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Down on the farm: 6 of the US’ best agricultural museums

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If you’ve ever tended a backyard garden or tried to raise a few chickens, you know that farming is hard, dirty work. Keeping America’s kitchens supplied during the coronavirus pandemic has made things even harder for farmers — earning these most essential of essential workers the respect and appreciation of an entire nation.

America was built on agriculture and the number of farms in the U.S. peaked in the 1930s at more than 7 million. Today that number is but 2 million and, while farmers and ranchers represent just a little more than one percent of the nation’s workforce, they are still managing to feed all the rest of us. Quite an amazing feat when you think about it.

For those interested in learning more about how American farms and ranches perform such a miracle, there are a number of farming and agricultural museums around the country that help tell the story. Here are six of them.

The Farmer’s Museum, Cooperstown, New York

Cooperstown is, of course, famous as the home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. But there’s another museum — just minutes away — that celebrates what really put Cooperstown on the map: farming. Long before baseball was ever played here, Cooperstown was a busy center for growing hops, an essential ingredient in the brewing of beer.

Life on the farm is the theme of this family-friendly museum and its many exhibits feature an array of farming implements. Resident craftspeople demonstrate the skills required to sustain life on a 19th century farm. Kids love the interactive barnyard that crawls with all kinds of farm animals. Special events take place nearly every weekend, including the annual October Tractor Fest that brings together more than 60 vintage tractors.

www.farmersmuseum.org, 607-547-1450

Steppingstone Farm Museum, Havre de Grace, Maryland

Susquehanna State Park sits alongside its namesake river in a region of northeast Maryland that’s noted for its fertile soil and prosperous farms. The park, in fact, preserves one of the area’s original farms that today features demonstrations of rural crafts that farmers would have practiced from the 1880s through the 1920s.

Steppingstone Farm visitors can watch woodwrights and blacksmiths at work, join kitchen demonstrations and interact with a variety of friendly farm animals. Special events are staged year-round and the annual Fall Harvest & Craft Festival in September is one of the most popular.

www.steppingstonemuseum.org, 410-939-2299

American Farm Heritage Museum, Greenville, Illinois

Located just off I-70, about 45 miles east of St. Louis, this museum complex became a reality in 2002 when a group of nearly 60 local farmers, collectors and civic leaders resolved to build a museum to help preserve the region’s illustrious farming heritage.

It wasn’t long before buildings began popping up on the 17-acre donated site, including the Lil’ Red Barn Museum, loaded with farm implements and artifacts essential to farming life. A much larger 200’ by 100’ main building was added in 2005 to serve as a venue for the museum’s busy schedule of special events. A tractor shed displays an array of tractors and other farm machinery.

Also on the grounds is the American Heritage Railroad. It’s a tribute to the contribution of railroads to the development of area agriculture. There’s a mile-long section of 13” gage track, a fine collection of both steam and diesel engines and a variety of rolling stock. The Armed Forces Museum is a more recent addition, displaying more than 40 historic military vehicles.

www.americanfarmheritagemuseum.com, 618-664-9733

Bart Garrison Agricultural Museum of South Carolina, Pendleton, South Carolina

Named after one of its founders, the late State Senator T. Ed “Bart” Garrison, this museum is dedicated to South Carolina’s impressive agricultural heritage. Its mission is to foster agricultural education while confirming agriculture’s positive impact on the state’s economy.

Most of the events and activities here are geared to entertaining and educating youngsters who find plenty of opportunities to get their hands dirty while gaining an understanding about how food gets from the farm to their tables. Visitors can observe a working beehive, milk Clarabelle (a mechanical cow), explore a model tobacco farm and operate a cotton gin.

Other attractions and activities include attending class in a one-room schoolhouse, checking out the large collection of tractors and interacting with dozens of farm animals. Stars of the show are a pair of American guinea hogs (Daisy and Petunia) — a heritage breed found on the National Endangered Livestock List. The museum is about to open its restored 9,000-square-foot Iron Oak Barn, formerly the McGee Mule Barn — a historic barn once used by one of the largest mule trading operations in the South.

www.bgamsc.org, 864-646-7271

New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum, Las Cruces, New Mexico

Las Cruces’ most popular visitor attraction chronicles the 4,000-year history of agriculture and rural life in New Mexico. The museum presents indoor exhibits and demonstrations devoted to farming and ranching methods and machinery. Outside are 47 acres of gardens, orchards, vines and pepper patches where experts work to develop some of the world’s hottest chili peppers – and there’s a zoo-worthy assemblage of farm animals and native critters.

