7. Williamsburg fine dining restaurants, Christiana Campbell’s, Chowning’s, King’s Arms, and Shield’s, taverns prepare their food on the open hearth.

FALSE. Although the food served in these Williamsburg restaurants can be traced back to similar fare served to colonists, Williamsburg mythbusters know that the ingredients and preparation take place in modern kitchens. The servers, however, are dressed in period clothing and the dishes, flatware and goblets are authentic reproductions of 18th century items.

Christina Campbell’s Tavern
101 South Waller St
Williamsburg, Virginia 23185
Hours vary

Chowning’s Tavern
109 East Duke of Gloucester St
Williamsburg, Virginia 23185
Hours vary

King’s Arms Tavern
416 East Duke of Gloucester St
Williamsburg, Virginia 23185
Hours vary

Shields Tavern
422 East Duke of Gloucester St
Williamsburg, Virginia 23185
Hours vary

8. Colonial Williamsburg has been criticized for becoming almost a theme park of reenactments.

TRUE. Foundation president, Colin Campbell has said, “Presenting American history in a place that is both a tourist attraction and an education landmark leads to inevitable strains between entertainment and authenticity.”

Sadly, Williamsburg mythbusters, even the Foundation’s 1996 publication conceded that “Colonial Williamsburg bears the burden of criticism that the restored town appears too neat and clean, too ‘spick-and-span’, and too manicured to be believable.”

The Corner Chat- Williamsburg Reenactors




Williamsburg on Dwellable

The Bear Facts on the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

June 18, 2009 by · Comments Off on The Bear Facts on the Great Smoky Mountains National Park 

Black Bear

A Black Bear in Smoky Mountain National Park

By golly, I admit I’m not a country girl. Can’t name the Country Music Singer of the Year, don’t follow NASCAR and camping makes me itch. You won’t be able to kiss my grits because I don’t eat any, or fried okra or hush puppies. Nonetheless, I had a dang good time in Sevierville, birth place of Dolly Parton, and home of the Smoky Mountains .

I recently flew to Knoxville, Tennessee, and then drove to the foothills of the Smokies. I found Sevierville to be a right nice place, even if the name sounds a bit harsh. This is a town where you can go hog wild visiting all the attractions.

Smoky Mountains

A View within The Great Smoky Mountain National Park

But the mountains are what called to me. I fell in love with the “Land of Blue Smoke,” as the Cherokee called their native homeland. What appears as wispy smoke from a fire rises out of the peaks and valleys. The enormous amount of water in the area and the respiration of the trees causes this mystical natural phenomenon.

The Smokies are also famous for bears and, of course, I was hoping to see one. Alas, I did not, that being my only disappointment.

Waterfalls in the stream

Flowing water in Great Smoky Mountain National Park

I thought I’d give you a little history on the park and add a few interesting facts at the end. Future blogs will explore the attractions, activities and restaurants in the Sevierville and Pigeon Forge area.

A Brief History of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Smokies were formed 200-300 million years ago. That makes them very, very old!

Sometime not that far back, Native Americans, the Cherokee, settled in South. However, between 1838 and 1839, the government rounded them up and forced all the Cherokee from their homes. In total 17,000 were sent to a reservation, what’s now Oklahoma, but sadly, many died along the way. That saga is known as the Trail of Tears.

After the Cherokee left, the logging companies moved in and began cutting the forests. Concerned US citizens wanted to protect the natural beauty but the government was not allowed to buy land for national park use. Private money had to be raised to purchase the acreage.

In the late 1920s, the Tennessee and North Carolina Legislatures appropriated $2 million each for land purchases. Additional funds were raised by individuals, groups, and even school children who pledged their pennies. By 1928, a total of $5 million had been collected. Trouble was the cost of the land had now doubled. The Laura Spellman Rockefeller Memorial Fund came to the rescue. They donated an additional $5 million, stipulating that the park remain free and open to the public.

Rural mountain families or hillbillies, as they were often called, had also built cabins in the Smokies and did not want to leave. Eventually, they too, were forced out. Many remained in the Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge area but struggled to eke out a meager existence.

Between 1933 and 1942 the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), an agency created during the Depression to provide work and wages for the unemployed, built a number of the currently used rails, campgrounds, beautiful stone bridges and buildings.

The park was dedicated by President Franklin Roosevelt in October, 1934. This year makes the 75th anniversary, as good a reason as any to visit.

The Smokies and Sevierville welcome all with Southern hospitality. You’ll find the landscape rises in scenic splendor and the people are down-home friendly. I heartily recommend you mosey on over.

Mimi in the Mountains

Debi in the Smokies of Tennessee

Now in case you don’t know much about the wildlife or offerings in Great National Smoky Mountains (I sure didn’t before I went), I’m leaving you with the bear facts:

  • The Great Smoky Mountains are among the oldest mountains in the world, formed perhaps 200-300 million years ago
  • Entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park is free. The park is one of the only major national parks that does not charge an entrance fee.
  • There are over 800 miles of maintained hiking trails.
  • 1,500 bears live in the park. This equals a population density of approximately two bears per square mile.
  • In the Smokies, the average annual rainfall varies from approximately 55 inches in the valleys to over 85 inches on some peaks-more than anywhere else in the country except the Pacific Northwest. Waterfalls can be found on nearly every stream and river in the park
  • Elevations range from 800 feet to 6,643 feet.
  • Temperatures differ about 20 degrees F from base to summit.
  • Auto touring is the most popular way to see the park There are 384 miles of road to choose from in the Smokies.
  • Seventy eight historic structures, including grist mills, churches, schools, barns, and the homes of early settlers, preserve Southern Appalachian mountain heritage in the park.
  • Fishing, biking and horseback riding are permitted in certain areas only.
  • Biological diversity is the hallmark of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. No other area of equal size matches the park’s amazing variety of plants, animals, and invertebrates. Did you know?
  • Over 10,000 species have been discovered in the National Park; Scientists believe there are over 90,000 more to be discovered
  • 100 species of native trees (more than any other North American national park)
  • 1,400 flowering plant species
  • 4,000+ non-flowering plants
  • 200+ species of birds
  • 66 types of mammals
  • 50 native fish species
  • 39 varieties of reptiles
  • 43 species of amphibians

And here’s the kicker, the Great Smokies have lungless salamanders and fireflies that synchronize their flashing lights. Pretty daggum amazing.

Sevierville on Dwellable

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