Presidential Road Trips You Can Take This Weekend

road trips

Road trips taken over the weekend can get us away from our normal routine and surroundings without a lot of planning or cost involved. Some people would like to get away from election season ads on television, websites, newspapers and magazines. Others are really into the process of selecting the next president of the United States and look for ways to feed their addiction. Here are some easy fixes for travelers who just can’t get enough of the election year hoopla.

Stop by any 7-11 store and cast your vote by simply buying a drink to participate in their 7-Election. A blue or red cup choice counts as your vote for either candidate and can contribute to a historically precise way of predicting the election outcome.

2004, the 7-Election predicted Bush would defeat Kerry 51 to 49 percent.
Actual vote: Bush 50.7 percent, Kerry 48.3 percent.

2008, the 7-Election Obama would defeat McCain 52 to 46

2012 election running totals are posted on the 7-11 website.

The Clinton Presidential Library and Museum in Little Rock, Arkansas, features exhibits, special events, and educational programs. Like other presidential libraries and museums, replicas of the Oval Office and the Cabinet Room are a highlight of a day-trip visit.

Permanent exhibits utilize documents, photographs, videos and interactive stations. The National Archives has information on all the presidential libraries, mostly located east of the Rocky Mountains.

The Sixth Floor Museum At Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas, formerly known as the Texas School Book Depository has a permanent exhibit featuring films, photographs and artifacts that chronicle President John F. Kennedy’s life, death and legacy.

Another exhibit in Dealey Plaza, has been designated as a national landmark. The grassy knoll of Dealey Plaza is a small, sloping hill inside the plaza that became infamous following the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

The birthplace of President Grover Cleveland in Caldwell, New Jersey, has historical significance dating back to 1881 when Cleveland was running for governor of New York. Like other presidential birthplaces, the Grover Cleveland site preserves artifacts from Cleveland’s early years including his cradle and original family portraits.

Even those with no plans to travel (except out of the United States if their candidate does not win) have some help. JetBlue’s Election Protection will fly about 1,000 disappointed voters out of the country (and back) the day after the election.

“We decided to give people a chance to follow through on their claim to skip town if their candidate comes up short,” Marty St. George, senior VP of Marketing for JetBlue said in a Time report.

Still, if a road trip this weekend is in your plans, here are some tips for making it a great one.

[Photo Credit: 7-eleven]

Colorado’s Chimney Rock Named National Monument

Chimney Rock in Colorado is now a National MonumentThis past Friday, as part of his America’s Great Outdoors Initiative, President Obama signed legislation that officially designated Colorado’s Chimney Rock a national monument. The move extends permanent federal protection to the site, and 4700 acres surrounding it, all of which are located inside the San Juan National Forest.

At the center of the new monument is the 315-foot-tall rock spire that dominates the landscape and covers more than 1000 acres by itself. But this natural stone formation, which can be seen for miles in all directions, also happens to be the location for an important archaeological site. Chimney Rock was once home to a thriving community of Pueblo Indians who first inhabited the area about 1000 years ago. Remnants of that community remain today, with over 200 small dwellings, as well as some larger workspaces and ceremonial structures, still in place. It is believed that at its peak, the site was home to more than 2000 people.

In July of this year, an economic survey was conducted by the National Trust for Historic Preservation to determine the impact of designating Chimney Rock a national monument. That study found that not only would there be a sharp increase in the number of visitors to the site but those additional visitors would also mean more revenue for the surrounding communities. The study indicated that the local economy could see an annual boost of as much as $1.2 million in the years ahead.

[Photo credit: Kevin Moloney/New York Times]

Travel Like The President? New Series Shows How

Travel Like

The Travel Channel kicks off its newest series of specials called “Travel Like…” next month to
take us behind the scenes with “Travel Like a President,” hosted by NBC’s Peter Alexander.

Going along for the ride on Air Force One and beyond, the hour-long special shows us what it takes to keep the commander in chief on track with a demanding travel schedule.

“We are excited about the ‘Travel Like…’ umbrella series as we will have the opportunity to explore and share many unique travel experiences from a fresh and unexpected perspective,” said Andy Singer, General Manager, Travel Channel in a Broadway World article.

“Our first special, ‘Travel Like a President,’ is designed to give viewers an all-access, unprecedented look at the enormous level of detail and thought that comes with the territory when you are the leader of the free world,” said Singer. “It’s meant to be informative yet entertaining … and perhaps inspire our viewers to embark on their very own presidential trip.”

