Descend on Bend 2016 – A Festival of VW Vanagons at Hole in the Ground – Part 2

This is part 2 of my writeup for 2016 Descend on Bend at Hole in the Ground, Oregon – Read part 1 here

photo by Kevin Dempsey
photo by Kevin Dempsey

One of the first things I realized upon getting to Hole in the Ground was that my iPhone wasn’t recognizing my charger. Since I’ve come to use it as my camera and video camera – I didn’t have a backup plan to take pictures. Within two hours of getting there – my battery was dead. This was a bummer – I had a solar charger, a back up battery, and a cigarette lighter charger to keep that from happening…but the problem wasn’t with any of those or the cord – it was with the lightning jack in the phone. Finally on Day 2 Hanane managed to get it to charge, but it never got fully charged again and mostly just sat in the van connected to the cord since walking around with it was killing it. As a result of all of that – I don’t have lots of pictures or videos and so I’m thankful to Kevin and Zelima Dempsey for sharing their photos with us – the photos in this post are theirs.

Photo by Zelima Dempsey
Photo by Zelima Dempsey

The next thing I realized was that there were a lot of 1987 Westphalia Vanagons – and not one of them was the same as another. Infinite variation within a single type. Misefrou is a merlot colored weekender Wolfsburg edition with an add-a-room from Bus Depot, a laminate floor, and custom cabinets from the last owner.Kevin and Zelima’s vanagon (Zesty the Westy) is a silver 1987 Westphalia Full Camper tricked out with LED lights, sweet cargo racks on back, a retractable canopy, and more. Another couple’s 1987 Westy was a shade darker red/purple (cabernet?) than ours and had a bike rack, a rocket storage on top, and a totally different interior. With close to 300 vehicles there – I did not see any two that were identical. And that seems like a pretty good point to segue into the breakdown of VW Vans…

photo by Kevin Dempsey
photo by Kevin Dempsey

From 1949-1979 – Volkswagen produced the VW Bus in a number of different models – microbus, transporter, Westphalia camper, split window, bay window, 21-window, safari window, 23 window, Kombi, Samba, and the list goes on – 30 years of VW bus variations with mostly Type 1 and Type 2 (pancake) engines. There were also a number of aftermarket conversions that could turn a tin-top into a pop-top camper – one of which the ‘Riviera’ I had on my 71 bus on Kauai. From 1980-1992 – Volkswagen produced the wildly different Vanagon. With more interior room, a squared body, and from mid-1983 a water cooled engine which provided more power, real heat, and eliminated the need to adjust the valves with every oil change. There were tin tops, pop tops, weekender (camper without stove & sink) and from 1985-1992 a four wheel drive model called the Syncro. From 1993-2003 VW produced a completely redesigned van and camper called the Eurovan. While offering some improvements in handling and power, Eurovans lack the clearance and quirky feel of buses and Vanagons – and also have a motor in the front. Since 2003, the Eurovan has not been offered in the US – though a newer model – the T-5 is still produced and sold in Europe. Bus fans have been waiting for more than a decade for VW to introduce a new US model…

photo by Kevin Dempsey
photo by Kevin Dempsey

In a nutshell – that’s the history of buses, Vanagons, and Eurovans – but the devil is in the details and the details come from individual (and often multiple) owners. Solar panels, gas water heaters, diesel powered heaters, high tops, low profile, Syncro conversions, replaced VW engines with more powerful and reliable Subaru engines, and the mods mods mods keep coming.

photo by Kevin Dempsey
photo by Kevin Dempsey

And this is a good place to note that it really is a certain kind of person who decides to own, live in, travel in, customize, or just love a VW van. I’d always known this…we wave at each other on the road. There is a little thrill that goes through you when you see another Veedub. This gathering at Hole-in-the-Ground confirmed what I had always known, but never seen in a mass gathering.

photo by Kevin Dempsey
photo by Kevin Dempsey

Here in Reedsport – it’s rare for me to meet anyone who has been outside of the USA. There is one fisherman with a VW bus he painted green with latex house paint – I spoke with him once and he had the same enthusiasm for his vehicle as he would have had for say a Chevy Cavalier…he never waves when I pass with the Vanagon. He is the exception. The people I met at Hole-in-the-Ground were a completely different type. Andrew, in a yellow bus next to us had lived in Cairo, Kevin had been to Egypt, Watson in the sprinter van had surfed in Morocco – and those were just the three vehicles closest to us. Every person I spoke with had a story, had a thirst to see the world, had adventure written on their soul, and as a result had an openness to different types of people and different ways of life. We met people from Wales, from Germany, from New Zealand, from Canada and saw vehicles that had driven from New York, Iowa, Texas, Oklahoma, and everywhere – just to spend time with this tribe.

The Raffle photo by Kevin Dempsey
The Raffle photo by Kevin Dempsey

On Saturday – it was cold and rainy – I mean really cold, really rainy, and really windy. And yet, hundreds of people came out to the raffle drawing, brought and shared food at the potluck meal, and stood around the big fire Silver Moon brewing came out and set up a bar on the crater. There was a huge VW bouncy house. Kids were running around freely – if I were to lump the demographics – I would say that the bulk of people were between 32 and 50, mostly white but there were people of all shades and ages and all were equal – though I will say that the Syncro owners might view themselves as just a little more equal (and perhaps rightly so – van speaking that is).

photo by Kevin Dempsey
photo by Kevin Dempsey

The cold and rain drove a lot of people into their vans as night fell. I was fortunate to sit around a small fire with a group of new friends and share adult beverages as the day ended. And here, I feel the need to share something unpleasant about myself – I drank a little too much. I’m not used to such good company nor to drinking as much. All of that is fine, but when a man came to the fire to share and promote his story – I acted like an asshole when he made a comment that I interpreted as racist/white supremacist. Mind you, I think we all have a duty to stand up to racist/homophobic/religiophobic and other forms of hatred and at the time – I thought I was doing just that – but in hindsight- I have to acknowledge that I may have misunderstood him and my reaction was too strong – charged as it was by alcohol. In any event, I’m glad that he decided to be peaceful and moved along and if I misunderstood – I offer my apology here.

In the morning, the rain was pretty light as I broke the add-a-room down. There was no way to dry it before putting it up – and that is probably the biggest issue I have with it – it is large and not easy to dry out or store. We did a little bit of off-roading to get out and waved goodbye to all of our new friends. On the way home, we drove through our first snowstorm since coming to the USA. Missy handled well, kept us warm, and stayed on the road. Sophia was ecstatic at seeing snow. I was ecstatic at having found my tribe.

Yodeling Vagabonds in Idaho Hot Springs

By Brian Leibold

In the course of our bike trip together, my cousin and I disagreed about some things. For one, Richard despised Vienna sausages with a passion, while I ate them cold out of the can like a voracious vagabond wolf. Something else we disagreed on was hitchhiking. Richard saw it as an absolute last resort, whereas I saw it as something of a psychology experiment (Hypothesis: to see what types of people would pick up. Conclusion: the most awesome people) that should be conducted on many an occasion. But one thing we agreed wholeheartedly on was the incredible and heretofore undisclosed beauty of Idaho.

