Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Pining for wheels.

I've been looking into airlines.

I want to go to Ecuador around the end of October.

I've flown a couple of times before but that's about it. Once or twice. There and back again, in a straight line.

I'm nearly a flight virgin.

It should be easy I think.

Every time before I went through a travel agent. Now we have on-line stuff. I can do it from home, in my underwear.

It seemed so easy. In conceptual form. Not so much in practice. For me.

I want to go from Seattle to Guayaquil. Which ought to be straightforward. But isn't. So much.

It seems I can go to Houston, and then to Miami, and then to Guayaquil. Or to New York, Miami, and Guyaquil. Or somewhere, somewhere, and Guyaquil. Or is there another somewhere in there?

Can't remember.

What I do. Remember. Is. Forty-some hours for the slowest trip, so far, maybe 14 and change for the quickest.

This is 2012 and planes travel over 500 miles an hour. But still, terminals travel at zero. And that's where most of the time collects. First in the corners, then up the walls, and finally collapsing down on your head to suffocate.

I long for 1968. I went 1200 or so miles by Greyhound. There. And back. Aside from having to walk past everyone to the back of the bus to take a leak, and going without any real food for a day or so it wasn't that bad. And not washing.

Every stop, you could get off and breathe some air. Walk around the outside of the bus. Look at the sky. Hear sounds.

Then go again.

It was real.

By air, it's a fantasy movie, sealed in a can.

The thought police run through your mind. Up and down your body, irradiating it, inspecting your shoes. Doubtful of your humanity.

After they get done you moo with the others while being herded along the tube, and then you sit, helpless, for hours.

Then another tube and you're in a strange terminal that's the same as all the others, where you sit. Maybe an hour. Maybe a day. Maybe it's 1 a.m. to 9 a.m. Maybe something else.

Water torture. Without the clean-ness of water.

Stuffy torture. Cramped-ness. Stale air. Receding life force.

There appear to be at least 1898 different ways to get from Seattle to Guayaquil. Most follow exactly the identical route, but over differing terrains of time and with shifting degrees of reality. They all hurt.

I spent half a day on it and know less than before.

I'll give it hell tomorrow. For sure.

There must be an answer in there somewhere.

I miss Greyhound, creepy as it was. Real as it was. It was real.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Watch What Goes Where

Fingers ahoy.

I know, it may be warm and sunny where you're going, even too warm, which is why you've brought your Utilikilt and decided to wear it.

Some may be surprised to know that in most countries of the world, Utilikilts are barely even noticed.

Hey, you ever traveled at all? They wear all kinds of kinky stuff over there, so why not you?

But what you may not know is that, despite being a handy-man type of guy not comfortable letting stuff be, you ought to crank it back a notch when abroad.

Take church, for instance.

People get sensitive about their religious institutions, and although it's probably OK to show up at "la catedral vieja" for mass in your Workman kilt, you really have to stifle the urge to repair wobbly doorknobs or sticky windows while there.

Definitely remain a respectful distance from the baptismal font at all times. Figure two or more paces as a rule of thumb.

Churchgoers like their stuff to look "lived-in".

You know. Squeaky hinges, tasteful amounts of peeling paint and like that. Faded.

If you get in there and noodle around with the wiring they may riot on you, and that's definitely going to be a bummer. So chill. The urge will pass.

Now, shaking hands. Not everybody does it. Customs vary.

As a general rule, if you need to pick your nose, have at it. Generally, using a pinkie is a bit classier than other fingers, except at the dinner table, where in some countries a butter knife is the way to go.

But if you're up there to the second joint, honking around, and then unexpectedly get introduced to the ambassador or whatnot, you're bound to cause some kind of kerfuffle with a bogey dangling from your finger.

Normally they won't say anything at the time, although you may be asked at gunpoint to step into an unmarked black car on your way out. Never a good sign.

Generally speaking, it's a terrible loss of what they call "face" to end up with another guy's nose turds on your hand, so think about it before engaging in grip mode if your hands have been busy on the hygiene front.

On your side, take it like a man. Smile, grab whatever is offered, shake it twice, and act like it happens every day. You can wash up later.

Well, that's about it for now.

Happy travels!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Walking In The Land Of Love

Former governor to demonstrate knot tying.

"Yes, it's true. Hiking changed my life, and now I want to help others." So says former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, the man who disappeared one day "to go for a hike", and ended up with an Argentinian mistress named Maria Belén Chapur.

Just how that could have happened seems mysterious to outsiders, but among Appalachian Trail thru-hikers, section hikers, trail crews, and others familiar with the 2184-mile (3515 km) route, it's simply another case of "trail magic".

Usually this phenomenon is limited to unexpected gifts of food, cold drinks, or sometimes a shower and a place to hole up and remove ticks, but Sanford hit the jackpot.

"We get very, very few cases anything like this," said Benton K. Shaffer, Director of the The Appalachian Trail Conservancy. "Although it's not unknown for romances to develop while hiking the trail, it's like being struck by lightning - you can't plan for it."

"And," he continued, "this is the first recorded case of two people from separate continents, who never actually met, getting this kind of action."

Governor Sanford was, at the time, simply out to relax on a day hike. Ms Chapur, a resident of Buenos Aires, was walking her dog down a path near the Rio de la Plata River, taking the air and admiring the sunset.

Suddenly, each became intimately aware of the other, though neither had even heard of each other before.

"It was telepathic spooky action at a distance," said Sanford, "I knew I had to meet this woman, my true soulmate, so I immediately left my wife and family. Wouldn't you? How often do you find a hiking buddy you know is right for you?"

Governor Sanford's wife Jenny divorced him in 2010, though he remained in office until his term died a natural death in January 2011.

Non-hikers being non-believers, his political career also died, but that hasn't stopped Sanford. He is now promoting extending the Appalachian Trail through Central America and along the coast of South America, all the way to Tierra del Fuego, the "land of fire", and possibly of romance.

And he has started an online hiker dating service called "Plenty of Trips", where other bad boys with tomcat tendencies can search the world for their "true lugmates". "What does the word 'vibram' make you think of?" he asks with a wink. I know what it does for me."

Sanford and Chapur are now engaged to be married, although each maintains an active account at "Just in case lightning wants to strike twice."


Ex-South Carolina governor to marry former mistress

El gobernador infiel de Carolina del Sur se casa con su amante argentina

Exclusive CNN Photos: Sanford engaged to Argentinean girlfriend