Photo Of The Day: Early Fall In Italy

This summer’s weather patterns continue to astound me, between heat waves, hailstorms and the mighty Derecho, which was said to be the storm to end all storms before it narrowly missed New York City last week.

Today’s Photo of the Day is proof of even more global weirding: leaves changing color in Italy … IN JULY. As Flickr user Aviv reports from Venice, “One day it’s too hot to be outside, the other day it’s windy and leaves are falling.” Yup, sounds like my summer too.

Have you captured any photos of summer abnormalities lately? Upload your travel shots to the Gadling Flickr Pool and your image could be selected as our Photo of the Day.

SkyMall Monday: Leaf Rake Hands

skymall monday leaf rake hands gadlingAs kids, it’s natural to imagine ourselves as superheroes. Heck, some of us still fantasize about that as adults. How cool would it be to have super powers and to defend the world against supervillians. Sadly, however, reality is such that this isn’t really possible. Even if you tried to be a superhero, you’d probably just end up in trouble with the law. At the end of the day, there are no supervillians and vigilante justice is frowned upon. So, even if you had otherworldly powers, you’d still be stuck in your humdrum life. Even if I could fly, I’d still be writing SkyMall Monday every week, albeit from different places around the world. Even this week’s featured SkyMall product, which resembles Wolverine’s claws, will simply make landscaping your yard only slightly cooler. Even X-Men need to keep a tidy lawn, and that’s why you need the Leaf Rake Hands.Raking leaves is tedious, backbreaking work. No matter how much you rake, more leaves just fall from the trees. Most rakes are flimsy and appear to have been made 30 years ago. Today’s leaves require modern solutions. While superpowers would help, manpower most important.

Think that rakes are perfectly designed for the task at hand? Believe that Wolverine probably hires a landscaping crew to clean his yard? Well, while you clean your gutters telepathically, we’ll be reading the product description:

The deep scoop design of the Leaf Rake Hands allows you to grab huge amounts of leaves, brush, or hedge clippings at one go. Simply grip the handles and scoop! The Leaf Rake Hands use the power of your forearms to make grabbing and lifting nearly effortless.

Finally, years of working out your forearms while browsing the internet have paid off.

You might not be able to be a superhero, but you can be a look like one as you handle your domestic chores. Those leaves aren’t going to rake themselves and that spandex suit that you made for yourself deserves to be worn at least once.

Check out all of the previous SkyMall Monday posts HERE.

Fall foliage. . .with bourbon in Kentucky

Taking an autumn drive to see the leaves change colors is a time-honored tradition in the north and east of the country. While Kentucky might not be the first place you think of as a leaf-peeping destination, the state is full of scenic byways and rolling countryside to be explored. Plus….there’s bourbon.

The Kentucky Bourbon Trail is composed of eight distilleries scattered around Lexington, Bardstown and Frankfort, which are all about one hour from Louisville. Autumn is the perfect time to visit. The leaves are changing, the crowds are gone, and the weather is mild. You can fly into either the Louisville or Lexington airport, though flights to Louisville seem to be cheaper.

Distilleries
Four of the distilleries are closer to Bardstown. These are Jim Bean, Heaven Hill, Maker’s Mark, and Tom Moore. Buffalo Trace, Wild Turkey, Four Roses and Woodford Reserve are closer to Frankfort. Most are open Tuesday through Saturday (some are open Sundays in summer as well) and offer tours every hour. Tours are generally free, or cost just a few dollars. Tours will often include a walk through the production area, a lesson in the history and production of bourbon, and of course, a tasting session.

Getting Around
You’ll need a car to get between the distilleries, so travel with a designated driver or visit no more than two distilleries per day. You could also book a tour guide and driver with a company like Mint Julep Tours.

Where to Stay
For a more urban experience, look for a hotel in Louisville or Lexington, where you should be able to find a room at a national chain for around $100 per night. You’ll find more bed and breakfast accommodations in the smaller town of Bardstown.

What to Do
Other than visiting the distilleries in the area, you can go also go wine-tasting, visit a Civil War Museum, Kentucky Train Museum, take a two-hour dinner train ride through the vibrantly-colored foliage of the countryside, or visit the Kentucky Horse Park. The Park features a daily parade, equine education, horseback and pony rides, and horse shows.

Vintage trains across the U.S. pair autumn days with history

A few hours trip on a vintage train in the fall is a chance to experience American history surrounded by color brilliance. As trains pass along the edges of small towns and waterways, under canopies of leafy branches and across mountainsides, passengers are treated to stories of commerce, adventure and natural history.