Of all the states I biked through from Montana to Arizona, Idaho was my favorite.
Boise National ForestThe story of why we entered Idaho in the first place is short but memorable. While we were at Grand Teton National Park, we exchanged travel itineraries with a woman who said her name was Lois. We asked her if this was really her name, and she said it was. We told her we were heading into Jackson, Wyoming and then due south into Salt Lake City. Lois asked Richard while I was away from the campsite,

“Why aren’t you biking through Idaho? There are hot springs there…”
And she explained how these hot springs were heaven on Idahoan earth, off the beaten path, and only heard of through word of mouth, an Eden-like paradise where 20ish tanned backpackers create a utopian society and stealthily steal pot from an endless marijuana field guarded by Thai farmers with AK-47’s but which quickly dissipates into confusion and dissolution.
But not really. That is actually the plot of The Beach by Alex Garland, a very good book and a much less good movie.
And when I got back, Richard said
“New plan, Brian! We’re going to Idaho!”
Idaho VagabondAnd I was all for it. Never mind that Richard was biking southeast home to Virginia, or that my destination was due south and Idaho was due west. I was on the road, living spontaneously and on the spur-of-the-moment, such as those on the road do. So, sure, I’ve never been to Idaho and let’s go!
And so into Idaho we did go, two vagabond desperadoes heading west into the setting sun on a detour for golden springs which would prove to be one of the highlights of the trip.
Words of Wisdom #1: In bike journeys as in life, some detours become the tour.

Stanley Lake, IdahoIdaho considered us brash and made her feelings known to us by deciding that before we could enter into the kingdom of her heavenly hot springs, we must climb Teton Pass, a six mile monster at a 10% grade. So we climbed Teton. This is all I will say. I will not say that we cried like Mormon babies who have not yet proselytized, or that we fell on our knees and begged for mercy from Lord Idaho herself, or that we beat on the ground and wailed and howled in pitiful tones that would ostracize us from any self-respecting society. I will say only that we climbed it.
But Idaho had tricked us. After the pass, there were still another 300 miles and three more passes to go until the hot springs. All the better, though, for Idaho had many surprises in store. Allow me, if you will, to entertain with some fun facts about the places we stayed in Idaho:
1)Idaho Falls, where we worked on a potato farm in exchange for delightful meals and warm beds and insightful conversation with Bruce Hansen and his family.
2)Arco, the first town to be lit by nuclear power.
Idaho Bike Trip3)Craters of the Moon National Monument, a unique landscape shaped by volcanic activity which stands in stark and wonderful contrast to the surrounding foothills of Southern Idaho.
4)Ketchum, where we had lunch at Johnny G’s Sub Shack, met the generous and aptly named owner, and set up our tent in his backyard.
5)And Stanley Lake, where I stared with wonder for many moments at the most glorious sunrise I have ever seen.
All of these places we stayed and the people we met merit far more than a sentence, and I have written more about them on my own blog which you will find in my bio below.
And so in the morning we woke up at Stanley Lake and we burned down the road, ecstatic at the prospect of steaming springs ahead.
Idaho heavenMost of the day consisted simply of exhilarating downhill, as if the road was facilitating our date with the hot springs and was now moving us as swiftly as possible towards our goal. The wind disagreed though and she did her best to keep our speed manageable, but for once she failed and so we flew downwards with uncontrollable speed surrounded by firs and ponderosa pines and spruces, which towered on the tops of mountains on either side of the Ponderosa Scenic Byway. We hurtled onwards with hastening speed, powerless against the pulling magnetism of the promised hot springs, and yodeled excitedly at the thrill of downhill travel.
We biked into Kirkham Hot Springs.
The rest of the day we dawdled and waddled; we sprawled and crawled with perpetual grins in the fountains of warmth as if they were fountains of youth, which magically healed all ailments of the road, leaving in its place an uncontrollable child-like carefree wonder. The springs engulfed all our tiredness from weeks on the bike; she swallowed whole all our doubts in our ability to keep riding; she absorbed all that ailed us in her submerging warmth and idly washed them all away in the restless Payette River that rushed below. While I lay in her warm waters, she soothed my roving spirit that always in unabashedly crazy hyper-manic phases races and rages ever onwards and allowed me to rest, if only for a short time.
She was very kind.
Idaho scenery bike tripBut by the second night we were restless again, and we went to bed ready to hit the road and ride along the river, which was hurrying westward to the sea.
And that night as we were encircled on all sides by thousands of acres of towering trees swaying and flowing tranquilly in the slight winds of the chilly October night, the forest winked to us mischievously, glad to share its secret wooded home in the Idahoan wilderness with heavenly hot springs below and heavenly hot exploding stars above with two vagabonds whose rested bodies were matched only by our roving souls raring to ride on.
And so in the morning, saluting the hot springs that had propelled us into Idaho, we curved and winded down the byway, zooming onwards towards Boise, the next town on our journey. And though Richard and I may not have agreed on everything during the trip, we were in total agreement on the fact that Idaho was an indisputably beautiful and vastly underappreciated state.

And though it had been over 300 miles and we had climbed over 4 mountain passes, another thing was certain: the hot springs had been worth it.
Words of Wisdom #2 (which also became the first Rule of the Road): Hot Springs Are Always Worth It.

Bandon, Oregon – Gorgeous Undeveloped Pacific Coast

Every once in a while (but not often enough) we head down the coast to the beautiful town of Bandon, Oregon often called Bandon by the Sea.  Founded in 1873 by an Irishman who was reminded of his hometown in Ireland – it is a town of beautiful seascape vistas and lots of cranberries. As usual on the Oregon Coast, there are some antique/vintage shops and a couple of restaurants that are good to fill your belly. There are some fun crab shacks that offer you an actual view of the water- oddly, something that is largely missing from Oregon’s coastline.

img_0147 img_0148 img_0149 img_0153 img_0154 img_0160 img_0161 img_0162

It’s the coastline that really makes Bandon shine. Those rocks out there…they are the stuff of dreams and the empty beaches…well…it’s often cold and windy…not exactly great for sunbathing but pretty good for a walk or contemplation. Bandon has a wildlife game park…which we have not been to. It also has a world famous golf course and a lot of RV parks. The median age of residents is somewhere around 58, the median age of visitors is probably higher.  Of special note is Face Rock Creamery which makes some excellent cheeses and the Stillwagon Distillery which offers a tasting room in Bandon.  Both are worth a visit.

bandon bandonlighthouse

The Oregon Country Fair

Oregon Country Fair
Oregon Country Fair

Every Summer in the woods outside of the little town of Veneta, Oregon – hordes of hippies, puppeteers, musicians, acrobats, nudists, herbalists, and assorted other oddballs assemble for a spectacular show unlike any other – The Oregon Country Fair. For three days there are concerts, dance, homemade soap vendors, and the heavy smell of patchouli and marijuana in the air. Part Burning Man, part Woodstock, part backwoods Oregon country life – the event brings upwards of 50,000 people making it, by some estimations, Oregon’s 13th largest city for three days each year. The rest of the year, it doesn’t exist except as some trails in the woods.

puppets at Oregon Country Fair
puppets at Oregon Country Fair

The OCF starts on the 2nd Friday of July each year. The fair has been going in the same location since 1970 (back in the 70s it was called the Oregon Renaissance Fair). While bands such as the Grateful Dead have played the OCF, it is more about the community of creative people than the concerts – there are costumes, busking, outdoor demonstrations, and even an Eco Village where energy and environment saving practices are demonstrated and encouraged.  There is a lot of nudity at the fair – though technically, only toplessness is permitted. Much like the marijuana use – it is a part of the fair that is not discouraged while not being encouraged either.

Oregon Country Fair
Oregon Country Fair

To get into the fair, you need tickets and they must be purchased in advance. There are no ticket sales on site to discourage beggars and scalpers. Costumes are encouraged and you can bring your own snacks but part of the fun comes from the many exotic food choices available – everything from Pakistani kebab to gluten free donuts with a wide array in between.

