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Letters: Death Valley is stunningly beautiful, F-18s and all

Enjoyed the Death Valley article and video ( ["Death Valley Comes Alive" by Christopher Reynolds, Jan. 25]. We visited Death Valley only a few months ago, my first visit since the '70s, and loved it. We were standing at the viewpoint at the western entrance, and my wife was describing the geology of the rocks across the ravine when an F-18 suddenly swooped down into it. It was followed by two more.

That shock aside, it is a stunningly beautiful place. I certainly will return.

Dan Goldzband

San Diego

Churchill views

I enjoyed the article about the events in England to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Winston Churchill's death ["A Force in War and Peace" by Roy J. Harris Jr., Jan. 18]. If one can't make it to England to see the sights, there is a wonderful museum in Fulton, Mo., the site of the 1946 Iron Curtain speech, that is dedicated to the life of Churchill. The National Churchill Museum is about a 90-minute drive from St. Louis and about two hours from Kansas City...

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On the Big Island, volcanic activity could worsen respiratory problems

Visitors to the Big Island who suffer chronic respiratory problems are being urged to take common-sense precautions because of air pollution caused by volcanic activity.

Conditions are right for increasing particulate levels over southern and eastern parts of the Big Island, said Darryl Oliveira, chief of Hawaii County Civil Defense.

The lava eruption that began in June has not moved farther downslope toward the village of Pahoa, but its flow has widened. The molten rock burns dry vegetation in its path. That smoke, combined with ash from the Kilauea volcano, creates a haze that the locals call “vog.”

Air quality levels remained good over much of the island as of Friday afternoon, according to the Hawaii Department of Health website, but particle pollution climbed into the “moderate” zone in Hilo. That could pose problems for “unusually sensitive” people, the website said.

“We haven’t seen any spike in respiratory cases due to the vog,” Oliveira said. But visitors with serious...

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Booking a cruise? Find the right size ship for your taste

Look at enough websites and brochures, and cruise ships tend to become a blur of happy people at sea, dining and playing. But the reality is that cruising brings together several travel experiences — sightseeing usually in multiple destinations, lounging, dining, dancing, being entertained and on and on.

Which line you choose will shape your vacation. Your budget will be a factor, of course, but so should the size of the ship. Think about what you want from the trip and about your travel preferences.

Large cruise ships are the most likely to have crowds and waits at bottlenecks, such as the main dining room at dinner and boarding at the end of a day in port, but they also offer the most variety. They will have lots of restaurants, activities and entertainment.

When it comes to dining, the behemoths — which carry from 2,000 to 6,000 passengers — resemble floating cities. Royal Caribbean's newest, the 4,180-passenger Quantum of the Seas (and its soon-to-launch sister, Anthem of the Seas)...

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Reader recommendation: Pink Jeep Tours in Sedona, Ariz.

Forget the vortex tour. The best activity in Sedona is the Pink Jeep off-road tour at sunset. And the best restaurants are Elote Cafe for dinner (line forms before opening time) and the Coffee Pot for breakfast (gluten-free waffle).

Pink Jeep Tours, (800) 873-3662,; Elote Cafe, 771 State Route 179; (928) 203-0105,; Coffee Pot, 2050 W. Highway 89A; (928) 282-6626,

Cheryl Kohr

Palos Verdes Estates

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1,000 items from Disneyland's earliest days to go to auction

Disneyland fans, you've got your annual pass and zillions of pins. But do you possess an original bird from the Tiki Room? Or an etched glass E-ticket sign that once hung at the Pirates of the Caribbean ride?

Now you can.

As Disneyland rolls out plans for its 60th year celebrations, more than 1,000 items from the theme park's early days are going on the auction block in Sherman Oaks on Feb. 28. The collection is expected to take in $1 million at auction.

Members of the public can peruse items -- some of which date to Disneyland's opening day on July 17, 1955 -- at Van Eaton Galleries in Sherman Oaks. It's open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays from Feb. 7 to 27.

"The breadth of this vintage collection and the rarity of the memorabilia are a true testament to the genius of Walt Disney," gallery founder and President Mike Van Eaton says in a statement. "It tells the story of Disneyland from the beginning like we have never seen before, and I am sure we won’t ever see again."...

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Video: Down low in Death Valley

A lot of Death Valley National Park is below sea level, but Badwater is in its own category. That spot – which is the focus of this short video – is the lowest point in North America, 282 feet below sea level.

You might expect it to be tucked away in a hard-to-reach corner of wilderness, but no, Badwater is a simple 17-mile drive (on paved road) south of Furnace Creek, where most of the park’s hotel rooms and tourist amenities can be found.

Up close, Badwater is a sprawling plain of crunchy salt flats. See the mountain wall of rock just east? Up top is Dante’s View, more than 5,000 feet above sea level and often very windy. Badwater is calmer. Try to visit at dawn or sunset, when the light is doubly dramatic.

 “A Minute Away” is a video series in which nothing much happens -- except you see the world, and hear it, and get a respite from workaday life. We’ve covered Machu Picchu, Red Square, the Yucatan, the Alamo, an Alaska float plane and the reading room of the New York Public...

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