Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts


Traveling Alone: Let them know where you are

I am nearing 16 years as a traveling guy for a Fortune 500 and the side benefits are out of this world.  I personally have managed to visit all 50 states as probably many of of you all have.

Most of us have a little spot in us that gives that drive to do that special interest that appeals to you deeply.   I believe there's one TFA whose soul purpose is to visit a Starbucks in every state and there's one I know that can't pass up a chicken and waffle restaurant.  One of us out there collects Harley Davidson pins and visits a US National Park every chance he gets.  All these penchants are fun and usually do not expose you to any inherent dangers.

For me, it's photography and when I get that call for a new assignment, I start hitting google maps trying to figure out where and what I want to shoot.  However, I seem to sometimes get in a jam with my avocation.  You just need to think about your surroundings and be careful.  Things and situations can change quickly.

Case(s) in point:
Years ago, the HQ Team Leader called and sent me to Oregon.  Being from Louisiana, I was just mesmerized at the mountains as I drove south to Roseburg stopping often to snap a picture thinking I'd eventually run out of mountains.  Once there, I began to hear about Crater Lake so that was all I could think of until the weekend came.

When Saturday arrived, I pulled out my maps (no GPS for me then) and struck out on my quest.  Riding along, I noticed a waterfall coming off the side of a steep hill so I pulled over, grabbed my camera and began climbing a pile of rocks to get that perfect and up close shot of the cascade but as I began to make my way down,  my foot slipped on a mossy rock and found myself bouncing off a half dozen boulders before I came to a rest in a heap 15 feet below.

My camera was OK but I managed to break an elbow.   In pain, I continued on to Crater lake and took a couple of pics before getting back to the room and dosing up on ibuprofen until I could see a doctor the next day.

Then there was the time at an annual conference in Saint Louis that I got the brilliant idea to go downtown and take a picture of the Gateway Arch at night.  It was a full moon.  I parked my car and made my way to the plaza, wandered around a while to choose how I was going to do my shot.  Not having a tripod, I had to lay down on the concrete,  propped the front of my lens on a book and sited through the viewfinder and squeezing off a dozen or so different shots with various exposures. 

As I fidgeted with my settings, I caught the glimpse of a very large foot next to my head.  Now, if you're lying prostrate on the ground in an unusual place, there are just not many options for a quick escape if there's trouble.  While there were people off at a distance, I was pretty much alone.

Not wanting to make any sudden moves, I slowly turned my head to the direction of the pair of well worn boots and traced the image with my eyes upward to reveal the face of a guy bigger than me with lots of hair and big nasty beard.

"Something I can help you with?", I asked.  It sounded pretty dumb but I was at a loss for words and I was making a vain attempt at appearing cool and not appearing as a victim here.

"Got a buck?", he grunted.

Without a word, I slowly reached into my left jeans pocket, felt a bill and slowly pulled it out and handed to him.  I have no idea how much I gave him.  It could have been a buck or it could have been a twenty.  I didn't know or care at that point and was hoping he wouldn't produce a knife, hammer or screwdriver.

"Thanks!", he said and wandered off into the dark as I pondered if I needed that one more shot of the fountain and arch.   Things could have gone so wrong.

Once while in New Mexico, I thought stopping off at a turn out near Cloudcroft and climbing down into a canyon in search of a small waterfall might be a grand idea.  There was one other car so it had to be safe, right?  Anyway, I took a cell phone pic of the license plate of my car along with the GPS tagging and emailed it to my brother letting him know where I was in case I really didn't come back.
Finally, after crawling down lots of boulders and not encountering rattlesnakes, I reached the bottom of the arroyo and began get my photo groove on.  Somewhere in the distance, I heard thunder.  How nice, it might rain and be cool.  Then I notice a log lodged in the middle of a tree limb about 8 feet above my head.  Yikes, his could become a flash flood in minutes!   I quickly gathered up my camera bag and began crawling back up the boulders not so careful this time.  As an old guy 20 years away from being in shape, I began to wheeze and pant for breath.   I could hear someone coming up the canyon behind me and they were moving fast.  Not to appear in trouble I quickly sat under a mesquite bush and played like I was taking pictures of the surroundings, just as this 30 something local and a couple of teenage kids scurried by me.