Future specials in development include working titles such as, “Travel Like an Icon” and “Travel Like a Movie Star,” which will look at travel through the eyes of celebrities, rock musicians, actors and personalities, sharing their own stories of travel along with memories from the road.

“Travel Like A President” premieres on the Travel Channel Tuesday, October 2 at 8:00 p.m., ET/PT

… or you could watch this hour-long YouTube video from our friends at National Geographic, “Inside: Air Force One.”

[Flickr photo by Aram K]

President Obama’s Favorite Pizza Squares Off Against A College Favorite

pi pizza in st louisWho could resist trying a pizza fit for the President of the United States? Last week, I visited a friend in St. Louis and he mentioned that President Obama offended some in his adopted hometown of Chicago a few years ago by choosing a St. Louis pizzeria called Pi to cater a pizza party at the White House, after having tried and liked their pizza at a campaign event at the St. Louis Arch.

Any pizzeria worthy of the President’s admiration is one I want to try, but I was just in Italy for five weeks earlier this year and ate at Da Michele, a pizzeria that many consider to be the best in the world. The pizza at Da Michele is otherworldly and cheap too, so I was skeptical that Pi could measure up but was still eager to give it a shot.

We met at Pi’s Washington Avenue branch, which is in a stunning, high-ceilinged building in downtown St. Louis. My friend and I decided to split a large, thin-crust Central West End pizza, which comes with mozzarella, prosciutto, goat cheese, cherry tomatoes, red onions, and a mountain of arugula.Pi’s thin-crust pizza has very tasty, super thin, almost crispy crust that I found to be outstanding. All of the ingredients were first-rate and the pizza melted in my mouth. For my taste, there was too much arugula and not enough prosciutto, but that’s splitting hairs.

My only complaint about this pizza is the portion and the price, $21. With crust this thin, I could practically eat the large by myself. I had four good-sized slices – half the pie – but I wasn’t full. It’s more than a little unfair to compare a pizza with a slew of toppings in St. Louis to a cheese pizza in Italy, but I’m going to do so anyways.

At Da Michele, the large cheese pizza is just over $6 and is so good you want to get a job at the place, or, better yet, move in upstairs to benefit from the aroma. Over the last decade or so, the gourmet pizza craze has hit every good-sized city in the U.S. to the point that you can get really good, wood-fire pizza fairly easily. But the prices can be ridiculous. In Italy, pizza is never expensive – never. And it shouldn’t be here either.

shakespeare's pizzaWith that ethos in mind, I tried another well-hyped Missouri pizzeria called Shakespeare’s, in Columbia just a few days after our Pi experience. I was just as anxious to try Shakespeare’s because fellow blogger Sean McLachlan wrote that it was “the best I’ve ever had and I’ve been to Rome.”

Shakespeare’s is located right next to the University of Missouri’s main campus in downtown Columbia and the unpretentious vibe couldn’t be more of a contrast to the sleek, trendy interior at Pi’s downtown location. We sat underneath a large sign advertising “Liquor, Guns & Ammo,” and I fell in love with the place after having a look at their homemade food pyramid, which values pizza, candy and my other favorite foods above broccoli and fruit.

We ordered a large sausage pizza and it was tasty, huge and cheap at $15.50. The circumference of the pizza was probably similar to the one at Pi, but the crust was more substantial and filling. That said, I thought that the pizza at Pi was a lot tastier. I ate every morsel of the crust at Pi, but the crust at Shakespeare’s was flavorless.

Verdict: Pi wins the Battle of Missouri for my taste, but even pizza fit for the President should cost less.

Note: Pi now has a location in D.C. as well.

(Photos: first photo by Stlbites on Flickr, second by Dave Seminara)

In Italy’s Heel, Obama’s A Rock Star

president obama dessert in italy named after obama pasticciotto He may be facing a tough reelection battle in the U.S., but in the heel of Italy, President Obama’s still a rock star. A friend of a friend who lives in Lecce, a picturesque city of baroque churches and crumbling stone dwellings in Puglia, told me that while in town I had to try a pasticciotto, a muffin-like treat that is peculiar to this region.

“We have one that’s named after Obama too,” she said. “Ask for a pasticciotto Oh-Bam-ah.”

“And people will know what I’m talking about?” I asked.

Assolutamente,” she said, reassuring me that I’d have no trouble getting my Obama treat.

We rented an apartment in the city, and I spent the following week wandering Lecce’s atmospheric streets, periodically ducking in and out of pasticerrias and bars asking for Obama pasticciottos. Sure enough, everyone knew exactly what I was after, but no one had them in stock.