The Wheels and Gears exhibit in the Museum’s Heritage Gallery displays an exceptional collection of wagons, coaches and buggies from different eras in the state’s history. Cultural events and special exhibits take place nearly every week and guided tours are always available.

www.nmfarmandranchmuseum.org, 575-522-4100

California Agriculture Museum, Woodland, California

The California Agricultural Museum is home to America’s most unique collection of tractors and farm implements that together brilliantly depict the evolution from horse-drawn, to steam driven, to fuel-powered machinery. Gallery after gallery reveals collections of giant harvesters, combines, wheel and crawler-track tractors, trucks, wagons, art and photo exhibits.

Interactive exhibits, special events and field trips tell the history of farm to table in America’s breadbasket, dating back to the Gold Rush era. The Kid’s Zone features a fleet of pedal tractors and mini-Caterpillars along with exhibits specially designed to capture children’s imaginations. The museum is located 15 minutes from downtown Sacramento and is open Wednesday-Sunday.

www.californiaagmuseum.org, 530-666-9700

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Senate set to consider new stimulus measures, but will they be enough?

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As the pandemic rages, state closures are resuming after early reopenings. Economic policy to address such impacts looms large, as states face crushing budget shortfalls. We turn to Washington, D.C.

On July 20, the GOP-majority Senate is set to take up its version of the Heroes Act that the House passed in May.It aimed to help struggling firms and working families but omitted Medicare for All and a Universal Basic Income.

Reportedly, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) are not talking. He has stressed the need for expanded liability protection from virus-related damages for employers.

Outside of Congress, advocacy groups are lobbying the Senate to beef up workplace safety, focusing on essential workers. Michael Leon Guerrero is the executive director of the Labor Network for Sustainability (LNS).

“Essential workers are keeping us alive,” he said in a statement. “But we’re not doing enough to keep them alive.”

To improve the safety of these essential workers, LNS, some unions and the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (NCOSH) released on July 14 a new video titled “In Memoriam.” This labor-backed video demands that Congress enact adequate funding for personal protective equipment (e.g., gloves, masks and sanitizer); paid sick leave; full healthcare coverage and for the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration to enact an infectious disease standard.

Labor and safety advocates such as Jessica Martinez, NCOSH co-executive director, urged video viewers to call the Senate to demand increased workplace protections in the Heroes Act. English and Spanish translations of the “In Memoriam” video are on MoveOn’s YouTube channel. Another source of information about essential workers is NationalCOSH.org/Essential.

Dr. Erika Gonzalez is co-chair of Small Business for America’s Future and Chair of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. She cited a July 14 Families USA study that 5.4 million Americans lost employer-provided healthcare coverage from February to May. That loss “exposes the shortcomings of our healthcare system and calls for swift action from policymakers to strengthen and expand coverage options,” she said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the $600 weekly CARES Act supplement, e.g., pandemic unemployment, is set to end on July 31. “More than 25 million workers will lose the $600 federal unemployment supplement, to the tune of more than $15 billion per week,” said Andrew Stettner, senior fellow at The Century Foundation, in a statement. That would decrease consumer demand, a drag on economic recovery and to the bottom lines of businesses.

Meanwhile, jobless claims hit 17.36 million last week, according to Stettner. That is a rise of 838,000 versus the previous week. Jobless benefits allow workers and their families to buy food and pay rent. “In total,” he said, “unemployment aid has pumped $24-$25 billion in stimulus to the economy for each of the last six weeks.”

Time is of the essence, policywise. “Senator McConnell has indicated it will take up to three weeks to reach a deal on a new COVID-19 relief package,” according to Stettner, “leaving tens of millions of Americans in needless limbo as Congressional leaders and the White House dawdle in coming up with concrete proposals.”

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A startup is designing bed seats for budget flyers

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A San Francisco startup is pioneering some socially distanced solutions to create “sleep seats” for economy class on planes. Zephyr Aerospace recently debuted an airline seat and bed combo for premium economy passengers.

