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Tuesday, August 30, 2022

The One Best Exercise

Older Americans are not a very active bunch overall. But what if there were one best exercise to keep in shape? 

We know we should exercise more to stay in shape and ward off disease, but most of us are in denial. More than 80% of adults 60 and over don’t meet the Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines for physical activity: 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity. Nearly half (40%) of those over 75 are completely inactive. 

So, what if everyone could start with just one exercise that could work a variety of muscles? Well, you can. We searched the web and found not one, but several exercises deemed “best” by a variety of fitness experts. The good news is that you can pick just one to try in order to start feeling better today. Honestly, it comes down to finding something that you will stick with over the years: the one best exercise for you is the one you’ll keep doing.

Interval Training Makes Any Exercise Better

Love to dance? Tired of your walking routine? Prefer to vary your workouts? Interval training may allow you to shorten your workout or keep it the same while improving your fitness. Interval training is nothing more than varying the intensity throughout your workout, forcing your body’s aerobic system to adapt. Push up the intensity for a minute, then back off to recover, and repeat. To get started, look for a 7-Minute HIT (High-Intensity Training) Workout on YouTube. 

Most of the mortality-reduction benefits you will get from exercise occur in the first 30 minutes, according to experts. A recent analysis of studies showed that for sedentary people, there was a 20% reduction in the risk of dying prematurely after taking up brisk walking for half an hour five times a week. Triple that, and the reduction fell only another 4%.

However, we wanted to give you a choice of activities for getting started. None of these moves requires any special equipment or a fancy gym (although you might want to check your Medicare or Medicare Advantage plan since many will cover the cost of a gym membership). 

It is always a good idea to check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program. Another caveat: good form can make all the difference between working appropriate muscles or simply giving yourself a backache. Check your form in a mirror or have someone knowledgeable evaluate it for you to make sure you’re getting the proper benefit from your workout. 

  1. Pushup to downward dog. You don’t have to be a yogi to perform this simple move that works your whole body. Start in a high plank position (like the highest part of a pushup) then push yourself into a “downward dog” position, like an inverted “V” with arms and legs straight and hips held high. Then move legs back and lower into the high plank to repeat. Beginners should start with knees on the floor, and maybe elbows on the floor as well. 
  2. Walking. Creaky though we may be, most of us can walk. Walking will strengthen your heart as it increases cardiovascular fitness, and you can start at any speed and distance. For some people, that may be going to the mailbox and back. Increase your time by five or ten minutes a day. A Japanese program that has participants walking three minutes quickly, then three minutes slowly, repeated ten times, shows aerobic power and thigh strength increased by 20%. Disease symptoms related to lifestyle decreased by 20%. Most amazingly, depression scores were cut in half.
  3. Squats. Fold your arms across your chest, bend your knees and lower your trunk until your thighs are parallel with the floor. Ow! “It’s a very potent exercise,” says one professor of kinesiology. Weight training moves like the squat are especially great to avoid the severe loss of muscle, or sarcopenia, that usually goes hand-in-hand with aging. It is also particularly effective for controlling weight and reducing waistlines. “I used to run marathons,” says one physiologist. Now he concentrates on weight training “and I’m in better shape.”
  4. Lunges. Working all the major muscles below the belt, lunges are exaggerated walking movements. Take a giant step forward, keeping your back straight. Bend your front knee to a right angle, keeping the knee over the ankle. Then bend your back knee toward the floor, keeping your weight on your back toes. Lunges can be a little harder than squats, so if balancing is difficult, go back and perfect your squat technique first. When you get proficient at forward lunges, try doing them out to the sides or back.

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Top 10 Vacation Subscriptions May Save You Money

Catering to everyone from bargain hunters to the super-elite, travel subscription services help eliminate the drudgery of trip planning and often save money.  

Memberships, clubs, subscriptions … call them what you will, but the way we travel is changing. Anyone who has ever spent hours searching Kayak for the lowest rates or untold days figuring out how to accommodate Aunt Lucy’s hotel taste with Grandma Minnie’s disability and a defined budget for a family of four will appreciate the joy of turning over the planning to someone else.

