Celebrate Upstate International Month

Upstate International Festival

Upstate International Festival

March kicks off a month-long, multi-venue, multi-event celebration of all things international here in the Upstate. Events are hosted by Upstate International, a local non-profit organization that provides information, programs and services to foreign residents and immigrants for cultural diversity in our community.

This article was published by OurUpstateSC.info

Springpad is an Awesome, Visually Smart, Social iPhone App

I recently received a press release about an app called Springpad which touts itself as an organizing and remembering tool. I’m a loyal and fervent user of Evernote and somewhat of an organizational nut so I was intrigued and decided to check it out for myself. It’s funny that I hadn’t heard of Springpad, even though it was named one of TIME Magazine’s top 50 iPhone apps of 2012.

Considered to be more visual, smart and social than Evernote, Springpad does have some advantages. The free app features Notebook templates like Movies to Watch, Recipes to Try and Books to Read. You can choose from different designs and colors for each notebook which adds a “custom” feel to it.

Once the notebook has been created, you can search and add items. For example, in the Movies to Watch I added Silver Linings Playbook which I want to see one of these days. Not only was the item easy to search, but it added the image of the movie poster, critic reviews, cast info and video links. I could then choose to share my notebook with others or even make it public and allow people to “follow” my notebook.

Springpad PlanningIn addition, Springpad also provides task management with integration to Google Calendar, a personal shopping assistant which alerts you when prices change. Travel planning is also fun using Springpad by “grabbing” or “springing” items such as;

  • Create To-Do and Packing Lists and sync with your calendars, and create alert reminders
  • Collect Ideas and Inspiration you find online of things to do, restaurants to visit, and places to stay
  • Connect to Google Maps, Foursquare and Yelp! for directions and planning your route
  • Track Your Travel Budget and compare prices automatically of products you see and save on the web, and be notified of a price drop
  • Collaborate with your friends, family or whoever you choose to pool your travel ideas and with anyone with which you want to share your itinerary

Here are some examples of real user-created notebooks to plan their vacations;

So for a completely free app (it even has unlimited data storage with Cloud Computing), it’s a keeper. Will I use it for all of my notes-probably not. I still like Evernote’s organizational structure for those. But, I will use Springpad for things like shopping lists, vacation planning lists, movies I want to see, etc.

Look out Evernote, there’s another kid on the block and she’s a little prettier and more social.




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Take a Hike: Five Great Places to Go Hiking in the Upstate

Table Rock

Table Rock

The Upstate is an outdoor lover’s paradise with abundant trails, waterfalls, lakes and mountains. And while it may not seem like it, February is an ideal time to get outdoors. Spring allergies haven’t quite hit, the weather is still cool and the views are even better through the leaf-bare tree limbs. From waterfalls to mountains, here are five easy hikes the whole family can enjoy.

This article was published in the February 14, 2013 edition of the OurUpstateSC.info newsletter and at See the South.


Luxurious Weekend at the Sanctuary at Kiawah Island

The beach on Kiawah Island

The beach on Kiawah Island

When February rolls around, I begin fantasizing about the beach; the sound of rolling waves washing across the sand, the seagulls belting out their never-ending harmonies and the feeling of sand squishing between my toes. I want a beach weekend and I want to be pampered and feel like a Queen (or King). South Carolina’s the best beaches are those in the Charleston area and no one does luxury and pampering like The Sanctuary at Kiawah.

This article was published February 2013 on SeetheSouth.com and in the Simpsonville Sentinel.

Spring Performing and Visual Arts Events in the Upstate

Performing Arts in the Upstate

Performing Arts in the Upstate

Spring is a time of renewal. A time when the cold, dreary days of winter begin to turn into warmer days filled with the sights and smells of blooming trees and flowers. Springtime also starts to heat up with performing and visual arts performances and calendars are packed full this season. From Edwin McCain at the Walhalla Civic Auditorium to Denyce Graves at the Clemson Brooks Center, these shows are just a few of the many great performances happening in the Upstate through June.

This article was published January 2013 by Ten at the Top on the OurUpstateSC.info website.



There’s Always Something Blooming in Greenwood

Arts Center in Greenwood

Arts Center in Greenwood

Goats and trains and the Revolutionary War all come together in this city “where there’s always something blooming.”  Located on the shores of Lake Greenwood, the 11,400 acre lake is obviously a big attraction but there’s more here than just the water. Uptown Greenwood has a revamped downtown area with “the widest main street in the world” and is home to great museums, an old-fashioned drive-in movie theater and an amazing goat farm.

This article was published January 2013 at OurUpstateSC.info and at See the South.