Lie-flat seating is well known to business and first-class travelers — an indulgence coveted and purchased for its myriad perks. Now, a fresh innovation could bring the same concept to economy plus, and it couldn’t have come at a more important time. Travelers in the economy cabin may soon be able to sit, lie flat, and sleep in the same seat while maintaining social distancing rules.

Zephyr is a brand-new airline seating concept that transforms the seats in premium economy class on wide-body aircraft into lie-flat beds. The idea, still in the concept phase, seeks to enhance the in-flight experience as airlines encourage people to travel again.

The lie-flat “double-decker” seating concept offers a comfortable bed with all-aisle access in a 2-4-2 configuration — however, it manages to maintain the density of existing premium economy setups on 90% of airlines worldwide. It is easily the most cost-effective way to sleep on long-distance commercial flights.

Zephyr’s seat and bed combo provide back of the plane travelers with the same privacy as business class travelers. The non-mechanical sleep seats have limited movable fixtures and are made with high standard lightweight composite materials, reducing direct maintenance costs for airlines. A telescopic ladder provides quick and easy access to the upper area and can be removed after boarding.

A drop-down footwell cover increases personal space in each seat, which allows for multiple lie-flat positions. There’s even space for small children and families to lie next to each other (dependent on an airline’s social distancing rules). Airlines can retrofit these sleep seats between a 38- to 42-inch seat pitch, according to brand preferences and industry standards, for an increase ancillary revenue.

Each seat will be priced at $30-40,000/unit, which the company says is 60% less than the average cost of a business class seat and 80% lighter (due to advanced composites and limited moving pieces).

Zephyr is currently in development and working with crowdfunding sources to move the project forward. The company claims to be in direct discussions with Airbus and Boeing as well as such airlines as British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Qantas, Lufthansa, Delta, Air New Zealand and Japan Airlines.

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The metrics guiding nonprofit recovery

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What are the signs or metrics for recovery, and how do we take this information and make good business decisions? Business Insider recently published an article with five charts showing a potential economic recovery.

Travel: The number of travelers is starting to take an upward tick up with close to 500,000 but pales in comparison to 2019 where the number of travels at TSA checkpoints was great than 2.5 million. But, this upward recovery from nearly 100,000 travelers just prior to the pandemic is a positive sign.

Restaurants: This is another key indicator in major states across the country where there is a significant rise in bookings.

Hotels: Another chart in the article is showing a rebound in hotel occupancy from a low of around 22% in late March to close to 40%.

Public Transport: This is one number to watch closely as public transportation is the closest you are going to get someone while going to work or traveling around a city. This number too has seen a significant uptick in major cities and in the United States in general.

Workers: Another sign is that workers returning to the workforce has been very positive and is in an upswing as well.

Translating the Data into Action

What does this mean for a nonprofit organization’s recovery, and how can it take action? I think there are several areas to concentrate on:

Virtual: Virtual meetings, events, and other activities used to be the alternative to a live meeting. We see this as becoming the new normal as many organizations have maximized the use of technologies to have very productive events and meetings without the need for travel. If virtual was 10% of all meetings in the past, this could surge to over 30% in the future. Continue to develop this important stream of education and information while maximizing revenues for each event.

Live Events and Meetings: Regardless of the ability to do business remotely, virtual cannot and should not replace live meetings, but not right now. Given the absence of a vaccine and limited therapeutics for COVID-19, the apprehension of travel will remain strong through 2020.

The first or second quarter of 2021 may see a resurgence to events. Another thought is that there will be a strong combination of live meetings with virtual engagement. This will play a significant factor in retention and value to members. Plan for the resurgence and engage with your sponsors, vendors, and other partners to launch a blockbuster event for 2021.

Physical Location: One president of a nonprofit organization said, “why do we have all of this office space? Everyone is working from home and we haven’t missed a beat in service.” This is a real statement and one to think about. Is there an opportunity to reduce office space by 30-50% while maintaining a similar or better level of service?

This also benefits the worker with no commute times; increased focus and time spent on work rather than office conversations; and the ability to prioritize the extra time into exercise, time with family, etc. There are benefits, but not everyone can work from home. Start analyzing the members of your team that could benefit from a work-from-home situation and how that could impact office space and other support services. Then, develop a comprehensive budget with a current state vs. a future state with less space and more remote workers.

The Time is Now

The time is right now to determine how the organization will do business into the long-term future. Economic recovery is going to be dependent on how much value and relevance you provide your members and key stakeholders.

