Riddle: To which countries would you travel if you wanted to see festivals involving: (a) a two-hour tomato fight; (b) the sex life of marine worms; (c) the firing of rockets at rain clouds? to the answer
book of the month
At long last, an authoritative guide to those other national parks, the 211 historic sites that commemorate America's heritage. Russell D. Butcher's worthy Exploring Our National Historic Parks and Sites (Roberts Rinehart, $18.95) goes beyond famous battlefields to cover the trading posts, studios, laboratories, and railroads where the American myth was forged. Butcher tells the story of these places with passion and offers practical travel suggestions. Readers can follow the Cherokee Trail of Tears, study the speeches of Martin Luther King Jr., and discover the country's only national park devoted to jazz (it's in-- guess where-- New Orleans).
-- KIMBERLY ROBINSON
get into gear
Laptop+knapsack=lapsack. More than 200,000 laptops were stolen in the United States last year-- a quarter of them in travel-related incidents-- and it didn't help that most attaché-style computer cases advertised their contents to thieves. Now outdoor gear manufacturers are making laptop carriers that look like knapsacks, disguising their valuable cargo.
The JanSport Laptop Transit ($69.95) leads the field, providing the greatest combination of durability, practicality, and comfort. It meets all your computer needs, and works just as well as a day pack or overnight bag.
-- RICH LANG
we don't like
The U.S. government keeps heaping tax hikes on travelers. In the most recent instance, Congress voted to quadruple the passenger tax on international air trips, from $6 to $24. Ouch. During the next five years, according to federal budget estimates, U.S. airline passengers will pay $3 billion more in federal taxes.
Canada is taking the opposite tack. Starting in March, the government plans to reduce the maximum airline-ticket tax for domestic and international flights from its current level of $55 (Canadian) to a high of $30 (Canadian, about U.S. $21). And that's only the beginning: it expects to phase out the air-travel tax entirely by this fall.
Answer: (a) Spain. The Tomatina, a tomato fight involving some 20,000 people, takes place each August in the town of Buñol. (b) Indonesia. The mating of nyale sea worms marks the beginning of the Pasola festival on Sumba Island. (c) Thailand. In the north, the Ngarn Bang Fai rocket festival hastens rice-planting season.