Wednesday, December 23, 2009


By (c) Russ Barnes


VIRGINIA. December 23, 2009. Lodging isn’t always just glamor. There are inexpensive, quiet, rustic Virginia getaways this winter after the New Year to foster good family relationships or to gather one’s wits, bearings, and vitality for the the coming year. Here are a few places worthy for a familiar group’s consideration:

The Cabins at Crabtree Falls ( in Nelson County features cabins and cottages, fully equipped, accommodates up to eight people.

In Luray/Page County, the luxury cabins of Appalachian Adventure Lodging ( These three bedroom sites are built for comfort, with fireplaces and hot tubs. Enjoy the natural setting just outside Shenandoah National Park and also nearby Luray Caverns.

Like A-Frames? They are cedar constructed. Growling Bear ( in Massanutten. They make up part of a resort complex in Bath County. Three bedrooms, three baths, and two stone fireplaces. Ski, golf, hike, and fish. Snow board. The whole family will find something engaging here.

Gather the family and friends in a Great Room. At 3200 feet. Socialize at high altitude. Mountain Laurel Lodge (, in Bath County. Views for over 50 miles across the Alleghenies and Shenandoah valleys. Beamed cathedral ceilings and a fireplace to relax for conversation, board games, and a hot drink of each’s choice.

Don’t forget Virginia is on the sea. Makes for a serene winter retreat. Sandbridge (, just south of Virginia Beach, is the place for family and friends to gather. Take your ease. Listen to the waves. You may even see a whale surface during the winter months.

Then there is the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia, the largest bay in the United States, outstripping San Francisco Bay in shoreline mileage. Try Bay Creek Resort and Club ( in Cape Charles here. Along the Virginia tributaries, you and your family may find recovered indigenous seafood going back centuries. The fish are place-specific such as branch oysters which are ecologically unique to the brackish waters. You decide which waters you want to visit. Shell fish are best and the plumpest in winter.

Many more wintering places in Virginia. For more information about winter places for family and friends in Virginia, contact

© Russ Barnes 2009. Bethesda, Maryland. All rights reserved. May be re-printed with permission.

Sunday, December 6, 2009


BIG ISLAND, HAWAII. December 13, 2009. I’ve always liked frequenting juke-joints, a southern hyphenated term and a southern phenomenon -- especially along the Mississippi River and its tributaries.

Once I worked with Penny Rotheiser in New Orleans. She was promotion director for the Phil Donahue Show based at that time in Chicago. Being born and raised in the Northern suburbs of Chicago, she had never visited a Juke-Joint. Penny begged me to escort her to a New Orleans Juke-Joint.

I said, “I’m not sure you’re the type who would enjoy it.”

She persevered and I relented and took her on a Friday night to a particularly nasty, avaricious, and enjoyable “fish fry.”

Penny was stunned silent at the spectacle. As we walked back to our hotel, she said, “I really loved it. Thank you for showing me something wonderful my Jewish mother never knew anything about.“ She later inscribed those exact two sentences in a book she sent to me that Donahue wrote. Donahue also signed the book, “For Russ, my fellow river rat.”

But one of the greatest joints I ever frequented was, oddly enough, a floating one in Hawaii in 1990 after I first moved to Washington.

My “girl” friend at the time was Sharon Strover, a tenured professor at the University of Texas, a Stanford PhD, and a good-looking blond from Appleton, Wisconsin, a soulmate, a love. Although I bought a chess set once and beat her on our first game together, and so she refused to play me again.

Anyway she and I met up on the Kona Coast, the Big Island. Now Sharon got it in her head that we should take this late night boat cruise out into the Pacific Ocean. I thought, “Well, it would be kind of romantic to go to sea in Hawaii.? But I didn’t have any idea what was in store for me.

The bell rings for boarding, the whistle blows three times, the signal for casting off. We are ushered into this hall with stage and dance floor. A musical band of native Hawaiians promptly begins to smoke and rock. A group of stunning Polynesian women come out and begin to dance the hula in grass skirts.

What impressed me was the tender humor, actually a sort of kind humor and tolerance for the human condition, that was expressed by means of the seduction of their dance.

Well, it wasn’t any more than two minutes after they started dancing, that one of the hula dancers motioned toward me, beckoning me to come up on stage. I thought, “Jeez, I haven’t been on this boat for more than five minutes, haven’t even seen the ocean yet, and I’m about to be made a spectacle of.

But when a beauty calls, do you refuse?

I went up on stage to become a fool along with the rest of humanity. The other hula dancers left the stage and only the beckoning women stayed. She began to unbutton my shirt. She leaned very close and whispered in my ear,

“Where you from?”

“Washington, DC,” I answered.

“So far away,” she protested. She continued to undress me. She whispered very tenderly, pausing momentarily, looking me straight with her twinkling dark eyes,

“Is this okay?”

“Yes, it’s okay.”

