Big Sur Hotel Opening Planned for Next Year

Compiled by KIM UPTON

Picture a hotel with units built into trees and room rates of up to $700 a day. Could it be an exclusive African safari high above the Serengeti? A retreat for well-to-do birds? Actually, it's the first hotel to open in Big Sur in nearly 20 years. And it is apparently not too soon to start making reservations. A sign at the construction site lists a phone number for booking rooms not yet built.

The 30-room Post Ranch Inn, on Highway 1 just across the road from the Ventana Big Sur Inn, is scheduled to open in April, 1992, according to Mike Freed, head of the partnership that also includes Bill Post, owner of the land and one of the Big Sur community's best-known residents.

The decidedly upscale Post Inn will offer accommodations primarily in the $300-to-$500-per-night category, with one room priced at $700 per day. An equally pricey restaurant catering to inn guests will be built on the property, along with swimming pools and exercise facilities. It will be slightly more expensive than the 64-room Ventana--which was itself constructed on land once owned by the Post family.

The Post Ranch Inn site includes a ridge hundreds of feet above the surf, with unobstructed north and south views--the only Big Sur hotel directly on the ocean.

Some units will be built into trees and others into the hillside. While the inn will not be visible from Highway 1, it is expected to have spectacular views of the Pacific. And if all that sounds like just the perfect getaway, here's the reservation number: (408) 667-2200.

Poland Visas: As of this month, visas no longer are required for entry into Poland for stays of up to 90 days. The only document required is a valid U.S. passport. For more information, contact the Polish National Tourist Office, 333 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60601, (312) 236-9013.

Play It Again, Can: Recycling must be chic. Not only do movie stars tout its virtues, McDonald's just announced its intention to experiment with reusable paper, plastics and reduced-size paper napkins. Could the travel industry be far behind? Of course not.

Not only is the Westin Hotels & Resorts group recycling aluminum, magazines, plastic and glass, as well as trying to cut back on water use, its property in Atlanta--the Westin Peachtree Plaza--is recycling grease from the kitchen.

Although some effort is necessary to recycle, hotel spokeswoman Nancy Suzuki said the work is worth it, in terms of business.

"It's easy to sell," she said. "It helps the environment."

Quick Fact: Increase in number of miles of U.S. highways and roads from 1956 to 1989: 13%. Increase in number of licensed drivers traveling on U.S. highways and roads: 113%. (Source: Federal Highway Administration.)

Have a Safe Trip: Planning to drive rather than fly on this year's vacation because it seems safest? Think again. A University of Michigan study says it is safer to fly nonstop than to drive if the trip is longer than a mere 37 miles.

The findings are based on a statistical analysis of air versus driving fatality rates. And part of the safety trick, it seems, is not only flying rather than driving on long trips, but selecting air routes that are nonstop, or at least as close to nonstop as possible. Every stop made doubles the risk to the traveler, according to the study by research scientists at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.

"Accidents generally happen at or near takeoffs and landings," said study author Michael Sivak. "The fewer takeoffs and landings you have, the lower the risk."

P.S. If one really must drive, rural interstate highways, it turns out, are the safest roads. Too bad we're not in Kansas anymore.

Petal Pushing: Because of last-minute March rain storms, spring is turning out to be the best season for Southern California wildflowers since the drought began five years ago. Prime spots this weekend for basking in the beauty of poppies, lupine, phacelia and giant coreopsis include Anza-Borrego Desert State Park (San Diego County), Joshua Tree National Monument (San Bernardino County), Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve (near Lancaster), Torrey Pines State Reserve (San Diego County near Del Mar) and Catalina Island.

While desert flowers are said to be particularly colorful this year, the Antelope Valley poppies are themselves putting on a spectacular show.

For updates and more details, through May 30, call the Theodore Payne Foundation Wildflower Hotline: (818) 768-3533.

Amusements Abroad: How do U.S. citizens amuse themselves when they travel abroad? In order of preference, they: dine out (75%), shop (72%), sightsee (69%), tour the countryside and visit historical places (tied at 53%) and visit art galleries and museums (38%).

Fair Warning: Gentlemen, start your forklifts. Only qualified professional drivers need apply to race in this weekend's Raisin Festival forklift rodeo in Selma, Calif. Competition will put forklift drivers through their paces stacking pallets in unique configurations. The winner will be selected based on speed and accuracy. Don't laugh. The grand prize is $500.

"We're Raisin Big Fun," is the title of the 12th annual festival Saturday in Selma, which is the center for an estimated 95% of the U.S. raisin crop.

There also will be a raisin tray rolling competition. The yet-to-be-named national raisin queen will be there. Not to mention a good selection of raisin goods and a raisin run which, presumably, will be a foot race.

Selma is about 16 miles south of Fresno, about 200 miles from Los Angeles.

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