Oregon Country Fair
Oregon Country Fair

We’ve been to the Oregon Country Fair twice – the last time, I admit that I was bothered by the aggressive tip collection by several of the performances we watched…a ticket to the OCF gets you into every performance in the fairgrounds…so the acts are working free or for tips – I’m fine with the tipping, but felt a bit overwhelmed and cornered this last time around…and it may keep me from going again. Time will tell. When you go in, the greeters always say ‘Welcome Home’ and it does feel like home – it’s a welcoming, loving, and nurturing environment for creativity (aggressive tip collectors aside).

Oregon Country Fair
Oregon Country Fair

I’ve been told that the Oregon Country Fair is best when you are one of those performing, vending, or helping to set up or take down the fair. The fair is open to the public only during daylight hours – before it opens and after it closes is when the real community takes place. I can only imagine and hope that maybe one day, I’ll get the chance to experience what the OCF is like ‘backstage’.

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Like Burning Man, it isn’t for everyone – but I do think it is something that everyone should experience at least once.  Tickets for the Oregon Country Fair will go on sale in April…I’ll probably see you at the fair.

 

7 Reasons Why the Oregon Dunes Totally Kick Butt for ATV’s

cc Image courtesy of NZhamster on Flickr

Oregon is one of the most popular destinations for ATV riders in all of North America, and the Oregon Dunes is the primary reason for this popularity. In the following list, we present the seven top reasons why all ATV riders must visit the Oregon Dunes at least once in their lives.

1. Terrain Diversity

The name Oregon Dunes might give you the impression of sandy hills, but there’s a lot more to the Dunes than that. Expansive forests border the sprawling beach, and there are several routes that weave in and out of the water and forest.

2. Height

The Oregon Dunes reach up to 500 feet above sea level, and you can actually ride at this height, which gives you an amazing view of the surrounding area. For the adventurous, riding up and down dunes of this height provide stretches of incredible exhilaration and steep hills that will challenge your skills.

3. 40 Miles

The Dunes stretch for 40 miles, and there is flat terrain available from one end to the other. There is also plenty of open space, so there’s not a great deal of concern over obstructions and other riders. This stretch provides an amazing opportunity to ride your ATV and really open it up.

cc Image courtesy of Pedestrian Saint on Flickr4. Scenery

Not every rider wants challenging rides and breakneck speeds. For those who want to take in nature, the Dunes offer splendid scenery, diverse wildlife, vegetation and the majestic Pacific Ocean.

5. The Oregon Coast

The Oregon Dunes stretches along the Oregon Coast, which is a breathtaking area that boasts numerous activities you can do along your ride. On the sea, you can participate in tours, whale watching, fishing and surfing. On land, you can camp, hike and visit the many museums and landmarks.

6. Accessibility and Affordability

All along the coast are communities where ATVing is a way of life. ATV rentals are affordable and accessible, and plenty of accommodations and other activities are available that cater to the ATV rider. You can even purchase Oregon travel packages built around ATVing at the Dunes.

7. Community

Oregon has a thriving ATV community that includes locals as well as riders from all over North America. Each trip is an opportunity to meet fellow ATV riders and perhaps even build lifelong relationships.

Before Your Ride

Oregon does require riders to pass an Oregon ATV Course and acquire a license before riding on public land designated for ATV traffic. A compatible license from another state or province is a suitable alternative. There is no similar requirement for private land.

A Personal Timeline of COVID-19 and the End of the World

I will update this as time goes on…I

My Experience with 2020, the year of COVID-19.

I’m not sure if I’ve just been waiting for a disaster or if I’m just more informed or if I tend to have a longer view of things than other people – but this pandemic has come as no surprise – though I must admit that the speed with which it is happening is mind blowing.

Late last year (December 31, 2019) I started reading about the outbreak in Wuhan, China. This was the official notice that China gave to the WHO that there might be a problem. I didn’t think much of it, but decided to keep an eye out.

This was going to be the year I started traveling again – so by the start of 2020, I already had several trips planned. The first to Australia in late February and early March – then a trip to the mainland USA in April, and then I was thinking Iceland over the summer and maybe Cuba before the year ended. In any event, I pay attention to the world. I’ve had more than a passing interest in epidemiology for more than a decade.

By January 3rd, China was reporting 44 cases. On January 7th, they identified it as a coronavirus. The first death came two days later. Thailand had it by January 13th. Another Chinese death on January 15th. Japan had it by the 16th. It jumped to 204 cases on January 19th. On the 21st, WHO revealed that it was passing from human to human. On the same day, Netflix released a series called Pandemic.

I made some snide social media comments about how callous Netflix was to release their mini-series ‘Pandemic’ right on the heels of the ‘Wuhan Coronavirus’ starting to spread in early January (They released it on January 21st) . A couple of days later the death toll was at 17. By January 23rd China had three cities on lockdown and had cancelled Chinese New Year Celebrations in the Forbidden City. Singapore and Vietnam now had it.

I didn’t really expect it to be ‘the one’ but apparently it is – at least so far. I began to feel alarmed when China began taking extraordinary measures to quarantine and contain the virus. China is far away – I’ve been there, I pay attention to China – and putting millions of people into a lockdown quarantine was not a normal thing for the Chinese government to do.

January 24th there were cases in the US as well. The next day Hong Kong suspended flights to and from Wuhan. France had it, Australia had it, Malaysia and Canada had it. January 26th more than 2800 cases and 80 deaths. January 29th the WHO finally declares it a world health emergency. The U.S. In the meantime was doing nothing, the president brushing it off as nothing. It kept spreading. Philippines, India, Nepal, UK, Russia, Spain, Sweden. February 1st 14,380 cases and over 300 deaths.

On Superbowl Sunday (Feb 2nd) – I had a tour with a couple off of a cruise ship. I was already feeling hesitant about cruise ship passengers – because cruise ships are notorious for norovirus and as virus incubators. Still, I took them to the North Shore where they sat on Sunset Beach and enjoyed the day. While they sat there, I had a conversation with a woman named Sally in the next car over – we were both watching the big waves from our cars. She was coughing – I joked – “Did you just come from China?” To my surprise she said yes. She and a friend had just come from a tai-chi retreat in Wuhan province and he was back at the hotel sick – she had come out to see the waves but was heading back to the Turtle Bay Resort and they were going to watch the Superbowl in the bar there…

I’m incredibly grateful that we didn’t get out of our cars or shake hands!

At this point, I knew that things were serious. I asked the app developer I work with to put aside all projects and build me a coronavirus app that showed where cases were, number of deaths, and the spread. I told him to build it fast. He told me he could have it ready in three days.

This was the day that the first death outside of China took place. A 44 year old man in the Philippines. Travel bans began and donations began to go to China where millions of people were under quarantine. 17,386 cases and 362 deaths at this point.

China was building hospitals in days and various anti-viral medications began to be tried. In early February stories began appearing on the mainstream media in the US though no one outside of the Gates Foundation, medical personnel, or geeks like me seemed to be taking things very seriously. February 5th was when 10 passengers on a cruise ship in Japan were identified as infected. 28000 cases and 565 deaths.

My developer told me the app would be late – February 7th. On February 7th – he said it was delayed further. That day an article came out from some guys who built an app that launched that day and had 3 million users. They beat me to the punch, but I should have been two days earlier if my developer had done what he said he would. Who knows, maybe he built it for them instead. In any event, this should have been a bit of foresight that earned my family millions – but my mistake was trusting someone else to do it. No matter how you look at it – he royally fucked me, but given that hundreds of people were already dying – I tried to keep it in perspective.

