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Roadside America: Cave Vineyard, Missouri



If you are a U.S. wine industry buff, all around trivia guru, or Dustin Hoffman in "Rain Man," you already know there are wineries in all 50 American states.

Yep. That's right. Pick a state and there is a winery there.

Alaska? Yep, there are 8.

Hawaii? Two.

Missouri? There are now over 100.

Wait. What? There are over 100 wineries in Missouri? Ranked as one of the top-ten wine producing states in the nation, Missouri not only has a number of distinct wine regions, but also has a legitimate wine trail and an established industry of wine tourism.

Of all the 100 or so wineries in the state, however, only one of them is famously located inside of a natural cave.

Located 1 hour and 20 minutes from the nearby metropolis of St. Louis, the Cave Vineyard is set down a country road in the heart of the St. Genevieve wine country where the rolling hills are more akin to Provence than those of the Ozarks. Though 14 acres of grapes surround the welcoming tasting room, the main draw of the property is the gaping Saltpeter Cave, which forms a hollow amphitheater perfect for wine storage, peaceful moments, and one-of-a-kind private events.

Visitors to the winery can taste their way through regional varietals such as Traminette or Chardonel, purchase a bottle, and subsequently gain free entry to the romantic cave where private tables for two are set next to a lightly flowing brook. The warm lighting stands in contrast to the cool cave temperatures, and this is as unique a spot as any for packing a picnic basket, taking a weekend getaway, and just exploring the beauty found on back country roads.

Getting There: Exit #150 off of I-55 if coming from St. Louis. West on Hwy 32, immediate left onto Hwy P. Go for two miles and turn right onto Cave Rd. Two more miles will bring you to the vineyard. Or, just follow the signs.

Hours of Operation: 10 a.m.- 6 p.m. daily (summer), 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. daily (winter)

Watch Footage From The Opening Day At 'Jaws'



No, this is not a flashback to the 1970s where we will be watching the trailer of a movie that scared a generation of children away from the water. We'll save that for another time.

Rather, in the surf world, "opening day" refers to the first time each season where a particular surf break surges to life and kicks off the upcoming season. Much like the opening day of your favorite ski resort, this is an exciting time if it happens to be your home surf break.

As it just so happens, a somewhat early-season typhoon spinning east of Japan created an opening day at Maui's fabled "JAWS" surf break, which was far earlier than anywhere on record. Usually Jaws will surge to life somewhere around Thanksgiving, maybe Christmas – and on some years not at all.

Furthermore, not only were Tuesday's conditions unprecedented in their early arrival, but the sudden disappearance of the near-constant trade winds made for glassy conditions, which ultimately led to a paddle-in session sure to go down in the annals of the sport. As more and more watermen continue to push the limits as to what exactly is possible out at Peahi, Tuesday was a day to be remembered and one, which produced footage able to be enjoyed by all.

For more photos and footage from Jaws, check out the "Opening Day" feature on Surfline.

'Crap Souvenirs': New Book Explores Souvenirs So Bad They're Good



Admit it. We've all bought terrible souvenirs while traveling. Even worse, occasionally even though we know it's tacky, inauthentic, cheap, or just plain useless, we end up buying them anyway.

Why?

Because the human mind is a really weird thing. Oftentimes, however, we are so wrapped up in the "magic of the moment" that for some beguiling reason it makes total sense to spend $19.95 on a knockoff vuvuzela, which will probably end up at a garage sale a year later.

Acting upon this strange human tendency to trade hard-earned cash for complete and utter trash, author Doug Lansky has compiled a book appropriately titled "Crap Souvenirs." The ensuing photo gallery features a snippet of some of the items you're bound to find in the book (miniature toilet ashtray anyone?), but we also caught up with Doug for a brief Q&A on just how the inspiration for this book originally panned out.

China Cracks Down On Fire Extinguishers Filled With Flour

China is notorious for knock-off items. Fake Rolex? Sure. Fake Gucci handbag? Why not? Maybe even a fake degree from UCLA?

While such items have become commonplace in the Chinese economy, the world's most populous nation may have just one-upped itself in a scandal involving fake fire extinguishers.

