This weekend I’ve journeyed back to the Bernese Oberland region of Switzerland, where I previously spent a memorable weekend just over 10 years ago in May of 2007. The unquestionable highlight then was a somewhat spontaneous decision to go skydiving, though one could also argue that the entire experience was a literal high point of a month long Eurotrip.
When the 10th anniversary of starting that Eurotrip occurred last month, I spent some time reflecting on that experience, and how it seems surprising in the present day that I managed to travel around a wide array of Europe (15 countries, I think) for a six week period and coordinate logistics as I went along, such as lodging, transport timing, places to eat, sleep, what to see and so forth. It seems retrospectively surprising especially as it took place just before our current mobile communication era began, when the iPhone was introduced at the end of June, 2007. It’s also retrospectively impressive in that it was mostly a solo trip, with the most interactions with friends happening at the start and towards the end of the experience while in Germany and Scandinavia, respectively.
At some point around that anniversary time, I also reflected on the process of remembering a place, specifically regarding spots that I’ve visited only once. The question mainly was around whether it’s worth updating a memory with a new one or the previous (only) visit was satisfying in a way that I don’t want or need to update it.
I find those ruminations coming back to mind while here in Switzerland and updating the memories of 10 years ago. It is nice to be less “on the move” than the previous visit, which found me staying in 3 different locations over 3 consecutive nights. It’s also of some amusement to update the memories, as I did not recall until arriving here that I actually stayed at this hostel on one of those three nights in 2007, and actually in the same room.
I’ll be thinking about that “updating” again in the morning with a trip back up to the Schilthorn, the iconic mountaintop restaurant prominently featured in my favorite James Bond film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and which itself has been updated since 2007.
Of course the main thing through it all is staying present.
and so a notorious year ends. It hasn’t been all bad for me personally, and if anything, I’m grateful to have turned around what could have been a bad year, more or less starting with an injury, into something more adventurous and ultimately optimistic.
It’s been particularly nice to end the year back here in “The California Homeland” of Marin County for the third consecutive year. It’s a good example of how time changes – five years ago I wouldn’t have said this winter visit would become a tradition – and maybe it sets a goal for 2017 of the past becoming the present again.
Early in this past summer I was excited to be reminded (in person) of a healthy music store in West Chester, PA. Such stores are quickly (already?) becoming an endangered species, and so it was particularly satisfying to come back to this store and see it offering a wide range of music and other related selections. I thought that I was going to leave without purchasing anything, but lying near the cash register was a small boxed set of five compact discs highlighting “80’s Classics”. This seemed to be a perfect match for my upcoming long haul road trip, and so I purchased it. (Actually my mom bought it for me as a “getting on the road” present.)
As the driving spurts resumed, I continued to let my iPod shuffling set the mood for a little while after purchasing the set of discs, but that got old as I began to enter the long-haul westbound territory, and so I decided that the especially long haul across Nebraska (400 something miles) would be a great introduction to the set of music. I quickly appreciated that some care had been taken in selecting the choice and sequencing of music. The first song of each disc got things off with a bang of energy and the mood rolled along after that, mixing between slower tunes and higher energy pieces. I let the whole sequence of five discs play through on that first day and it was a GREAT way to enliven the scenery and pace of going through Nebraska, which eventually gave way to the arid plains and mild mountains of northeastern Colorado.
After the first listen, I expected that the music would time capsule itself to that stretch of driving through Nebraska, and it did, at first, as I tuned into other radio offerings and back to the iPod (along with bits of silence here and there) for a little while. But in an effort to continue the sonic variety, I ended up tuning back into the CD set sooner than I expected.
One song in particular (“Good Life” by a group called Inner City – never heard of them) took on the role of road trip theme song, as I began to listen to it at the start of each long-haul driving day and felt that it set the right upbeat mood. Now, a month and a half later, the song has settled into a role as emblematic of the whole summer, and while I’m not listening to it at the start of every day, it does bring a smile to my face, as many other songs do that quickly associate themselves with the time or circumstances that you first hear them in.