February 7th the WHO announces that there is a severe global disruption taking place. Cases on the cruise ship explode upwards. Two days later deaths exceed the SARS epidemic from 2002-3. Over 800 dead.

I started thinking I might have to cancel my trip to Australia – but with only a few cases there and a few in the USA and none in Hawaii – I figured I was probably okay but I had a number of things to make sure were done before I left – health insurance, deferring my student loans, getting taxes done, paying the rent, getting the registration and safety inspection on my car up to date…I didn’t have time to agonize over my missed opportunity with the app – actually, I give myself credit for seeing it – and have mixed feelings about profiting from it – so maybe I got missed by a bullet there. On February 11ththe death toll passed 1000 and the virus was named COVID-19.

On Valentines Day, I took my wife and daughter on a whale watching cruise. Cruise ships were already a big problem in my mind, but this was on a smaller ship – still, I couldn’t stop looking at the other passengers to see if they were coughing or sweaty. Feb 16th, an American woman on another cruise ship tests positive.

At this point, it was already global and obviously going to be a big problem so I made sure that my friend would take care of my wife and daughter if I were stranded in Australia because flights were cancelled. He thought I was being paranoid to even think it a possibility.

On February 20th – Iran and South Korea announced that they were seeing spikes. On Feb 23rd it becomes a big problem in South Korea with over 340 cases. Italy begins to see a spike. On February 24th, the day before I flew out – I heard the first use of the word Pandemic – the WHO Director General warned that the world needed to get ready for a potential pandemic. US President Trump suggested that it was all a hoax.

I was in Australia for ten days during which Hawaii reported no cases and Australia’s cases grew from 8 to 12. In Tasmania, I was struck by the abundance of caution in airports and on a brewery tour where they said that anyone who had been to China, Japan, Iran, Italy, or South Korea would not be able to go on the tour. I watched and hoped that my flight back to Hawaii would not be cancelled. COVID-19 began to spread much faster outside of China than in it. Travel bans began cropping up. The US still was playing a game of poo-pooing the seriousness while the world began to take notice. Toilet paper shelves were stripped naked in Australia in the days before I left. I found it bizarre, especially since Aussies are much less prone to panic than Americans. I suggested to my wife on March 1st that she go buy toilet paper, bottled water, and some shelf stable food. She thought I was being a bit silly, to be honest, so did I.

I flew back to the USA on March 5th.On the very empty Quantas flight, I watched Mr. Rogers with Tom Hanks and thought to myself how he was the most iconic of baby boomers and how the shit would hit the fan if he contracted the disease. I have no way to prove it – but it’s true. As Forrest Gump, he pretty much represents the way every baby boomer thinks of themselves – as Vietnam Vets an protesting hippies both.

By that time, the US had started to take notice. The US Congress had approvedan emergency spending package. It wasn’t much, but it was something. March 7th, the number of COVID-19 cases passed 100k. It was pretty much everywhere by this time – over 100 countries had reported cases which meant it was probably everywhere. The U.S. Hadn’t even begun testing yet.

In Tasmania and Australia I had been rigourously tested and screened before my flights. Arriving in Hawaii, no one even bothered to ask if I had been to any hard-hit virus areas. No thermal scanning. Nothing. I was surprised to see that cruise ships and tourists were still operating.

On March 11th, the WHO finally declared COVID-19 a pandemic. President Trump continued to claim it was under control even as Seattle, the SF Bay Area, and New York began to to see a huge increase in cases. By this point – which seems a year ago but was less than a week ago – there were a couple of traveller cases reported here in Hawaii.

On March 12th – Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson were diagnosed with COVID-19. I started having dreams that I was actually in some sort of artificial reality. I find it difficult to believe that I am not. The world has flipped on it’s head. I had one dream where I was told that I was in a coma and needed to wake up if I wanted to live. I saw similar social media posts.

In 2005, my girlfriend (a brilliant epidemiologist!) and I went to Burning Man – when we came out, we learned that Hurricane Katrina had happened. It was surreal. It was nothing compared to this reality.

I suppose I must summarize the past five days – The U.S. Cancelled flights to and from Europe, Seattle, San Francisco, and New York went into lockdown, and the state of Hawaii slowly moved to stem the tide of possibly infected tourists. Schools have been closed. A friend (also a tour guide) took a group of people from an infected  ship on a six hour tour – no word if he has it yet. My wife and daughter were going to go visit friends in Oregon on Spring Break but we cancelled the trip. I am so grateful we did. Spring break has been extended one week and then two weeks and probably will be more. All of us are being told to shelter in place and exercise social distancing. School has been cancelled in California, Washington, Oregon, Hawaii – and probably everywhere else in the USA. Every hour there are new developments in the past two days we’ve gone from 1 case in Hawaii to three to eight to sixteen to twenty-six. And we’ve barely begun to test people.

The US and Hawaii governments seem to have finally woken up to the nightmare unfolding. Hawaii resisted shutting down tourism since we rely on it – but it is foolish to keep letting irresponsible vectors come here to enjoy paradise and bring the seeds of destruction with them. Wiser heads seem to be prevailing. Shut down the airports, put arrivals in quarantine, shut the hotels and restaurants, stop the fucking madness.

As for me, I have what I think is the flu. My wife has it. My daughter has it I think it is flu. Our noses are running. We don’t have fevers. We are all tired and grumpy. We have mostly been inside our little apartment together for almost a week.

I’ve bought a reasonable amount of food (but no toilet paper- yet) and my wife has slowly fallen into a depression that I am becoming fearful of. She’s a teacher, so her work has been stolen from her by this virus. All of my guide work has also been taken away, but I don’t really mind. The stock market has only begun to crash losing 33% so far, but I suspect it will go much further down. Still, I’ve been surprised by the resilience and recovery of hated capitalism before – so I keep buying quality stocks as the price goes down.

The truth is, I don’t know if any of us will survive what is happening. This may just be the end of us all. Or, maybe it’s the end of the world as we know it. I hope so.

I feel like this is a last ditch effort by our planet, Mother Nature, to get us to stop. It’s funny, but while we are freaking out about toilet paper, the air and water are clearing. Dolphins are re-appearing in Venice, Italy. People in Beijing can see the stars at night because the pollution that blocked them is gone. I have always felt like it’s ridiculous to think that my collection of cells and systems has consciousness but OUR entire collective collection of cells and systems does not. Our planet almost certainly has a consciousness – and if you think it does not – well, I urge you to rethink that. Why wouldn’t it? We are a part of that consciousness.

I may die in the coming days. You may die in the coming days. It is my hope that my daughter won’t die in the coming days and thus far – I can only express gratitude to whatever powers may exist that this disease is largely sparing children.

I love my child. I don’t want to see her grow up in the disgustingly ugly, dog-eat-dog, god-eat-god, capitalist monstrosity that has emerged from our collective history. I want to see us change the way we do things. I want to see us begin to take care of each other, take care of our planet, and take care of all the other inhabitants on it. If COVID-19 is what it takes to make that happen, I’m happy to welcome it, but I fear it may just make things worse – it may just bring out the worst in us.

But of course, it’s easy for me to say that. All I’ve lost from this is work that I didn’t particularly enjoy and money that I’ve never felt particularly in love with. It is so early – and there is no telling what I will think tomorrow.

