Category Archives: Travel

Sleepless Seated Sightseeing

Today’s guest post comes from Edith.

Recently I took a long trip, and was very lucky to have window seats the entire 3 days and 3 nights.

I boarded Amtrak late at night in Kansas City, MO, “slept” through most of Kansas, and woke up to a red sun rising over the prairie behind us.

NM_train9 (1)

During the first day the train went through New Mexico. I never had been to that area before, so was fascinated by the scenery: shrubby trees, hills, some mountains. Lots of browns, but other colors, too.

When I woke the next morning we were running about 1 ½ hours late, but somehow, by 8:30, we had made up 1 ¼ hours of that. The train arrived almost on time in Los Angeles. A good thing for me since there were only 2 hours between our scheduled arrival and the departure of my next train.
Wow, the train depot at L.A. was something else! Huge! Busy! Full of people hustling and bustling around, and all of them knew where they were going; I was the only one who wandered around in circles before I figured out the gate where I was to board my next next train, the once-daily Coast Starlight.

Then I went to the waiting area – to wait, of course. But I got restless. When I noticed people coming in some side doors. I got up to investigate and found a charming courtyard. Trees. Birds singing. Benches. A fountain. Tile work. Grass. Blue Skies. Very refreshing.

The Coast Starlight was pretty full, so I had a seatmate. She spent a lot of time in the observation car. No need for me to do that – not only did I have a window seat, it was on the ocean side.

But we sat in the same spot for a long time while the train was stopped because of a gas leak somewhere near the tracks up ahead. I had a great view of a parking lot and some empty tennis courts.

Lovely.

After 4 hours, we were able to move on.

Lucky me! The train goes very close to the ocean, in spots, so I had great view after great view.
Very cool!

The problem with the train being late was we no longer had any stops where we could get out and stretch.

Uffda, my legs ached from sitting. Even after we left the coast, the scenery in northern California and Oregon was lovely, but i had trouble appreciating it.

My trip_CA17

Finally, after what seemed like an endless time of trying, never very successfully, to sleep in a train seat and wanting to do anything but sit still another hour, I arrived in Portland.

I wanted only to take a shower, sleep in a real bed, and look forward to a day with fellow baboon Steve. Still, despite all the discomfort I had endured, I felt lucky that I was able to see so many beautiful sights from the train window.

How long can you stand to sit?

Rough Landing Haiku

Space travel fans and recyclers are full of admiration for the people at Space-X, who come closer with each attempt to doing something the throw-away generation of the ’60’s didn’t even consider. They’re trying to create a rocket booster that can carry a vehicle to orbit, and then land, vertically, the same way it took off.

To allow some room for error, they built a barge that can float out in the ocean, away from population centers. Smart, but problematic, as it creates a somewhat unsteady surface.

This last time they came quite close to making it work.

I love the slow yielding to gravity at the end, as it gradually becomes clear we are not going to remain vertical.

The fall takes about 7 seconds – just long enough to read three lines of 5, 7 and 5 syllables.

if there is no land
just a barge in the ocean
there is no landing

falling down to earth,
a job anything can do,
gets tricky at last

hold the platform still
and I will stick the dismount
at some other time

practice makes perfect
but first some big explosions
for entertainment

Space X says next time, they’ll try to do the landing where there is actually some land.

When has practice made perfect for you?

The Audacity of Heft

Today’s post comes from Wally of Wally’s Intimida, home of the Sherpa SUV. It’s a mighty big car!

Greetings, Road Hogs!

After reading yesterday’s comments on driving, I know most of you are not actually “road hogs”, but you each could  become one if only you had the right set of wheels.

Wally here to remind you that the Sherpa from Intimida is still the world’s widest, tallest, longest and heaviest passenger car .

And that’s saying something at a time when car designers are obsessed with “lightweighting” their products.  They take steel out of a vehicle’s frame and replace it with aluminum, carbon fiber, and carbon fiber reinforced composites (CFRC’s).

By doing this, it’s possible to improve gas mileage, drive-ability and customer acceptance.

