About: Jim Becker


Articles by: Jim Becker


Seniors Get Lost In Woodstock

Just for the fun of it, this senior input “Best Small Towns in the US” into a search engine and up came Woodstock and two others. So welcome to Woodstock, Vermont, (pop 900+) one of New England’s premier four season vacation destinations.

Woodstock is a quintessential New England Village and a thriving Vermont resort community.  Noted for its natural and man-made beauty, the town is cradled between leafy green hills and the serpentine Ottauquechee River.

It is home to the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Park and the historical Woodstock Inn & Resort, a year-round resort since 1892 when the Woodstock Inn first opened. The Village of Woodstock has thoughtfully preserved its architectural and natural heritage with much of the Village included in a Historic District.

 The question most frequently asked by senior visitors is, “How does one account for the many fine homes when there is no evidence of industry to support them?” The answer is that a mere twenty years after the first settler arrived in 1765, Woodstock became the Shire Town, or seat, of Windsor County.

Seniors Enjoy Prettiest Small Town in America

Described by Ladies Home Journal magazine as “The Prettiest Small Town in America”, it is a visual treat with tree lined streets, perennials and annual flowers everywhere the eye can see. And Woodstock was called “One of America’s most picturesque villages” by National Geographic Magazine.

The Boston Globe noted that “Quaint meets contemporary in Village of Woodstock, Vt.” The Village curves around the beautiful Outtaquechee River which can be seen from the many covered bridges throughout the Town and Village.

Woodstock has a stunning village green, a range of 19th-century homes, woodland walks just outside town, and a settled, old-money air. This is a good place to explore by foot or bike, or to just sit on a porch and watch summer unfold. One of the most popular bike rides in all of Vermont is the ride along the scenic road that follows the river from Woodstock to Quechee.

Spring begins in Woodstock when the sap begins to run from those famous Vermont Sugar Maple trees. Senior visitors will find Woodstock home to a variety of country inns, hotels, motels, B & B’s and casual to elegant dining venues. The only golf course in Vermont designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. is in Woodstock.

Village Green and Covered Bridge

Browse the shops and galleries and walk across the famed covered bridge that spans the Ottauquechee River. Woodstock’s centerpiece, the Village Green, is ringed with Federal mansions, a Greek-Revival courthouse and a Romanesque-style library.

You will find Woodstock a memorable experience where you can walk through one of Vermont’s most beautiful landscapes, under the shade of sugar maples and 400-year-old hemlocks, across covered bridges and alongside rambling stone walls. Hope to run into you there… let’s Get Lost In Woodstock.  jeb


Seniors Enjoy Westcliffe

The historic town of Westcliffe is one of the most amazing small mountain towns in the state. Senior visitors discover this quaint little town at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the longest and straightest mountain range on earth.

The town lies in the Wet Mountain Valley, between the Wet Mountain range and the Sangre de Cristo mountain range and is approximately 50 miles due west of Colorado Springs. The Sangres’ string of 13,000 and 14,000 foot snow-capped peaks tower over the 7,800-foot valley floor. The town is to the east of the Sangre De Cristos.

It offers many grandiose  views and in town you will find 600+ happy citizens. Note that Westcliffe wasn’t built until the Denver & Rio Grande arrived in 1881, so it had a lot of history to live prior to the arrival of the railroad.

This quaint rural setting is a place where senior citizens can slip under the radar to spend long summer days enjoying the high meadow mountain weather while visiting with the company of those friendly residents.

Westcliffe is adjacent to the historic mining town of Silver Cliff, and two towns are being connected and often appear as just one. The valley is a peaceful home for residents and a glorious get-a-way for senior visitors who discover this well-kept Colorado secret.

You will find Silver Cliff lying just to the west of Westcliffe. Silver Cliff was formed in the late 1870s to house the miners of its namesake, the Silver Cliff mine, and other silver mines in the neighborhood, such as the Bull-Domingo.

This particular area of the Colorado Rocky Mountains is known as the Sangre de Cristo’s and is famous for it’s unparalleled views and endless miles of lush wilderness trails and mountain meadows bursting with wild flowers.