With the push west, railroads connected one part of the U.S. with another as people chased after a better life. As the railroad network spread, bustling cities and towns developed in their wake.

Then Americans fell in love with car travel. Once the Interstate highway system developed and the trucking industry expanded, train use dwindled and many tracks were abandoned.

Fortunately, historic passenger trains have remained a passion and portions of historic routes have become hot spots for tourists.

Here are 10 vintage train trips in 10 different states to put on your list of things to do at least once in your life. Each train promises fall foliage and a chance to experience a unique aspect of history. Climb on, sit back and enjoy trees ablaze in their finest. The variety of the train offerings are as varied as the foliage they pass.

Starting from east to west, these vintage trains pass through portions of the varied lanscape of the United States offering glimpses of American history, each with a unique story to tell. Frankly, in this category, how does one pick 10 out of the bounty? Most are in scenic places that I’ve driven through and remember quite fondly. Others I have added to my own ever growing list of a must have experience.

1. Berkshire Scenic Railway–Lenox to Lee or Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Like many vintage train operations, this railway is run by volunteers who are passionate about trains and their history. The Berkshire mountains offers activities that range from the arts to the outdoors. The Norman Rockwell Museum is in Stockbridge, so pair your vintage train trip with the artwork of an American painter whose life embodied a love of the landscape of the human heart. Here’s the link to the train schedule.

2. Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad–Meredith and Weirs Beach, New Hampshire. A ride on this train takes travelers along the shorelines of Winnipesaukee Lake to Lakeport with views of Belknap Mountain and islands in Paugus Bay. Add to the experience by having dinner on a weekend evening supper train.

3.Catskill Scenic Railroad–Mt. Pleasant and Phoenicia, New York. This train ride along Esopus Creek is a chance for birdwatching and deer spotting. Look for bald eagles, great blue herons and hawks. Ask the conductor to stop at Sleepy Hollow made famous by Washington Irving’s tale of Ichabod Crane’s dash to a bridge with the headless horseman in heart-pounding pursuit.

4. Stourbridge Line Rail Excursions–Honesdale, Pennsylvania. What better place to experience a vintage train ride then where rail travel began? Honesdale is the birthplace of the American railroad. Back in 1829, the first commercial locomotive started down the tracks towards Seelyville three miles away and came back. The Fall Foliage round trip excursion travels through the Poconos to Lackawaxen. Here is another post on Poconos fall foliage viewing.

5. Western Maryland Scenic Railroad–Cumberland, Maryland. On this 32-mile round trip excursion between Cumberland and Frostburg you’ll pass through the stunning vistas of the Alleghenies. It’s possible to connect a train trip with a bike trip on the Great Allegheny Passage trail that connects to the C&O Canal Towpath Trail.

6. Tennessee Valley RailroadChattanooga, Tennessee. How can you not want to get on a train in Chattanooga that heads to a town in Georgia called Chickamauga? This train has a layover at the Chickamauga Military Park, the Civil War battlefield. This railroad has run autumn leaf specials for 42 years.

7. Arkansas and Missouri Railroad–Springdale, Arkansas. Travel through the foothills of the Boston Mountains on a train that refuses to accept “pack mules” and “pet chickens.” The Boston Mountains are an extension of the Ozarks. This company’s trains pass over 100 ft. high tressels and through a 1,702 ft. tunnel.

8.Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railway–Antonito, Colorado and Chama, New Mexico. Constructed in 1880, this railroad, touted as “America’s Longest and Highest Narrow Gauge Railroad” is an historic gem. Fall events also happen through the third weekend of October. The railway’s Web site’s history page has maps that show landmarks you’ll pass by.

9. Mt. Hood Railroad–Hood River, Oregon. Ever since 1906, trains have passed through the Columbia Gorge in the Hood River Valley. This railway also offers special events and reservations are recommended. In October, the Pumpkin Patch Express is the fall related event, although there are several other options as well. Here’s the October schedule.

10. Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad–Mineral, Washington. The longest continuously operating steam train in the Pacific Northwest, this train passes through Mt. Rainier’s foothills on a two-hour round trip journey. Pair fall foliage with time at Mount Rainier National Park. Like other scenic railroads, this one offers special events through the month.

To find more fall foliage train options, check out Fall Foliage Train Rides at TrainTraveling.com

Photo of the Day (10-8-08)

Isn’t this shot taken in Boulder, Colorado and posted by chinmaya sn the visual equivalent of a poem? So still, lovely and transient. A perfect image for the movement into fall.

Send your shots our way here at Gadling’s Fllickr Photo Pool. We love to ponder.