In this book of articles from his travels around North America the past quarter century, Robert N. Jenkins recounts the insights he gained from experiences as diverse as stumbling upon the majesty of the Grand Tetons and flying on the Concorde at twice the speed of sound.
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Named the travel editor of the Tampa Bay (formerly, St. Petersburg) Times in 1987, Jenkins would win eight national awards for his writing and for the overall excellence of his weekly section of travel news.
He notes that he had no passport when he became travel editor – but then, neither did an estimated 95 percent of his fellow Americans. In those days, you did not need a passport to re-enter the U.S., nor to enter Canada or Mexico or take a cruise around the Caribbean.
With so much of North America available to open passage, most Yanks opted to stay home. If they could drive, ride a bus or a train to a destination, they must have reasoned, why suffer from jet lag or worry about unfamiliar languages, customs and menus?
But Jenkins, now contemplating the need for his fourth passport, understood his portfolio as travel editor was to explore the world and report back to the readers of Florida’s largest-circulation paper (and later, also the most-visited web site).
Yet he remembered the passport numbers: Most people aren’t going to leave the U.S., he understood. So he could not merely write for the “armchair travelers’’ who were interested in reading about, but not experiencing, the world outside North America.
In this fourth anthology of his travel articles, Jenkins takes you back to the days of the Yukon Gold Rush and the agonies of the Klondike Trail. He reports on the oddly moving and matter-of-fact Sixth Floor Depository, the spot where Lee Harvey Oswald fired upon President John F. Kennedy.
The author sits you down next to Grammy-winning musician Gatemouth Brown, who comments wryly while his CD plays at a down-home restaurant in his adopted home, in “the anti-New Orleans’’.
Not far away, in the capital of Cajun Country, you’ll practically hear the music at a zydeco brunch and the weekly jam session on the porch of a home-turned-music store, in a region where the music never stops.
Born in Washington, D.C., Jenkins leads you on a tour of the Mall – the Nation’s Lawn. And he also takes you to four fine, and diverse, museums in Kansas City, Mo.
Speaking of museums, in this book readers can wander amid thousands of fossilized dinosaur bones, including a T Rex more than 40 feet long, in the Royal Tyrell Museum in Alberta – purpose-built amid one of the world’s largest dinosaur-bone finds.
A different sort of institution, the D-Day Museum, presents the valiant effort of America’s armed forces in both the European and Pacific theaters of World War II: You can read of the courage that earned a Medal of Honor displayed here but also read the comment of one soldier: “We weren’t heroes – we were Army Rangers.’’
Jenkins’ travels also took him to one of the world’s great markets for collectibles, antiques and well, junk, offered by more than 1,000 vendors. And he tours the fabled Ahwanee hotel in Yosemite National Park, built to look as if it rose out of the ground.
Sightings of wildlife, large and small, are recounted in articles on the coastal Little St. Simons island, off of Georgia, and in the national park surrounding mighty Denali – The Great One –in Alaska.
As for that ride in the Concorde? Well, it did land at Dulles International Airport, outside Washington, D.C. You’ll experience the landing from the flight crew’s perspective: Jenkins was strapped into a jump seat in the cockpit.