About: Jim Becker


Articles by: Jim Becker


Seniors Are Wild About Crested Butte


The Colorado General Assembly has designated Crested Butte the Wildflower Capital of Colorado. So senior visitors, if you love flowers, skiing, biking, eating well and breathing good high country air, Crested Butte is there just for you.

The town hosts a number of unique festivals and parades throughout the year: Torchlight, New Years, Winter Carnival, Butte Bash College Ski Week and Mardi Gras during the winter months; Extreme Board Fest, Slushuck and Flaushink during spring; the Crested Butte Bike Week, A Music Festival, the 4th of July Celebration and the famed Crested Butte Wildflower Festival. In addition the town hosts Alpenglow Concert Series, Festival of the Arts and Ball Bash during summer and Fall Fest and Vinitok and Paragon Peoples’ Fair later in the year.



Visitors, photographers and artists from all over the US and abroad head for Crested Butte to witness nature’s explosion of color during the flower festival and the weeks after and well into the month of August.

Senior visitors will find more than 200 events showcasing the lush landscapes and activities that feature the awesome display of  wildflowers such as hikes and walks, jeep tours, garden tours, and workshops in photography, art, gardening, medicinals and of course, botany.

 Seniors Love Classic Historic Mountain Town

SONY DSCThe Crested Butte area is truly unique among resort towns. Situated at the end of a dead-end road and encircled by towering mountains, there is only one way in or out in the winter. Senior visitors will discover Crested Butte to be a classic historic mountain town with a rustic vibe and with preserved remains of the adventurous Old West.

The Old saloons on Elk Avenue that were once hangouts of Billy the Kid and Butch Cassidy stay intact and house poker games against a decor of mounted buffalo heads and soggy wooden bar fixtures. The Crested Butte Town Hall, built in 1883, like most of the town structures, still has its original look preserved in a clean and tidy fashion.


Downtown Crested Butte is a unique example of a quaint 1880′s historic mining town and a registered National Historic District. Senior travelers will discover a host of interesting shops, great restaurants, and a good variety of lodging options. 

Not large, 1,500+, this former coal mining town, is called “the last great Colorado ski town.” Crested Butte Mountain offers 1,167 skiable acres catering mostly to the advanced intermediate and experts.

Senior Visitors Discover Unique Mountain Life


Seniors will find no traffic lights or chain stores but a community that openly celebrates the unique mountain life with the mighty Rocky Mountains in the backdrop. Surrounded by over two million acres of National Forest and Wilderness, there is not an interstate in sight, only thousand of beautiful aspen trees.

Kebler Pass is the #1 attraction in Crested Butte and one of the best places to see those golden aspens in the fall. My wife wants to go this fall!  jeb


Seniors Visit Temuco


 The seniors this time are this guy and his wife before they joined the ranks of seniors…along with a group of middle school students on a school exchange.  Yes, the Beckers led a student group to Temuco, Chile for a two weeks stay.

We loved everything about Chile and Temuco. Founded in 1881, Temuco is of the Araucanía Region in southern Chile south of Santiago. The Director of our school in Iowa arranged this exchange.

My wife and I were guests with a family that lived on a farm. As we made our way to school each day, we could see Llaima Volcano smoking. It erupted in 1994. We had never witnessed a smoking volcano before, have you?


 Seniors Get Acquainted with the Mapuche

One of the teachers in their school took us into the surrounding countryside to enjoy the Chilean scenery and to see severals Mapuche homes called rukas. The Mapuche are famous for their 350-year struggle against Spanish and, later, Chilean domination.

The Mapuche is the most numerous group of Indians in South America and numbered more than 1,400,000 at the turn of the 21st century. They live today as they have lived for centuries, retaining their language, dress and cultural habits.

Temuco is a relatively new model city and was for a long time under the control of the Mapuche. Their culture, crafts and way of life are still very visible in and around the city, especially in the central market. The market is an historical place famed for its Mapuche crafts: textiles, carved wood and silver jewelry.


We enjoyed strolling though the local covered market where we saw a wide range of native vegetables and fruit that we did not recognize.  Meat was hanging on large hooks as were dressed chickens and rabbits. We were told that they leave the feet on the rabbits so that folks will know that they are not cats.