Warm Up in One of America’s Prettiest Winter Towns

Winterfest in Blowing Rock, North Carolina

Winterfest in Blowing Rock, North Carolina

Nestled high in the North Carolina Mountains is the quaint village of Blowing Rock. Pretty any time of the year, winter – when the town is blanketed in white fluffy snow – is the best time to visit. Travel and Leisure agrees, having named Blowing Rock one of “America’s Prettiest Winter Towns” in their December issue. At 4,000 feet with some of the best mountain views in the state, Blowing Rock embraces winter activities, with skiing nearby, outdoor adventures, shopping and an annual Winterfest event.

This article was published January 2013 at Deep South Magazine.

The Pickwick – A Family-Run Business for Generations

Pickwick Soda Fountain

Pickwick Soda Fountain today

Tucked away in a non-descript strip center on the outer edge of downtown Greenville, this family-run business has been serving the local community since 1933. It’s a landmark on Augusta Road, and with a restored soda fountain, personal service from the pharmacy (they will deliver prescriptions to you) and a variety of local items for sale (including their own BBQ sauce), this local business is poised for the future.

This article was published in the January 10, 2013 OurUpstateSC.info newsletter and website and at See the South.

Kansas City, More Than BBQ and Blues

Tank at the WWI Museum in Kansas City, Missouri

Tank at the WWI Museum in Kansas City, Missouri


BBQ and Blues may be what put Kansas City, Missouri on the map and yes, the city certainly does have its share of great BBQ joints and jazz clubs. But this town is passionate about the arts with a vibrant arts culture, world-class museums and a robust performing arts center. I recently spent a couple of days touring the city and was truly amazed at this gem of in the middle of the U.S.

This article was published on Yahoo and in print in the January 2013 edition of the Simpsonville Sentinel, Kansas City More than BBQ and Blues and February 2013 in Global-Writes.

Colombia, Where the Only Risk is Not Wanting to Leave

Santa Cruz del Islote

The most densely populated island in the world-Santa Cruz del Islote

Once considered the “bad boy” of South America, Colombia is trying hard to change the world’s perception of the country. Where once drug cartels made the news and headlines, today’s Colombia is considered a safe, emerging global travel destination. From the capital city of Bogota, located high in the mountains, where history and cultural attractions are plenty, to the historic Caribbean city of Cartagena de Indias. Here are a few highlights from my trip and things not to miss when you plan your own visit to Colombia. This article was published January 2013 on Yahoo.


Family Fun at The Children’s Museum of the Upstate

Looking for a fun place to take the kids over the holiday break?  The Children’s Museum of the Upstate is a great hands-on, learn-about-how-things-work kind of place.  Children can grocery shop and make healthy food choices, complete with grocery store shelves and a checkout counter or learn how to make a movie using a green screen in the animation studio.

This article was published by OurUpstateSC.info and SeetheSouth.com.


Get Your Travel Budget to Work for You

With the economy in the tank and new airline fees for just about everything, how can savvy business owners keep their T&E budgets in line? Here are some tips to lower your travel costs. You can also look up for a second job, take a few minutes and fill out the Fallas Application to start working as soon as possible and save more money for you trip.

Clay Strawn, owner of Exit Realty Sun Living in Chandler, Arizona, takes about 5 business trips a year and while that may not seem like a lot to some, for his small real estate company it’s a large investment.  “Most of my trips are for conferences so I really try to make the trip as inexpensive as possible.  I check to make sure that the hotel conference rate is the cheapest I can get and I use hotel shuttles to get to and from the airport, “says Strawn.  “It’s important for me to keep my travel costs as low as possible.” The full article was published at TomorrowsTrends.com

And also here are some travel pillow reviews that will make your traveling experience better.

Caribbean Paradise at Punta Faro Resort on Isla Mucura

Located about three hours away from Cartagena and accessible only by boat, this small island paradise is a way to get away from it all. The island itself is a national park and Punta Faro Resort has eleven acres and 45 rooms on the 24-acre island in the San Bernardo Archipelagos.

But don’t mistake its small size for thinking there is nothing to do. The island has a dive shop which showcases the best snorkeling mask set just like the ones I bought online, kayaking paddles, paddleboards and windsurfing. There is pretty good snorkeling right off the beach or you can take a boat out to other reef areas. You can go fishing on a reef, but you will have to bring your own gear. We were carrying our own travel fishing rod and it was fun catching fish. There’s a small fishing village a few minutes away. Meals are all included and are served in the open-air restaurant on the property. Down by the beach there’s a bar, hammocks and massage tables, the whole park to find your perfect beach wagon with big wheels.

