Sunday, August 27, 2017

Safe Street Crossing Tips

As a New York City resident, I know firsthand that Manhattan is experiencing a street and sidewalk congestion that we've never seen before. And, here as well as across the nation, both motorists and pedestrians are seriously distracted -- whether it's from staring at their cell phones or plugged into their headphones. Numerous agencies and reports -- here and here -- document that distraction is a major cause of pedestrian accidents and, more importantly, fatalities.

I'm not one of those distracted pedestrians. Whenever I am in a crosswalk, my head is rotating left and right the entire time I'm crossing, making sure someone, whether a motorist or cyclist, isn't about to cut me off, despite the fact that I have the right of way. But, I've found that despite my contentiousness, whenever I'm in the crosswalk, drivers and cyclists making a left or right turn appear to not see me or perhaps choose not to. Recently, I was walking across the street with two out-of-town friends who just assumed if the light was green, they could barrel ahead. A truck turning left almost struck both of them, if it wasn't for me pulling them both back.  So what's the solution?

Over the past two years, I've been using a tactic based on what traffic control officers have long used: I hold a brightly-colored object in my hand and, using my outstretched arm that's facing any potential oncoming traffic, and I wave the object. It might be an umbrella, book, scarf, shopping bag, newspaper still wrapped in plastic, and so forth. You get the idea. I use this method each and every time I cross the street and I can't tell you the number of times this colorful arm/hand motion has piqued the driver's attention.  And, if those off times when I don't have an object to hold, I extend my arm with my hand flexed, palm out and fingers outstretched in the well-known "stop" signal as seen below.

At first my friends and colleagues thought these gestures looked fairly odd. and too embarrassing to mimic. But they saw the results as they crossed busy Manhattan streets with me. Cars stopped when they saw me waving a purple umbrella or a bright green scarf or using the "stop" hand signal. Of course, none of these gestures obviates me from still looking right, left and all about as I cross, just in case the driver still missed me.

This is hardly a controlled study. But it's worth a try. I've used these strategies when I'm traveling all over the world. After all, NYC doesn't have a monopoly on out-of-control drivers.

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Sunday, August 20, 2017

Book Review: New York's Hudson Valley

If I were forced to pick one area in New York that I would have to visit again and again, it definitely would be the Hudson Valley. Stretching 150 miles from the northern reaches of New York City to Albany, this area is dotted with numerous quaint villages that ooze history and are peppered with contemporary art galleries, and placid green spaces that are perfect for walking, hiking or cycling. I've written several blog posts about the Hudson Valley, here, here and here. 
Now I received a beautiful, and enticing coffee table book focusing in on this region: Hudson Valley Reflections by Michael Adamovic. It's divided by seasons of the year and is replete with close-up images of the flora and fauna as well as historic features, and panoramas of the bucolic landscape anyone who has visited the Hudson Valley may be familiar with but will still delight in seeing these again. And, anyone who has never visited or not heard of the Hudson Valley, this will tempt you to get on Metro North, one of the ways of conveniently visiting many of the villages, and stop in Beacon, Cold Spring -- two of my favorites -- and others. Though the cover of the book refers to it as an "Illustrated Travel and Field Guide," I would've loved to have seen more information that was travel focused. Though the very back of the book includes 44 spots with natural, historical and architectural features as well as other venues that you should put on your "list" as well as an accompanying map indicating their location.

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Sunday, August 13, 2017

Spa Hiking in Vermont

Many of us associate the word "spa" with pampering in the form of water treatments, facials, body wraps, hot stone massages and other pleasant, but sedentary, activities. What I love about the New Life Hiking Spa in Vermont -- and there's much to love -- is that its got my idea of pampering via fitness. Sure, they've got those typical spa treatments we've all come to expect. But I don't go to New Life for a body exfoliation -- though they offered a relaxing one using Chinese herbs, creams and oils. I went to indulge my joy in being fit. And New Life is the right place for fitness. Every day after breakfast they offer hikes for all levels: nature walks, intermediate treks from low-grade to more strenuous, and advanced hikes where you'll be scaling peaks. But the fitness starts before breakfast with a stretch class.

The hikes couldn't have been more idyllic. My friend and I chose an advanced intermediate hike every morning, not because we weren't fit enough for the advanced jaunt but because I don't like precipices nor navigating over scree or boulder fields, something that's always a possibility when summiting. On the intermediate journeys we tackled, we hiked through dense pine forests with the most energizing aromas, strolled beside crystal clear ponds and lakes, and enjoyed numerous scenic panoramas over the state's generous green spaces.

The afternoon was also fitness oriented, with different classes offered every hour, from 2PM through 5PM. Qi Gong, different sorts of yoga practices, outdoor fitness, and circuit training are just a few of the many offerings that change daily and are taught by a cadre of professional, personable and skilled trainers. (Characteristics of the hiking guides as well.) My favorite activities included the latter two classes. Rather than relying on machines (not fun for me), circuit training used Bosu balls for balance, mats to do a plank, sit ups or other exercises, and exercise bands of all sorts for strength training. In the outdoor fitness, we took advantage of the pleasant weather, heading to a spacious lawn for a fun boot camp of sorts. It included high-kneed skipping, tossing medicine-type balls, negotiating an agility ladder and engaging in some of the side-to-side motion typically used to train football players. We felt like children and that is what fitness should all be about.

The New Life Hiking Spa is only open part of the year, using the spaces at Killington's Cortina Inn and Resort. Expect an informal, a bit rustic and completely unpretentious environment. In other words, leave the glittery evening clothes and pearls at home. In speaking with the array of guests who have a wide range of ages, many have returned time and again sometimes for 11+ years, for many reasons, including the camaraderie and the hiking.  New Life has been around for almost 40 years. They obviously have the recipe for success. After all, one of the best ways to help people lose the weight they desire is to just get them moving in fun activities. I can't think of anything more fun than hiking in forest land.

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