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AAA Expects 50 Million Americans To Travel Over Thanksgiving

The Free Press WVRoad trips will cost more, however. The national average for a gallon of regular is $2.56, up from $2.16 a year ago.

Car-rental rates are also higher than last year, and so are many hotel rooms, according to AAA. But average airfares on the most popular routes within the U.S. will be the lowest in five years, the group says.

Separately, trade group Airlines for America expects the busiest air-travel day to be the Sunday after Thanksgiving, followed by the Wednesday before it.

Here are some tips from experts on how to handle the stress of traveling over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays:

— Apps like those from AAA and GasBuddy can help you avoid traffic snarls and find the cheapest gasoline.

— If you’re flying, take early flights. Lines at security checkpoints tend to be shorter in the early morning, and flight delays build during the day, which can lead to missed connecting flights in afternoon and evening hours.

— Summer Hull, who writes the Mommy Points travel blog, recommends checking the perks on your credit card. You might be entitled to free checked bags, a discount on in-flight food and drinks, lounge passes or other goodies.

— Kids 12 and under don’t need TSA Precheck to use the shorter lines if they’re with a parent who has Precheck.

— Safety experts advise buying a seat for babies and toddlers, but if you’ve got a “lap child” under 2 who is flying free, bring a birth certificate copy because airlines sometimes ask for proof of age.

— If you get bumped off an oversold flight or your flight is delayed excessively, know your rights to fair treatment and compensation. You can find them on the U.S. Department of Transportation website .

— Chris McGinnis, founder of the TravelSkills blog, suggests booking hotels around office parks, which tend to be very quiet and offer great rates because there are few business travelers during the holidays.

Outdoors

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►  Big cheetah-like feline captured in Pennsylvania

Police captured a big African cat, resembling a cheetah, running loose through the streets of a Pennsylvania city.

Reports about the spotted feline started coming in on November 3 in Reading, about 60 miles (97 kilometers) northwest of Philadelphia. When officers tracked it down, they initially thought they’d found a cheetah.

The Animal Rescue League of Berks County says they got a call from the city’s police department about the big cat on Saturday.

When staff responded, they found a cat called an African serval. The cats are illegal to own in Pennsylvania without a license, and the state’s game commission says no one in Berks County has such a license.

The 1- to 2-year-old female was declawed and very friendly, leading animal workers to presume it had been a pet, raised in a home since it was a kitten.

The animal could be worth $20,000 to $30,000 on the black market, said Tom Hubric, the animal rescue league’s interim executive director.

He speculated the owner may have wanted to breed the serval with a domesticated cat to create what’s called a Savannah cat. Those are legal to own, he says.

The cat was transported Thursday to a big cat rescue facility that can give it the special diet and extensive exercise it needs.

“She’s just a magnificent animal and she’s captivated everyone who has seen her,” Hubric said.


►  A look at travel books to inspire trips or to give as gifts

Travel books can get you dreaming. They can provide practical information for your trips. And they can also just tell a good story.

Here are a few books out this season to consider buying for your own use and entertainment, or to give as a gift for Christmas, Hanukkah or whatever you might be celebrating in the coming months.

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COFFEE-TABLE BOOKS

They’re way too big and heavy to tuck in your suitcase. But these beautifully illustrated volumes with big themes will get armchair travelers smiling and real-world travelers planning.

—“The Cities Book: A Journey Through the Best Cities in the World” from Lonely Planet looks at 200 cities from Abu Dhabi through Zanzibar, offering everything from the best time to visit to ideas for a perfect day.

— “Great Hiking Trails of the World” covers 80 trails in 38 countries on six continents, including Peru’s Inca Trail, Japan’s Shikoku Pilgrimage and the U.S. “triple crown” of hiking, the Appalachian, Pacific Crest and Continental Divide trails.

— “Timeless Journeys: Travels to the World’s Legendary Places” from National Geographic explores 50 once-in-a-lifetime destinations, from places that offer a window on lost worlds, like Pompeii in Italy, to living wonders like a Tanzania game preserve.