 Seniors Awed At Mountain Views

Custer County is visited yearly by visitors from all over the world, for not only the views of the mountains, but for  hiking, fishing, camping, horseback riding, bird watching, and technical climbing, as well as the Wildlife preserve and observatory it has held intact.

Senior visitors who want to enjoy the outdoors in a more passive way will find great spots for photography and bird/wildlife viewing. When the tent is raised with the Sangre de Cristo Mountains as a backdrop, you know its music festival time in the Wet Mountain Valley.

 The High Mountain Hay Fever Festival brings the best of blue grass to over 4,000 people from around the country each July. Westcliffe is just a super cool spot for settling in for a day or two to just unwind. You will find the scenery worth a visit and for those of us who love flowers, especially wildflowers, Westcliffe is the place to be when they are in full bloom.

What a great setting and what a neat small town. Stop in on your next trip to Colorado. jeb


Seniors Find It ‘Famously Hot’

Columbia is the state capital and largest city in the State of South Carolina. The population runs just over 130,000. Down there they say “Famously Hot”…so this senior had to find out what that means. Is it Historic? Gracious? Sultry? Columbia, encompasses each of these and much more!

Columbia tantalizes all of your senses with a relaxing, comfortable pace, an abundance of playgrounds including Lake Murray. Columbia was the first city, as well as the first-planned capital in America named for Christopher Columbus and was founded March 26, 1786.

As the Palmetto State’s capital and a college town, U of SC’s campus area covers over 350 acres and has an enrollment of just over 27,000 students.  Area attractions are easy to find lying at the confluence of three rivers just downstream from a 50,000-acre recreational lake.

Enjoying more than 300 days of sunshine per year, senior visitors can expect Columbia and the surrounding communities to offer an exciting variety of year-round attractions. You’ll find fascinating historical and cultural attractions, a world-class zoo, outdoor recreation, festivals, parks and sporting events. It also is home to the Army’s largest training center for basic combat, called Fort Jackson.

Historical and Artistic Attracts Senior Visitors

Columbia is a city rich with history. There are numerous things for the entire family to see and do, including enjoying the arts, playing or watching sports, attending festivals, or participating in outdoor activities. The city is located in the middle of the state and it is only a two-hour drive to both the mountains and the beach.

Seniors are always welcome to Downtown City Center, which senior visitors will find to be both a vibrant commercial and residential city center. It is home to a diverse and growing business market that includes numerous law firms, banks and real estate corporations.

Known as a bike-friendly city, Columbia is home to friendly people, beautiful weather, a reasonable tax base and home values, excellent schools, easy access to the beaches and mountains, some super parks and recreational opportunities, and the list goes on.

Columbia has been named a top mid-sized market for relocating families in the nation. Also, increasingly, Columbia is becoming recognized as an ideal city for retirees.

It’s always nice to see a list entitled the “Top Ten Things To See And Do” and the Riverbanks Zoo and Botanical Garden are at the top. Lake Murray, a popular destination for boating and fishing, is one of the premier lakes in southeastern United States.

When you are in the south, plan on a visit to Columbia, a “City on the Rise.”  jeb


Seniors Head Northeast to Augusta, Maine

Augusta, located in the Kennebec Valley, was first explored by the Popham Colony in 1607, but not inhabited until 1629, when English settlers from the Plymouth Colony established a trading post. The settlement then was known as “Cushnoc”, an Indian name, meaning “sacred place.”

Augusta became the capital of Maine in 1827. Today its role as the seat of state government is augmented by its shipping, manufacturing and publishing trades.

The many waters of the State of Maine are exhilarating, restorative and invigorating. There’s no better place to explore them than the Kennebec Valley Region in and around Augusta, where you’ll will find every type of inland water adventure imaginable.

Senior visitors who arrive in the Valley will enter a vivid landscape of river towns, lakes, mountains and vast forests. This vacation offers a blend of outdoor adventure, culture, scenic splendor, dining and the story of America’s first frontier.

 Small State Capitol Offers Much To Senior Visitors

Main points of interest in and around Augusta include Blaine House, the Governor’s home, Children’s Discovery Museum, Fort Western, the Maine State Museum, and Capital Park. There is an awesome Botanical Garden on 20 acres of land directly in front of the State House.

