Travel tips during Covid

Crystal Mountain goes from ski resort to golf but is also a family friendly Michigan resort (J Jacobs photo)
Crystal Mountain goes from ski resort to golf but is also a family friendly Michigan resort (J Jacobs photo)

Traveling now during the pandemic means packing differently and even doing some homework before you go.

You may already know where you want to go but if not sure of best places to  while Covid-19 cases are still spiking you can check out a couple of websites to help you decide. Their statistics do vary as states change their guidelines.

For states that require masks, have some requirement or none visit msn/. To compare your state’s Covid cases with a couple of other states, check out states comparison covid cases.

 

Chicago is still doing its river cruises but tickets go fast because of limited seating during the pandemic. (Chicago Architecture Foundation photo)
Chicago is still doing its river cruises but tickets go fast because of limited seating during the pandemic. (Chicago Architecture Foundation photo)

Road Trip

We are so used to doing things automatically that sometimes we don’t even realize what we are touching.

Don’t forget that gas pumps and the buttons pressed can be contaminated so either wear gloves and use disinfecting spray on them immediately afterwards before touching your car’s door handle or disinfect hands if no gloves.

If not camping out, check the protocols of places you are likely to stay while getting to the destination and at the destination.

Consider bringing your own pillows and a couple of extra pillow cases.

Flying

Social distancing is not possible when flying. In addition, many airlines’ blocked-seat policy expired Sept. 30, 2020 so call around to see which ones have extended that policy. Also ask if temperatures are taken before boarding and if a strict mask policy is in enforced.

Check how many miles are needed to upgrade to first or business class. If you have accumulated some this may be a good time to use them. Remember that most passengers usually board after first class so try to board after them or sit by a window.

Packing

Depending on trip length bring a supply of masks, hand sanitizers, wipes and washing machine or hand wash detergent packages.

 

 

 

Full moon for harvest or scary night

Full moon seen in Chicago. ( J Jacobs photo)
Full moon seen in Chicago. ( J Jacobs photo)

October 2020 begins and ends with special full moons.

The month begins with a full moon Oct. 1-2. In the Northern Hemisphere it is known as the Harvest Moon because it is the closest full moon to the fall equinox which in 2020 was Sept. 22.

That makes it special because even though moonrise is later each day by 50 minutes the full moon near the fall equinox takes less time to rise so there is more moonlight. For farmers that means more light to harvest crops.

Because the seasons are just the opposite in the Southern Hemisphere, the Harvest Moon comes in March or April.

But unlike most months, October 2020 has another full moon. That phrase once in a blue moon means that rare occasion when the moon phases complete twice in the same month.

Because October began with a full moon, the phases complete their cycle with a full moon on Oct. 31, 2020. Right. Halloween. Spooky!

For more full moon information visit Earthsky, Timeanddate, NASASpaceplace and Space.com.

 

 

 

Fall getaway tips to Northwest Michigan coast

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (J Jacobs photo)
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (J Jacobs photo)

It’s not too early to plan a fall getaway.

When

Avoid the heavy road traffic of Labor Day Weekend by taking your well-deserved escape mid-September to mid-October.

Where

The scenery, shops hiking paths and wine trails of the northwestern edge of Michigan from Frankfort and Sleeping Bear Dunes to Leland and Traverse City are snapshot perfect. And they follow state and local Covid protection protocols.

What

Some of the best snapshots can be found at the region’s lighthouses: Frankfort North Breakwater,  Grand Traverse and Mission Point.

Old Mission Lighthouse is on the 45th parallel. (J Jacobs photo)
Old Mission Lighthouse is on the 45th parallel. (J Jacobs photo)

Some of the best driving and hiking trails are at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Some of the best fun shops are at Leland and Fishtown on the west side of the Leelanau Peninsula on Lake Michigan and Suttons Bay on that peninsula’s east side on Grand Traverse Bay.

Historic Fishtown at Leland on the Leelanau Peninsula. (J Jacobs photo)
Historic Fishtown at Leland on the Leelanau Peninsula. (J Jacobs photo)

Save time to do: Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail and Old Mission Peninsula Wine Trail.

Lodging

To be near and actually at the Sleeping Bear Dunes I like the Homestead, a condo and lodge style resort with great views and beach and wonderful sunsets.

To spend time on the Leelanau Peninsula I recommend Black Star Farms. It’s a combo winery and B&B with gourmet breakfasts and wine before going out for dinner.

For more lodging choices and things to do visit Traverse City.com.

 

Related: Vines and vistas make a great fall getaway

Remodeled Marriott to have virus killing air filtration

Hotel Paso del Norte Dome Bar, El Paso, TX. (Photo courtesy of Hotel del Norte and Marriott Autograph Collection)
Hotel Paso del Norte Dome Bar, El Paso, TX. (Photo courtesy of Hotel del Norte and Marriott Autograph Collection)

Historic Hotel Paso del Norte, a Marriott Autograph Collection property in El Paso, TX, is installing the Plasma Air system as part of its multi-million-dollar renovation.

Built in 1912 and on the National Register of Historic Place, the hotel is  known for its Tiffany-style stained glass dome, Native American carvings and a statue of Mexican General Pancho Villa.

But when age and changing guest needs required extensive renovations, the Marriott organization also decided to add a major new air system component to safeguard the health of visitors and staff.

According to Hotel Paso del Norte, Plasma Air kills 99% of bacteriophage in  after 10 minutes. It will be used throughout the property from guest rooms, hallways and common areas to restaurants, spa and fitness area. .

“We are among the First Marriott Autograph hotels in the world to install a system that cleans air to this level,” said Carlos Sarmiento, Hotel Paso del Norte general manager.

“Being in the renovation process when this crisis occurred gave us the unique opportunity to implement additional safety features before opening our doors,” Sarmiento said.

He added, “When we undertook this project we were prepared to restore the 108-year-old property’s architectural elements, create stunning event spaces and amenities, and curate a distinct culinary destination—but Covid-19 gave us the need to enhance air quality in all areas of the hotel.”

Information from the hotel and Marriott explained the Plasma Air system that is being installed as HVAC-mounted ionizers that use proactive air purification technologies to safely deactivate airborne viruses.

The system incorporates bipolar ionization that creates millions of positive and negative ions. It is supposed to be a proven method for virus destruction and has been tested in simulated hospital ICUs and hotels used to house medical personnel in isolation during the pandemic.

In addition, the hotel will have sanitizing stations, and sanitize high-touch areas at a minimum of every two hours, require associates to wear personal protective equipment, and receive temperature checks prior to each shift, and complete wellness questionnaires.

Other safety measures include that vendors wear masks and have their temperature checked. guests will be required to wear masks in public areas as mandated by local and state laws and Marriott, floor signage will encourage social distancing and trays will be used to hand items to guests.

To learn more about the hotel and when it will re-open visit Hotel Paso del Norte.

 

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.