And just think how happy you’d be if, on top of eliminating an unenviable task, the service could save you money, too! Unlike using a hotel chain credit card for booking rooms, a travel subscription can open up your options for various hotels and other elements of your trip. 

TSA PreCheck and Global Entry 

Even if you only travel by air a handful of times each year, it’s sooooooo worth the $85 for five years to get TSA PreCheck. It’s a bit of a pain to go to an enrollment center, but you will thank yourself for five years running as you get in shorter screening lines where you won’t have to remove shoes, belts, light jackets, computers, or small liquids. 

If you’re going to travel internationally, enrolling in Global Entry will allow you to avoid the cattle call that is customs upon re-entry to the US as you skip the main lines to enter through automatic kiosks at select airports. It does require a background check and an interview to get Global Entry, but again, it’s worth it. Some credit cards include the cost of both TSA PreCheck and Global Entry. Check here for current offers. 

Clear Benefits 

It can be worth the $189 annual cost for membership in CLEAR, a private registered travel program that will verify your identity at touchless, biometric screening kiosks in over 50 airports, stadiums, and arenas in the US. CLEAR expedites the first half of airport screening, after which you will use the regular physical/baggage screening line or TSA PreCheck if you also are enrolled in that program.

Apply for CLEAR by filling out an online application, then visiting one of more than 50 locations any time; you don’t need to make an appointment. CLEAR will also allow you to use your smartphone to verify your age when buying alcohol, to get a spot in line before you are physically present at an event, and to check in to hotels.

That said, let’s dig into some of the most popular options catering to a wide variety of budgets and needs. 

  1. Scott’s Cheap Flights searches for mispriced fares to save you anywhere from 40% to 90% off your flight, all for a $49 annual fee at economy level, or more for business class. Proponents say they save on both the flight and the time it would have taken them to search out a deal.
  2. Flight Pass by Alaska Air starts at $49 per month for six discounted $98 round-trip tickets per year at savings of about 25%. It’s offered for 13 destinations in California, along with Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Reno. 
  3. TripAdvisor Plus joined the game in 2021. Starting at $99 annually, members get discounts on 100,000+ hotels worldwide, 10% off activities, perks and benefits from their partners, and even travel advice via text. You can cancel within 90 days, so be sure to join when you need to plan a trip and see if the advertised average $350 savings per trip pans out.
  4. Safara is shaking up the industry on many levels. First, membership is by invitation or by joining a waitlist, second, the entry-level discounts are free. “The online travel space is due for a shake-up, and it’s a good time for innovation,” says Doug Schuessler, the company’s chief executive. Get 10% credit on PUBLIC in New York or The Ned in London, spendable on future stays booked via Safara. For $199 a year, you’ll get lower rates at many hotels, ones which the company has curated for their style, hospitality, and good value.
  5. Travel + Leisure Club is free for the first 30 days for up to 60% off top hotels and resorts, curated itineraries that are customizable, and a personal concierge for planning it all. The $14.95 per month fee even includes a free subscription to Travel + Leisure magazine to inspire your next trip. “In terms of cost savings, it’s been tremendous,” says Jeffrey Eisenberg, a member living in Orlando, Fla., who travels often for his job in advertising and for fun. For a recent trip to Las Vegas with friends, he saved them each $400 by using the club, and on a subsequent trip there his hotel rate was “so cheap that basically the room cost less than the resort fee.”
  6. VIP Traveler offers personalized, discounted suggestions for free after you’ve filled out a questionnaire about your travel preferences, but its real value comes with the $495 annual fee that nets you the 24/7 services of a human travel planner. “The industry is geared to serve people at the end of their own decision-making process,” says cofounder Joshua Borenstein. “No one was doing a good job of serving travelers before that last mile.”
  7. Exclusive Resorts caters to families with plenty of money to spend. Don’t be bothered by pesky annual fees when you can dish out $175,000 for a decade of luxury vacation homes for which you’ll only have to pay $1,465 a night, rather than normal fees of up to $4000.
  8. Inspirato requires only $2,500 initially, then $2,500 a month to get its top-tier Inspirato Pass. Additional rental fees are non-existent, but you’re restricted on how often you can use it, and you’ll have to pay for your own airfare, rental car, and food. Speaking of rental cars …
  9. Kyte will deliver your rental car to your door and pick it up wherever you tell them. And if you happen to live in San Francisco or New York City and want to kick the tires on a Tesla for a few months, they are the cheapest we could find at about $1,350 a month, or $995 a month for a whole year. The program is coming soon to Los Angeles and Miami.
  10. Manifest is for those who only want to rub elbows with like-minded travelers. However, travel planning for trips with other members is free for the whole first year, giving you a great opportunity to check if you want to spend $2,500 annually afterward. Trips are themed, for example, a Louisville bourbon fest including distillery tours and a progressive dinner that covers several restaurants. “I believe the majority of consumers want to travel, but don’t like to plan,” says Jeff Potter, chief executive of the company.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

