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Stories by Jan Austin

Haleakala Crater in Haleakala National Park, Maui

I’m not much of a morning person, so if I’m going to get up at 3:00 am and trek up a 10,023-foot dormant volcano to watch a sunrise, it better be worth it. Watching the ...

Salt Lake City's Temple Square

What I found most fascinating about Salt Lake City’s Temple Square was the tour of the Tabernacle and the performance by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The choir’s Sunday morning broadcasts and Thursday evening rehearsals are ...

Mayan Ruins in Tulum, Mexico

Walking among the Mayan ruins in Tulum, Mexico, gave me a deep feeling of connection with the ancient people who built this city. Architectural history and the stunning beauty of the Caribbean join hands at ...

Forestiere Underground Gardens, Fresno

If I’d been living in Fresno in the early 1900s, I’d have visited Baldasare Forestiere often, especially in August. To beat the scorching heat, this Sicilan immigrant spent nearly forty years creating an underground dwelling. ...

The Garden Song in Elkhorn, California

Visiting the Garden Song in Elkhorn, California, halfway between Monterey and Santa Cruz, is like meandering through a five-acre hidden treasure. Dahlias in every imaginable color burst forth like the grand finale of a Fourth ...

Central Texan BBQ, Castroville, California

I’ve heard Central Texan BBQ restaurant, 10500 Merritt Street, Castroville, referred to as a “vegetarian’s nightmare.” If you do have any carnivorous tendencies, they serve the best smoked turkey and brisket I’ve ever had. Meats ...

Mission San Juan Bautista, California

Strolling through the historic town of San Juan Bautista, nestled at the foot of the Gabilan Mountains, I feel like I’m walking through the pages of a history book. Adobe structures dating to the 1700s ...

The Butterfly House, Pacific Grove

The first time I wandered past 309 9th Street in Pacific Grove, I felt like a child who had stumbled onto a magical enchanted wonderland in an otherwise typical residential neighborhood. A kaleidoscope of vivid ...

Santa Cruz Surfing Museum

Even if you can’t surf, you can catch a wave at the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum, 701 West Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz, 467 miles north of San Diego. The museum overlooks famed surfing hotspot Steamer ...

Gondola Servizio, Oakland

I’ve dreamed of cruising on a romantic Venetian gondola and being serenaded with Italian love songs. I didn’t have to travel any further than Lake Merritt in Oakland. The proprietors of Gondola Servizio, 568 Bellevue ...

The Museum of Medical History

After visiting the Museum of Medical History, you’ll be glad you live in this century. A window to our healthcare past, these unique displays show the evolution of medical equipment and practices. Surgeries were often ...

Hilmar Cheese, California

We all know that real California is about the cheese – you know, those happy cows and all. But do you know how all that cheese is made? At Hilmar Cheese Company, the largest single-site ...

Where the Wild Things Are: Salinas

It’s hard to imagine an agricultural town like Salinas being home to well-known movie and television stars. But celebrities from George of the Jungle, Mighty Joe Young, and even the model for The Lion King ...

Gravity Garden, Carmel Highlands

A state of tranquility envelops me as I wander through Jim Needham’s Gravity Garden, located a stone’s throw (so to speak) from the Carmel coastline, three miles south of Carmel where Highway 1 meets Fern ...

Gold Panning in Jamestown, CA

If you want to step back in time and experience the life of an 1849 gold prospector, plan a trip to Gold Prospecting Adventures, 18170 Main Street, Jamestown. The experience will transport you into Gold ...

Nitt Witt Ridge, Cambria

Some say that Art Beal was an eccentric. Others call his work folk art. However you see it, California State Historical Landmark #939, known as Nitt Witt Ridge, is a one-of-a-kind creation. Making use of ...

Bubblegum Alley, San Luis Obispo

When I first saw Bubblegum Alley in San Luis Obispo, I instantly recognized how it got its name. I wasn’t sure whether to be grossed out by the sight of so much used chewing gum ...

Wool Growers Restaurant, Los Banos, CA

When planning dinner at Wool Growers Restaurant, 609 H Street in Los Banos, it’s a good idea to skip lunch. Bring a hearty appetite and pace yourself – they serve a lot of food. Being ...

OstrichLand USA

The next time you want to invite two dozen friends over for breakfast, you can feed them all with one scrambled egg – if you’re cooking an ostrich egg, that is. Weighing 3-4 pounds, an ...

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