In my current travel mode I’ve decided to make an effort to blog more. So I wrote this a few days ago attempting to recap the initial driving on the road experience of this summer.
I spend a lot of time looking forward to traveling, but I don’t spend a lot of time reflecting on traveling. But maybe that will change with this summer on the road. I’m writing this from almost as far south as one can go in the USA, just 100 miles or so from Miami and the end of the road.
It was a fun challenge to come down here from Michigan and do the trip almost entirely on the same road, Interstate 75, which extends up the middle-center of the country from just outside Miami to the Canadian border at Sault Saint Marie, Michigan. I, of course, know the road particularly well in the Detroit area, and had encountered portions of its Florida path before.
This time, the decision to travel southbound included significant stretches of Kentucky and Tennessee, two states I’d never set foot in before, and (in going through them it is) now bringing my remaining states yet to visit to just four, with the lower 48 set to be clinched next month. I expected to see more pastoral farmland than I did in Kentucky, and I wished I’d had more time to explore the surroundings of the area. Nonetheless, both Kentucky and Tennessee offered a surprising (to the visitor) range of pastoral mountain scenery, similar to what I know from the northern reaches of back home in New England. (It also served as a reminder that my car is not the best one for mountain environments.)
This rugged environment continued farther south into Georgia than I expected before abruptly giving way to the Atlanta area sprawl. Well, maybe the gradual widening of the highway was a clue, but the sudden merging of two major highways brought traffic to a full stop. As the traffic inched forward again, the exits revealed a veritable golden highway of tourist attractions. Carter Center! Turner Center! MLK Jr National Historic Site! Downtown Atlanta itself! If I’d had more time, I would have arranged to explore a few of those places. But it will have to wait for some other opportunity.
As for Florida, the state is “open for business” as the sign at its welcome center proudly proclaims. In a cute touch, they even offered free orange juice at the center, with an attendant cheerfully handing the beverage out (in a small cup) to anyone who wanted it. I needed the fortification when, an hour or so later, the clear skies abruptly gave way to rain so heavy it was like a flash flood. The deluge continued for maybe 10-15 minutes and I turned off the stereo to concentrate solely on navigation. In this case I was grateful for my small car and easy maneuvering from the slower to middle lane. It was a relief to see the rain go away and I needed to pull off at the next big town, Gainesville, to recover from the excitement.
It was rush hour in Gainesville and the stop served as a quick redux of a city I wouldn’t have expected to get to know over the past few years; this brief stop was my third time there in the past three months. The main commercial area near the highway has undergone modest to sizable changes since the first time I was there in 2012, with increasing emphasis on sprawl and congestion, which looks unlikely to change anytime soon. Because of the heavy traffic I was unable to look for a “cheap” gas price and had to settle for the currently high $2.34 per gallon, which was clearly an overage from what other stations were offering.
The process of making a long trip quickly and succinctly reminded me of the value of Intentional Traveling, where there is value in taking a quick look at a map before you get underway and deciding on a tentative outline of where and how frequently to stop on the way to your destination. I will be following that mode as summer on the road continues.
I’m glad this establishment has joined the ranks of area dining destinations, but I’m not sure it was worth the nearly two years of anticipation. (Signs advertising the restaurant have been in place since at least the middle of 2014.)
I’ve visited here for a handful of meals since their opening in late February, and have decided I need to take a break at this point, with the possibility of a revisit in a month or so. Not because their service has been poor to me – though there was one occasion where a long line formed not long after I placed my order – but because the novelty and excitement of a mac and cheese restaurant has worn off faster than I expected. i recognize that I’d previously enjoyed their countertop offerings at Somerset and Great Lakes Crossing, but, those were experiences that only happened around once per month.
The menu offerings that I have tried have kept up the hearty consistency that I found in their other locations, with the “four cheese” and “pesto mac” being particular personal favorites. The dine-in environment is colorful and welcoming, but could clearly use a little more thought, not only in terms of how and where customers wait, but also how to dispose of trash and if the seating can be mixed up a little.
