Tuesday, August 28, 2007

New! Tales From the Road

Travel can be a journey into the realms of fear and loathing, or a happy-go-lucky search for wildflowers.

It can be an exploration of animosity, or a ride to the chapel on your wedding day.

This week Tales From the Road explores a brutal jungle of hidden, festering horrors; a moral wasteland where blood-sucking fiends skulk in the shadows, a place so nightmarish that the author who explored its darkest corners is unwilling to identify himself.

That’s right…prepare to venture into the world of the American business traveler!

Oh - and there’s also a lovely article from the jungles of Papau New Guinea, where American soldiers once battled malaria and the Japanese Imperial Army.

“I would have taken an enemy bullet before going back into those mountains,” said one veteran after hiking across Papau New Guinea on his way to the battlefield.

As for me, I’d rather slog through the leech-infested jungle than press flesh in Shanghai.

Read on, and make up your own mind…


Saturday, August 25, 2007


There are two kinds of sport fish here at the mouth of the Connecticut river - striped bass and bluefish. Stripers live right up against the rocks of the breakwater and emerge to feed at dawn and dusk. They act surprised and indignant when hooked; some fight hard, for a little while, but they tend to give up easily. I always feel a little bad when I unhook stripers and I don't like to kill them. The look in their eyes is one of dumb innocence betrayed.

Bluefish are different. Bluefish fight with vicious fury, snapping at the wire leader and ripping line off the reel. They hunt in packs, slicing through the ocean in tight formation and tearing apart schools of baitfish. Striped bass are like big, goofy Golden retrievers; bluefish are saltwater wolves, built for speed and murder. I admire bluefish, and I kill them.

Bluefish never come in easy, but when I finally bring the fish close, I haul it onto the rocks, keeping my fingers clear of the jaws. Then I find a piece of driftwood and beat it over the head until its skull is crushed and the whole body shivers violently. I run the stick through the gills and out the mouth and carry it back down the beach. There's no better feeling in this world than cresting the dune on the path home at dusk, my arm starting to ache from the weight of a big fish, its tail dragging a path through the sand. Back home there are ooos and aahs, and I take the bluefish out into the yard, scale it with a sharp knife, slit the belly and cut big thick filets. My Dad bakes the filets in the oven with olive oil and lemon juice and we eat the fresh, strong-flavored meat with green beans and corn on the cob.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Marriage! She Said Yes!

Big news!

For the first time, I tell the story of my marriage proposal. The story is part of an interview I did for a Kiwi blogger, part of a travel writer interview series that also includes Q&As with Rolf Potts and Joshua Berman.

Here's an excerpt:


As a writer and traveler, what are the biggest challenges you face on the road ?


I was thinking about this question for a little while...and realized that my biggest challenge so far hasn't been on the road - it's been coming home. When I'm traveling, even when I find myself in a pickle - like the time Ryan and I ran out of water and food on a wild Cambodian island and were menaced by men with hatchets and AK-47 rifles - it's all part of the adventure. Strange as it may seem, the toughest part is being home, seeing my family, hanging out with old friends and wondering what the heck I'm doing with my life.

I can hike 5 miles through the jungle on a pack of ramen and some coconut milk, but I can't pet my cat without wondering if I should settle down and plant a garden and go to law school. Funny, isn't it. On the road, I'm just on the damn road, and life is wonderful.

For the whole interview, and the story of my marriage proposal, click here :)

Ring Photo by firemedic58 via Flickr (Creative Commons)


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Get Down, Get Dirty: New Tales From the Road

Finding great travel tales often entails getting a little dirty. The best stories are the ones that smell, the kind you can’t hope to spot from inside an air conditioned tour bus.

Get down on your hands and knees and poke around, dig into the muck-heap, grab on to something and pull it out into the light.

After you wipe off the grime, you might just see a buried treasure, a story full of hope and resonance and truth that most people would never think was there.

This week Tales From the Road gets down and dirty, hitting up backpacker ghettos in Hong Kong and Bangkok and diving deep into the garbage dumps of Cairo before swinging back to the Americas and passing out at a Jamaican reggae concert.

