Somewhere over Canada on route to Anchorage, Alaska.

Hello Gentle Readers,

I write to you from 35,000 in the air (AAAAAHHHH! ! ! ).  Oh, I guess there is no need for hysterics.  After all I am in a Government approved aircraft (but didn’t the government approve Vioxx?) over friendly skies (Canada??).  But,  more importantly, I am sitting right next to the emergency exit door.  I’ll be the first SOB offa this plane if there is a problem, you can count on that. And I’ll take my handy seat cushion, which can be used for a floatation device, (what, for a hamster??)  at the first sign of trouble.

I just finished my fine dining experience by masticating some type of meat in some type of sauce with some type of thin green vegetable matter on the side.  It was a meal fit for coach class.  I see that our belovedU.S.Government IS serious about American’s waistlines since they obviously approved of the packaging of the desert snack that was included in my meal.  I normally don’t indulge in the sweets and cakes included in the airline meal, but since I have been up since5amand didn’t get to eat this meal until about3pm, I was willing to overlook my healthy diet because I was HUNGRY.

The packaging on this tiny bag of lemon sugar cookies was made of the same thin plastic/Mylar material that the alien spaceship in Roswell must have been made of. Toughest stuff I have ever encountered.   Impervious to all my attempts at opening it.  My teeth, fingernails, even a blowtorch (not really a blowtorch, just my bad breath),….nothing could break the seal of this tempting delicacy.  I fought with it until embarrassment replaced the lust I had for this sweet delight.  I gave up.  The government must have wanted me to burn off lots of calories before consuming these cookies.  I felt like an otter trying to break open clams on my belly without a rock.  I even tried hacking my way through the edge of the pack with the cheap plastic knife (Government approved) provided with the meal, with no luck.  At least on International flights they have the courtesy of providing you real metallic silverware.  I guess they figure there are more domestic terrorists interested in taking over planes than on International flights.  I don’t know.  After a while, I gave up the dream of Lemon sugar cookies dancing in my head.

I noticed that the guy sitting next to me has not eaten or drunk ANTHING since he showed up on this leg of the flight (from Minnnnneapolis to Anchorage)  In our conversation I have learned that he is a Continental pilot, dead heading back to his home after his scheduled flight time.  What is it that he KNOWS about the food on these flights????  Should I get my stomach pumped upon arrival inAnchorage??.  Should I just force myself to immediately puke in the toilet and forestall any potential poison that has entered my system?   Should I call the Secretary of Transportation (government approved) to find out if I AM GOING TO DIE FROM EATING AIRLINE FOOD???.

I did what every thinking American would do….I curled up in a fetal position, and waited for this leg of the flight to be over. I will resume this conversation when I have more to report.

Your intrepid, and hungry traveler, signing off for now.

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My first Intrepid Traveler Report

Sat, 18 May 2002

The very first Intrepid Traveler story.  (subtitled, “you should have stopped me before this got outa control”)

Hello everyone,

I am still alive in theFar East, at least I think so.  I have been gone so long that I’m sure the kids, wife and animals will have forgotten me.  At least the VISA card people will remember me.  They get messages from me every day.  It is expensive inSingapore, but not so bad inIndonesia.  I spent 395,000 Rupes inIndonesiafor a first class hotel.  The exchange rate made it come to about $40U.S.

The food has been good with one exception.  I was served deep fried chicken feet, which were not very good.  I was told the fried duck feet would have been better…I’ll take their word for it.  I’ve not seen a single dog, cat or even any road kill.  Makes me wonder about the food sources in the restaurants.

The poverty, dirty air and 14 million people that live inJakartamake me think thatMexicoisn’t such a bad place after all.  If ANY “poor” American ever complains about their own living conditions, we should send them, with one-way airfare, toIndonesia.  They would learn that they live like kings compared to many people in the world.

Well, time to go.  I must look for some roadkill, er, dinner.



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Lost in Space

Lost in Space –

There is an entire family of Chinese living in my pants.

My first trip to China

Even though I am Your Intrepid Traveler, it does not mean I am eager to go to every country on the planet in order to experience new cultures and ethnicities.  Hardly.  I couldn’t care less about most cultures.  I don’t even understand my own culture.  I still don’t know why we need to set a table with salad and dinner forks.  Isn’t one enough?  And why two sizes of fork?  Our mouths don’t change size during the meal, so why does the fork need to change?

