Happy trails (and a pumpkin or two) off the beaten path in Arizona

With its iconic painted deserts and vast, seemingly endless roads, Arizona is the ultimate off-the-beaten-path destination. But visit the Grand Canyon state during the off-season, when all the visitors have gone home, and it’s a special kind of quiet.

Alaska road trip offers a rare look at the last frontier

If you really want to see Alaska, you need wheels.

Most visitors come to the Last Frontier on a cruise ship or a plane. A motorcoach picks them up at the airport and delivers them to a hotel, to an airstrip or a national park, and they only see a small sliver of this state.

It’s a beautiful sliver, to be sure — but too small considering Alaska’s vast size.

Olympic thrills, and a few chills, on a summer Puget Sound adventure

Washington State’s Puget Sound area is famous for its moderate climate and postcard-perfect views of the Olympic mountain range. You’ve probably seen those gorgeous images of kayaks in the bay, a whale splashing in the distance, and, behind it all, snow-capped mountains.

Heartbreaking and heartwarming — helping out after Hurricane Harvey

I live in Houston, which received over 50 inches of rain during Hurricane Harvey between August 25, when it made landfall in Texas, and August 29. On Friday, August 25, I availed myself of Facebook’s Safety Check feature to notify my friends that I was safe. Earlier in the day, I had filled my car with gas, my bathtub with water, my freezer with ice cubes and my cupboards with food. Then I hunkered down to wait for the rain to stop.

You’ll never believe what I found on the other side of Reno

Reno, Nev., used to be my favorite road stop on the way to Lake Tahoe. I had a preferred 7-11 service station where I could check the tread on my snow tires and fuel up, an In-N-Out Burger joint, and within a few minutes, I was on my way to some of the world’s best skiing.

The real reason why Silicon Valley is the world’s most elusive tourist attraction

Silicon Valley draws me to it like a powerful magnet, with its Mediterranean climate, irresistible culture of innovation and iconic technology brands that have defined a generation. It pulls in my whole family, which, like many Americans, lives in a world defined by Apple, Facebook and Google.

Blink and you’ll miss Buellton, California. Here’s why you don’t want to.

Blink and you’ll miss Buellton, Calif., a tiny town a two-hour drive north of Los Angeles. And maybe that’s just fine with Buellton, one of those undiscovered destinations where everyone expects you to stay a few exits south, in touristy Santa Barbara, or just keep driving through to nearby Hearst Castle.

In Monterey, the action’s on the water — if you can get there

For days, the Humpback whales had been taunting us from the bay as if they knew what we wanted. Every now and then they’d breach the surface or send a spout of water high into the mist, as if to say, “Catch us — if you can.” The rare sea otters teased us, too, playfully popping their heads above the surface near the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

An Olympic journey and family reunion in Rio

When Rio de Janeiro was named a finalist city for the 2016 Olympic Games, I was filled with anticipation and excitement. As a long time member of NBC’s Olympic production team, I knew that the city’s selection could be my first opportunity to revisit my grandfather’s sister’s family, who I had not seen since I was in my teens.

A berry good time in Southern California, Temecula edition

Temecula may be one of California’s best-known wine regions, but I’ll always remember it for something else: the fresh fruit we harvested on a recent visit to this out-of-the-way Southern California destination. That’s right, we saw the horde of tourists go one way, and we went in the other direction.

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