Thursday, November 29, 2012

Go Local with Bike & Tour Websites

Indie travelers strive to get beneath the surface of destination, beyond the middling attractions the tourism bureau is paid to promote. They also want to connect with locals. A couple of new websites are here to help.

* Liquid ( - Connects bicycle owners with visitors who want to rent a bike. Owners submit photos and details of their sweet chariot; Liquid verifies the offer, and then posts it online. Visitors search by location, bike size and type, then deal with the owner directly to rent their wheels. It's like AirBnB for pedalers! So far Liquid is in the US only, but it plans to branch out to 400 cities in 80 countries.

* Gidsy ( - “Gids” is the Dutch word for “guide.” The service matches locals who lead offbeat activities - say, mushroom hunting in an Austrian forest or snowboarding on a Washington mountain - with visitors looking for novel experiences of a place. Tour/activity prices are cheap compared to their professionally led counterparts. For details, read this article about a Gidsy guy who leads a food scavenging tour through New York City. Ashton Kutcher is an investor in the Berlin-based company (he also invests in AirBnB, by the way).

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Obama's Election Day Ritual in Chicago

If you're Barack Obama, today is a pretty stressful day. Will I be president for another four years, or won't I? He has decided to stick to close to his Chicago home, play basketball in the 'hood, and maybe get a haircut to take his mind off the matter.

His barber, Zariff, at the Hyde Park Hair Salon was coy when asked by local news reporters whether Obama would be dropping by. The prez would, presumably, get the "Obama Cut" ($21, as per the price list), though he won't be able to sit in the original presidential barber chair, which is now encased in bulletproof glass.

It's one more thing to add to the day's drama: if Obama stops by, and if he wins office again, perhaps we'll have a second enshrined barber chair....

Monday, November 5, 2012

Road-Tripping on the Lincoln Highway

It has been 99 years since the Lincoln Highway - christened on October 31, 1913 - made it possible to drive coast-to-coast in America. The road beat a path from New York City to San Francisco, unfurling 2900 miles of pavement through the nation's heartland.

But today the highway is fading. It doesn't appear on most maps, because it's no longer an official road, but rather a patchwork of federal and state byways. The Lincoln Highway Association works to preserve the route. Pez museums, fried-chicken diners, giant coffee pot statues, and other Americana reward road-trippers who follow it.

In Illinois, a series of murals also marks the way, denoting hot spots such as Rochelle, where Emily Post honed her admirable manners in 1915, and University Park, where the Van Buren sisters  revved motorcycles for their historic cross-country journey. See more on the Illinois artworks in my AAA article here.