China is one of those countries that, as far as I am concerned, can keep its culture and its 5,000 year old history to itself.  I can’t be bothered.  I am very busy being ignorant.  Believe me, that is a full time job.  However, an overseas company approached me with a multi-million dollar project financed by the Chinese National Petroleum Corp, (CNPC).  We began a series of discussions which all led up to me going to Chengdu, China for face to face meetings with the decision makers of this massive project.  Suddenly, visiting China didn’t seem so bad.

It was a rushed trip and I barely had time to get a visa for China. I had to leave the Friday of Memorial Day weekend and would be gone eight days.  It is a long way to China, as you may know.  In fact, it is directly on the other side of the globe from me.  I always heard that you could dig a tunnel thru the earth and come out in China, but since I had to leave by Friday, I would not have time to prove out that theory.  I would fly instead.

To get there from Houston I had to stop in three other cities, Los Angeles, then Shanghai, then to Chengdu.  I landed in Shanghai after traveling over 18 hours with no real sleep.  I went thru Customs, since this was my entry point into the country.  Typically you have to collect your luggage, get cleared by Customs, then re-check your bag and get on another plane.  That procedure did not happen on this stop, but I was not concerned since United Airlines told me my suit bag would be sent all the way to my final destination.  (That should have been a red flag for me since the ticket agent in Houston said my bag would get to Chengdu, no problem)

Well, as you can probably guess, I arrived safely at my final destination, at2 inthe morning, but my suit bag, with all my clothes, did not.  I spent another hour filling out paperwork for lost luggage, and then headed to the hotel.  After only three hours of sleep, I had a breakfast meeting with my contacts in Chengdu.  We spent the entire day going over details of the project and completely missed lunch.  By 6pm my bag had still not arrived.  The airline now said they did not even know where it was.  I was still wearing the same hiking pants and fishing shirt I wore for traveling.  On the plane I dressed for comfort, not for style.

My presentation to the decision makers of CNPC was scheduled for the next morning.  I HAD to go find some clothes.  So I told Jack, my interpreter, to find a shopping area where I could get something to wear.  I am tall and much larger than most Asians.  In fact, I think my shoes are larger than some Asian countries.  Jack was doubtful we’d find anything. He acted as if I were a freakish Herman Munster sized person.  I told him that in a city of millions of people, there had to be some store that had my size. He looked at me like I was crazy.  I get that look a lot.

We went to a dozen or more men’s clothing shops before we found a pair of dress slacks that would fit me.  The pants were found in the storage area where they keep the inventory that doesn’t sell.  The only reason these pants fit me was because the hemline was not yet tailored and there was plenty of length in the legs.  I did not ask the price, I just had them sew the hem and wrap them up.  We started the process all over again by looking for a dress shirt.  Finding a shirt had to be easier to find than a pair of slacks, right?  At least you’d think that.  But none of a dozen other clothing stores had a shirt my size.  I even tried on a 3XL size golf shirt which was made from stretchy material.  It felt like it was painted on.  No thank you.  I know that science fiction movies predict that all of us will be wearing spandex in the future, but I HATE tight clothing.  Finally, I found a store that had ONE short sleeve, button down dress shirt that nearly fit me.  But the fabric was so thin you could see my chest hair thru the shirt.  I would like to say you could also see my ripped abdominal muscles thru the shirt but they were with my missing luggage.  So, I reluctantly spent the $60 dollars, (ouch) for the polyester shirt, knowing that I would never again wear it after this presentation.

I took my new “wardrobe” back to the hotel.  Then I realized that I had no underwear.  The hiking pants have built-in mess “briefs” so tomorrow I would have to go commando.  Oh, great.  When I stand up to do my presentation not only will they see my chest hair and flab thru the shirt, they may see more than that with those clingy slacks.

I then had to get the wrinkles out of the clothes.  The hotel would not loan me an iron and the laundry was closed for the night.  I tried steaming the shirt in the shower but it was not helping much.   I went to bed, knowing that tomorrow I would be wearing jogging shoes with those slacks, no belt, and a wrinkled see-thru shirt while hoping to convince the big shots with CNPC that I knew what I was talking about.  Maybe they’d think I was eccentric and smart.  OK, maybe just eccentric.