But so what?  Some things are so basic to your identity that they should never be changed, and for the Sherpa one of those key things is heft!

No, we’re not embarrassed by weight.

That’s why Intimida engineers always opt for the heaviest, densest materials available. The frame is made out of steel-reinforced steel and skyscraper-construction-grade I-beams. Our paint is made from a paste created when crushed bedrock is combined with super-strong limpet teeth by melting both ingredients in blast furnaces as hot as the sun.

The reason is simple – a car as big as a mountain doesn’t need to get good gas mileage.   Because it’s such a massive object, the Sherpa  has stronger gravity than everything around it, so people and things just naturally come to it.

But when you do start it up and decide to go somewhere, the world will take notice!  That’s because a Sherpa is designed to be impressive, meaning it leaves a permanent scar on the landscape.

That’s why so many crumbling highways are closed shortly after an Intimida Sherpa passes through.

Yes, you did that.  But you pay taxes, so get your money’s worth!

So if a lightweight car is what you want, there are plenty of options out there.  But if you want to turn heads, collapse bridges and cause earthquakes wherever you go, there’s only one choice for you – the Sherpa from Intimida.

It’s a mighty big, profoundly heavy car!

Come see me today – my office is right in the middle of a Mountain Range of Cars!

Wally

About what are you unapologetic?  

 

 

Carnival Town

We are ALL Dr. Babooner

Dear Dr. Babooner,

We are ALL Dr. Babooner
We are ALL Dr. Babooner

I suffer from a litte-known, not-well-understood condition called Atariphobia, which is an unsupported-by-facts but nonetheless pervasive fear of invaders from space.

Consequently, I find myself constantly scanning the sky for signs of flying saucers.

In addition, I am a practicing Orsonist. As followers of the late actor/director Orson Welles, we Orsonists assume that in every case the most dramatic explanation is automatically the one that’s most likely to be true.

Rosebud!

Welles is known for the classic 1938 “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast,  which convinced too many people that Earth was under attack.  As a result, smoldering craters of every kind give me the creeps. When our family went to visit Yellowstone National Park, I stayed in the hotel room the entire time, sobbing.

In spite of these debilitating conditions, I am usually able to lead a typical life. But there’s a blog I follow where the writer often talks about how beautiful our planet looks from space, and he sometimes posts things like this video:

When I look at this, I’m terrified.

Compared to the barren, dead worlds we see elsewhere in our solar system (Mars!) and others we’re discovering throughout the galaxy, our place has a distinct ‘open for business’ look that makes me extremely uneasy.

It’s a swirly, spinning, sparkly gem set against a black background, with inexplicably vivid highlights, like the intermittent green glow of those northern lights – a feature that simply begs to be investigated.

If you were a space alien searching for a fun place to land or a bright bauble to tear apart, ours appears to be the only game in town. Why wouldn’t you come here?

I’m usually not too political, but I called my Congressman to urge her to do something. I thought maybe she could offer legislation to wrap the world in a drab,frumpy bag, dressing it down in the same way a beautiful woman de-emphasizes her best features to discourage unwanted attention.

The congressional aide I spoke with told me the Republican leadership is already doing everything it can to uglify the world through climate change denial. He used the incessant western drought as an example.

“California,” he explained, “is already looking a lot like Uranus.”

But I could hear stifled laughter on the other end of the line. I don’t think they took me very seriously.

Dr. Babooner, people are so willing to mock those who are even a little bit unconventional. How can I get them to consider the real risk posed by our planet’s obvious invade-able-ness?

Trepidatiously,
I.M. Wary

I told I.M.W. there is not much one person can do to make the world seem uninviting to outsiders. And when it comes to putting a potential crisis on the popular agenda, one must wait one’s turn. As a people, we respond to risk when the danger is imminent and our possible responses are limited.  In other words, we will only act when it is too late to act.  But as an Orsonist, I’m sure you’re already well aware that the world will accept no whine before its time.

But that’s just one opinion. What do YOU think, Dr. Babooner?

