Places I’ve Lived #7 – Redding, California

Redding, CaliforniaI didn’t go straight from Myrtle Creek, Oregon to Redding, California. Instead, I went back to Big Bear Lake where I lived with my father for a little less than two years – he wasn’t a suitable parent for anyone – let alone a kid who had suffered through the hell that I’d been through in Oregon – so it didn’t really work out. He was still living and loving his rock star lifestyle. He was in bands, had girlfriends, bought a boat, had a nice house on the lake, bought a corvette, disappeared for days at a time (and once came back from Vegas with a new wife – which lasted a couple of weeks). He didn’t have the attention span nor the patience to be the father I needed and as a result I was allowed to fall into company that led me astray. By the time he noticed that I was running around with criminal youth, it was too late for him to do anything about it – we fought and I ran away from home several times. I bounced around from place to place – eventually moving in with one of the girlfriends he’d dumped along the way. She was sweet and while she had her own problems, she was the first adult I’d known in years who acted like a parent.

Eventually, my mom escaped from her monstrous husband and came back to Big Bear. She quickly found a new younger husband. He was a solid and good guy who had no idea what he was getting into – but he stuck with it and somehow made it all work. My sister lived with our grandmother at this point and my brother had gone his own way. After a year of marriage, I moved in with my mom and her new husband. At about this point, they decided to move to Redding, California. All the way on the other end of the state.

There are many people who love Redding. I’m not one of them. It was hot, the town was filled with tweekers, and I was an angry 16, 17, and 18 year old when I lived there. I graduated from Shasta High School and on the advice of my step-father joined the Marines and got out of Redding as quickly as I could. I’d gotten in some trouble with alcohol at the homecoming game. My overworked public defender suggested that the judge would go easier if I was enlisted in the military. I took her advice and joined the branch my step-father had been in. It was a stupid thing to do – I should have enrolled in Stanford and moved to the Bay Area – I was smart enough, but not smart enough, if you get my drift.

Redding, CaliforniaLooking back, a lot of my anger came from other places and the truth is – Redding was pretty good to me. I was dating cheerleaders and had some great quality friends, if anything, my issues were that I chose to spend time with other people who were serious losers – I was surrounded by drugs, guns, and violence. On weekends, we would all drive around downtown Redding to meet up, find parties, and find trouble. It was called ‘The Cruise’ and it was outlawed sometime later in the 1990s.

Redding was the first place I saw a person killed – I was at a party and a local gang called ‘The Winds’ showed up looking for a guy ( I didn’t know him – he was a drifter wandering through). They found him at the party and beat him to death with bottles (I presume he died because I can’t imagine anyone surviving that), they then put his body in a blanket and threw it in the back of a truck and drove off. I saw all of this while hiding in a slatted door closet with the girl who lived in the house. I never saw a news story about it – so maybe he didn’t die, but at the time, I was certain I had just witnessed a murder. We all had – there were at least ten people who saw it – but when the police showed up, none of us wanted to be the one to point their finger at the gang members – we’d just seen what would happen if we did.

I left Redding shortly after that and I never looked back though I have visited my mom from time to time over the past thirty years.

Redding, California

Redding, CaliforniaRedding is a city surrounded by the wonders of nature. Drive in almost any direction and you are sure to find  something mind blowing. Mt. Shasta , Mt. Lassen, Shasta Lake, the Sacramento River, Whiskeytown Lake, the Trinity Alps, Burney Falls, Shasta Caverns and much more. Like many of the towns I lived in growing up, Redding sits on Interstate 5 (I-5). It has a population of about 90,000 and was originally called Poverty Flats. Redding has a rich mining and timber harvesting history and as such – fell into hard times in the 80s and 90s when those industries declined. It has never really recovered, though it has tried. There are a number of prisons that surround Redding and this contributes to the economy – also, many of the prisoners stay in the area when they are released of furloughed and sometimes their families move to Redding while they are incarcerated.

Temperatures in Redding often push the 120 degrees Fahrenheit mark and locals are smart to spend time in the Sacramento River or the area’s many lakes.

Places I’ve Lived #6 – Myrtle Creek, Oregon

Myrtle Creek I have fonder memories of Myrtle Creek than my siblings do. I think it’s because I’ve blocked out much of the horror and mayhem. They refer to the place we lived as ‘The Death Farm’ and honestly, that’s pretty much what it was. My mother’s new master didn’t find the ranch of his dreams in Canyonville, but not far away in beautiful Myrtle Creek, Oregon he found a place that when I remember it – really was a slice of heaven (if only you could have removed the adults from it). It was an 18 acre ranch with a beautiful 10 acre pasture in the front that sat next to gorgeous Bilger Creek – a small stream that flowed year round. It had a sweet well and as many as five springs that flowed sweetly from the old growth timbered mountain behind – which made up most of the other eight acres. There was a small barn, a wood-shop, a garden, outhouses, a wood shed, and – a decent (when we moved in) double wide trailer with a covered porch that looked out over the pasture and stream. There were wild deer, quail, rabbits, trout, pheasants, and chucker. To pay for it, he more or less made mom trade all the property she’d gotten out of the marriage with my dad and also rented our childhood house to his scumbag friends so they could take over the mortgage – they didn’t pay the mortgage and she lost the house, he and mom didn’t pay the new mortgage and they lost the farm too. Plus she lost lots in Big Bear, 10 acres in Ennis, Montana, and all the savings she had. It was a costly marriage for all of our lives.