PRACTICAL INFO

Moon Travel Guides has a new series, City Walks, exploring neighborhoods in seven cities: Berlin; Amsterdam; Barcelona, Spain; London; New York; Paris; and Rome. The walks include descriptions, maps, attractions, dining and shopping.

FOR FUN AND INSPIRATION

These books about places and travel offer laughs, eye candy, a good read or some combination thereof. And some of them just might make you jealous in that “why didn’t I think of doing this?” way.

—For New Yorkers, former New Yorkers and wannabe New Yorkers: “Going Into Town: A Love Letter to New York” by cartoonist Roz Chast is absolutely laugh-out-loud hysterical. It’s an illustrated memoir about city life told through the eyes of a native New Yorker who moved to the suburbs, billed as an “ode/guide/thank-you note to Manhattan.” Gems include this aside: “Sixth Avenue and Avenue of the Americas are the same thing. But no one calls it ‘Avenue of the Americas,’ because GIVE ME A BREAK.” Topics include “stores of mystery” and “the ancient landmarks.”

—“Van Life: Your Home on the Road” by Foster Huntington grew out of the author’s three-year adventure traveling around North America in a Volkswagen van. The photos showcase all kinds of funky vehicles parked in picturesque locations, along with peeks at a few interiors, crowd-sourced from the author’s Tumblr account, Van-life.net. The book also offers interviews with travelers who have lived the van life.

—“Ultimate Journeys for Two: Extraordinary Destinations on Every Continent” by Mike and Anne Howard grew out of the writers’ five-year adventure across seven continents as “the world’s longest honeymooners,” an experience they chronicled on their blog HoneyTrek.com. The book includes 75 featured destinations; top 10 lists of day hikes, festivals, beaches and more; and travel advice.

—“Holy Rover: Journeys in Search of Mystery, Miracles, and God,” by Lori Erickson is part memoir and part travel guide as the author reflects on her pilgrimages to 12 sites around the world, from Our Lady of Lourdes in France to Machu Picchu in Peru. The book also recounts her meetings with spiritual leaders, including the chief priest of the Icelandic pagan religion Asatru and a Lakota Indian man who directs a retreat lodge at the holy site of Bear Butte in South Dakota.

BEST OF 2018

The folks at Lonely Planet don’t just publish a list for where to go in the new year, they’ve published an entire book: “Best in Travel 2018,” with the travel media brand’s picks for best countries, regions, cities and trends in travel for the new year, along with suggestions on what to see and do there.


►  Global carbon pollution rises after 3 straight flat years

Global carbon pollution rose this year after three straight years when levels of the heat-trapping gas didn’t go up at all, scientists reported Monday.

Preliminary figures project that worldwide carbon dioxide emissions are up about 2 percent this year, according to an international team of scientists. Most of the increase came from China.

The report by the Global Carbon Project team dashed hopes that emissions from the burning of coal, oil and gas had peaked.

“We hoped that we had turned the corner… We haven’t,” said study co-author Rob Jackson, an Earth scientist at Stanford University.

Carbon dioxide emissions rose steadily and slowly starting in the late 1880s with the Industrial Revolution, then took off dramatically in the 1950s. In the last three years, levels had stabilized at about 40 billion tons of carbon dioxide (36.2 billion metric tons).

Estimates for 2017 put it at about 40.8 billion tons (37 billion metric tons). Sixty years ago , the world spewed only 9.2 billion tons (8.3 billion metric tons).

“It’s a bit staggering,” said co-author Ralph Keeling, a Scripps Institution of Oceanography scientist, noting in an email that levels have increased fourfold since he was born in the 1950s. “We race headlong into the unknown.”

Man-made carbon dioxide is causing more than 90 percent of global warming since 1950, U.S. scientists reported this month.