I crawled in to bed, praying that the magic clothing fairy would visit me in the night.  Of course, she probably wouldn’t have my size either.  But un-believably, Jack knocked on my door at one a.m. with my suit bag.  He’d called the airport one last time and sure enough, it had arrived. Now all I had to do was un-pack and steam the wrinkles from my good old trusty natural fiber, permanent pressed, wrinkle free, (probably made in China) men’s wear.  Underwear too!  So, the day came for the presentation, all went well, and I did not get arrested for indecent exposure.   Jack’s visit was much appreciated, but I can’t help wondering what the magic clothing fairy would wear?  And can I make her a red hot deal for a wrinkled polyester see thru shirt and unworn slacks?

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Mother’s Day, part Deux

Alleged parents

Mother’s Day Part Deux

It occurred to me, with all of the articles written about Mother’s Day recently, that I too, have a Mother.  I should have snapped to this fact sooner.  Both my daughter’s wrote lovely pieces in their blogs about their mother, the fetching Mrs. Traveler and what a positive impact she had in their lives.  (Oddly enough, she was also their parole officer).  And my wife, (again, the fetching Mrs. Traveler), wrote a lovely piece about her Mom.  And so her mom probably felt compelled to write a Mother’s Day message too, and so on and so on.  I would image that all the way up the female lineage on her side of the family, there are angels writing nice things about their even more angelic mothers.

So this brings me back to my mother.  She is senior citizen now, of course, and at last count was about 420 years old in Hamster years.   And she is quite tiny.  But to be clear, she’s not as tiny as a hamster.  I don’t even know why I referred to her age in hamster years.  I guess so I had an excuse to use my new natural gas/hybrid electric hand held calculator.  (It was purchased with Obama stimulus money for only $50,000.)  She is a bit frail now, since she has broken nearly every bone in her upper body at one time or another.  We are trying to get her to retire from the Rodeo Clown circuit.  She has always been a tough, energetic lady.  I remember her famously saying:  “When I work, everyone works!”  Or “while you are resting you can…… (reader fill in the blank with a tedious, monotonous, or boring task)

Mom has kept up with modern technology.  She has a new printer and was excited to test it out.  So she told me she printed every single page of my Intrepid Traveler blog.  The printed version was like a magazine of incredible travel and life stories.  I wanted to see it to get a visual idea of my writing production.  She said she only saved the good stories, and handed me a half page of print. Wow.  Burned by mommy.

It turns out that I don’t come by my savvy ability to travel the world by accident.  I must have inherited it.  My Dad spent several years in the Navy before and during the Korean conflict.  He was gone for weeks, maybe months at a time, serving our nation.  (Dad must have served our nation too much because we all struggle with our weight now).  I remember seeing intriguing old black and white photos of him framed on the wall of his study.  One was where he was standing next to a dogsled in Greenland.  I think they were just about to hitch him up.  I hope he was wearing comfortable shoes and the load was not too heavy.  Another photo was of him with a huge iceberg in the background.  In his hands were an ice-pick and a martini shaker.  He always dreamed big.

After my Dad retired, he and my Mom began to see the world together.  They went to Europe, South America, Asia, and many third world nations, like Detroit.  I am sure if there had been such a thing as travel blogs, we would have read about some of their exploits.  Or at least seen the police reports.  Some of their trips were quite long.  I remember one time they were gone for more than 80 days.  We began to worry since so much time passed without hearing from them.  But, not to worry, we found them at home, in the closet.  They were a little dehydrated, but fortunately they still had their boarding passes.

When my oldest child was due to be born, Mom and Dad were on a trip in Australia.  We sent them word that the delivery was going to be any day now.  They dashed back to the U.S. as quickly as they could.  I really wanted my wife to wait for them to get home before giving birth, so I duct taped her legs together for the last 72 hours.  The technique worked and now there is one more thing that duct tape can be used for.

So, there you have it, Gentle Readers.  You can see that my travel genes did not fall far from the gene pool tree.  So you can rest quietly with the knowledge that my traveling is an inherited trait.  And while you are resting, go back and re-read all my other travel stories.  I can’t think of a more tedious, monotonous, or boring task.

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The dumbest man alive

The dumbest man alive

I believe that I am or very close to being the world’s biggest dumbass. Sometimes I wonder how I find my way out of the bathroom in the morning.   My entire life has been littered with episodes of idiocy that demonstrate my lack of intelligence.  You be the judge.

Years ago, when my wife and I were young newlyweds, the wife went shopping with my sister.  She came home and proudly showed me her new earrings.  Without any malice, sarcasm, or intended insult, I calmly said something like:  “Nice!  Remember when those were in style?”