Temuco’s economy is based on agricultural and forest production. Abundant plantations of pine tree and eucalyptus can be found in this zone and several characteristic native forests. Within the manicured grounds of Plaza Aníbal Pinto in the city center, is a sizable La Araucanía monument depicting the clash between the Mapuche and the Spanish.

 We Loved the Araucania Trees


Our family took us on a trip into a forest with huge tall, prehistoric trees, called Araucania. The Conguillio National Park near Temuco is where you will find thousands of the Araucania trees.

Temuco, with its 275,000 inhabitants, has plenty to offer visitors. With its leafy, palm-filled plaza, its pleasant Mercado Municipal and its intrinsic link to Mapuche culture, Temuco is most pleasant of all Southern Chile’s blue-collar cities, giving a sense of the culture of the region.

Senior travelers, I hope you make it to Chile one day, and if you are in the south of Chile, be sure to include Temuco in your itinerary. We would go back tomorrow.  jeb


Seniors Find A Treasure In Cloghane

Cappagh, Cloghane Cloghane. I was “flummoxed” (love my new word) on this village in County Kerry, Ireland. It came up on this senior’s travel link on CNN as a great place to visit.  I, like you, have heard of many famous places in Ireland like Dublin, Galway, Killarney, Blarney and Cork, but not Cloghane.

It is time to go there and check the place out. Actually there is a little accent on that name, Clochán (anglicized as Cloghane) which changes the pronunciation. Cloghane, which means stone hut, is a small village on the Dingle Peninsula of County Kerry, Ireland, at the foot of Mount Brandon. In 1974 the village was added to the Corca Dhuibhne Gaeltacht.

So there you have it.  Are you still with me?

road to Cloghane

Cloghane village is nestled in a semi-circle of mountain peaks and overlooks the stunning Brandon Bay. This region offers many rivers, lakes, streams, and waterfalls. This is a Gaeltacht region, where the Irish language is spoken.

It has an abundance of sandy beaches, washed clean by the surf of Brandon Bay. Nearby is Brandon, a small fishing village with a quay still used by local fishermen.

Senior Visitors Discover One Of Ireland’s Beautiful Regions

There is a lot of beauty in the area.The village of 2,000 is set at the foot of Mount Brandon, on the north of the Dingle Peninsula and overlooking Brandon Bay. The Cloghane-Brandon area, or Clochán-Breannainn in Gaelic, is certainly among Ireland’s most beautiful regions.


The natural beauty surrounding these two villages stands alone as one of West Kerry’s unspoiled paradises for senior anglers, walkers, windsurfers, outdoors enthusiasts and families.

The magnificent valley between the Mount Brandon range and the awe-inspiring Connor Pass, Ireland’s most elevated mountain pass greets your arrival to the Cloghane-Brandon area.

For you senior hikers, the region is world famous for hill-walking and mountain climbing on Mount Brandon which links into the 180km Dingle Way. Golf and pony-trekking are available nearby.

Féile na Lughnasa takes place in the Clochán-Breannainn area every July, offering plenty of local music, song and cultural activities. The Cloghane/Brandon area has a rich heritage of music, language, and dance.


For senior “foodies,” there are several traditional pubs in the area serving fine food, some specializing in locally-caught seafood.

Sessions of music, song, and dance are held nightly in most of the local pubs, where young and old, tourist and local, blend together to create a unique atmosphere.

Be sure to check out O’Connors Guesthouse which is a major draw for tourists in the area. Benagh B&B also rates very high. Pinterest calls the area “a dream vacation”.  jeb


Seniors Head For Loess Hills


This senior has spent most of his life in Iowa, however I never knew much about Loess Hills on the western border near Nebraska along the Missouri River. The Loess Hills are one of the most unique landscapes in Iowa. Get your coffee and let’s head for the hills.

Loess, pronounced “luss”, is German for loose or crumbly and it is good stuff. It is a predominantly silt-sized sediment which is formed by the accumulation of wind-blown dust. I read somewhere that that soil may be called “glacier flour.”