Myrtle CreekThe problem with the farm was that the drug addict/alchoholic/violent tempered cowboy who was in charge of our lives wanted to have wolf dogs and farm animals. So, we had chickens, goats, cows, geese, a horse – and we had the wolf dogs which broke their chains and killed all of our farm animals – and then got shot by the neighbors. Everything died on that farm except for us. I learned to shoot, to survive in the wilds, to forage, and to hunt on that farm – it was a necessity. Our so called parents were in the town bars more than they were in the home – so we mostly fended for ourselves. I remember nice church people bringing us food and even Christmas presents one year after the asshole smashed the Christmas tree and presents because we little kids cried because we wanted to open presents on Christmas Eve (which had been our family tradition) instead of waiting for Christmas Day (his family tradition). So, not all of my memories are fond of that place but I spent a lot of time learning the outdoors and growing to appreciate nature, and learning how to be alone – skills that all served me well in life. I finally abandoned my younger sister and went to live with my long lost father after finding the asshole cowboy standing above my mother after he had broken her back – I had just come in from hunting pheasants so I used the gun to make him leave her alone. My mother begged me not to shoot him, so I didn’t – but probably should have. In any event, I couldn’t stay there any longer. My dad had come back into our lives that year after a near 5-year absence with a big shopping trip to a warehouse store where he bought me my dream machine, a Commodore 64 computer but he balked at actually spending the money to buy me the floppy drive and monitor I needed to go with it so I had to learn how to code my own games in BASIC and used an old black and white TV as my monitor.  So, off to my father’s I went (back in Big Bear Lake)– I felt guilty leaving my sister, but she didn’t want to leave our mother – even though I begged her to. I missed the nature of Myrtle Creek. I’d had a little gold mining setup in the creek, a tree-fort filled with books on the back lot, and a dozen hide outs that were all my own.

On the positive note, I had a great art teacher and a great English teacher at the middle school there, Coffenberry Jr. High. On the down side, the math teacher beat me and several other kids so severely with paddles that I was withdrawn from his class and was compelled to testify against him in court. I had liked math up until that point – but the beatings ended that particular love affair for years. On another positive note – my mother eventually escaped from the monster. He went on to marry another monster and the two of them abused and stole from senior citizens until they were caught – several seniors (including his own grandparents and great grandparents) had died under their care and had been compelled to bequest the two of them all of their property and money. When he was caught – he ended his own life with a shotgun – so, he got at least part of what he deserved.

Myrtle Creek, Oregon

With a little over 3500 people, Myrtle Creek has twice the population and half the charm of nearby Canyonville. The South Umpqua River flows on one side of the town which disconnects it from nearby I-5, which has done the town no good. There is virtually no reason why anyone should ever want to go to Myrtle Creek in my opinion – but in the past few years there have been several little farm businesses, an innovative hamburger shop and a few other positive improvements in the place. And, it’s a very pretty place if you can get past the poverty, addiction, and domestic violence.

Places I’ve Lived #5 – Canyonville, Oregon

CanyonvilleAfter a super ugly divorce in Big Bear Lake, California – my mom was ready to go as far away from my Dad as she could – my dad seemed happy to be a single guy without kids encumbering his rock star lifestyle – so no one stood in the way of mom marrying a super tall alcoholic doucehebag wanna-be cowboy who was barely out of his teens. We left our last happy childhood home for the last time. This time there would be no return. He decided that the best thing to do with his wealthy new bride was to move her and her three kids as far away from where her family could interfere with his fucked up, violent, and drug fueled life choices. He moved us to Canyonville, Oregon – which, to be fair, is a pretty nice little Oregon town – but which for all of us became the gateway to hell. While he looked for the ranch of his dreams, we were all crammed into a tiny little house with a half dozen dogs – the house had been a drug dealers before we moved into it and it wasn’t uncommon for bikers and other shit-bags to come waltzing in the door looking for ‘Jim’ at all hours of the night. Guns were a regular part of our lives at this point. The shithole biker bar next door “The Snake Pit” was where mom and her new boss (because she just did whatever he told her to or he would beat the shit out of her) spent the majority of their time. We met a whole new class of bikers – not the friendly Hells Angels of Big Bear but the drug fueled and violent Gypsy Jokers.

CanyonvilleOn the positive side – we had a cherry tree and Canyon Creek ran behind the house. We would go down and catch crawdads by the bucketfull and cook them up with butter and garlic. I used to get old fashioned milkshakes from a place with a cow on the roof. Canyonville itself is set in a beautiful part of Southern Oregon and when we weren’t witnesses or victims of domestic violence and substance abuse – we swam in country swimming holes, hiked through beautiful pine forests, and spent time on the ranch of a family who saw the hell we were in, but werent willing to involve themselves further than letting us spend time with them. We were there for a bit less than a year (4th grade) …and then we moved to nearby Myrtle Creek – which I will write about next. Here is a bit about Canyonville, Oregon that is outside of my experience.

Canyonville, Oregon

CanyonvilleCanyonville has a population of about 1800 people (honestly, I thought it was larger) and sits in an area known as the ‘Banana Belt’ in Southern Oregon. It is classified as having a ‘Mediterranean Climate’ though, I’ve lived in the Mediterranean and Canyonville both and would beg to differ. Winters are cold, wet, grey, and rainy. Canyonville is the third oldest city in Oregon and was a stopping point of the Applegate Trail (part of the Oregon Trail migration) It is where the North Umpqua and South Umpqua Rivers meet and is a great spot for fishing, hunting, and outdoor recreation. Canyonville sits alongside Interstate-5 which runs from Canada to Mexico and is the main north/south interstate on the West Coast of the United States. Canyonville is most famous for President Rutherford B. Hayes once having lunch there. Today the 7-Feathers Casino is the big draw in Canyonville, but it was not there when I was a kid. When I was a kid, the biggest part of the economy was logging and mining at the nearby Hannah Nickel Mine in Riddle, Oregon. Ranching, farming, and resource extraction were the lifeblood of Canyonville  in those days. These days, I’ve heard that it is the casino and meth production.