Augusta has many attractions and one of the most distinguished is the State Capitol Building, designed by the famous architect Charles Bulfinch. The 180-foot dome of the State House, constructed of Maine granite, is one of the most distinguishing architectural features of the capital city.

You can learn more about Maine and Augusta at The Maine State Museum, which is adjacent to the State House. Did you know that Augusta is the third-smallest state capital after Montpelier, Vermont and Pierre, South Dakota?

Seniors Enjoy Beautiful, Natural Environment

There is much for senior travelers to see and do both in and around Augusta. Many lakes and streams, the great Kennebec River, and beautiful forested hills offer a unique natural environment.

Pine Tree Arboretum has over 200 labeled species of trees, shrubs and “Space Trees” (from seed that traveled on the Space Shuttle) on display at this 224-acre garden.

There are opportunities for bird-watching, picnicking, hiking on beautiful wooded trails, biking, and cross-country skiing. The University of Maine at Augusta is the third largest school in Maine’s public university system.

 Senior golfers, note that Augusta is home to some of the best golf courses in the state of Maine.  For live entertainment, Gaslight Theater in the closeby village of Hallowell is another fun attraction to take in.

Many senior visitors head out to Old Fort Western. Built in 1754, it is a National Historic Landmark and America’s oldest surviving wooden fort, a reminder of the great contest between cultures that dominated New England life 250 years ago.

Swing by Augusta and enjoy. jeb


Mongolia: Land of the Nomads

It is said that we are only six people away of knowing everyone in the world. This senior says five, unless you include the Gobi Desert. That’s Mongolia. It has always seemed to be in a far far away place where Genghis Khan ruled and where folks ride small and very fast horses and drink fermented mares milk.

The country has grown to be a place to visit for adventure-seeking tourists. The country is a landlocked country located between China and Russia. This video called Mongolia: The Melody of Nature, will enthrall you.

Mongolia is more than twice as big as Texas and even bigger than Alaska. Its area is 618,000 square miles and forty percent of the population continue to live the traditional nomadic lifestyle tending more than 28 million head of livestock. Animal husbandry remains a backbone of the national economy, providing 20 percent of the world’s cashmere production.

Mongolia is a vast emptiness that links land and sky, and is one of the last few places on the planet where nomadic life is still a living tradition, and this what attracts senior tourists. Ulan Batar, the capital and largest city, is home to about 38% of the population.

With the exception of the westernmost province where Kazakh is spoken, everyone speaks Mongolian. Mongolia is home to the “three manly sports”: wrestling, horse racing, and archery. The ideal Mongolia travel season starts in May and hits its highest peak in July, during the Naadam holiday, and in August when the weather is most favorable for traveling.

 Seniors Discover a Large Country With Few People

Mongolia is the nineteenth largest, and the most sparsely populated independent country in the world with a population of just over 3 million. The country has very little arable land with much of its area covered by arid and unproductive steppes.

The Great Gobi Desert is a treasure chest full of astonishing surprises that draw in the most avid senior travelers, explorers and scientists. This land of Ghengis Khan has more than 4,000 lakes. Archaeologists have found remnants of a 500,000 year old culture, which in many ways parallels the nomadic tribes and lifestyles that still exist today in some of the outer reaches of the country.

Because of the eternal blue dome hanging over endless steppes, from the ancient times Mongols refer to their motherland as “Blue Mongolia.” Even nowadays, old women will splash into air at the morning dawn a bit of freshly brewed tea with milk as an offering to the Blue Sky and the Mother Nature. The national drink is called Airag made from fermented mare’s milk and is an acquired taste.

Mongolia is a perfect destination for horse trekking, long-distance cycling or hiking, or more leisurely activities such as fly-fishing, yak carting or camping out under a sprawling mass of stars.