Your organization should be an indispensable resource to them right now and as their needs change. They will change at a faster pace than ever before. Form an advisory task force of your key industries, sectors, etc. and work with them continuously to identify opportunities to serve better. We all need to remember that what once generated significant revenues and value, may not be the same.

Part 2

Part 2 of this article is coming next week and speaks to the needs of effective leadership and how to prioritize external urgencies in your plan. Be on the lookout for “Building a recovery plan.”

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Infographic: How technology can help the economy recover

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Technology, both as a tool and as an economic sector, has kept the economy going during the pandemic, and it will also figure heavily into the economic recovery. This infographic outlines the state of the economy as well as how technology has aided in economic recoveries in the past.

Infographic courtesy Trade School Careers

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How the pandemic is changing employees’ summer vacation plans

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Most employees use a huge chunk of their vacation time during the summer months. COVID-19 has certainly increased stress levels, making a summer break even more important. However, employees are also reconsidering their vacation time as a result of the pandemic.

Recent research by Robert Half reveals how those plans have changed. According to the report, 37% of employees aren’t planning on taking a break during the summer; they plan to take it later in the year — and hope they’ll be able to travel by then.

Also, 28% of employees will take fewer days off compared to last summer. However, 16% will actually take more days off.

In addition, 20% of employees are taking time off, but not to go on vacation. They’re taking days off for a self-care and mental health staycation.

However, 14% of employees say they have too much work to do to take any time off during the summer months.

Why employees are taking fewer days off

The pandemic has affected companies in different ways. Some employees have been laid off, while others have been working from home. Workloads decreased for some workers, but actually increased for those at companies that never shut down during the pandemic. All of these factors can determine how workers view their vacation options.

“It’s certainly been a challenging time,” says Paul McDonald, senior executive director for Robert Half. “There has been so much uncertainty, not only around travel and personal safety, but also as it relates to job security, so it’s possible folks feel that they should be staying put.” In fact, 9% of survey respondents actually said they should stay put considering all that has happened. However, McDonald says even taking a staycation may be a good idea.

The importance of employees taking time off

Wellness experts always advise employees to take vacations, and that advice may be even more important now. “For months now we’ve been in the throes of this pandemic that’s impacted everyone differently, but surely, to some degree,” McDonald says. And when employees endure a particularly stressful time, he says recharging is important for employees, but also beneficial for companies. “Recharging allows you to bring your best self back to the office,” he explains.

“Even now, when it may take a bit more creativity to make the most of vacation time, the days and hours that are spent away from the office can be good for professionals.” From a self-care perspective, it can help to combat stress and prevent burnout. “This is beneficial not only for the employees themselves, but also the jobs and teams they come back to,” McDonald says.

The role bosses play in an employee’s decision

However, regardless of how employees feel about taking time off, their bosses will undoubtedly influence their decisions. “Workers rely on their bosses to guide their behaviors, and often match and model after them, whether it’s regarding dress code or time off.” So, if they don’t see their bosses making time for themselves — or if the bosses aren’t encouraging people to take vacation time, employees may not be comfortable requesting time off.

“Even still, two-thirds of workers said that there has been no communication from their manager around using vacation days,” McDonald explains. “Leaders must look at the big picture. While it is summertime and all of the typical milestones and holidays are passing on the calendar, nothing quite feels normal, so workers may need a bit more of a push to take the time they’re entitled to, if nothing else, to avoid burning out.”

How bosses can be more accommodating

Since some employees are taking their cues from their bosses, McDonald has the following advice. “Managers need to make their people feel safe — especially right now, while some teams are doing more with less and others are just getting back to ramping up projects that may have been put on hold in order to reprioritize for the pandemic.”

He suggests that managers remind employees — and themselves — of the importance of resting and recharging. “Before your regular check-ins with team members, make it a point to remind those who haven’t taken any vacation time that they should try and do so,” McDonald says.

Here’s an example of how to say that: “I see you’ve only used four vacation days this year; I know it’s been busy and vacation may be unconventional, but please try and make time for yourself — I don’t want you burning out.” McDonald says this will let employees know you’re paying attention. “It shows that you care about them, and their future with the company, even though everything may feel a bit unbalanced.”

