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Briefs: Monument marks country's geographical middle

| Sunday, Aug. 19, 2007

Belle Fourche's claim to fame soon will be easier to find. A spot about 10 miles north of the western South Dakota town is the geographical center of the United States, if Alaska and Hawaii are included. It's just off a gravel road on pastureland and designated only by a red-topped fence post that replaced a flag pole dedicated Aug. 21, 1959, when Hawaii became the 50th state, says Teresa Schanzenbach, director of the Belle Fourche Chamber of Commerce.

To take better advantage of the tourist attraction, town leaders raised money and will dedicate a monument Tuesday next to the Center of the Nation Visitor Center in Belle Fourche. It will be easier to find and more significant: a 21-by-40-foot compass rose made of South Dakota granite. The monument does not have to be at the exact center of the nation, according to the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Society. As for the actual site outside of town, the plan is to replace the fence post with a sign and offer directions to visitors who ask, Schanzenbach says.

Details: www.bellefourche.org


Once-popular train gets rolling again

Seventy-five years after a train regularly carried travelers from Tacoma to Mt. Rainier, the Spirit of Washington Dinner Train has tourists riding the rails again. The red-and-white 1950s vintage streamliner rolled out of Tacoma's Freighthouse Square on Aug. 3 after Mayor Bill Baarsma and dinner-train owner Eric Temple drove a ceremonial golden spike into the track.

The National Park Limited carried an average of 120,000 passengers a year during the 1920s in its run from Seattle to Tacoma and onward to Mt. Rainier. It stopped running in 1932, rendered obsolete by the Great Depression and the automobile. The city and the dinner-train's owners have set up a 10-month trial to test whether the dinner-train can survive in Tacoma. The train goes almost all the way to Mt. Rainier. It stops at Lake Kapowsin and then returns to Tacoma -- all in a 31/2-hour trip.

It probably will require $7 million-$9 million in rail upgrades and a bridge repair for the train to reach Ashford and the gateway to Rainier, says Paul Henry, Tacoma Rail superintendent.

Details: www.spiritofwashingtondinnertrain.com


Paris travel guide translated to English

Restaurant critic and journalist Gilles Pudlowski has critiqued and categorized the restaurants of Paris for years. For the first time, his influential "Pudlo Paris" is available in English, courtesy of the Little Bookroom. The New York-based boutique publisher has issued the 2007-08 edition in paperback.

Tourists will find the guide particularly valuable. Organized by arrondissement, or neighborhood, "Pudlo Paris" lists more than 1,000 restaurants, bars, wine bars, pubs, tea salons, cafes and specialty gourmet shops. A system of symbols divides the establishments into Best Value for the Money, and a scale of symbols rates the restaurants as good value for the money, simple, comfortable, very comfortable, luxurious and very luxurious.

Pudlowski, a historian of French regional culinary traditions and the author of two cookbooks, also includes menu items, signature dishes, the chef's background and a description of the ambience, decor and clientele. Translated by Simon Beaver.

- The Little Bookroom; $19.95; 448 pages; softcover

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