It’s fun that they offer some “brewz” in addition to the standard menu, but I’ve noticed that the servers have seemed a bit befuddled regarding how that section operates, so I hope they develop a clearer distinction or simply better integration between the main menu and the libations. And that they are willing to buckle up and make things work for lasting in the neighborhood!
Dependable if not fantastic destination serving Mediterranean fare mostly to the campus crowd. I’ve been living and working near here for a while, but paid little attention to the restaurant until last fall, over a year into my stint in the area. I think I would have enjoyed it if I had noticed it sooner.
The restaurant places particular emphasis on the freshness of their food, for the most part, so I’d advise an eat-in experience over the take-out. As well, the take-out options can be annoyingly overly wrapped, which decreases from their freshness in the case of the fries and leads to spillage with some of the wrap sandwiches. Take the time to get to know the servers if you are coming here regularly, as they are personable and happy to help.
I found this theatre to be disappointing after getting to know other (newer) MJR locations in Troy, Clinton and Sterling Heights. While MJR is always endearing to the community with its great theme song and affordable pricing, this theatre suffers from a tight layout and currently a literally in-between status as it converts to those roomier seating arrangements that are taking over the industry. The location is relatively convenient in that it’s close to I-94 and various shopping attractions, but I’m not sure I’d come again.
I’ve made a couple of visits here in the past year, and can’t shake an impression of it being overly hipster pretentious for its own good. If the space was larger and had a better sense of crowd control, plus built-in wifi for customers, I might think higher of it.
I have enjoyed some of their food products, including the particularly good egg sandwiches and some other baked goods, but haven’t felt inclined to stay and enjoy or linger since the crowds tend to be large. It is worth noting that the business is an anchor of the Corktown district and certainly offers appealing local flavor if you’re willing to try it.
Recently made a belated first visit here. One of the most tasteful places I’ve discovered in Detroit, with a delightful and extensive array of sliders, all very inexpensively priced. I also tried the New England clam chowder, since I hail from that part of the country, but felt it should have a different name since that dish is NOT meant to have red sauce and more of a potato emphasis.
The service here was on the slow side – how long can it take to make a small slider? – and one might suggest they should have a better system to get things all sorted out than the array of visible slips on the kitchen window. But that wasn’t a total negative for the visit and I could see myself coming here again if the occasion presented itself. Extra points for the provided parking, too, and not having to do awkward searches on the street.
One of the most full service hotels I’ve ever visited and in a perfect location to take advantage of downtown Chicago. Very generously sized single room, practically double the size of what the “average” might be, and a good range of resources within the hotel to take advantage of, including a fitness center, general store, conference rooms, and several dining options.
I get that they are trying to maximize the efficiency with an automated check-in system, and it worked fine for me, but they might want to consider having staff members more clearly visible for questions and helping the visitors, perhaps in a clearly marked information desk type area.
No trouble with the hotel wifi (just enter your name and room number) or any of the additional customer offerings at the hotel. The lobby itself has more of an airport feel since it is so busy, but it is welcoming and does the job well of treating guests to a comfortable base for all that Chicago has to offer!
Generally I appreciate the modest aesthetic of Microtels and that’s why I chose this place to stay in during a brief visit to Holland this weekend.
The location is odd: close to route 31, but not much activity going on around the hotel, and the downtown and other regional attractions are a driveable, not walking distance away. The room I was assigned on the second floor offered the typical layout of the chain, with a generously sized bed, but smaller surrounding area in the room. It did have the nice window nook that I have particularly enjoyed at other Microtels.
As someone who can be sensitive to light in dark places, I didn’t appreciate that the in-room satellite dish seemed to not have an “off” option, so that it created a constant blue light in the room even when lights were off, which was magnified by the in-room mirror. It’s possible I did not find the off switch, but, not everyone watches or needs TV.
The included breakfast was OK the next morning, with a good range of basic pastries, fruit and yogurt, although the waffle machine was running low on its mix.