The definition of a Loess Hill is a hill made of loess that is more than 60 feet in height; using that definition, about 640,000 acres of land in western Iowa constitute the Loess Hills landform. Although deposits of loess are found across the world, nowhere else but China are those deposits higher than they are in Iowa.

Dynamic and Evolving Hills

My Merriam-Webster notes that it is an unstratified usually buff to yellowish brown loamy deposit found in North America, Europe, and Asia and believed to be chiefly deposited by the wind. I’ve always called it loam and it’s really good stuff for Iowa farmers who grow corn and beans.


The Loess Hills are a rare and unusual Iowa landform, but they are not permanent; loess terrain is dynamic and  evolving. When originally deposited, the loess was smooth like a sand dune or a snow drift. Today, the Loess Hills are rough and jagged, the result of erosion by the very elements that created them:  wind and water.

Those hills have been around for a good long time and senior visitors will note that they only run 1 to 15 miles east of the Missouri River. They form what geologists call a “front range” and rise above the flood plain. The hills stretch from a small town in Iowa called Westfield south to Mound City, Missouri, about 200 miles in length.

Seniors Find Tallgrass Prairie

The steep, rugged terrain supports the best examples of loess prairie in the five-state Central Tallgrass Prairie region. Iowa’s largest surviving prairies are found in the Loess Hills, and the Conservancy’s Broken Kettle Grasslands Preserve contains the largest contiguous native prairie in the state.



The Loess Hills Scenic Byway affords many scenic views as it twists through the range from north to south. The main route is 220 miles of paved highway or county road in a general north to south direction paralleling Interstate 29.

The Nature Conservancy is using science-based conservation in the Loess Hills to restore and maintain healthy habitats for prairie plants and animals. For example, about 4,000 acres are blackened by controlled fire each year. Scientific analysis has revealed, however, that to keep this prairie healthy five times that amount, or 20,000 acres, needs to be burned each year.

Senior travelers, when you’re near western Iowa, take in the Loess Hills.   jeb


Seniors Visit The Tularosa Basin

BasinLumpsStAndresThe Tularosa Basin in southern New Mexico is full of cultural history and is part of the White Sands National Monument. Seniors driving through New Mexico will find The Basin is in the Chihuahuan Desert, east of the Rio Grande River.

From about 7 miles north of the New Mexico-Texas border, the Tularosa Basin is a closed basin that extends 170 miles northward. The nearby city of Tularosa has a population of just over 3,000.

 Senior Oenophiles Enjoy Historic Grape Stock


Senior oenophiles, I counted eight wineries in the Basin. In the early 1500’s the first Spanish explorers and settlers, brought their European wine grapes with them as they settled into the sunny and lush Rio Grande River valley. These initial grape stocks remain the source of many of New Mexico’s vineyards today.

Wine making started in the 1580’s, by missionary priests producing sacramental wines. The rebirth of the New Mexico wine industry began in the late 1970’s and is showing an increase. Today New Mexico now has over 50 wineries, which produce almost 350,000 gallons of wine a year with over 5,000 acres under cultivation.

And for you “rock jocks,” as we called them in college, here is a pdf file with tons of geological specs. http://pubs.usgs.gov/wsp/0343/report.pdf.  And senior historians, you will find the The Alamogordo Museum of History, formerly the Tularosa Basin Historical Society Museum, housing a fine collection of historical photographs, documents, and relics from Otero County. The museum is in Alamogordo and is owned and operated by the Tularosa Basin Historical Society.

Research, Wine & Music And Balloons

2013-04-26 11.29.59

For you “aqua fiends,” The Brackish Groundwater National Desalination Research Facility is nearby.  The Center provides state-of-the-art research facilities for researchers involved in desalination research studies, pilot-scale projects and small demonstration projects. You may find this site of interest.

Mark your calendar for the upcoming Tularosa Basin Wine & Music Fest held in Alameda Park in Alamogordo,  celebrating its 8th year on September 20-21 from noon till 5 p.m. The combined Rotary clubs of the area come together to promote New Mexico’s historic wine industry, showcasing the best of the state’s wines, along with local and regional artists and live music all day.


This event takes place concurrently with the White Sands Balloon Invitational (this is a biggie), drawing pilots and crews, along with balloon enthusiasts from around the state, to Alamogordo. Sounds like a fun time to me. How about you?

