Ed Ronco

All Things Considered Host

Ed Ronco came to KPLU in October 2013 as producer and reporter for KPLU’s Morning Edition. Ed started in public radio in 2009 at KCAW in Sitka, Alaska, where he covered everything from city government, to education, crime, science, the arts and more. Prior to public radio, Ed worked in newspapers, including four years at the South Bend (Ind.) Tribune, where he covered business, then politics and government.

Ed grew up in Wyandotte, Mich., a suburb of Detroit, and earned his bachelor’s degree in journalism from Michigan State University.

Ways To Connect

Michael Tieso / Flickr

The San Juan Islands call themselves an “Inspiration for the Senses.” Vancouver, British Columbia is “Spectacular by Nature.” And Boise settles for a one-word description: “Active.”

Whatever the slogan, tourism marketers work hard to attract your attention, and your money. Here are some of the best and worst travel slogans from around the world, according to KPLU travel expert Matthew Brumley:

Norm Lanier / Flickr

Maybe you have been on a vacation where, when it is time to come home, you think, “What if I just stayed?”

For thousands of retirees every year, that is a reality. They leave the United States and become permanent residents abroad, often in some place warm and sunny.

KPLU travel expert Matthew Brumley says that has risks and rewards.

In Case You Want To Visit The Pope

Sep 24, 2015
Vincente Villamón / Flickr

Pope Francis’s first visit to the United States includes stops in Washington, D.C., New York and Philadelphia. He is the leader of the Catholic Church, but he is also a head of state. Vatican City is the center of Roman Catholicism and an independent nation – the world’s smallest, in fact.

KPLU travel expert Matthew Brumley has made numerous trips to the Vatican. He has seen Pope John Paul II, and Pope Benedict. Brumley says there has been renewed interest in visiting Vatican City since Francis became pope in 2013.


Cities across the Puget Sound area are paying more attention to gun violence. In Seattle, a federal grant worth half-a-million dollars is designed to help law enforcement trace guns used in crimes, and pay for more prosecution. And in Tacoma, the city is holding “Gun Safe T Awareness Week.”

Ed Ronco

The photo of Michi Hirata North’s professional debut is in black and white. She’s 8 years old, sitting at a piano on a concert stage in Tokyo with an orchestra behind her.

“I couldn’t even reach the pedals,” she said.

The photograph suggests that this little girl is about to become something big – a professional musician whose talents as a performer and teacher are still respected, 75 years later.

Fox Searchlight Pictures

Modern travel comes with a lot of options. From western Washington, you can travel by plane, car, ship or train. You can also travel cinematically.

KPLU’s Ed Ronco and travel expert Matthew Brumley picked some of their favorite travel movies – either films about a journey, or those that transport you effectively to a different place.

Matthew’s Picks

The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

Courtesy Beth Whitman


In the middle of a 7,000-mile motorcycle trip from Seattle to Panama, Beth Whitman found herself stuck along the Guatemalan border. 

Other people flowed freely in both directions across the line between the two countries. But not Whitman. For some reason, the guards were not letting her into Guatemala.

And she was by herself.

"I sat for an hour, angry that they weren't letting me through with just a signature," she said. 

Christina Opalka

Group tours and all-inclusive resorts make getting away easy. But sometimes you want to plan your own trip and escape the usual tourist destinations. 

That's what Christina Opalka does. She and her family have had some spectacular trips. And she says if you're willing to research enough online, and "be a little bit fearless," you can, too. 

Pasayten Wilderness, Washington

Todd Petit / Flickr

Many of the communities affected by this year's wildfires in central and eastern Washington have economies that rely heavily on tourism.

KPLU travel expert Matthew Brumley says once the wildfire danger has passed, people should consider taking time to visit central and eastern Washington, to inject money back into the economy.

Some places have been evacuated and suffered damage from the wildfires. But others are just in a region people have chosen to avoid, to steer clear of wildfire danger this summer.

Here are some good places to look:

Ed Ronco / KPLU

There are three kinds of flight experiences: The ones you forget, the ones you’ll never forget, and the ones you want to forget. We’re focusing on those last two in this week’s “Going Places.” Travel expert Matthew Brumley tells stories about experiences he’s had, including:

'You Never Know Who You'll Need' When Traveling

Aug 13, 2015
Ed Ronco / KPLU

Our friend Ale Infantes, who lives and works as a tour guide in Havana, told us a story recently about a visit he made to Washington, D.C.

He was trying to take the city’s Metro system, and was told he should catch the blue train.

“I never pictured a completely blue train,” he said. “But I was expecting more than a sign saying just ‘Blue Line,’ which I never saw.”

Infantes watched for a while as gray trains passed by.

