Early to rise catches the Perseids

 

Meteor Shower photo courtesy of NASA
Meteor Shower photo courtesy of NASA

Check the weather predictions in your area for Aug. 11-13. That is when the Perseids are supposed to be peaking with bright meteors shooting across the sky at 50 to 100 an hour.

Best time, say the experts, is in the northern hemisphere right before dawn, so also check  the sunrise times for your area.

Because these meteors are bright, plentiful and have long tails, the largish waning crescent moon might not be much of a hindrance the night of Aug. 11. By Aug 13 the moon will be thinner though there may be fewer meteors.to spot.

So where do they come from?

The Perseids are debris from the 109P/Swift-Tuttle comet. They are called Perseids because they look like they emanate (their radiant) from the Perseus constellation as the Earth moves through their trail each summer.

The comet’s name comes from Lewis Swift and Horace Tuttle who discovered it in 1862.

For more Perseid meteor shower information visit Time and Date, NASA and EarthSky.

 

Related: Falling Star Alerts

 

Travel to Mars with NASA

 

A compilation of images from Viking Orbiter NASA/JPL-Caltech)
A compilation of images from Viking Orbiter NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Visiting Mars may not be far off.

Although there are already rovers and items that have landed, orbited and explored Mars, a new rover is about to take off for the red planet.

Earthlings can watch NASA’s Perseverance Rover launch July 30, 2020.

Register to join the countdown so the launch isn’t missed.

The rover will arrive on Mars Feb. 18, 2021.

Its mission is to seek ancient life and prepare for human exploration.

For more launch information visit NASA Virtual Guest.

For more NASA and Mars robotic and planet info visit NASA Mars.

 

Cabin fever relief

Deer Path Inn, a historic Tudor style resort hotel in north suburban Lake Forest. (J Jacobs photo)
Deer Path Inn, a historic Tudor style resort hotel in north suburban Lake Forest. (J Jacobs photo)

The couch now has a permanent indentation and you’re tired of virtual experiences. You have to go somewhere! But where? You don’t want to worry about where to stay for a destination that lies two days away.

Consider a nearby resort.

Located within walking distance of Lake Forest, Il’s North Line and just a 30-mile drive north of Chicago, is the historic Deer Path Inn.

Travel & Leisure readers just made it the No.1 resort hotel in the Midwest and No. 2 in the United States edging out the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, MI. For other winning resort hotels visit the July 2020 issue of T&L.

Built in 1929 near its former 1880’s site, Deer Path Inn is a half-timbered, stucco, Tudor-styled taste of Olde England copied from a 1453 Chiddinstone manor house in Kent.

And yes, it has a cozy downstairs pub for a casual dinner. But there is also a wonderful outdoor garden that is great for breakfast or lunch. Its bar is popular with the locals. Seating observes pandemic protocols.

After checking in (masks required) and making meal arrangements, meander north a couple of blocks to the town’s historic Market Square. Designed 1915-1916 by architect Howard Van Doren Shaw, it is considered the country’s first planned shopping center.

The Inn’s restaurants are excellent but if staying a few days you might want to try Francesca Intimo (make a reservation) for a change of cuisine. It is just east across the tiny Bank Lane from the Inn. Their calamari is perfect and they have outdoor seating.

For an after dinner treat or afternoon break, stop in at Sweets for yummy ice cream. Don’t forget to get some home-made candy to take home. Sweets is on the Deerpath Street side of Market Square.

BTW, Ravinia Festival in Highland Park has often housed/recommended Deer Path Inn for its performers.

If you go  Deer Path Inn is at 255 E. Illinois Rd., Lake Forest 847-234-2280

 

Falling star alerts

Meteor Shower photo courtesy of NASA
Meteor Shower photo courtesy of NASA

Sky watchers have two meteor showers to spot the rest of July and much of August: the Delta Aquariids and the Perseids.

Although the Aquariids, a sparse shower of about 20 meteors per hour, are best seen in the Southern Hemisphere they can be spotted as far north as the mid-northern latitudes. Just watch for them after the moon sets around midnight this weekend until just before dawn, July 27-28. However, the moon, which is in its first quarter isn’t much of a factor.

The comet of origin is suspected to be 96P Machholz. Named for where they seem to come from, the radiant is the Aquarius Constellation in the southern sky.

Because the Aquariids continue through late August, you may see them when you watch for the Perseids that peak Aug. 11-13.

You will know which is which because the Perseids, a strong shower of up to 150 meteors per hour during its peak, come from the northern part of the sky where you find the Perseus Constellation. The comet of origin is 109P Swift-Tuttle.

