Category Archives: travel

Into the Desert: Alvord Basin

There is a small, cold desert east of here that I have seen in my dreams for decades.

The Alvord Desert

It sits high up on a plateau created millions of years ago when basalts flowed over the area in giant, motlen floods .

It sits in the shadow of the snowy mountain, which catches the rain, leaving it parched and flat and featureless.

I had seen the Alvord Desert far below the East Rim Lookout on Steens Mountain the previous evening. The twelve-mile-long by seven-mile-wide playa looked exactly as I had seen it in my dreams, a vast, sandy nothingness stretching away to the south.

Continue reading Into the Desert: Alvord Basin

Into the Desert: Steens Mountain

Mount Washington along the Santiam Pass

I sipped hot green tea as I drove over the Santiam Pass at 6:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning.

The air was still night-cooled, and the tea felt good on my throat, raw as it was from so much smoke from a brutal summer of forest fires.

The familiar landscape of a pass I’ve driven maybe a hundred times gave way to the the suprising landscape of a big burn as I neared the top. The Whitewater fire had burned parts of the forest on either side of the road, and I noticed the mosaic pattern of the burn left swirls of green amidst the blackened earth.

Dropping down into the high desert, as I have called Central Oregon since I first visited there, is always exciting in the way it transitions from the deep green of the Cascades to the beige and sage of the high and dry country. Continue reading Into the Desert: Steens Mountain

Fidel

I looked up into the thick Havana air at the brightly-lit poster on the wall of an old, stone government building.

Viva Fidel 80

The old revolutionary was somewhere in this town in a compound contemplating his retirement announcement, which would happen just a few days later on my last day in Cuba.

The old man didn’t really even make it out for his 80th birthday celebration, and his thin and frail image on television barely registered in a country where his black-bearded and green fatigues image is as ubiquitous as the Cuban flag.  Continue reading Fidel

evitcepsreP yM gnignahC

Changing your evitcepsrep is all about exposing yourself to new views
Changing your evitcepsrep is all about exposing yourself to new views
It’s been a challenge to change my perspective this week.

I’ve been coming at this from one angle since all hell broke loose on Tuesday night.

Finding the negatives lying around on the floor, picking them up, weighing them, and then moving on to the next one.  Continue reading evitcepsreP yM gnignahC

The Costs of Coming Home

Eight-Year SojournTurns out you can come home again.

But it will cost you.

What it will cost you is a matter of what you put in to the decision to leave home in the first place.

Did you leave home out of fear? Fear that you’d never amount to anything there. Was it too small to contain you? Constantly running to the edges of town like a Bruce Springsteen song. Was it wanderlust? The kind of wanderlust seeing all the home towns on earth can’t cover.  Continue reading The Costs of Coming Home

Hambling in Reno

IMG_9698Hambling only because my iPhone corrected gamboling to hambling, so this post is hambling in Reno.

I’m not much of a gambler. But don’t get me wrong, I’d dearly love to be.

There’s something about slouching over the craps table casually doling out chips on those ciphers on the felted floors of the table.

Or the way the roulette players never seem stressed, at least not like the black jack players.  Continue reading Hambling in Reno

Getting off auto pilot

I love that feeling of turning onto a road I’ve never driven before. That moment when the familiar gives way to the unknown.
When your eyes fill up with brand-new views, and you have to work harder for every moment.
There is no auto pilot here.
When pulling off Highway 90 onto 18 in Madison, you can feel the transition more than just the four and five lines giving way to two lanes. You can feel it in the increasing number of pickup trucks, combines, clotheslines, Chevy Caprice police cruisers and supper clubs.

Continue reading Getting off auto pilot

Eating Fiji: They killed a goat for me

Peppers, curry powder, ginger, fenugreek and cloves are among the flavorings in Fijian goat curry
Peppers, curry powder, ginger, fenugreek and cloves are among the flavorings in Fijian goat curry

Food is a serious thing in the South Pacific.

It is labor, nourishment, hospitality and worship all wrapped up together with every other part of the distinctive cultures in the islands.

Food is gathered and pounded and wrapped up in leaves and cooked in underground ovens. And increasingly bought from store shelves and microwaved on countertops.

Food is simple, essentially what grows on the limited terrain and in the tropical climate, and yet it’s complex and strong, like an alloy comprised of different metals.

When I think of Fiji, I can taste the green coconuts I would pick up and drink from a hole in the husk on a hot afternoon.

Continue reading Eating Fiji: They killed a goat for me

Craft Beer in the Southeastern United States

Southeastern Craft Beer Road Trip
Southeastern Craft Beer Road Trip

I didn’t start out planning to do a Southeastern United States craft beer tour.

It just happened to turn out that way.

I’ve become a bit disillusioned by craft beer in the two and a half years since I moved to Chicago.

From hoarding to overnight lines for new releases to subpar beer pushed out as aging liquid and everything in between, the craft beer world doesn’t represent the community spirit that I have come to know in places like Oregon, Montana and Alaska. Small breweries bent on craft and who cater to their immediate audience are what represent the trueness of the profession or art form to me.

Continue reading Craft Beer in the Southeastern United States

Sunrise on Water

Just after sunrise at Cocoa Beach, Florida
Just after sunrise at Cocoa Beach, Florida

We didn’t stay more than a half hour.

But it will go down in our memories like it was hours and hours.

I couldn’t figure out the pay-by-phone system on the parking meters in the tiny lot at the 1st street access to Cocoa Beach.

So my son and I wandered down to the water’s edge to catch the sunrise with the specter of a parking ticket hanging over my head.

We arrived exactly seven minutes before it was scheduled to appear, according to the weather app on my phone.

The sun was set to rise from the cold Northern Atlantic Ocean horizon at 7:12 a.m. on Christmas Day 2014.

And I damn-well wanted to be there to witness it.

Continue reading Sunrise on Water