Ulaanbaatar, the main entry point, presents a number of quality museums, Buddhist temples and the famed Gandan Monastery – the most important monastery in the country. Seniors, enjoy your coffee and say “Good Morning” to Mongolia. jeb

Filed under : Asia/Pacific, Editors Choice


Seniors Find Excitement in Gillette

Gillette , with a population of 25,000+, is located in northeast Wyoming, halfway between the Black Hills and the majestic Big Horn Mountains. Gillette is one of the fastest growing cities in the state of Wyoming. Senior visitors can easily locate Gillette just off of Interstate 90.

The city was named for Edward Gillette, a surveyor and engineer for the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad. For a brief period Gillette was the rough and ready terminus of the Burlington and Missouri Railway, boasting twenty saloons, a large stock yard, and more than its fair share of rustlers, stock detectives, and shady characters.

Gillette is famed for being a first-rate coal mine town and the coal mine is extremely active with coal cars moving out of the plant about twice per day. That is why it is labeled the “Energy Capital of the Nation.”

Seniors Discover a Town Alive

In the late 1800s “Donkey Town,” aka Gillette, was homesteaded by cattle ranchers. This town was alive from the start; the cowboys and followers of the railroad saw to that. Like many a frontier town in the West, it finally settled down to an orderly development.

Gillette is the best city a cowboy can get. It commands the trade of a large section of country. Its stock raising, farming and coal resources, with the probability of oil fields adjacent, will, no doubt lead to growth in the future. Historically Gillette was incorporated on January 6, 1892, less than two years after Wyoming became a state.

The city boasts excellent parks, golf courses, recreational facilities and the state’s premier multi-use facility, CAM-PLEX. Residents rarely mutter the phrase, “There’s nothing to do!” with the variety of events that are offered throughout the year, from rodeos to fairs to concerts and theatrical productions, to hockey games and music festivals.

Wildlife, Devils Tower and Big Horn Mountains

And, if senior visitors are wild about wildlife, nearly 77,000 pronghorn call this region home, along with a multitude of mule deer, turkey and sage grouse. I well recall driving across the state and as I came over a hill, right in the middle of the road was a pronghorn antelope.

 A natural commodity that sets Gillette travel apart is the majestic 1.8-million-acre Thunder Basin National Grassland. The grassland is located near the Powder River Basin, between the Big Horn Mountains and the Black Hills. The film “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” was shot at nearby Devils Tower Monument.

It is worth a trip just to encounter Devils Tower. The town is located 60 miles west of Devil’s Tower National Monument, 130 miles east of the Big Horn Mountains, and 50 miles south of the Montana border. It is certain you will enjoy every moment you spend in and around Gillette. jeb


Seniors In Stepantsminda

Stepantsminda, is a small town in north-eastern Georgia. Historically and ethnographically, the town is part of the Khevi province and is the center of the Kazbegi Municipality. I actually was searching for a site called Kazbegi that was featured on the Travel Photo of the Day on my iPhone.

I learned that the town of Kazbegi, officially named Stepantsminda, but better known under the old name of Kazbegi, is a mountain town on the Georgian Military Highway. Built by the Russians in the 19th century, the “Georgian Military Road,” is the only pass-road across the wild mountains that can be used by cars.

It has been celebrated in Russian poetry since the late 19th century. It is a spectacular drive at any time of the year, but most impressive during spring time, when the sheep are being driven across the snow covered mountains.

Georgian Caucasus Draws Senior Hikers

The town is 10km south of the border with Russia, which is open again for some nationalities. On the western side of the river, the town is known as Gergeti. For all intents and purposes, it is essentially one town in the Georgian Caucasus and seniors will find some great sightseeing.  Stepantsminda is known for its scenic location in the Greater Caucsus mountains, and today is a center for hikers and mountain climbers.

Senior travelers, let’s go visit Kazbegi if you prefer…Stepantsminda.  It is a leading producer of beer and soft drinks in all of Georgia. Tourism, woodworking industry and other sectors of Georgia’s economy attract senior visitors. 

Having sprung up on the debris of the Soviet economy and civil war ten years ago, “Kazbegi”, the beer producing company, today is a multi-profile business group, occupying successful positions not only in food producing and processing industry, but also in tourism and other sectors of the Georgian economy.

Close To Russian Border

Kazbegi is a spectacularly located town just a few kilometers south of the Russian border, with the snowy peak of Mt Kazbek towering to the west, behind the famous hill-top silhouette of Tsminda Sameba Church.