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5 great boondocking spots

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As national and state parks slowly open, their campgrounds are slower to open. Many RVers are ready to start traveling again. Boondocking is an ideal option to stay safe while seeing the country.

Most campsites are spread out with plenty of room to ramble. Many of these have great views and near hiking trails so you can enjoy the outdoors without the crowds. With boondocking, don’t expect restrooms or showers; those that have them may be closed due to the pandemic.

You will need to be self-contained with water, electricity, and using your gray and black tanks. However, another great thing about boondocking is that these sites are free or low-cost.

Below are five sites that are among forests or beaches or are in the mountains. I’m listing coordinates since they don’t necessarily have street addresses. These are some great spots to consider that appear to be open. Check the latest information online or with a phone call for any updates.

Natchez Trace

A wonderful trip to take is the Natchez Trace that runs through Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee. The road is limited access and has multiple quick stops that are open to learn more about the history and geology of the area.

There are three free campgrounds along the way. Rocky Springs Campground (32.0868, -90.7994) and Jeff Busby Campground (33.4171, -89.2689) are open. Meriwether Lewis Campground (35.5225, -87.456) is currently closed but may open soon.

Magnolia Beach sunset

Magnolia Beach, Texas

For a relaxing beach spot, go to Magnolia Beach (28.5585, -96.5335). There are campsites right off the beach with a shelter and table, but we enjoyed pulling right onto the sand where you can have a bit of a beach all to yourself.

Pull out your camp chairs and sit back to watch birds, the waves, and the occasional tanker pass by. Free for up to 14 days!

Ocala National Forest, Florida

Ocala National Forest (28.9885, -81.7847) has multiple sites for free or low-cost ($5-26 per night) camping. These spots are on sandy but navigable roads. You may even see a bear (we saw bear prints only). There are several springs nearby to cool off during the hot Florida day. Hiking and biking trails are also nearby.

West of Capitol Reef, Utah

Officially in Fishlake National Forest, this site (38.3267, -111.3641) is open and free. The major issues are street noise during the day if you camp near the road and the driveway is rocky and difficult but passable if you take it carefully.

Once you get past that, the view is gorgeous, the sky is dark for stargazing, and you are right between town (Torrey) for supplies and Capitol Reef National Park for trails.

Bureau of Land Management near Sunset Crater, Arizona

These campsites in Coconino National Forest (35.3728, -111.5856) are wonderful. Sites of various sizes are spread out along the roads in the area, so you have plenty of room to the next campsite. We could sit outside and smell Ponderosa pines, enjoy the view, and watch Abert’s squirrels and deer.

Plus, there are multiple things to do in the Flagstaff area if you want to leave your campsite. Camping is free for 14 days. There are at least seven different groups of these campsites, but I just listed the coordinates of one.

Check out freecampsites.net for other free or low-cost spots or use www.campendium.com and sort for free campsites. For more Bureau of Land Management campsites, go to blm.gov (click on Visit and Camping).

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America’s 8 favorite mountain towns

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There’s something special about mountain towns. Fresh air and scenic eye-appeal are givens — but life in these alpine communities is largely driven by outdoor activities. All year, there’s something happening. Summer hikes, water sports, picnics and barbeques give way in the winter to skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, ice skating and sledding.

Mountain towns also have a magnetic attraction for artists and crafters, innovative merchants and big city restaurateurs seeking a new start — all of which bode well for those who prefer indoor pleasures such as shopping, dining and nightlife.

We’ve scoured the country in search of mountain towns with the most to offer visitors, and here’s our list of the top eight.

Sisters, Oregon

Named for a trio of towering Cascade Mountain peaks to its west, Sisters is a bustling, artsy community with charming 1880s facades and a friendly small-town ambience. It is a year-round fun spot, with camping and fishing nearby at Suttle Lake, mountain biking on the 25-mile-long Peterson Ridge Trail and 800 acres of family-friendly ski terrain at Hoodoo Ski Area.

Major events meriting a visit include the annual Sisters Rodeo in June, the Sisters Folk Festival in September and the world’s largest outdoor quilt show on the second weekend of July.

Julian, California

This San Diego-area mountain town was once the scene of Southern California’s biggest gold rush. Today folks are rushing here primarily to try some of Julian’s world-famous apple pie. The pie is an obvious byproduct of the area’s many apple orchards (yes, there’s a tour).