So come on down to White Sands and check out the Basin for yourself.  Senior visitors will find New Mexico a place of interesting sites, history and for you gourmets…lots of super local food dishes.  jeb


Seniors Discover Two Awesome Villages


Aurora, New York, one of the awesome villages, is a college town, Wells College, north of Ithaca. The village has a population of 800+ of which more than 400 are college students. The Village of Aurora, settled in 1799, is in the town of Ledyard on the east shore of Cayuga Lake.

Aurora is known as “The Charming Village in the Finger Lakes.”  To the north, it is home to the renowned home accessories company, MacKenzie-Childs and to the south is Wells College that was established in 1868 by Henry Wells. Places like the Aurora Inn, Dories, Jane Morgan’s Little House, E.B. Morgan House and The Fargo are great places to shop, dine and spend the night, as featured in Country Living’s June ’06 issue.


East Aurora, the other awesome village, founded in 1804, has a population of just over 6,500 and lies in the eastern half of the village of Aurora. Aurora is surrounded by rolling farmland and dramatic gorges. Senior visitors enjoy scenic beauty, wineries, dining, and a rich history.

Seniors Visit Historic Places

The intimately-sized Morgan Opera House is a restored Victorian gem featuring an original raked stage with pressed tin proscenium (the part of a theater stage in front of the curtain…had to look that one up) , leaded glass windows, original seating, splendidly crafted woodwork and superb acoustics.


Listed on the National Register of Historic Places are the Aurora Steam Grist Mill and Mosther Farmstead. The mill was one of the first mills built west of the Hudson River to be powered by steam. The farm was established  in 1887 by E.W. Mosher, and remains in the Mosher family today. It is significant as a largely intact example of a late eighteenth, early nineteenth century farm.

 Deep Lakes And Wineries Attract Senior Visitors


The eleven finger-shaped, glacial lakes in Central New York are some of the deepest lakes in the United States. They abound with small mouth bass, smelt, and huge lake trout. Senior travelers will find chaming villages with 19th-century buildings, little inns and vineyards, geese flying north overhead, and they say that a lakefront Adirondack chair has your name on it.

And then there is the Long Point Winery and the Cayuga Wine Trail. Long Point Winery is located on the east side of Cayuga Lake on scenic Route 90 in Aurora. The winery sits on 72 acres of land overlooking beautiful Cayuga Lake.photo-side-5

The Cayuga Wine Trail was the first wine trail to be established in New York. Many events take place along the trail throughout the year. The Finger Lakes Region is approximately a six hour drive (seven, including lunch) from the Lincoln Tunnel in Manhattan, making it a highly desirable, unique, and relaxing getaway.

Cayuga County is also known for outstanding events: comedy and live music at Auburn Public Theater and the Sterling Renaissance Festival. Senior visitors are in for some spectacular scenery in Cayuga County.   jeb


Seniors Enjoy Bald Head Island


I followed a young couple out of our local Target store. Their car was next to mine and this senior noticed a large black and white sticker on the back that read BHI and underneath NC.  

I asked what that meant.  The lady said Bald Head Island, that’s where I’m from.  She continued…“Oh, you just have to go there.  There are NO cars.  Everyone rides around in golf carts.”

I had never heard of Bald Head Island, and I told her that was going to write a blog on it. “Curious Jim”  punched in Bald Head Island and I learned a lot…

Thousands of years ago, Bald Head Island began its formation at the mouth of the majestic Cape Fear River. Beginning as just a small tidal flat, marsh grasses and small shrubberies soon took root to aid in creating the pristine island as it is today.

 Seniors Meet Long List Of Infamous Visitors


BHI soon became a preferred hideout for the notorious pirate of pirates, Edward Teach, also known as Blackbeard, and Stede Bonnet, the intellectual-turned-pirate. History thrives and flourishes on Bald Head Island. From Native Americans to sea ruffians, from Civil War troops to the inquisitive vacationer. Today all the streets on the island are named after these infamous visitors.