No frills and literally on the edge of town next to the highway, but seems to have good character and good value for the price. Staff also seem relatable and not pretentious or looking down at you.
Possibly the most well stocked Ross I have ever been in! (I have been deprived lately since the company is not present in my current home state of Michigan.)
I’m sure I fell right into their target consumer mode this morning, stopping by right when they opened (at 8:30am, perfect to keep the day going on a good start) to stock up on a few additional travel supplies and apparel items. If I wasn’t on a tight schedule, I probably would have stayed to browse longer and see what additional deals I could find.
Stayed here last night and felt that the place was serviceable but didn’t really know what it wanted to be. It presents a “resort” atmosphere but it is right on the corner of a very busy stretch of Orlando. My rate, admittedly negotiated through a third party site, was just a room and nothing else such as breakfast included. The grounds are nice if one looks at them a certain way (not facing the sprawl of International Drive) and does not have to walk too far. I found the floors to be quite thin as well, and could hear my upstairs neighbors in building 7 stomping well into the night. The place is not terrible, but it’s not as appealing as the name branding and other advertising led me to believe it might be. And I couldn’t believe they wanted me to pay extra for wifi – get with the times!
Just received a form email from British Airways, and their distinct phrasing caught my eye. Wouldn’t it be nice if USA organizations sent emails as straightforward (yet stylish) as this.
You have previously confirmed you would like to receive information about the latest offers, products and services from British Airways.
We are currently carrying out some housekeeping on our database and we’d like to ensure you are still happy to receive this information.
If you wish to continue receiving communications from British Airways, you need do nothing further. If you no longer wish to hear from us, you can unsubscribe here
Here we are at the end of this New England road trip and I’m attempting to write a post on my Smart phone for the first time in quite a while. Unfortunately it feels glitchy.
But it does feel good to have covered a large number of miles today, possibly my largest ever on a single day of traveling around in this part of the country.
And I think I do want to note an actual “wow” feeling that came at the end of the day when I reached my destination and fought back to realize how far of a distance had come since my start of the day.
It was such a “wow” moment when Peter Pan/Bonanza bus first introduced wifi service on their buses around 2010, and it was also quite glitchy. Now in 2015 I’m enjoying it without a second thought, and an expectation that it will be smooth!
The computer distracts me from the extremely familiar sights along this Boston —> Martha’s Vineyard bus ride. I was trying to determine in my head how many times I’ve taken this bus ride in my life, and would go for somewhere between 50 and 100, not as much as I might expect, but if you add in private car trips of that same route, the number might go into the thousands.
I remember feeling disappointed when the character of the final stretch of highway (I-495 and MA 25) changed around ten years ago with a switch from side of the road to overhead signs, making it seem to me less like a rural route and more like a standard American highway or freeway. There was also a time when I was a vocal pre-teen passenger and encouraged my parents to vary the route since this stretch of road seemed too boring and repetitive to me, so we’d go via Providence RI and then loop back to it, or join the road at a slightly northern point of the usual onramp in Raynham.
But in the present day, with my not based in Massachusetts life, traveling along the highway – along the whole Boston to Martha’s Vineyard route, really – is the equivalent of an eager mental checklist, and it continues to get me every time.
Exited Boston? Yep.
Turned onto Route 24? Yep.
Curved turn onto 495? Yep.
Transition to 25? Yep.
still to come: cross the Bourne Bridge, go through two rotaries, a few small towns, and one ferry ride…
It’s gratifying to sometimes get the sensation (purely psychological I am sure) that time is moving more slowly than usual. Just one month ago today, I felt that feeling while visiting Laguna Beach, California, for the first time in my life.
The sky opened up as my friends and I set a course down Highway 1, also known as the PCH. The traffic was modest and it seemed like most people in the area were still on their Christmas breaks. As we came over a hill, the expanse of Laguna stretched itself out in front of us, and it was exactly the layout that I had imagined and seen from film and photos. The native Southern Californian of our group decided that we’d take a look at the boardwalk, which was unsurprisingly packed with tourists and visitors. So we did, and we were lucky to find a spot… but the surroundings did not feel rushed or overcrowded. The Pacific extended out in front of us beginning with a beach several hundred feet below. It seemed to go on forever and there were many people on the beach just gently walking from point to point and enjoying the fresh air. I flashed on the contrast of the colder weather in Michigan, Massachusetts or some other location on that day and felt especially grateful to be there at Laguna.