How to Downsize the Right Way

Whether you’re moving across the country or into a local senior center, follow these suggestions for a smoother transition.  

Downsizing sounds like a great idea … until you begin to wrap your head around the massive task of moving. The thought of leaving a longtime home, with all of its associations — the height chart on the laundry room doorframe, the grave of a beloved pet, even the chip in the sink from your oldest child learning to do the dishes — can be wrenching. Add to that the cost of moving, the burden of offloading half (or more!) of your possessions, and the project can quickly overwhelm even the most capable older adult.


The best way to tackle downsizing, according to the experts, is by breaking the process down into smaller, more manageable bits that you can accomplish in a matter of hours or days. Professional organizer Susan Santoro recommends taking photos of your home before you dig into decluttering. “These photos will help you if you have any moments of regret over items you've let go," says Santoro. "You should also take photos of individual items that are special to you that you will be letting go.”

Choosing a Moving Company 

Scams happen, but you can avoid them with a little due diligence. There are people who will pose as movers who will pack your belongings into a van … and never be seen again. More often, your mover may not take good care of your things, orthings or may fail to replace them. Check movers out ahead of time so this doesn’t happen to you.

Your moving company should be licensed and insured, and willingly present proof of insurance upon your request. Beyond that, local movers are only regulated by the state, each of which has its own licensing regulations. Check with your Better Business Bureau (BBB) if the company has a good track record.

National movers must register with the US Department of Transportation (DOT) system, and by law must offer two types of liability to the customer:
  1. Full Value Protection makes your mover liable for the replacement value of lost or damaged goods in your entire shipment. The cost varies by shipper. Be sure to talk about how replacement value is determined on very expensive items.
  2. Released Value Protection is free, but the protection it offers is limited to no more than 60 cents per pound per article. Go here for more information about these options and to check for complaints about national companies.

Check around for reviews and referrals as well. The site can provide reviews from neighbors, or use the government site that registers complaints. Private sites like can offer useful tips and information. 

You may also elect to use a mover such as Senior Move Masters that specializes in moves for older adults. This company will pack and unpack, help with space planning, and even donate your unwanted items. Another such choice is Senior Move Managers, accredited by NASMM. They can help you downsize and organize, and will even use an app to show you how the furniture you are bringing will fit into your new space. Use their website to find NASMM-approved movers by geographic location.

Then, start with drawers that hold unsentimental items, such as leftover electronics, and work up from there. Put a limit on the amount of time or number of spaces to go through each day. If you feel like doing more, great, but if not, you’ve still accomplished that day’s goal. 

Divide Into Piles

There are many ways to tackle cleaning out your home, from the KonMari method of keeping only that which sparks joy, to Project 333 which advocates keeping only 33 pieces of clothing and accessories. One trick that works for most people is to completely empty the drawer, closet, box, or whatever space you’re working on and divide items into three piles.
  1. The keep pile is for items you are sure you want to hold on to. 
  2. The donate pile is for things that have useful life left, but that you don’t need anymore.
  3. The trash pile is for possessions that, upon reflection, no one will find value in. You can make a separate pile for trash items with sensitive information that need to go through a shredder before getting discarded.

