Anonymous Country Star Leaves $1,000 Tip for Waffle House Waitress

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Best Things To Do In Virginia City

On May 26, 1863, road-weary prospectors, who had yet to strike it rich, panned for gold in Alder Creek before stopping for dinner. They hoped to find enough gold to buy tobacco once they reached civilization again. They found enough for tobacco and then some. 

The Alder Gulch discovery would constitute one of the biggest gold strikes in North America. From 1863 to 1889, $90 million (worth about $9 billion today) in gold came out of Alder Gulch. And within a year, nine mining camps would line Alder Creek. Shops, saloons, an assay office, and a bank to hold all that money would eventually line the boardwalks. Virginia City would become Montana’s territorial capital and wood, stone, and brick buildings with glass windows would replace miners’ tents. My great-great-great-grandfather, Dr. Byam, would open his medical practice in Nevada City.

Of the nine original towns, only Virginia City and Nevada City remain. These two towns could easily have gone the way of the other mining camps, disappearing forever. But in the late 1940s, Charles Bovey began to buy and restore the area’s buildings. The larger Virginia City was named a National Historic Landmark in 1961. It, and neighboring Nevada City, became living museums.

Here are the best things to do in legendary Virginia City, Montana:

Gypsy Arcade in Virginia City.
Gypsy Arcade (Photo Credit: Teresa Otto)

1. Stroll Along Virginia City’s Boardwalk

Shops, restaurants, galleries, and a hotel line Wallace Street, Virginia City’s main thoroughfare (Highway 287). All are housed in historic buildings. As you stroll along the wooden boardwalks, you’ll not only see a place to grab a bite to eat or get an old-timey portrait, but also see blacksmith shops, an 1863 barbershop, and the Montana Post that printed the territory’s first newspaper beginning in 1864. This outdoor museum mingles with present-day businesses. 

Signs identify each building and tell a bit about its history. Those that have become part of the museum contain artifacts from their early days so expect to see period clothing, canned goods with original labels, and fortune-telling machines in the Gypsy Arcade. Virginia City and neighboring Nevada City contain the second-largest collection of Old West artifacts in the U.S. after the Smithsonian Institute.

Pro Tip: You can download a map here. A walking tour highlights Virginia City’s historic buildings, homes, and churches and provides information on their background.

The Opera House in Virginia City.
The Opera House (Photo Credit: Teresa Otto)

2. Enjoy A Show

An 1890s livery stable found new life as the Opera House in 1949. Each summer, the Virginia City Players, Montana’s oldest professional acting group, entertains visitors with a two-part show — melodrama and vaudeville. These are family and dog-friendly shows, with the adult humor designed to go over the little ones’ heads. Yes, you can bring your dog (provided he or she doesn’t bark).

The Brewery Follies features two shows daily during the summer. Geared toward an adult audience, expect to enjoy some comedy, music, and maybe a Montana-made microbrew. 

3. Learn About Vigilantes

Virginia City and Nevada City were boomtowns. Their population grew to several hundred within a couple of weeks of the gold discovery. 

Lawlessness followed, arriving before the lawmen did. The first legal system, a miners’ court, met, tried, and decided the verdicts of criminals in the early days with input from the townspeople. When the sheriff arrived, he was lured to the dark side. He was suspected of tipping off robbers to the route and timing of gold shipments out of Alder Gulch to Bannack, a larger, established town 80 miles away. A group of men, called vigilantes, formed and met secretly to clean house after about 100 people were killed during robberies in the fall of 1863. Sheriff Plummer didn’t escape them.

Kiskadden building.
Kiskadden building (Photo Credit: Teresa Otto)

On Wallace Street, vigilantes reportedly met in the Kiskadden building and hung five men, convicted of robbery and murder, in the Hangman’s building days after they hung Plummer. 

The Hangman’s building was later repurposed as the Virginia City Water Company. A plaque tells of the water company’s owner, Sarah Bickford. Born into slavery, she came to Montana after she was freed and became the first African American woman to own a utility company in the U.S.

In Nevada City, vigilantes met in Dr. Byam’s office that still stands on Highway 287. You can look into the ground floor parlor and doctor’s office.

Rodent graves in Virginia City.
Rodent graves (Photo Credit: Teresa Otto)

4. Check Out Boot Hill

If you’re curious about the final resting place of five outlaws hung by the vigilantes in 1864, head up to Boot Hill cemetery. There you’ll see five wooden grave markers and occasionally a cowboy boot left in lieu of flowers. The graves were unmarked until 43 years later.