I didn’t turn in to a dumb ass overnight.  I think I was always this way.  As a youngster, I painted the neighbor’s car with house paint, I painted that same neighbor’s TV with wall paint, and I painted our newly installed hardwood floor with creosote wood preservative.  I was not old enough to know better, but these actions had to show there had to be a seed of stupidity growing in me.

A good example of being a dumb ass kid was back in high school, when we played a prank on our Biology teacher.   It was the winter break, just after Christmas.  Many people had already started taking down their decorations, and there were lots of Christmas trees that had been dragged to the curb.  We used my pickup truck and scavenged the entire town for discarded trees.  We particularly wanted the ones that still had a wooden frame still attached to the trunk to help it stand upright.  You see, our Biology teacher lived in a new subdivision, typical of the time, where there were no established trees growing.  The houses looked like toad stools on the prairie.  We had collected more than two pickup loads of trees and anxiously waited until after dark to deliver them.  We wanted to “help” our teacher with his landscaping, so we planned to stack up all those trees in his yard.  He would have an instant forest.

He lived on a Cul-de-Sac, so I parked my truck on the other end of his street.  I left the motor running in case we needed to make a fast getaway. The night was cold, moonless and pitch black.  We were just about done when a shadowy figure approached me.  I thought it was one of my buddies.  He said “how many trees are you going to put here”?  I told him we were just about done.  Then I realized this was not a buddy, but the Biology teacher.  Busted!  We all scattered like rabbits.  I ran thru several back yards and it was a while before I could make it back to my truck.  When I got to it, the engine was off and the keys were missing.  I knew instantly who had the keys.  I had no choice.  I knocked on the teacher’s front door.  He opened it, not saying a word, just dangling my truck keys in front of my face.  He said I could probably get them back from the police.  Oh crap.  One of the benefits of growing up in a small town is that the police don’t take pranks like this too seriously.  All we had to do was take all the trees to the police dispatcher’s house so she could use the trees for her rabbit farm.

Then there was the time when I was in Malaysia.  I was traveling with my agent and we had hopscotched across the tiny nation for a week seeing customers.  I was in a customer’s conference room waiting for the remaining attendees to arrive. To kill time I was studying a large map on the wall which was of South East Asia.  In the middle of the map was the island of Borneo.  I told the group of men who were there for my presentation that I always wanted to go to Borneo.  They all looked at me like I was a lunatic.  One of them said “you ARE on Borneo”.  His tone implied that I had to be an idiot not to know where I was.

A more recent example of dumbassness was when my wife and I were traveling.  We were talking about funny billboards we had seen.  I was remembering one advertising a bar-b-que restaurant that specialized in smoked sausage.  Their bill board used a clever word play on the sausage.  It said “you never Sausage a place!”  But my rendition of it to her was “you’ve never seen such a sausage….” then I realized I was hopelessly garbling the message.  My wife thought I was intentionally botching it to be funny…at first.  Then it dawned on her that I was just being myself….stupid.

I have never claimed to be the brightest bulb on the tree.  So saying stupid things, or doing stupid deeds, is just what endears me to the world, I hope.  I know my children think that, but they have been inoculated by my behavior for two or three decades.  Normal people don’t necessarily think it is proper or cute or rational for a grown adult to be a fool.  I hope by posting this message I can tell the reader that it is not with malice, or sarcasm or intended insult that I am the way I am.  They can’t arrest you for being stupid, can they?  You never sausage a fool.

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That Burning Sensation

burn baby burnGreetings Gentle Readers.  Today’s topic is about burning wood.  Specifically:  burning the tree tops and branches left over from the logging operation that was done on our property.  We selectively harvested the lumber grade trees a couple of years ago.  And the fetching Mrs. Intrepid Traveler and I are still cleaning up the remains left by the loggers.  It is hard, dirty work, but my wife feels lucky that she can do it.  I thought it would be helpful for me to offer my suggestions to you if you have a wife and have recently logged your property.  Here are some handy tips for assisting her in getting your property restored to a park-like condition:

Plan ahead

Check the weather report.  You can’t burn when it is too dry, too windy, too wet, too dark, or too hot.  In other words, you shouldn’t ever burn.  If you are like me, you look at bad burning weather as a dare by Mother Nature to ignite giant piles of wood in spite of the risks.  Since you can’t change the weather, just roll the proverbial dice and light it up.  Firefighters have jobs for a reason.  Keep them employed.