A Visit with Dinosaurs in Prehistoric Gardens – A Highway 101 Roadside Attraction

Dinosaur parkSince 1955, drivers on Highway 101 along the Southern Oregon Coast have been able to walk among the dinosarus (23 if I counted correctly) at the Prehistoric Gardens between Gold Beach and Port Orford, Oregon. Being a road-side-attraction-junkie, I thought it important to bring my family there too.  I assured Hanane and Sophia that the dinosaurs would not eat them (but at times it felt like I lied) and off we tramped into the rain forest (after buying a pretty reasonably priced ticket for each of us – $32 total for the three of us to get some photo ops with the dinosaurs). We were there in the off season, so we were alone with the dinosaurs – if there had been crowds, the price might have seemed a little high…so be warned.

I love roadside attractions, not least because they are relics of a bygone age…back in 1953 you could buy a piece of land, move your family there, and start building concrete dinosaurs and charging the public admission (or build Disneyland for that matter) – today, that would be impossible unless you had a team of lawyers and a billion dollars – so there won’t be any new roadside attractions like this popping up anytime soon (unless society collapses).

But, back to 1953 – that’s exactly what Ernie Nelson did. He was a mill equipment supplier in Eugene who dabbled in sculpture, but he decided instead to bring dinosaurs to life and create a theme park.  Each of the dinosaurs were created by hand and most of them took years..the brachiosaurus (brontosaurus back in the day) is 86 feet long and 46 feet tall!

 

 

Trees of Mystery – A Northern California Coast Roadside Attraction featuring Giant Testicles

I’ve never been one to pass by a roadside attraction – many of them disappoint – but not Trees of Mystery in Klamath, California.

I remember visiting it as a child when my family went camping in the Redwoods – the giant fifty-foot statues of Paul Bunyan and his blue ox Babe made an impression that never went away…so when I got the chance to take my family there – of course I did not demure, even though an ox is generally castrated and Babe has the largest pair of testicles in North America (I’m guessing). There is a control room inside Bunyan that allows an operator to move the head and arm and interact with guests…rumor has it that there is a sign inside that forbids asking women for their phone numbers – probably something that would be a huge temptation for a teenager working a summer job.
Trees of Mystery
Founded in 1931, this historic redwood landmark about 35 miles south of the Oregon border was first conceived as a natural history park, but the addition of the two giant statues turned it firmly into a roadside attraction.The first Paul Bunyan statue was made in Long Beach California and melted in the rain after only a season. and the The second, at a mere 24 feet tall was designed and built by the park’s owner, Ray Thompson and lasted until 1962. It wasn’t until 1951 that Babe the Blue Ox joined Paul and the current 49 foot statue of Bunyan came on the scene in 1962. The statues get you to stop, but there is more to Trees of Mystery.
trees of mystery
Inside the gigantic gift shop, your admission ticket will also get you into their gigantic collection of Native American artifacts. It is one of the largest private ethnographic collections of Native American dress, tools, and art in California. For me, the museum collection was worth the price of admission and the actual attraction itself, the winding trail through the Trees of Mystery (aka impressive very old Redwoods) was a bonus. The last part of the trail has recordings and carvings which recount the many tall tales of America’s most famous lumberjack (Paul Bunyan, in case you don’t know) and his many exploits. Bunyan was a sort of Maui demigod who harnessed forces of nature.
trees of mystery
Finally, don’t pass the Gondola ride through the trees to a glorious view of the Pacific – it’s worth the cost, because seriously, when are you going to do it again? Finally…is Trees of Mystery a tourist trap? Absolutely…and you shouldn’t miss it – at least once in your life…and by the way…the fudge in the gift shop is pretty good too.

World Travel Diarrhea – An Ugly Topic – Some Simple Cures

Montezuma’s revenge, Delhi belly, Hong Kong dog, Tiki trots, Casablanca crud, Katmandu quickstep. But travelers from Mexico, India, Nepal, Morocco, and other places might call it the ‘Lincoln’s Loose Logs’ or ‘Shock and Awe’, because they can get it when they visit the United States too.

One of the likely challenges a traveler may face as he embarks on either business or leisure travel pertains to his health. A major occurrence is diarrhea. Traveler diarrheaThis is the passage of semi-formed or watery stool. Most times, it calls for urgency and the affected person may not be able to hold it for sometime as may be done for a normal pooping. At times it happens amidst vomiting, flatulence and abdominal pain which may last for 3 to 4 days. Hence, it is necessary for travelers to ensure that this ugly experience does not occur during traveling.

Bacteria are the most common microbe that cause diarrhea. However, it may also be caused by other parasites and viruses.

The destination actually is also a major factor on which contracting the runs depends. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, over 30 to 50% of travelers will contract diarrhea during a stay of 1 to 2 weeks in some areas of high risk. The risk also varies from time to time in temperate climates.

Places of low risk

Truly, there are some countries of the world with very low prevalence of diarrhea. The United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and countries in northern and western Europe fall under this category.This doesn’t mean people don’t poop their pants in these countries though.

Places of intermediate risk

Some of the places where risk of diarrhea is average are places like Eastern Europe, South Africa, and the Caribbean Islands. Chances are that you will just have average amounts of flatulence in these places too.

Places of high risk

Areas in the world with high risk of diarrhea are Africa, Asia, Middle East, also Central and South America. This isn’t because of the people in these countries it’s because the rich countries of the world have generally treated these countries like shit thus leading to the current loose stools in these places.

Causes of the runs:

The chief cause of diarrhea is intake of contaminated food and this is because of the presence of bacteria. Some of the bacteria that may cause this ailment are:

Enterotoxigenic E.coli (ETEC) requires large inoculum to get the disease. This is common in developing countries due to low sanitation efforts. It is characterized by frequent stooling, abdominal pain and low-grade fever.

Another bacterium is the Entroaggregative E.coli (EAEC) which is rated as the cause of over 25 per cent of diarrhea experienced by travelers.

Its symptoms are similar to that of Enterotoxigenic E. coli. Campylobacter jejuni, a causative microrganism common in developed countries, though risk of contacting it is more prevalent in the developing world. The diarrhea caused by this bacterium is characterized by blood stools.

Salmonella spp is associated with food borne epidemics in developed countries. Shigella spp is also a cause of traveler’s diarrhea which may also be bloody and accompanied by cramps in the abdomen and fever.
As for Vibrio spp, it is linked with intake of partially cooked seafood. Also, Giardia lamblia is an intestinal flagellate that is associated with intake of polluted surface water in poor sanitary environments.

The list of pathogens continues. Therefore, travelers, in order to have poopie-pants-free vacations must endeavor to take necessary health measures and exercise some caution.

How to Avoid the trots:

* Avoid uncooked vegetables, especially salads, fruits you can’t peel, undercooked meat, raw shellfish, ice cubes, and drinks made from impure water.
* Try to make sure the dishes and silverware you use have been cleaned in purified water.
* Drink only water that has been carbonated and sealed in bottles or cans. Clean the part of the container that touches your mouth and purified water. Boiling water for 3 to 5 minutes purifies it, as does iodine liquid or tablets.
* Drink acidic drinks like colas and orange juice when possible. They help keep down the E. coli count, the bacteria most responsible for digestive distress.
* Drink acidophilus milk or eat yogurt before your trip. The bacterial colonies established in your digestive system before your trip and maintained during it, reduce the chance of a loose stools catching you by surprise.

Cures on the road:

Here are two possible ‘cocktails’ that might help reduce your diarrhea once you have it.

1) In a glass, put 8 ounces of fruit juice; 1/2 teaspoon of honey, corn syrup, or sugar; and a pinch of salt. In another glass, put 8 ounces of purified water and 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda. Drink a couple of swallows alternately from each glass until finished.

