Friday, September 22, 2006

Location Update

I feel as if I can barely keep track of where I am these days let alone write about recent travels, but friends can rest assured that I survived my solo bike trip stealth camping throgh New Hampshire and up the coast of Maine. At the moment I'm visiting family in Connecticut and will venture into the big scary gleaming mess of New York City on Sunday.

Highlights from the trip include -

purchasing a sheep-skin cover for my bike seat (prostate oozes relief)

a deep conversation with a Hell's Angel about Ghost Hunting

eating the nutrition label right off a can of baked beans cooked in the dark over a campfire

homemade blackberry pie on the fishing pier of a little village on Penobscot Bay

mistaking a line of underwear for prayer flags and thereby deeply embarrassing and confusing a homeless family

lobster and mussels for dinner with a Jew-Buddha brewer of bear from Bar Harbor whose three pigs are named Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

more to come ----

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Bike Trip to Maine

I'm in the midst of biking the backroads of Maine and New Hampshire with a sleeping bag, pup tent and Alexandra David-Neel's classic "MY JOURNEY TO LHASA" crammed in my pack. At the moment, I'm in the Bowdoin college library in Brunswick, ME.I've been sleeping in the woods and haven't even needed to set up the tent so far. My fuel is breakfast specials from small town general stores and far too many peanut butter sandwiches. I'm keeping a journal and will post updates to this blog from time to time. It's good to be free - the sky is blue, the air is clean and I can go wherever I please.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Travel Guru Interview...

Rolf Potts has posted an inspiring interview with Clay Hubbs, the founder of Transitions Abroad magazine. I've excerpted a bit below, but it's worth your time to go to Rolf's site and read the whole piece - here's the link.


How did you get started traveling?

Clay Hubbs:

In the early sixties I joined the Air Force as an officer to see the world and avoid the draft, went to flight school, and got posted to a frontline nuclear bomber base in the U.K. After I resigned my commission to protest American involvement in Vietnam, my wife Joanna and my son Gregory and I went toodling off across North Africa and the Middle East in a used VW van, following the path of Alexander the Great. It was a wonderful trip -- filled with many adventures and breakdowns -- in which we fell in love with that part of the world and with travel. Joanna’s second pregnancy brought us back to the West before we could reach India, so in the mid-sixties we returned -- this time with two kids and a new bus. And this time we included the length of the Soviet Union in our itinerary.

On that first trip we left all our guidebooks behind -- not deliberately as I recall, but we never needed them. We were traveling to see for ourselves, and Herodotus was all we needed. Travel web sites and books today reflect the cowardice and lack of curiosity of so many would-be travelers. It seems that now folks like to read about risk-taking travel but they don’t want to do it. They want to find out everything before they go instead of discovering for themselves. They want to travel independently but with the reassurances of a package tour.

If we had followed the advice of guidebooks we would never have taken that first trip. We took some risks; that’s what made it exciting. But we trusted and listened to the local people, and because we did we were never in serious danger: We drove into Baghdad through streets lined with soldiers in foxholes, just after the dictator Kassim had been dragged through the streets, and were told we had 24 hours to leave the country. A friendly Iraqi jumped into our bus and directed us toward the Iranian border.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Photos from Nepal

Here's a link to some photos from the Nepalese countryside, where monarchist soldiers and Maoist rebels are locked in a protracted struggle that neither side will ever win.

Click here.

Friday, September 01, 2006


My town of Craftsbury Vermont is too small to have its own newspaper. Summer-folk and flatlanders sometimes manage to get their hands on day-old copies of the New York Times, but for most locals, the real paper arrives on Wednesday, when the Hardwick Gazette hits the news stands.

The Gazette doesn't quite stack up to Fox News and CNN. Check out the top stories this week -

1) Mrs. Nichol's water sometimes runs brown and she can't get the town of Hardwick to fix it for her.

2) Pat McCoy doesn't want snowmobilers and ATV riders using the part of an old railbed that runs through his property.

and the last headline on the front page...

3) Students Welcomed With Special Spirit on First Day (of school).

I'm used to figuring out what's going on in the world by using my computer to access newspapers like the New York Times or the Washington Post, or by browsing the big news magazines, like Time and The Economist. Usually, I pass over small town papers like the Hardwick Gazette, which can sometimes sound like a bunch of senile farmers agreeing that while it sure is raining now, there's a good chance things might clear up by tomorrow. But over the past month, with the time to slow things down a pace, I'm beginning to realize that there are a lot of interesting stories in small communities like ours. The miniature dramas that play out in the pages of local papers can tell you a lot about the what's going on both in the region and across the nation as a whole. By paying attention to the details brought out in pages that, at first glance seem devoid of real news, you can practically get a finger on America's pulse.

For example, one of the stories that made the front page of the Gazette last week concerns the issue of how the people of Cabot will vote on town matters in the coming years. Now, Cabot is a real small place, and if they didn't happen to make the best cheddar cheese in the world right there in town, you never would've heard of it. This little article about procedural change in local politics seems practically irrelevant and hopelessly uninteresing next to JonBenet Ramsey headlines and photos of bombed-out Beirut apartments.

But let's look a little closer. Check out this letter to the Editor - I love the "intrusion of confusion" bit.

"Voters beware! The specter of democracy looms, once again, over Cabot! The chance to deliberate the issues in rational debate outside the staged rally of town meeting where a voice vote means the loudest voice wins. The opportunity to actually think about that which directly affects everyone minus the intrusion, confusion, deception (ouch), obfuscation and distraction, and minus an unprepared, uninformed, inept (double ouch!) moderator..."

Wow. Now that's a wicked great letter, biting, intelligent, sarcastic and full of passion. I didn't retype the whole thing, but know that the Voting Rights Act gets quoted at the end. A lot.

As it turns out, this boring and trivial piece of news actually dows get someone's juices flowing. It's a quiver in the pulse, and it's symptomatic something important about this part of Vermont.

First of all, the economy isn't so hot. Working families with kids in school can't do much better than scrape by. These folks, many of whom have deep roots in their communities, are being outnumbered by more recent arrrivals, people who made enough money elsewhere to buy property and move to an idyllic part of America. In towns like Cabot, the whole social demographic is slowly but surely changing.

Most of the flatlanders like most things about the small towns they've moved into - after all, they chose to live there. There are a few cultural clashes, most manifesting themselves during deer season, but generally speaking everyone gets along fine. It helps, of course, that the newcomers pay a lot in taxes, helping support local governments that would otherwise be hard pressed to pay the bills.

The problem, is that the newcomers and longtime residents alike see their tax dollars going to things, especially schools, that seem unnecessary and wasteful - in light of the changing demographics. It's a vicious cycle. There's less need for small town schools when only eight or nine kids are graduating every spring, and when parents start to see their kids struggling with limited options, the bigger schools in towns a drive away start to look a lot more attractive. Before you know it, another working family with high-school age kids has sold the farm to retirees from Connecticut and moved to a bigger town.

So how does this all tie together? Gotta hit the road. But I'll get to it later this week.