If watching for the Aquariids this weekend, you may also see the Perseids because they are very bright and already started about July 17. However, they don’t peak until about the second week of August when the moon will also be bright.

For more meteor shower information visit NASA, Time and Date and Earth Sky.

 

 

Unusual night sky occurrences

Skychart showing the location of Comet C/2020 F3 just after sunset, July 15 through 23. (NASA/JPL-Caltech photo)
Skychart showing the location of Comet C/2020 F3 just after sunset, July 15 through 23. (NASA/JPL-Caltech photo)

The weekend of July 17 will be a great time to check out the night sky.

The NEOWISE Comet (C/2020 F3) can be seen zooming across northern United States and Canada after sunset. Watch for it now because it won’t be back for thousands of years. Tip: Look for the Big Dipper. Start with binoculars to first see the comet below the Big Dipper but then try unaided.

For more information visit NASA/Skywatchingtips  and EarthSky/neowise .

But also try to spot the planets. The schedule of when they first appear this weekend goes from late night July 17 through early July 18. Being able to see all seven planets over two days is a rare occurrence.

For more information visit Time and Date/night.

Two vacation spots open now

 

Crystal Mountain goes from ski resort to golf but is also a family resort with a good pool and dining options. (J Jacobs photo)
Crystal Mountain goes from ski resort to golf but is also a family resort with a good pool and dining options. (J Jacobs photo)

Crystal Mountain Golf and Ski Resort

Crystal Mountain Resort in Thompsonville, MI, a beautiful complex rated #1 Resort in the Midwest by Ski Magazine, is also a great get-away place in the summer.

Nestled in the forested highlands of Northwest Michigan, it lies south of Traverse City about five hours from Chicago.

Rooms in the Inn are convenient but when you need more than one room when going as a family or two couples you can move the stay up an affordable notch.

At the multi-bedroom MountainTop Town Homes you can take a shuttle down to the village’s main street or stay down the hill, close to the action in cottages and cabins.

Relax by a pool, play golf, dine well at the Inn and check out the Crystal Spa which is Leed certified.

Tips:

The resort is a charming small village complete with a mini grocery store but if you chose a cabin or condo you have a kitchen and dining area so bring snacks you love.

Crystal Mountain, is easy to miss so plug its address into your GPS. Quickest route is north from Grand Rapids up the center of the state.

For a break, go into Frankfort about a 15 minute drive west to Lake Michigan or Traverse City, about half an hour north.

 

Elkhart Lake is a quaint resort village in Wisconsin. (J Jacobs photo)
Elkhart Lake is a quaint resort village in Wisconsin. (J Jacobs photo)

Elkhart Lake

A vacation in Elkhart Lake in Wisconsin combines Victorian atmosphere with country and contemporary comfort.

A little over two hours from Chicago’s northern suburbs, the village is a throwback to an earlier time when it was a summer vacation destination before the turn of the 20th century.

It is a sleepy town of resorts, family-owned restaurants, small stores and a century-old railroad depot museum and Saturday Farmers Market.

However, it is also home to a popular race car track that was known as Road America. Think of it as an advantage to keep good restaurants such as Lake Street Café and the Paddock Club, in business.

An eatery with a duel personality, Lake Street Café specializes in fun atmosphere and pub food in its bar and upscale bistro in its dining room. Its wine cellar has repeatedly been recognized by Spectator Magazine.

Next door is the Paddock Club which features local seasonal ingredients served in a contemporary, casual atmosphere. Look for familiar dishes with a twist of the unusual.

Among the resorts is Osthoff. It fits in with local Victorian architecture and neighboring old-time resorts but Osthoff was built in 1995. A historic-looking charmer, the resort was updated in 2007 with 21st century fixtures from Kohler, its upscale plumbing neighbor to the south.

Aside from the races, this is a town to come to feel the muscles relax, boat on the lake or play a round of golf. Bring the tennis racquets or read while the youngsters splash in a pool or the lake.

Travel updates for Chicago park and Galena ice cream and National Civil Rights Museum

Now is a good time to plan a visit close to home, a day’s drive out or a little further away because lots of travel destinations are beginning to open and gas is still in the budget range.

"Coud Gate" (The Bean) reflects people and skyline in Millennium Park. (J Jacobs photo)
“Cloud Gate” (The Bean) reflects people and skyline in Millennium Park. (J Jacobs photo)

Chicago

Restaurants and bars have opened their outdoor seating areas. Among them is The Loyalist at 177 N. Ada Street near Randolph Row. It has had walk-ins but will likely be taking reservations beginning Wednesday, June 24,2020. If you go: expect more French style choices.