Most of the people who work at Punta Faro live on Santa Cruz del Islote, which is considered to be the most densely populated island in the world.  Boat tours are daily from Punta Faro to this tiny island that has less than an acre of land and is home to about 1250 people. Island residents only have electricity for a few hours a day, water gets delivered 3 times a week and they walk through each other’s kitchens to get to their own homes.

I could have spent days or weeks at Punta Faro just relaxing on the beach and swimming in the gentle sea. It’s easy to see why it’s a popular getaway for locals and I hope to return to this island paradise one day soon. Find out about Merritt Supply in advance to get prepared for your boat trip.

These type of places mostly rely on natural resources rather than using perishable resources that end up harming the environment. To compare various sources of energy and utilize them visit the Utility Saving Expert website.

So that’s it for my Caribbean Paradise vacation at Punta Faro Resort on Isla Mucura… For my next destination I will look at this site and see more Caribbean places to where I can spend my vacation…Till my next trip!!!

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Cartagena, the Historic Caribbean Walled City

An easy, short one hour flight on Avencia Airlines will get you from Bogota to Cartagena de Indias.  This walled-city is full of history and charm. Founded in 1533, it’s a Unesco World Heritage Site and people come from all of Colombia and the world to visit.  In fact, over 30% of the people in Cartagena work in tourism.

As a base of exploration here, the place to stay is inside the 11-kilometer walled city. The Hotel Charleston Santa Theresa is a five-star, top-notch hotel and one of my favorite hotels that I have ever stayed at.  You’ll know you’re surrounded in luxury from the rose petals in the bathroom to the top-of-the-line toiletries and sheets.

Then get out and explore! Cartagena is a walkable city and it’s great to get lost and wander the cobblestone streets and squares. Simon Bolivar was very important to this city and there are several monuments, a square and buildings in his honor.  There is another part of Cartagena called Boca Grande, which you can get to by a short taxi ride from the historic area.  This area is the “new” part of Cartagena and from what I could see doesn’t really offer much.  It’s more condo rentals than anything else.

Castillo de San Felipe is the largest fortress built in America by the Spanish Empire in 1657.  It was built for protection against pirates while shipping gold to Europe. You can tour the fort on your own or take a guided tour.

A bicycle is another great way to get around the city and a bike tour by Cartagena Bike Tours will get you acclimated. Gerardo Nieto is a native Cartagenero and will provide you with the history of the city as well as point out film locations of movies like Love in the Time of Cholera and The Mission. You can ride your bike on top of the colonial walls. Stops include local squares, historic homes and getting coconut water from a street vendor.

Another way to tour around is to take a horse-drawn carriage ride at night.  Just ask the hotel or flag one of the carriages on the street who doesn’t have passengers. A catamaran ride at sunset is another great way to experience Cartagena from a different perspective.  Catamaran Maxicat provides drinks like Vodka online Oddbins and appetizers while cruising along the shoreline of Cartagena.

I wasn’t overly impressed with a lot of the food we had in Bogota but Cartagena was a different story. My favorite was Don Juan Restaurant.  Chef Juan Felipe Camacho, studied in Spain at a Michelin-starred restaurant and combines that Spanish influence along with fresh ingredients to serve up some really good food.

Another local favorite was La Cucina Pepina, located in the Getsemani neighborhood.  Mama Pepina was a sociologist and doctor before she decided to publish a cookbook and become a chef.  They serve traditional Colombia Caribbean home cooking. Fruit juices like Orangina are popular in Cartagena too and Mamoncillo and Corozo juices are native.

I wouldn’t recommend Cartagena for its beaches even though there are a couple of public swimming areas, as there is a lot of volcanic rock directly offshore.  Most locals go to the Rosario Islands for a beach day or to Punta Faro for a relaxing weekend.  We went to Punta Faro. Read my post on Caribbean Paradise at Punta Faro Resort on Isla Mucura.


2012 Marks the 50th Anniversary of the South Carolina Technical College System

In 1961 South Carolina was in a crisis. The state’s primary employers were agriculture and textiles and talented young people were opting to leave South Carolina for better opportunities as they didn’t want to work on a farm or in a textile mill. South Carolina soon realized that they needed to diversify and attract new industry. In order to do that they needed to prove that there was a trained and skilled workforce in place for new businesses to be successful.  So began the SC Technical College System.


This article was published by OurUpstateSC.info.



Bogota, Colombia a Chic Capital City Nestled in the Mountains

This post is long, long overdue but better late than never, right?  This is the first of 3 posts on Colombia, South America.

I was graciously invited to visit Colombia earlier this year. Once considered the “bad boy” of South America, Colombia is trying hard to change the world’s perception of the country.  Where once drug cartels made the news and headlines, today’s Colombia is considered a safe, emerging global travel destination. From the capital city of Bogota, located high in the mountains, where history and cultural attractions are plenty, to the historic Caribbean city of Cartagena de Indias. Here are a few highlights from my trip and things not to miss when you plan your own visit to Colombia.