Start early

Since fires are hot, you don’t want to be standing near it during the heat of the day.  Start early in the morning.  But first take time to eat the hearty breakfast that your wife has fixed for you.  She can start working outside on the wood debris right after she tidies up the kitchen. Don’t rush her.  Use this time to read the newspaper.  You need to stay up on current events, you know.  And you can check the weather report.   Since you are the male, you are the one designated to light the bonfire.  There is a “Man Rule” written about this somewhere. This rule can be found in the same place where it says men should only do the cooking when outdoors; it is OK for men to smell odd; and men can scratch inappropriate areas of their body in public.  After you have ignited the pile of wood and know it is burning well, let your wife tend the fire.  It is time for you to take that richly deserved nap.

Use Mechanical devices

Since you are the male, you get to use the mechanical devices.  In my case, it is a tractor.  I drive it in to the forest where the debris is to be burned.  Since there is only one seat on a tractor, the wife has to walk.  But that’s OK.  It is good exercise and she wants to keep that girlish figure you fell in love with when you were dating her.  The tractor will do all the heavy lifting.  I use it to drag the big logs in to create a pile.  My wife is there to unhook the chain and re-hook it on to the next big log.  I have to do the real work of steering the tractor, which can be difficult.  This is a skill that a woman just doesn’t have.  Women drivers have a bad reputation for a reason.

Wear appropriate protection.

Your wife should have good leather gloves to keep her hands soft.  She should have a broad brimmed had to keep the sun from her face. And she should have long pants and shirt to protect her skin from scratches.  She’ll be the one crawling around the tree stumps and branches, so let her buy the proper protection.  A real woman would prefer to have the right gear so she can work hard but stay looking young rather than to use that money for dining out or on a new vacuum cleaner.

Be persistent

I don’t know how it is in your forest, but our place has about 30 acres of wooded area that was selectively cut.  This means there is a huge number of tree tops and branches that are on the ground.  I know that nature will eventually cause this wood to decay but I can’t wait that long.  When I look out in to the woods and see a tangle of tree branches, it hurts my delicate sensibilities.  So it is important for me to instill in my wife the understanding that this job will take time.  She needs to plan her day around piling and burning wood.  If you anticipate ever needing to burn massive amounts of wood debris, you might want to marry a petite woman.  My theory is that petite women don’t have as far to bend over to pick the branches up. However, I did not marry a petite woman.  I failed to anticipate this future need for my spouse.  I chose my wife, instead, on old fashion values:  how much money her family had.

And finally

If the fires get out of hand because you ignored the weather report or the burn ban, do not fret.  There are always excuses for the fire raging out of control and burning down every house in the county.  All you have to do is start a new fire near your neighbor’s yard and claim it started there when he was burning a printed copy of these instructions.  Or better yet, blame it on his wife.  Everyone knows women can’t be trusted with fire, unsupervised, unless it is safely ensconced in a kitchen stove.

I know this is the age of YouTube and most people get their instructions from videos rather than reading them.  But taking the advice of my attorney, I did not do a video of how to burn tree limbs.  He said it could be “evidence” to use against me in a divorce hearing.  Divorce?  Why would I want to get a divorce?  I still have acres of wood yet to burn.

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Very Tall Things

the Burg Khalifa – World’s tallest empty building

Very Tall things

Greetings Gentle Readers. I write to you today from the city of Kuala Lumpur, which is in the country of Malaysia. This is another hot and steamy South East Asian country where mildew is the official national flower. I am here for a presentation but I left my laptop computer back at the airport in Houston. I realized it when I was on the plane so I alerted the airline; they located it and put it in the Lost and Found for me. I hope they find my brain too.

I booked this hotel based on a travel agent’s recommendation. I told him I really didn’t want to spend a lot of money but I wanted to be in a specific area of the city. So I got this dump. It is a very modern high-rise hotel, but it has no exercise room, no pool, and no business office for guests to use. Instead of a business office, this hotel had a COIN OPERATED computer at a table in the lobby. You got five minutes of computer time for each half Ringet coin deposited. (about 15 cents). I was re-creating my presentation (since I left mine with my laptop) and had to keep feeding this crummy computer these large token size coins in order for it to work. I would get engrossed in what I was doing and suddenly the cursor would stop moving. I would struggle with it for a moment and remember to put another coin in the slot. It was slow and tedious.