Another way to pare down is to keep only one of the items where you have multiples. One winter scarf, one spatula, one bird identification book will do you just fine. You could even ditch the bird ID book and download the Merlin Bird App to your smartphone. 

Kids Don’t Want It All

Don’t make the mistake of keeping numerous items for children or grandchildren without asking them. "Talk with children and family to determine what items they would like to keep and what they are not interested in," suggests Santoro. "This information will make it easier for you to make decisions.”

Younger generations are more interested in experiences than stuff. "Understand that your children may want very few items, regardless of how special those items are to you," says Santoro. Besides, one of them may be thrilled to inherit Uncle Otto’s dinosaur book collection when you would have sworn he would much prefer your Cuisinart and bread maker. And sadly, it’s unlikely anyone wants your china. But it can be put to good use by checking out ideas here.

Do not criticize what others want or try to shove a bunch of extra items their way. Instead, think of the joy your “unwanted” (by the family) items will give to someone who runs across them on eBay or in a thrift shop. Maybe you have a friend who would love to get your juicer; just make sure not to make people feel obligated to accept your gift.

That said, if cousin Kelly in another state wants the picture grandma painted, offer to keep it available only until a certain date. If someone really wants it, they’ll find a way, maybe even by having another relative hold onto it. Mark the date on your calendar and toss or donate the items that have not been picked up.


Sentimental items like old photos can be kept as is or filed electronically. If the task seems mind boggling, hire someone to digitize them for you. Do go through them first, though, and keep only those where you recognize people and places, and that are the best of their peers. Do not feel obligated to keep ten boxes of photos just because they are there.

You only need to keep the last seven years of tax returns. Prior iterations should be shredded and used as packing material or recycled. Check with your attorney or accountant regarding other documents. Business documents and agreements belong in a safe or safe deposit box, with digital copies on your computer. 


Measure your new space and make sure your existing furniture will fit. You’d be surprised how many people fail to do this and find themselves with a moving van full of unworkable couches and tables! Instead find a furniture layout app to use. If you still have the big, bulky pieces popular a decade or two ago, consider donating them and getting sleek new pieces for your new place. 

We all tend to hang on to things that are imbued with sentimental value. If a spouse has passed away, most of us keep the old bed and their favorite chair. We look at the dining room set and think of all the meals served there as the kids grew up. Downsizing is a good time to take a photo of these relics for memory’s sake and switch to items that will be a better fit in your new life. It’s not disrespectful, it’s simply moving on to the next phase of life that will be here whether you spend it sleeping in a king-size bed or a double. 

Sell It

You may be able to sell unwanted items, but make sure not to become so involved in making a small amount of money that your move is delayed. Some people have a garage sale and make everything free on the last day. You can advertise multiple items on Craigslist and then make them all available on one day, at one time to save yourself a lot of hassle. You can even choose to use eBay or Facebook Marketplace, but be aware it can be a time-intensive process unless you are willing to take offers. Perhaps you have a family member who will post items for you in exchange for a cut of the profits. If you have very valuable items, you can contact an estate liquidator or even a museum.
Get rid of bulk items. That’s right, you do not need to bring the 123 batteries from Costco or the commercial laundry size detergent. You also don’t need five kinds of shampoo, or enough toilet paper to last through the turn of the century. Tell your inner frugalmeister to take a deep breath and learn to walk past the bulk sales, as much as it hurts at first. 

Hire Help

Downsizing can take months or years in some homes. Start as early as you can, but know that sometimes getting help with the task is the smartest way to go. The National Association of Productivity & Organizing Professionals (NAPO) is a good place to find someone who organizes for a living and will be able to help with everything from your emotional well-being to how to post that giant chair on Craigslist. 

A professional organizer can be used just to get you started, or as a stalwart partner for the whole process. These are not cleaners; they are not there to do your windows. Organizing pros can help you make those tough decisions, whisk away items that are bound for the dump, and tell you funny stories about other clients they’ve had to keep your spirits up while you both work. They can also search a book collection for old stock certificates that may have been hidden between pages (true story!) and they’ll know where to get grandpa’s stamp collection valued. 

