Escapes: This car-free Maine island is a Wyeth painting come to life

Monhegan Island, Maine
(Christopher Reynolds/Los Angeles Times)

Welcome to the dog days of summer, so named not because hounds are drooling and panting but because this is the time of year when the Dog Star, a.k.a. Sirius, rises or sets when the sun does, usually about the time the weather gets stinkin’ hot (a technical term).

The best we can do is to tolerate it, dream of escaping it or actually get the heck out of Dodge. We recommend that last option and have suggestions: picturesque Maine, stunning San Francisco. Racing in Del Mar, or NFL players at SoCal’s coastal (and noticeably cooler) training camps. And if you want consistently cool, we suggest caves. If there are pitfalls to travel, we try to warn you about those, too, plus a couple of other surprises, including Bozos behaving badly. Ready? Hut 1! Hut 2! Hike!

Monhegan’s bliss is a balancing act

Why take the trouble to go to a little island off Maine if you already live in a semi-paradise like California? First, it has no cars. (Businesses can have a truck, but there are about six total.) Second, it’s not a million degrees outside. But Christopher Reynolds, a native Californian, chose Monhegan for a different reason. “It’s had such an out-sized role in American art — such an emblematic landscape,” he told me. “It’s also fascinating to see a place that has teetered for so long on the brink of being too small and too thinly populated to endure. It’s like a long-distance tightrope walker.” I felt cooler, in many senses of the word, just reading about it. Don’t miss Reynolds’ painterly video.

Lupine Gallery, Monhegan Island, Maine
(Chistopher Reynolds/Los Angeles Times)

The upside of travel restrictions: cheaper cruises

When the U.S. implemented tougher restrictions on travel to Cuba, cruise lines immediately stopped service there, affecting about 800,000 bookings. As a result, the lines have extra capacity, Rosemary McClure writes, and some cabins for Caribbean or Bahamas trips are going for less than $40 a night. (Usually, $100 a night is considered a bargain.)

Free tickets to see Rams and Chargers

Whoever thought you’d hear “free” attached to anything NFL? But it’s true. The training camps are a great way to see the Rams, Chargers and Cowboys at no charge. Will you see a game? Maybe a scrimmage, but these camps are a bit like spring training: You get to see your favorite players close up. Chris Erskine gives you the schedules and tells you how to make it happen.

Los Angeles Rams defensive end Dante Fowler, left, rushes against offensive tackle Joe Noteboom during training camp in Irvine.
(Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press)

It’s so good, but it’s so bad

If you’re of a certain age, you remember beef fat — if not the substance, then at least the taste. Fries cooked in it were melt-in-your-mouth wonderful, Jay Jones writes, until the outcry against this artery-clogging substance sent it packing. It’s back at Frites, a Vegas fry place in Excalibur. A Mandalay Bay place, meanwhile, cooks its fries in duck fat — the same thing Times staffer Genevieve Ko calls the essential ingredient in a peach pie crust. Stopping now. Mouth watering. Drool forming. Bon appétit.

And speaking of the olden days

You can still find that Old Vegas vibe from the days of gaudy neon, hotels that gave you a million-megawatt welcome, diners that helped you find a little bit of the hair of the dog. Jay Jones helps you relive a time when crooners were as smooth as the red leather banquettes in the steakhouse down the way.


Banish the bottle

Forget stealing the shampoo from a Holiday Inn. IHG, the parent of Holidays, wants to get rid of those little bottles of shampoo and conditioner by 2021, the Associated Press reported this week, and instead give you bulk products from a dispenser. California legislators, meanwhile, are considering a bill (AB 1162) that would outlaw the “personal care products” in hotels of more than 50 rooms by 2023 and in those with fewer than 50 rooms by 2024.

Getting the best of both worlds in San Francisco

The Bay Area, always an attractive destination, especially in summer, is even more so on a combo nature/art weekend escape, Sharon Boorstin writes. You can see a Warhol retrospective, and if you stay in the Presidio, you’re also in the backyard of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Here’s a way to stay cool in a land down under

We don’t mean Australia; we mean California. Calaveras County and its caves, to be exact, where it’s never warmer than about 60 degrees. How great that feels on a hot summer’s day. If you need a break from Yosemite, consider these wonders down under, Mike Morris writes.

We don’t mean to nag, but...

We worry about you when you’re traveling, and we want you to be safe. And now, increasingly, so do countries you may be visiting. Sick of getting stuck with big bills from your medical mishaps, some are now requiring you buy travel insurance. Our On the Spot column looks at this growing trend and offers other reminders to ensure you come home in one piece — if not physically, then at least financially.

Does your foreign destination require travel insurance?
(Ellen Surrey /For The Times )

What we’re reading

You have to see what wildlife photographer Chase Dekker shot in Monterey Bay to believe it: a sea lion that looks as though it’s about to be swallowed by a humpback whale. An amazing photographic feat, and here’s the good news from the story by Allyson Chiu in the Washington Post: Dekker thinks the sea lion was probably unharmed.

Oakland’s green monster is back, Sabrina Imbler writes for Atlas Obscura. The sculpture, which was placed at Lake Merritt in 1954, was meant as a sort of jungle gym for kids. Over the years, it deteriorated and was fenced off. Now it’s restored and ready for selfies, which wasn’t even a word 65 years ago.

Ethiopian officials say thousands of people who gathered to further their country’s “green legacy initiative” planted 350 million trees in 12 hours, setting a record, Jason Daley writes for, citing the BBC. India planted 50 million in one day in 2016.

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End paper

A clown may have been involved. That’s still unclear. What is certain, Bozo or no Bozo, is that a brawl broke out on a P&O cruise ship that may have involved lots and lots of alcohol, according to the Independent.

The fracas occurred at a ship’s buffet about 12 hours after departure from Bergen, Norway, the Sun reported, noting that chairs and plates were the weapons of choice and that considerable blood was shed. Arrests were made.

This follows other disturbing incidents of late: the family fight that erupted at Disneyland, the woman at Disney World who punched an employee because her expedited ticket wouldn’t work, and the woman who bashed her husband over the head with a laptop on an airplane. (Unless that laptop had seen better days, that seems a waste.)

It took me awhile to learn, but if you are mad, you don’t have to go mad.

I figured this out years ago after flying home from an assignment in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, dumping out my suitcase, repacking and flying to California to join my family as we awaited word on the outcome of my dad’s open-heart surgery. My middle sister was doing what she did best as we sat in a surgical waiting room: provoking me. I rushed her and started punching. My mother pulled us apart. Everybody survived. (My sister can still be annoying and I am still ashamed, but we remain best friends almost 35 years later.)

The other lesson I’ve learned that day and every day since: The person who’s offended you isn’t the only person you’ll have hurt. I’ve never forgotten the look on my mother’s face.


Travel has its own stresses (my frantic rush to California was my own weak defense), which can grow into a seething ball of frustration. If you’re at the breaking point, walk away. Yelling at the ticket agent or the hotel desk clerk won’t help you rebook your seat any faster or get a room that’s better than the broom closet you’re stuck in. Smashing plates won’t make a clown disappear (if it were ever there) or resolve whatever dispute was at the heart of the matter. Attacking your sister in a waiting room won’t make your dad better.

What will make you better is taking that very difficult high road.

No matter where you are, travel safely and well — and resist the urge to throw the dinnerware — and we’ll be here to welcome you home.