Gold is no longer extracted from local mines, but one — the Eagle Mining Co. — has been reopened for tours. Round out a day of old-timey fun with a ride along Main Street in a horse-drawn carriage.

Telluride is synonymous with skiing and high mountain peaks.

Telluride, Colorado

Tucked away in a box canyon and surrounded by 14,000-foot peaks, this Victorian-era mining town boasts a picture-postcard setting and a reputation that ranks it amongst America’s most famous mountain towns. It has been named “No. 1 Best Small Town to Visit in the USA” by U.S. News & World Report. Year after year, readers of Condé Nast Traveler rank Telluride as the “#1 Ski Resort in North America,” and The New York Times says, “Telluride isn’t just a ski area; it’s a way of life.”

The town is a favorite for some owing to its world-class alpine skiing, while others are swayed by summers full of cultural events, including the iconic Telluride Bluegrass Festival and an endless variety of outdoor activities. What rings true to everyone, however, is the town’s authentic mountain character and unpretentious attitude. Standing tall with an elevation of 8,750 feet, Telluride is the highest mountain town on our list.

Taos, New Mexico

New Mexico isn’t just about Santa Fe.Nearby Taos, with a population of just 6,000, punches way more than its weight when it comes to history, culture and outdoor activities. Situated on a rolling 7,000-foot-high mesa at the base of the rugged Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Taos is an outdoor haven with an enthralling history. Its unique blend of cultures — Spanish, Native American and Anglo — have historically drawn artists, writers and photographers, as evidenced by the presence of museums, festivals and more than 80 art galleries.

Native American culture is on full display at Taos Pueblo, where descendants of the Tiwa people live in the oldest continuously inhabited community in America. The pueblo was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992.

Adventurists bent on outdoor activity can choose from skiing and snowboarding at three local ski areas, rafting and kayaking in the Rio Grande and Chama Rivers, mountain biking, hiking, rock climbing, fishing and llama trekking.

Deadwood, South Dakota

A popular backdrop for television and the movies, this “Wild

West” town nestled in the Black Hills of South Dakota certainly looks the part of the rollicking 1876 gold rush town that it actually was. Somewhat in the spirit of the lawless Old West, electronic gaming halls have taken the place of rowdy saloons, card rooms and brothels.

There are tourist shops aplenty and some reasonably good restaurants, including the Gem Steakhouse with a menu inspired by the real-life characters on the TV series “Deadwood.” A local cemetery contains the graves of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane.

Nearby Spearfish Canyon is home to several outstanding waterfalls. Custer State Park, with its huge herd of 1,300 bison; Mount Rushmore; and Badlands National Park are all close by. Deadwood’s location in the middle of the Black Hills provides easy access to outdoor activities such as hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing and fly fishing.

Asheville is surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains in Western North Carolina.

Asheville, North Carolina

With a population pushing 93,000, Asheville is the largest community on our list of marvelous mountain hangouts. But, it’s a small town at heart — a cool, progressive and rather classy one at that. Asheville itself, at 2,134 feet in elevation, isn’t actually in the mountains — but it is virtually ringed by the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Overlooking the city, in fact, is Mount Mitchell (aka “Grandfather Mountain”), the highest point east of the Mississippi at 6,684 feet. Those seeking exercise (and a fabulous view) can hike the 1.5-mile trail to the summit. Surrounding Asheville as well is roughly a million acres of protected wilderness that provides plenty of space to hike, bike, paddle and fish.

If motoring is your thing, Asheville serves as a convenient springboard for a spin along the Blue Ridge Parkway — one the country’s blue-ribbon scenic byways. Back in the city, culture and creative consumption prevail, with the number of art galleries rivaled by a growing roster of craft breweries. The prime attraction here are tours of the 8,000-acre Biltmore Estate, featuring America’s largest home, built in 1895 for George Vanderbilt.

Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Some mountain towns are more touristy that others — and for those who like things a bit kitschy — Gatlinburg is bound to please. The list of carnival-like attractions includes the Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum, the Hollywood Stars Cars Museum, Ripley’s Believe it or Not!, a moonshine distillery, a host of Branson-style music shows, and the area’s largest and perhaps most touristy attraction, Dollywood, in neighboring Pigeon Forge.