AP Images

Sometimes the world can feel so trivial. Literally. We'll return to destinations and travel trips in short order. But this week, the "Going Places" crew offers some travel trivia. Take the quiz below and see if you get your passport stamped -- or seized.

Ed Ronco, KPLU

Mama's Mexican kitchen in Seattle is going to be closing soon after 40 years in business. For its patrons, this means farewell to cheap, late-night burritos in Belltown, cozy booths and the Elvis Room.

But for Bella Biagio it's more than a loss of a business, a job or a building; She's worked there 18 years. So for her, it's the loss of family -- albeit an odd one she refers to as, "The island of misfit toys."

"We are the train with the square wheels. And the gun that shoots jelly and the Charlie in the Box," she said. "It's so dysfunctional but it works."

A lot of older Seattle is disappearing under the ceaseless march of urban development, she said. And the town is lesser for it.  There are not as many none corporate, "genuine" places in Seattle anymore, she said. Certainly not many like Mama's, a popular, divey Mexican eatery on the corner of 2nd Avenue. and Bell Street.

Andrew Harnik / AP/pool

The more than 50-year freeze in relations between the U.S. and Cuba is finally thawing. Earlier this month, both countries opened embassies in each others’ capitals. 

Earlier this year, three groups of KPLU travelers visited Cuba, including KPLU’s Ed Ronco and travel expert Matthew Brumley. Their tour guides on those trips were Frank Alpizar and Alejandro Infantes, who happen to be in Seattle this week on vacation.

Ed Ronco / KPLU

From Louis Edelman’s apartment in Seattle’s Lower Queen Anne neighborhood, you can see the Space Needle. Seattle’s iconic landmark is just a few blocks away. But it’s not the only thing popping out of the skyline. Construction cranes dot the landscape, too, as they build office towers and apartments in South Lake Union.

Edelman, who has lived in the 100 block of Roy Street for 10 years. He tends bar down the street and lives in an older apartment building, which he affectionately calls “the bartender projects.”

How To Pack Lightly And Still Have What You Need

Jul 23, 2015
Justin Steyer / KPLU

As a tour organizer, Matthew Brumley routinely arrives at a destination a day or so before his clients, and then meets them at the airport. Recently, he was in Johannesburg to greet an arriving flight.

“I was sitting there with South Africans, and we could pick out every single American,” Brumley said. “They were coming off the plane with every single gadget and they were overdressed to the point where you would think they were going on a survival mission.”

You don’t need to pack everything. In fact, you can probably get away with packing much less than you think.

David McSpadden / Flickr

This week on Going Places, we're talking about staying places.

Specifically, what if you went overseas and instead of staying for a vacation -- a week or two -- you stayed for a year? Or six months? 

KPLU travel expert Matthew Brumley says if you have the time, there’s a lot of value in living and working in a foreign country.

“If you’re young, universities love seeing this on your resume,” he said. “If you’re older and you’re a retiree, it’s a way of getting away from the golf course and the evening cocktail hour, and doing something really interesting with your life.”

Jeff Seifert / KBRW

It’s no secret that many residents of Alaska are fans of the Seattle Seahawks. Some residents of Barrow got a surprise when Seahawks Kevin Pierre-Louis and defensive tackle Jimmy Staten showed up to thank fans for their support.

“A lot of us Seahawks fans knew the team was doing their tour throughout the state, but none of us expected them to come up here,” said Jeff Seifert, general manager of Barrow radio station KBRW.

Barrow is 1,976 miles north of Seattle.

Kvitlauk / Flickr

India has given birth to some of the world’s great artistic traditions. So says Amit Sankhala, a travel designer who lives in Delhi. As he shows his country to visitors, one of his favorite things to do is connect the dots between Indian traditions and western forms of art.

Forts And Castles

Throughout the country are forts and palaces, many dating back thousands of years.

“It’s something you would imagine would be in Morocco, or staying in castles in France or Italy,” Sankhala said. “Over time, they have become these amazing places to stay.”

Todd Petit / Flickr

You’re looking to get away for a weekend, but the Fourth of July (or maybe the summer in general) kind of crept up on you. KPLU travel expert Matthew Brumley says have no fear: There are still plenty of options.

First, this late in the game you'll need to be flexible. But there are some tricks you can use:

Steve Bennett / Flickr

Even before the 2010 earthquake that devastated its capital, Haiti was the scene of political unrest. There were government upheavals in 1991 and 2004. Americans are used to seeing those images on TV newscasts, and in newspapers.

But the country also has seen growth in tourism, says Wilbert Denis. He grew up in Haiti, and has watched as visitors arrived on the island.