Places I’ve Lived #4 – Mendocino, California

Mendocino, CaliforniaWhen I write about my childhood – it sounds bizarre, even to me.  Shortly after I started first grade, my father once again decided it was time to go someplace new…but once again, it didn’t last long. The dynamics of my parent’s relationship were already terrible – so who knows if this had something to do with it – cause or effect, at this point it doesn’t really matter. In any event, my father had built a fairly successful painting business in Big Bear Lake but when he’d met my mother he had been a musician in several mildly successful bands…at some point in the 1970’s he started playing music again, hanging out in nudist camps and then he started taking tai-chi lessons from a nomadic puppeteer named Rio.

A strange friendship was born. Rio was building a live in gypsy wagon on the back of a RIO truck and he and his love, Nancy – were going to move to Mendocino. While the truck was being built, we started receiving huge numbers of packages from outdoor catalogs because it turned out that Nancy had been married when she and Rio met and now she was sticking it to her husband by maxxing out his credit cards and having all the stuff sent to our house (since they lived in a tent while the truck was being built). Nancy had two lovely little girls (Spirit and Isis) and a cool little boy (Gabe) and we all became great hippie friends. Rio was this amazing young Gandolph figure – he was a puppeteer, a carpenter and tai-chi master – his truck was being built as a traveling stage for his puppet shows.

Once the truck was built and all the dried foods, survival gear, etc was loaded – it was time to go and Dad once again decided he would rent out our house as an income property and leave all of our possessions locked in the garage/storeroom he had built. Off we went…I think my dad was planning on starting a new band or something, but we ended up in Mendocino. We rented a creepy white house that was high on a bluff above the ocean. I’m pretty sure it was haunted or that some Manson murder shit had gone down there. My brother and I were enrolled in school in nearby Fort Bragg and all went well that winter – except in terms of my parent’s marriage. Dad and Rio would disappear for weeks at a time. Eventually, mom had enough and we packed it all up and went back to our house in Big Bear where once again, short term renters had trashed our house, broken into the storeroom, and stolen anything of value.

That’s my personal story of Mendocino – but here is a bit about the town itself:

Mendocino, California

Mendocino, CaliforniaMendocino, just north of San Francisco was founded in 1850 as a lumber town because of the proximity to the mighty and beautiful redwoods. In the 1940s it became a sort of artist colony and has been known as such ever since. The town sits on huge bluffs above the Pacific Ocean and is home to one of the oldest Chinese temples in the USA, dating back to 1854.  The temple of Kwan Yin is dedicated to the goddess of medicine and peace.

Mendocino has appeared in a lot of Hollywood productions, most prominent was the TV Series “Murder She Wrote” in which the town was fronted as being a village in Maine. It’s a beautiful and cool place. Here’s a few bizarre facts –

  • The nearby town of Booneville had it’s own language called Boontling.
  • The Manson family actually did rent a house (well before we lived there) in Mendocino and I’d bet money it’s the same creepy one we lived in
  • It rains a lot in Mendocino
  • Mendocino has less than 1000 people and a lot of Bed and Breakfasts

 

Places I’ve Lived #3, Mazatlan, Mexico

Mazatlan, Mexico I’m happy I had the chance to live outside of the USA as a child – I’m also glad that I got to experience Mexico first hand before the racist bigots who surrounded me growing up had a chance to completely distort my view of this beautiful country and the warm, generous, and hard working Mexican people.

It was common among white people in California during the 60s, 70s, and 80s to denigrate, belittle, and trash talk about Mexican people – sadly, this was especially true in hillbilly places like Big Bear Lake which tended to be filled with bikers, outlaws, and descendants of dustbowl migrants from the 1930s. As a white person, I’m ashamed of that truth – but a truth it is.

As I mentioned though, I was heavily innoculated against it by my father making a terrible decision. “Let’s rent out our house for the winter and drive to Mexico” Never mind that our car was a barely running piece of shit Ford Pinto station wagon. Off we went.

Mazatlan, MexicoThe car broke down and my father was either unable or unwilling to fix it for several months so we rented a house in Mazatlan, made friends with a bunch of Mexican people, and even attempted to go to school without knowing even a little bit of Spanish. I made some friends, played football (soccer), and played on the beach a lot. My friend Manuel and I found a dead whale on the beach once…

Eventually, mom forced dad to fix the car and back we went to Big Bear Lake where renters had trashed our house and stolen most of our possessions.  That’s my story – but here’s a bit about Mazatlan.

Mazatlan, Mexico

Mazatlan, MexicoMazatlan is in the state of Sinaloa – roughly parallel with the southern tip of Baja, California. This is weird given the Octoberfest connection to Big Bear Lake. Mazatlan was founded in 1531 by Spaniards and Indigenous people but it was settled largely by a group of Bavarian immigrants in the 1800s. Bring on the Polka Tots!

Mazatlan is most famous for the miles and miles of beautiful beaches, the old lighthouse and famous cliff jumpers, and the longest boardwalk promenade in the world. It was the first town in the world to suffer an aerial bombardment and for decades had the only English language newspaper in Mexico.  Mazatlan is home to the largest carnival and the largest aquarium in Mexico.

I need to go back…I wonder what ever happened to Manuel?