Situated at an elevation of just 1,289 feet, Gatlinburg is one of the least mountainous of our eight selected alpine outposts — but it is a quick ride from downtown on the 2.1-mile aerial tram to Ober Gatlinburg, Tennessee’s only ski area, where the air is a bit thinner at 3,300 feet.

Kitsch aside, there’s more than ample opportunity for recreation around the town billed as the Gateway to Smoky Mountains National Park, including skiing and other winter sports, white-water rafting, fishing, zip-lining, horseback riding, golf and hiking on more than 600 miles of trails.

North Conway, New Hampshire

It is often called the quintessential New England village — with a twist — because it is even more often cited as an adventure haven. Like the Moab of the Northeast. For example, USA Today named North Conway the “Top 10 Best Small Town for Year-Round Adventure” in 2018. The same year it was voted No. 2 on the “Best Ski Town” list by the newspaper’s readers. This ranking shouldn’t come as a surprise, because there are 13 ski areas within a half-hour drive of the town.

Set among rolling hills and sparkling lakes and streams, this idyllic town is surrounded by the 660,000-acre White Mountain National Forest and the town is the jumping off place for a visit to Mount Washington, the highest point in the Northeast at 6,289 feet.

Famous, or better, infamous, for its weather, Mount Washington recorded the strongest wind gust (231 mph) ever logged in the U.S. You can drive there or take the Cog Railway to the summit. Attractions especially geared to adventurists include the International Mountain Climbing School and Monkey Trunks Zipline Park, featuring 10 ziplines and 60 climbing challenges.

Golfers know to follow the Road to the Links where they’ll find 10 golf courses offering more than 170 holes. Sightseeing is best accomplished by joining a vintage train at Conway Scenic Railroad or by taking a spin along the Kancamagus Highway (NH 112) — an hour-long drive linking Conway and Lincoln that is considered one of New England’s most scenic byways.

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Airports are using the COVID-19 lockdown to undertake essential works

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One of the most difficult projects for busy airports to manage is refurbishing or rehabilitating infrastructure such as a runway when it is still required for aircraft use. Yet, with the global lockdown, airports are finding an opportunity to undertake these works with little disruption to operations.

Press releases and local news reports from across the world tell of the work airports are undertaking to improve and repair runways and taxiways. In many cases, planned works have been brought forward to take advantage of the current situation and lack of traffic.

Auckland International in New Zealand is working on replacing the eastern runway touchdown area of its runway, advancing the process as COVID-19 curtails the number of flights using the airport.

André Lovatt, airport development and delivery general manager, said: “With fewer planes now flying, particularly large long-haul aircraft, we are working to carry out construction works at the earliest available time.”

Stuttgart Airport in Germany has been renewing part of its runway between April 6-22, with the airport closed to all traffic. It has now reopened to flights as the remaining construction work continues overnight until June 17.

Lima Jorge Chavez airport in Peru is set to continue runway maintenance from April 28, while works continue on building a second runway and new terminal for the airport.

London Stansted says that while the airport remains open for business with a limited number of commercial flights still operating, as well as a busy cargo operation that continues to bring vital supplies into the U.K., the current reduction in flights has enabled the engineering and airfield operational teams to close the runway during part of the day. The airport is using 200 contractors to perform resurfacing and heavy maintenance on its 3,048-foot strip.

Image: Stansted Airport Limited

London Stansted’s asset maintenance services director, Kathy Morrisey, said: “The runway is obviously a key asset for the airport, and it’s critical it is maintained to the highest standard, so while we are in a situation none of us would wish to be in, we are using this as an opportunity to carry out essential work to ensure the airport is able to return to normal as quickly as possible once the current restrictions are lifted.”

Still planning for a return to growth, Istanbul’s new airport, which opened a little over a year ago, has also announced it is on track to open its third runway in June. It will become only the second airport in Europe (after Amsterdam Schiphol) capable of operating three parallel runways simultaneously.

Kadri Samsunlu, the airport’s CEO and general manager, commented: “We expect the stagnation we have been experiencing for the last couple of months to resolve very soon. Our new runway will be immensely helpful in that sense.”

It is not just large airports which are bringing works into action. Westchester County Airport, just north of New York City, is expediting plans to repave its main runway. It is able to use staff cross-trained in airport flow and maintenance to help supervise the project. Jorge Roberts, CEO of the airport’s operators said: “Given the reduced flight service to Westchester County Airport at this time, we were able to expedite this capital improvement while effectively utilizing our staff.”