The older asked, "You OK, Sir?  You need help?"  I'm certain he noticed the bright red complexion of my face and felt sorry for me.  I tried to appear non-nonchalant and said, "Oh no, I'm fine. Thanks for asking."  I was such a liar.

After they left I took another 20 minutes to get a few more feet to my car.  I called my brother to let him know I was back to my rental.  He said he would have been calling the cops in another 30 minutes if I hadn't called.  As it turned out, I'd injured my knee and developed an infection with a lot of pain that took weeks of meds to cure.

I've got a ton of similar tales but the important thing to remember (particularly for me) is to be aware of your limitations, let someone else know where you are and if possible, don't travel alone in unknown places.   Nowadays, I have an app on my phone that my wife can tap into that will reveal my whereabouts within 100 feet.  I'm long past caring about that kind of privacy and still email my family the license plates of my rental cars.


I'm now back home from Honolulu

While Honolulu and all of Hawai'i seems to be the ideal place for a 3 month assignment, it had gotten to the point I dreamed of home quite often.  That and the fact that I was about to be a grandfather again kept me preoccupied much of the time.

Meet Hazel, she was born December 28.  She's the one being held by the old guy in the leather jacket.

Since Ms Darlene needed the car to get around and work, I was at the mercy of my motorcycle to get around for 4 weeks after Oahu.  One day, I had stopped off at the Harley dealership when one of the employees walked up to me gave me his card and introduced himself as "Snake".

I had a personal card of my own so I gave him one of mine.  I'll have to say mine seemed a bit bland up against a card with "Snake" on it but nevertheless, the exchange was made.  Snake mentioned that he and several other riders took a long ride each Sunday and asked if I was interested.  Explaining to him that I was not in town that much, I pretty much dismissed the idea of riding with a group.  I had taken part in a few group rides before but it just wasn't really my thing for a number of reasons.  That's a story for another day.

A few days later, I got a text from him inviting me on one of the rides so I sent a text back declining the invitation, citing a trip I wanted to make visiting my mother, brother and our son up in Monroe.  I figured that would be the last of it.

A week later, I get another text inviting me to meet up for a trip up to Middendorf's restaurant in Manchac where the waterway connects Lake Pontchartrain to the smaller Lake Maurepas.  That restaurant is known locally as having very thin cut catfish and a favorite for people in the New Orleans, Baton Rouge and southern Mississippi.

So after church that Sunday, I rode up to the Twin Peaks restaurant in Baton Rouge to meet up with these guys.

My arrival was maybe 10 minutes before the appointed ride time and there was already several bikes out front so I parked Boudreaux along side them.  I walked in and recognized Snake and was introduced to several others.  Wanting not to seem unsociable, I ordered an ice tea when the waitress approached me. Hey, it was Sunday.  They all were having a beer. 

Chatting it up with some guy on the merits of a Windows cell phone, I turned to see one guy wearing a Glock on his belt.  Now, I don't know the percentage of income ratio between alcohol and food at this place or the legality of it all but the pistol on his belt gave me an immediate recall of a shoot out at the Twin Peaks in Waco last year between the cops and some motorcycle enthusiasts which ended badly for nine and jail time for a several others.  What possibly could go wrong here?

Anyway, I took my ice tea and went outside and sat on my bike until the others joined me.  Of the two dozen riders that were at the bar/restaurant, there were only nine of us who actually took the trip, not including Roy Rogers the pistol packer.

Once out on the highway, the trip took us eastward along scenic highway 22 to Ponchatoula and down I-55 toward Manchac (Akers post office) and stopping once for a guy who forgot to fill up with gas before we left. .

Arriving at Middendorf's we had a wait for around 30 minutes where most of us ordered thin fried catfish fillets.

As we were finishing up, the temperature began to drop and clouds were appearing dark so another rider and I elected to head south to LaPlace and take I-10 west back to Ascension Parish.  The others re-traced the original route.  I do not know if they ran into rain or not.

I've ridden in rain and I've ridden in cold and can deal with both but I try to avoid the combo of rain and cold when I can.