Mazatlan, Mexico

Places I’ve Lived #2 – Big Bear Lake, California

Big Bear Lake Ski ResortThere’s no place I’ve lived (with the possible exception of Hawaii) that has had such a huge effect on who I am as Big Bear Lake, California. My parents moved there around 1972-73 from Tacoma, Washington – most of my mom’s family followed us. I lived in Big Bear for two distinct periods – my normal, privileged and happy childhood from 1973-1981 and then an incredibly dysfunctional early-teen period from 1985-1988. Like many kids, my life changed dramatically after my parents went through an ugly and violent divorce. Most of my happy childhood memories come from the 73-81 period. At the time, our family was prosperous – we were surrounded by uncles, aunts, cousins, grandparents, and friends. Here are some of the amazing things I remember from Big Bear Lake.

Massive Snowstorms

Big Bear LakeI’m not talking about little snowstorms or a foot on the ground. I’m talking about full on blizzards where our house got buried. We had to jump out the second floor window to get out! 8-10 feet of snow. Big Bear is in the mountains above Los Angeles but it sits at an elevation of nearly 7000′ feet. One great thing about all that snow was snow days, snow forts, and playing in the snow all winter long. There were two ski resorts in Big Bear in those days Snow Summit and Goldmine (now Bear Mountain). We had annual season passes at Snow Summit and ski lessons were an essential part of being a kid in Big Bear. Our winter jacket’s were festooned with colored B’s to denote our level. If memory serves – the Red B was the expert skiier.

Big Bear Lake, Jenks Lake, Baldwin Lake

There were a number of snow fed lakes in the area, so summer was a time of swimming and water skiing. We would also wander the shallows searching for giant orange carp in the lake or fish for blu gill, bass, and trout. Jenk’s Lake was a tiny lake where school trips would go to learn about nature and do camp activities. In the winter, the lakes would completely freeze over and it was common for ‘dumb flatlanders’ (our term for weekend visitors from L.A.) to fall through the ice.

Fawnskin and Fawnskin Caverns

On one side of the lake is the tiny village of Fawnskin (which is strange because my sister is named Fawn) – as a teen, I wandered and drank all through this area. During all of the time I was living there, it was a fun pasttime to hike and climb in Fawnskin. There was a huge complex of boulder made caverns which were most fun to climb in (and most dangerous) during the winter months when they were filled with ice and snow.

Old Miner’s Days and Hell’s Angels

Every summer there was a festival celebrating the rough and ready miner’s who had flooded the valley in 49′. This weeks long festival included a multi-day burro race around the valley, burro baseball, a parade, a Miss Clementine and Mr. Kadiddlehopper Pageant, and much more. The Hell’s Angels were always around during this time – in fact they loved Big Bear and were frequent visitors – they sponsored school picnics and some of the teachers were even members of the famous biker gang.

Big Dick Rock

Big Bear has huge boulder piles everywhere. I’m not sure what geology created that – but every kid in Big Bear knew about ‘Big Dick Rock’

Big Bear Dam (old and new)

Big Bear has an old dam which is usually under water and a new dam that traffic crosses. The ‘New Dam’ was built in the 1930s.

China Island

There’s a tiny island in an area called Boulder Bay – that has a bunch of Chinese houses built on it. My aunt and uncle lived there for a year. It’s scenic and pretty strange….I’ve heard the owner lives on Maui.

The Rifle Range

There’s a rifle range in Big Bear and as kids we used to go there and collect lead bullets. Sometimes when people were shooting. We got chased away many times – it was incredibly stupid.

Old Mines and Cabins

Big Bear has lots of National Forest land and if you dig around in it (as we did a lot of) you will find mines, old caverns, old cabins, and in the 1970s – things like boxes of dynamite. We did incredibly stupid things with all of that stuff and somehow never killed ourselves.

‘Down the Hill’

When you live in Big Bear – every other place is ‘down the hill’ and people from other parts of California are called ‘flatlanders’. Going ‘down the hill’ meant going to Los Angeles, San Bernardino, San Diego, or other places.

The Old Juniper Tree fort in Whispering Forest

Generations of kids have built tree forts in the old Juniper tree that sits across from my childhood home. Despite the itchy bark, the big drops, and the territoriality of kids like me – this tree has been the dreaming and hanging out space for many growing kids.

Holcomb Valley

Holcomb Valley Big Bear LakeHolcomb Valley with it’s decrepit town of Belleville, the abandoned shacks, hidden gold mines, rifle and shotgun casings, herds of mules and packs of coyotes, hidden springs, and deep desolate and lonely hidden places – there should be songs written about this place.

The Crow’s Nest, The Poop Deck, Chad’s, and The Bear’s Den

I don’t know how many of these bars remain – but Big Bear Lake had the most colorful drinking establishment names of anywhere I’ve ever lived. Sure, maybe Chad’s doesn’t sound that exciting until you see three hundred Harley’s parked in the streets in front of it. As kids, we spent a lot of time at the Big Bear Arcade across the street and would all pile out to watch bikers beat the hell out of each other in the streets during the middle of the day.

The Bear Statues and Octoberfest

Big Bear used to have these beautiful standing bear statues that would welcome you into town. Visitors and residents would dress the bears which stood on top of rock pillars. Sometimes in snow jackets, goggles, hats, or winter gear – other times in bikinis. They were the childhood mascots to the town.

Each October there would be a week long drinking festival – I don’t think there were a lot of Germans in Big Bear but there were certainly a lot of drinkers so it was a big deal. Our parents put us in a children’s dance troop called the Polka Tots and we would train in Bavarian dance and travel to events throughout Southern California to dance in leiderhosen for the boys and frilly  dresses and braids for the girls. It was a very strange thing to do.

Pan Hot Springs

Pan Hot SpringsI learned to swim in beautiful thermal pools that smelled slightly of sulfur. I was never a particularly good swimmer but I will always appreciate the fact that I learned to swim in pools created by mountain hot springs.

