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About the Author
Gary McKechnie

Gary McKechnie
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  • Two-time Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Award Winner
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An Entertaining Presenter

Having followed in the footsteps of Charles Kuralt, Gary's own epic travels have given him an unparalleled education in our nation's history, culture, and pastimes. Visit AEI Speakers to arrange for Gary to share with your group fascinating stories of American humor, heroism, and inspiration.

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Vacationing for a Living


I know how I feel about USA 101, but let me know what you think - and add your suggestions for future editions.
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Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire,
New York, Rhode Island, Vermont

Northeast Highlights

New York, New York

When a television show boasts that it’s “filmed before a live studio audience,” one thing they don’t mention is the 23-minute show is a painstakingly crafted compilation of multiple takes, camera angles, and recorded music. Attend a Broadway show and you’ll witness America’s best actors, dancers, singers, and musicians creating three hours of quality entertainment live on stage and right before your very eyes.

Baseball Hall of Fame
Cooperstown, New York

Of all the people who have every played baseball, about 17,000 were good enough to make it to the major leagues. Of those 17,000, just a shade over one percent were good enough to earn one of the highest honors in sport: immortalization in Cooperstown’s Baseball Hall of Fame.

Baseball Hall of Fame
West Point, New York

Over the course of four years, Cadets are immersed in the ‘West Point Experience,” a demanding four years which pushes them to excel intellectually, physically, militarily, morally, and ethically. Who has done this? Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman, Douglas MacArthur, Omar Bradley, George S. Patton, Dwight David Eisenhower, Buzz Aldrin, Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr., Wes Clark, and David Petraeus. But there have been more than soldiers. West Point graduates also rank among our nation’s leading jurists, astronauts, explorers, engineers, inventors, scientists, educators, authors, executives, and athletes.

Plymouth Rock
Plymouth, Massachusetts

Any parent who’s ever attended a Thanksgiving pageant has seen kids looking exactly what Pilgrims would have looked like had they been seven years old and wearing cardboard Pilgrim hats. The funny thing about Plymouth, Pilgrims, the Mayflower, and the first Thanksgiving is that the story has become a time-entangled mixture of fact and fiction. Still, quite a lot happened in Plymouth, where American history is hit and myth.

Times Square
New York, New York

Of the thousands of New Year’s Eve parties happening across America, there’s one that nearly everyone is watching. It’s also the one it seems that nearly everyone is attending.

It’s New Year’s Eve in New York’s Times Square. As the year comes to a close, a million people are here and a few billion are at home, each believing that what they are witnessing marks the official beginning of the new year.

You know, they’re probably right.

Boston Marathon Finish Line
Boston, Massachusetts

It seems strange anyone would base a sport on an event where the guy who inspired it dropped dead when he finished, but for runners and fans the world’s oldest marathon, the Boston Marathon, is both a race and a block party. On the third Monday in April the city closes up shop and turns the streets of Boston into a giant jogging trail.

Plate of Clambake
Maine and Massachusetts

The Patti Page song brings to mind lovely images of Cape Cod with its weatherworn seaside cottages, lighthouses, and clambakes held in moonlit coves. Up around the coast in Maine, fisherman are checking their lobster traps for the evening’s entrée. It may take a little digging, but there are ways to prepare a pit and savor these traditional seaside feasts.

Statue of Liberty
New York, New York

So exactly which 101 items, collectively, reflect the nation, generally? No one, including myself, will ever get it right, but in the process of trying to figure it out, one icon was always burning brighter than the rest.

The Statue of Liberty.

Colonial Boston
Boston, Massachusetts

Today, a town of 15,000 hardly ever makes the news. Travel back a few centuries, however, and the folks in Colonial-era Boston were in the papers nearly every day. They were doing it by changing the world.

Norman Rockwell Museum
Stockbridge, Massachusetts

Norman Rockwell left us an extraordinary legacy of our country in a period of transition. From the covers of The Saturday Evening Post to paintings created for the Boy Scouts of America, his gift was the ability to capture in a single image everything we wanted to believe about our nation and ourselves.

Kermit Balloon at Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade
New York, New York

It takes quite a bit more to create a parade that’s as big and bold as America. For that, you need a national holiday, 8,000 volunteers, well over 500 cops, two and a half miles of New York City streets, a route bordered by three million fans, and a lot of helium. That’s what Macy’s began giving to the nation in 1924. Now it’s much more than a parade. It’s tradition.

Niagara Falls
New York

You may have seen it on millions of postcards, potholders, dish towels, color slides, purses, hats, posters, and porcelain plates, but until you see it up close in all its thundering glory (or buy a really, really big plate) you’ll never honestly appreciate and understand Niagara Falls.

It’s the one natural waterfall that always seems to flow into our lives. You know about daredevils and the depressed washing over the falls, but you’ve also seen soft beauty scenes and snapshots of honeymooners here and you wonder if it’s really that special and that beautiful and extraordinary.

Yes, it is.

Colonial Boston
New York, New York

Buildings have been built taller and with more flair, and there’ll likely be more on the horizon, but really the Empire State Building stands alone. Its longevity as well as what it represents may explain our devotion to it. When it was completed in 1931, it seemed to project the nation’s desire to break out of the Great Depression and return to an age of prosperity. All through the decades and all through the changes and through the nation’s growing pains, the Empire State Building has done something special.

It hasn’t gone away.