The Northshore Pipeline

We took a little drive up to the north shore of Oahu to see how the waves were.  For the most part, the Bonsai Pipeline was pretty tame but still, it was nice to see surfers out there.  In the late winter and early spring, the waves can be awesome and the dream of serious surfers everywhere.

A few years ago, while working here on the island, it was a favorite place of mine and visited it and the nearby town of Hale`iwa  (pronounced "Ha-lay-ee-vah") often.  You pretty much need to be looking for it to find because there are no glaring signs pointing to it saying "TURN HERE".  In other words, just Google it and click on the map.

Here's a few pictures.


Pool 8 o'clock

My daily routine it get up around 5:45 A.M., make myself a really sturdy cup of espresso roast coffee in a french press, watch a little local news and check my email before getting ready for the day.

As I start the day, I go down to the first floor at 7:00 A.M. to take part in a hotel's continental breakfast at the Aqua Aloha Surf.  Well, this morning I got a few minutes late start so when I arrived, the place was wrapped up with Japanese tourists and seating was pretty sparse.  With virtually no place to eat my breakfast, I headed for the pool area where I'd eaten several times before.

A pool guy was inside the gated area wiping the tables after just hosing them off.   As I reached for the gate to go inside, he looked up and said, "Pool eight!"

"No sir, I am not swimming.  I just want to eat my breakfast at the tables."

 "Pool eight!"

Clearly he could see I was dressed in business casuals (aloha shirt, slacks, brown leather shoes, etc.), definitely did not look like a swimmer and sorta important.  Besides, I didn't even have a towel.

"No sir, I'm not going swimming. I only want to sit at the tables," I said forcefully and reached for the gate latch again.

"Pool close...OPEN EIGHT!"

There is no argument if the one you argue with isn't speaking English and I don't know Portuguese, Micronesian or Whatever so I just gave him a blank stare, rolled my eyes and chose to eat my boiled eggs and orange slice standing.

He was simply doing his job, was effective at it and honestly, I can appreciate his boldness to stand by his instructions and not be swayed or bullied to abandon his mission. 

I mumbled, grumbled and sulked in English though.


Oahu - Honolulu

A couple of weekends ago, before the rain, I checked out Manoa Falls here on Oahu.   From the parking lot, it's just less than a mile up to the falls through groves of bamboo and a rocky and somewhat muddy trail.

Well visited by locals and visitors alike, it's not all that difficult and little keikis (local word for children) running ahead of their parents who continued to yell at them to be careful.

Honestly, I pretended to stop a lot to be courteous and let other travelers pass on the narrow trail so I wouldn't appear out of breath.  I was grateful I had brought along my tripod to stabilize myself in fear of slipping on the rocks.  They had gotten very greasy after hundreds of muddy feet had plastered mud on them.

I won't even try to tell you it was the most outstanding thing I've seen on Oahu but it was a better venue  than hanging out with the tourists on Waikiki.

Also, on the trip back, I stopped off at a couple of waysides to get down and visit some small flowing streams.

I had planned on visiting the arboretum near there but ¾ the way down, it began to rain so I opted to speed up and visit the Treetops Restaurant adjacent to the parking lot.  The food was a so-so buffet of Asian/Fusion dishes with some good old mainland bread pudding as a comfort food.

This weekend, I took a tour around the NE side, trying to see if I could find the old Magnum PI TV show location.

Failing to find the home of Magnum and Higgins, stumbled onto several hang gliders working the cliffs.

A couple of them really got off on buzzing the half dozen bystanders positioned by the road overlooking the bay.  While looking toward the sea, you could hear a little breezy sound and look up just in time to see them zip over you.  Sometimes they approached head on.

So, after church Sunday, I felt a little guilty just sitting around at the hotel so I strolled on down to Waikiki to see if it was still there. Sure enough, it was crowded with the usual surfers coming and going, old tourists trudging around in shorts, flowered Aloha shirts and sandals with socks on them.

I know I will not get a lot of sympathy from anyone but the temperatures were in the low nineties with high humidity making the real feel at 103°.

So I headed back to the hotel to sit under the air condition until late in the afternoon when I would go out.  The light will be better for photos later...yes, that's it.  The light's better.

So just east of here is Hawaii Kai.  Nice sunset.