The Tergi river flows through Kazbegi and ultimately into Russia and finally into the Caspian Sea. Alpine meadows and forests surround the Kazbegi Nature Reserve.

The Kazbegi region distinguishes itself with nature, valleys, speeding rivers and blue lakes and is situated only 2 1/2 hours and 90 miles north of Tbilisi. Caucasian’s highest glacier called Mkinvartsveri is evident and under the glacier is the famous St. Trinity church.

Mount Kazbegi is a dormant stratovolcano and one of the chief mountains of the Caucasus, dominating Stepantsminda. It is the third highest mountain in Georgia and the seventh highest peak in the Caucasus.

There will be plenty to see and do so enjoy your visit to Kazbegi/Stepantsminda. jeb


Seniors Explore Andalusia

One of the most fascinating and memorable trips my wife and I made to Spain was to the southern region called Andalusia. This senior had made a special point to visit as many UNESCO World Heritage Sites as possible, and there were several.

Andalusia has a rich Moorish heritage, including many fantastic examples of Moorish architecture which were built during the eight centuries when Andalusia was the center of the Arab population in the Iberian peninsula. The Moorish rule effectively ended in 1492 when Christians recaptured Granada. The entire region has a rich and varied history and includes some of Europe’s best wildlife sites.

The area abounds in olives trees, the glorious Mediterranean seacoast, ancient historical cities, wonderful food and superb lodging facilities. I entitled this blog “Explore Andalusia” as that is precisely what senior travelers will want to do.

Head up that road that looks interesting or visit that castle up on the hill. TripAdvisor suggests 1,209 things to see and do. Wow! There seems to be something for every senior in Andalusia.  Stay in a Paradore, the luxury hotel accommodations in Castles, Palaces, Convents, Monasteries, Fortresses and other historic buildings all over Spain.

The Guadalquivir is Andalusia’s most important river and brings life to many areas in its journey across the region. Andalusia offers a range of attractions that range from impressive monuments in large towns to typical small villages, which have provided a constant source of inspiration for all kinds of artists.

 Seniors Find Medieval Ruins, Olive Trees and Hostales

Each of Andalusia’s eight provinces are loaded with unforgettable highlights. Circle all the cities that you won’t want to miss on a map. We suggest that you pick a rental car in Madrid. Then swing northwest to Avila and Salamanca and then head south to Andalusia. On your route back to Madrid a must visit is the city of Toledo.

 Andalusia = the heart of flamenco, lots of medieval remains and fortresses, the oldest continuously inhabited city in the Iberian Peninsula, the former capital of an Islamic caliphate in the Middle Ages, the magnificent La Alhambra Palace, a maritime port town with the oldest football club of Spain, the world’s olive oil capital, a harbor city right on the Costa del Sol, and Marbella, a wealthy resort town on the Costa del Sol.

We discovered hostales, a type of lodging found mostly in Spain and Hispanic America. Hostales tend to be less expensive than hotels, comfortable and in most cities and even smaller villages. You can save a lot by lodging in a hostal (not a hostel). Look for a sign that reads Hostal, not Hotel.  We hope that you enjoy Andalusia as much as we did. jeb


Filed under : Adventure Travel, Europe


Seniors Retire in Ecuador

CNN Money has been looking for great places for seniors to retire. One of those spots is in Ecuador. In recent years, Cuenca, Ecuador (population 30,000 and 275 miles south of Quito), has become a favorite retirement destination. Cuenca offers temperate weather, beautiful architecture, and modern health care, all for a fraction of the cost of living in the U.S., and the national currency is the U.S. dollar.

Opening-home-price figure, $75,000, is not a typo. Health care and property taxes are dirt-cheap. Sell your winter clothes, seniors…and get ready for the adventure of a lifetime in the Land of Eternal Spring. Every cliché you’ve heard about living large on little, on even a retiree’s budget, is true in Ecuador writes International Living.

Senior citizens can live comfortably on social security and live well. I have spent time in Ecuador and loved most everything I encountered. Of all of the cities in Ecuador, Cuenca is arguably the most charming with its cobblestone streets, old-world cathedrals, colonial parks and urban rivers. It is the third largest city in the country with a population of a 500,000.

