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December 2000


Today’s Tour Guide: Bunz

See the USA
Off The Beaten Path in America

Are we tired of the same vacation trips year after year? Beaches, mountains, amusement parks????? I know I am! Here are some alternate suggestions slightly away from the normal routine, but far more satisfying.


If the strip-mall chintz of small-town Arizona leaves you dry, drop in on Flagstaff, a cultural oasis in this otherwise arid landscape. The historic downtown area, harking back to the town's early days as a railroad whistle Flagstaff Arboretum
stop, comes as a welcome relief from the region's dusty motels and truckstop diners. In this neighborhood, antique inns sidle up against vegetarian cafes and you're more likely to hear strains of a local jazz combo than any rumble of RV traffic. And as the novelty of nontouristy downtown wears thin, there's always a visit to the Lowell Observatory, where in 1930 the planet Pluto was discovered, or a stroll through the 200 blissfully green acres of the local arboretum.

Flagstaff makes a great base for daytrips since the Southwest's greatest attraction, the Grand Canyon, is less than a two-hour drive away. Within an hour of town you can explore ancient Anasazi and Sinagua Indian pueblos; marvel at the site of a mile-wide meteor crater; hike, bike and ski some of the state's most pristine mountains and forests; and even have your chakras realigned in the New Age mecca of Sedona.

Wrigley Field

Built in 1914, Chicago's Wrigley Field is the third-oldest baseball park in the country and a quirky slice of America's sporting pie. Known as 'The Friendly Confines,' the tiny ivy-walled pillbox is one of the most agreeable spots to while away a day consuming hot dogs and beer, and undoubtedly the best place to learn the meaning of die hard. The home team, the Chicago Cubs, haven't won a World Series since 1908, but you'll never meet anyone in the world as loyal as a Cubs fan. The neighborhood around Wrigley stands as a testament to this, with private houses donning additional rooftop bleachers, and every bar within a three mile radius serving as a secondary house of worship. Wrigley Field is probably the only baseball diamond left in America where the score-by-innings and pitchers' numbers are changed by hand, and where putting in modish things such as floodlights caused a backlash. One of Wrigley's traditions is to fly a flag bearing a 'W' or 'L' atop the scoreboard after a game. The white flag with a blue W indicates a victory; a blue flag with a white L (all too common) means a loss.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Janis Joplin may have wanted a Mercedes Benz, but instead she got a Porsche - a kaleidoscopic, candy-colored acid trip on wheels. You can see Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame
it at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in Cleveland, Ohio, along with Elvis Presley's black leather 'Comeback Special' suit and Ray Charles' sunglasses. Why Cleveland? Because it's the hometown of Alan Freed, the disk jockey who popularized the term 'rock and roll' in the early 1950s - that and some heavy lobbying by the mayor. If you're a fan of IM Pei's architectural style, you'll love the record-player shaped building.
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Preservation Jazz Hall

The Society for the Preservation of New Orleans Jazz was established in 1961 to provide hard core jazz musicians with a home and jazz devotees with an appropriate place of worship. In a tiny former tavern off Bourbon Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans, the hall brings together veteran jazz musicians twice a night to pay homage to the art of Crescent City-style improvisation. The most accurate words to describe the experience include 'sweaty,' 'overcrowded' and 'unforgettable.' The amount of space is so limited that patrons are forced to flow out onto the sidewalk, where they fight to hear and see through a fogged window that faces the musicians' backs. Every set's combo of trumpet, clarinet, trombone, drum and piano player is different, while a touring group has been going out on the road for over 30 years, spreading the virtue of Preservation Hall jazz.