2) Here’s the second formula: glucose, 20 grams; salt, 3.5 grams; baking soda, 2.5 grams; and potassium chloride, 20 grams. Just add to a quart or liter of purified water and drink.

Other options? What if you are stuck and you don’t have any of the above? Easy. Just eat clay or ashes. Or you could eat blueberries, plantains, blackberry roots, or Acorns. All of these have properties that will cause your diarrhea to disappear.

Thankfully, we don’t have to talk about it anymore.

Tillamook, Oregon – Cheese Factory, Planes, and a Really Really Big Hangar

tillamookcheeseNo trip up (or down) the Oregon Coast is complete without a stop in Tillamook, Oregon. While we haven’t had the opportunity to do all the fun things Tillamook (the town) offers, we stop every time at the Tillamook Cheese Factory – the tour through is fascinating – even if you know how cheese is made – and the sampling is divine. Trying 8-10 types of cheese where it is made, side by side is fun no matter how many times you do it – but the crowds in summer can be a bit overwhelming. img_2011In other seasons, you can really take your time as you enjoy the cheese. Even better than the cheese (okay, that might be an overstatement) is the Tillamook Creamery where you can get fresh, delicious ice cream in dozens of flavors – straight from the source. Since the Tillamook Cheese Factory has proved to be such a tourist hit – other foodie centers have sprung up – Blue Heron French Cheese Factory, Debbie D’s Sausage Factory, Werner’s Smoked Meats, Pacific Oyster, and some great farmer’s markets. Tillamook is a great foodie destination which also offers a wide variety of outdoor activities from kayaking to mountain biking to fishing and crabbing.

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The cheese factory is interesting and delicious, but the ice cream goes way beyond that.

The Tillamook Air Museum beckons from beside the highway just south of the Cheese Factory.  Situated in a massive hangar called Hangar B which was designed to house blimps during World War II. Hard to imagine but blimps patrolled the whole Pacific Coast back then protecting us from Japanese Submarines…the hangar is massive…you could play seven football games at the same time inside it! It houses a large collection of aircraft ranging from early aircraft to fighters, helicopters, and even a blimp. Inside there is a theatre and a little cafe – but my advice is to get your meal somewhere else. The admission price is worth going once, but beyond that, probably only if you are a real aviation nut.

tillamook-oregon-air-museum-outside-med img_2031 img_2027 img_2025

Art Not To Miss at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City

I originally published this 11 years ago back in January 2009 upon the eve of what I thought was my final departure from the United States. I’m still looking for my shire. It’s not Morocco and it’s not Oahu and probably not the USA – Turkey was wonderful, until suddenly political and religious bullshit ruined it. Who knows where it might be but I wonder if I will ever find it?

 

The Journey’s Reason/ The Quest
Let’s start with the obvious, I leave the United States this afternoon. I have no idea what the future holds. I’m not even sure if I will ever be back here. That’s part of the reason why it’s nice to have been able to visit Portland, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, Ogden, Chicago, Boston, Providence, Warwick, New York City and Queens before I leave. In addition, I was able to look at just about everything in between from the windows of the train. It’s an incredibly beautiful country filed with a lot of wonderful people.

New York is a magical place, but unless I somehow become wealthy enough to have a car service, hire taxis every day, and have a beautiful apartment here, it’s just too cold in the winter for me to ever consider calling it home.

Ultimately, that’s what this trip is about. It’s about finding a place to call home so I can dig in, plant some roots, and put my energy into creation. What about Hawaii? Well, Hawaii is great but I like it to be a little cooler than Hawaii (but not as cold as the Northeast), Hawaii is too far from other places, and unfortunately, I saw myself staying in one service job after another if I stayed there. Or becoming an academic and frankly neither option appeals to me.

So that is why I am leaving. It’s a journey, a searching, a quest and I suppose unlike the Lord of the Rings, this quest starts from a magical land and ideally takes me to the Shire. I’m looking for a Shire, not too hot, not too cold, not too far from the world, and connected via the internet.

On Aging

As my friend James pointed out the other day, we are getting older and it is becoming obvious. Of course sometimes it manifests in ways that I don’t expect and I have to admit to not enjoying that at all.

On the upside, I am more in control of my life than I have ever been before. My capacity to make decisions is unsurpassed in my own life experience. I have learned the lessons of this life I’ve lived (hopefully) and I feel like I am cooler, smarter, better looking, and more together than I have ever been. That’s a pretty good upside.

The downside is more subtle. I’ve been having a hard time finding couches to surf since the West Coast. I attributed it to my lack of planning more than anything else, but there is another possibility that I have to consider. I’m 37. It says so on my couch surfing profile. Even though I meet people and they generally think I am in my late 20s to early 30s, I usually find that their behavior towards me changes (if they are younger) when they find out my age. It happened over and over again in college.

The book of the dead and those reflected in it.

The reason for this change and perhaps for this prejudice against people my age on things like couchsurfing.com is probably justified. Let me repeat that, I think it is probably justified. The truth is that for every guy like me (adaptable, smart, fun, and ‘ahem’ fairly normal) who is vagobonding, there are probably 10 weirdos of the same age that are out to exploit, steal, or who are just crazy. Let’s face it, at 37 I’m supposed to be married, in a career, a father, have some money in the bank, and be living a ‘responsible’ life. Either that or there is potentially something wrong with me…or (as in the present case) I am just a very different type of person who hasn’t followed the usual path.

Frankly, I feel like I think I was supposed to feel in my mid to late twenties. And I’m okay with that, actually, I’m really okay with that because I plan on living for a really long time so there is no need to become old prematurely. The problem is that for the past six nights I think I have been put in an ‘old men’s dorm’ at the Chelsea International Hostel. Nearly everyone in my dorm has been the same age or older than me and aside from ungodly snoring, farting, and other loud bodily noises, I’ve noticed that there has usually been something not quite right with these guys. So you see, maybe I’m guilty of the same prejudice. Here’s a funny thought, maybe all the old guys in the room (including yours truly) all are thinking the same thing.

In any event, I’ve become fairly certain that my age is working against me on couchsurfing and now in this hostel at least. Incidentally, aside from price and location, I wouldn’t recommend this hostel. It’s loud from repairs and old pipes, it doesn’t have a comfortable common area, no chairs in the dorms, and it doesn’t provide wi-fi. I think wi-fi and a comfortable place to sit are high on my list of desired traits in hostels.

And that brings me to cafes.
In the age of the laptop, a cafe without wi-fi is like a cafe without coffee. I’ve been staying in Chelsea and for such a hip and cool neighborhood, I have been surprised to find the only coffee shops with comfortable seating to be Starbucks. How much does that suck? At least in Honolulu we had the option of Starbucks or a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf and at CB &TL there was free wi-fi if you bought anything. Here, the Starbucks are packed and the wi-fi is a big rip off from AT&T.

I found a handful of places offering wi-fi and out of those the only one that actually worked was here at the Brooklyn Bagel Company. And I have to wonder if the brushed metal seats and marble counters and tables are designed with making asses and elbows cold. I do like this place though. Great bagels with huge gobs of cream cheese, free wi-fi that works, and some interesting art on the walls.

ART
I spent yesterday at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was astounding and wonderful and overwhelming. It is filled with millions of objects d’art from all over the world. There are entire Egyptian Temples, dozens of mummies, giant rooms filled Picasso, entire rooms from famous mansions and when I say entire rooms, I mean the floor, the ceiling, the wainscoting, and everything else. There is a library parlor designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and everything else you can imagine.