Millennium Park and Lakefront

Yes, you can visit Cloud Gate (The Bean). If you go: take selfies and don’t touch it. Most of Millennium Park is open but masks are encouraged as is social distancing.

The same goes for the lakefront which isopen as of today, June 22, 2020 to movers, not sitters. that means walkers, joggers, cyclists.

 

The historic town of Galena, IL has yummy shops and good festivals. (J Jacobs photo)
The historic town of Galena, IL has yummy shops and good festivals. (J Jacobs photo)

Galena

Tucked into northwestern Illinois near the Wisconsin and Iowa borders is the charming town of Galena. There are lots of good B&B and restaurant choices because rolling hills, historic homes and fun shops make the town a popular summer (and fall) destination.

If you go:  stop at the American Old Fashioned Ice Cream Parlor, the Fried Green Tomatoes  restaurant and Galena Cellars.

Lorraine Hotel site of the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. (J Jacobs photo)
Lorraine Hotel site of the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. (J Jacobs photo)

National Civil Rights Museum

Memphis, TN has a lot to offer as vacation destination. However, if interested in understanding more about the global Black Lives Matter movement  then  visit to the famed museum based at the Lorraine Motel, 450 Mulberry St, where Martin Luther King Jr was shot. The museum plans to reopen July 1, 2020.

If you go: you will need a timed ticket and have to wear a face covering. For tickets and other information visit National Civil Rights Museum.

 

 

Vacation destinations begin to open

 

Lake Geneva Wisconsin is a popular Chicago summer destination on Geneva Lake. (J Jacobs photo)
Lake Geneva Wisconsin is a popular Chicago summer destination on Geneva Lake. (J Jacobs photo)

Travel this summer is not what was expected when plane, resort or B&B reservations were made months ago. Instead, what we’ll find as we stretch and yawn as we come out of our caves into the summer sunlight, is that our destinations are beginning to open but with stay-safe guidelines and phase-in dates.

Here are just a few destinations that are phasing in how they will open and what can be expected.

Mackinaw City and Mackinac Island

If planning to visit the historic Mackinac area, a popular summer destination known for its historic sites and fudge, check on what will be open when you go.

Mackinac State Historic Parks will start welcoming guests to historic sites and facilities June 12 with the Colonial Michilimackinac Visitor’s Center. Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse opens June 13 and the Historic Mill Creek Discovery Park and the David A. Armour Visitor’s Center will open Monday, June 15.

Buildings and facilities on Mackinac Island don’t open until June 19. They include Fort Mackinac; The Richard and Jane Manoogian Mackinac Art Museum; Historic Downtown Mackinac (Benjamin Blacksmith Shop and the American Fur Company Store & Dr. Beaumont Museum); the Mackinac Island State Park Visitor’s Center and restrooms; Mission Church; Bark Chapel; Fort Holmes Blockhouse; British Landing Nature Center and restrooms; Arch Rock restrooms; and the Station 256 Conference Room.

For more information visit Mackinac Island and Mackinaw City.

The Broadmoor

A 5,000-acre historic resort surrounded by the mountain scenery of Colorado Springs. The Broadmoor is open now with lots of open-air experiences from hiking, zip-lining and horseback riding to golf pickleball and tennis. For additional information, access https://www.broadmoor.com/special-packages/.

Grand Geneva Resort & Spa

The Lake Geneva, WI resort opens June 15. It’s closeness to the shops and boating of Lake Geneva, a vacation town that is has already opened to visitors this summer, plus the resort’s golf and spa facilities make it a popular getaway from the Chicago area.

 

Travel to space with next launch

NASA launch watched on TV in 2017. (Photo courtesy of NASA)
NASA launch watched on TV in 2017. (Photo courtesy of NASA)

When getting around the country by car and commercial air is challenging, consider a trip to the International Space Station via NASA links.

NASA is inviting the public to virtually experience #LaunchAmerica when astronauts Rober Behnken and Douglas Hurley fly the SpaceX’s Crew Dragon to the International Space Station. Lift-off is May 27.

You can find out what training and take off is like by clicking on NASA Gov/Specials/Virtual.

And you can get to knows Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley by clicking on YouTube/Watch.

Thoughts on Memorial Day

Chicago Memorial Day Parade on State Street. (City of Chicago photo)
Chicago Memorial Day Parade on State Street. (City of Chicago photo)

With so many events canceled and people staying home to be safe, we may barely note that Memorial Day Weekend is upon us. But some places such as Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon have procedures in place to again allow visitors and other destinations are planning to reopen. So with that in mind think of where you might want to go to recognize the meaning of Memorial Day.