First stop was Bogota, the capital city nestled in the mountains. It’s hip, chic and full of culture.  Located at 8612 feet, it’s the largest city in Colombia and also the third-highest capital city in South America. The temperate here remains cool, an average of 57 degrees, even in the middle of summer.

As a base for your exploration, The Hotel Avia is a nice, clean, modern hotel that is centrally located in the main restaurant district.  It has an award-winning French restaurant, spa and gym along with comfortable rooms.

Unless you are an experienced driver in Latin American cities, I suggest either a taxi or use the Transmilenio bus system to get around the city. There are over eight million people that live in Bogota and a good majority of them use the bus system so it’s pretty efficient. Also traffic seemed to pretty heavy no matter what time of the day it was and roadways went in all different and crazy directions.

A must stop on the places to visit in Bogota is the Museo Del Oro.  This museum started in 1939 in the old Central Bank Building. It expanded in 1968 and now has an amazingly large collection of over 35,000 pieces of gold and pre-Columbian artifacts.  Ever heard of El Dorado?  Well this museum has El Dorado collections.


The Casa de Narino or Presidential Palace offers free tours seven days a week.  You must sign up online at least five days ahead of time and be prepared to leave all of your bags and cameras with the front guards.  It’s a great tour and worth the effort to set it up. The Palace boasts Baccarat crystal chandeliers, Italian sculptures and tapestries.  Tours are done in both Spanish or English just be sure to indicate your preference when you sign up.

Since 1640, this sanctuary has been a beacon atop Bogota’s eastern mountains. Cerro de Monserrate offers amazing views of Bogota and is accessible via funicular or cable car.  Once on top of the mountain, you can tour the church, eat at one of the two restaurants or just take in the sights.

A great area to just explore and walk around is La Candelaria.  This preserved historic site is Bogota’s oldest neighborhood.  There are pedestrian-only, cobblestone streets, centuries old homes and churches and is a burgeoning art community.

Of course since Colombia is famous for its coffee, with over 900,000 coffee farms, no trip to the country would be complete without experiencing a cup of java. At E&D Café not only can you order your favorite coffee concoction but they have a coffee lab where you can learn about and taste different beans and flavors.

Food choices range from ChibChomBia in the La Macarena Zone where the restaurant serves up typical Colombian food such as Arepas, which are sweet corn pancakes, Empanadas and Ajiaco Soup, which is a typical Colombian soup with chicken, rice, potatoes and avocados.  Fruit juices are very popular at lunch and you can order a variety of flavors made with either milk or water.

For dinner, Andres D.C., is a four-story restaurant and nightclub.  Dancing is on the ground floor with restaurants tables on the other three. It’s uniquely decorated with each floor named.  You could be in hell, earth, purgatory and heaven.

Keep in mind these are just the highlights.  There is a ton of things to do and see in Bogota.  I only had one day (yes, it was a very long day!) but I would suggest spending at least a couple of days to tour this magnificent city.

Next, we flew to Cartagena so read my post on “Cartagena, the Historic Caribbean Walled City” to continue the adventure.


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Holiday Shopping in Savannah, Georgia

Savannah may be known as a city of elegance and mystery, but this Southern belle also knows how to celebrate the holidays. Established in 1733, Savannah is known as America’s first “planned” city, with founder James Oglethorpe laying out the streets with 22 tree-filled squares. This bustling port was the place to export cotton, and visitors can still stroll down cobblestone streets under century-old live oaks dripping with Spanish moss.

This article was published December 2012 online by Deep South Magazine, Getaways for Grownups and in print in The Simpsonville Sentinel.

Top 10 Places To Feed The Animals In The U.S.

Kids love to feed animals. There’s just something about a giraffe slobbering in their hands that they can’t get enough of. Of course, we never really grow up and adults still enjoy the experience as well.

As far as family trips go, these establishments are relatively inexpensive. They can be visited on a weekend or incorporated into a longer trip. Some places charge by the carload and for others it’s as cheap as buying a loaf of bread.  This article was published in the December 2012 edition of Travel World Magazine.




Holiday Lights Safari at Hollywild

For the past twenty-two years, Hollywild Animal Park in Wellford, South Carolina has opened up its 100-acre safari from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day for their annual Hollywild Lights Safari. This unique holiday experience allows visitors to drive through the open range area of the park accompanied with stops to feed the animals and motor past millions of dazzling holiday light displays. Given it’s vast territory they decided to make a small playground in the middle of a track for you to walk your dog, it’s all set to promote outdoor activities involving animals. Money raised during the event goes to care for their resident animals throughout the year.