We got back in the car and made our way through the crowded and surprisingly developed (to my first time eyes) downtown area. My friend wanted to take us to a particular favorite spot just south of town, and so we were able to make our way there, abutting a resort and what appeared to be a series of vacation condos. I didn’t have or want any particular sense of time and other commitments. In fact it seemed that time had deliberately slowed down for our outing, even though two people in the group had an evening commitment back closer to Los Angeles.
We gathered our picnic supplies and made our way down to the special spot. It did not disappoint. I felt so comfortable in the warm weather and casual setting that I decided to take a quick swim in the Pacific, admittedly partially to say that I had did it and done so at such a late point in the year. It was refreshing and had a strong tidal undercurrent, so I was careful to not get too far out. I suppose that time continued to pass as we sat there on the beach talking and spectating – the area became increasingly crowded after we arrived, with several memorable photo shoots seemingly lining up one by one to take advantage of the light and setting – but I stayed focused on the immediate moment.
At some point, as the sun began to go down, it became clear that it was time for us to pack up as well. I didn’t feel a sadness of leaving the moment, just a very strong appreciation to have been fully present in a way that seemed unique to that particular setting, taking in the majesty of the surroundings and the enjoyment of others’ company.
Remember the era of writing long emails to a select group of family and friends, when we weren’t all quite as instantly connected? I did just that in January 2004 on a Hampshire College outdoors trip to New Zealand, which focused on sea kayaking and hiking. Below is a selection from the second group email I sent on January 23, 2004.
…we boarded a van for a new journey across the mountains to Nelson, an artistic northern center of the South Island and gateway to the adventurous activities of several national parks in the area. We stopped in the downtown city area of Nelson (near the sea) for a few hours and I was impressed by the incredibly cosmopolitan and independent spirit of the downtown. Street performers and art exhibitions were everywhere I could look and everyone walking along the main street seemed very happy to be there. The historical British influence was certainly more direct there, with “Trafalgar St” being Main Street and several bands sounding just like British pop. A few hours later we continued the journey in the van up a nozzle of the coast to the Abel Tasman National Park, likely one of NZ’s most popular national parks and especially crowded in the summer months. The next five days were to be spent in the park “tramping” (hiking) from north to south, opposite the traditional tourist track.
I knew that we were in for something different and exciting as soon as the journey began the next morning. We boarded a water taxi (small boat) that was towed by a tractor down to the ocean shore, and then became self sufficient to drive us completely up the golden coast of the park. We passed high bluffs, rich surf, and several seal colonies en route to the top of the tourist track. The entire coast of the Tasman is a rich fine golden brown, unlike any other type of sand I had ever seen before. It was immensely refreshing to swim in after a hot day and beneficial just to look at when the route got sweaty. We began the tramping that day with a northerly loop around the park’s less-travelled northern quadrant. The track, or road, that we followed stayed quite close to the coast through several beaches and low sea forests. Eventually we reached a place called Seperation Point, which is one of the most northerly points of the South Island and had a quiet calmness to it as we gazed out from the rocks at the open, endless horizon to the north. The next day was a steeper incline up and down a large “hill” heading back to the coast but ultimately was no less rewarding. As we climbed the track, we could only see on the right side doughy bog-like marshland and water, and on the left was semi-Alpine green forest that snaked around back to the shore. Nonetheless it was very welcoming to get back to the water after hiking in the heat of the day. We stayed that night at a very family-oriented camp ground where at least 15 children biked through after dinner, asking us to help them with equipment for the hot scavenger hunt of the evening (which meant requesting books in a foriegn language, foriegn passports (!), and objects that could be used to make goods.) On the third day of tramping, we began to merge into the more commonly and frequently traversed coastal track. It was a LOT of hiking, at least 11 miles. The high point of that day was a coastal crossing that had to be done at least 1 1/2 hours before high tide otherwise it would flood. We ended up crossing in water anyway, which felt like a clamming trip in the bogs of the shore (and indeed we ended up stepping on several hundred clam shells.) It was a great delight to finally reach the campsite that day, even if it was raining. The next day brought another, shorter, estuary crossing and lots more of coastal beach scenery that also managed to mix in with the forest. I was intrigued by the dimensions and dynamics of a bridge that could only hold five people one way at a time and was swinging at least 50 feet above a river; the trail itself quickly plunged back down to semi-coastal level. That night, it was again a delight to be able to sleep right on the beach and be rocked to sleep by the energetic waves. The final day of tramping felt like coming full circle. The trail continued back down to where we had been before, and this time it was finally at a level gradient along the water. We saw endless blue and much boat traffic navigating the seas to the left of us. Eventually five short pedestrian bridges signalled the end of the line. Many of us had blisters from the tramping experience but I highly doubt that anyone was in bad spirits cause of the energy and faith of doing things together as a team.