The following article is a reprint of one I did for the Chicago Tribune when I was a regular contributor to Features and Travel. It is “Military Museums: Fit one into a long weekend or summer destination.”

Heads up vacationers, you know that Memorial Day, May 25 (in 2015), and not the Summer Solstice, June 21, marks the start of summer vacations. But Memorial Day really is a time to honor people who lost their life while serving in the United States armed forces.

As a long weekend or the start of a summer journey it’s a perfect time to visit military museums to find out more about wars in which the US was engaged, their eras, battle conditions, leaders and places. And it’s simpler than you may guess because military museums dot the US from California to Florida. They range from huge displays of lifelike dioramas to small gems of plane and vehicle-filled hangers. And they often are near vacation destinations. Here are just some of the places to put on your do now list.

 

Naval Aviation Museum, Pensacola, FL

If you have watched in wonder as the Navy’s Blue Angels have zoomed overhead during the Chicago Air and Water Show, you can see them up close inside a hanger at the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, FL and practicing outside.

But that wouldn’t be the only or even main reason to go there. Walk under and around a combat F-14D Tomkcat or a rare SBD Dauntless Bureau No. 2106 from the Battle of Midway. Glimpse the Western Front in a World War I diorama. Or see the replica of the WW II USS Cabot aircraft carrier’s Island and flight deck and go to its main deck to try the ship’s anti-aircraft gun battery. Memorial Day is also about people so look for vintage uniforms and memorabilia such as flight logs.

But don’t miss the Cubi Bar Café. Way more than a place to relax while touring the museum, the café replicates the mid-twentieth-century Cubi Point Officers’ Club that was in the Philippines. Known for its bar lined with squadron plaques started during the Vietnam War, the plaques here are the real ones sent to the museum when the Officers’ Club closed.

You will want a place to rest tired feet. The museum has 350,000 square feet of exhibits and covers 37 acres. NAS, as the base is known, dates from 1914. It handles Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard flight personnel. As museum historian Hill Goodspeed pointed out during a recent phone interview, it is an aviation museum but the people who serve are important. “You will see more than flying machines. Look beyond the machines and focus on the individuals in the cockpit. We have memorabilia, but really it’s about those who served of various ages, including those in their teens, who were and are willing to fly into a dangerous situation and serve in the military to protect our freedom,” Goodspeed said.

Lyon Air Museum, Santa Ana, CA

In contrast, the Lyon Air Museum, tucked into the Martin Aviation corner of John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana, CA is tiny. At a mere 30,000 square feet, its planes, jeeps and memorabilia, mostly from WWII, are easy to slip in a sightseeing jaunt when visiting Orange County, CA’s Irvine area.

“Visitors who come here don’t feel rushed. They see how small we are so they feel they can take their time to really see what’s here,” said Museum President Mark Foster.

However, finding the museum is a challenge on the airport’s winding back roads unless you are persistent and the GPS is working. But once there you find a gem.

It’s not hard to find the B-17 Flying fortress used in the Pacific, a Douglas A-26 “Invader” or the B-25 “Mitchell,” named for General “Billy” Mitchell. The museum isn’t just a good place to visit for its machines and memorabilia, it’s the docents. Many of them are military retirees

“We get letters from visitors who say they spoke to someone who served in the same squadron or area as a grandfather,” Foster said. He added, “Talking with our docents is like finding old letters from a family member. You hear their stories.”

Retired USAF Major General William Lyon who flew during WWII and Korea founded the museum so current generations would have some idea of WWII era vehicles and battles and stories. lyonairmuseum.org/

National Museum of the Pacific War, Fredricksburg, TX

Tourists coming to Fredericksburg, Texas for its very western look and shops, its nearby wine region and its abundant flower and peach fields will arguably be surprised to find a museum dedicated to the Pacific War and its veterans while walking down Main Street.

But Fredericksburg was where Admiral Chester Nimitz was born in 1885 and the congressional district that appointed him to the U.S. Naval Academy. A career naval officer, Nimitz was Commander in Chief of the United States Pacific Fleet and of the Pacific Ocean Areas for U.S. and Allied sea, land and air forces during WW II.

The background is important because it was the Admiral Nimitz Foundation that set up a museum in the former Nimitz Hotel in Fredericksburg in 1971.

Today, that museum is one of several stunning places to visit on the National Museum of the Pacific War’s six acres. Stop in the Nimitz Museum to learn of the Admiral’s career and see the historic hotel.