The roundup wraps up with an emotional punch, a tribute to the mothers of Argentinian activists who were tortured and killed by a military dictatorship during the “Dirty War.”

Continue reading...

Photo by Brandon Steinmetz via Flickr (Creative Commons)


Friday, August 17, 2007

Fenwick: Golf, Fishing and Family on the Connecticut Coast

Here's a photo of the Connecticut license plate:

Here's a photo of the view from my bedroom in the summer cottage here in Fenwick, where the Connecticut River meets Long Island Sound:

My family moved from Connecticut to Vermont when I was 11 years old. The identity of "home" was always a contentious issue for me; in college, friends would tease me about being from Connecticut, while I insisted I was from Vermont. Now, having lived in Hokkaido, Massachusetts and Cambodia, the concept of home is a little looser, and I'm comfortable with a broad definition. "Where are you from?" is a silly question, after all - there are several places where I feel at home, some oceans apart, and the idea of one specific home is ultimately a self-limiting and artificial construct.


An ancestor bought this cottage back in the 1920s, when the spit of land at the mouth of the River called Fenwick was beginning to develop into an enclave of privilege, a summer retreat for wealthy insurance executives from Hartford. Now, our cottage is one of the last original structures in Fenwick. Almost nothing about this house has changed since I was a child. The same dusty books are on the shelves, the same rusty bikes are parked in the garage, the same painting hangs over the fireplace - an oil of frontiersmen about to open fire on a war party of Indians. Most of the old cottages have been torn down by new owners set on building ostentatious McMansions. I'm sort of proud that ours is so weathered and worn - the wooden floorboards in the attic are smooth as polished marble from four generations of children playing hide and seek before bed, and the shower is still out in the garage, so that everyone walks barefoot across the yard in the morning with only a towel for modesty.

I don't quite feel comfortable with the atmosphere of privilege here - last year, when I came to Connecticut for my Grandfather's funeral, I biked to the tackle shop in town and asked what bait they recommended for the breakwater that leads out to the outer lighthouse, the one featured on the license plate.

"How do you have access down there?" asked the bait-man.

I thought about it for a second - there was really only one answer:

"My granddad's rich," I said.

Everyone cracked up, and they gave me good advice. If I'd said something like - "Oh, my family has a cottage..." they probably would have sold me expensive, useless plugs instead of hooking me up with Slug-Gos and live eels, the cheap stuff that really works.

The fishing is what I really love about this place. Big striped bass live in the rocks of the breakwater and in late summer when the bluefish start to run you can catch hard-fighting fish from shore in the evenings. I've settled into an easy routine - waking up at dawn, fishing from the breakwater as the sun rises over Long Island Sound, coming home for coffee and breakfast with Mom and Dad, writing until lunch-time, when I take a siesta, waking up in time to fish the evening tide. While I write, on the porch, I can watch ospreys flying by with snapper bluefish in their talons, and the masts of sailboats motoring upriver seem to pass right through the dune-grass of the front yard.

I haven't had much luck the past few days - I hooked up with big fish a few times, but didn't manage to land any. Last night, though, I was fishing a popper with a heavy wire leader along the breakwater and caught two big stripers, one right after another. They both came up and murdered the lure at the surface, and I made sure to set the drag loose enough for them to make their runs without breaking off. It took about 10 minutes to land each one of them, and I had to balance on slippery rocks to hoist them onto the breakwater. The first measured out at 27 inches - the second was over 30. I tried to take a photo, but it was tricky, as the fish were worn out from the fight and I wanted to release them. It was tough to hold them up at arms length while balanced on the wet rocks, and hold the camera still enough to get a good exposure in lowlight. Here's the best shot - of the second fish - maybe you can get a sense of the size.

There's golf here too, which I used to love as a kid but have grown sort of ambivalent about these days. It's one of the oldest courses in America, a nine-hole layout that wraps around houses and roads, so that when you're driving through Fenwick you need to watch out for golf balls. A church by the first fairway is right in the line of fire, so balls bang off the roof during the Sunday service. It's nice how the course is so social - playing the other afternoon, I ran into four cousins and a bunch of old friends - on their way to the tennis court, heading home from the beach, or just cruising around on bikes and in golf carts.