This year’s increase was mostly spurred by a 3.5 percent jump in Chinese carbon pollution, said study co-author Glen Peters, a Norwegian scientist. Declines in the United States (0.4 percent) and Europe (0.2 percent) were smaller than previous years. India, the No. 3 carbon polluting nation, went up 2 percent.

The 2017 estimate comes to on average of 2.57 million pounds (1.16 million kilograms) of carbon dioxide spewing into the air every second.

The study was published Monday and is being presented in Bonn, Germany, during climate talks where leaders are trying to come up with rules for the 2015 Paris deal. The goal is to limit temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) since preindustrial times, but it’s already warmed half that amount.

“It was tough enough and if this paper is indicative of long-term trends, it just got tougher,” said Princeton University climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer, who wasn’t part of the team of 76 scientists who wrote the report.

While he called the study authoritative, Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann said he sees no need to do figures for 2017 that are not complete, saying it may be “jumping the gun a bit.”

Jackson said the team — which produces these reports every year in November — has confidence in its 2017 report because it is based on real data from top polluting nations through the summer and in some cases through October. Plus, he said past estimates have been correct within a couple tenths of a percentage point.

The top five carbon polluting countries are China, the United States, India, Russia and Japan. Europe taken as a whole, would rank third.

Outdoors

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►  Pennsylvania’s new signs urge tourists to pursue happiness

Pennsylvania is hoping tourists will pursue happiness.

New welcome signs with the slogan “Pennsylvania. Pursue Your Happiness” are going up on the state’s interstates and major highways. They’ll be replacing ones that have been in place since 1997.

The first of the 37 signs were installed on Interstate 80 in Monroe County and the other was placed on I-78 in Northampton County.

Officials say they want to promote a positive image of Pennsylvania.


►  EBay removes listings of Hawaii beach sand from its website

Online auction and sales company eBay has removed multiple listings of sand said to be taken from Hawaii beaches.

The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported Saturday that it asked the company about the listings before they were taken down. Among them was a listing claiming to have sand from Papakolea Beach, also known as Green Sands Beach.

It is illegal to take sand from Hawaii beaches, state Department of Land and Natural Resources spokeswoman Deborah Ward said. The law contains a limited number of exceptions that do not include personal or commercial sales. Fines for illegally collecting Hawaii sand can reach upward of $100,000.

“It used to be legal to take sand up to a certain amount per person, per day. However, the law was changed, and taking sand is now illegal,” Ward said.

She said the department is investigating one case of “sale of sand” on social media, but she declined comment on whether the sale was through eBay.

Ryan Moore, eBay director of global corporate affairs and communication, said the company took the listings down and notified sellers after the newspaper reached out.

“While we haven’t been directly contacted by the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, we are certainly willing to work with them on the best way to address this issue in the future,” Moore said. “We’ve removed the active listings on the marketplace and have educated the sellers that listing these products are against eBay policy.”

Hawaii’s prohibition on taking sand from beaches dates to 2013. Before then, one person could take up to one gallon a day from the shoreline.

The then-chairman of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, William Aila, testified to the Legislature that erosion, illegal sand mining and other factors were shrinking Hawaii’s beaches.

The law exempts people who accidentally bring sand home in their clothes, toys and other belongings.

Ken Lawson, an attorney and faculty member at the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s William S. Richardson School of Law, said eBay has a responsibility to police potentially illegal activity on its website.

“I think if (the sellers) purport that they’re selling sand from Hawaii beaches, they’re doing it on eBay and it’s a violation of Hawaii law, then eBay does have a duty. to let them know that that’s not a legal sale,” Lawson said.

Offers for the sand ranged from 2 milliliter vials for $3.50 to a pound for prices ranging from $4.50 to $14.95.

Outdoors

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►  DNR looks to enhance native brook trout waters

The native brook trout in West Virginia has long been a prized fish in the Mountain State, but it has also been one that has always teetered on the brink of collapse. The destruction of the native brook trout habitat has severely curbed its numbers in West Virginia waters.

