Embracing the active, outdoor lifestyle seemed like a great idea when I first arrived in Colorado for a visit.
However, after a few weeks, while white knuckling it on a mountain bike ride, I started thinking that maybe listening to some John Denver while drinking Coors Light was a better idea.
It’s actually best not to know anything about a mountain bike trail before riding it. Ignorance, while not bliss, is definitely an advantage when it comes to participating in an extreme sport. It’s either ignorance or fearlessness —and — since I am not fearless by nature, at least I was clueless. In fact, I was completely clueless about what I was in for.
Most of the Crest Trail, which runs along the continental divide in Colorado, is considered to be “singletrack,” a dirt path not much wider than the bike. When you’re riding downhill next to a sheer drop off on three inches of trail that goes over rocks and tree roots, it seems more like “tightrope trail” with no net.
July 2010, Ningaloo Marine Park, Western Australia. The largest fish in the world is swimming at about three miles per hour, but it’s hard, even with fins, to keep up with the 20-foot-long behemoth. A huge happy looking fish with white polka dots sprinkled over its expansive back, the whale shark lumbers leisurely through the cloudy water.
Occasionally, it opens its mouth to feed on plankton. A large nonthreatening interior with a noticeable absence of razor sharp rows of teeth is revealed. In fact, it almost looks like white cushions line the inside of the whale shark’s billowing jaws.
This is crazy. I can’t believe I’m sauntering along in the Indian Ocean with a whale shark. And we are swimming in some very deep open water — 80 meters (262 feet) — to be exact. In fact, I can’t look down or around. I stare at my new friend, the whale shark, and kick hard.
I fall back as the whale shark slowly shifts. Once behind the massive fish, I see them: the same foreboding, angular tail and dorsal fin that have menaced and terrified people on the big screen and the Discovery Channel for years. The tail looks like a large iron boomerang steadily moving back and forth.
The sculpture appeared to be on loan from the “Sanford and Son” collection. Or, it could have been something ET rigged up to “phone home.” Chains, old school TV antennas, plastic baby dolls, a wokish thing, old computer keyboards, rusty tools and vehicle parts were strung together in a very random way. “Unique,” as an adjective, did not really cover it.
We looked around at more of the offerings of the free outdoor museum in Coober Pedy, South Australia, where the works were a mixture of plain old junk and art junk. The surroundings seemed to be part of the “art rubbish movement.” The theme’s main representatives were corrugated sheet metal and rust — which actually complimented the soil, the color of ground chili pepper. It was quite beautiful — in a “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome” kind of way.
Murky, gray water and zero visibility are not the conditions the postcards and the documentaries promise when they feature the Great Barrier Reef. However, the photographers behind the incredible images were probably not shooting during a typhoon.
Interestingly, while the surface of the ocean may be swirling and raging during a typhoon, underneath the water, a certain calm is maintained. Not that the sand isn’t churned up in a messy way. Consequently, Suzanne Miller and her husband, Jason, missed out on the electric colors, crystal blue waters and endless schools of vivid fish while on a dive off the coast of Cairns, Australia, in April 2010. Despite the fact they dove during a tropical storm, the Millers rank this dive high on their list of accomplishments. The dive also happens to be a great Travel Oops.
For a Westerner, India seems ready made for a Travel Oops. Certainly, at the very least, visitors, inevitably, encounter the unexpected.
Jane Whitmer, a program manager who teachers a Nurturing Parenting class for the Family and Youth Initiative in Salida, CO, says her travel mantra is “Be open to the Possibilities.”
With that attitude, she traveled to India in the summer of 2012, and at one point, she even told one of her traveling companions, “You’re in for a ride now, Helen. This is India.”
A seasoned traveler, Whitmer had wanted to visit India for the past 10 years. After arriving there in June, her adventures included having a cobra rest on her head; meditating and doing yoga at an ashram; staying at a rickshaw driver and his family’s house; walking on a back road that included obstacles like irrigation channels, barbed wire fences and bulldozers; and riding on a bus that traveled via a one-lane road over an 18,000 ft. mountain pass — just to name a few.
As I looked back at the mountainside “trail” I had just clung to and shimmied along, I decided that it was meant only for hooves — either hooves of mountain goats or hooves of some demonic creature. This was the “Hike to Hell.” At certain points, the path just blended in with the crags and ridges of the mountain and appeared to be completely sheer.
While making my way, I hugged any jutting rock cluster, trying to ignore the fact that when small rocks became dislodged and fell, you did not hear them land. Occasionally, you would hear one skitter down the side for a few feet and then there was nothing but silence.