Yes, according to a recent post in Weird News Asia, officials in the inland metropolis of Chengdu seized close to 10,000 imitation fire extinguishers last month, which were instead filled with basic cooking flour.

Sure, the white puff of smoke, which emerges from the nozzle looks like flame extinguishing chemicals, but in reality it took two entire bottles of the flour bottles to suffocate a relatively small blaze. Probably better to find this out now than when your commercial oven is on fire during a packed evening rush hour.

To see a video of the fake fire extinguishers in action, head over here for some entertaining knockoff ingenuity, and as a bonus, some classic Chinese television.

[Photo credit: samantha celera on Flickr]

Apparently People In Georgia Live Longer

According to this recent release from the Independent, a woman from Georgia has documents, which claim she passed away at the tender age of 132. Contrary to what you might think, however, Antisa Khvichava didn't live a long life thanks to eating buckets full of peaches. Mrs. Khvichava instead spent her years in the village of Sachino, a remote village in the Caucuses Mountains in the country – not state – of Georgia.

Allegedly having spoken Mingrelian, a language that is classified by UNESCO as being endangered, relatives unfortunately hold no legal documents that date back to Mrs. Khvichava's actual birth. Instead, all of her legal birth documents were destroyed during times of civil war, and those legal documents which remain – including the one stating her birth as July 8, 1880 – were created long after her actual birth.

Nevertheless, everyone from townsfolk to relatives all vouch that Mrs. Khvichava was, in fact, 132 years old. Furthermore, they claim she attributed her longevity to a daily dose of brandy.

The U.S. state of Georgia, on the other hand, has the ninth worst life expectancy of any U.S. state, with the average resident living for 77.1 years.

Nevertheless, the world's oldest verifiable living person at the time of this writing was Besse Cooper, a 116-year-old resident of, you guessed it, the U.S. state of Georgia.

[Image courtesy of justin_vidamo on Flickr]

Vagabond Tales: The Rewarding Adventures Of 'Genealogy Tourism'



The house pictured above is a very drab house. It's cold. It's empty. And no one has lived in it for over 120 years.

Sure, there is a fresh layer of green paint on the door, but that was put there by the neighbors. Why they did that I'm not sure, because this house was abandoned long ago.

This house isn't anything famous, and it isn't in a town you've ever heard of. This house is in Lecanvy, Ireland, a one-pub village at the base of Croagh Patrick Mountain, 3 1/2 hours from the festive streets of Dublin.

Nevertheless, this house is very important to me, because this was my great-great-grandmother's house, a woman who's family one day just decided to leave it all behind and up and leave for America.

Perhaps it's the rise in popularity of websites such as ancestry.com, but for some reason "genealogy tourism" seems to be on the rise in the world's most famous "nation of immigrants," the United States of America. Despite the fact that millions of families took the plunge to move to a foreign land, their children many years down the road have not relinquished the curiosity to learn more about where it is they came from.

I hunted down this house because I happened to be in town, but for many travelers this form of "reverse immigration" seems to be a sector of the travel market that's broadening in scope.

It's Cheaper To Fly To Maui Than ... Cleveland?

Beautiful Hana MauiIf you live in the San Francisco Bay area, yes, it is.

No, the beaches of Lake Erie didn't suddenly become in high demand. Rather, Hawaiian Airlines just doubled the amount of non-stop flights on its direct routes to Maui out of Oakland and San Jose. To celebrate this momentous occasion the airline is offering unheard of fares that will leave you digging through your closet for that old aloha shirt.

So what kind of fares are we looking at?

Let's take a look:

For travel purchased by October 8 and completed by December 13, round-trip tickets are going for as low as $290.

A flight to Cleveland during the same time period? How about $410.

This is just another example of off-season travel offering up affordable deals to destinations frequently lumped into the "too expensive" category.

Need more reasons to visit the islands during the fall? How about football on TV by the time you wake up.

Everyone loves a mai-tai in the morning!

Japan, China, Taiwan All Fighting Over Uninhabited Rock

Don't look now, but according to a recent article by CNN there is currently much ado about nothing going on in the East China Sea.