BHI was home to a British fort and hospital in the Revolutionary War. During the Civil War several Confederate gun emplacements helped secure the mouth of the river. In the early 1900s visitors came to the island to hunt wild pigs. Senior visitors can find out the details of these stories and more on a Historic Tour from the Old Baldy Foundation.


  One of the most famous sights on Bald Head Island is Old Baldy rising above the trees, looking out over the sea, marsh and harbor, and greeting senior visitors when you arrive on the ferry. Old Baldy, North Carolina’s oldest standing lighthouse and one of three that once graced BHI, is only a short walk from the ferry landing.

Golf Carts, Bikes or Hoof It…

When you board the ferry for the 20-minute ride to Bald Head Island, you leave your car behind, along with the stress of the mainland world. Getting around is limited to golf carts, bikes, or just plain hoofing it. Seniors will find a wide variety of vacation rentals, island tours, premier golf courses, and  fishing excursions available.

Smith Island Museum and the Kent Mitchell Nature Trail rate high for visitors. Spend a few days and let Bald Head Island help take away your worries and cares. jeb


Seniors Find St. Helena To Their Liking


The City of St. Helena with a population of just under 6,000 is located in the center of the world famous wine growing Napa Valley, 65 miles north of San Francisco. Known as “The heart of the Napa Valley Wine Country” and “Napa Valley’s Main Street,” senior visitors find that St. Helena is picturesque and loaded with sophisticated shopping, dining and wine touring.

The area was settled in 1834 as part of General Vallejo’s land grant. The City of St. Helena was incorporated as a City on March 24, 1876 and reincorporated on May 14, 1889. There are two theories about how the town was named. One says it was after the local branch of the Sons of Temperance; another gives credit to Mount St. Helena, a prominent landmark to the north.

st.helena From its inception, the city has served as a rural agricultural center. Over the years, with the growth and development of the wine industry, St Helena has become an important business and banking center for the wine industry.

The first winery founded in the Napa Valley, in 1861, was the Charles Krug Winery in what is now St. Helena. Jacob and Frederick Beringer founded Beringer Brothers Vineyards in 1876, now the oldest, continuously operating winery in the Napa Valley. Frederick built the historic 17-room Rhine House in 1883 as a re-creation of the family home in Germany.

Bale Mill, 3 miles northwest of St. Helena off CA 128, St. Helena, CA

Seniors Enjoy Napa’s First Incorporated City

St. Helena celebrates the finest in wine country hospitality, culinary adventure and the arts. Senior visitors will experience fine dining in their award-winning restaurants.

A major highlight of St. Helena is the Bale Grist Mill, built in 1846. This water-powered mill served Napa Valley’s farmers who brought their wheat grain and dried corn to the mill to be ground into flour and meal. The mill has one of the largest waterwheels in the country and still mills grain the old-fashioned way. The Robert Louis Stevenson Silverado Museum and Christopher Hill Gallery also attract senior visitors.


Along the two square blocks of historic Main Street in Napa’s first incorporated city, senior travelers will find the most charming shops in the entire valley. St. Helena’s downtown shopping area is a trove of authentic, one-of-a-kind items.

With nearly perennial sunshine and a plethora of food and dining options, it’s easy to spend an entire day strolling through downtown St. Helena. Senior friends, if you have not yet spent time in the Napa Valley…it’s time.  Enjoy St. Helena and all it has to offer you.  jeb


Seniors Stop In Zermatt

images-1Zermatt, in the German-speaking section of Valais in Switzerland, has a population of about 5,800 inhabitants. Yes, that where we can view the Matterhorn and what a scene. Senior travelers, have you been to Switzerland? It is so unique.

Zermatt is the gourmet capital of the Alps. From simple fare in cozy mountain restaurants to haute cuisine with an international flavor, the choice is vast and the welcome is legendary. No wonder the same question keeps cropping up: why don’t we stop for a bite?

The name “Zermatt” is a contraction of the local dialect words “zer”, which means “to”, and “matta”, which means “field” or “meadow”. Therefore, “to the field”, although many of the fields have since had hotels or apartment houses built on them.