I'm here until the end of August. It's home - for now. Then I'll go back to Vermont, which is home too, and then I'll have home strapped to the back of my bike, riding up the St. Lawrence seaway. Home for the winter will be somewhere I've yet to discover, way down south in Patagonia.

It's way too soon to settle down.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

NEW! Tales From the Road - Special Argentina Edition

My latest round-up of great travel stories is up at Bravenewtraveler.com. This week, Tales From the Road arrives with a twist - each of the 5 stories I chose is about Argentina. Why Argentina you ask?

(drum-roll please...)


I'm moving to Patagonia!

On November 25th I'll fly down to Buenos Aires, and after a few weeks exploring the "Paris of the South" I'm planning to take a bus West to the Andes and rent a cabin in the valley of El Bolson. El Bolson (which means "the sack" in English) is one of the most fertile valleys in Argentina and the rivers that flow down from the peaks are full of trophy rainbow trout. I'm hoping to rent a cabin by one of those rivers, learn some Spanish, catch some fish, climb some mountains and do a lot of writing.

Learning the tango is an option too - but that might be beyond my ability.

If any readers have been to Argentina and can give me advice, please leave a comment below.


(photo of Cerro Torre by Flickmor via Flickr

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

Striper Fishing: Cape Ann, MA

"First smooth, then slam it hard - right in the fishy hole. Boo-yeah!"

- George Walton Evans III

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

Rolf Potts Interview

Yesterday my flight from Denver to New York ended up in Milwaukee, the airline lost my fly-rod and my laptop battery finally gave up and died. I need to write 2,000 words on Japanese festivals by Thursday Australian time, a deadline that I think has already passed, and I just got an invite to meet some New York travel writers and editors in Manhattan...in 5 hours...


My interview with Rolf Potts, Emperor of Vagabonds is now up at Brave New Traveler.

I think I need some coffee. And should I shave? Do New York City editors mind scruffy beards? Holy shit, what am I going to wear? Festivals! Japanese festivals. Gotta go.

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Monday, August 06, 2007


MyOutdoorTV.com is a brand new online media outlet geared to outdoor enthusiasts with broadband Internet access.

The site features a wealth of streaming content with a focus on the kind of fishing and hunting TV programs I used to love when I was 12. Even though most of the features are fishing and hunting related, this blog was included in a section marked "camping". I found a bunch of other great blogs in the directory, including Dharma Bums and Fly Fish Yellowstone.

Since my blog was included in the listings, I get a free hat! Score!

Here's the MyOutdoorTV.com press release:

MyOutdoorTV.com to offer 24/7 outdoor programming for avid outdoorsmen

Franklin, Tenn. (June 16, 2006) — Outdoorsmen will have free access to a one-stop, 24/7 Web TV channel when MyOutdoorTV.com launches in July as a complete source for premium programming accessible the year-round, anytime on the Internet.

MyOutdoorTV.com (www.MyOutdoorTV.com) launches July 20 as a 24/7 broadband channel that streams a continuous block of outdoor programming, offers a video-on-demand archive with 30-minute television shows, product demo videos from leading outdoor manufacturers, and downloadable outdoor radio shows.

“Outdoorsmen have grown frustrated in recent years as their favorite traditional shows have either gone off air or play when they are outdoors fishing, hunting, and traveling,” notes David Hall, an executive for the new online channel. “Now, they have an alternative. MyOutdoorTV.com is on the air whenever they choose, twenty-four hours a day. Outdoorsmen can now watch favorite shows on their schedule.”

“The inability to find and watch top quality outdoor programming on TV has spread to the Internet,” adds MyOutdoorTV.com co-founder Chris Moise. “At best, outdoorsmen are forced to surf the Web, only to find programs scattered among many different sites. Or worse, the content is embedded inside layers of Web pages and at a cost to subscribe in order to view the shows.”

He continued, “Until now, there has been no single Web site that offers all of the programming in one, convenient place and all of it for free at the click of a computer mouse.”