Why Cuenca? Seniors Ask

Cuenca is currently home to a few thousand expat retirees, mostly from the U.S. and Canada. New arrivals can choose from one of the many new condo developments or spring for a landscaped historic estate for $300,000.Ecuador is a local food paradise with a variety of lush produce that grows year round in small farms surrounding Cuenca.

What does Cuenca Ecuador have to do with The American Dream? Short Answer: everything really associated with quality of life is more abundantly available in the very best cities of Latin America with Cuenca, Ecuador a crown jewel among them. If you are even a tiny bit interested in a major move like this, read on as they highlight the Big Three Pros of Cuenca including a video entitled “Living in Cuenca.”

My Editor, My Wife, reads all these  blogs very carefully and most often notes that “We have to check this place out.”  I’m confident that Cuenca will be included next. Cuenca is a World Heritage Site and that’s enough, in itself , to merit a visit.

Viva Tropical notes that Cuenca is the city of choice for those people who dream of living smack in the middle of Paris, Barcelona, or Sienna (or even Manhattan or San Francisco, for that matter)… within walking distance of historical, beautiful architecture, culture, and food — at a price that’s affordable for someone needing more living space than a studio apartment.

And “nota bene:” the people in Cuenca are welcoming of Americans and happy to help make them part of the community. Many are fluent in English and the city has plenty of English-language bookstores, store owners, and people willing to accommodate non-Spanish speaking travelers and expats.

Enjoy your time in Cuenca.  I know we would.  jeb


Seniors Converge On Mendocino

Mendocino County is located on the north coast of California, a couple of hours north of the San Francisco Bay Area and west of what is known as the Central Valley. The area is noted for its distinctive Pacific Ocean coastline, Redwood forests, wine production and its microbrews.

The County features some of the most renowned scenic drives in the world. The Pacific Coast Highway #1 runs all but a few miles of the length of the County’s coastline, connecting to San Francisco and beyond. Inland, U.S. Highway 101, also called the Redwood Highway, is a beautiful, historic journey through the lush vineyards of Sonoma and Mendocino County to Hopland, Ukiah and Willits.

The cliff top village of Mendocino is just south of Fort Bragg with a population of only 849 happy folks. Download a Visitors Guide and check out the festivals, special events, visitor packages and wines. For my wife and me, we would enjoy selecting one of the many B&Bs for a stay in Mendocino.

Mendocino Coast Draws Seniors

An artist colony has sprung up in the town of Mendocino and senior vacationers find it very attractive due to its proximity to the Pacific Ocean. There is a small downtown in Mendocino with a number of art shops and small restaurants. Mendocino loves to celebrate it’s rich culture of arts, food and wine.

It is the Mendocino Coast however, that rates #1 with senior visitors followed by the Mendocino Headlands State Park with its unique blend of gentle trails, rugged coastline, secluded beaches and timeless history. The park surrounds picturesque Mendocino on three sides. Miles of trails wind along the cliffs, giving the casual explorer spectacular views of sea arches and hidden grottos.

 The entire region is called America’s Greenest Wine Region. With some of the world’s finest wineries in their back yard and the awesome Pacific Ocean the front yard, Mendocino is securely perched on a cliff overlooking a river and the ocean. This is where the locals carry on their everyday lives amidst the delightful and enduring legacy of the 19th century.

 Wine, Seafood, Rodeos and Parades

Seniors will find it fun to celebrate the beauty and bounty of Mendocino County, from wine tastings and seafood celebrations to the oldest rodeo and kooky parades. Mendocino is one of only two towns in the state of California that is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.

For more than a century, Mendocino water towers and accompanying windmills have captured the attention of visitors and writers alike. In 1892, one reporter observed during her stay, “an individuality about the water works of this town not found in any other place.”

 Plan to take in the notable, historic and recreational attraction called the “Skunk Train” that connects Fort Bragg with Willits via a steam-locomotive engine. So when you are up north in California along the coast, stop by and enjoy all the wonder of Mendocino County. jeb

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