In 2016 there are two destinations that are both figuratively and literately “hot” – Cuba and the U.S. National Parks.
Things are literally “cooking” in Havana where temperatures and humidity right now are both in the 90s, reminiscent of what I experienced while visiting just-to-the-north-a-bit Miami back in August of 1961.
While this week the air will be much drier in Death Valley National Park, look for the mercury to hit the 100-120 degree Fahrenheit mark, as it did when I drove through the park with my parents on a long-ago journey from Southern California to Reno, Nevada, part of a longer loop trip from Seattle to Disneyland and back.
Visits by Americans to both Cuba and the U.S. national parks are up this year for different reasons.
In December of 2014, President Obama eased restrictions on travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens and the number of them visiting that Caribbean island during the first four months of 2015 went up a third over the same time frame during previous year.
And with regularly scheduled U.S.-Cuba flights set to take off beginning at the end of August, those numbers are likely to continue to increase in the coming months and years.
National park visitation broke records in 2015, and because the National Park Service is celebrating its centennial this week, don’t be surprised if the 2016 numbers eclipse those from last year.
Rick Steves, well-known for his PBS shows on European travel, recently interviewed experts on both Cuba and the U.S. national parks for his “Travels With Rick Steves” radio show.
Rick, who visited Cuba with his family at the end of this past December and beginning of January, kicks off that episode of the show with a conversation with renowned Cuba travel expert, Christopher P. Baker, about what Americans can expect to experience when visiting Cuba.
Baker, who has been a professional travel writer and photographer for three decades, first visited Cuba in 1992 when Cuba began to look to tourism to bolster its economy after the collapse of its ally, the Soviet Union.
Since then, he has been back on the island over 100 times, often leading tours, or gathering information to update his Cuba travel guidebook. He is one of five travel writers who appear in the 2016 feature-length documentary film, Cuba, Libre?, which was produced by Tales Told From The Road publisher, Dick Jordan.
Rick’s show continues with a reprise of his interview five years ago of filmmaker Ken Burns who produced the 2009 PBS documentary, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea. Rick and Burns recount the impact on their owns lives of visits they made to the parks as kids, and Burns emphasizes the importance of “common ownership” of the national parks as “the Declaration of Independence applied to the landscape.”
Use the SoundCloud player below to listen to Rick’s interviews of both Christopher P. Baker and Ken Burns, followed by a discussion with Smithsonian Museum of American History Director Emeritus, Brent Glass, author of 50 Great American Places, of road trips to take in the U.S.
(You can learn more about Cuba by listening to interviews of Dick Jordan and Christopher P. Baker by host of The Locales podcast, Weston Moody. To understand the importance of the establishment of the U.S. national parks, watch “Yelllowstone: Saving The World, Park By Park,” a public access TV film by Tales Told From The Road publisher, Dick Jordan. And browse Tales Told From The Road for a series of stories about both Cuba and America’s national parks published during the past year.