Rattlesnakes, Scorpions, Coyotes, Raccoons, Burros, Mountain Lions, and Bears

There’s a lot more to remember about Big Bear – it was an amazing place to be a child – but probably the most striking memory is the proximity of nature to us. We used to encounter rattlesnakes on a regular basis – we would flip stones and catch snakes and scorpions with old glass jars. The yip yip of coyotes was a part of the lullaby that would put us to sleep and the braying of the wild burro herds would startle us awake – at which point we would watch them be chased from yards and gardens in the neighborhood. We didn’t see a lot of bears in those days – but they and the mountain lions were about – we’d catch sign of them on the trails – pawprints, piles of poo, the acrid musky odor of a mountain lion or lynx.

This was my childhood. It sounds like a time long ago – and I guess as I write this it was generally four decades ago – but when I look at pictures or think about how different the world was then – it seems like it was much much longer. I love the memories of my childhood in Big Bear Lake, California.

Places I’ve Lived #1 – Tacoma, Washington, USA

Tacoma, WashingtonThis is going to be a series of twenty-five (and maybe more later) articles about the cities and towns around the world where I have lived. First of all, some definition is required. In the childhood period, I define a place where I lived as somewhere where my parents had jobs and worked and I lived with them. In adulthood, I define a place where I lived as anywhere that I had a space of my own and worked. So for example – hotels don’t count unless I was living in them for extended periods and had a job in the same town (so conferences don’t count). At the moment in mid-2019, I’ve listed twenty-five places – there are a few places that I’ve left and gone back to which I don’t count more than once – and since I’ve written pretty extensively about Hawaii – I’ve combined my first stint in Hawaii (2001-2008) into one place even though it included Oahu and Kauai – and made my current stay in Honolulu(2017-present) into another. This isn’t a formal study or anything – but I wanted to explain my methodology. Why am I doing this? Not for any particular reason except there are interesting tidbits about each of these places – and I want to share.

Tacoma, WashingtonSo, to start – I was born in Tacoma, Washington. My father’s family has been in Washington since early pioneer times. Our family is listed in the state archives as some of the first European descent settlers in the region.  Mostly our family lived in the Aberdeen, Tacoma, Puyallup, and Seattle areas. My mom is a native Californian but my dad managed to get her to live in Washington for a couple of years around the time of my birth.

Tacoma is named for the Native-American name of Mt. Raineer. It is a port city and was once the terminus for the Northern Pacific Railroad. The region was mostly known for lumber and paper mills and during the 1960s and 1970s it was a pretty rough place to be. The paper mills created a fart smell that was known as ‘the Tacoma Aroma’. In the early 1900s, Tacoma was a hotbed of radical union organizing and was the site of a massive wobbly (Industrial Workers of the World IWW) strike. In the 1920s, Tacoma was a formidable rival to Hollywood to become the center of the movie industry. California‘s better climate proved to be an insurmountable advantage. Tacoma declined in the 20th century to become one of the least livable cities in the USA with high crime, high unemployment, and many abandoned buildings. In the 1990s, the city began turning itself around – today, it is known as one of the most livable cities in the USA! Pretty amazing!

Tacoma, WashingtonThere are really two things I love about Tacoma – as a child when we would visit my grandfather – we would always take a trip to the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium  in Point Defiance Park which itself is more than 700 acres. The zoo and aquarium are world class and made it hard for me to appreciate lessor facilities later in my life. Tacoma is also well known as a center for glass art – world renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly comes from Tacoma and his beautiful large scale glassworks are seen throughout the city.

Like many cities – there is much more to Tacoma than just this – but you will have to go there to experience it.

Tacoma, Washington

3 Adventurous Reasons Majorca Isn’t Just for Retirees

I hate to admit that my travel has been seriously curtailed these past couple of years by a couple of things. First, living in the USA has caused some serious changes in our lives. Unless you are in the top 10% of wealth, living in the USA is expensive and requires one or both parts of a couple to work fairly constantly – the time constraints of that alone make travel difficult and then add in the monetary constraints – especially living in Honolulu, Hawaii – one of the least affordable places in the USA.  So, time and money and then the constraint of having a school age child. Essentially, we are both needed for school drop-offs and pick-ups, swim lessons, etc during all but the peak holiday travel periods – which in the USA means that our family only has the opportunity to travel during the periods when travel companies raise their rates by as much as 50% for airlines, cars, hotels and more. The point is – living in the USA generally makes travel unaffordable for families. Living in Hawaii with a family (because you have to fly to get anywhere from Hawaii and we don’t have budget airlines like RyanAir in the USA) makes travel not quite impossible, but for people with our income level  – close to impossible. Still, I’m not complaining – we love it here and I still enjoy putting together future trips. With that in mind, I bring you Majorca (also spelled Mallorca sometimes)

If you are like a lot of people, when you hear Majorca, you think of British retirees basking in the gorgeous sunlight and enjoying warmth and fresh air while they enjoy the retired life. The truth is Majorca has a lot going for it if you are looking for adventure too. These three adventures are just a small selection of truly awesome Majorca adventures that are not for those with heart conditions or severe vericose veins (though they might be doable even if you do have those things)

Majorca Adventure #1: Canyoning

Tramuntana mountain RangeCanyoning involves walking, scrambling, climbing, jumping, abseiling and/or swimming through a canyon. The limestone in Majorca’s Tramuntana mountain range boasts many canyons that have been carved out over millions of years by water. These narrow gorges, with beautifully sculpted walls and waterfalls provide a striking setting for this all-action activity. This is one activity that your grandparents are not going to be seen doing during their Majorca holidays.