The only form of “attraction” this hotel seems to claim is “Fish Reflexology”. This is where you put your bare feet into a fish aquarium where thousands of minnows eat the dead cells from your skin. Along with the fish nibbling between your toes, you get a facial and a manicure. I have big feet. If I decided to dunk my feet in the aquarium there would be enough dead skin to feed Moby Dick. The minnows would think they died and wend to fishy DisneyWorld. (is this how Nemo got his start?) This hotel’s restaurant features fresh fish on the menu. I certainly hope their fish does not come from the Reflexology tanks. Come to think of it, the facial cremes they used looked like tartar sauce.

Normally I don’t care much about the hotel’s amenities. I am very busy going to meetings or getting lost returning from a meeting. But this time I spent three nights here for just one presentation. The rest of the time I wandered around the area surrounding the hotel. There are hundreds of tiny restaurants and unkempt shops wedged in to t every available space along the streets. There are an incredible number of retailers selling the identical merchandise: watches, cameras, T-shirts and tiny replicas of the Petronas Towers. Petronas is the National Oil Company. To show off their oil wealth, they built a twin set of office towers which, at the time, was the world’s tallest building. This was back in the 90’s. You may have seen a cheesy Sean Connery movie in 1999 that featured the Petronas Towers as the setting for a high stakes heist.

Two decades later, the Arabs had to one-up Petronas by building what is the currently the world’s tallest building in Dubai, U.A.E. Originally it was to be named the Burg Dubai. (Burg has a soft “G”, like in barge) This thing is massive. (see the photo)  It is over 2,000 ft tall; nearly twice as tall as the Sears (now Willis) Tower in Chicago. The Burg Dubai was a financial fiasco. The city of Dubai built it when they were flush with investor cash. They ran out of money and had to get bailed out by the city of Abu Dhabi, U.A.E. which is controlled by Shiek Khalifa. As a thank you for saving their financial “bacon” the developers re-named the building Burg Khalifa. As of now the building still sits 80% vacant. I like to call it the “Splurg Khalifa”.

I took a tour of it with a colleague last year. We stepped in to the elevator, the doors closed, but nothing happened. I looked over my shoulder and saw a computer screen displaying the floor numbers which were changing rapidly. We had already started moving up at lightning speed but there was no sensation of movement. I had a brief flash of concern that the brakes on this elevator would fail and we would be launched like a cannonball in to the Arabian Gulf. (Editor’s note: that did not happen)
This building was also featured in a recent movie. You may have seen the commercials for it showing Tom Cruse jumping out of one of the upper floor windows of it. I understand his frustration. He was probably tired of feeding coins in to his “business office” computer too.

One last thing about my travels which is sort of interesting…I’ve been to Dubai on this trip and to Kuala Lumpur, both with two of the world’s tallest buildings. Now if I go on to India as planned I will probably see the world’s tallest rubbish pile. World travel can be memorable.

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Your Intrepid Traveler in the Rust Belt

Here I am, in a cab, going from Detroit’s Metro airport to Utica, Michigan.  The cab driver is a foreigner.  Based on his accent, the cut of his clothing, the spelling of his last name and other subtle clues, I have used my world traveling experience and my powers of deduction to conclude that this chap is originally from India. Also, he told me he was.

The driver is wearing a turban. I have always wondered if those things had any functional value or are they just for looks?, Just like parsley.  He is using a Garmin GPS that is speaking English.  That is a good sign, but you’d think it would have an Indian accent.   I expected to hear it say “turn right in one mile.  Why would I lie to you?” This cab driver must not buy his own gas because he has no clue about conserving fuel.  He does not understand the concept of slow acceleration or deceleration.  It is either full throttle or full brake.  It is amazing that I can continue to type on my laptop while the cab is turning on two wheels as we change lanes.

His name tag says he is Rastaffahdullah Shiknoterluciferous.  I can’t tell if that is a name, a location, a religion or a no smoking sign.  This driver is definitely from India.  Or got his driver training there The traffic is fairly heavy and he is multi-tasking by using his cell phone, the two-way radio, and punching the hotel address into the Garmin, all while nimbly dodging trucks and other cars.  Oh, and he is also snacking.  Wait a minute.  I might have been too hasty in guessing this driver’s origin.  He just used his turn signal.  That driving technique is unheard of in India.