If you have never heard of the Senkaku Islands that's okay. Nobody lives there, so it's not as if you're going to offend anybody. In fact, the jury remains out on whether that's even the name of this uninhabited island group located between Taiwan and the Japanese island of Okinawa.

China refers to the islands as the Diaoyu Islands, whereas neighboring Taiwan refers to them as the Tiaoyutai Islands. Japan, meanwhile, is adamant they be called the Senkaku Islands, while English-language mariners have simply begun calling them the Pinnacle Islands, most likely because we simply have a knack for butchering Asian words.

The issue, however, is not about the name; it's about who actually owns these islands. China claims that they have been part of Chinese sovereign territory since the 16th century, which is odd seeing as Japan officially laid claim to them in 1895.

An enterprising Japanese entrepreneur attempted to start a fish operation on the island, failed, and then subsequently sold four of the islands to the Kurihara family of Japan. With their uninhabited rocks now in hand, the islands were promptly taken over by American forces in WWII along with most of the other islands in the area until eventually being handed back in 1972.

This is where things really get weird. Japan got the islands back from the US, and from 2002-2012 the Japanese government paid the Kurihara family ¥25 million per year ($321,500) to rent the uninhabited rocks in the middle of nowhere. Finally, this past month, the government decided they were sick of renting and just went ahead and bought the islands for a cool ¥2 billion ($25.8 million).

Woman Pays Ryanair $390 To Print Boarding Passes, CEO Calls Her 'Stupid'

Ryanair feesTravelers taking issue with budget airline Ryanair is nothing new. In fact, it now seems to simply be commonplace.

First, there was the Norwegian man who was arrested after complaining that the in-flight sandwich he purchased tasted like rubber. Then, of course, there were the passengers who staged a sit down strike in Belgium after being told they must take a bus 225 miles to their
final destination after being rerouted. The list really does go on from here.

The ire doesn't stop with the passengers, however, as there was also the Ryanair pilot who was coincidentally transferred to Lithuania after publicly making remarks against the company, a move, which ultimately caused the veteran pilot to quit. Recently, there has even been talk of Ryanair making customers pay to use the lavatory.

As usual, this can all be traced back to Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary who also wants to do away with co-pilots and has suggested that long-haul flights offer free oral sex.

Oftentimes, such stunts are attributed to extreme marketing moves meant to gather attention, and it has seemed that recently Ryanair has backed off a bit from their ludicrous outcries.

Or, maybe not.

According to a recent Time Business article, when a passenger traveling from Alicante, Spain, back home to England complained of Ryanair charging her a fee of €60/person to print boarding passes for her family of five (a total of $390), Time reports that O'Leary branded the woman as "stupid" and called the rest of Ryanair passengers "idiots."

Insane Cliff Diving Footage From Ireland



Two very unique things happened in the Aran Islands last month: people talked on the street conversing only in Gaelic, and world-class divers threw themselves off of an 89-foot-high platform into a rectangular blowhole known as the Serpent's Lair.

A collection of three inhabited islands off the western coast of Ireland, the Aran Islands are regarded as being one of the last places on the planet where it's still possible to hear the Gaelic language spoken amongst the majority of locals.

The commitment to maintaining the Irish heritage in the Aran Islands is so strong that the main island of Inis Mor even houses a coláiste, an Irish-only language school where students caught speaking English at any point are open to expulsion without refund of their tuition.

With that thought in mind, I wonder what the Gaelic term is for "psychotic cliff-diving freak athlete," because I can imagine that was mumbled a number of times by the crowds of local onlookers watching divers jump 28 meters (89 feet) into a roiling cauldron of freezing cold seawater.

Last month's participants found themselves jumping into the fourth stop on the 2012 Red Bull World Series of Cliff Diving, "The Serpent's Lair," a naturally occurring, perfectly-rectangular blowhole, which according to Irish lore was once home to a tempestuous and violent sea serpent.

With the serpent nowhere in sight for this year's competition, divers instead needed to worry about doing a belly flop at speed's topping out at 60mph.

Next up on this year's circuit? The September 8 event being held in the similarly chilly waters of Wales.

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