On the opposite side of the road, you’ll see the rodent agent graves — a spoof on the human ones. Local resident and friend, Angela Mueller, maintains these miniature markers. Pay a visit to learn about their crimes.

Pro Tip: Follow signs to the Virginia City cemetery. The road branches. Take the road to the left (west). The gravel road is well maintained.

5. Visit Virginia City’s Museums

Along with the historic buildings and their displays that constitute an entire town museum, Virginia City has two museums to check out. 

J. Spencer Watkins Museum.
J. Spencer Watkins Museum (Photo Credit: Teresa Otto)

The J. Spencer Watkins Museum is full of photos and artifacts from Virginia City’s early days including a printing press, a gun collection, old photographs, and a sheepherder’s wagon.

The Thompson-Hickman Museum also has a large collection of historic photos, information on the mining dredge that wreaked havoc with the landscape but unearthed the harder-to-find gold, and artifacts from Virginia City’s Chinatown. In 1870, a third of Virginia City’s population was Chinese men, working as miners, in service industries, and running gambling parlors. A couple of oddities like a petrified cat and a replica of Clubfoot George’s clubfoot (vigilantes hung him and buried him on Boot Hill) are definitely out of the ordinary. 

6. Take A Tour

You can give your feet a break and view the city from a stagecoach with Vigilante Carriages. On your narrated 30-minute tour, you’ll learn about the Alder Gulch as you head to the spot where gold was discovered.

Pro Tip: Tours are first-come, first-served, and leave from Wallace Street near the Opera House.

Larger groups can be accommodated on the historic Fire Engine Tour, a 35-minute narrated tour that runs from May through late September. 

Pro Tip: They can accommodate some guests with mobility issues. Please call for more information.

Adler Gulch Shortline Railroad.
Alder Gulch Shortline Railroad (Photo Credit: Teresa Otto)

7. Hop The Train To Nevada City

The Alder Gulch Shortline Railroad connects Virginia City to Nevada City. You can begin your 15-minute narrated trip at the historic train depots in either town. The train passes old mining equipment, a gold-panning attraction, and a small lake popular with fishermen and picnickers.

The Living History Museum.
The Living History Museum (Photo Credit: Teresa Otto)

8. Step Back In Time In Nevada City

The Montana Historical Commission’s Nevada City Living History Museum allows you to mill around a restored Old West town. As you tour the cabins, houses, shops, and schoolhouse, you can learn about 1870s Nevada City with reenactors in period costume. They demonstrate spinning, broom and basket making, and changing a wagon wheel.

For an immersive experience, you can stay in one of the cabins or tents overnight, wear period costumes, do chores, and cook over the campfire with the reenactors guiding you along the way.

Pro Tip: Enter the museum through the music hall. Most buildings at the museum are wheelchair accessible. For a living history experience with reenactors, plan to visit on weekends from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

9. Try Your Hand At Mining

You can learn more about gold mining and give it a try at the River of Gold on Highway 287 near Nevada City. While you probably won’t find gold, you have a great chance of finding garnets both here and at Red Rock Mine and Garnet Gallery in nearby Alder, Montana. 

Pro Tip: No worries if you don’t have any mining experience. You’ll get a demonstration and help along the way.

10. Where To Eat, Sleep, And Shop

For casual dining, Nacho Mama’s serves Tex-Mex, and Bob’s Place serves pizza and sandwiches. For fine dining, head to the Wells Fargo Steakhouse. You’ll find mouthwatering steak, seafood, and bison carpaccio on the menu. The Star Bakery — in Nevada City — serves American fare in hearty proportions for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you’re looking for a sweet treat, visit Montana’s oldest candy store, Cousin’s Candy or the Virginia City Creamery.

For local accommodations, Virginia City’s Fairweather Inn and the Nevada City Hotel and Cabins are popular. They have several ADA-accessible rooms and pet-friendly cabins. Airbnb hosts offer historic cabins, as well. Visit Virginia City’s webpage for lodging options. 

No trip to Virginia City would be complete without browsing in the shops that line Wallace Street. The Dancing Buffalo Gallery (in the train depot), Ranks Mercantile, and Ruby Chang’s Gift Shop are my favorites.

Pro Tip: The nearest large commercial airport is near Bozeman, Montana, 66 miles away. If you are adding a trip to Virginia City to your Yellowstone National Park expedition, West Yellowstone is 85 miles away. 