The problem with all of that is that I was trying to see it all in a day. I’ve come to the conclusion that I would rather spend long periods contemplating one exquisite piece of art than to be running around manically trying to appreciate so much in so little time. Not that I would change having gone yesterday, I just realize that I missed a lot by seeing so much.

And finally,
Let’s look at the United States.

As I’ve said, I love the land and I love the people, but I think that we, as a country have lost something within my lifetime. I don’t know if it was born of the cynicism of Vietnam or the excesses of the 1970’s and 1980’s, but there is a sort of ugly greed that exists here. The culture here has become very much “The United States of Me” rather than “We the people”. The difference is of course in who is being served and who is taking responsibility.

I decided to do a different perspective of Venus. I don’t think she noticed. Nice, huh?

It’s not a big surprise at this point that we are heading into a fantastic depression. It might be a good time to start reflecting on those famous words of JFK “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” I’ve lost faith that Americans are capable of such selflessness and perhaps I am simply one of the first rats fleeing a ship that I think is sinking.

Obama might be a fantastic change in the right direction though. I hope. We will see. The United States has become such an incredible slut to Israel, multinational corporations, and institutions such as the world bank, the WTO, and the IMF; unfortunately, I don’t see these relationships changing under Obama. I hope I’m wrong.

And then there is the racism. I’m terrified of the possibility that some nutjob racist will kill Obama. Or some foreign government pretending to be a nutjob racist. My mom, a bit of a nutjob herselftold me to focus on survival skills when I should have been focusing on math because she said that someday there would be a huge race war. She wasn’t a white nationalist, she was a freaky christian hippy, with some odd ideas and some leftover 1950’s prejudice. Frankly, I never considered her crazy ideas to have any merit even through Rodney King, Reginald Denny, and the LA Riots, but when I think of Obama getting shot by some redneck, suddenly I can picture LA happening on a nationwide scale…

Okay, not really. I think we are more rational and better than that, but it could certainly cause some problems. And what happens when Hope gets killed? It’s like the Langston Hughes Poem “A Dream Deferred”

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it sag on your back like a heavy load?
Or does it…Explode?

Anyway, I’m leaving. I might be back. I hope Obama can fix everything while I’m gone. Good night and good luck.

Originally posted 1/17/09

Exploring Chicago When It’s COLD!!!

In 2008, I took Amtrak across the USA. It put me in Chicago in December. Not the best time to experience the neighborhoods and things that make Chicago a great American city.
The last bit of time in Chicago was okay. The Sears Tower had zero visibility and I was sort of museum weary after The Institute of Art so I just walked through the streets of downtown taking pictures.

Chicago is cool on it’s own, but the downtown area feels a lot like New York, without being New York. My new friends Chad and Emjoy told me that you can’t really appreciate Chicago unless you get into the neighborhoods and my buddy Erik has told me about some incredible experiences to be had in Chicago but honestly, it was my fault for not scheduling enough time in this great MidWest City and coming in the winter. Of course, one thing to keep in mind – it was COLD. Too cold to enjoy.  I have to reserve judgment on this city in terms of having a great time until I can come and spend more time during a nicer time of the year. Still – Chicago has its wonders.

The Federal Reserve Building in Chicago with a nice reflection of some public art called “Flamingo”

I know this though. The architecture is astounding in the city that gave birth to the skyscraper. The Chicago Institute of Art was mind blowing and I’m told that all the rest of the museums  are too. I believe it.  I found Chicago to be too cold and too fast for my tastes. I know, it was January, but the people seemed cold too. Not nearly as friendly as New Yorkers but maybe I just didn’t understand them.

I spoke with a cab driver who had been driving in Chicago for forty years and he told me that he had never seen business as slow as it currently is. He said that even on New Years, he wasn’t as hectic as he should have been. So, from the ground level, the recession is still being felt. He told me that buses and trains are fuller than ever and his usual customers are saving money on a cab and using public transport instead.

I hunkered down in a Cosi Coffee House and caught up on uploading video and pictures, updating existensis, and answering emails for a few hours while it snowed outside. I looked for something to do online and since I am definitely a movie lover, I decided to go to the Gene Siskel Film Center and catch a movie at 6 before catching my train to Boston at 10.

At that point, I got a call from Erin, the couch surf host I was supposed to have surfed with and I asked her if she wanted to join me for the film. She said yes, so we met up at the theater got some popcorn and a couple of beers and watched a very interesting animated fairy tale called Azur and Asmar.

I admit to being a big fan of fairy tales and since about 1/3 of this one was in Arabic, I enjoyed it all the more. The animation was of the sort that I am not a huge fan of, the sort of computer generated graphics that I really am sort of annoyed by. My Arabic is so rusty that I caught less than 1/3 of what was there, none the less, I did catch some of it. That felt pretty good. I think it will come back pretty quickly. The animation of the set was absolutely astounding. So many geometric patterns and middle eastern motifs. In any event, it was definitely enjoyable even though there was a slight feel of  great white hope to it.

After the movie, Erin walked me to Union Station and we searched for a whole foods I thought was in the area without any luck, so I bought three sandwiches for the 24 hour train trip from Potbelly’s. They were damn good sandwiches.

This was by far the worst train I have taken on this trip so far. The seats were not as comfy as the other train seats, the dining car was filled with drunks, one of whom had to be escorted off the train by police because he became so incredibly drunk that he began cussing at the train attendant and heaping verbal abuse on her. The police came on the train at the next stop and he left with them. In the car I was in there was a Jethro type from Missouri who looked more than a little inbred. He sang loudly to himself and stood at the window saying  “Oh my gawd, there ain’t no traffic like this in Missouri. Eight lanes” and other bumpkin phrases. He asked to borrow several people’s cell phones so he could ‘call his ma’ and tried to make friends with me, but I didn’t care to be his friend. You know how sometimes you just know that someone is awful.

I found a seat I liked and a Russian guy sat behind me and began talking loudly on his cell phone. I moved. Not a friendly bunch.

The highlight of the trip was watching a movie my friend Ark had given me called Survive Style 5+. Great film with one of the best endings I’ve ever encountered. It also gave me a chance to ignore the freakshow around me.

I was exhausted after not enough sleep the night before and walking around freezing Chicago all day, admittedly not in the best mood of my trip. The grey sky, grey buildings, and leafless brown scenery didn’t improve things. The trip to Boston from Chicago was drab and ugly and my mood was the same. When we finally arrived in Boston, I was relieved to see evergreens, warm brick buildings, colorful houses, and people that actually took the time to smile.

These were the highlights for me from the Chicago Art Institute…can you name them? Can you name the artist?














I also I really thought this Native American sculpture of a story teller was spectacular

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Not To Enjoy World Travel – Part 2

world travel tipsThis is the second part in an ongoing series about how to have the worst time possible during your world travels. Here is the link to part 1.

http://www.vagobond.com/how-not-to-enjoy-world-travel-part-1/

4. Don’t Read
To me, reading is an essential part of travel. As far as I’m concerned, if you are one of those people who ‘doesn’t like to read’ than you are one of those people who should stay home and not travel.

Don’t read anything about the country of place you are going to. That way you won’t understand the culture, the traditions, the history, the climate, or anything else. You will be able to have a completely one dimensional experience. If you should read, for example, about how it is rude to point the bottoms of your feet at someone in Thailand, then you’ll miss out on the ass kicking that results when the kick-boxer tells you to stop pointing your feet at him and you continue to do it. You wouldn’t want to miss that.

Or if you read, you might feel compelled to go fifteen kilometers out of your way on the way between Seattle, Washingon and Vancouver, British Columbia and visit the remote and gorgeous Scenic Hot Springs. Wouldn’t that suck?