The sport is practised throughout the year in Mallorca with the best weather from October to April when the rainfall is at its heaviest. I don’t know why it’s better with heavy rain, but for some reason, that’s the season to do it. Could have to do with the lush greenery and scenic waterfalls – or maybe the mud makes it more treacherous.

The top places to go canyoning on Majorca are Torrente Coanegre, Torrente Na Mora, and Torrente Sa Fosca

Majorca Adventure #2: Sea Kayaking

Majorca Sea KayakingSure, you might be thinking of calm seas and easy paddling, but the truth is there is some incredibly challenging blue water around Majorca. Whether you choose guided or self guided, the place to start is Playa d’en Repic Beach in Puerto Soller. Paddling north along the coastline, in the direction of Cala Tuent, you will find caves, blowholes and rocky inlets, and if you are lucky you may come across a dolphin or two.
A nice destination is s’Illeta, a small island, about 4 kilometres from Playa d’en Repic which is home to a large colony of cormorant and has an exceptionally large cave – the Vell Mari – which is more than 500 metres deep. Are you brave enough to paddle in?

Majorca Adventure #3: Cliff Jumping
Majorca Cliff JumpingIt Cala San Vincente, close to Pollensa, you can find some amazing cliffs overlooking the sea. You can jump in – if you dare. The cliffs can be up to 15 meters high and it’s an amazingly terrifying experience! Make sure if you decide to jump that you wear sensible shoes, you know the depth of the water and you aim for the right spot. In fact, an organized cliff jumping trip with a group, where you will be guided by an expert is probably a good idea. The cliffs are very sharp so it’s important that the currents are not too strong, but this sport can take place all year round thanks to the warm temperatures in Majorca.

10 Hilarious Reasons Not to Travel

Reasons not to travel
“You are not here!”

There are plenty of reasonable reasons not to travel, but in my years of writing about travel and working in hospitality, I’ve also come across some people who have reasons that I’ve found to be absolutely hilarious. Here are ten of them.

My Feet Hurt
While I was managing a hotel in Istanbul, it was not uncommon for people to have to cancel their reservations for one reason or another. We never asked them why, but they frequently told us. The best excuse I remember was a woman who wrote that she wouldn’t be coming to Istanbul because her feet hurt so she’d cancelled her flight.

I’m Afraid My House Will Get Stolen
While living on the island of Kauai, I met a woman who was in her 90’s that had never been more than five miles from where she was born. I asked her if she wanted to see the world and her answer was “I’d love to but I’m afraid someone would steal my house.”

Don't travel

I Don’t Like to See New Things
It might sound hilarious to us, but the truth is there are people out there who don’t want to leave their comfort zone. Travel means new things, new ways of thinking, and new experiences. I’ve met these people.

I’m Afraid My Ex Will Find Out
I was chatting with an old high school pal on social media. Life had been a little rough on him and he was paying alimony and child support. When I suggested he travel, he said he’d love to but he was afraid his ex would find out.

I Don’t Want to Waste Money
Personally I can’t think of a better way to waste money than on travel, but there are plenty of people out there who think of travel as the same thing as throwing money out the window.

I Am Scared of Foreigners
This is a bit sad, but a lot of people in our terror-conscious world are scared of foreigners. Never mind that most of our ancestors were foreigners at some point or other. When I was washing dishes in Florence, Oregon a group of French people came in the restaurant. One of the cooks asked me if he should call the police. I assured him the group of old people were probably not dangerous, although they did leave quite a mess without leaving a tip.

Crunky

I Don’t Want to Miss the Next Episode of…
There are people so addicted to television that they put their lives on hold in order to catch the next episode of American Idol, Desperate Housewives, or other shows. Imagine if they learned about Arab Idol or China’s Got Talent.

I’d Rather Work
Really? What are you working for? My suggestion is that you make your life your work.

My Town or City Has Everything
I’ve met people who love their own city/provence/country so much that they decide to not go anywhere else. How can you be so sure your place has it all if you haven’t seen anywhere else? I don’t want to spoil it for you, but so far, I haven’t found anywhere with EVERYTHING. Not even close.

I Have a Fear of Being Eaten by Sharks
This isn’t a joke. My friend’s wife is so terrified of sharks that she won’t get in a pool or board a plane that flies over water. Somehow she got it in her head that a plane could crash in the ocean and that would lead to sharks. Sharks aren’t what you need to worry about if the plane crashes.

What’s your most hilarious reason not to travel?

Iwahai: Save Memories with Voice and Place

Introducing Iwahai.  Sign up for the free email tutorial here. Iwahai lets you put voice recordings on a map. It’s easy, it’s revolutionary, and it’s free. Designed by travelers for travelers…and everyone else.

Iwahai Time MachineIwahai Time MachineIwahai Time MachineIwahai Voice Recording on a MapIwahai Time Machine

 

 

Vagabonds: Sometimes Getting Lost Is the Point

Vagabonds: Sometimes Getting Lost Is The Point

Now available on Amazon

From ancient times to the present, brave men and women have wandered from place to place without visible means of income, without reason, and sometimes without a clue. They have defined our history. This is a love letter to these vagabond men and women, the lives they led, and the inspiration born of their journeys.

Vagabonds will introduce or reacquaint you with fifty-one incredible vagabonds who have shaped our collective history. Starting with Herodotus, the father of history and moving all the way to the present, these vagabonds and voyagers snake their way from the ancient past into the middle ages, through the Victorian era up to the twentieth century, and finally bring us right up to the present on the edge of the future.

