I often look up at a passing commercial airliner and wonder whether any of the passengers are gazing out the window and thinking about the people down below. I know the passengers can’t see individuals who are going about their daily lives. The plane is so high that I can’t hear the jet engines. In fact, I can barely see the plane. With the sun reflecting off it, the plane resembles a florescent dart as it leaves a contrail across the sky.

I had no idea what I was hearing the first time the hollow booming of ready-to-mate prairie chickens reached my ears. I was on a houseboat on South Dakota’s Lake Francis Case when I heard those awesome sounds before daybreak.

After church one Sunday, Ruth and I ate lunch at a Chinese restaurant. While in the U.S. Army, I spent 13 months in South Korea. I tried, but I never mastered the art of eating with chopsticks. As we ate, I noticed with envy a young couple a few tables away. They were exhibiting great dexterity while eating with chopsticks.

I have always wanted to capture an image of one of those trophy white-tailed deer for which Kansas is famous. Rick Dykstra of Junction City, Kansas, is with the Geary County Convention and Visitors Bureau, and his job enables him to feed his love of wildlife photography. He knows quite a few secret locations favored by wildlife and has shepherded me around on several occasions.

When you can’t get the entire head and antlers of an elk into a frame, you know you’re pretty close. Few places in America offer better viewing of elk than Estes Park, Colorado. They even meander along the streets and sidewalks of the town. Rocky Mountain National Park is near Estes Park. Ruth and I love to go there each fall and listen to the haunting sounds of bugling bull elk as they compete for cows during the mating season.

When Ruth and I began planning a trip to the Yellowstone National Park area, a visit with Lincoln photographer Sam Swartz was a requirement. Two years earlier, Sam led a winter trip to Yellowstone for me and two others who wanted to sharpen our camera skills. It proved to be a photography course on steroids.

I have always been a sucker for unusual cloud formations. I climbed the stairs of the observation tower at the Nebraska National Forest near Halsey in anticipation of shooting a typically spectacular Nebraska sunset. Instead, I discovered this aerial waterfall.

There are places where you never want to live, but you never tire of visiting. For me, the South Dakota Badlands is such a place. The 244,000-acre Badlands National Park is a prime example of magnificent desolation.

There are times when a favorite photograph is the result of someone else, not the photographer. It was 6:30 a.m., and Ruth and I were leaving Lincoln for Armstrong Station, Ontario, to visit the Brodhagen family. Dusty now operates Bear Creek Outfitters, an archery bear hunting camp, but his parents, Rob and Sandy, still have an active role. I’ve hunted with the Brodhagens for 13 years, and the reason for the trip was to show Ruth the area.

Liz Garcia, the owl whisperer from Utica, Nebraska, told me in February2017 that she was planning a trip to Ida Grove, Iowa, to see and photograph a northern saw-whet owl. I had never heard of a saw-whet owl, but my curiosity certainly was aroused.

My perch in the Crane Trust blind along the Platte River near Alda, Nebraska, allowed me to embrace a truly spectacular sunrise. That sunrise was dessert. The meat and potatoes of the morning was being allowed to peek in the bedroom of thousands of sandhill cranes that roosted on the ribbons of sandbars in this portion of the Platte. These sandbars and braided channels offer protection from predators such as coyotes for the cranes, who roost in relative safety from dusk to dawn.

Just because there are no oceans in the Midwest doesn’t mean there isn’t any water fun to be had. There are lakes and rivers of every size in this area, with so much to do many times a day trip isn’t enough.

Looking for a scenic hike? A wildlife-spotting trek? Or maybe a challenging workout is more your thing. Parks in Nebraska and surrounding states offer it all.

Following one of America’s “scenic byways” offers boundless flexibility for choosing one’s getaway plan. They’re the miniature versions, if you will, of the ambitious nationwide “auto tour routes” like those that follow the Oregon Trail or Route 66. Every one of the 50 states has designated scenic byways within its borders, offering trip lengths, themes and features for virtually any vacationer.

Thrill-seekers and adrenaline junkies — we have some ideas for you. Google “benefits of adventure travel” and nearly 16,000 results pop up, including improved physical fitness and health, a boost in self-confidence and the development of stronger coping skills when dealing with life’s ups and downs. A sky or air adventure offers its participants a breathtaking bird’s-eye view of the world below.

The next exciting bird display will soon be underway. Every spring, male sharp-tailed grouse and greater prairie-chickens perform a mating “dance” to attract their respective females. The areas where the birds perform this ritual is called a lek.

Picket fences mean something special in Charleston, South Carolina. They’re called “Badges of Honor,” and represent the sacrifice homeowners made during the Civil War by donating their wrought-iron fences to the cause. When homeowners refrained from returning their fences to iron, it signaled where they stood during what was known in the Confederacy as the War for Southern Independence. We learned about the significance of shutters, Robert Smalls and a lesser-known tea party during a two-day stay in Charleston.

Though there really isn’t a bad time to visit New York City, I can’t imagine a better time to explore all that the Big Apple offers than during the Thanksgiving/Christmas holiday stretch.

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