Steinbeck Center Educates in Salinas, California

Friday July 25, 2014 at 7:07 AM | 0 Comments

"John Steinbeck" "Charley" California

John Steinbeck with poodle Charley in Salinas, California

Hollywood actor Henry Fonda may have brought The Grapes of Wrath to life on the silver screen, but it was California author John Steinbeck who penned the American novel in 1939 about a poor Oklahoma family forced from their land and their struggles to keep their family together as they look for work in California. Any California school child has come across the works of John Steinbeck in their required reading list. A visit to the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, California, brings history to life with engaging, interactive exhibits.


"John Steinbeck Center"

National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, California

National Steinbeck Center

Located two hours south of San Francisco, the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, California is where John Steinbeck grew up riding horses with his younger sister. The Steinbeck museum has a life-sized horse on display in the center representing The Red Pony exhibit. Teenage girls were taking selfies astride The Red Pony during my visit.

steinbeck's world
Travel through Steinbeck’s world

The National Steinbeck Center features the author’s work such as East of Eden, Of Mice and Men, Grapes of Wrath, Cannery Row, all of his classics, as well as a focus on his Nobel prize winning speech.

"Travels with Charley" "Steinbeck Center"

Travels with Charley in search of America

Insider Tip:
Did you know that the National Steinbeck Center is home to the actual pickup truck/camper John Steinbeck named Rosinante and drove in his book Travels with Charley? For additional insider tips follow Northern California Travel Writer @Nancydbrown on Twitter and the Steinbeck Center on Twitter @steinbeckcenter.

If You Go:

National Steinbeck Center (831) 796-3833

One Main Street

Salinas, California 93901

Article, photos and YouTube video by Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown. I was a guest of National Steinbeck Center in conjunction with Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau. All opinions are my own.

Fast Raft Monterey Bay Boat Tour in California

Friday July 18, 2014 at 6:06 AM | 1 Comment

sealions, "Monterey Bay" California

California sea lions in Monterey Bay

There’s nothing I like better than being out on California’s Monterey Bay on a sunny day. So when the folks at Fast Raft asked if I wanted to join them for a Monterey Bay boat tour, I was on that RIB (rigid inflatable boat) faster than a dolphin swimming in a sea of sardines!

Most visitors to Monterey, California are not aware of our National Marine Sanctuary and how accessible this body of water is to the general public. There are plenty of things to see and do in Monterey, including a trip to our world famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. Visitors will hear sea lions barking from Monterey’s Fisherman’s Wharf, but the best way to explore Monterey Bay is with a Fast Raft Eco-Tour.


"rib" boat, "Bodo" "Norway

Riding a RIB in Bodø, Norway


Rigid inflatable boat

I’ve had the good fortune to travel by RIB in Bodø, Norway, along the world’s strongest maelstrom, Salstraumen, in the Arctic Circle. I’ve spied green sea turtles and Spinner dolphins along Hawaii’s Napali coast on board a RIB and I have explored the waters of San Francisco bay, gliding under the Bay Bridge and Golden Gate Bridge with Bay Voyager in a rigid inflatable boat.

"Fast Raft" "Monterey" "California"

Explore California’s Monterey Bay on Fast Raft


Fast Raft rigid inflatable boat

While RIB’s vary in size, these rigid inflatable boats carry between 12 and 6 passengers, in addition to a captain. In the case of Fast Raft, our female captain also happened to be a trained biologist. Captain Kate Spencer was able to point out abundant marine life, sea birds and even spotted several whales this particular morning in Monterey Bay.

"California sea lions" "Monterey"

California sea lions in Monterey Bay


Monterey Bay nature tours & whale watching

Due to the small group size of Fast Raft boat tours, six passengers, in addition to the captain, the Monterey-based company is able to create custom tours on the coastline of Monterey, exploring Point Lobos or Elkhorn Slough. Price start at $140. per person. Check the website for details.

If You Go:

Fast Raft Eco-Tours (800) 979-3370

32 Cannery Row, Suite F2

Monterey, California 93940

Article, photos and YouTube video by Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown. I was a guest of Fast Raft.

Akta Lakota Museum: An American Treasure in South Dakota

Wednesday July 16, 2014 at 12:12 PM | 0 Comments

Lakota Sioux history and culture in artifacts and signage

Each year, my family heads to Montana from Ohio. On these treks across vast expanses of the United States, we pick at least one new place to visit. This year we headed into Chamberlain, South Dakota since the Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center caught my eye.

Situated on the bank of the Missouri River on the grounds of the St. Joseph School, the Akta Lakota Museum offers an expansive, detailed look at the Northern Plains Indians with the main focus on Lakota Sioux history and culture. The museum was a thumbs up and well worth the brief detour (about 15 minutes) off I-90.

The artifacts and signage of the museum’s exhibits parcel out details about Lakota beliefs and traditions, as well as, the devastation that was caused by the westward expansion of European-Americans into Native American territory. The tales told are uplifting and heartbreaking, particularly as depicted by the quotes of notable chiefs like Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse whose words express both their strength and their pain.

The history and the importance of the horse are a feature.

The history and the importance of the horse are a feature.

While Lewis and Clark’s exploration of the west is worth admiration, the Akta Lakota Museum does point out that their arrival in South Dakota had dire consequences later. Diseases like small pox and the almost extinction of the buffalo are part of the story of this time in American history.

Still, the over-arching message is that the Lakota Sioux culture continues to thrive as an important part of U.S. heritage and has something to teach everyone. Honoring elders and the earth, and the connection between humans and the natural world are prominent beliefs that are part of the lessons taught throughout. Spend time at the interactive display that shows which animals represent certain personality traits and you might find out the animal that most represents you.

An interactive display about the buffalo

An interactive display about the buffalo

Another interactive display features Lakota Sioux children. Child rearing practices and the differences between how girls and boys were raised in the traditional way are included. Visitors can play games common to boys and girls at each section. Other exhibits are about specific cultural traditions like the use of tobacco and pipes in ceremonies and the sacredness of the buffalo, particularly as connected to the uses of the various parts of this majestic animal. The intricacies of the bead work incorporated into clothing and footwear are also prominent features in several displays.

Videos scattered throughout give detailed explanations as well. Along with the displays about the Lakota past are ones about the present. Current Sioux artists’ work are also on display.

The Medicine Wheel Garden of Healing

The Medicine Wheel Garden of Healing

Another part of the museum covers the past and present of the St. Joseph’s Indian School. Started as a boarding school to educate Lakota Sioux children, the school is still operating and unlike the boarding schools of the past, strives to help Native American children connect to their traditional culture and heritage. Don’t miss the Medicine Wheel Garden of Healing. Located outside the building with the Missouri River as a backdrop, the garden was created as a place of healing. A quote on the wall alludes to the pain caused by early education practices when Native American children were taken from their families in order to be assimilated into European-American ways.

As a person who loves a terrific gift shop, the one at the Akta Lakota Museum is perfect. Items range from sage to dream catchers to gorgeous jewelry and handmade Lakota star quilts. There’s something in every price range. The Collector’s Gallery features local artists’ sculptures and paintings that are for sale.

Intricate Native American bead work

If You Go:
Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center
1301 N Main St, Chamberlain, South Dakota 57325
(800) 798-3452

Post and photographs courtesy of Jamie Rhein, member of the Midwest Travel Writers Association