But while I didn’t find any Obama pasticciottos during my first week in Lecce, I saw lots of young people, mostly girls, wearing the Stars and Stripes. I spent time in Italy in 2005, 2006 and 2007, during the George W. Bush years, and don’t remember seeing our flag very much, other than outside of hotels.italian girl draped in american flagOn a day trip to Otranto, we met a group of high school girls on a class trip from nearby Bari, and they wanted to know if we liked Taylor Swift, Robert Pattison and Obama, three of their favorites. For them, Obama wasn’t just a politician; he was a pop icon.

It seems as though the U.S. is back in fashion in Italy, at least among young people, but I don’t know how much of that is attributable to President Obama. And to be fair, Homer Simpson is probably just as popular if not more so.

On our fifth night in town, we stumbled across a place called the Obama Takeaway, a little fast food joint run by Indian immigrants, that features a likeness of Obama tucking into a sandwich (see accompanying photo) on its sign.

A young woman at the counter, who spoke English and introduced herself as Chiara DiPasquale, told us that they didn’t have Obama pasticciottos, but advised us that the most well known place to get them was in a small town called Campi Salentina, about twenty minutes outside of Lecce. Chiara thought that a few places in Lecce also sold them but wasn’t sure.

On our penultimate night in town, we walked by the Obama Takeaway again, and Chiara was standing out front, taking a break. I told her that we never found the Obama pasticciottos and she immediately promised to help.

obama takeaway restaurant named after obama“I think I know someone who can get you the Obamas,” she said furtively, as though we were discussing buying some crack. “But how many do you want?”

“As many as I can get my hands on,” I said, sounding a bit like an addict looking to score.

Chiara took my business card and said she’d email me. I assumed I’d never hear from her again, but a few hours later, I received her message.

“I found someone who will drive me out to Campi Salentina tomorrow to get the pasticciottos, how many should we pick up for you?”

We have no car in Italy and are at the mercy of the local public transport, which is woefully inadequate, so I told her that I wanted to make the pilgrimage out to the Obama pasticciotto place with them.

The following afternoon I met up with Chiara and her friend and fellow student at the Salento University, Marco Scigliutzo, who was driving a Skoda. After stopping for directions once in the small town, we pulled up in front of an ordinary looking shop that had a large American flag flying on the balcony overhead.

We walked inside and I was immediately struck by a likeness of a smiling Barrack Obama, waving his right hand while holding up a pasticciotto in the left. We’d come to the right place, but all I could see were rows of ordinary, vanilla colored pasticciotto.


But my fear that they were out of Obamas was quickly put to rest, as the counter person asked us how many Obamas we wanted. Could we see the product first, I thought, once again feeling a bit like a guy about to score a kilo of heroin.

Angelo Bisconti, the owner of the place, called Cheri, since 1994, came out with a tray of the little beauties and told us his story. He was inspired by Obama during the primary in 2008 and thought he was going to “change the world.” So he experimented with a special Obama pasticciotto in his honor. At first, he tried to make it with some vanilla and some chocolate, in honor of Obama’s multiracial background, but that didn’t work, so he went with a lava cake approach – chocolate on the outside and on the inside.

Bisconti said that he’d received a letter from the American consulate in Naples thanking him for making these wonderful treats and also mentioned that he went to the U.S. to promote his brand. He also sells bottles of Obama dessert wine with the President’s likeness for €10 a bottle. The Obamas have 457 calories and cost the equivalent of 65 cents. Bisconti claims that he sells about 1,000 of them per day.

The Obama pasticciotto didn’t disappoint. It tasted like a muffin on the exterior but then when we bit into them a bit further, an explosion of hot molten chocolate scorched our mouths. It tasted so good that my brain refused to process how hot the chocolate was, so I just kept chewing into it.

But once the whole thing was safely stuffed into my mouth, I suddenly realized that my gullet was on fire. I had to hop around a bit and get some water to cool off. But I was already addicted. These little beauties are awfully good.

Bisconti admitted that he wasn’t sure if Obama had a sweet tooth or not but said he was confident that the President would love the pasticciottos if he had a chance to try them. He said he sent the President a letter about them, but has yet to receive a response.

Bisconti said that other shops have tried to copy his recipe, but have failed. He claims to have the copyright to make Obama pasticciotto and could sue others who try to infringe on it. On the way back to Lecce, I wondered how someone could get a copyright to use a famous person’s likeness to sell gooey muffins.

“Couldn’t Obama sue him?” I asked Marco and Chiara.

“I think Obama has more important things to do than worry about a guy selling pasticciottos in Italy,” Marco said.