This article was published in the November 20th  OurUpstateSC.info newsletter and at See the South.

Spartanburg Gives Thanks through the County Foundation’s Annual Community Thanksgiving Service

Thanksgiving began as a time to celebrate the end of a good harvest season. And while that may still be true for our country’s farmers, others use it as a time of year to reflect and express what they are thankful for; be it good health, a steady job or their family.  It’s also a time when many seek out to assist those that are less fortunate. This article was published in the OurUpstateSC.info site and newsletter.  For the full article click here.

The Sparkling Holiday Tradition of Tiny Town

Nothing says the holidays are here more than twinkling lights and a Christmas village, but Tiny Town in Easley, South Carolina takes things to a whole new level. An annual tradition for thousands of people, this free-to-the-public display features building replica’s lit up creating an entire mini-town.  This article was published in the Nov/Dec 2012 edition of Foothills Spotlight Magazine.

A Jewel in the Mountains at Brasstown Valley Resort

This article was published in the November 2012 edition of the Simpsonville Sentinel and at See the South.


At first, Brasstown Valley Resort seems to be a typical mountain getaway.  It’s located at the base of the Appalachians in the Chattahoochee Mountains of Northeast Georgia and has a small-town, woodsy kinda vibe. But as you start to meander up the tree-lined driveway towards the 503-acre resort, you’ll soon discover that this resort has so many amenities that it definitely isn’t your run-of-the-mill mountain retreat. And while every season here is nice, now is the perfect time to visit with cooler temperatures and amazing fall foliage.

The best part about Brasstown is that you can do as much or as little as you want.  The resort features an 18-hole championship golf course with custom golf balls, stables that offer one and tw o-hour guided trail rides, and a 7,500 square-foot spa.  Add in tennis courts with some equipment from tennisracquets.com/collections/squash-racquets, a fishing pond, swimming pool and an onsite art gallery and you’ll never want to leave this jewel in the mountains. And, if that’s still not enough, Lake Chatuge is located nearby and offers boating and boat rides to do skiing, tubing and fishing.Image result for boat dock

The place is just renewed by the best boat dock builders, which left a special place for people to stay an take the sun and go, on the recreational use of a boat to do the sports activities which is one of the most popular activities or just spend the time watching the rest of the family from a beautiful place.

Oyster Season in Apalachicola

Apalachicola, Florida, has that small town, laid back kinda feel. Locals greet visitors and each other with a smile, and longtime residents know each other by name. But start talking about oysters, and look out. Opinions are fierce and debates can grow heated, because in this town, oysters rule.  This article was published October 2012 at Deep South Magazine and at Getaways for Grownups.

Halloween is Brewing With Fun at These Upstate Attractions

The leaves are falling and the temperatures are finally starting to get cooler.  What does that mean?  That it’s almost Halloween in the Upstate.  The Upstate has a ton of great options for Halloween, whether you want a scary woods experience, a haunted house or a family friendly event, the Upstate has something for everyone’s ghoulish tastes.  This article was published at OutUpstateSC.info.  For the full article, click here.

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You Can Come Home Again: Mesa’s Changing Face

I grew up in Mesa, Arizona and  I have fond memories of the town.  And, while Mesa has certainly changed over the years, a lot of things are still the same.

During the Spring, many people flock to Hohokam Park to watch the Chicago Cubs baseball team practice.  My fondest memory during this time however, is driving down Gilbert or McKellips road each year to watch the pavement wash away as the Salt River flooded.  New bridges have now been built so the roadways don’t wash away but water is still released each year when the snow starts to melt from the Northern part of the state.  It’s amazing to watch the “controlled” flash flood washing over the gritty desert landscape and putting a river in it’s place.

Christmas time brings memories of stopping to get an ice cream cone at Dairy Queen on Main Street and  walking around the Mormon Temple looking at the lights. Each year, the Temple has an amazing light and Holiday display complete with nativity scenes.  This is still one of the best and free lights display in Mesa during the holidays.

Orange groves dotted almost every corner and in the early summer evenings,  we’d stop and pick some oranges (sh….don’t tell anyone) and eat them right in the car.  It’s hard to describe the sweet smell and the tangy goodness that you can only get from an orange picked freshly from a tree.  Oranges still play an important role in Mesa’s agriculture and while there aren’t orange groves on every corner, there are plenty.  I’d suggest though stopping by a roadside stand to purchase your oranges.

Where we once cruised down Main Street on Friday and Saturday nights there is now a vibrant arts center that attracts nationally known talent.  Many of the downtown shops have changed with only a few (such as Milano‘s Music) remaining throughout the years and today the streets of Mesa are lined with cute boutiques and cafes.