Whether you’re planning a move or not, there is no time like today to pare down your possessions. Consider it a gift to your heirs, who will otherwise have to go through everything themselves eventually. You may find that you begin to feel a weight come off your shoulders as possessions leave and your home becomes more spacious and airy. You may even begin to think of new projects you’d like to tackle as you master downsizing! 

Thursday, August 18, 2022

20 Ways to Save on Gas

Gas prices have risen to new highs. Put fuel savings on overdrive with these tips to bring your gas budget back in line. 

Retirement portfolios are shrinking at the same time gas prices are going through the roof. If you are looking at a fall road trip, you may be thinking twice. Your monthly budget for fuel may have already doubled in just a few years. While you can’t stop the war in Ukraine or force OPEC to increase supply, there are plenty of strategies to get the most out of your dollars at the pump.

Let’s start by looking at driving habits.

  1. Watch your speed. Out on the highway, it pays to go a little slower. “Reducing your speed to 65 on the highway can increase fuel economy by as much as 15% to 20%,” says Patrick De Haan, senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy. In fact, a 2013 report found mileage declining over 50 mph, after which every increase of 5 mph costs you about $0.30 per gallon.
  2. Accelerate slowly, cruise more. Jackrabbit starts eat up gas, so accelerate gradually. Take advantage of hills to coast down and watch for red lights to coast to a stop.
  3. Use cruise control … usually. Cruise control can help even out your highway speed, and you can try setting it a few miles per hour slower than normal to save on gas. But turn it off in hilly areas, where you are better off gradually accelerating to maintain speed going up and letting your car coast as much as possible on the way down.
  4. Reduce heat and air conditioning. Both heat and air conditioning eat up fuel, so minimize use of both. If you’re going about 35 mph or under, it is more efficient to roll down the windows for cooling. Above that, drag makes air conditioning a better choice.
  5. Bundle your errands. Going on errands once a week instead of two or three times is obviously a better choice, so make a list and plan out your route instead of running out every time you need something.
  6. Share rides. Carpool, bundle errands with a neighbor, or take one car instead of two whenever you are able.

    Two Gasoline Myths

    1. You should buy gas in the morning, when fuel is cooler and denser. The science is right, but gasoline is stored in double-walled tanks underground where the temperature remains fairly steady. And even if the temperature were to change by 15 degrees or so, the difference in the amount delivered to your tank would be negligible.
    2. All brands of gas are the same. It’s true that all gasoline sold in the US has to meet performance standards, but Top Tier certified gas has added detergents and additives to remove engine deposits and improve fuel economy. AAA found that the $0.03 cents extra it usually costs is worth the money. Go to the Top Tier site to find the many stations that carry it.

    There are lots of ways to save at the pump itself.

  7. Don’t use premium unless you have to. In recent tests, experts at Consumer Reports found no increase in performance by using premium grade fuel versus regular in cars where premium is only “recommended” but not required. And those same experts said the intermediate grade of gas was invented by the industry to get consumers to spend more.
  8. Fill up on Monday. That’s usually the cheapest day of the week to buy gas, and Tuesday is runner up, according to a 2019 GasBuddy price analysis. Avoid Friday and Saturday when stations often increase prices.
  9. Use an app. Your smartphone can help you find the cheapest gas prices when you use an app that shows the price of gas at every station around you. UpsideGasBuddy, and Waze are popular free options. Waze has the benefit of offering navigation assistance, while GasBuddy has a free debit card that requires no credit check and saves you more than a gas credit card or a regular debit card. It also works at a host of stations. 
  10. Watch state boundaries. Often, you can save a bundle by buying gas on one side of a state line or the other. Check prices before setting out on a road trip and plan your purchases accordingly.
  11. Use a rewards credit card. Many credit cards will give you from one to six percent off your gas purchase. But only use a credit card if you pay it off faithfully every month. One to consider is the PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature card that offers 5x points at the pump or charging station with no annual fee. 
  12. Use cash. Some stations have a lower price for cash customers. This price may or may not extend to debit cards, so check ahead of time. 
  13. Use gift cards. Sites like Raise and Gift Card Granny offer discounted gift cards, including cards for gasoline. 
  14. Join a rewards program for fuel. Many gas retailers offer their own credit card that will net you a discount on fuel. Just consider that it ties you to that brand, no matter the price or availability. For a more inclusive option, check out the GasBuddy debit card.  
  15. Get membership at a competitive retailer. Stores that offer groceries and gas abound, and so do their gas discounts to keep you coming back. Kroger brands (such as King Soopers) is a major player and it is free to join, but check grocery stores in your area to find the best deal. Costco offers great gas prices but consider whether the extra costs of the membership fee and traveling to the location are worth the savings value.