Early on the Ala Wai

I'm living at the Aqua Aloha Surf hotel on the corner of Kanekapale and Ala Wai Avenue in Waikiki.  That's a mouthful, huh?

Anyway, I woke early and looked out to see a crescent moon reflection on the Ala Wai Canal and it seemed right and just to grab my faithful Nikon and take a short stroll.  At 4:30 in the morning, I pretty much had it to myself, save a few other insomniacs, joggers and walkers.

Hard as I tried, I couldn't make the camera produce the beauty I saw with my own eyes.  As the morning brightened, more and more walkers and runners began to take advantage of the early morning beauty.   Being careful to keep my lens pack on my back rather than putting it on the ground so I wouldn't be an easy target for purse and pack snatchers (we have to have our stuff), I squeezed off a hundred or so images hoping to produce "the one" that I was looking for.

I was so enthused about the crescent moon and later the sunrise that came from the same direction and I began to reflect on how God produces miracles served up daily and our only job is to recognize them.  It's like an Easter egg hunt where many eggs are hidden and the children have to search for them, occasionally asking the father or mother for hints to where they can be found.

After feeling all holy and blessed, I observed a man still sleeping on a bench and wondered if his observance of beauty and miracles would be like mine.  I just don't know.


They say it's been there all along

I have been working in Enumclaw, Washington for a week now and this is my first glimpse of Mount Rainier. 

If I move my head just right, squint and look through the trees, I have my own view of this mountain from my office. 
Western Washington is well renowned for being wet for which I will attest.


Leaving Arizona

After six weeks, I am out of here.  Well, maybe not so fast.

As we walked out on the tarmac to board the plane, there was a pretty stiff wind blowing, pelting us with a mix of sleet, snow, graupel and a splattering of rain. That with a temperature of 36 global warming degrees made me question if this really was the month of May.  I believe it is supposed to be in the mid 80s at home.

Just as we were taxiing out, the pilot announced we would be going back to the terminal to be de-iced.  

I am not complaining.


Along Route 66

As my tenure in northern Arizona is about to come to an end, I thought I'd mention a few other sites I've managed to see while here.  The place is scattered with National Parks and National Monuments.

What's the difference between a park and monument you may ask. Well, without getting into getting into a bureaucratic discussion, it's a distinction between a congressional vote and a presidential designation. National monuments are designated by a presidential order and protects things like historical places such as Muir Woods, Ford's Theater, Mount Rushmore and ancient ruins.  Congress designates things like Yosemite, Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon and so forth.

All across northern Arizona, the place is dotted with things worth protecting. For example, when the Petrified Forest was publicized, train loads of people flocked to the area, hauling off petrified wood by the tons and destroyed much of it before it became protected.

Today, you can drive into the "forest" and take all the photos you like but don't even think about picking up a chunk of it.

All this is within the Painted Desert, a wide area that spans across Navajo country.  As part of the auto tour, you can enter into the park either from the southern side by exiting off I-40/Route 66 at Holbrook or from the northern end on I-40 at exit 311.  there's also a trip through the Navajo and Hopi reservations if you're into a self guided trip up highway 77.

Either way, you're in for some unusual colors.

Further east, (no national parks or anything) lies Winslow, Arizona.  Remember the Eagles hit, Take It Easy that mentions "Standin' on a corner in Winslow,'s a girl, my Lord, in a flat bed Ford, slowin' down to take a look at me...." I loved the Eagles.

Yep, they have a corner there complete with a statue and the flatbed Ford with a bar across the street  blaring Eagles music, all right there on the old Route 66.

Back nearer to Flagstaff, there's Walnut Canyon National Monument.  It is the former home of cliff dwellers who lived in the layers of the canyon walls for quite a while.

If I have my facts correct, the layers above a limestone base is around 180 feet form the canyon rim  to the base and pueblo dwellings can be seen all along both sides of the canyon in 6 or so layers.

Unfortunately, the mini ice age appeared in the 12th century changing weather patterns for a few decades causing droughts, sending the Indians off for better water resources.

This too, was one of the places that 19th century tourism openly promoted the pillage of artifacts.  so with that, it became a national monument as well as the Sunset Crater volcano crater and the Wupatki Navajo pueblos.

