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September 21, 2008|Catharine Hamm; Jen Leo; Valli Herman; Hugo Martin

360 degrees of saturation

You may think you've seen the cyclorama at the Gettysburg, Pa., visitor center, but if you haven't seen it lately, you haven't really seen it at all. The monster, 360-degree panoramic painting, which re-creates the pivotal Civil War battle of July 3, 1863, was in the old visitor center, where it had accumulated decades' worth of dirt and grime. And it wasn't hanging as it was intended when French artist Paul Philippoteaux and 20 artists created it in 1883-84, using photographs of the battlefield, maps and interviews with soldiers who fought there. Now the painting, which measures 377 feet by 42 feet, is being displayed as its creators intended and will be open to the public on Friday. With the help of optical illusions (including dioramas and a sky that "disappears"), visitors who view the painting in its new home should feel as though they are in the middle of Pickett's Charge. Admission to the cyclorama and its movie, "A New Birth of Freedom," costs $12 for adults, $7 for ages 6 to 12 and is free for children 5 and younger. To see online photos of the artwork, go to Info: (717) 334-1124 or (877) 874-2478 (tickets) and or

-- Catharine Hamm

Beds on a plane

Backpackers love finding idyllic hostels. Some exist near tropical beaches in Australia; others could be in the heart of the red-light district in Amsterdam. But the Jumbo Hostel will be hard to keep secret once it opens in December just steps from the Stockholm-Arlanda airport (LFV) in Sweden. A Boeing jumbo jet model 747-200 made in 1976 becomes a hostel that will accommodate 25 rooms with three bunks in each room. There will be a total of 85 beds on the plane, including the cockpit suite. Each room will have a flat-screen TV that also will let occupants check flight-departure times. Bonus: Casual visitors can check out the cafe and have a look around even if they're not spending the night on the plane. Rates haven't yet been announced. Info:

-- Jen Leo

Abe and Ike

Soaking rains and wild waves couldn't sink the hopes of some hardy Hoosiers who are re-creating Abraham Lincoln's 1828 river voyage to New Orleans aboard a 60-foot wooden flatboat. On Sept. 14, six days after the launch of the boat in the Ohio River, the Indiana crew ran into the tail end of Hurricane Ike, which brought steady waves that peaked at 7 feet, said Melissa Miller, executive director of the Spencer County (Ind.) Visitors Bureau, which is promoting the voyage called the Journey of Remembrance. On the way to Paducah, Ky., from Elizabethtown, Ill., the 50,000-pound vessel's cabin came loose as ankle-deep water poured onto the deck. An emergency stop allowed for some initial repairs, Miller said in an e-mail. The monthlong voyage aims to tell the story of Lincoln's life in Spencer County, where he lived from ages 7 to 21. The boat will stop at 23 towns in 27 days in eight states on the way to New Orleans, where it aims to dock on Oct. 5. To follow the boat's progress, check out a blog at

-- Valli Herman

Listen up

For a road trip or a long flight, how about some Stephen King, Dean Koontz or Michael Crichton? These authors will stir your cerebral cortex without rupturing an eardrum. Simply Audiobooks is an online audio bookstore that's the equivalent of Netflix: You rent audio books on CD or download them to your computer or MP3 player. Once you return the CD in a prepaid envelope, a new audio book from your list of favorites arrives. I tried the service and had only one problem: When listening to a book on your MP3 player, it's nearly impossible to switch over to a song and return to the exact same spot in the audio book; you have to start at the beginning of the chapter and scan to the spot where you left off. Membership starts at $11.95 a month. To sign up, go to For other audio book companies with similar services, try, and

-- Hugo Martin

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