The road signs all mention locations which sound familiar, even though I have never been up here for business before.  I see signs for “Lansing”, “Dearborn”, the Ford Museum and other locations that I have heard of before.  But here’s a shock:  there is apparently an entirely different country up here, very close by.  They call it Canadia.  It is full of Canadianns.  They are very grumpy, I hear.  They have a ritual of throwing out perfectly good coffee to signal the end of the work day.  I would be grumpy too if I lived in a country where the national dress code specified wearing a plaid cap with wooly earflaps.

I have been keeping my eye peeled for the Harold P. Museum, but have not spotted it yet.  Harold is my father-in-law and he grew up in the state.  Perhaps they do not advertise the museum in order to keep the crowds manageable.  This is the state that Harold made famous with his description of the weather:   10 months of winter and 2 months of poor sledding.  But today is lovely.  75 degrees and sunny.  And no visible air pollution.  I guess that is the upside to zero economic activity here in the Rust Belt.  This must be Al Gore’s dream city.  One giant carbon offset for the rest of the nation.

I am here to add some economic activity of my own.  I am hoping to sell my equipment to the evil oil companies that have pipelines in Michigan and Canadia.  There is that other country’s name again.  It is a wonderful thing to be able to exploit the masses that depend on petroleum and other toxins.  I sell the equipment that controls the flow of that stuff to them.  I can cut off the supply of oil or gas in a moments notice if I get word from the fat cats on Wall Street that there is an ounce too much product available in the marketplace.

“We” (me and my fellow industry kingpins) have been amazed that the public hasn’t changed their driving habits even with the price of gasoline reaching $4.00 a gallon.  Geez.  Had we known this, we would have jacked the price up years ago.  Some of us Big Oil men have even colluded on wind energy.  We are quietly buying up all the rights to wind farm acreage, with the plan to press congress for tax credits to develop an energy source that is completely uneconomical.  Just like we did with corn ethanol. HA-HA-HA ! Life is good when congress is in session.

I need to wrap up this report so I can continue develop my plans to exploit the poor and gullible. And I need to tell Rastaffahdullah Shiknoterluciferous what exit to take.  I don’t trust his GPS. Now that I have had a closer look at it, it turns out to be a video game. This guy really can multitask.

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Introduction to the Intrepid Traveler

Introduction to the Intrepid Traveler

It was a dark and stormy night…. Well….it’s not very dark. And it’s not stormy, but as I write this, it is night. Right now it is actually quite nice here in SE Texas , in my secret lair, where I sit and create this first blog. Like Al Gore inventing the internet, this night will soon be forgotten.
Blog. Now who came up with such a term? I feel I need to wash my hands after typing it. The name sounds like something that it is oozing up from beneath the toilet. Something is oozing up from our toilet but I would rather do this than deal with the ooze.
Now, as an explanation of why the heck these little stories were written, you must understand that I do not have much of a social life. And when I travel for business, I have nothing fun to occupy my mind. Therefore, I observe and record for my own pleasure, the things that occur when I travel. It is therapeutic for me and unfortunate for the reader. Oh well. You don’t have to read any of this drivel. Take that as a warning.
These stories date back to the beginning of this century. Damn, that makes it sound like I must have written the first ones on parchment. But I didn’t. Since I am a confirmed Conservative, and don’t like change, I used a clay tablet. I remember writing the first story as if it were yesterday (cue the wavy lines and violin music).
I will post the actual stories when I have time. Maybe in the next century.
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Mass Transit for Dummies

Well, here I am in another Asian country.  This time it is Thailand and I am in the city of Bangkok.  I hear it is a huge city.  But since I took the taxi from the airport directly to my hotel, and it was midnight, I really have no idea of how large the place is.  All I know is that it takes frikkin forever to get anywhere in a cab because of all the traffic.  This is a city of 12 million inhabitants.  They all are very petite.  They would have to be tiny because there is no way 12 million full size people would fit here.  Some would flake off the edge of the city like an overstuffed pie crust.

They all look alike to me, of course, because I am a round-eyed westerner.  They all have dark straight hair, are about four feet tall, and have a blank stare on their face, sorta like democrats. (Editor’s note:  Careful readers may remember that a similar comment about Democrats was used in my story about Korea.  Since I never miss an opportunity to make fun of Democrats, I will continue to re-use this timeless bit of sarcasm.)  The citizens here are very nice, but it would be helpful if they could say their “V’s”.  There is another letter of the alphabet they don’t care to use either, but I can’t remember what it is.  Anyway, I digress.