While maintenance work is essential, many expansion projects may be put on hold for as the aviation industry recovers, with London Heathrow’s third runway likely to be one such example.

An anticipated reduction in demand for air travel alongside a difficult financial environment for airports and investors should see the kind of pressure to grow experienced in recent years no longer exists in the short term, and we are likely to see different airport operations strategies coming to light in the near future.

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IATA: Airline companies could turn into ghosts

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New forecasts from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) are painting a bleak picture for airline recovery. According to the IATA’s recent updated analysis, which profiled damage wrought by the COVID-19 crisis on the global airline industry, airline passenger revenues are projected to drop by $314 billion in 2020, a 55% drop over 2019.

Previously, in March, IATA estimated $252 billion in lost revenues (-44% vs. 2019) in a scenario with severe travel restrictions lasting three months.

The updated figures reflect a significant deepening of the crisis since then, and reflect the following parameters: severe domestic restrictions lasting three months; some restrictions on international travel extending beyond the initial three months; and worldwide severe impact, including Africa and Latin America, which had a small presence of the disease and were expected to be less impacted in the March analysis.

Full-year passenger demand (domestic and international) is expected to be down 48% compared to 2019. The two main elements driving this are:

Overall economic developments: The world is heading for recession. The economic shock of the COVID-19 crisis is expected to be at its most severe in Q2 when GDP is expected to shrink by 6% (by comparison, GDP shrank by 2% at the height of the global financial crisis).

Passenger demand closely follows GDP progression. The impact of reduced economic activity in Q2 alone would result in an 8% fall in passenger demand in the third quarter.

Travel restrictions: Travel restrictions will deepen the impact of recession on demand for travel. The most severe impact is expected to be in Q2. As of early April, the number of flights globally was down 80% compared to 2019 in large part owing to severe travel restrictions imposed by governments to fight the spread of the virus.

Domestic markets could still see the start of an upturn in demand beginning in the third quarter in a first stage of lifting travel restrictions. International markets, however, will be slower to resume as it appears likely that governments will retain these travel restrictions longer.

“The industry’s outlook grows darker by the day. The scale of the crisis makes a sharp V-shaped recovery unlikely. Realistically, it will be a U-shaped recovery with domestic travel coming back faster than the international market. We could see more than half of passenger revenues disappear. That would be a $314 billion hit.

“Several governments have stepped up with new or expanded financial relief measures but the situation remains critical. Airlines could burn through $61 billion of cash reserves in the second quarter alone. That puts at risk 25 million jobs dependent on aviation. And without urgent relief, many airlines will not survive to lead the economic recovery,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general and CEO.

Financial bailout

De Juniac underscored that governments must include aviation in stabilization packages. Airlines are at the core of a value chain that supports some 65.5 million jobs worldwide. Each of the 2.7 million airline jobs supports 24 more jobs in the economy.

“Financial relief for airlines today should be a critical policy measure for governments. Supporting airlines will keep vital supply chains working through the crisis. Every airline job saved will keep 24 more people employed. And it will give airlines a fighting chance of being viable businesses that are ready to lead the recovery by connecting economies when the pandemic is contained. If airlines are not ready, the economic pain of COVID-19 will be unnecessarily prolonged,” said de Juniac.

IATA suggests:

Direct financial support to passenger and cargo carriers to compensate for reduced revenues and liquidity attributable to travel restrictions imposed as a result of COVID-19;

Loans, loan guarantees and support for the corporate bond market by governments or central banks. The corporate bond market is a vital source of finance for airlines, but the eligibility of corporate bonds for central bank support needs to be extended and guaranteed by governments to provide access for a wider range of companies.

Tax relief: Rebates on payroll taxes paid to date in 2020 and/or an extension of payment terms for the rest of 2020, along with a temporary waiver of ticket taxes and other government-imposed levies.

Passengers — business or leisure — will also need to have their confidence restored, de Juniac noted in his remarks.

“I don’t underestimate the challenges that are ahead. The keys to success, however, are well-known in the aviation world — cooperation and harmonization,” he said. “Successive unilateral actions by states can shut down aviation as we have seen. But unilateral actions cannot restart aviation. Governments must work with each other and together with the industry.”

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