    Making your car more fuel efficient.

  16. Lighten the load. Every pound your car has to carry weighs on fuel efficiency. Remove that ski/bike rack seasonally and take off your storage box if you aren’t using it. Extremists may choose to remove the spare tire (and be prepared to dial AAA if they get a flat) or take out an extra seat.
  17. Check the tire pressure. Under-inflated tires can cost you about $0.03 per gallon, according to the US Department of Energy. Open your driver’s door to view a sticker with recommended tire pressure, and get free inflation checks at many tire retailers including Discount Tire, where the service is free no matter where you bought your tires.
  18. Check your gas cap. A bad seal or missing cap lets fumes escape, the equivalent of your gas money going into thin air. Get a new cap at an auto parts store.
  19. Use the correct oil. Using the wrong motor oil can ding you $0.04 to $0.09 per gallon, according to the US Department of Energy. Choose oil labeled “energy conserving” or “energy saving.” And switch to longer-lasting synthetic motor oil to reduce friction and improve gas mileage.
  20. Consider a hybrid or electric car the next time you buy. And if you want to up your cool quotient while improving fuel efficiency, go retro with a manual transmission. Long live the stick shift!

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

State Parks That Rival National Parks

For a budget vacation in a stunning location, many state parks offer amazing value and are less crowded than their national counterparts. 

Oh my, it’s hot! And oh my, travel is expensive, what with sky-high gas prices and soaring airfare. Older adults on limited budgets are getting hit hard by inflation. But have you considered getting away to one of America’s state parks, either locally or as a destination vacay? These gems are sprinkled throughout the country, and often offer scenery every bit as stunning as the national park system, but they can be much less crowded and very affordable. 

Embrace the Outdoors

If you camp, state parks are a true bargain. Remember that nobody says you can’t use an air mattress, either in a roomy, lightweight tent or the back of your car. Many state parks offer hot showers in their campgrounds, which can make all the difference for tent campers. Recreational vehicle owners can google state parks with laundry facilities for longer stays. Most state parks offer online registration for camping sites, often with a layout of the area and photos of individual sites. Some reserve a number of spots as first come, first served for those with a vagabond spirit. If that is you, plan to arrive in the morning between 8 am and 11 am, when other campers are usually leaving.

If you are willing to spend a bit more, many state parks have cabins that can be reserved. Or for a more upscale experience, rent a place near the park on Airbnb or VRBO and travel in to enjoy scenery and hiking. Remember that parks are usually fullest on weekends, so go during the week for the best availability.

What to Bring

Travel with a cooler to cut costs on food, which can otherwise kill your budget. Find that cooler at a thrift store or garage sale instead of forking out big bucks for a new model. Bring insect repellant, preferably one of many DEET-free alternatives on the market. Pack loose, comfy clothing and shoes or sandals that won’t make your feet blister. And don’t forget the sunscreen!

So, where to go? If you would like to stay local, google state parks in your state and take your pick. There are parks for anglers, for kayakers (often with rental available), for bird watchers and for those of us who just want a scenic view with the opportunity to take a leisurely stroll or short hike. Check out the amenities and see if they align with your interests. Parks can appeal to very different people, so it is worth checking out prospects online before you book a spot. 

Maybe you’re willing to travel to experience something truly unique. We’re kicking off your search by listing some of our favorites that are definitely worth the drive. Here are just a few of the marvelous state parks that are great budget destinations for older adults.