One of the best still undiscovered secrets is The Park of Canals. Not only is there a great, small botanical garden area but there are archeological ruins of canals dug by the Hohokam Indians thousands of years ago.

Everytime I visit Mesa, I am amazed by the city where I grew up and how it has not only held on to it’s past but it’s embraced it’s future.




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The Mysterious Brown Mountain Lights

Mysterious lights have been appearing at Brown Mountain in the Linville Gorge area of North Carolina for hundreds of years. According to Cherokee legend, around 1200 A.D. a great battle was fought between the Cherokee and Catawba Indians at Brown Mo

untain and the mysterious lights are from the Indian maidens still searching for their men who died in battle.

This article appeared in the October 2012 edition of Carolina Country Magazine.  It was also published in the November issue of Dashboards and Saddlebags Magazine.

Brown Mountain Lights Carolina Country

Smoky Mountain Fall Fun in Sevierville and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Fall in the Smoky Mountains are a popular time of year with people coming to view the gold and red leafy splendor.  But this area has much more going for it than pretty fall foliage. Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountain Parkway can be clogged with traffic jams so it’s a perfect time to discover the more laid-back adjoining towns of Pigeon Forge and Sevierville.

This article was published in the October 2012 edition of The Simpsonville Sentinel and online at See the South.

Book Review: The Longest Way Home

I recently received a review copy of The Longest Way Home by Andrew McCarthy and normally find biographies boring and too reflective for me to get the entertainment value that I like when reading a novel.  But, I decided to give this one a shot.

I had previously read some of Andrew’s articles in travel magazines, liked his writing style and knew that after Keith Bellows, editor of National Geographic Traveler gave him a shot, he added travel writer to his resume in addition to his acting career(you may recognize his name from Pretty in Pink and St. Elmo’s Fire).

The book is part biography and part travel tale and I actually enjoyed it.  Andrew takes a hard, introspective look at himself and why he is who he is while traveling and embarking on the journey towards marriage.  His travels take him to places such as Patagonia, Costa Rica, the Amazon and Kilimanjaro.  I loved the attention to detail that really set the tone of each place on his journeys and it made me want to visit each even more than before.

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Performing and Visual Arts Events this fall in the Upstate

Fall in the Upstate becomes not only a time when the temperatures start to drop and the leaves turn to vibrant shades of red and gold but also a time when we tend to slow down and reflect.  Performing and visual arts are one way to admire the vast talent that is right in our own backyard. While most of us know to check the bigger venues like the Peace Center in Greenville and the Chapman Cultural Center in Spartanburg for such events, there are also other venues and other communities in the Upstate that have some great happenings as well. This article was published at OurUpstateSC.info and See the South.

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Yadkin Valley Wineries North Carolina

While Napa Valley in California may seem to get all of the attention, the Yadkin Valley in North Carolina is steadily gaining accolades thanks to a robust Viticulture program at the Surry County Community College and the fact that they are churning out some mighty fine tasting wines.

This article was published September 2012 at See the South and in The Simpsonville Sentinel.

To read the print article, use the links below.

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Singer, Songwriter and Distinctly Southern Artist:Angela Easterling

Angela Easterling is a soulful indie musician whose southern roots run deep.  Dubbed “a bright shining star on the country/folk/alt music horizon,” by Roger McGuinn of The Byrds, this talented singer-songwriter grew up in Greer, South Carolina on the family farm.  “We weren’t a typical rural family though”, says Angela, “I grew up listening to music, going to plays and the theater.”

This article was published in the Sept/Oct 2012 edition of Foothills Spotlight Magazine.

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Fluor, One Hundred Years and Still Going Strong

Fluor Corporation has been a major corporation in the Greenville landscape for 78 of the company’s 100 years. The company was originally founded in Southern California as a general contracting business by Swiss immigrant John Simon Fluor in 1912.  Fluor invested $100 into his humble construction company to get it off the ground. Today, the FORTUNE 200 Company is headquartered in Irving, Texas, has 30 offices on six continents, employees 45,000 people and had revenue last year of $23.4 billion.

This article was published by OurUpstateSC.info.  For the full article click here.

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Giddy Up to the Seventy-Four Ranch in Jasper, Georgia

jasper, georgiaNo need to go to Wyoming or the Wild West when you can drive about two hours to the Seventy-Four Ranch in Jasper, Georgia and get in touch with your inner cowboy.

This article was published at www.seethesouth.com and in the August edition of the Simpsonville Sentinel.  I also did a guest post for Writing Horseback.