Virginia and Nevada cities are summer destinations. Attractions open in May and begin closing after Labor Day. For more information, including package deals, visit the Virginia City/Nevada City website.

Look beyond Montana’s rugged beauty and discover its rich and remarkable history:

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What to see, do and eat in Little Italy

A walking tour of Boston’s North End: What to see, do and eat in Little Italy

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Tell us about a UK pick-your-own farm for the chance to win a holiday voucher | Travel

Few things scream summer more than strawberries and cream – and with DIY picking now in full swing (with social distancing measures in place), we want to hear about your favourite farms for filling your punnet.

Whether it’s strawberries, raspberries, cherries, rhubarb, blackberries – or anything else that’s in season, tell us where you love for a bit of pick-your-own and why. We promise not to tell if you follow the “one for the basket, two for me” technique!

If you have a relevant photo, do send it in – but it’s your words that will be judged for the competition.

Keep your tip to about 100 words

The best tip of the week, chosen by Tom Hall of Lonely Planet, will win a £200 voucher to stay at a Sawday’s property – the company has more than 3,000 in the UK and Europe. The best tips will appear on the Guardian Travel website, and maybe in the paper, too.

We’re sorry, but for legal reasons you must be a UK resident to enter this competition.

The competition closes on 22 June at 9am BST

Have a look at our past winners and other tips

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How pilots keep their wingtips clear of obstacles

How pilots keep their wingtips clear of obstacles

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Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Best Things To Do In Gulf Shores For Snowbirds

Have you ever considered becoming a snowbird to a warmer climate during the winter months? Many mature residents from the northern states and Canada head south to the warmer southern states in November through January and spend a month or maybe even five months enjoying the warmer climate. Many go to Florida or Arizona, and while those are excellent choices, other options might be just as good or a better fit for you.

Two options that come to mind are Gulf Shores/Orange Beach, Alabama, the surrounding areas, and the Secret Coast of Mississippi. 

Gulf Shores, Alabama, enjoys a warm, humid climate tempered by sea breezes. The average temperature during winter is in the low to mid-60s. While peak travel happens during the hot summer months (June to August), winter is uncrowded.

There is just something special and relaxing about a beach town. Gulf Shores and Orange Beach serve up sand, surf, and a slower pace. They are also less crowded and affordable.

White sand beaches cover 30 plus miles of shoreline with lots of activities for the mature visitor to enjoy. Orange Beach even hosts an annual January event, Snowbird Fest. 

Many mature travelers want to maintain an active lifestyle year-round, and becoming a snowbird makes that easy to do. Snowbirds enjoy an environment that encourages time outdoors, participating in favorite activities, and pursuing new passions while being a part of a new community. 

Let’s explore some of the activities you can enjoy as a snowbird in Gulf Shores, Alabama. 

Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism, BeachFlight Aviation, and the Foley Depot Museum and Model Train Exhibit provided hosted experiences during our visit. Meyer Vacation Rentals provided lodging. All opinions are my own. 

The beach at Gulf Shores.
Robin O’Neal Smith

1. Visit the Beach

Who doesn’t love the beach? White sand beaches and beautiful turquoise water are the main attractions in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. There are 32 miles of shoreline for the mature traveler to explore. 

During the winter months, you can walk the beach, look for shells, discover diverse ecosystems, or just soak up the sunshine. The beach is wonderful when it is uncrowded.

The writer at a glassblowing event.
Michael P. Smith

2. Dabble With Glass Art at the Coastal Arts Center

The Coastal Arts Center of Orange Beach is a great place to visit. It overlooks scenic Wolf Bay and offers various artistic experiences. Gulf Coast artists display their work in the 10,000-square-foot two-story fine art gallery. The grounds are impeccably groomed and provide a stunning view of the bay. 

A Clay Studio and The Hot Shop are also on the campus. You can build your own clay creation or participate in glass blowing or other glass art projects. When I visited, I watched several Hot Glass demonstrations and participated in a Make-Your-Own fused glass project. I created a fused glass starfish. 

The Arts Center also provides adult art classes and workshops.

3. Attend Local Festivals

Events and festivals are happening year-round along the Gulf Coast. Events and festivals include craft shows, history tours, music, culinary festivals, and more. You can keep up to date with the activities on the Gulf Coast Calendar of Events.

4. Drop A Line

Board a charter boat and fish along the Alabama Gulf Coast, considered a world-class premier fishing destination. You might catch a huge grouper.

Maybe you would rather fish from a pier. Gulf State Park features a massive pier with more than 2,000 feet of space for fishing along the rails.