Don’t read on your trip. Don’t discover that Mark Twain stayed in the same hotel you are visiting in Honolulu (The Moana Surfrider) or that the lovely looking picnic spot in Cebu, Philippines is where Lapu Lapu ate a famous explorer. Who needs to know details like that?

Don’t read when you are stuck at the airport. It’s much better to just sit and get angry at the workers or eat overpriced food. Don’t read at the beach because it’s much better to sit there wondering what to do now that you are done swimming.

Yes, if you don’t want to enjoy world travel, it is essential that you not read.

world travel tips5) Don’t talk to anyone unless you have to

If you want to have horrible and meaningless travels, don’t talk to anyone unless you have to. Don’t talk to the man next to you on the airplane or bus, he might be a Chinese businessman who would invite you to visit his home and stay with his family.

Don’t talk to the guy who works at the hotel unless you need towels or directions. If he thinks “Hey, this is a nice person” he might actually tell you someplace that he doesn’t recommend to every other rude tourist. You might end up going to a tiny temple in Penang, Malaysia instead of going to the big one that has eighteen tourist buses outside it.

Don’t talk to people in the street. They might try to sell you something. They might want to practice English with you. They might want to share a bit of their culture or learn something about yours. Wow, wouldn’t it be a bummer if that Indonesian guy learned that the USA is not just like Bay Watch and Jerry Springer? Don’t talk to him.

If you want to NOT enjoy your travels, do not talk unless you need something.

world travel tips6) Don’t learn any of the local language

Finally, if you want to be absolutely certain that you don’t enjoy your world travel, pretend your a British Colonist and refuse to speak the local language.

Don’t say Tarima Kasih in Indonesia, don’t ask where to get the gonggongcheecha in China, don’t say Yvet in Turkey, don’t show the grocer in Barcelona you can understand the uno, dos, tres, don’t speak French in Paris (I found Parisians to be very gracious about my bad French), don’t say shukran in Morocco, kapcun kap in Thailand, daijobu in Japan, bollacks in England, dude in California, wienerschnitzel in Germany, or Mahalo in Hawaii.

Speaking the language encourages people to learn about you, to teach about their culture, to make friends, to have relationships, to even fall in love. There is nothing miserable about any of that. So if you want to Not enjoy the world of travel…don’t speak the local language.
Got more tips about how to NOT enjoy world travel, why not leave a comment below or send your tips to me using the contact form.

Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) in Portland

OMSI Portland OregonWe love spending time in Portland, Oregon. It has a little bit of everything.

Last trip, we spent nearly the entire day at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry – OMSI for short. We went all in for the ultimate explorer package so we got to see a planetarium show, an Imax movie, explore the exhibits, and take a tour of the Blueback submarine.

It made for a full day with the two story outer space explorers exhibit, the gingerbread architecture show, and the regular exhibits plus the extras. For the three of us, the bill including lunch and popcorn came out to right around $100…which was quite a deal. We opted for the Sesame Street planetarium movie – which was safe and fun for Sophia, but probably she could have enjoyed one of the more advanced shows just as much – she’s five but inquisitive and already knew most of what Big Bird and friends taught.

For lunch, we left and grabbed a pizza at the Lucky Labrador Beer Hall , a huge family friendly beer hall with ultra-cheesy delicious pizza and home brewed root beer (plus plenty of adult -beverages and a varied menu and I’ve been told special events on a regular basis) – a super cool, laid back place. Then we went back to Omsi.

OMSI Portland OregonWe watched the Exploring Space IMAX which was a great introduction to the two floors of space related science exhibits and hands on displays. The Blueback tour was interesting if you are interested in military history or life for military submariners but since none of us were – we could have easily skipped that one – the smell of diesel while comforting to me was overwhelming for both Hanane and Sophia and the tour was only mildly interesting for any of us.

OMSI Portland OregonWe were very happy to see a Dr. Who themed Gingerbread house – Tardis actually- and the rest of the space themed structures were equally impressive. Finally, we didn’t spend nearly enough time just playing with the general science areas and hands on experiments – areas in physics, lasers, design, and more. It was a full day and we left feeling like we got much more than our money’s worth.

New York Foodie – The Best Places for Food Shopping in New York City

by Sarah Spigelman exclusive for Vagobond

Murray's Chees Shop

New York isn’t just the best place to eat; it’s one of the best places to shop for food. No need to subscribe to pricey specialty food email lists to obtain the latest in hard-to–source foods.

Stop stockpiling foreign candy that gets you in trouble with customs every time you try to come back from London. And please…let’s say goodbye to big box supermarkets that sell tomatoes that look gorgeous and taste like candle wax.

Here are just a few of Manhattan’s very best food stores, sure to give you everything you need to feast at home.

KalustyanKalustyan’s – this Indian food emporium offers literally anything you will need to make a meal from the subcontinent. There is a wall full of spices so potent that your eyes may tear – but at the same time, your mouth will water. Need paneer, chickpea flour, or kaffir lime? They have it. Or maybe you want a huge bag of Brazil nuts, strained yogurt from Greece, or foreign candy bars. Don’t sweat; they have that here, too. If all else fails, you at least owe it you yourself to try some food at the tiny upstairs café. It might not be fancy, but it is the best Indian food that you can get outside of your Bengali mom’s house.

Eataly—Mario Batali strikes gold again with this humongous Italian emporium. This place isn’t just a supermarket; it is a full-on destination. Along with the piles of exotic mushrooms, Italian dried pastas, and imported fruit like Sicilian blood oranges, you can have cooking lessons or wine classes. There is a European style food hall, with many small restaurants focusing on just one thing – fish, vegetables, pizza, or pasta. Also, stand at counters and try meats, cheese, or wines. Finally, for the ultimate experience, head to Manzo, an acclaimed beef focused restaurant right in the heart of the bustling store.

Zabar’s-come on to the UWS for a little nosh. This is the place where you come for Sunday brunch – for soft, chewy bagels, whipped cream cheese,Zabar's and the gest assortment of smoked fish in the city. Smoked salmon, kippered salmon, smoked trout, whitefish salad, and everything else you can imagine to make a fantastic spread. Also load up on gourmet olives, luscious cheeses, homemade hummus, and artisanal crackers and breads. Don’t underestimate the stuff you can get at Zabar’s –they roast their own chickens; have an extensive prepared food section, and a coffee section that carries the aroma of the best Starbucks in the world.

Esposito's Meats by afagenEsposito’s – this old school butcher shop is what NYC used to be like, before the infusion of big chain grocery stores. Esposito’s is a tiny store in Hell’s Kitchen where anything and everything meat can be yours. Shins, marrow bones, veal breast, and whole baby goat – literally, anything that you want is either in stock or will be ordered for you. The fellas behind the counter couldn’t be more accommodating or helpful –they will tell you how to cook that chicken breast so it is tender and flavorful. Pick up some homemade mozzarella and local Italian bread while you are there and make sandwich fit for a king.

Hmart 1 by @JyonnnnHMart—goodbye, USA, hello Korea. This store, where the windows are papered and the location is in the middle of a harried street, houses an entirely different world. A world of 50 lb. bags of rice and dried squid sold like potato chips. A world of thinly sliced sashimi and an entire freezer case filled with dumplings and potstickers. A world of peach flavored gummies, coffee flavored milk, and instant noodles that are way beyond the stuff you had in college. It’s also a world of prepared bibimbap, kimpab, and anything that you might need to take a gustatory trip to Korea.

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