Don’t Let The Stars Get in Your Eyes

It should be obvious by now that I’m fascinated by outer space, a place I’ve seen on TV but will probably never visit. If I did get a chance to leave the atmosphere, I would want a window seat and would spend most of my time looking back at the place I’d just come from.

From what I’ve seen on the printed page and the flat screen, all views of Earth from orbit are enthralling. Even the ones that don’t allow me to say “Hey, there’s my house!”

I don’t know how long it would take for the scenery to become ordinary or (heavens forbid!), boring. Maybe that’s not possible, but there’s a chance we’re going to find out now that a couple of guys have been sent to the International Space Station to stay for a year.

Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko will help answer a boatload of questions during their odyssey.

The one that caught my eye (literally) is this one – quoted from the BBC article linked above:

“However, there are other problems that doctors still need to study and understand. They have poor data on the effects on immune function, for example, and there is considerable concern about the damage spaceflight causes to the eyes. This is a newly recognised phenomenon, and appears to be related to the way fluid is redistributed in a weightless body.

Pressure is seen to build in the skull and on the optic nerve, and a large number of astronauts return to Earth complaining that their vision is not as good as when they went up.”

So in other words, space is beautiful, but the longer you stay, the less you’re going to see.  If diminished vision is part of the deal you have to cut to experience the stunning visuals of long-term space flight, is it worth the price?

When have you agonized over a trade-off?

Moon Makers

We’re back in space today, now that I’ve discovered NASA’s audacious plan to give the moon a moon,, which is actually a clever way to practice doing things that will be necessary for the later, longer, much-promised trip to Mars.

But we must always be mindful of the tendency of our great plans to create unintended consequences. My concern with any moon-related adventure is the potential negative effect it could have on an important global resource – our canon of Tin Pan Alley moon songs.

Really, these things are not to be messed with.

Fly me past the moon
So I can fetch the moon a moon
Picked up from an asteroid
as if in a cartoon.

We’ll call it the “Moon of Moon”.
I love to say “moon moon moon moon”.

Any rock will do,
we’re only practicing for Mars.
Rehearsing like teenagers,
who dream of driving cars.

It’s time to be on our way
I want to be plucking boulders

What a gift to give –
a friend to orbit, evermore.
So our moon won’t have to be
as moonless as before.

Let’s make this moon dream come true.
I want to say I’ve mooned you!

When has it been a big production to give a small gift?

Ask Dr. Babooner

We are ALL Dr. Babooner

Dear Dr. Babooner,

I was excited to hear there would be a solar eclipse to watch yesterday, until I discovered it wasn’t happening anywhere near me.

Not only that, by the time I worked out the location issue, the eclipse had already occurred, and other people were busy complaining that it was a letdown.

One person said on Twitter that he was “… mad at space.”

But that’s nothing compared to my disappointment, because I learned that all I could have to look forward to in terms of celestial events yesterday was a supermoon, and the vernal equinox, which is great but it’s like a band that comes to town every year – you kind of hope they’ll do something new.

And besides, the Supermoon is invisible right now, so it doesn’t even count.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m a fan of the seasons and the circle of life and all that stuff. But if there’s going to be an amazing solar eclipse, why can’t I be one of those people who flies on a private jet to see it from a luxuriously appointed yurt set up specifically for that purpose on a remote, cloudless hillside in the Faroe Islands?

Not only would it be fantastic to witness such a thing, I could use social media to brag to people that I had done it in the most expensive and extravagant way possible, which would make them feel the kind of intense envy that Facebook was invented to promote.

I know I’m special but I feel like my life is slipping by and I am only allowed to have ordinary experiences!

What’s with that?

Sincerely,
Bummed

I told Bummed that he is indeed special, but so is everyone else, which ultimately makes him ordinary.  He could go out of his way to collect extraordinary experiences, but it would have the odd effect of making exotic and unusual things quite common in his life. People who use their wealth to do this eventually come around to the feeling that they are missing out by not having mundane lives. So enjoy your dull opportunities! More zealous and financially able adventurers have to spend a lot of money to wind up in the very same place!

But that’s just one opinion. What do YOU think, Dr. Babooner?