The men and women in this book are a mixture of ancient heroes, famous writers, tech-nomads, overachieving goal setters, and fly by the seat of their pants adventurers who only plan as far ahead as their next breath. Meet them, be inspired by them, and then find a way to dig in for more.

Christopher Damitio is the author of Rough Living: Tips and Tales of a Vagabond and currently lives in Hawaii. He writes about travel, politics, technology, and more at Vagobond.com and Vagorithm.com.

Available for purchase now in eBook form at Amazon.com

The Road to Hana – The Good, The Bad, The Ugly – Beautiful, Crowded, and Dangerous! Gallery

 

Road to Hana Maui

(Scroll down for my gallery of photos from the Road to Hana)

The Road to Hana – also known as the Hana Highway is Routes 36 and 360 along the East side of Maui. It connects the towns of Kahalui, Paia, and Hana. The destination is not the purpose of taking this trip, literally, you are there to experience the road. There are 59 bridges (most of them one way) and with stops you should count on a minimum of 8-hours round trip. The highway was opened in 1926 and fully paved during the 1960s.

In the early 2000’s on Maui,  I took my rental car the rest of the way from Hana to Ulupalakua Ranch. This route is even more treacherous than the main Road to Hana. I considered doing it this time but when I heard one baby boomer in a Mustang recommending it to another baby boomer in a Jeep, I decided it was a better idea to take the Road to Hana back – surprisingly – we saw very little traffic on the way back – so my assumption is that a majority of people are now taking the so called ‘road less travelled’ (which, if true, makes it the road more travelled).

The Good
The Road to Hana is one of those fantasy trips that people dream about doing. Sixty two miles with more than 620 turns and a natural treasure around every bend. Waterfalls, black sand beaches, green sand beaches, red sand beaches – tropical forest, more waterfalls, hikes to such amazingly named places as the ‘Seven Sacred Pools’. There are absolutely breathtaking views along the way with climbs along the coast up to as high as 4200 feet. Some essential stopping points are Ho’okipa Lookout, Twin Falls, Kaumahina State Wayside Park, Honomanu Bay, Ke’anae Arboretum, Wailua Valley (and falls), Upper Waikani Falls (the three bears), Pua’ Kaa State Wayside, Hanawi Falls, Wai’anapanapa State Park, Kahanu Botanical Gardens, and the Nahiku Marketplace (which, while priced for tourists, still offers some delicious lunch options).

The Road to Hana is beautiful and there are many places worth stopping along the way – if you can find a parking spot. Going past Hana to Kipahulu and Ohe’o Gulch is essential.

The Bad
You can break your budget with mediocre roadside attractions along the way. A good example is the lovely but overpriced ‘Garden of Eden’ -a beautiful botanical garden that charges $15 per person to have a walk in the jungle, buy bird food to feed their birds, and shop in their gallery. Personally, my recommendation is to pass this one as the free botanical gardens, parks, and trails along the way offer everything you can get here (and more).

It’s hard to get a photo at any of the attractions along the way without a whole bunch of tourists (like us) in the background. Patience is the key here. If you are dreaming of being alone in beautiful and remote tropical areas – the Road to Hana is not your destination. Parking at the trailheads, beachparks, and attractions along the way is also a problem – at one point, I felt like I was jockeying for a space at the Iwilei Costco on Oahu (not a recommended experience).

Everything on the Road to Hana is priced at the highest possible amount. This is a well defined tourist route and you are paying tourist prices at every point.

The Ugly
I’d driven the Road to Hana a couple of times in the past. Once in 2005 and again in 2007. This was more treacherous than either of those trips. The problem was the constant stream of rented Ford Mustangs and Jeep Wranglers going in both directions – intersperced with pissed off locals trying to get home or someplace else and willing to make insane passing maneuvers when the Mustangs and Wranglers didn’t pull over to make way.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m sympathetic to both groups. After all, we live on Oahu and are visiting Maui – we were a little bit of both tourist and local, but both groups were engaging in some shitty behaviour. While most of the tourists used the pull outs to let groups of 3 or more cars go past – all it took was one jerk living out his jeep fantasy while holding his GoPro over the t-top who refused to pull over and left a line of ten or more cars behind him to ruin it for everyone. Also, while most of the locals patiently waited for a safe opportunity to pass – there always seemed to be at least one aggressive teenager in an oversized Tonka truck that was willing to play chicken with oncoming cars and endanger everyone. I lost count after the six or seventh near miss – but that was fairly early in the day.

Peace of Maui – Old School Upcountry Maui Living – Peaceful Maui B&B

Peace of Maui Upcountry B&B

I can understand why some people want to come to Maui and stay in the beach resorts in Kapalua, Kaanapali, or Kihei. Maui has beautiful beaches, great snorkeling, and some real high end resort experiences. That’s just not what we are looking for when we come to Maui.

We live on Oahu so we get plenty of beaches, resorts, and tourist activities. For us, the reason to come to Maui is to enjoy a break from tourism, the city, and the grind of traffic and city life on a resort island. We come to Maui to experience more of a simple Hawaii. The kind of Hawaii where you can look up at the stars at night, shower outside under a wealth of flowers, and wake up to birds, deer, and the sounds of nature.

Our go to place for all of that is Peace of Maui, an upcountry B&B located near the Maui cowboy town of Makawao. Peace of Maui is definitely not a resort. If you are looking for five star accommodations, this isn’t the place for you. If you are looking for golfing, beach umbrellas, and early morning swims – this isn’t the place for you. If you are looking for waiters and valets and bellboys and concierge – this isn’t the place for you. You need to know this before you book – you are not booking a luxury vacation at Peace of Maui.

