Earliest Map Naming America Discovered

map A copy of the earliest map that names America has been discovered.

The map was created by German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller in 1507 based on explorers’ accounts. Only four copies are known to exist, but a fifth has just been discovered inside a 19th century book at the Ludwig Maximilian University library in Munich.

This map is slightly different than the others and appears to be a second edition.

Waldseemüller named the vaguely drawn land after Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci. His map is important because he shows America as being separate from Asia. Until this time the common assumption was that it was part of Asia.

The map is actually a globe gore, designed to be cut out and pasted onto a globe. It never was, and how it ended up in a book published three centuries later is a mystery.

To celebrate the Fourth of July, the library has put the map online.

Image courtesy Badische Landesbibliothek.

5 Alternatives To Fireworks This (Very Dry) Fourth of July

wildfireIt’s hard to imagine the Fourth of July without fireworks, but for drought- and fire-stricken regions like Colorado, that’s the way it’s going to be this year. If you happen to be living or traveling in a no-fireworks zone, don’t despair. There are still ways to celebrate our nation’s birth without setting it ablaze.

Since I’m in Colorado right now, I brainstormed with a group of rangers at Boulder’s Chautauqua Park (which is adjacent to the now 90%-contained Flagstaff Mountain blaze). Our ideas, below:

1. Organize a block party

2. Go to a laser show (or hold your own; those PowerPoint things are for more than just entertaining cats)

3. Have a picnic or barbecue and stargaze

4. Go to a concert in a park or other outdoor venue

5. Go camping, minus the open fire

[Photo credit: Flickr user H Dragon]

The Stop, Drop and Role Technique for Fire Safety

Summer Travel Trends: Experiential Travel, Weekend Getaways And Digital Tools

beach A lot has changed in the way people take summer vacations from last year. According to the American Express Spending & Savings Tracker, consumer behavior is shifting towards experiential travel, with 42 percent looking to learn about local culture. Furthermore, 22 percent of travelers are looking for more “soft adventures,” like cooking classes, spa retreats and trekking. Likewise, 36 percent wish to incorporate learning activities into their travels, like museum visits, historical sites and cultural monuments.

Using digital tools both before and during travel is also a growing summer travel trend. Fifty-six percent are doing online research before booking their trips. Additionally, 39 percent of travelers are using apps to learn more about their destination, find deals, make trip bookings and get recommendations. Travelers are also staying connected to work by checking their emails while away.

This summer, there will also be more travelers taking weekend getaways – 43 percent up from 36 percent. In fact, the average number of weekend getaways for the summer is three per month.

For more facts and figures on summer travel, click here.

Folly Beach, South Carolina: The Country’s Greatest Fourth of July


This most recent Fourth of July, on a beach in South Carolina, a guy named Freddie handed me a beer after I took his photo in front of his American flag. He’d just done his best Iwo Jima pose, and as I tapped his email address into my phone, promising to send him the pictures very soon, he insisted I take a turn hoisting the stars and stripes. Road trip tip: Do whatever a beer-toting, banner-flying patriot asks on Independence Day and you’ll be handsomely rewarded.

Two months ago, I couldn’t have guessed where Folly Beach might be. Now, I’m singing its praises to anyone who will listen. I never thought I’d be planning my first trip to South Carolina, but after a short stay in Folly, I’m already thinking about my second.

Traveling the American Road – Folly Beach Fourth of July


The stay: I was staying at the Tides at Folly Beach, a converted Holiday Inn that enjoys an enviable position on the sand, right next to the fishing pier at the end of Center Street. Balconies look over the water. The beachfront bar bustles with activity as the sun goes down–a fantastic live act was jamming on July 4, and other combos are frequently on stage.

The crowd: These people are here to have a good time. That doesn’t mean getting sloppy drunk–though there’s some of that!–but rather that the crowds at Folly have a vacation mindset. Watches aren’t necessary, and what kind of appointment would you have anyway? Rita’s, an outstanding restaurant across the street from Tides, serves food all day, with the bar open until late. When that closes, head to Surf Bar, a pitch-perfectly themed spot just off Center Street that goes even later.

The vibe: On a scale of one to comatose, Folly is laid back, a step shy of vegetative, even after the morning’s hangover has worn off. No shirt? Not a problem. Barefoot treks to the breakfast food truck? Sure. Drinking a beer on the beach? Just keep it in a plastic cup. Riding motorcycles without helmets? Wait, how do you do it where you’re from?

The beach: It’s enormous, particularly at low tide. On what has to be one of the busiest weekends of the year, I had no problem finding a patch of sand not just for relaxing but for frisbee tossing. The one knock could be that the water approaches bathtub temperatures, but that’s actually a plus if you plan to spend all day swimming. (You should plan to spend all day swimming.)

The show: The night of July 4, I grabbed a bunch of sparklers and headed for the beach, where explosives experts were setting up the night’s show. The casualness about the fireworks was amazing, as families set up towels and beach chairs right below the blast zone. Before the official show started, we were surprised by random flashes and bangs, as people lit their BYO fireworks.

The departure: Perhaps the best thing about Folly is that it feels so removed from real life–while being just nine miles from Charleston, a city well worth seeing in its own right. That makes the beach accessible but at a small remove, a short drive that lets you mind decompress and switch into surf gear. A couple, fellow hotel guests, told me they could see the bridge back to the mainland from their room. That’s not a good thing, they said. It reminds them that the real world is just a few miles away.

Fireworks in Austin from July 4th, 2010

With Independence Day arriving tomorrow, many Texans are wondering just how to celebrate the 4th of July without fireworks. The sparkling display has been canceled this year due to the extreme drought in the area. I recently published a piece on Alternatives to Fireworks for those of you afflicted by firework-less regions. My favorite suggestion in the piece, cheesy as it may sound, was a fireworks film projected onto a wall. Some of my friends are having a BBQ tomorrow for the special day and I’m not kidding when I say: I totally plan on making everyone celebrate via the Austin fireworks show from last year’s July 4th.

Check out the video and honor the USA by way of YouTube video tomorrow if you have no other way to set off or see fireworks. And if you have seen or will be seeing fireworks for the holiday? Feel free to share your video link in the comments on this piece.

Tube, Mine, and Shell Fireworks