Although it seems to be a fragile fish, Biologist Dave Thorne who heads the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources’ Trout Program would argue the species is anything but fragile. Throne will tell you any fish which has managed to survive the kind of abuse man has dished out to the brook trout in the last 100 years deserves to be saved.

“They are some tough critters,” he laughed in a recent interview about the matter on West Virginia Outdoors.

The brook trout however is about to be afforded a level of respect and protection in West Virginia is has never been afforded. Thorne recently detailed plans for an overall Trout Management Plan for West Virginia to the Natural Resources Commission during their meeting at Chief Logan Conference Center in Logan County. A part of the plan will be the Native Brook Trout Plan which will designate various brook trout streams in the state for specific management activities.

“We’ve been doing to some physical habitat work for the last several years and for decades we’ve been doing the liming program,” said Thorne. “We now have many of those restored to high quality waters which can support good, fishable populations of native brook trout.”

The next step will be to enhance the numbers and size of the fish. Regulations are one way. Already this year, the fines for overharvesting brook trout have increased substantially….up to $100 per fish in a violation. Thorne acknowledged excessive harvest isn’t the threat it once was to native brookies.

“A lot more fishermen voluntarily catch and release native brook trout any more. We’ve got quite a constituency,” said Thorne. “I don’t’ think the days are completely gone of those who might go to a brook trout stream with a sack and fill it up, but the anglers that have traditionally done that, the number is dwindling.”

The proposed plan includes designation of watersheds which are native brook trout waters, are not stocked with hatchery raised fish, have had some level of management or restoration work, and seem to have good support from anglers.

“They need to be a large, contiguous and well connected native brook trout watershed,” said Thorne. “This is a watershed idea based on a lot of the research I and other people have conducted. Connectivity between the tributaries and main stems is how we see increased growth in fish. They have larger habitat, more food available, and can move to different habitats during different parts of their life cycle.”

The watersheds being proposed initially by Thorne include the entire Middle Fork of Williams River. The watershed has benefited greatly from improved water quality in the annual “bucket brigade” by interested volunteers who carry buckets of limestone sand into the remote are to treat the acidic water of the stream. The other watersheds include Red Creek upstream of the county bridge at Laneville, Tea Creek upstream from the campground, and the entire Otter Creek watershed. The entire area proposed would be 150 to 200 miles of contiguous native brook trout water.

“With increased productivity, we’ve increased the scope of our brook trout to grow bigger,” said Thorne. “We’re seeing a lot more 10, 11, and even 12 inch plus fish out there, particularly in our more productive fisheries.”

The concept includes a second plan of action, the possibly to spawn, rear, and distribute some of those native brook trout in a hatchery environment to bolster populations.

“We’ve had some success translocating fish, shocking from one stream and transferring to another,” Thorne said. “If we put them back into the appropriate habitat, the wild fish will reproduce.”

The plan however, suggests taking it a step further and trying to do some artificial work within the hatchery–but limiting the genetic makeup to individual watersheds.

“We have some stock and we’re going to hold them until they are ready to spawn,” Thorne explained. “We’ll spawn them in the hatchery and raise some native brook trout from a particular stream. Those raised from a particular stream will go back into that watershed.”

The work will be done as part of an agreement with a West Virginia University aquaculture researcher center in Hardy County, near the community of Wardensville. Thorne said although it’s not easy, Tennessee and a few other states have had some limited success with hatchery spawn of native brook trout..

For now, the project is all just a concept and yet to be fully implemented into a management plan. Thorne said it needs support to move forward.

“It needs to have a vocal constituency,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be a majority, but it needs to have a vocal group to go out there and help us sell this idea.”


►  Town weighing effects of taller buildings near Grand Canyon

Seconds after rounding the highway curve on the final stretch to the Grand Canyon’s South Rim entrance, the first sign appears: Yes on 400. Housing. Jobs. Independence.

The ballot measure being decided Tuesday is the latest push in a decadeslong effort to build new hotels, boutique shops and commercial centers in Tusayan, a tiny town that millions of people pass through on the way to the Grand Canyon each year.