I must mention Meteor Crater also on Route 66.  Unfortunately, I went to visit there and they were closing within a few minutes and their guided tour had already stopped.  It is a commercial venture but if I get a chance to get out there before I leave, I believe it's worth a couple of hours.

According to their information, an asteroid hit the earth 50,000 years ago, estimated at 26,000 mph, leaving a crater over 500 feet deep and a mile across.  I bet that kicked up a pile of dust for a few days.

Anyway, if you think all this place is nothing but snakes and lizards, you are sadly mistaken.

It is rife with artifacts and history beyond your imagination.


Grand Canyon

After skipping a couple of weekend homes, it was great having Darlene come out to visit me (thanks, Mr. Jones) in Flagstaff.

Late Friday afternoon, she and I took a little run down US 89a toward Sedona.  As you descend down alongside Oak Creek, you are treated with vermillion cliffs that make you stop every chance you can, just to marvel at the beauty.

In Sedona, we weighed our options on eating and finally settling on The Cowboy Club where we both chowed down on a brisket sandwich.  I must mention that it had started raining that afternoon and found ourselves fighting for space under a hastily purchased undersized and over priced umbrella.  So that may have played a part in the decision for the Cowboy Club since it was in walking distance from the parking garage.

Making our way back up the beautiful Hwy 89a, we sat by the fire at the hotel and chatted with a couple of Canadians who knew more about the area than I did after 4 weeks here.

Saturday, we headed up to the Grand Canyon.  Arriving there, it was cold, wet and the visibility was less than opportune.  We were confronted with sudden storms of something called "graupel", a substance somewhere between hail, sleet and snow.  With that and the wet splattering snow, we rode east back to the eastern entrance and checked out the trading post in Cameron before giving up and coming back into Flagstaff.

Needless to say, Darlene was more than just a little disappointed in the canyon experience so for her last day here, we decided to try it again.  As we drove west on I-40, we began to see more snow and by the time we were to turn north at Williams, there was enough of it that we began seeing snow trucks dropping sand.  Within 20 miles north of the interstate, the heavens opened, the snow ceased and the sun came out and began to warm.  What  a difference a day makes.

We had not intended to walk as much as we did but found ourselves walking from the visitor's center all the way to El Tovar Lodge.  Along the way we were swarmed with Asian tour crowds and watched as they took selfies of themselves with hand held extensions for their iPhones.

Getting away from the bus stops, we still watched people taking extraordinary photo opportunities near the edges.  We heard stories of the more bullet proof visitors doing hand stand near the edge and we witnessed several near edge experiences.  Of course the older ones kept a safe distance.  Time being short, you just don't want to lose those extra days.

At one point we saw a very large bird taking advantages of the updrafts.  Having heard about the California Condors being released into the area I wanted to believe I saw one. Zooming in, I could see what appeared to be white numbers under the wings.  One man's Condor is another's buzzard.

I might have been wrong but still, this squirrel was keeping an eye out for it.

  As we walked, we couldn't help stopping, taking pictures and marveling at every turn along the trail.

Each and every view seemed to be more spectacular than the last.  As we walked, we speculated on how difficult the trail down the canyon would be and if we were able to not get down...but if we could get back up.  That place is deep. 

After walking better than 3 miles along the paved walkway, we came to a cliff that overlooked Bright Angel Trail, the more widely used trail

It's also the one that the mules take riders down.  I wouldn't ride one simply because I'd feel sorry for the mules.  It reminded me of the poor horse I rode up a trail on Maui last year.  In this picture, you can see a glimpse of the Colorado River.  The dark line in the top right is the bridge that hikers as well as the mules use to cross the river.

Anyway, we arrived at El Tovar, near the park shuttle connection, and had lunch there.  The prices were reasonable and the food was great.  I had the Reuben sandwich.

After taking the shuttle back, we got back into our car and rode around the camp grounds admiring some of the travel trailers and motor homes.  There were elk all over the place but looked pretty scruffy as they began losing their winter coats.

Along the way headed east, I was a sucker for every pull out along the canyon rim.

As we ended the trip, the sun was getting low which warmed up the canyon walls.

At Desert View, we could see the Colorado River quite well near the beginning of the larger canyon.

   It was a great trip and Ms Darlene hopes to return soon.

Noted visitors