Sights To See

Beaches are probably Haiti's biggest draw. Denis says Labadee is his favorite. "It's so vibrant," he said. Also check out St. Marc.

AP Images

Calling Jordan Spieth's win Sunday at the U.S. Open golf championship at Chambers Bay one of the wildest he'd ever seen, KPLU's sport commentator Art Thiel said the exciting finish might not make up for the event's shortcomings.

Spieth, 21, won on the final hole when rival Dustin Johnson three-putted from 12 feet out to lose by a stroke.

The epic, pressured end followed three days of player criticism of the dry, fast conditions at the University Place course which was holding its first-ever major tournament. 

"It was very dramatic finish to a wild week of both golf and controversy," Thiel said.  "There was a lot of controversy around the greens at the course. (The players) took to social media to rake it after it was done.

"It's a real blow for a lot of people who worked 15 years in Pierce County to make this dream happen," Thiel said.

"They are going to have to decide what is honest criticism and what is sour grapes."

You can find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwest and Crosscut.com.

Plenty To Do In London, No Matter Your Age

Jun 18, 2015
Gary Bembridge / Flickr

The Going Places mailbag – OK, fine, it’s an e-mail inbox – brought us a nice note this week, from a listener with a pressing travel question.

Abe in Redmond writes: “I am taking my 11 and 13-year-old boys to London in August.... I am curious about the less-obvious places you like to visit in the city.”

KPLU travel expert Matthew Brumley took his then-13-year-old son to London last summer, and he offered some advice:

Do It On Foot

Densho Digital Repository

A Seattle group is building an online encyclopedia to catalogue the stories of Japanese Americans incarcerated during World War II.

The group “Densho” received more than $360,000 from the National Park Service for the effort.

The money will also help Densho work with other organizations, to connect Japanese Americans’ stories with more contemporary examples of injustice.

AP Images

Mike Trostel is the senior historian and curator at the U.S. Golf Association museum in Far Hills, N.J., and is among the thousands of people in the Puget Sound this week for the U.S. Open.

We sat down with him to talk about the history of the U.S. Open, and about golf's future. Our conversation took us from the first U.S. Open in Rhode Island, to the moon, and back.

Here are five things we learned from Trostel:

1. It took a long time for golf's premiere event to head west.

The first time the U.S. Open came to the west coast was in 1948 – in Los Angeles – more than 50 years after the event began. This is the event’s first time in the Pacific Northwest.

Bologna A Window Into Italy's Food, Political Divide

Jun 11, 2015
Lorenzoclick / Flickr

Bologna is in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region. It’s famed for its food (Bolognese sauce anyone?) and is often considered one of Italy’s culinary centers.

“And yet there are hardly any tourists here,” says KPLU travel expert Matthew Brumley. “You walk through Florence and it’s elbow to elbow. Same with Rome and Venice. But you come here and you get a little slice of real Italian life.”

It’s also a good jumping off point for short trips to other famous Italian locales.

Three Things You Might Not Know About Tour Guides

Jun 4, 2015
Earthbound Expeditions

If you’ve ever traveled abroad – especially with a group – you’ve probably met up with a local tour guide at your destination. KPLU travel expert Matthew Brumley has been leading tours around the world for nearly 30 years. He says local guides are key experts that bring a lot of knowledge to a trip. But there are other layers of guiding that happen behind the scenes. Here are three things you might not know:

Don Wilson / Port of Seattle

Travel over long distances can wear you out. As anyone who’s flown a great distance can tell you, the sudden change in time zones can wreak havoc on your body. KPLU travel expert Matthew Brumley has been almost every continent on the planet, and has a lot of experience fighting off jet lag. Here's his advice:

Before The Trip

Exercise more. If you’re already pretty active, keep it up. If you’re kind of sedentary, maybe take a few more walks. You don’t need to get “in shape” before a flight, of course, but it helps to be more alert.

Ed Ronco / KPLU

Ruby Bishop has played piano around the world. She's befriended some of the jazz world's greatest names -- including Louis Armstrong.

At 95, she's still playing Sunday nights at Vito's, on Seattle's First Hill.

In this story from the "Comfort Zone" episode of KPLU's Sound Effect, she talks about the piano, her life, her career, and feeling comfortable behind 88 keys.

Ed Ronco / KPLU

Travel brochures and websites can often paint a picture of an “authentic” experience in a foreign country. But KPLU travel expert Matthew Brumley says so often, what people consider an “authentic” is far from real.

Cultures are changing, especially in Europe. Travel advertisements often show you a romanticized version of what you’ll actually experience.

“They’re selling you the cliché of a country – the little boy walking down the street with a French baguette, and the two people playing bocce ball in Italy,” Brumley said. “It’s getting harder to find that.”