You also have the option of beach casting. Find a spot anywhere along the shore and hook your dinner. However you like to fish, you won’t be disappointed in the catch. 

5. Visit The Gulf State Park

When you visit the Gulf State Park, you are surrounded by abundant natural beauty. They have 2 miles of beaches and so much more. 

Hiking at Gulf State Park is excellent because the 20+ miles of trails are either paved or boardwalk. There are no roots, stones, etc., to trip over. Just great surfaces to walk or ride on. And there is much to see: lakes, natural habitat, wildlife, wildflowers, and more. 

You can also bike on all the paths, and they have bicycles you can use for free for 3 hours. 

If you have good balance, you can rent a segway to tour the park. When we visited, we enjoyed this option, and we were able to ride the segway for 12 miles to see most of the park. It was great to have a guide pointing out various things in the park. 

A large pool and splash area and a nature center are part of the park. Kayaks, paddleboards, and even beach wheelchairs are available to rent. 

They also have a large campground for RVs, and Gulf State Park has a lodge and conference center. If you are staying at the park, you can use all the facilities without fees. If just coming to visit the park, they charge a nominal fee for the day. 

Boardwalk in Gulf Shores.
Robin O’Neal Smith

6. Go For A Walk

I mentioned the hiking trails above, but you can walk along the beach, around the lakes, and at various other places in the area. You can definitely get your steps in and never be bored with the view while you are walking. 

There are 15 magnificent courses in the Gulf Shores/Orange Beach area. Some were designed by the likes of Arnold Palmer, Earl Stone, and Jerry Pate. You can find a course perfect for your play level. The courses are open year-round and just waiting for snowbirds to escape the snow and swing their clubs.

Fort Morgan in Gulf Shores.
Michael P. Smith

8. Discover Some History

A short drive along the beach is Fort Morgan. There is a museum and a nearly 200-year-old fort to explore. Travel back to a time when cannons protected waterways. 

Be aware if you plan to explore the fort, there are many steep steps. But you can see a lot of things without climbing the steps. I recommend visiting the museum first and reviewing the timeline information. It helps you to understand what you are viewing when you explore the fort.

9. Volunteer To Improve Your Snowbird Community

Many snowbirds enjoy volunteering and giving back to the area. A voluntourism program welcomes visitors and is always happy to give you ideas about how you can be of service. Why not help make your second home community a better place by pitching in?

10. Attend Educational Winter Lecture Series

Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism provides a series of free educational lectures highlighting various local interests, such as nature, local artisans, and military history. 

11. Join Your State Club Meetings

The Gulf Shores area offers ample opportunities to get out and socialize. State-specific clubs for winter snowbirds allow you to flock together with those from your home state. Weekly potlucks and bridge clubs bring everyone from the state together.

Model trains at a museum in Gulf Shores.
Robin O’Neal Smith

12. Take Day Trips

There are numerous places within a short driving distance to take day trips to see more of the area. When we visited, we traveled to Foley to enjoy the Railroad Museum and Model Train Exhibit

Other places of interest include taking Alabama’s Coastal Connection to Fairhope, the ferry to Dauphin Island, visiting neighboring Pensacola, Florida, or the Secret Coast in Mississippi. You could complete each in a day. 

The writer in a gyroplane.
Michael P. Smith

13. Fly Like a Bird

Try something new while you are visiting and have something to tell the neighbors about when you return home. Perhaps a helicopter tour or a hot air balloon ride or, better yet … a gyroplane

I rode in a gyroplane with Beachflight Aviation when I visited, and it was a fantastic experience. When you looked down, you could see the larger fish and dolphins under the water. Everything looks different from the air. I highly recommend this adventure.

Crab legs in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
Robin O’Neal Smith

14. Eat Seafood

If you are a seafood lover, Gulf Shores is the right place to snowbird. Seafood is abundant, and there are some great restaurants to visit. I recommend Fresh Off The Boat, Stephi Cocktails and Cuisine, Safari Club, and Sea-N-Suds

Where To Stay In Gulf Shores

Lodging options in Gulf Shores include beach house rentals, luxury hotels, beach condos, and RV campgrounds that are open year-round. You are sure to find the perfect home away from home in Gulf Shores.

If you are tired of the long, harsh winters, shoveling snow, and icy roads, consider becoming a snowbird and remember all the fantastic activity options available in Gulf Shores and the surrounding areas. Gulf Shores just might be the perfect snowbirding destination for you. 