To view the print article, click below:

Seventy Four Ranch Page One

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Lots and lots of trips!

As we hit the dog days of summer things are not slowing down at all.  I had to pull together a list of trips I have taken over the past year and ones I have coming up.  It’s quite a list!  I love my job.


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Stumphouse Tunnel and Issaqueena Falls

Located near the town of Walhalla are two of Oconee County‘s top attractions, Stumphouse Tunnel and Issaqueena Falls. Stumphouse Tunnel maintains a near constant 56 degree temperature and is a welcome respite on a hot summer day.  Nearby at Issaqueena Falls visitors can enjoy the waterfall and have a picnic at the shady retreat. This article was published by ourupstateinfo.info and at See the South.

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Most Recent Trips

This summer has been a busy one!  In addition to traveling around the Upstate of South Carolina for local articles and working on my hiking book, here are the trips I have taken recently and that are coming up…


  • Bogota, Columbia
  • Cartagena, Columbia


  • Brasstown Resort in Georgia
  • Boone, NC

August and beyond

  • Savannah, Georgia
  • Franklin County, Florida
  • Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
  • Lynchburg, Virginia
  • London, England (TBD)

That’s my schedule for now.  It absolutely will change :).  Lots of fun though!



Want to go on a safari and see movie stars this summer without breaking the bank?  Well you can do both at Hollywild Animal Park in Inman, South Carolina.  Upon arriving at the park, you’ll soon realize this isn’t your typical zoo.  If the dirt parking lot and no-frills exterior doesn’t give it away, the prompt attention by one of the many roaming animals will. Chickens, peacocks, ducks and other tame animals greet visitors as they enter the park.

This article was published in the July/August 2012 edition of Foothills Spotlight Magazine.

Hollywild Article for Foothills Spotlight Magazine

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BMW, the Ultimate Roadside Attraction in South Carolina

Most of us jump in our car and are just happy that it gets us from point A to point B, never giving any thought to its mechanics or how it was made.  But a visit to the BMW Zentrum Visitors Center and a tour of the BMW manufacturing facility in Greer will change that. Even non-car aficionados will enjoy watching the robots putting the cars together as they move down the assembly line, checking out the Z3 Roadster used in the James Bond movie, “Golden Eye” and  seeing the small Isetta cars that were manufactured in the 1940’s and 50’s post-war era. This article was published in the July/August 2012 edition of Foothills Spotlight Magazine.

BMW Article for Foothills Spotlight Magazine

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Dark Corner Day Trip

The Dark Corner of South Carolina has been shrouded in mystery for over 175 years.  Loosely defined, it’s the towns of Landrum, Gowensville and Glassy Mountain that make up the Dark Corner.  The area was named not from its reputation for moonshining as most people believe, but because in 1832 it was the only area that voted against the nullification act which gave South Carolina the right to ignore federal mandates.  A local politician said in one of his speeches that this was a dark corner where the light of Nullification could never shine. Thus the name the Dark Corner caught on. This article was published by ourupstateinfo.info and at See the South.

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Book Review: The Travel Writers Handbook by Jacqueline Harmon Butler and Louise Purwin Zobel

After a busy travel schedule the past few months, I’m finally getting caught up on some of my reading.  Here’s my review of  The Travel Writers Handbook by Jacqueline Harmon Butler and Louise Purwin Zobel.

First published in 1980, this book is on its 7th edition.  The travel writing field has changed dramatically since that time and the writers have done a good job in making sure the content is updated and relevant in today’s market. They also provide insight on not only the nuts and bolts of HOW to be a travel writer but also how to THINK like a travel writer.  I especially liked the To Market, To Market chapter which provided many “outside the box” markets to pitch travel articles to. There’s a query letter section that provides tips on how to structure your pitches and what has worked for them and what hasn’t.

All in all it’s a handy addition to any travel writers library and would be an invaluable resource to new travel writers just starting out or as a handy reference for season professionals.

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A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to go to Colombia. No, that’s not Columbia, Couth Carolina but Colombia as in South America.  I have to admit that even though this destination had been on my “bucket list” for a long time, I was a little hesitant at first about the trip.  After all, I grew up in the 80’s where the only thing you heard about Colombia was the drug cartels and violence going on.  I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. Colombia is a beautiful country and the people are friendly.  I never felt unsafe, even in Bogota.  That’s not to say that there aren’t neighborhoods that you shouldn’t go into, just like any other big city.  But for the most part it was a clean, modern, progressive city.  We toured around the city, visited the Museo del Oro, an amazing gold museum.  We visited the Presidential Palace, the La Canderleria neighborhood and I was introduced to different kinds of fruits and Arepas. Next we were off to Cartagena and it was amazing!  The old part of the city is surrounded bu a wall and is a great  blend of old world history and architecture.   Where highlights include sitting at an outdoor cafe, under the moonlight directly across from a hundreds years old  church.   From carriage rides and bike tours to just walking along the cobblestone streets, each turn leading to a new discovery.  Sign up for our RSS updates as we publish great articles on this amazing country.

