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September/October 2016


Fall and early winter can be wonderful times to fly, with clear skies, calm winds, and autumn foliage all providing special treats to adventurous pilots. In this issue, we’ll take you skydiving in the Midwest, and then on to a safari at one of the world’s largest private ranches, where you’ll find a greater density of wild animals than even Yellowstone National Park. Along the East Coast, you can take a history and literature-oriented trip to Concord and Plymouth, or at the other side of the country, visit Big Sur, a place of endless beauty and relaxation on California’s Central Coast.

Ottawa, Illinois

Just 53 nm southwest of the busy Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Skydive Chicago Airport is like another world. Surrounded by cornfields, it’s the kind of place where you could fly-in, tie down, and relax for a couple of days. You’ll find lodging, food, drinks, and recreation all in one place. You can camp, fish, or swim, but as author Patricia Strutz explains, this little airport’s real claim to fame is the skydiving. If jumping out of a perfectly good airplane is on your bucket list, this is the place to try it. Skydive Chicago’s operations provide a safe yet adrenaline-filled skydiving experience. First-timers take their first two jumps connected to an instructor via a harness. This isn’t some short jump: you’ll climb to 13,000 feet and then freefall for 60 seconds. If you still haven’t had enough, you can advance to solo jumps. There’s a lot more to do in and around Ottawa, which sits at the confluence of the Fox and Illinois Rivers. Watch as barges maneuver the lock and dam system, or relax onboard a paddleboat as you cruise down the lazy Illinois River. Hikers will enjoy the beauty of nearby Starved Rock State Park, where waterfalls cascade into rock canyons. Ottawa’s downtown showcases murals that highlight the region’s history. As mentioned above, you can camp at the airport, but you can also stay in the beautiful log conference center inside the state park, built during The Depression by the Civilian Conservation Corps, or choose a hotel near the airport.

Vermejo Park Ranch, New Mexico

Take the best elements of an exclusive, private, African luxury safari and blend them with a stunning density and diversity of native North American wildlife, and what do you get? Journey with Managing Editor Crista Videriksen Worthy to Vermejo Park Ranch and you’ll find out! Billionaire advertising and television executive Ted Turner has spent the past several decades bringing a grand vision into reality: the restoration of vast areas of the American West. He is the second-largest private landowner in the United States and has hired a small army of scientists to restore the native vegetation and wildlife within his vast holdings. Now he is opening some of his prized ranches for the exclusive use of his guests who can stay in some of his personal homes. Vermejo Park Ranch is the largest contiguous privately-owned property in the U.S., occupying much of the northeastern corner of New Mexico and southeastern corner of Colorado. Land at the Ratón airport and enter the huge ranch, where you can stay at Casa Grande, a marvelous stone mansion built by a wealthy Chicago industrialist in the early 20th century, and recently restored to Gilded Age glory by Turner. The ranch is home to thousands of elk, deer, and bison, and you can hike, bike, take a photo safari, and even hunt on the ranch. You may not see anyone all day except those of your own party. Black bears, mountain lions, and even the extraordinarily rare black-footed ferret also roam the ranch. Miles of trout streams harbor rainbow, brown, and Río Grande cutthroat trout. Back at ranch headquarters, you’ll savor meals prepared by Turner’s own chefs. Curl up by the fire, play the grand piano, or indulge in an in-room massage. Tomorrow you’ll be off for more adventures, on your own or with a private guide who will make sure you get the most out of your day.

Big Sur, California

Big Sur is California’s “Zen Central,” a place where generations of people have found their own little slice of Nirvana. Big Sur sits on the cliffs of California’s Central Coast, about halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles. As Managing Editor and frequent Big Sur visitor Crista Videriksen Worthy explains, people come to Big Sur simply to absorb the beauty and reconnect with themselves and their loved ones. Fly to the airport in Monterey and revel in spectacular scenery as you drive down Highway 1, the Pacific Coast Highway. Mountains tower above you, while turquoise coves and crashing waves draw your eyes to the ocean far below the winding road. Meander along the beach, wander among the redwoods, and feel peace descend upon you. Enjoy a drink at Nepenthe, the iconic cliffside restaurant that offers panoramic views along with a casual California vibe. To explore your inner self, encourage your artistic side, or inspire creative thinking, you can enroll in one of the dozens of workshops offered at the Esalen Institute. With only about 1,000 residents scattered along a 90-mile stretch of coastline and relatively few inns and restaurants, Big Sur is never crowded. Each inn is completely unique, and we’ll help you find the one that’s right for you. Most of the inns have their own (excellent!) restaurants, so you can park your car once and spend your time enjoying the food, scenery, and each other without a care in the world.

Concord & Plymouth, Massachusetts

Concord and Plymouth, Massachusetts, are two towns that each played a grand role in our country’s early history. With a historic and contentious election just past, Managing Editor Crista Videriksen Worthy felt it’s a great time to take a thoughtful trip to America’s roots. Plymouth, of course, is where the Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower made landfall in 1620. Visit Plymouth and you might see the Mayflower II, a full-size replica of the original ship. Plymouth Rock is right there too, as well as a re-created 17th-century village where actors in period costume help you understand how people lived in those days. In October, bright red cranberry bogs make an unforgettable sight. And a romantic B&B, right beside a large bog, is the perfect spot to snuggle up for the evening.

Nearby Concord is where the “shot heard around the world” was fired, the first official battle of the American Revolution. Stroll along the path where Paul Revere rode and see the bridge where the battle took place. But Concord’s contribution to American history doesn’t end with the Revolution. An intellectual revolution took place here during the 19th century, sparked by some of our most treasured writers, from Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau to Louisa May Alcott and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Stroll along the much-beloved Walden Pond, preserved just as Thoreau saw it. Visit the homes where these great writers lived and worked, and the cemetery where they were all laid to rest. When it’s time for you to rest, you’ll find inns just a short walk from the quaint town, also known for creative, locally-sourced cuisine.

Bird Strikes

The recently released major motion picture Sully has rekindled memories of the “Miracle on the Hudson” landing on the Hudson River, after an airliner’s engines were destroyed by collision with a flock of Canada geese. Managing Editor Crista Videriksen Worthy takes a look at the phenomenon of bird strikes and what’s being done around the world to mitigate this serious problem. You’ll get tips and information to help you avoid hitting a bird when you’re out flying, something neither you nor the birds want to have happen!