A simple majority of 262 registered voters will decide the all mail-in election that could have huge consequences for the landscape and skyline surrounding one of the most-visited national parks in the country. An Italian real estate developer is a major landowner in town and wants to change the law to raise the maximum building height to 65 feet, clearing the way for a hotel development and other businesses.

Supporters say the ordinance is a critical step to bolster tourism and jobs in Tusayan by making it more of a destination than a quick stop on the way to the natural wonder.

“It’s going to allow us to capture the visitor for longer than six hours,” Vice Mayor Becky Wirth said. “We would like them to stay more than a night.”

Opponent Clarinda Vail says she worries about the effect on water, traffic to the Grand Canyon and a skyline whose buildings could approach treetops and be visible from the North Rim.

“Love your Legacy,” one of her campaign signs read, pointing to the area’s history as a promoter — not a detractor — of the canyon, she says.

Vail’s family settled Tusayan in the 1930s as cattle ranchers. Her family made a deal with Arizona in the 1950s to run Highway 64 through their property as more visitors traveled to the Grand Canyon. Their Red Feather Lodge still stands along the roadway, and the family owns other businesses and leases property.

Another major landowner, Elling Halvorson, counts a hotel and restaurant among his business ventures but is more widely known for air tours over the Grand Canyon. Among his business partners is Italy-based Stilo Development Group USA, and they are leading the effort to raise building heights.

They pushed for the vote after the U.S. Forest Service rejected access for development on Stilo’s two large properties in town. No longer able to build out, Halvorson and Stilo made a move to build up at an existing RV park they own.

The two were not always on the same side.

Halvorson opposed a Stilo project in the 1990s called Canyon Forest Village, a partnership with the Grand Canyon that included a land swap with the Forest Service. It would have meant most visitors would travel into the park via light rail, but voters overturned the project.

When the RV park became available in the early 2000s, Stilo and Halvorson partnered to buy the land, Stilo spokesman Andy Jacobs said.

Incorporating the community as a town in 2010 became the way to move development on Stilo’s other properties forward. Tusayan later approved annexation and rezoning agreements, but none of it came without a fight. There were lawsuits, allegations of voter fraud and intimidation, costly campaigns and bitterness among residents.

“Not a lot of developers would have taken the beating they did with Canyon Forest Village and come back 20 years later,” Jacobs said. “They’re committed to figuring this out one way or another.”

In the short time Tusayan has existed as a town, the seats on the Town Council mostly have been held by Halvorson employees.

Some residents declined to talk about the building height increase, for fear of their jobs.

Beltsasar Gomez, breaking down Halloween decorations after a trick-or-treat event last week, quickly summed up his support: “Growth, opportunity. It’s what they say. Homes, more employment, housing. This place has been too small for many years.”

Ann Wren, who was part of the committee that approved current building heights, said anything higher would be detrimental to the Grand Canyon.

“They want the height increase because they want density,” says Wren, a hotel owner. “Why change the rules now for the good of one organization, one party?”

And still, the promise of homeownership remains unfulfilled in a town where land mostly is in private hands and employees live in company housing, except for a few mobile homes in the RV park. The development there would include 100 apartments available for rent, Jacobs said.

Meanwhile, the town is working on an off-grid housing development on property Stilo gave to Tusayan in exchange for rezoning and annexing its properties. Tusayan Mayor Craig Sanderson said he understands the prospect for homeownership is frustrating.

All this was new to Christy and Gary Greenwald, who have been traveling to national parks across the country since August. The Georgia couple snapped a picture in front of the sandstone sign for Grand Canyon National Park.

“I’d hate to see it turned into a mini-metropolis, but 65 feet isn’t so bad,” Christy Greenwald said.

Gary Greenwald drew from his work with architects in pinning the area as a horizontal expanse of land, unlike Yellowstone National Park where geysers and mountains direct the eye up. He said taller buildings would destroy the views here.

“I would say exceptionally unattractive in front of a national park,” he said.

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