“MyOutdoorTV.com will be the largest provider of ‘cable’ quality programming on the Internet,” added Moise. “When we launch, MyOutdoorTV.com will be the largest video provider of outdoor programming on the Internet.”

More than two dozen outdoor programs will back Moise’s claim. The lineup thus far includes “Bill Dance Outdoors,” “Mark Sosin’s Saltwater Journal,” “North American Hunter,” “North American Fisherman,” “Fishing with Roland Martin”, “Shooting USA”, “Angling Edge with Al Lindner”, “Scott Martin Challenge,” and “Shotgun Journal.”

MyOutdoorTV.com will also become a primary source for viewing cutting edge product demonstrations from leading manufacturers of top quality outdoor gear, including fishing tackle, firearms and hunting gear, and boats and marine accessories.

“As the name implies, we want MyOutdoorTV.com to offer a personal connection, a sense of belonging to a community,” says Dave Barton of the management team. “We’ll offer a video blog with user-generated videos, a photo gallery, hunting and fishing reports and message boards.”

MyOutdoorTV.com is an Internet-based, community-oriented television network targeting outdoor enthusiasts. The channel will be devoted to fishing, hunting, boating, camping, hiking and travel. The senior management includes David Hall, co-founder of TNN (The Nashville Network); Chris Moise, a former TNN and Gaylord Entertainment cable executive, and Dave Barton, a former TNN executive who oversaw the network’s award-winning outdoor block, TNN Outdoors.


Saturday, August 04, 2007

Cambodia's Lost Coast in Get Lost Magazine

If you see this magazine, buy a copy! The cover shot is from an article on the South Pacific islands of Vanuatu, but inside you'll find my first full-length magazine feature. Ryan's photos are breath-taking and you'll get the low-down on Cambodian frontier islands like Koh Rong, Koh Kong, Koh Sdach and Koh Ta Kiev.

Here's a link to the Get Lost Magazine homepage.

Get Lost! Life's the Ultimate trip.

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Friday, August 03, 2007

Kogane-dake Zazen: Hamamasu, Hokkaido

Kogane-dake is a small mountain on the West coast of Hokkaido with a narrow, rocky summit. The mountain looks like a shark-tooth jutting up from rice-fields, with views across to the wild Shokanbetsu high-country.

Photo by James Worthley

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

Subscribe to Sleeping in the Mountains!

I've never been the most computer literate of writers. The Internet is a wonderful tool that lets me publish my own content from anywhere in the world, to everyone in the world, but I don't understand all the nuts and bolts.

Here's one thing I do understand and it's incredibly important: the way you and I and a billion other people are about to access content on the Internet is changing. Instead of ordering up a website by typing out the address or searching for it with a search engine, people will SUBSCRIBE to their favorite content.

Sometimes this content will be personalized. For example, consider local weather reports, stock portfolios and updates about your favorite sports teams. Other subscriptions will be for major media outlets like ESPN, CNN, The New York Times and crazy old Rupert Murdoch's vehicles of delusion.

But I hope that you and I will also subscribe to media produced by small-time, independent writers, photographers, comics, musicians, producers, revolutionaries, travelers and crazy people, all of whom are now able to publish whatever they want, whenever they please.

Which brings me to...


See that little orange icon to the left, under my profile?

(Wait. Scroll up for a second. Orange, under my profile. Got it!)

It's called an RSS Feed Button. RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. By clicking on it, you can subscribe to Sleeping in the Mountains and my new posts will be accessible from your homepage or Internet Reader.

Everyone has a homepage. It's the first website you see when you log on to the Internet. I put subscriptions to my favorite sites on my homepage today, and I already love the convenience.

Go ahead and customize your homepage now if you haven't already. I chose the iGoogle homepage because, let's face it, Google is the most innovative and user friendly Internet giant and in the year 2106 our descendants will probably be colonizing the moons of Saturn in the Holy name of Lord Google, and you don't want to be one of those poor souls left behind to sweat it out on Earth.

If you do decide to subscribe to my blog, I'd be thrilled.

Thanks so much for reading!


P.S. - Here's a link to a great explanation of RSS and the Internet subscription evolution.

Photo of Samurai Brendan by Tim Patterson in Uenohara, Japan