Iin the 33,000 square foot George H. W. Bush Gallery, follow the battles and America’s involvement on the Pacific Front beginning with Japan’s mindset that led to the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Walk outside to the Japanese Garden of Peace, a gift from the Japanese military to the U.S. in honor of Nimitz. Also outside, see plaques honoring Pacific War heroes that line the Memorial Courtyard’s limestone walls.

Be sure to visit the Plaza of Presidents made up of stone and bronze monuments to the 10 U.S. presidents who served during WWII. A separate program, the Pacific Combat Zone, re-enacts engagements in a field two blocks east of the museum campus.

National WW2 Museum, New Orleans, LA

When looking for a fascinating way to work off at least some of New Orleans’ famed cuisine, check out the National WW2 Museum, a 220,500 square foot campus in the former Warehouse District known now as the Arts District.

Opened on the 56th anniversary of D-Day, June 6, 2000 and affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution, the building was called the D-Day Museum until the U.S. Congress officially designated it America’s National World War II Museum in 2003.

As with the Lyon Air Museum, the volunteers you encounter are likely to be war veterans. But you will need a good half day to experience this museum. Its galleries and movies cover all the fronts, from Home to Europe to the Pacific Islands in several pavilions and theaters.

The feeling of awe starts in the museum’ s multi-level atrium where you see a Douglas C-47 Skytrain and SBD Dauntless, a Supermarine Spitfire and Messerschmitt BF 109 hanging from the ceiling.

You are in the US Freedom Center: The Boeing Pavilion. While exploring the Boeing Pavilion do the “Final Mission: The USS Tang Submarine Experience.” Similarly to major Titanic exhibits, it assigns participants an actual name of someone on board. Learn at the end if your person was lost or captured by the Japanese.

You can see the planes from an observation deck on the third floor of the Louisiana Memorial Pavilion. The original museum, the Louisiana Pavilion is the place to learn about Normandy and other beach landings.

Be sure to go to the new Campaigns of Courage Pavilion. Its “Road to Berlin: European Theater Galleries” opened early 2015 with fantastic dioramas such as a blown-out German bunker and the forested “Battle of the Bulge” in the “Breaching the German Frontier” section.

Also look for a village and other scenes as the armed forces marched up the Italian boot. They are battle sites that have been recreated with bombed out roofs backed by the sounds of war and newsreels.

The remaining Courage Pavilion build out, “Road to Tokyo: Pacific Theater Galleries,” opens in late 2015.

“It’s amazing,” said Owen Glendenning, associate vice president of education and access. “It’s immersive. It’s realistic and environmental. You can believe you are there,” said Glendenning.

Save time to see “Beyond All Boundaries, a 45 minute 4D film in the Solomon Victory Theater narrated by its executive producer, Tom Hanks. The movie takes you from battles to the Home Front using a variety of animation and sound effects. Personal accounts are read by Brad Pit, Gary Sinise and other celebrities.

For a recreation of USO style entertainment, think Bob Hope or the Andrew Sisters, try to catch a show at the Stage Door Canteen.

Perhaps the most forceful feature of the National WW2 Museum is the personal connection to people, places and time. Glendenning pointed out that the museum has four-full-time historians who are finding and recording personal stories of WWII veterans and their families. “It’s the compelling way we tell the story. It’s through personal narratives from citizen soldiers,” he said. www.nationalww2museum.org

First Division Museum, Cantigny, Wheaton, IL

A visit to Cantigny Park, the estate that Robert R. McCormick’s will decreed as a public space after he died in 1955, is a delightful Chicago area destination. Its gardens and museums are particularly fun to browse from late spring to early fall. What Chicagoans, and indeed, out of town visitors are likely not to know is that Cantigny (pronounced Canteeny (silent g), is home to a terrific museum that honors the Big Red One, the nickname of the US Army’s 1st Infantry Division. BTW, the 1st Division celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2017.

Talk about you-are-there dioramas, at the First Division Museum you don’t walk by them, you enter them and are fully enveloped by sight and sound as you connect from trenches and beaches to jungles and sand while going from World War I to Desert Storm. The museum plans to add a section depicting contemporary conflicts.

“It’s very powerful and compelling,” said Exec Director Paul Herbert, discussing the museum’s depictions.

What he hopes visitors will take away though, is an appreciation for the high price paid by people who serve in the military.

“It’s not just Division One, but all who serve our country. “Our soldiers have paid a high price for our freedom over the years. We’re telling the story of everyone who serves to defend our democracy,” said Herbert.

Jodie Jacobs