She undressed me down to my drawers which isn’t such a bizarre outfit in Hawaii -- pretty much like wearing a bathing suit. Screams of pleasure from the audience -- whistling, hooting, howling, etc. Then she teaches me the hula. It’s different moves for men than for women. Much absurd and bombastic pounding of the chest and thighs as the women rotates their hips and move their hands all in that seductive, sensitive, tender and humorous way.

The ordeal ended, and then a bunch of Polynesian men came out, dressed pretty much as I’d been, and a poor woman from somewhere in Iowa had to go though the same experience with one of those hula guys.

Next day, I traveled to the City of Refuge on Hawaii’s big island, fast by the Kona coast. That place is no juke-joint. Dedicated to several “pagan” gods, it also reflects a concept and places described in the Hebrew Bible. If you commit a crime, intentionally or unintentionally, and if you can swim, walk, fly, or canoe to the City of Refuge, you are protected by the priesthood from revenge. I found the place serene. The atmosphere is quiet and holy.

Copyright (c) Russ Barnes 2009. Bethesda Maryland.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Colorado High. Down Route 17

ALAMOSA, Colorado, December 4, 2009. Some places are glamorous. Some places are just good people. Sometimes both are attractive.

You cruise down route seventeen to get here to Alamosa. Down from Denver, down from Vail and other points north. Down through Moffat. Paved. Dirt roads off to the side.

There is no cell phone traffic along much of the way. No noise except the engine of your car. Hawks fly overhead.

The telephone poles to your right are equally spaced. Placed by a rural telephone cooperative. One mile exactly between each pole. So if you go sixty miles an hour, you see a pole every single minute. It’s like clickity clack, click, clack on your way here.

And that’s about all you see or hear. Except for some blossoming blue thistle and wild orange sunflowers, and then, getting close to Alamosa on the right, you see a solar electricity experiment in the thin high-elevation Colorado sky-blue sunlight. You see signs for viewing UFOs at night.

You see signs to get to the Sand Dunes National Park, bigger than any Atlantic sand beach I’ve ever witnessed. Pressed up against the Rocky Mountains by a prevailing wind blowing off the western desert.

You cross the Rio Grande River, up-stream. Then roll into town. Civilization. Cozy. Barbershop on the left. Nice small town main street stretching east to west. Everything you need and want is here.

Some places are glamorous. Alamosa isn’t. In Vail, Lionshead Ski lift to the mountaintop at eleven-thousand feet or so. Stayed with hospitable, creative people in Edwards, a gated community, Arrowhead. Sunning by the pool. Cocktail party at the club. Jolly dinner at the Saloon at Minturn, a little town just south of Vail. A viewing of a movie provided by my host, Norm, who produced it. The movie: “Under the Same Moon.” A hit (information below). And so was my pleasant stay in Vail a hit.

I rode to Alamosa to get our Lincoln Town Car serviced after a transcontinental trip from Washington, DC. The service. Town and Country Ford and Mercury dealer on Main Street. What do you see when around here? People riding bicycles for transportation. The dealer said there was a right rear tire leakage. While other mechanical car things needed some attention.

So we were chauffeured into the center of town by Rodriguez.

As we were escorted by our dealer, he recommended a tire shop. Our driver said, “Jim’s Tire Store is the best guy for tires in town. You’ll like Jim.”

“Oh,” and he continued, “And if you need to be taken anywhere in town while we fix your car, please just call and we’ll pick you up and take you wherever you want to go.”

So I was waiting for my new tire purchase. Jim has a braided pony tail reaching down to the middle of his back. As he processes my credit card order, a couple pulls their car into Jim’s parking lot in a heap having a nearly flat tire.

“See what we can find,” Jim announces.

Jim rummages around his shop to find a used tire that, with some help, would work. This interrupts his sale and service to me. It was clear I had to be patient. For I was not first in line. When the couple asked, “How much?” Jim answered, “$2.00”

I am on hold about my tire, I walk down toward Main Street. I pass the rail station that offers and takes tourists on steam engine rail rides from Alamosa to La Veta through thrilling Rocky Mountain countryside. I cross the tracks. In that Alamosa neighborhood there are many bars and clubs for about three blocks. Somehow that is very comforting to me. And yet really not that different from the cocktail party in Vail.

My friend and I, later, bought some car/cleaner wax and buffed our car down at the city park, Cole Park. Many walkers came by to chat with us about trivia, life, cars, and the universe.

A contrast. Vail and Alamosa. I like them both.


NOTES: Alamosa is 45 miles north of the New Mexico border. The town is 31 miles south of the great Sand Dunes National Park off route 17. Alamosa is the county seat of Alamosa County in the San Luis Valley region. The town’s population is 9500. Fly into San Luis Valley Airport from Denver. Home of Adams State College which has a great theater department.

LINKS: Basic Alamosa information: Information on the movie Under the Same Moon, Norman Dryfus, producer, Places to stay in Alamosa Basic information on vacations in Vail  Of interest on energy issues, Gender, Energy, and Development at

Copyright © Russ Barnes. Bethesda Maryland, 20814. All rights reserved.