Peace of Maui Upcountry B&B

What you are booking is a chance to enjoy the simple things on Maui. Peace of Maui is hard to classify. B&B might be closest, but from my experience – it’s more like a hostel for grown-ups with private rooms, laid back vibes, and a do-it-yourself ethos that works for those who (like us) don’t really want to stay in a resort that could be in Los Angeles, Miami, Honolulu, the Philippines, Australia, or dozens of other beach destinations. Peace of Maui gives you the chance to stay someplace that is uniquely and totally Hawaii and Maui.

There are no private bathrooms or kitchen unless you rent the cottage. We rented the Hibiscus room, a classic plantation style shack with unobstructed views of Haleakala. The bathrooms are in the main lodge (there are three of them for all rooms to share as well as two indoor showers and an outdoor shower that was near us in the Hibiscus Room.). We had a queen bed, a pullout single bed, a mini-fridge and a dresser. Nothing fancy but comfy beds and pillows, clean sheets, and a locking door.

Peace of Maui Upcountry B&B

Peace of Maui sits on a couple of acres and is surrounded by grasslands at the base of Haleakala. The shared kitchen is reminiscent of youth hostels with each room getting a cupboard and a section of the main refrigerator. The owners, Tammi and Mika live above the main lodge. Their two dogs Ranger and Awahi wander the property freely. There is an outdoor patio area near the kitchen and then a bigger outdoor patio near where we stayed with a hot tub, the outdoor shower, fire pits, and plenty of sitting areas. Mika is building an outdoor kitchen in this area too.

Peace of Maui Upcountry B&B

It should probably be noted, that the owners are Christians and there is a fair amount of Christian material around – be it the artwork, the embroidered towels, or the religious tracts – that being said, at no point was there any sort of conversation regarding religion or anything like that. I mention this because if you are for some reason ‘anti-religion’ or ‘anti-Christian’ this might put you off. We are not Christians and weren’t bothered by any of it, but I know some people have stronger views about his sort of thing. To be honest, I probably would not have booked if this had been obvious on the website – and if that had been the case, we would have missed out on a spectacular place. We really loved it!

Peace of Maui Upcountry B&B

The only reasons we had to go into the main house were to get access to the wifi (it doesn’t reach the Hibiscus Room), use the kitchen, and use the toilets. If there had been an outdoor composting toilet, an outdoor kitchen, and a stronger wifi signal – we would not have needed to go into the house at all. I suspect that all those things are coming. In any event, it’s nearly perfect as it is. Our interactions with other guests took place on the outdoor patio or in the kitchen. We swapped notes on going out the Road to Hana or going up Haleakala and generally interacted a bit less intimately than if we had been in a hostel but a bit more intimately than if we had been in a resort – just right for my tastes at this point in life.

Peace of Maui Upcountry B&B

Peace of Maui is perfectly located for all of your adventures on Maui. Just ten miles from the airport and an easy drive into Paia or Makawao, not far from the farms of Kula and the Haleakala Highway, close to the starting point of the Road to Hana and far enough away from Kihei and Lahaina to be peaceful, but close enough to be convenient. It’s about a 30-minute drive to the Maui Ocean Center, Lahaina, or down to Kihei.

Rooms start at the astoundingly reasonable rate of $115 per night and the cottage starts at $250 per night. This is a small place with limited capacity, so be sure to book early. Make your reservations at www.peaceofmaui.com

Peace of Maui Upcountry B&B

The view of Haleakala from the patio each morning where I drank my coffee.

Maui Ocean Center – The Best Aquarium in Hawaii

Maui Ocean Center

I don’t want fans of the Waikiki Aquarium to get up in arms here – I love that place, but the difference between the Waikiki Aquarium and the Maui Ocean Center is like the difference between community college and university – and that’s all the comparing of the two I will do. The truth is that families traveling with kids will love both places. First let me give a little background.

Maui Ocean Center

The Maui Ocean Center opened in 1998 with the mission of respectfully educating and sharing the treasures of the Pacific Ocean as well as educating about and sharing many aspects of Hawaiian culture with visitors. At just over twenty years old, it’s a relatively new attraction in Hawaii, but already one of the best with more than sixty exhibits, a 750,000 gallon living reef aquarium, and the awesome 3-D encounter with humpback whales.

Maui Ocean Center

We arrived on Maui several hours before we could check in to our room at Peace of Hawaii and this was the perfect first destination.  My wife was deeply immersed in the important exhibit on Kaho’olawe, the Hawaiian island that the US Navy bombed into an uninhabitable wasteland. This was one of the most important of the inhabited islands to the Hawaiian people’s culture and yet somehow, some military genius decided that using it as a bombing range was a good idea – thankfully, Kaho’olawe is making a slow recovery thanks to the hard work and bravery of activists and preservationists.

Maui Ocean Center

Our 7-year-old loved the Turtle Lagoon, the touching tide pool,  and the living reef exhibit. Of course, seeing the sharks and rays and walking through the shark tunnel was a thrill for all of us. The 3-D whale encounter in the sphere was good but felt like it was a little bit short, which is probably a sign that we enjoyed it. 3-D technology is catching up quickly and I’m not sure how long this will still be amazing to anyone – but at the moment, it’s still well worth doing.

Maui Ocean Center

The Maui Ocean Center is open every day from 9am to 5pm. Admission is $35 for adults and $25 for kids ($34.95 and $24.95 +tax, so who are we trying to kid here?) It’s a bit steep in my opinion, but then admission to everything is expensive these days and the value here is quite good. Military and kama’aina get a 35% discount with valid ID.

Maui Ocean Center

The Maui Ocean Center is located at Ma’alaea Harbor on the West Side of Maui. From the airport it’s an easy 15-20 minute drive.

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