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Revolutionary War Sites in the Upstate

Independence Day, also known as July 4th, is when we, the citizens of the United States, celebrate our freedom from Great Britain.  It was marked by signing the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and we commemorate the event with parties, parades and fireworks. But did you know that there were more battles and skirmishes fought right here in South Carolina than in any other colony during the Revolutionary War? So to commemorate this year, plan a visit to one of these Upstate battlefields.

This article was published by ourupstateinfo.info and at See the South. For the whole article, click here.

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Book Review: The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World Planner

Okay, I have to admit, I was a little skeptical when I received a copy of this book to review.  I mean, how many books can possibly be written about the Mouse’s Kingdom?  A quick search on BarnesandNoble.com shows 989 results-that’s a lot.  But right away I could see that this book was a little different.  First, it’s not just a book telling you where to see, what to eat and what to do.  It’s got several organizer pockets and a journal section so you can chronicle your trip and keep it as a keepsake.

The book does have all of the “usual” information about how to plan your Disney vacation, when to avoid the crowds and what to expect while in the Magical Kingdom.  It also gives a fairly comprehensive overview on each resort so you will have a good idea which one will fit your family’s needs and budget, including options outside of the park.

Every restaurant, retail store, ride and attraction are also detailed and is meant to be used as a reference for while you are in the park.  So if you find yourself in Frontierland and need a bite to eat, you’ll know that there are three choices, what the price range is for each and if the Disney Dining Plan option is available.

The book also covers Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Downtown Disney and several of the Disney Water Parks.

So bottom line is that if you’re a first-time visitor to Walt Disney World (or an infrequent visitor) and want to make the most out of your trip then this planner and book could prove to be an invaluable resource.

Information on the book:

Based on the popular family travel guide The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World, F+W Media brings you The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World Planner: A Complete Organizer, Journal, and Keepsake for Your Unforgettable Vacation (April 2012) By Susan Veness and Simon Veness (ORLANDO). This guide is more than just a place to keep your important phone numbers and schedules. This all-the-fun-in-one journal is a celebration of the happiest place on earth—and a peek inside its magic!

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New Zip Line Adventure Park in North Carolina!

Nantahala Outdoor Center Announces New Zip Line Adventure Park (via PR Newswire)

WESSER, N.C., May 31, 2012 /PRNewswire-iReach/ — Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC), one of the nation’s largest outdoor recreation companies, announced plans to open its new Nantahala Zip Line Adventure Park at the company’s 500-acre Nantahala River campus near Bryson City, NC. The new Nantahala Zip…

Discover Louisiana’s Other Side

“Always a bridesmaid, never a bride” might once have described the dynamic duo of Shreveport and Bossier City, in northwest Louisiana, but no more. Once known more for its river boat casinos than anything else, “SBC” is no longer a seedy gambling place. Today, the cities have thriving downtowns, progressive arts and film venues and outstanding cuisine. As the wedding metaphor goes, the area is now every bit the beautiful bride as The Big Easy, in the diagonally opposite corner of the state.

This article was published by Cityroom.com and The Simpsonville Sentinel and See the South.

To read the print version of the article, please use the links below.

Grits and Groceries

Grits and Groceries is a contrast of contradictions. It’s seemingly out in the middle of nowhere yet it’s a busy little place. It has the exterior of a greasy, dive cafe’ but you’ll find they serve high-quality, fresh local cuisine. You don’t expect to find seasoned Paris-trained chefs from New Orleans, who worked with Emeril Lagasse, but here they are.

This article was published by ourupstateinfo.info and at See the South. For the whole article, click here.


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Meet Jefferson Davis at the Cross Keys House in Union

The Cross Keys home is considered one of the oldest and most significant homes in the Upstate of South Carolina. The Georgian Colonial mansions’ claim to fame is that Confederate President Jefferson Davis and his military escort ate lunch here on April 30, 1865 on their way out of Richmond, Virginia.  Mary Ann Bobo Whitmire Davis, who lived in the house at the time with the beautiful roofs if you want to avail why not try here- Palm Beach Roofing Expert, answered a knock at the door around mid-day and found five well-dressed men asking for a meal.  She didn’t realize who she had just served lunch to until Jefferson remarked as they were departing that they shared the same last name.

This article was published by ourupstateinfo.info and at See the South. For the whole article, click here.

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