  • Eldorado Canyon State Park, CO Experience the grandeur of the Rocky Mountains while you watch rock climbers scale iconic routes, some of which start right along the gravel road that winds through the canyon’s heart. Hike through pines under sandstone cliffs or check out the old resort at the canyon’s base. Note that overnight stays are not available. 
  • Ichetucknee State Park, FL Grab a tube and enjoy the clearest managed spring in the state, or opt for a kayak or canoe. You’ll enjoy abundant wildlife while you float along lush forest or sand hills. Snorkel in the Blue Hole, which stays 72 degrees year-round. Showers are available, but not camping.
  • Starved Rock State Park, IL  Take a free, guided hike through November among sandstone canyons and deciduous forest. Seasonal waterfalls run after heavy rain, and you may be lucky enough to see a resident bald eagle. Rent a cabin or stay in the lodge to enjoy this park overnight. 
  • Backbone State Park, IA  Bring your bike and your fishing pole to Iowa’s first state park, dedicated in 1920. A unique ridge of rock forms the “Devil’s Backbone” complete with caves, or spend your time at the river or on the beach at Backbone Lake. There is also a museum featuring the Civilian Conservation Corps. Camping and cabins are available.
  • Cumberland Falls State Park, KY  This is one of the few places you may catch sight of a pileated woodpecker, among dozens of other birds. You can fish in the Cumberland River, horseback ride, or hike along 17 miles of trail that connect with larger systems. Check out the falls, one of the few places in the world that makes a “moonbow” or white rainbow that appears when the moon is full. If that’s not enough, you can go gem mining near the gift shop. Stay at the campgrounds, in a cabin, or go luxe at the lodge.
  • Valley of Fire State Park, NV  More than 40,000 acres of stunning red sandstone filled with hiking trails are open to you at Valley of Fire State Park. You will also be able to view petroglyphs that are more than 2,000 years old, and ancient, petrified trees. Note that all camping is first come, first served.
  • Oswald West State Park, OR  Wind your way along 13 miles of the Oregon Coast Trail in some of the best preserved coastal rainforest in the state, or for an easier day, hike in a half mile from a parking lot to a popular beach. Four miles of coastline give you the choice of retreating to a more secluded cove where you can listen to the ocean. Easily accessible from Highway 101, this park does not offer overnight stays.
  • Custer State Park, SD  Free-roaming bison dot the park, where you can camp, bike, hike, climb, or fish in 71,000 acres in the rolling Black Hills. Plan your visit for September 29 to October 1 for the annual Buffalo Roundup and Arts Festival.
  • Caprock Canyons State Park, TX  Speaking of bison, you can pitch a tent in the campground of this gorgeous park and awaken to find a herd member not 10 feet away in the morning, munching on prairie grass. You are likely to encounter members of the herd sooner or later as you hike miles of trail in a stunning setting of deep red caprock hills in the Texas panhandle. The park sports a bat cave, plus a lake for no-wake boating, fishing, and swimming.
  • Island Beach State Park, NJ  Beach, beach, and more beach are what this well-preserved barrier island park is all about. In fact, there are almost 10 miles of shoreline for swimming, surfing, or fishing. The island is home to foxes, ospreys, and other wildlife. You’ll get a view of Barnegat Lighthouse and be able to enjoy plenty of walking along the shore, although there are no overnight stays.

These are just a handful of state parks open to the public across America and part of our national heritage. Enjoy them, explore them, and remember to leave no trace so they are clean and beautiful for the next visitor. Public lands get passed down to our children and our grandchildren, so teach them to take care of this precious resource we all share.

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Famous & 65

Look who's turning 65 this month

Find out which celebrities are turning 65 this month!

Image Source: Wikipedia

August 9 - Melanie Griffith, actress and film producer

The daughter of an actress mother and child actor father, Melanie Griffith was practically predestined to become an actress herself. She was a film extra and all of 14 years old in 1973 when she met 22-year-old Don Johnson and began dating him. The pair married three years later; it lasted six months. 