 Seniors Awed By The Matterhorn

Zermatt, famed as a ski resort and mounteering destination of the Swiss Alps, was, until the mid-19th century, predominantly an agricultural community. The first and tragic ascent of the famed Matterhorn in 1865 was followed by a rush on the mountains surrounding the village, leading to the construction of many tourist facilities.

Nestled in a deep valley enclosed between steeply scarped mountains, Zermatt is dominated by the huge and gracefully curved pyramid of the 14,690-foot Matterhorn. Few sights are more inspiring than the Matterhorn covered with a pristine layer of snow.

The Matter valley is surrounded by 30 peaks, all of which top 4,000 meters, (13,000 feet). Between these pinnacles exists a labyrinth of valleys and trails that make this corner of Switzerland a hiker’s paradise. One such path, the mule trader’s trail, dates to the 13th century.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASenior Hikers, Skiers, Mountaineers Welcomed

From the moment you step off your Swiss-red train, and catch sight of the cobbled streets and horses with sleighs patiently waiting for their rides, you know you are in a special place. Most striking is the silence. There are no cars in Zermatt. The air is fresh, alpine and welcoming.

The main street bustles happily with pedestrians. How about that? Despite Zermatt’s popularity, despite its growth – more than 13,000 visitors’ beds – it is still only a village, open and friendly, where people mix happily in the main street, mercifully free of cars.


 Senior hikers, skiers, mountaineers and adventurers…the ski region encompasses 63 mountain railways and 360 kilometers of pistes. The region called “Matterhorn glacier paradise” is Europe’s largest and highest summer skiing region.

The region is legendary amongst mountaineers: the Haute Route, a challenging international route that takes several days to complete, leads from Mont Blanc to Zermatt. Over 400 kilometers of hiking trails lead through and out of the Matter Valley, including the mule traders’ trails, which date back to the 13th century.

So grab those hiking shoes, your best camera and plan a trip to Zermatt.  You will enjoy all the clean air, the great cheese and cuisine of Switzerland as well as the hospitality of the locals.  jeb


 Seniors Enjoy A ‘Site Not To Miss’


CNN selected one site ‘not to be missed’ in each of our 50 states. In Mississippi, it was the Gulf Islands National Seashore. The Seashore offers senior travelers recreation opportunities and preserves natural and historic resources along the Gulf of Mexico barrier islands of Florida and Mississippi.

The protected regions include mainland areas and parts of seven islands. A unique dune habitat is created from wind and waves blowing sand into large piles, which are held in place by the root systems of beach grass and sea oats. The Gulf Islands National Seashore is known as “Mississippi’s Wilderness Shore.”


The Seashore spreads across two island chains off the coast of Mississippi and Florida’s panhandle. These scenic out-islands offer historic forts, white sand beaches, awesome emerald water and endless opportunities for seniors to learn and have fun.

Senior Military Historians Take Note

Military historians will find much to see and do at the Fort Barrancas Visitor Center, Fort Pickens, Pensacola Naval Air Station, and the Naval Live Oaks Visitor Center. Senior visitors can relax and enjoy the scenery, hike a trail or explore the beautiful old historic brick forts within the park.

The Seashore is located on barrier islands which are a coastal landform and a type of barrier system, that is exceptionally flat and lumpy areas of sand, parallel to the mainland coast. These islands are famous for their natural, bright white sand, which is composed of quartz and scraggly pine tree forests that make a living among the sandy soil.


 Senior visitors will want to visit the Fort Pickens National Park. Fort Pickens is the largest of four forts built to defend Pensacola Bay, Florida, and its navy yard. The fort was begun in 1829, completed in 1834, and was named in honor of Major General Andrew Pickens of the South Carolina militia.

Pickens fought with distinction in several Revolutionary War battles and he also led several campaigns against the Cherokees, who called him “Wizard Owl.” That just has to be a total compliment, don’t you think? The park’s forts were built over a span of nearly 150 years; several were built as part of the Third System of coastal fortifications, a defensive system constructed between 1816 and 1867.

Outdoor enthusiasts can camp, fish, swim, snorkel, hike, bike, and birdwatch along miles of pristine shoreline. The Andrew Jackson Trail is one of nine trails leading out of Naval Live Oaks, which also offers a 40-mile biking loop.  Enjoy the Shore.  jeb

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