The taxi returned to drive us 250 miles through snakey mountains and dramatic oceansides down the west coast of New Zealand. We saw more farmlands, wineries and even a whitewater rafting river before the road came alongside the ocean again. This time we were bordering the Tasman Sea, but the waves had all the energy of good Pacific hits. We stopped briefly at a tourist attraction called the Pancake Rocks, where large amounts of rocks have been so windswept and weather beaten, they have gradually become part of the sea, and eroded down into pancake shapes. Meanwhile the land surrounding them has started to sprout blowholes where water sneaks in to a small crevasse at high tide and then erupts back up as if part of a geyser. We continued down the coastal road to Greymouth, the West Coast’s hub city, for a two day stay. The locals call the west coast area New Zealand’s “wild west” and it was somewhat painfully obivous to see why. Greymouth was somewhat creepy and well past its prime, perhaps like an abandoned mine town might be in the Western United States. It only had a small town center that closed up shop every night at 5pm and no one seemed to go out of doors after then, even though the town is positioned at the mouth of a gusty river that guarantees great coastal views. The next day we found something to write home about in the town by participating in a “caveing” experience through an adventure company. We put on wetsuits once again and were bussed up to the hills to a deep subterranean cave. A guide led us through an experience of rafting by glowworm light, swimming in COLD water and hiking along different rocks. It was fun to see, but not unique, and I felt like the group was a little cast aside when two following tour groups came into the cave to do the exact same activities.
We left Greymouth via train on the spectacular TransScenic railway that is the most efficent connection between the East and West coasts of the central part of the South Island. It was a special thrill to sit back and feel the steam machine climb up the mountains to Arthur’s Pass, a small township and national park nestled right in the middle of the Southern Alps. The peaks and some of the villiages look almost identical to Switzerland, so the resemblance from place to place was very overt, and resonant. We spent one night in Arthur’s Pass, which is exactly like a charming Swiss villiage, only nestled here in the middle of the South Island instead. A small array of services and crafts line the main street, nestled in a ridge between high peaks with names like Avalanche Peak and Rollaston Pass. Disappearances of hikers are sadly not that uncommon there. The town itself had a pleasant character, with many natural amenities including a 50 foot (or so) tall waterfall that I saw on a short hiking experience today. We continued the journey on the train this afternoon, finishing the route back to Christchurch along mountain peaks, farmlands, and flat plains bordered by icey rivers before hitting the metropolitan area of the city for one more time. And indeed it is down to the last hurrah, as our journey home begins tomorrow (the 24th) at 1:30pm, but due to the “magic” of the International Dateline, will only conclude early morning of the 25th. It will certainly be a jarring temparature change, and probably the longest day ever (48 hours) for several of us. Then will get to have less than 24 hours back at home before returning to Hampshire, so hope the transition isn’t too abrupt…