Garfield, Colorado, USA. Better not have a breakdown or stall even at the mall in this small mountain town. Despite the promising AAA sticker, you’re unlikely to get service from this joint. Not to mention, the “only mall” doesn’t appear to have beer, braunschweiger or munchies either. Totally SOL.
Becoming fluent in Spanish was an important goal of mine in seventh grade at Santa Barbara Junior High in 1981. Already, I knew that I wanted to travel.
Every Sunday when my dad brought in the Los Angeles Times and placed it on our kitchen table, I rifled through for the travel section, which was huge. I scanned all the ads and articles as well as filled out every form, requesting brochures and tourist materials. Many of the countries to which I wanted to travel were Spanish-speaking nations.
Consequently, to learn Spanish, I dutifully conjugated verbs, poured through my textbook and practiced the book’s basic dialog scenarios at home. Literally translated into English (only in present tense), the riveting stories went something like this:
Carmen: Hello, Juan.
Juan: Hello, Carmen.
Carmen: I go to the shoe store.
Juan: I go to the shoe store, also.
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.
The journey has begun. The anticipation is there. It won’t be long before you arrive in an exciting new location or an old favorite. Speaking of arrival, here comes the drink cart. Even better — the alcohol is free!
It’s a perfect time to celebrate, so why not have another and another and maybe another after that? You’re not driving. Plus, your flight is fourteen hours; you have a lot of time to kill. So, it’s tempting to get the party started and to keep drinking.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with celebrating and drinking in moderation on a flight. And perhaps you know what you’re potentially in for, having already experienced hangover hell and feeling like complete crap at one point or another.
But remember, you may not have experienced this while in a confined space where you don’t have quick access to fresh air, toilets or even your own pillow.
Not to mention you may have to endure this state for several more hours with crying kids and grumpy passengers who are over the flight.
I actually met the one Down Under resident who doesn’t adhere to “no worries.” She was a flight attendant (I’ll call her Hortense) on our Air New Zealand flight from San Francisco to Auckland in January, 2010.
Instead, her slogan, I believe, was “Yes Worries!” and she adopted this long ago because she secretly and firmly believes all the people around her are inept imbeciles. On the flight, I especially thought she despised her co-workers. They, along with most passengers, were her recurring nightmares.
The other flight attendants could not have been more helpful, accommodating and funny. One of the head flight attendants was a tall, blonde woman who wore bright red lipstick and always smiled — no matter what your question was. “I’m sorry,” She beamed. “We can’t have you up in the aisle just yet. We’re still in the midst of our ascent and not at the proper altitude for walking around.” Huge permasmile.
Upon arrival, it’s easy to believe you have money in Mykonos in 1995 — especially when you’ve just found a gorgeous whitewashed pension with cobalt blue trim for $13 a night. It’s got a view of the Aegean Sea, a pool and a toilet. Goats even roam the hills in the background for a quaint, rustic feel.
Where is Robin Leach? “I’m ready to be interviewed about my champagne and caviar lifestyle!” In reality, for my friend Indira and me, it was more of an airline size bottle of Ouzo and a street side gyro lifestyle.
The average civilian might think that while being stationed in the Navy on the Midway, the largest air craft carrier in the US fleet during the 1950’s, playing sports would be next to impossible. Not so for Ray Glaser, my father-in-law, who is an athlete at heart. In fact, sports were an integral part of his military career and contributed to some of his fondest memories.
Ray played baseball on a soccer field in Spain, ran the 220 meter dash in Athens’s Olympic stadium, and learned to ski in Switzerland.
A Quarter Master who plotted visual communication and navigation, Ray served four tours in the Mediterranean on the Midway aircraft carrier from 1949-1953. During that time, he played for the Midway basketball, baseball and track teams.
“Miss, Miss, MISS GLASER!!” I heard from a distance while I patrolled the grounds of Le Fevre High School where I was spending one year as an exchange teacher. Ian, a sweet yet somewhat socially challenged year nine, careened toward me across the asphalt.
His backpack was sliding down his shoulders and his uniform jacket was flapping as he bounded over. Actually, Ian looked a bit deranged. Generally, one never knows what to expect while on yard duty at “Le Feral” (the kids’ affectionate nickname for their school).
“Miss! We have a new prime minister – it’s Julia Gillard, and she’s a ranga!”
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.
Both my friend Debbie and I were gripping Ed’s sweater sleeves. Then one minute later, still holding one of the sleeves, I was six feet from the rest of the sweater that was tied around Ed’s waist. I could barely see him and Lanny with a mass of people stampeding in between us. My feet were not touching the ground, but I was surging forward steadily with the throng. I looked around for Debbie.
In the meantime, shrieks of panic — in freaked out French — pierced the hum of the crowd (somehow even panicked French sounds beautiful).
A few feet over, a girl emerged upwards from the throng almost like she was levitating. Her friends were trying to lift her up for air. The girl was hysterical, shaking her hair and convulsing. Next, someone actually doused her with a bottle of water to calm her down.