Tips For Snowbirding

Plan in advance. Due to the many details such as travel, accommodations, prepping your primary residence for when you are gone, notifying the post office, etc., it will take some time, so you need to plan ahead. 

Create a budget. While snowbirding is wonderful, you have to be prepared for the cost, including health care, food, activities, travel, and more. Decide if you will seek a snowbird job to help cover the costs and fund the lifestyle you desire. 

Find the best place to snowbird. While anywhere warm sounds fantastic, make sure you select an area where there is an active adult community with activities and clubs to bring people together and help build a routine. 

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Channel Finder: #10 Arkansas vs. Oral Roberts

Channel: TBS

#10 (#3 seed) Arkansas will face (15 seed) Oral Roberts on Saturday, March 27 in the NCAA Sweet 16. The game tips off at 6:25 p.m. CT and will be televised on TBS with Kevin Harlan (play-by-play), Dan Bonner (analyst) and Dana Jacobson (reporter) on the call.

How to watch online:

Click here to watch on any tablet, phone, computer, or other streaming devices.

How to listen:

Learfield IMG College Razorback Sports Network (Chuck Barrett and Matt Zimmerman)

Sirius/XM: XM Channel 207 – Sirius Channel 137 – Streaming Online on Channel 967

Westwood One (Ryan Radtke and Donny Marshall)

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Iconic Australian Destination Closed After Disrespectful ‘Free Camper’ Behaviour

Australians have taken to their jail cell over the last 12 months like it was Disneyland. And – to the surprise of some Sydney and Melbourne centric snobs – it turns out domestic travel can be bloody amazing.

Second-hand car prices have skyrocketed, living in your van has become sexy not sad, and numerous formerly neglected gems have got coverage like never before.

This awakening to what lies on our doorstep, though long overdue, has come with a number of downsides. One among them has been the consequences of more people “free camping” (living out of their cars and vans).

This used to be a low key habit, done by those in the know, discreetly. But two things have changed this in the last year.

One: increasing numbers of people doing it (which, no matter how well behaved they are, put more strain on destinations), and two: less experienced (or less polite) tourists doing it, who have yet to learn the tricks to the trade.

This has been demonstrated to great effect in Byron Bay, causing no shortage of debate in the process.

Another place many people have been making a pilgrimage to is Queensland’s Cape York. Cape York is The Tip Of Australia, its northernmost point.

Cape York is accessed by four-wheel drive (preferably a very good one), and involves a 10-day road trip to get to.

Tourists are drawn by the challenge, the camaraderie and the spectacular views, braving red dust, crocs, swollen river crossings and crumbed steaks to make it to Pajinka.

Now though, traditional landowners in Cape York have decided to close access to tourists at three Cape York points: Captain Bill’s Landing, Pajinka (the Tip), Ussher Point and Somerset, because of disrespect to traditional landowners.

Reasons cited include a lack of amenities, off-track tourists and unregistered firearms.

PerthNow reports, “the washroom amenities are inoperable and locals have decided to close off tourists spots because their land is being disrespected.”

According to PerthNow, Michael Solomon, chairman of the Gudang/Yadhaykenu Aboriginal Corporation said, “What we want is the facilities to be fixed and upgraded… because people are defecating in the bushland scrub and locals have to clean up and live through it.”

“It’s insulting to us, and having discussed with traditional custodians we have decided to close the country to tourists.”

“Local people, volunteers, they clean up. But I would prefer to have proper facilities for safety purposes.”

Long-term Bamaga resident and Cape York guide book author Tracy Sands told the Cairns Post the call “comes back to… people doing stupid things.”

“I went up (to the Tip) last year and there was idiots fishing in the nude and the (travellers sticking) plaques at the top of the cliffs.”

“People up here are the most amazing people but they can only take so much.”

RELATED: I Went To NSW’s Most Instagram-Famous Waterfall. It Was A Complete Disaster 

Tourists have been a (welcome) staple in the region for years, but the disrespect to the land has traditional custodians saying enough is enough.

“Native title holders were granted freehold rights to 211ha of land at Pajinka in 2019 but pleas for upgrades have been ongoing since 2016,” PerthNow reports.

According to the aforementioned Mr Solomon, a balance needs to be found, and there could be a silver lining to come from this whole situation.

“We don’t want to shut out the tourists, we make money from them, making artefacts and showcasing our region.”

“This closure is good for us, we are doing the Pajinka clean up this year and it gives us time to fix everything.”

In the meantime, there are plenty of other places for domestic Australian tourists to explore…

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