Griffith’s film career had considerably greater longevity, although it was a roller coaster of ups and downs. She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress and won a Golden Globe for 1988’s Working Girl and garnered a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actress for her work in 1992’s Shining Through. Her best work may have been in the ‘80s when she won critical acclaim for her roles in Body Double, Something Wild, and the aforementioned Working Girl.

Interestingly, Griffith appeared with her mother in 1981 in a movie, Roar, which was one of the most dangerous productions ever filmed. Directed by her then stepfather, the film’s plot features a pair of animal keepers and their daughter when the animals turn on them. Griffith was mauled by a lion and had to have facial surgery to repair the damage. If you want proof, the mauling damage is shown in the movie.

Griffith admits to having had a cocaine and liquor problem after splitting from her second husband, actor Steven Bauer, in 1989. “What I did was drink myself to sleep at night,” she said. “If I wasn’t with someone, I was an unhappy girl.” She soon reunited with Johnson and had a second go at marriage to him. This time around, it lasted seven years. She was with Antonio Banderas before the divorce was final and sustained a 19-year marriage with the actor. Griffith has three children, including actress Dakota Johnson.


Image Source: Wikipedia

August 19 - Darby Hinton, actor

Hinton and his sisters were actors from childhood, and he appeared on (hold on to your nostalgia hats!) Mister Ed, Route 66, Wagon Train, and The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. But he is best known for playing Israel Boone on Daniel Boone. 

The crazy thing was that getting the role was a total fluke. His busy mom dropped him off at 20th-Century Fox and told him to go stand in line. He had a good voice, and she thought he would be great in a role for The Sound of Music, which was auditioning for the Trapp family parts. She sped off to park the car, and young Hinton got in the wrong line. He auditioned for Israel in Daniel Boone and impressed the casting department to such an extent that they changed the role to that of a younger boy so he could play the part, which he did from 1964 to 1970.

It turned out to be the perfect part. Hinton’s father had died when he was just a year old, and Fess Parker, who played Boone, took the boy under his wing and served as a father figure to the boy. 

Hinton continued acting sporadically. His last role was in 2015, as David Burnet in Texas Rising, shown on the History channel. He married twice and has four children.

Image Source: Wikipedia

August 26 - Rick Hansen, Paralympian

Some people rise above their circumstances and remind us that so much in life is our mental attitude. One such person is Canada’s Rick Hansen. He grew up in British Columbia, an outdoorsy kid who loved to fish with his father and grandfather when he wasn’t playing volleyball, baseball, softball, or basketball. When he was 15, he and a friend were riding in the bed of a pickup when the driver veered off the road and crashed. Hansen flew through the air and landed hard, sustaining a spinal injury that paralyzed him below the waist.

He wasn’t down long. Enduring rigorous rehabilitation, Hansen finished high school and went on to get a degree in Physical Education from the University of British Columbia, the first disabled person to ever do that. Then he won national championships playing on wheelchair volleyball and basketball teams. Next, he pushed himself to compete on the global stage in wheelchair marathons, winning three gold, two silver, and a bronze medal in wheelchair racing at the 1980 and 1984 Summer Paralympics. He also won 19 international wheelchair marathons (26 miles!), three of which were world championships. And he found time to coach basketball and volleyball at the local high school.

Holy smokes, Batman! Most people would rest on their laurels at that point, but not Hansen. Inspired by fellow Canadian Terry Fox, who had lost a leg to bone cancer and set out to run across Canada to raise awareness for cancer research but had to quit midway when the cancer returned, Hansen created the Man in Motion World Tour. He was going to circle the globe in his wheelchair. 

Few paid attention when he set out on March 21, 1985 in Vancouver. But he began to attract press as he continued his 26-month odyssey across four continents, averaging eight hours of wheeling every day. When he finally arrived back in Vancouver to cheering crowds of thousands of admirers, he had raised $26 million for research on spinal cords and initiatives to improve the quality of life for people with disabilities.

Hansen continues the work he started, advocating for those with disabilities. He has also honored those days fishing with family members. He contributed money from his book Tale of the Great White Fish to the Fraser River Sturgeon Conservation Society and he also donates to the Pacific Salmon Endowment Fund. Hansen and his wife of 35 years have three children.


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