I am here on business.  I am attending a technical conference and my company has an exhibit showing off our technical expertise.  This will be three fun days of trying to explain my designs to people who are probably just being polite by listening to me.  They barely understand “Engrish” and, with my Texas accent, I can hardly speak it.  It makes for either a long difficult conversation or a short quick nod of the head and a smile which means “I don’t have a clue what was just said”.

In my attempts to be a more cosmopolitan traveler, I decided to use the Mass Transit system from my hotel to the conference center.  But I lost a few “Man Points” by asking for directions from the hotel concierge.  He gave me a street map and circled where the hotel was and where I was going.  Easy enough, even for this Intrepid Traveler.

The easy part was finding the train system.  It was the giant elevated concrete structure about a hundred yards from the hotel.  It was mid-morning and reasonably cool, but after lugging my computer case up four flights of stairs to get to the level of the trains, I already sweated enough to need another shower.  I now had to figure out which station I was sweating in, and compare it to street map I had been given.  But the train map had no resemblance to the street map.  I wasn’t even sure the street map was for the same city.

I made some uneducated guesses as to what platform I was to go to, but then could not figure out how to buy the ticket.  There were machines that took coins and there was a real live human behind glass.  I chose to deal with the human.  I thought I told him where I needed to go and I gave him paper money.  He gave me coins back and pointed in a general direction as added assistance.  He was pointing right back to the coin operated ticket machine.  Apparently all I had done with him was get exact change.

OK, I stood in front of this ticket machine that had a lot of squiggly lines (Sanscrit, or Hindu or graffiti; not sure) and numbers on it.  Fortunately, there was a British flag on one button.  I pushed it.  The squiggly lines became words.  Or I presumed they were words.  I think they were the station names.  But I found it impossible to know which station I needed.  They all sounded and look so similar.  What station name did the Change Maker say I needed to go to?   Was the name:   KNOT HEER, HOP SING, or BIC PEN?  Perhaps he said YAN QUI?  or U LOS?   I thought it had some K sound in it somewhere.

As if standing there, like a goat looking at a light switch was not embarrassing enough, I had to be helped by a family from India.  They didn’t know where I was going either, but they at least could show me how to get the machine to spit out a ticket. Thus armed with a credit card sized ticket, I approached the entry area.  After four tries, I finally oriented the four sided ticket properly into the gate opening mechanism.  I followed the crowd of Petite People.  A train came in to the station and opened its doors. I squeezed myself in and hoped for the best.  The train doors closed and off we went.  I had a rough idea of what name to listen for as we chugged along above the city traffic, but the recorded voice announcing the stations was so faint I could barely hear it.

After a few stops, I decided it was time to dis-embark.  I found another train map and started to do more comparisons with the street map.  I slowly started to realize that I had traveled in EXACTLY the wrong direction from where I wanted to go, of course.  I could keep relating more details of this sad tale of ineptitude, but the short version is that I finally did get to the conference.  At the end of the day I didn’t feel my manhood could stand a return trip on the Mass Transit of Doom, so I took a cab back to my hotel.

Mass transit travel and I do not seem to get along.  Once, a few years ago, I was in Rome with my family.  I wanted to go see the Coliseum since we were leaving Rome the next day.  The family was too tired, so I went on my own.  My wife told me to take the Red Line, or perhaps she said take the Blue Line from our hotel to the Coliseum.  She said I couldn’t miss it.  Well, those four words always spell doom for me.  If someone says:  You can’t miss it, you can bet your boots I will miss it.

My wife was referring to me taking the Red or Blue SUBWAY.  Instead, I took the Red or Blue painted CITY BUS.  Poor decision.  After several hours of waiting for the bus to drive past the coliseum, I finally gave up (losing man points again) and asked the driver when we would get there.  He looked at me like I was a lunatic.  Then he said something in Italian, I suppose, then opened the bus door, and rudely gestured me out.

They say necessity is the mother of invention so I wish I could say I came up with a clever solution to my problem.   But no. I resorted to pestering strangers for directions.  (losing more Man Points) Eventually I figured out where I was and what direction to walk.  It took me until dark to find the coliseum.  By then it was closed.  All I could do was stare at the outer walls of that magnificent edifice.  I felt defeated.  Like a Christian about to be fed to the Entertainment.  I was tired of trying to be a savvy consumer of big city mass transit.  I had more money than pride, so I wimped out and took a cab back to the hotel.

Some things in life just never change.

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